Thoughts about 2014 Guatemala Mission Trip – Part 2 – Arrival


When you haven’t made a trip like this in awhile you forget how exhausting it is to travel this far. Today was an exciting day as we arrived in Guatemala. It was also a very tiring day as we got up very early to make it to the airport for our 8:45 AM departure time. This meant that we met at the airport to check in at 6:30 AM.

Our team arrived in Guatemala City early in the afternoon and then had a three hour bus ride to Panajachel where we will spend tonight before moving to the River House tomorrow. River House is the dormitory created by Mission Guatemala to house the work teams. Because of flight schedules there is a slight overlap of teams – the workers from this past week are still at the River House. They will leave early tomorrow morning for Guatemala City and we will take their place. Tom Heaton and his team really have this down to a science and everything has gone perfectly to schedule.

There is another team here this week from the north side of Atlanta, Georgia. The photo with this blog post is from dinner where we are all sharing a meal and getting to know each other better.

We really have a great team representing St. Mark’s UMC. Six of our ten team members are in their teens and it is exciting to see their enthusiasm for the country and for the work being done here. What a great group of young travelers!

Tomorrow we attend worship and also learn more about the area and Mission Guatemala but for tonight I think we are all looking forward to a good night’s sleep after sharing such a great meal.

¡Buenas noches, amigos!


Thoughts about working dogs (and the ministry of presence)

Today I was shopping at Rural King and I had our dog Bo with me. Until five years ago I had rarely visited Rural King but I like shopping there now because it is one of the few places that allows dogs. So, if I need something that I think they carry, I pack up Bo and we are off.

As we were leaving the store today a women looked at Bo and said, “Is he a working  dog?” Since this is a farm store I assume that a good number of the dogs coming into the store are farm dogs who serve some function. However, we don’t live on a farm and Bo’s main function is to lay curled up beside me on the couch. “No,” I replied, “He’s just a pet.”  “Well, he’s a good lookin’ dog anyway,” she said. She went into the store, Bo and I walked to our truck, and the conversation ended.

But it gave me pause to think.  Bo is an invaluable presence in our lives. He is sometimes entertainment. Sometimes he is a comforting huggable lump of fur and flesh. He welcomes us home with unflinching loyalty.  So, does he work?

In the Bible there is a story about two sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha is busy doing things for Jesus while Mary is sitting attentively listening to Jesus tell stories. Martha chides Mary for her indolence and Jesus chides Martha for missing out on what is really important. For a couple thousand years this story has challenged people’s perceptions of ministry. Sometimes it is important to actively serve others with our activities and sometimes just being with someone is the more important thing.  In the helping professions we call this second circumstance ministry of presence. Sometimes people need us to do for and with them and sometimes we just need to sit with one another.

For those of us who are in ministry the lines between work and the normal activities of life often blur. If we are at a high school basketball game and someone starts telling us about their latest domestic struggle are we suddenly working? If we go to a community event because we want to it is probably not work but if we go because we ought to represent the church then it may be considered work. Some of these issues get at the very nature of work and ministry. Sometimes it is difficult to say what is work and what is not.

And so I think about our dog, Bo.  He doesn’t herd sheep or cattle. He really doesn’t have any discernible job description. But whatever it is that he does, it sure works for me!