Mission to Guatemala

UPAVIM Delegation in 2011

UPAVIMWhat are the lives of our neighbors like that share the same hemisphere? What do we have in common? How are we different? In an effort to understand the lives of the Guatemalan people, and they of ours, DGFUMC has sent several teams to live with members of the Unidas Para Viver Mejor (UPAVIM) Christian community in the impoverished outskirts of Guatemala City. We have also hosted two teams of women from UPAVIM in our homes in Downers Grove. UPAVIM is a cooperative association of about 88 women from marginalized areas. Some are widows, some were abandoned by their husbands, and some are dealing with alcoholism in their families. Many are sole providers of economic support for their families. They began helping themselves and their community in 1988 with a Healthy Baby program, then decided to create products to sell to generate funds. With those funds they have built a facility which houses a medical clinic with a pharmacy and laboratory, a daycare, a school from K-6th grade, a library, soy milk production, a bakery and rooms for the manufacture and shipping of their handicrafts. They are now working in a number of ways to achieve better housing, clean water, better education and health care for the thousands of people in their community.

 

We travel not to build buildings, but to build a long-term relationship. As Christians, we are charged with reaching out in understanding. In the Beatitudes we are told to put ourselves in "the other person’s shoes." Because our world is so diverse, we need greater understanding of cultural traditions, religious practices, trade, sharing resources, reducing pollution, and peaceful ways of resolving conflict. And, as Christians, we need to stand in solidarity alongside one another in the problems we face.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Saying goodbye was so difficult: after just four days, we felt as though we were lifelong friends. Certainly, we had shared a great deal in a short time. We spent the morning talking with the UPAVIM Board about our purpose, vision and mission statements, and deepened our understanding of what our relationship means for each of us, and how it might develop in the future into practical outworkings that "promote quality and dignity of life: in BOTH our communities".

Friday to Monday, July 4-7, 2008

We have very little internet time today, but wanted to let you know that we're all well, and that the weekend has been a moving and extraordinary experience for us, both in our host families in La Esperanza, and in the time we have spent learning about the various projects and activities of UPAVIM.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

After a night in the Las Palmas Hotel, where we failed to dry any of our clothes that were drenched in the previous evening's shower, we set off for ADIVIMA to learn of the tragic history of this region. We met Juan de Dios Garcia, who described with remarkable calmness the terrible massacres that took place in villages around Rabinal, including Rio Negro, where 107 children and 70 women were killed in one day in 1982. The resistance of the indigenous population to losing their land to a hydroelectric project was ruthlessly suppressed by the army.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

During the first two days of the trip, we are being given a glimpse of Guatemala's troubled history with the help of some remarkable people who have been risking their lives to promote human rights and justice in a country still struggling to emerge from a 36-year civil war. In 1996, a peace agreement was signed between the government and the guerrillas, with promises of social justice for all Guatemalans, including the indigenous Mayan population. However, it takes a long time to transform a country that has been so damaged by violence.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

We're here! After a very early start, and a change at Houston, the mission team to Guatemala landed in Guatemala City at around 11am local time (one hour behind Chicago). The welcome was as warm as we had been led to expect; and, for those who came last year and for new delegates alike, it was very welcome after the strains of travel.

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