Mt. Ellis Academy Students Help in Guatemala
On a brisk Sunday morning in November 2007, I said goodbye to my family and sleepily climbed onto the Mt. Ellis Academy bus with more than 35 fellow students and faculty. What followed was a grueling 36-hour journey by buses, planes, and boats to the isolated little town of Livingstone on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. We would spend 14 days there building a second story onto the local Adventist church school and providing children's, medical and dental services in outlying villages.
My first impression of Guatemala wasn’t the best, but as the days went by, this quickly changed. My first assignment was working with the Vacation Bible School team. We handed out clothes and toys, sang songs and played games with so many beautiful, smiling, laughing children.
Along with all the fun and happiness came a good bit of sorrow. It was hard to see the level of poverty and suffering these children and their families live with every day of their lives. I am ashamed when I think of the times my friends and I complain about minor inconveniences as if they were real hardships. For most of those children, one meal in our academy cafeteria would be the best meal in their lives. I never fully appreciated until then how God had so abundantly blessed me and my family.
Partway through the trip we had a brief respite from our work to go see the Mayan Pyramids of Tikal. What an incredible experience to climb around on old pyramids built around the time of Christ. I definitely returned to school with a renewed interest in my world history class.
When we returned to work the next day, I went to work with the construction crew, cutting lumber for the framers and helping set trusses. On the last day of work, I got to help nail in the last wall of the second story. Two days before, at vespers, the school principal shared the story of a child who went home from school singing songs and sharing stories about Jesus. The child brought his parents to Christ and to church. As I nailed in that wall, I thought about the story, and how twice as many students would now be able to attend. There would be so many more opportunities for the school to touch the lives of families through their children.
In that moment, the trip took on a whole new meaning. It wasn’t just to fulfill my community service requirement or to see new places. Suddenly what mattered most was that I helped do something which would lead more people to meet my Savior. This I will carry with me forever.