GuatemalaAbout the same size as New Zealand's North Island, Guatemala is quite a mountainous country with several volcanic peaks but has a lowland fertile trip along its Pacific coast. The population is approximately 15 million, 5 million of which live in Guatemala City. City life and village life are quite different with a very high incidence of violence in the former which is a hub of industry, learning and technology. Unfortunately the violence syndrome is moving to the provinces too. Normally village life is more leisurely with a high percentage of descendants from the Mayan culture many of whom practice many of their ancient rituals, guided by their priests and witch doctors. With the imposition of Catholicism some 500 years ago, much of the religious belief became a syncretistic mixture aided and abetted by superstition. This background pervades much of life in villages and cities.

"In January of this year (2012), we took a team of 13 to Ocosito, a small village tucked amongst maize plots, rubber plantations, pineapple production and other interesting foodstuffs, for a Vacational Bible School. It was the fourth one of the season, but the first one in such high temperatures. On the Sunday a number were baptised, including a man over ninety whose father had been a witch doctor. How good God was to allow him all those years so that he could come at the latter end of his years to have eternal life and even identify with the Lord in baptism. During the week, a number of children "discreetly" came to know the Lord and now one of the young women of the area has some 16 in a follow-up class and is very enthusiastic about their progress and interest.

One of the lads, Bryan, has been in our home off and on during the last three years as he has been receiving treatment for leukaemia. We have been praying for his restoration to health, but also for his spiritual health. He was one of the lads who trusted the Lord, but he did not tell his parents. On his next visit for treatment he and his father were having tea with us when the conversation turned to what he "had done" at the Bible School and his Dad immediately responded, thinking it had to do with having learned all the memory texts. When he discovered that Bryan had trusted the Lord as his Saviour, he was thrilled and even more so when Bryan said, "and so did Danny," his older brother. There were some animated phone conversations home that night. Bryan also has good news regarding the treatment of his cancer, so there is a lot to thank the Lord for."

One of the more noticeable things for a Kiwi is the quantity of fire-arms publicly displayed by authorities and people employed in security firms.

While Guatemala City is reasonably well manicured and "swept", rubbish disposal leaves a lot to be desired and sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Corruption is a way of life in Latin America and vexes one's soul as it invades all areas of life, yes, even Christian life.

"Jesús es Verbo y no sustantivo..." John 1 in the Spanish Bible begins with Jesus being the Verb- a word of action, and the song by Ricardo Arjona, a secular singer, takes this up and shows a God of action on our behalf as inspiring us to act on behalf of others. We quite like the concept.

Guatemalans are very friendly and generous to a fault. Their expressions of love and affection are very spontaneous and contagious and we find Kiwis and their kind rather "cold" and offish, especially in moments of greeting or introduction. Even school boys shake hands each day on arrival at classes and at their close.

By Graham & Betty

Tags: Central America | Graham & Betty | Guatemala

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