My trip to Guatemala was sort of last minute-- a group from my church was going and invited me to come along as a translator. Not having been back to Guatemala since I left three years ago, I was happy to accept.
On this trip, as before, I was struck by the ironies of life in Guatemala-- beauty contrasting with squalor, joy with pain. I think the whole group struggled to know how to deal with these issues, after seeing a few of the 10,000 people who make their living scavenging through the refuse of Guatemala City's "sanitary fill" and being welcomed into the tiny, dirt-floored homes of indigenous Christians in San Pedro La Laguna.
After the group left for Guatemala City, en route to the US, I headed further north to Xela. I've traveled by myself in Guatemala before, so I wasn't particularly worried, even though I had heard that the country has grown more dangerous in the last couple of years. It's funny; in the US, I worry about everything. In Guatemala, I pretty much accept the fact that I don't have control over anything and thus worry very little.
I hadn't realized traveling with the group how much the situation has gone downhill in the last couple of years. It wasn't until I saw increased security measures in places where I had been before and talked to Guatemalans that I had known when I lived there that I realized the degree to which things have changed. (Don't be alarmed, those of you who tend to worry about me. I am always careful and was never in danger.) :)
When I visited my host mom, Flor, she told me that my host dad and brother had been held up at gunpoint at 10:30 in the morning just a few blocks from the house a couple of weeks before. She seemed concerned about me traveling back to the city, although my host brother assured us both that the likelihood of me having problems was very low. Before I left, she told me, "Go with God in your heart, and you'll be fine." Not quite the kind of assurance that I think my mother would want!
This kind of assurance seems much more real to me when I travel, for some reason. God seems more real when everything else seems uncertain. Parts of the Old Testament, too, seem much more relevant when read in this context. After seeing the dump and the poverty in San Pedro, I found comfort in Jeremiah's words in Lamentations 3:
For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.
After hearing about frequent armed robberies, I read Psalm 10:
the wicked man...lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, waiting in secret for his victims.... Arise Lord! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.... But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand....You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.
When I'm living my comfortable life in the States, I can ignore some of life's harsher realities. When a few of my physical comforts are removed, I find it much easier to turn to my true Comforter.
The words in the title of this post are from one of my favorite Spanish songs, which I had the opportunity to sing at a couple of church services we attended. "God is good," it proclaims. "He is always faithful. In the darkness, his love will shine. God is good, God is good, always faithful."