We have arrived in Santo Tomas! We left Helena yesterday at 5:40 PM and flew to Salt Lake. Once in Salt Lake we discovered that the plane we boarded in SLC would be the plane to take us all the way to Guatemala City, of course with stopping in LA getting off with all of our stuff, making a stop at McDonald’s and getting back on in different seats. Yet still, what are the chances of that happening? When we arrived this morning everyone was tired, it seems that no one slept particularly well on the plane. It was great to see Sheila and Cerilo who greeted us and made sure we ate breakfast which significantly helped add more energy and pep to the group.
The students are out exploring the town now and are eager to see what is in store for the week. The questions they have asked and observations already made are very insightful and will lead to great reflections as our time here unfolds. I will encourage them to reflect as they settle in!
Thank you for your prayers and for following our journey.
Pizza at the Port (as in airport)
So, being the baby of my family has led me to be a little bit of an attention seeker, so obviously I wanted to be the author of the first blog. I’m typing on Colleen’s iPad in the busy, crowded, and spacious Helena airport. We ordered pizza after going through security (yeah, we’re rebels), but we might not get to eat it because we might leave sooner than scheduled. I guess I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I’m trying to savor every last bit of American food I eat. Hopefully this trip will teach me to eat a little more simply and appreciate the food I have available to me (except peanuts, I’m allergic to those). Our day started with a beautiful mass celebrated with family, friends, and various members of the Carroll community. St. Charles chapel was full! It was so great to have the support of so many people, especially since I thought it was just going to be our group of 16 and a few family members. Since I thought it was going to be small, I showed up just a few minutes early and ended up having to sit in the back corner. Nevertheless, it was an amazing time and I’m so glad I got to share it with the people who came. I really liked it because I didn’t have any family there, so it was really neat to feel the support and love from others. (I don’t mean to throw my parents under the bus, they were traveling back from visiting family in California, otherwise I’m sure they would have come to see their baby boy). I’m sure this trip will help me to appreciate the presence of my family and friends more than I do now. Well, I think that’s gonna be it for now. I’m gonna go bond with the other people in the group. I’m so excited to get to know everyone and share this life changing experience with them. Matt Harrison, Cody, Ella, David, and Tyler are playing hacky-sack, I can’t really do that so I’m gonna sit and talk with Matt Christiaens, Ryan, the journalers Hannah and Jennesa, Colleen, and Kay.
Ok, so after I typed that, our pizza came, we devoured it, and boarded our plane shortly after. Our flight attendant was a graduate of Helena High class of ’82. At first I thought he was extremely rude, but after awhile I began to understand his sense if humor. He was cracking jokes about Carroll/made our group the butt of his jokes and was more animated than the average flight attendant. He was funny, but probably slightly inappropriate. Now we are in the Salt Lake airport waiting for our flight to Los Angeles. From there we will be flying to Guatemala City from 1am- 6am. Yes, in the A.M., as in the morning, as in no sleep for me. I still can’t believe we are actually going! We are all so excited!
Thanks for reading and thanks for your prayers!
communications and public relations
Cut Bank, MT
A look back to our visit to the Mission in May of 2010:
Finally, the year was capped off by a visit from more than 20 students from Carroll College Campus Ministry. I was on the first trip Carroll took to the mission three years ago, and it was great to have them back and to be a part of their experience. They were an incredible group that really reflected hard and dove deep into the culture and the poverty here. The Carroll Students were clearly a special group of visitors- they were very prayerful, reflective, sensitive, perceptive, gracious, and joyful. They did as good of a job at reaching out to the people here, especially my students and building meaningful relationships with them in just a few days as anyone I have seen come to the mission. I can say that my students at school absolutely loved getting to hang out with the Carroll students- play basketball with them (me and my students lost after all my trash talking to the carroll team), dance with them, swim with them, hike with them, talk three languages with them, make high fives and handshakes with them, and pray with them. It was really a gift to me to get to be a part of Carroll’s experience here and see them not only truly jump right into the mission with great flexibility and enthusiasm, but also really come to understand and reflect upon the meaning and future of our mission here. I think for having been here two weeks- Carroll really gets what our mission is all about, which reminds me of why Carroll has always been one of the strongest and most important supporters of the mission in its history (Fr. Hazy and Sheila both went to Carroll along with lots of volunteers and benefactors). It was also a great reminder for me in my last few days there of why I am so hopeful for the future of our mission, a future that Carroll seems excited to play a bigger and bigger role in.
