Date posted: Tuesday 21 August 2018

Our delegation from Augustana Lutheran Church in West St. Paul just returned from a 10-day visit with the ILAG. Our itinerary was jam-packed: we visited with San Agustin Lutheran in La Esmeralda (building relationships with our partner church of 16 years), sang and made crafts with the students at Colegio El Mirador, and presented workshops at the ILAG youth retreat which was attended by 16 young people from different ILAG congregations. Even with all of this, we still had time to tour the Mayan ruins of Tikal!


(Back row, L-R) Rosario, Karen, Sonia, Brenda (Front row, L-R) Violeta, Johana, Luvia, Mirza

But, let me share a little about the young women at the MILAGRO Center. We arrived in Guatemala City on little sleep, having met in the airport at 3:15 a.m. for our early flight. When the beds were made available at the Lutheran Center, I didn't hesitate to take a nap. When I awoke, I discovered that the five young women in our delegation (15-18 years old) had not slept but had wandered to the backyard to see if the eight girls studying at MILAGRO were out and about. Sure enough, they were, and fragments of high school Spanish were put to use. They chatted, they played soccer, and they laughed together like teenagers do. They built relationships.



The Minnesota girls are serious soccer players, so a formal game was arranged at the professional soccer field across the street. Guatemalans and North Americans were mixed together, positions were assigned, and the game was on. Lots of hand slaps, lots of screams of joy when goals were scored, lots of fun was had.



A trip to the neighboring McDonald's was next. Hamburgers and fries are not the typical diet of these Guatemalan girls, but we had the ILAG approval to go. It was so much fun, again watching our girls chatting with the MILAGRO girls. Playing the telephone game created lots of giggles. A card game was fun to watch. The ice cream sundaes were delicious. It was all very natural and delightful.


Three members of the Augustana delegation are math teachers, and our MN girls are strong in math skills, so a math tutoring session was next. Translators were needed for some of the interaction, but math is math is math. It is clear that some of the MILAGRO girls have great potential for academic success but that many are lacking a strong foundation in basic arithmetic, which is so important for junior and senior high math. Pastor Karen and Beatriz (director of MILAGRO) have both said that some of the rural schools are not offering a strong education to the children. The MILAGRO program will go far to expand the academic capabilities of these young women.


We also brought and played many board games that emphasize logical and strategic thinking: Othello, Blokus, Connect Four, etc.


S'mores around the campfire at the Lutheran Center, singing the praise song "Ten Thousand Reasons" in Spanish and English, sharing time with the young people of the ILAG...all precious moments. The ILAG is investing in the next generation of leaders, lifting their levels of confidence and capacity to succeed.


Our efforts to reach out, through limited Spanish, through song, through soccer games, through math's all part of strengthening relationships.


Janet Metcalfe

Augustana Lutheran Church, West St. Paul

Chair, Guatemala Companion Synod Task Force