Visiting Homes in REMOTE Canlun, Guatemala
GUATEMALA TRIP DAY #5
Had THE most incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience today. We traveled to the tiniest, most remote village I have ever been to. Some homes/huts with a tiny LDS chapel made up the entire village from what I could tell. What was obvious was that visitors rarely (if ever) come - everyone came out of their homes to watch us as we walked down the lanes between homes.
What made it even more incredible was that, minus one home with a radio of some sort (that played it loudly the whole time :) ), there was no sign of modernity. This wasn’t some village “preserved” for tourists to visit. This village was existing like it always had - bamboo walls, grass roofs, packed dirt floors, living fences, traditional clothing, smokey fires in the homes, pigs outside, etc. The teeny chapel had no AC and was the only brick and mortar building we could see. The homes were along little lanes that formed “blocks” with a central open field.
We met the branch president who guided us to families who are struggling right now. [Robert said that when he asked what the branch president did for work - as there wasn’t any industry that he could see - the branch president said something like, “It’s difficult to find work here” and later found out he was unemployed. His wife is 9 months pregnant too.] Our entire group would squish into the home - sweating because they cook indoors with fires - and sing “Once in David’s Royal City” (the branch president’s favorite). Mike said that the line “the poor and meek and lowly” was the theme of the whole trip. After each song, the members would most often say, “Us” (oooooooos) - meaning “alright” or “okay” :) When we finished, the branch president said that it felt like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was in their home and that he felt the Spirit so strongly. I’m sure it was a little overwhelming to have a 30+ person choir singing in these tiny homes.
It was incredible to walk along the path with every family coming to see who we were. We would just say “Ma sa’ la ch’ol!” (how are you?) or “China-us” (beautiful) or “bueno, bueno” (hi) to everyone we saw - they would giggle at our accents. :)
Mom was in HEAVEN. She gave out all of her stars to the children - they then asked her for sticker stars for their parents and grandparents. The adults would come up solemnly with their hands out to get their gifts from Mom. It touched me - it was a gift worth so much more to them than what it did to us.
We went to 5 homes, I think - one of which I sat down and TONS of children squished through the back door to stand around me - completely surrounding me. I sang right to them. :) At another home, there was a pig that would “sing” (squeal) with us. :)
The scenery was unreal back there - just grass huts surrounded by fields of corn with lush, STEEP mountains on every side in the distance. We just couldn’t get enough of how gorgeous it is here. Jared, Mike, Erika, Suzi and others road on top of the vans for part of the trip - one of my favorite memories was seeing the PURE JOY on one of the lady's faces in our group, Suzi, as she road on top!
When we got back from Canlun, we went to Sacsuha and had lunch with Walter - a member who was a chef (had taken some cooking classes). We performed for a FULL house afterwards. Every inch of the room was packed with people - children standing or sitting in the isles, people standing in the back 3-5 deep, and people standing in the halls and in the stairway.
The kids were so well-behaved and the mothers nursed the babies so it was really quiet. Zach gave his testimony in Spanish and then in Kekchi (he had practiced so much beforehand). Some of the members joined us for the Gloria/Loka’lil part of Angels We Have Heard on High. Afterwards we handed out free hymnbooks and Mom (of course) met tons of families and babies - like Betty who Mom visited later tonight in Teleman at her home. It was an incredible night - the people are so humble and we are definitely in the native regions of Guatemala.
So many traveled FAR to come - walking or by cattle truck. Mom reminded me that it meant that they probably wouldn’t eat much that night - it’s not like they have any quick dinner options. The branch in Canlun was able to come by bus with the money we collected from our choir. The part that I will NEVER forget was ALL of the members, sitting outside as families on the grass, standing to wave and wave at us as we drove away until we couldn’t see them anymore. All of us were reaching out the windows to wave back and say all of the Kekchi phrases that we knew - I wanted to get a picture of Mom’s face (she was crying as she said goodbye but her face was just so happy) but I really wanted to wave to the members too so I didn’t get a photo. But I can still see her face in my head - this trip is a miracle for Mom.
It was an incredible day - I don’t know if I will ever have this experience again, but it was incredible. What a joy...