Guatemala seems like such a long time ago that I barely remember what my expectations were going in. Frankly I think I was most worried about the weather. I wilt in heat and humidity. And maybe the food, I can be a picky eater. Once I got there, I didn’t spend much time thinking about those things. Even though it was six years ago, I still have moments when I vividly remember something: a mountain pass that looks like it’s from Jurassic Park, the sound of ululating prayer rising to the ceiling in the town church, the chilly morning fog in the mountain villages, the surreal feeling of hearing 30 tiny Guatemalan children sing “Hello, Goodbye” for you. I entered a phase of intense creativity when I returned home. It’s the stuff poems are made of.
But there’s another thing I took away from Guatemala, and all my Headlights experiences, that affects me every day – the deep importance in my life in building communities. Our group became a little family, and we’re still connected by the shared experience. The church in Santo Tomas was a family, Father Hazy’s school was a family, all the small villages we visited supported one another like family members. One of the resounding reflections from everyone on the trip was the sentiment that, though the people of Guatemala have a host of needs in order to live longer, safer lives, they all have the community support that we try to achieve and that makes everything else easier to bear.
So hang out, have fun, and take it back with you.
Preparing to Leave
Our trip to Guatemala happens in just a little more than a week. Students have worked hard to raise funds and learn about the culture, faith, and politics of Guatemala and the Mayan people. As the time gets closer the students are excited but also nervous about what they will see and experience. Everything from spiders and clean drinking water to safety have been topics of concern.
Before we go I would like to say thank you to all who have been so generous in donating to our trip. In addition to generous financial donations, we will be taking with us medical supplies (donated by the Carroll nursing department) and T shirts and sweatshirts (donated by Total Screen Design in Polson). We also plan to take some soccer balls and basketballs for use at the school and the mission.
In the days leading up to the trip I have asked past participants to write reflections on their experience of visiting the Mission and providing wisdom of what to be attentive to and reassuring of safety. I will update the blog as I receive these reflections.
Thank you again for following us. We welcome your prayers as we prepare for this journey!
Trips for 2013
Plans for this year’s Headlights Immersion trips are underway and students are beginning fundraising activities. This year we have 13 students going to Guatemala in May. On January 6th another 12 students are traveling to Browning, MT to spend a week at the De La Salle Blackfeet School. Over spring break we have the most students signed up for trips that I have seen in 9 years, which is great! Students will be going to Rochester, NY, Kansas City, KS, and Denver, CO and all trips are full!
Students are beginning fundraising this week by selling raffle tickets. For Guatemala, 300 tickets are being sold for a chance to win a weekend in Glacier Park, tickets are $20. For the spring trips we are raffling off gift certificates to local restaurants. To buy tickets email Colleen at email@example.com!
Important dates to keep in mind are February 9th for our annual spaghetti dinner at St. Mary’s church and then again on April 27th for a dinner and a silent auction to raise funds for the Guatemala trip.
Finally, we will be keeping our blog for all of these trips. Please check in at: https://carrollheadlights.org/ to see what the students are up to!
Miranda Van Lieshout
Re – Entry, God Is Enough
I found returning to the United States and Helena much harder than I expected. I was overwhelmed by consumerism, options, and technology. I went to Costco with my wife the day after I returned and all I could see was a bunch of people saying “I want, I want, I want…” kind of like that little girl on Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It is now four days later and I still feel overwhelmed by our culture. Coming home from Guatemala has left me with one most obvious lesson and that is “God is enough”. The poor have very little and when things get worse they always know they have God and that is enough. That is an amazing thing to see, and lesson to learn. They are happy because God is enough. In my opinion, we seem to have surrounded ourselves with distractions from this truth. We somehow believe that our next purchase, or our next relationship, or our next vacation is what is going to make us happy. Our kids want the newest next thing that is going to make them happy. We so easily forget that God is enough. The truth is that happiness is found in love and in giving that love to others. This is the type of love only Christ can provide. It is freely given and cannot be taken away from us. It is the true source of happiness. This truth is the only explanation I have for my experience of the poor being rich in spirit, and the rich being poor in spirit. As I feel consumed by our culture, I pray that I do not fall into needing the next thing, but instead remember that God is enough and to live in Christ love and give that love to others.
Back in Montana
The change from being in Guatemala for almost two weeks and coming back to the states has not been easy. I am still adjusting to life here in Montana. Since I have departed from other members of the group, I have totally felt alone and on my own. There is no one else around me who has experienced and seen the things that I did. I almost feel scared, but at the same time, I feel such a beautiful peace within me that I cannot really explain. I am not sure why I feel this way, but I think it would be safe to attribute it to the wonderful people of Guatemala. I think that they showed me such a beautiful way of life; a life of simplicity and holding a high importance on God, even when there is no reason to be joyful. Before this trip, I thought I had a good idea of what was important in life, but now that I have had the experience of immersing into the Guatemalan culture and living so simply, I think I have a much better understanding. From this understanding, I believe that I am becoming a much better person in more ways than one.
