We’re off to build relationships

Date posted: Tuesday 24 March 2015

Saint Paul Area Synod travelers to Guatemala often find it difficult to explain the purpose of the trips to our companion churches. "But what will you do?" is the question that seems a little vaguely answered with, "We go to build relationships." Members of the August 2011 delegation from Augustana and Hope Lutheran Churches have combined together to try to answer that question more vividly, using our own experiences and the stirring, poetic form of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter From Birmingham Jail (August 1963).


What does it mean "to go to build relationships?"


When you sit in a bus alongside a church elder who got up
at 4 a.m. to ride three hours of mountainous gravel roads
to meet you;
When you stay in a small house with no electricity or running water, hard-working parents and three curious, playful children;
When you carry pitchers of hot water from the outdoor kitchen to the small dining table in the pastor's office, as a small helpful gesture of thanks to cheerful church cooks;
When you have bowls of rice, stacks of corn tortillas, frijoles simmered over wood fires and a piece of baked chicken fresh from the horno;
When you sit in the light of a wood cook fire with a husband and wife who are parents (like I am) and grandparents (like I am), visiting;
When you admire the waxing moon and brilliant stars with your host father, walking in the cool air after evening services and supper;
When candle-lit bedrooms and bucket showers feel every day;


When you are led down the narrow gravel road, across fields of tall grass to admire a small herd of eight head of cattle;
When you sit at a table outdoors with young moms and respected grandmothers, sharing your worries and sorrows, your joys;
When you play a fast and furious soccer game on a rocky field with energetic children under the hot Guatemalan sun;
When you hold wide-eyed, sober-faced babies who soon relax to play in your lap, or roll a small toy truck back and forth and back and forth with the young son of your long-time Guatemalan friend;
When new Guatemalan friends stand side by side in the shade of the church walls, watching a string of enthusiastic young batters hit your pitches;
When you learn to pluck the bass notes on a big bellied guitar -or is it a lute?- from a self-taught joyful musician;
When you sit in a small, vibrant church and worship with warm, welcoming people;
When you sing your church songs during the service and love to listen to their children's choir and guitar band;
When you feel honored to stand up to read the lesson in English and then hear it again in Spanish;
When you write and perform a puppet play for nearly 50 Mayan children;
When the local teenagers perform an elaborate outdoor play about Jesus and the devil in the wilderness for you;
When you are included in moving pastoral visits to the homes of families touched by tragedy, encircling them with love and prayer, feeling the Spirit move;


When you want to return to the communities and friends in the rainforest of northern Guatemala for the 2nd, 5th, or 13th time - or are just happy to have come for the very first time;


Then you will understand the joyful, Spirit-filled meaning of we go to build relationships!


Nancy Ericson
Augustana, West Saint Paul