The young women and men at the ILAG had just spent the morning with our teens being interviewed about their lives and what brought them to the newly forming Women's Center. We gathered with them before we had to leave for the "ritual" of taking pictures to share with our churches, Salem Lutheran in West St. Paul and Gloria Dei Lutheran in St. Paul, and so we could remember to pray for them as often as we thought of them.
In youth ministry, and other group gatherings, it's typical to get that iconic group photo with all smiles, and then, before parting, to ask everyone to do their goofiest pose. Do they do this in Guatemala? We didn't know, but we asked our new friends, just the same.
Individual poses, group poses, poses with just the ladies, pictures with the guys too... and then mayhem: "Now do a funny one!" There was some reservation, some reluctance, some expected shyness, and also some bravery. It took some coaxing and coaching. Our teens had to jump in and let loose, but finally everyone busted out their joy and gave us their wacky faces. Holy laughter!
When I was blessed with the gift of going to ILAG last April, I had no idea I would be bringing back simple memories such as this that I will never forget. Crossing cultures, crossing comfort zones, and crossing into forever-friendships, the team that traveled with me were received with such warmth, hospitality, and joy. We learned of the continuing work that goes on with El Mirador school, the pastoral training and equipping, and the newly forming vision of the Women's Center. We sang and prayed with our new friends. They fed us a meal and we built floats for the Palm Sunday processionals. We were humored as we attempted to learn simple Spanish phrases and as we sang a hymn in Swedish for our fellow-worshippers on Sunday morning. I can't wait to go back and see the friends I met there again.
Last week, I was cleaning out a sound tech cupboard at church, and way in the back, there was a folded faded purple brochure with a font not seen since the 1990s. It was about ILAG and Guatemala and a school and accompaniment. An invitation to join the Task Force and to visit. I thank God for the good work that began "way back when" and continues even stronger today. Paz y amor en Jesús !
Director of Youth & Family Faith Formation
Gloria Dei Lutheran, St. Paul