Although I experienced culture shock going to Guatemala, I am experiencing just as much here in Montana. Whether it is walking through the mall in Bozeman, sitting through my little sister’s high school graduation, or just relaxing on my bed, I can’t stop pondering about Guatemala and how much difference there is between the two cultures. My mind keeps drifting back to the people in Guatemala and their living condtions. I cannot stop thinking about what they are all doing at any given moment and what is going on at the clinic and school. I fall asleep thinking about my brothers and sisters there. I will always have a special place in my heart for everyone that I saw or met. Not a day will go by that I will not think about Guatemala and everything that the people down there need and what they have taught me. I really hope to return to the Mission in Guatemala someday and continue on with the foundations of the relationships which I have began. In addition, I hope this amazing group and I can go spread the word about how important it is to work towards social justice.
So I knew that this trip was going to hit me hard when I got home, but I didn’t know what that meant. The Saturday after getting home, I felt brain dead. People would talk to me, but I would only catch half of what they said. I had very little emotion and hardly anything to say. I would just stare off into space. Then, when I went back to work on Sunday, I wanted to tell my stories to everyone who complained about something; they would complain about their food not tasting just right, or wanting 5 refills of soda, or that our beer menu wasn’t entirely accurate. The US and Guatemala are so different, and it’s painful to see the world we live in here and how materialized and unthankful we are. That may sound a little harsh, but it’s sadly true. I know this world would be a better place if everyone could have the experience we did in Guatemala.
So now what? Did you know that for just $300 a year you could sponsor a child to attend the school La Asuncion? That includes room and board! And Sheila, the clinics director, is constantly scrounging for money. You can also purchase an ONIL stove to place in a poor persons home for only $100, or you can plant 50 trees for $50. There are so many ways we can help these people. So spread the word and help us spread the light of Christ through showing compassion and love for the poor.
Thanks everyone who has been following our blog, it’s been so nice to be able to share our experiences with you.
“If you pray, you will believe; if you believe, you will love; if you love, you will serve.”
A Weird Transition
Ok well I get to be one of the lucky ones and write a second blog. I first want to start by thanking all of those people that have been keeping us in their prayers. This experience has been life changing and challenging for every person down here, and I don’t say that lightly. What we have seen, experienced, and shared with each other has brought a range of emotions. We have shared laughter and joy to tears of sadness. Many questions have assailed our group that we have not been able to find the answer to. In spite of this our trip has been a success. In a little over a week we have learned not only to love the people down here, but also love each other and ourselves and see Christ in all. The transition however from this world of poverty in Santo Tomas to the states however is where I want to dwell on in this blog.
The last two days we have spent in Panajchel. I have never had so much disdain for such a pretty town. This is the ultimate tourist attraction. The lake is real close and there are dozens of little shops where a person could get anything that they desired. There are many Europeans and Americans walking around. Many of the people also know way more English than in the upper Mayan regions. Despite all of this beauty I am frustrated. I have been living in a poverty stricken region where even though I was treated and fed like a king I could still feel a sense of kinship to the people living there. I desired with all of my heart to treat them, as Christ would want me to. Many of them became my friends. I can see their faces and remember our conversations and even though it was difficult at times to see the level of poverty, but I could get through that in the relationships that I created. Here is a different story. The markets are filled with vendors that are trying to sell their wares. The line between was is hand-made and factory created is blurred. It is more difficult to see that my money is being put to a family that actually needs it instead of going to some corporation that is exploiting these people. The poverty is still present, but no one wants to talk or let you get to know them. They will follow you all over town just to sell their wares and part of me wants to buy them because it might help them. Another part wants to be left alone because all they see me as is a way to make some money. I guess this is the dilemma that everyone in our group is dealing with.
The transition therefore is hard. I personally would like to be back in the mission because this touristy mode is difficult for me. However it is getting easier. At first I shut down and just wanted to forget this place and get back home, but now I can see the stark contrast and it is good that I can get a chance to understand the different faces of poverty here in Guatemala. This scares me in a way because I don’t want to forget all of the things that I have learned and just get comfortable with entering back into my own life. I guess I will rely on God to make sure that this experience has helped to transform my heart in full that I may be able to see and respect the poverty that is present in all of the world and not just when it is starkly in front of me. I seriously hope that I get the chance to return here after I graduate from college and put in a year of service. There is so much work that needs to be done and I want to be part of that. Much love to all of you who have been in my prayers and thoughts. I can’t wait to share all my experiences with you and tell you of all the people that I have fallen in love with down here.