Thursday was our last day in Sehaquiba and we were sad. In a few short days, these amazing and wonderful people worked their way into our hearts. They have changed us.
Our instructions were to focus on doing one stove installation per team and to do it with great intention and presence … to pay more attention to the family and enjoy their company. We were quite happy to oblige. We rode up the hill in the bus a couple of miles and then hiked in to Jose’s little house, which, interestingly, was the first little home on the hill I had noticed when we first arrived in Sehaquiba. It was there I had seen two little girls watching the bus round the corner into their world. Those two little girls stood atop their hill once again, and this time welcomed us up to their home.
When the stove was complete and the Monitoring Mothers had done their teaching about its use, some girls immediately set about preparing tortillas. They pat the meal like pancakes, then add some spiced black beans, add more meal and pat into a perfect tortilla to put on the stove. Kendra jumped in to participate, and then me. You would think patting some black bean mixture into a tortilla would be easy, but I managed to make a mess of it, and they laughed when I put mine on the stove!
The room was rearranged and a table set in the middle, with a bench alongside for us to sit and eat the bean tortillas and drink the Moosh. Fortunately for a corn hater like me, this was 99% warm sweetened milk and 1% corn. Per our tradition, we gathered for a blessing, praying for the family and their health, and them praying blessings on our families and our safe return home.
Back at the community center, music was already playing and groups were gathering for our closing ceremony. Like the welcoming ceremony just days before, the facility was decorated and the spirit was jovial. Women were cooking stew in huge pots in another room, and the marimba men were keeping things lively while the kids danced with us again.
Jose opened the ceremony with a spiritual reflection and scripture, then Enrique (the mayor) gave his speech:
“Thank you for the love you’ve shown us and for your help in community development. We’re so happy having you here working together with the people – your organization, coordination, empowerment. We thank God for these Americans thinking about this community. We have understood the need for these stoves – no more smoke in the house – this is important for our good health.”
The community council representative said “We don’t have anything to pay you back, but we are so grateful for what you’ve done.” They presented Mark with a thank you note written in three languages.
The last Qiche speaker said,“We love Americans … because they become our friends.”
They love us not because we brought them a physical gift but because we developed relationships with them. And while they said they had nothing to give us as thanks, that wasn’t true. They gave each and every team member a gift – something made with their own hands, for us to take home and remember them by.
After many speeches, gifts and dances, we made our way to the bus, where the Monitoring Mothers and their kids joined us for prayer. The Mother who prayed (Josephina?) was sobbing, and then were the rest of us. I watched Ophelia wipe tears from Olga’s cheek. Such amazing women trying to accomplish so much for their community, and feeling powerless without the support of the Americans and MTI to back them up. Ironic, really, as THEY are the ones doing the work, providing education and helping their fellow community members to see what must happen for them to experience improved health and wellbeing.
Saying goodbye was SO hard. I am already dreaming of the day I can return and embrace them with a warm and hearty, “Masalachole!” (How is your soul?!)
Back in Coban, we had dinner and MTI staff presented us with certificates that have the photo of our team with the Sehaquiba community, and a bag of Coban coffee, too. More moving speeches, more thanks, more appreciation.
I don’t need – or deserve – all that, because truly, I have received more than I have given.
(If you care to hear any more about the experience working in Guatemala, send me a note! If you want to learn more about the amazing opportunities with Medical Teams International, visit www.medicalteams.org.)