Impressions from Guatemala

Joye with kids

The people and place of Guatemala have a special place in my heart after going to Guatemala on a missions trip several years ago. I served with Orphan’s Heart at the Child Malnutrition Center in central Guatemala. Orphan’s Heart is a ministry of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes. Our missions team was made up of WMU members from across Florida, and I was so blessed to join this team for an incredible week of giving care to about 100 preschoolers under the age of 5 years. We served alongside their caregivers in playing, singing, feeding, bathing, and dressing the preschoolers throughout the day. During the week, I spent most of my days with the preschoolers who were just learning to walk. I spent part of a day with the infants, and another part day with the 3–4 year olds.

The children at the Child Malnutrition Center are not orphans, but their families bring them to the center because they are severely malnourished. The children are usually there for 6–9 months until they are well again and the parents are able to care for them. While they are cared for physically at the Child Malnutrition Center, the preschooler and their parents are also shown the love of Christ through the staff and volunteers who minister to the families.

As our missions area for this month in Mission Friends features Guatemala, I thought I would share some of my impressions about this beautiful country and its people.

I was amazed at the massive coffee plantations with millions of coffee bushes planted on the sides of the mountains.

The most flowers I have ever seen were growing in people’s yards, on the roadsides, and along fences. I saw bright bougainvillea, bromeliads, orchids, and poinsettia plants that were as tall as trees.

The mothers who carried their babies on their backs, strapped on with layers of cloth.

The bright colors of their clothes, on the public buses, and in the vegetables in the open market.

Guatemala Volcano Guatemala view

From the city where we stayed, we could see a volcano outside of the city. Periodically, there were puffs of smoke coming from the top of the volcano. That seemed of some concern to me, but it did not seem to concern the people.

As I worked with infants and toddlers that week, I was amazed at the layers of clothes they put on their little ones. After the diaper, there is an undershirt, a onesie or two, a shirt, another shirt, long pants, and a sweater. Usually the younger preschoolers had on about five layers of clothes, which made it interesting at diapering time!

Seeing the effects of malnutrition on the development of young preschoolers was staggering. I learned that in Guatemala, 50% of the children are malnourished. At the Child Malnutrition Center, I could see the effects of malnutrition in some of the infants who had wisps of hair that had fallen out and a one-year-old who was just learning to roll over. You could see the effects in the listless eyes of a two-year-old or when a four-year-old fell asleep in the middle of a meal. I learned that malnutrition does not just mean that they are hungry, but it has an impact on their development physically and mentally. Even after they start receiving proper nutrition, the preschoolers have ground to make up in their development.

I learned it helps to know at least a few key phrases in Spanish, such as “Uno momento” when the twos climbed all over each other to go up the slide. I also learned the song “Jesus Love Me,” in Spanish, and the preschoolers heard that song a lot that week.

I learned that preschoolers understand a smile and know when they are loved even if you speak a different language.

I was reminded that God uses us who care for, teach, and love His preschoolers, whether in Guatemala, Florida, Alabama, or the place where you live. God uses us as we give love unconditionally because we are an example of His unconditional love through Christ.

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