Students serve needy during Guatemala mission trip

Dozens of local students hopped across the Savannah River for spring break, working long hours at Augusta National, and at least a few students leaped clear across the Gulf of Mexico, serving long-distance neighbors as part of a mission team from TrueNorth Church.

The congregation’s partnership with ministries in Guatemala continues, and Adam Allen, TrueNorth’s student minister, led a team comprised mostly of students to serve in the Guatemala City area.

Allen’s bunch consisted of adults Christie Morris and Pam Ochiltree along with students Taylor Ochiltree, Alyssa Tudor, Brianna Carpenter, Abby Craig and Tyler Young, all serving in a relatively urban environment for this particular trip, April 5 to 13.

“We went to what is called the city dump, or what they’ve affectionately called Dump City,’ and in essence, it’s that,” Allen said.

“They’ve built a city on top of this dump ... Most people there make a living as scavengers.”

The work site, he said, was about a 20-minute drive outside of Guatemala City, the national capital, “and the difference between the two is astounding.”

One major highlight, for Morris, involved putting a new roof on a home that had tremendous leak problems a major problem in a country with a rainy season that can last for almost half the year, with rainfall on the majority of the days during that period. The wet season normally begins in April or May, Allen said.

“It was a life-changing experience,” Morris said, recalling the contact that she had with Clara, a widow who was the head of the household. “Just getting to know the family and their story and their situation, and then how they felt when she got to see the end of the project was just amazing, and how grateful she was and how she could just see God’s grace, and her prayers being answered.”

Allen noted, “She’s been praying for a roof for probably two years.”

Other focal points during the trip included prayer walks (such as walking through a neighborhood and concentrating on prayer for the residents) and delivering bags of food for particularly needy families, along with “just being there to listen and love,” Allen said.

“Guatemala is plagued with crime and these gangs that run the show. Every time I go there, it breaks my heart to realize how little control the government or police have in a situation.”

He cited the example of a family that the TrueNorth group served. “This family of six had been orphaned. Their dad had been murdered a few years ago, and the mom had just recently been murdered, because of a gang situation.”

That family is now led by a 16-year-old girl with five younger siblings.

The group from North Augusta also had some lighthearted activities, including offering a baseball clinic for kids from elementary through high school age. Among the gifts were dozens of balls, bats and gloves that were donated by schools and recreation officials around Aiken County.

Allen emphasized that the outreach is not a hit-and-run affair. It is based, instead, on a long-term partnership with groups already in place.

“The ministry still stays there, so it’s not just bringing God into a country and then God leaves and we leave. When we partner with these churches and ministries, once we leave, they are still there to sustain the ministry that’s going on.”