I’ve only flown first class one other time in my life. A unit manufacturer in Missouri wanted me to come to their facility without a lot of notice. To “sweeten” the request, they flew me and one of my co-workers first class. I remember loving the pampering we received on the flight, and I loved the extra space. Standing at nearly 6’6″, the extra leg room was especially appreciated. That was 16 years ago.
Fast forward to today, and I’m flying first class again on our initial flight from Newark, NJ to Miami, FL. We worked with a travel agent this year, and she arranged for one of our four flights to and from Guatemala to be first class at the same rate we would have paid otherwise.
It’s quite a contrast from our previous flights, and it’s an even bigger contrast from the conditions we’ll be experiencing while we’re in Xenacoj. We enjoyed hot towels to wipe our hands before breakfast served on the plane. We enjoyed a hot breakfast on real plates and with real silverware and glassware. And we even enjoyed fresh fruit.
In Guatemala, we’ll be treated well, but we won’t enjoy these luxuries. Our meals will most often have some type of rice, beans, and corn tortilla combination. There will be some fresh fruits and vegetables, but we have to be very careful when it comes to consuming these things. (Our bodies don’t like the bacteria found in these areas.)
So far, everything has gone smoothly. Because of our first class seats on our initial flight, we went right by the long check-in line when we first entered the airport. Our first class tickets also allowed us to take a shorter security check line, and we were even able to board the plane before anyone else.
This experience reminded me that we are privileged. We are privileged to live in our country with all its wealth and opportunity. We “privileged” to be white (this isn’t meant to be racist – I just don’t think we realize how our skin color often impacts our opportunity). And I am “privileged” to be a man (in a society that often undervalues women).
As I think of heading back to Guatemala, I want to have a healthy mindset. I want to have an open heart. And I want to have hands and feet that go and serve.
Everything went smoothly with our travels until…
…Until we walked out of the airport in Guatemala City. We expected to see our missionary partner, Dave Sgro. Since we didn’t see him immediately, we assumed he would be in the cafe to the right of the airport exit. We walked over to him, but couldn’t find him. Okay, maybe he’s running a little behind. In our previous visits to Guatemala, Dave has always been there waiting for us, so we were a little surprised when we didn’t see him. We waited for a while, and then we started to get a little nervous.
It’s not smart or safe to stay in Guatemala too late in the day, and we weren’t sure how to connect with him. I tried texting and calling him, but I didn’t get a response on his United States number and the Guatemala phone number I had was obviously not correct. I have unlimited texting on my phone, so I decided to text a friend (James Cook) back in the States to see if he could help us track down Dave. One thing led to another and we discovered that Dave ran into car problems on his way to the airport, but he was on his way. We were told he would be there in 40 minutes, but 40 minutes in Guatemala does not equal 40 minutes in the United States. 40 Guatemalan minutes could mean two hours (as we soon found out).
When Dave eventually showed up, he was driven by a hired driver. We loaded our luggage on the roof of the rented van and we began our trip up to Santo Domingo Xenacoj. On our trip, Dave told us the story behind his delay.
We eventually arrived in Xenacoj, and I felt like I was home after two years away. We unloaded our luggage and proceeded to check out our digs for the next two weeks. After dropping our bags off in our bedroom, we climbed the stairs to the roof where we could look over most of Xenacoj. The air was crisp. The smells of cooking fires wafted through the air and mixed with the sounds of local churches conducting their Sunday afternoon/evening services. I took in a deep breath. As I exhaled I smiled to myself. What a blessing to be in Xenacoj.
After dinner, we wandered into the streets to take in more of the sights and sounds. As we walked by the houses and stores, we were greeted by stares and hellos from the local residents. Now, we were the ones who were out of place. I heard a few people say how tall we were.
We walked down one of the streets from the Central Park, and we found ourselves knocking on a familiar door. A few seconds later, the door opened and we were eventually welcomed into the house of Betty. Two years ago, we built a house for Betty, and it was so good to see her and her family again.
As we looked at her house, we discovered that there had been some modifications made to the structure we initially put together. Three layers of cinder blocks had been added to the house, and a new room had been added to the back of the house. Apparently, the abuelo (the grandpa) had removed a few layers of the siding we had put up when we built the house and replaced the wood with more cinder blocks. We were told it helped firm up the house from wind and rain. THe family seemed happy to see us, and we promised to return later in the week (perhaps tomorrow).
Heading back to our house for the next two weeks, I’m exhausted. The two hour time difference and the early morning are good reasons to turn in early tonight. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
Special thanks to Denise Wiggins for arranging such amazing travel for our family. While it felt a little strange to be traveling first class on our way to a missions trip in a third world country, our family will always remember this experience.
Special thanks to James Cook for helping us hook up with German Espana and Dave Sgro. God puts special people in your life everyday. Two years ago, I met James when I was in Guatemala with my family, and I’m so thankful for this friendship.
Special thanks to German and Suzy Espana for graciously providing dinner for us