This morning we visited Miguel Angel Asturias School in Xela. The school began with an international donation in 1995, and today runs on a small tuition paid by the families. Nearly half of these students qualify for either full or partial scholarships to attend the school. Like CEIPA, this school works with underprivileged kids, who otherwise may not be able to obtain an education. The students at CEIPA work jobs in the day and night, sandwiched between an astounding 16 courses in less than 4 hours. Following our talk with the creator of the school this morning, we were invited to head downstairs and meet with some students during their recess. We had a significant language barrier, but I could see God working with these students. I got greeted by so many happy boys and girls that seemed to appreciate me trying to communicate with them, A young boy ran up to me with a ball asking "soccer!?" and was overjoyed when I said in my broken Spanish I would love to play "futbol." We come from about the only country in the world that calls the sport "soccer." Several other students came up and introduced themselves throughout recess. They asked for my name and where I was from and other simple questions I knew how to respond to. I made quite the friend in Jose. The more I would answer to his questions with my broken Spanish, the less I understood what he was saying as he went in depth, talking to me about how much fun he was having, and how much he enjoys school. I guess I did okay enough with my Spanish for him to keep asking questions. I couldn't keep up with him, but the smile on his face showed me how God was with these students. He asked if I enjoyed Guatemala and I said yes. A couple of our speakers this week have said something among the lines of "why of all places did you choose to visit Guatemala?" One speaker this week said we could be on the beach in Hawaii, or the Bahamas, but here we were in one of the most violent countries in the world. This is my first time out of the United States, and I can see the similarities between the two countries. The same problems haunt both of us. Lack of distribution of wealth, poor public education, lack of available health care, homelessness, violence, gangs, drugs... Yet these kids could not be happier to be able to receive an education in a safe environment. This may be all these kids have to look forward to. Back home we take our school and work for granted so many times. School is their escape; where they can be happy and stress free and dream. All we can think about is being done with class or work for the day so we can do as we please, like playing Xbox, or reading. But imagine not having electricity or being able to read. They find different ways to be happy. The sense of family and community surpasses any joy money could buy, and that is where I see God in this beautiful country.
Jose could not have been happier to ask me what sports I liked and I couldn't have been happier to tell him about American football, and what I enjoyed about this country. His smile and the laughter of the kids playing futbol and jump rope surpassed all of our demons and fears. I would not have wanted to have visited a new country for the first time with any other group of students and leaders at UKirk and CEDEPCA. Or without Jose.