Rockin’ Guat 2009: Episode 1


I’m going to Guatemala this summer with my sister Elise and my mom. My mom has been down there already for weeks now, having led a group of nursing students from Edgewood College on a mission trip to Guatemalan clinics and hospitals. Elise went down to the Guat in January with another one of mom’s groups and decided she wanted to go back to volunteer and become fluent in Spanish.

I decided to go because, having been to Guatemala five years ago on a high school mission trip, I knew there was lots of stuff to do in terms of volunteer and missions work. I didn’t know I was going until a few weeks ago. I was planning on working at Lake Waubesa Bible Camp again having worked there for three summers in a row and loving every second of it, but I thought it would be good to change things up a bit.

So today we’re T-minus three days away from arrival in Guatemala. My dad bought me some killer hiking shoes from The Shoe Box and some lightweight, easy-to-dry shirts and pants from REI. We’ll be packing light since my mom, who has been down in Guatemala for weeks now, has stashed lots of mini detergeant bottles so we can wash our clothes once in a while. Of course, “packing light” means something completely different to my sister, who will no doubt have trouble fitting all of her “essentials” into two carry-ons.

I picked up some medications for malaria and diarrhea and got a typhoid booster shot with a Tweety Bird bandage. When I first saw it I thought, What am I, six? Then I realized Tweety Bird is awesome.

My primary role this summer will probably be with kids ministry. Hector, one of my mom’s Guatemalan contacts, goes around to rural villages and performs for the kids and does meal ministry for hungry kids and stuff like that. I’m hoping to be able to go with him and serve the very needy kids there as much as I can, so I’ve got to get some songs and games ready just in case.

I’ve been trying to memorize some Spanish worship songs to play. I remember two from my last trip to the Guat: “Casa de Dios” (which is the Spanish equivalent to “Better is One Day”) and “Te Alabare.” I’ve also learned “Abre Mis Ojos” ( same as “Open the Eyes of My Heart”) and “Vengo a Adorarte” (same as “Here I am to Worship”).

A game I learned in Guatemala five years ago is called “Malaki Tengue” and it’s great because, since the title is just gibberish, it can be played with kids in any language. So: get the kids in a circle and start walking around and say: “Malaki tengue tengue tengue, malaki tengue tengue tengue, malaki tengue tengue, malaki TEN!” And on TEN, stop and point at a kid. They make some sort of funny face or motion and then the whole group mimics that motion or face as they say the words and start walking.

The best is when you get a shy kid. When you point at them they try to hide their face in their shoulder, so you just take the same position and continue. You can play that game forever.

Anyway, it should be good times whatever happens. I’ll most likely be gone until mid-August until I have to come back for RA training at North Central. I have something resembling an itinerary for the trip, but really I have no idea what I will be doing, which is exactly what want — to be able to do whatever is needed and whatever what I want. In the least selfish way, of course.

Next time: packing fun and how to entertain children in foreign languages.

Etc. God Life

Me, Myself, And An Ugly Sweater

I’m done with summer camp. It was my third summer at Lake Waubesa Bible Camp and definitely the most fun. Everyone on staff got along great. It was easy to have fun and joke around (a lot) but still be able to share the serious moments and enjoy God’s creation and his work all summer.

This summer I was the worship leader but I also counseled a few weeks of middle school and Day Camp. In the last three years of camp life, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of what servant leadership requires and how important humility and patience really are. Rolling around in old food and dirt and sweating constantly taught me to enjoy every second of what was given to me. Even when campers got so unbelieveably annoying sometimes, I could still find joy in them and in what they got out of camp.

We talked about character this summer and all the Godly characteristics it requires: humility, patience, loving-actions, unselfishness, a tamed tongue. The Book of James talks about all of these things quite concisely. My favorite one, again, is humility because if you really have it you’re being Christ-like. It’s as simple as that.

I also came to a place of brokenness literally and figuratively. I developed an inner and outer ear infection and, somehow, a ruptured ear drumback in June. The pain lasted about two weeks. In that time, aided by the constant rigors of summer camp life, I became completely broken and humbled. One day I was practicing “Blessed Be Your Name” for the evening meeting. As I sang through it casually, the lyrics hit me where I was:

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord

I had understandably been a little Then there’s this verse:

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Right there I just broke down crying. The full-time staff guy was there and we talked for a while. I had been going through a period of drought and doubt and my ear problems became my rock-bottom, my total brokenness.

Looking back, and even at the time, I absolutely loved being broken down like that. To be nowhere but down and needing nothing but Jesus. I recommend it.

It was a great summer. To be able to be silly with kids and learn about Jesus and be outside all day every day and not in the stifling air-conditioned hell of Copps was a blessing. As far as next summer goes: who knows. I know I can go back there and have more fun and learn more about God, but I don’t know what he wants me to do. I need to be ready to hear that.

(P.S. If you have considered being a counselor but haven’t done it, DO IT. It’s the most rewarding, demanding, ridiculous, tiring, joyful, and painful thing you can do. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll have ridiculous stories to tell afterward.)

Etc. God Life Music

Doing Unspeakable Acts To E.T.

I stopped by Half-Price Books the other day hoping to get lucky. After perusing the record collection as usual, I ventured into the clearance section. I’m a bad book buyer because I’m so indecisive and there are so many classics I have yet to read that I eventually get overwhelmed and end up not buying anything. But this time I managed to cross the bridge and buy some books.

I picked up Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies and a collection of Langston Hughes poetry. I’ve been on the lookout for a cheap Hughes collection ever since I read him in an American Literature class and fell in love with him. But Lamott’s book was a surprise and a bit of an impulse buy for me because I rarely buy anything without researching it before hand to avoid being disappointed and regretting departing with my cash.

I’d heard of Anne Lamott before. I think she visited my school to speak but I couldn’t go. But I decided to take a chance on her 1999 memoir because I heard that she was a liberal Christian. You don’t hear from them often.

I loved Traveling Mercies. I cruised through it, and I don’t do that often. Even though I’m an English major I have to really try to finish books. Most of the time I don’t even finish the assigned readings for my lit classes unless they catch me. But I clung to Lamott’s humor and sincerity and no-bullshit view on life. I can only hope to see the good in every part of life she does in spite of (and because of) the suffering she’s endured.

I loved how she can be so freaking funny in moments of complete confusion or distress. She describes the feeling of hitting your child: “It’s so awful, attacking your child. It is the worst thing I know, to shout loudly at this fifty-pound being with his huge trusting brown eyes. It;s like bitch-slapping E.T.”

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been reading at camp, which is over this week. To make a big life lesson so very concise: I’ve learned a lot about humility and patience.

I’ve got the new Coldplay album on steady rotation. Check it out. Also the song “You’ll Always Be My Best Friend” by Relient K off their new EP/B-sides record The Bird and the Bee Sides.

On a less happy note, what’s the deal with Favre? Notice I blame him and not the Packers for this soap opera. I’m starting to wish he never retired, despite what I wrote shortly after he did so. Oh, well. Rodgers is our man. Get used to it Cheeseheads.

Etc. Television

Where Am I?

Sorry for the lack of posts. I’m now at summer camp getting sweaty and tired every day. It’s awesome.

I haven’t been catching up with current events that much, except to find out that Tim Russert died (which really, really, really sucks) and Tiger somehow won the U.S. Open. Nice.