Challenges and callings

March 11, 2013

La Limonada It’s crazy to think that even among all the challenges this trip has brought into our lives- challenges of former beliefs, relationships, hopes, needs, and faith- that one could feel a call from God and have it ring true.

We traveled in two groups (one on the 27th and one on the 28th of February) to a part of Guatemala City called La Limonada. La Limonada is considered a “zona roja” by the Guatemalan government and an uninhabitable place that leaves a bad taste in your mouth by the Guatemalan people. Made up of 10 barrios each run by rival gangs, it serves as a border between zones 1 and 5 and houses roughly 60,000 people in an area 1 mile by 1/2 a mile. It is the largest urban slum in Central America. The people who live there face many challenges, including lack of education and job opportunities, spiritual darkness, unsustainable living conditions, no running water or electricity, and a stigma of living in a sub-culture of extreme poverty that leads to illegal activity and a culture of fear.

So what could possibly compel someone- especially a white, English-speaking woman- to return to a place like that? Some may say that it’s the hope that organizations like Lemonade International bring to the area. Founded by cooperation between Guatemalan Tita Evertsz and U.S. aid organizations,Colt Duttweiler interacts with a small child in the nursery at the La Limonada school Lemonade International has six programs established to help the people of La Limonada. These include two academies, scholarship programs, vocational training and a micro-enterprise program, a community of faith program, community development program, and the Mi Casita safe home, which I will be returning to for my week of independent travel; alone. Although organizations like these certainly provide many with hope, I can’t say that my nursing background would lead me to choose this place solely because of that hope. Without a doubt or any hesitation, I’d say that this choice was a call from God. Ojalá que (God willing) I’ll stay safe and not only be able to help out next week, but be able to learn from the people who, according to others, aren’t worth listening to.

-Afton Vanderwarker


This is a very obvious type one incident* but it continues to bother me! And I’m continuing to withdraw instead of trying to figure it out, because in my opinion, there is no ethical reasoning behind this action.

* A Type 1 incident is when we are offended by something in the host culture and are tempted to withdraw in disgust.  It is resolved when we consider and understand the logical reasons for that behavior or custom. –Craig Storti (2001)The Art of Crossing Cultures

So today we get back from our week long trip and like other Sundays, my family and I go to church in the evening, but this time I noticed something different. As we walk onto the church property there is a young man standing there with a HUGE PERSON-KILLING GUN. Of course I see these on a daily basis in front of every store or building, but outside of the church gave me such a weird feeling.

As if that wasn’t enough, the entire sermon was about peace! Sharing peace, promoting peace, loving PEACE!

Ah, Irony! I know guns/guards here are extremely cultural and come from a heightened sense of needed protection and (many times) justified fear, but I just can’t see past the irony of accepting guns outside the church while preaching a life of “peace like Jesus”.

Granted this phenomenon of gun toting Christians is the same in the U.S., just not quite as visible. I definitely feel like it’s a type one incident and I don’t have the patience to hear the explanation. I’m stuck in my ways and I have no desire to change, only the desire for others to change.

This brings the question, “Am I culturally stuck in my pacifist Mennonite ways, or is this a Biblical truth?” I’d like to think it’s a truth. Isn’t “peace” and the meaning of it translated the same everywhere?

I hate being so “stuck in the mud” and “closed minded” on an issue, but I am!

-Emily Shenk