Blogged: Guatemala Mission Trip

Guatemalan village

Traveling is a huge part of Queens’ culture. From semesters abroad and language immersion to short-term faculty-led trips, the possibilities are endless. For the last 18 years, students from Queens have traveled to Guatemala with Diane Mowrey. This year marked the 19th consecutive year, and Mowrey was joined by Joey Haynes, Queens’ interim chaplain, and Margaret Commins, a professor of political science. Including the three faculty members, there were 19 people on the trip this year.

The Guatemala Mission Trip is sponsored by Belk Chapel; it is a chance for students and faculty to become global citizens, embrace and learn about a new culture, meet new people, and strengthen or discover their faith. Queens makes this trip happen through a partnership with CEDEPCA, the Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America, and fundraising done by the students. The partnership with CEDEPCA makes sure that Queens’ time in Guatemala is safe and full of learning.

Josh practices a Guatemalan weaving technique

Josh Clasky practices weaving.

As a participant of this trip, I was in charge of creating a keeping a blog of our adventures in Guatemala. The content of this article is a summarized version of what is included on the blog, which you can find on our WordPress.

Day 1: March 4th marked the first day of our trip. We left Queens at around 9:45 a.m. and our flight left at 1:13 p.m. We had a layover in Atlanta, Georgia before we made it to Guatemala City at 9 p.m. EST. Our tour guides that we had through CEDEPCA, Emerson and Albita, gave us some do’s and don’t’s for our time there.

Day 2: March 5th was our first full day in Guatemala. We started off the day with breakfast (as we did every morning) before heading to CEDEPCA’s headquarters in Guatemala City. We learned about the Women’s Ministry and their goals. Following the information session about the Women’s Ministry, we listened to a presentation titled “Guatemala in Context.” This was a presentation to teach us about the history of Guatemala. Our team had lunch at Pollo Campero and then headed to the Group of Mutual Support—a group designed to find information about the people who were abducted and killed during the civil war. The day was concluded with a walk around Central Park, dinner, and a reflection about brokenness.

Sun dried bananas

Process of sun-drying bananas at the Finca Santa Elena Plantation. Photo by Katie Farrell.

Day 3: On March 6th, we watched a film called Reparando to learn about the lives of Guatemalans and how they were affected by different issues. The main issue at hand is gang violence. After watching the screening of this film, we were given about half an hour to walk around before watching a presentation by Dr. Commins about migration. We had lunch before going to Casa del Migrante, a place where people who are in transition between two places can come for shelter until they know where they’re going. The group had dinner with an ex-gang member and now pastor, Shorty, before completing the night with a reflection about neighbors.

Day 4: Emerson, Albita, and our faculty advisors surprised us all on the 7th and took us to La Limonada to meet up with Tita. Tita was a feature in the film Reparando and built a school in La Limonada, which is one of the poorest settlements in Central America. After the visit to La Limonada, we went to San Martin for lunch. One of the greatest visits each year is to Heart of the Women, a weaving cooperative created by native women of Guatemala who lived during the civil war and wanted to better their lives. Dr. Mowrey was also honored by this organization while we were there. Everyone in the group was split into smaller groups for our homestays on this night—this is when everyone stays with a Guatemalan family.

Students gather in the plantation

Mark Schomer, co-owner of the Finca Santa Elena Plantation, talks to Queens students and faculty about the plantation and Mayan tree that is on its land. Photo by Katie Farrell.

Day 5: Our homestays ended on the 8th, but the adventure didn’t end. After being picked up from each of the homes, we headed to Xela, Guatemala. We stopped at Red K’at, a place created as a peaceful spot for Mayans and other people who want to learn, for lunch. After lunch, we went to the hotel before having free time in Xela. We had pizza for dinner this night before a reflection surrounding everything we’d experienced while in Guatemala.

Day 6: March 9th was fun for us because we were able to visit a coffee plantation. Specifically, we visited the Finca Santa Elena. This plantation sells coffee, bananas, plantains, honey and even firewood. We spent the majority of our day at the Finca learning about how coffee is grown and sold, how they sundry bananas, and how they pay their workers. We had more free time once we got back to the hotel, had dinner, and then did a guided meditation to reflect on the week we had.

Guatemalan church

Santiago Catholic Church in Santiago Atitlán. Photo by Josh Clasky.

Day 7: March 10th was a pretty busy day; we went to Lake Atitlán and Santiago Atitlán. We left Xela to go to Panajachel so that we could take a boat over to Santiago. Once in Santiago, we had lunch, visited “The Peace Park,” and went to the Santiago Catholic Church. The Peace Park is a memorial for the group of 15 people who were killed by an army massacre and the Catholic Church is where Stanely Rother was murdered. On this night, the devotion was around a bonfire; we talked about our greatest joys and listened to Chioma play songs on her Ukulele.

Day 8: The 11th was pretty chill; we went to mass at the Santiago Church, then went back over to Panajachel for lunch. We were on the bus for quite a while, but once we got back to Guatemala City we had dinner, our devotion, and then went to rest before a long day of flights on the 12th.

Students listen to a guide

Queens students touring Casa del Migrante. Photo by Andrew LaPointe.

Day 9: On our last day in Guatemala, March 12th, we were only in the country for a couple of hours. We were up at around 4 a.m. to make an 8 a.m. international flight, so there was no time for final site-seeing that day. It was emotional for a lot of us, but we were happy to be back home—even if we didn’t get back to North Carolina until around 8 p.m.

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.