Puerto Barrios in Izabal Department, Guatemala was once called the City of God. The large sign that boasted this name has been torn down from the street corner where it had stood prominently for so long. The darkness in that place lays thick, seeming to stifle hope itself. But I walked the streets of that town. And that town, those people, and the time I spent there have been running through my mind ever since returning home.
I have to be honest, I don’t really know how to write about coming back to America. Yes, I’ve been back stateside for over 3 months now, but I’m still a wreck. I’ve been such a mess on the inside that I haven’t even known how to put it into words. A couple of folks that I’ve talked with who have gone through similar experiences have admitted that they nearly lost their faith when trying to readjust. And if anything terrified me, it was the thought of all of it slipping through my fingers completely. So I didn’t talk about it, at least, not really. Because that way I wouldn’t have to confront all of… that.
But I want to tell you about all that I saw. I desperately want you to understand that it wasn’t a stint in Guatemala that changed me, it was God out there. And it’s not that God isn’t in America. But I met him in the truest sense I’ve ever experienced. I saw him in people. I felt him as he breathed life into the dead. I witnessed miracles, things that “don’t happen,” that you don’t notice, until God himself opens your eyes. And even then, I was still shielding my eyes so as not to be blinded by what I couldn’t comprehend.
I am overwhelmed by God’s redemption sweeping through Guatemala, and I was only there, in one little port city, for a semester. I was only feeling the tremors before the earth splits; I’m bracing myself, but I’m still reeling. And now I’m trying to look at my life through the new lens I’ve been given. I’m trying to integrate the wild and unpredictable God that I fell for into a structured society where we often don’t have time to act when God says “go!” And I hate it.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate America. I am blessed to live here. Truly, I’m floored by the blessings that have been handed to me. But I realize now that I had misplaced so much value, so much love, in places where it didn’t belong. Trivial things were my idol. And I am done serving those gods. They’re pretty stale in comparison to what I’ve seen of our God.
I don’t want to rant. I don’t want to become your friend Belle, the girl that went on a missions trip and came back brooding and bitter towards, well, everything that wasn’t in Spanish. But I am sorry because there’s a large part of me that never came home. And due to my intentional forgetfulness, I won’t be able to fill all the roles that I did before, you know, the not so great ones. Hopefully I left all of my sinful baggage that I felt obligated to take along. And I tried to leave behind my silly worries about the future, and I feel that I did mostly. In exchange, I attempted to bring back a new perspective, a new dedication to honesty, wholesome love, and a new, fiery zeal for the Word, and just talking with and about Jesus in general. And I brought back a ridiculous amount of stories; really funny, truly heart-breaking, genuinely God-written stories.
Maybe we’ll sit down one day, and I’ll unlock the chest where I carry these stories, and just tell you all of it. And I’ll try to help you understand. But you’ll finally agree: you won’t be able to understand until you go.