by TAYLOR BUSKARD
For most high school students, senior year is a year to remember: A time for friends, and a time for relaxing. It is the time to go fishing, and the time to stay out late. Many look back on their senior year with memories of parties, trying to find the right dress for prom, and of course the classic senior pranks. But for me, my senior year will always be something more than that. Imagine a hole dug in the ground for a bathroom, a room with a dirt floor, and a crowd of quiet strangers full of despair. This is my glory; this is what will without a doubt be one of the most unforgettable memories in my life.
From 1960 to 1996 the country of Guatemala experienced heartbreak and warfare. A civil war tore through the land and left behind in its path thousands of orphans and widows. They were alone, frightened, with no place to call their own. Victims watched their children and spouses suffer; they smelled the smoke as their very own homes were burned to the ground. Cries of sorrow rang throughout the villages as young children ran for their lives into hiding. Although the worst may have ended in 1996, the despair has still yet to be extinguished. People struggle day to day to survive, living in places that are not sufficient enough for survival.
Last week, I, as well as 16 others from BridgeWay Community Church, had the chance to reach out and help these innocent people. Our high school youth group raised enough money to travel to Guatemala and purchase building materials. We then traveled 10 hours by bus to a remote village where we were able to build 10 homes for widows who had almost nothing. Although they had no way to pay us back, they gave me so much more than they could ever know.
When first arriving at the village, everything was in slow motion. As we all stepped out of the bus together, we were met by dozens of curious eyes. I can imagine we looked like quite a sight with our light complexions and big goofy rain boots. My eyes gazed the crowd, stopping when I noticed little girls without shoes. I took in their tattered shirts, feeling my heart ache for them.
Slowly the people grew accustomed to us and did not hesitate to help. We watched as women who looked like they could barely hold themselves up hoisted 50-pound bags over their heads and carried them up a hill. This was not the last act of kindness to occur. Throughout the week, despite the language barrier and having only one translator, we somehow started to connect. We treated the kids as if they were our brothers and sisters and soon we had them following us wherever we went. We listened to stories of despair and grief, and through them God worked miracles. Tears of joy and tears of sympathy ran down my face as I prayed to God and thanked him for everything in my life. These villagers had lost so much but yet never doubted God or gave up. They prayed for 30 years for help, and it came inside a group of young teens and adults who have a passion for reaching out to others through God.
Although I knew building 10 houses was not going to be a walk in the park, I had no clue how challenging it would turn out to be. I did learn by the end of day three that my ratio for hitting a nail with my hammer was about 1 to 70. We worked through the rain, and through the heat. We worked through the surprise tickle attacks from the kids, and through the aching of our bodies. The first day it took us five hours to build half of one house—not the ideal time we were hoping for. Everyone could sense a hint of doubt in the air as we realized we only had two days to build nine-and-a-half more houses. I found myself growing tired and becoming easily distracted by the kids begging for our attention. It was their spirits and God’s hand that kept us moving.
The last day was the most challenging, and as we woke up with the rising of the sun, I knew we would be pushed. We still had five houses left and time was running out. We worked all day, enduring everything. At the end of the day, we stared in awe as we took it all in. We had done it; we had just finished all 10 houses.
Looking back, I realize that I spent weeks preparing for the trip. I found myself running from store to store, buying ridiculous items; items that I didn’t even know how to work but liked how it looked. I made and then remade lists of “must haves” and “In reality I don’t need this but I think I do.” I worried about what I was going to wear each day, if the rooms were going to have spiders in them, and of course what I would do if I got bit by a poisonous snake. I was quizzed by my protective parents on what to do if I encountered a bear—the usual questions before leaving the country alone.
Now that I’m back, I know that nothing could have prepared me as well as everyone for what we experienced on this trip. No item or list would have told me or showed me the glory that God did through these amazing villagers. They opened up my eyes to just how amazing God is.
The next time I freak out over a math test or stain on my shirt, I will remember not only the pain of the villagers, but yet the smiles and faith in God they still held after everything they had lost.