Today was our last day on the worksite at Las Canoas Baja working on the playground. We made a significant amount of progress on the playground equipment. We also spent more time than usual playing with the children in the schoolyard – kicking balls, taking pictures, practicing our meager Spanish vocabulary, and delightedly listening to our small children companions as they tried out some new found English phrases. Shakespeare penned the line that “parting is such sweet sorrow” and we discovered the existential reality of that phrase today. I have been on many mission trips but I have never experienced the depth of farewell that we experienced with our local co-workers today. It was truly inspiring.
Rather than recount the day in this particular post I want to share a personal serendipity. Because there were two work teams at Mission Guatemala this week our main construction person, Elias, spent time at both sites making sure the work was being done properly. This meant that he left us today at midday to go to the other site where a team from John’s Creek UMC (outside of Atlanta, Georgia) was working. Elias said his farewell to our group through our local translator for the week, a wonderful young man named Diego. Through Diego’s voice in translating, he thanked us for our hard work and for being such a fun group to work with. And then I heard Diego say, “And may your future generations be blessed.”
These words really touched me for a couple of reasons. The first reason was that almost all of the work that we did this week was an effort to bless the future generations in the communities that we worked. Both of our projects were at schools and our hope is the children that are fed at the kitchen we worked on and the children who play on the playground we began constructing will indeed be blessed. In that moment of his blessing I hoped that we had been a blessing through our work and through our playing with Guatemala’s future leaders this week. It seemed as if I could almost hear the voice of God saying, “As you did it to the least of these, my children . . .”
His words also touched me at a very personal level. Being a parent who has watched two of his children die I know what a risky business parenting can be and I am grateful for any blessing on my progeny at any opportunity. I often worry about outliving all of my children, a worry that I have experienced as not uncommon among bereaved parents. My Guatemalan co-worker had no way to know the story of my life or the losses that I have experienced. As a matter of fact, his blessing was not even directed at me personally, but to our group as a whole. Nonetheless, I felt blessed.
When you lose a child there is an emptiness that is persistent and indescribable. There are, however, moments that call you back to life and hope and today I experienced one of those moments from the words of blessing in a language I couldn’t understand, translated by a friend I had met only a few days earlier.
When I remember this trip I will remember many things. I will remember the warm fellowship of our team. I will remember the kinship we have felt with our companion team from Georgia. I will remember the passion and competence of the leaders and staff of Mission Guatemala.
But I suspect my future remembering of this week will be defined by the reality that while my intention was to be a blessing to our neighbors in Guatemala I instead found myself the recipient of an indescribable moment of blessing – not just as a team member but as a father.