The Guatemala Mission Trip, a program through Belk Chapel, is one of Queens’ longest running service activities. This spring break, 13 students and three advisors traveled to Guatemala. This was my third time in this program, my first as an advisor.
Over the years, I have struggled with the concept of a “mission trip.” I have asked myself questions about the purpose: What is the significance of a white Christian male from the United States traveling abroad for the purpose of missions? Do I have knowledge of a deeper truth that I must share with those living outside of the wealthiest country in the world? Do I have a better understanding of community or God’s calling? Do I feel sorry for people that live in material poverty?
My first trip to Guatemala was in 2009.It was eye opening. I gained a greater understanding of why we plan mission trips. I realized that building relationships and community was the purpose. This year, as an advisor for the group, I saw firsthand how friendship develops. It was one of the most beautiful moments for me. It affirmed the power of cross-cultural interactions and proved that we all receive the benefit of mission work. The thought that these trips are for the wealthy to impart their wisdom and gifts to the poor was challenged by what I witnessed this year.
On the second night of the mission trip, Dr. Mowrey presented Emerson Morales (or Momo for alumni), with a photo book of his journeys with Queens. Emerson is a Guatemalan, and has been leading Queens’ groups for ten years. He works for the Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA), the organization which Belk Chapel has partnered with for almost two decades. Queens was his first group.
At this moment, I realized that I was not just witnessing a Guatemalan and a North American minister be thankful for one another, but I saw two beautiful souls that have grown into a deep friendship. Watching as they shared tears, laughter, and a long hug, my heart filled with appreciation and a deep sense of the need for building relationships.
This year was a reminder that if I am to continue with overseas missions, I must humble myself. The love that connects the human spirit is more important than anything that we can offer one another. As I continue on my own personal journey, I’m reminded that family and community must exist without borders. I am grateful for the opportunities that I have had to travel to Guatemala. I am grateful to know Emerson and Dr. Mowrey. They showed me the deeper meaning of what it means to build relationships and be part of a community.