Guatemala, My Love…

old guats

In the multiple countries I’ve been blessed to travel to, never did I have more peace and assurance that I wasn’t just there for a short season, that I was actually destined to come back, than I did when I visited the nation of Guatemala in 2012 on The World Race. Never in all of my sojourning has a place or people-group touched my heart in such a profound and eternal way.

It’s beauty and oppression both solidified passions I have, like feeding all of the people around a huge table, making sure the marginalized are still seen and cared for, giving children the education and principles they need to live a healthy and happy life, and my deep love for orphans and their care and adoption into good and loving homes.

To say I was changed by this place is an understatement; it permeated my being and caused me to pause to consider the bigger picture God was writing for my life.

flowers

tortillas

lago

So it’s with a heavy but hopeful heart that I want to update you on what’s going on in “Guat”, the very things I didn’t know myself until I began researching. My dear friend, Emily also has a stirring heart for this nation {among others}, and we’ve jokingly {but SERIOUSLY} considered moving down there for a season {Abby, I’m looking at you, too, sister-fran.} She is such an advocate for the people who are otherwise forgotten, and she’s a researcher and storyteller at her core.

I wanted to take a moment to share with you what she wrote {a few days ago, for historical accuracy} about the conflict that has been plaguing Guatemala for years due to their corrupt government and its agenda. She puts it in lay-man’s terms we can all easily understand so we can better equip ourselves to get behind this nation as prayer warriors and partners.

Her passion and conviction overflow all over the dang place. You’ll see what I mean below. Here is what she says:

“Y’all, today was an AMAZING day for Guatemala! I don’t know how much you’ve heard about what’s been happening there recently, but the summary is this:

It’s known to be an incredibly corrupt country, mostly the government, and the people aren’t prone to getting united behind one cause long enough to rise up and do anything that produces change, so the government operates with impunity and gets to be corrupt and stay in power.

Until recently. 

In April, watch-dog groups gathered enough evidence of the top government officials being involved in a high level customs tariff siphoning scheme to publicly accuse them. They were essentially stealing tons of money from the Guatemalan people and pocketing it. They forced the vice president to resign, causing her to lose her diplomatic immunity. She was also arrested, which will enable her to finally be tried for her role in the corruption ring.

They know the president is also highly involved, possibly the ring leader, but they haven’t been able to prove it or get him to admit to anything.  A UN commission came in and helped the under-resourced Guatemalan prosecutors to make their case, and then the citizens stepped in.

Every Saturday for the last few months, thousands of people have gathered in the capitol’s main square and protested against corruption. (I must reiterate: Guatemalans do not do this. Most of them are extremely conservative in the rural areas and they’re still reeling from the 36 year CIA-backed civil war, and therefore aren’t keen to destabilize the government even when they’re terrible. So this is a really big deal.)

They’ve been protesting and it’s been gaining momentum because they have a major deadline: this president’s term ends in January and the next election is this Sunday. If he gets through his term still in office with his diplomatic immunity intact, he can never be prosecuted for his crimes and corruption and impunity will win again. The people have been in the streets for days, 90% of businesses have closed, and protesting has not ceased.

Today is also crucial. Today, the Guatemalan congress voted to decide whether to strip the president of his diplomatic immunity or not. Citizens weren’t sure whether enough legislators would show up for the vote, or if the president’s own party would vote against him, but the verdict came back: 132-0.

100% Unanimous.
{Suzy here…cue my tear-buckets!}

Again, nothing is ever unanimous or agreed upon there (or in the United States, for that matter), especially something this monumental that actually calls the government out on their crap. This time, the representatives heard their people and listened to their demands. To clarify: this doesn’t impeach him and it’s not enough yet to try him or prosecute him for his crimes, but it’s the first step, and if this had failed it would’ve been over completely.

People have been celebrating in the streets all day and I wish I was there! 

Mostly, it’s a massive symbolic victory for Guatemalan people that even the leaders of their horrible government can be held accountable. And now they can move forward with trying to prosecute him.

Now, the next huge challenge is choosing the next president and vice president on Sunday. With elections in 5 days and an entire country in upheaval, they don’t expect anyone to win a majority and there will probably need to be a “run off” between the top two candidates in October. That said, there needs to be good options to choose between in the “run off” because this is the first chance in a long time to make some actual change in this country. A new government could change everything, including the orphan care system and adoption laws.

Please be in prayer this week through Sunday for the elections, because this is the most significant week for Guatemala in years.”

New York Times Reference
BBC Reference

yellow car

old man

nin-yo!

little boy

 

So here are the “Three P’s” I’m asking of you:

Pray/fast with me? Prayer is so tangible and simple, and I often forget how it and moves the heart of our Father. Fasting is done more out of a reflection of your own heart, to remind yourself what is important and worth your deepest attentions. Protest + Petition with me in your own home this Saturday as a way to stand beside our brothers and sisters in their own {peaceful} protests. I have no idea what this could look like for you. Stand on your couch!? Pray some more! Go tell a friend? Try to download some news coverage of the events in real-time. And party/celebrate some of the victories that are already happening there this week. As Guatemalans rejoice in the streets because of the headway of congress’ vote earlier this week, rejoice with them and with me!

There are other tangible things you can do, too:
+ Partner with me and my friends, and all of the souls I know who have invested different lengths of time in beautiful Guatemala for ministry and simply to learn spanish so they can come home to translate and better teach English to immigrants here on our own soil. Consider supporting them or me in the future as I ask God for a timeline of when I can return to this country so near to my heart and really make an impact on their soil, not in my own strength or ambition, but in His. Email me for more details.

+ Research existing organizations who are doing beautifully, amazing things through commerce, giving Fair Trade pay-rates to workers and crafters who desperately just want to provide for their families. {I’ll be compiling a list of a few of my favorites soon so you can make purchases for Christmas you know will have a positive impact!}

+ Ask yourself how you can sow into some of the political statutes in proportion to open adoption that the Hague Adoption Convention closed about 8 years ago, so international people can bring children into better opportunities and health care, into loving families and a chance at a future of hope.

~

Guatemala is such a beautiful place, with resources rich in coffee and macadamia nuts, to name only a few crops. The photos above capture the people I fell in love with in all of their sass and glory, from the abuela making fresh tortillas over a hot griddle all day {the street food is the very best}, to the older gentlemen who was waiting for his grandchild to come out of the private school we taught in, to the sweet young mother selling candy on the streets to support her adorable, chubby little {eskimo looking} niño, her own mother swelling with such pride as I asked to take a family portrait {I purchased all of their candy and ate it lasted a whole month!}, and finally to the young boy just trying to give his puppy some water from the fountain on the square.

The humanity of it all is what I love so much about sojourning: we’re all more alike than we could ever dare to imagine. We all have wants and needs, hard days of oppression, and reasons to keep smiling.

emily's photo{photo credit: my dear friend Emily Tuttle, whose helpful and passionate words you read above.}

starbucks?{photo credit: unknown. I snapped a photo of this photo in a coffee shop near Central Park, New York over 3 years ago. Don’t you just love this kid’s smile and Ninja Turtle’s shirt?! He may or may not be Guatemalan, but that is beside the point.}

 

***Disclaimer: whomever I marry had better want to honeymoon on Lake Atitlan, that’s all I’m saying. 😉
*** All photos mine unless otherwise noted.

 

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