On Tuesday of this week, Wes & Jama Peterson brought their three wonderful kids to Guatemala for their first family mission trip. (Wes spent 3 years as a missionary kid in Guatemala, so this was a great first trip for his fam.) We had soooo many fun plans for our two families. We had sights to see, food to serve, crafts and Bible stories to tell, people to encourage, ministries to visit.... BUT it rained.... and rained.... and rained some more.
Radford & Peterson kids in Pana.
When I woke up about 5:30 am on Wednesday morning, I could hear this loud rushing sound. At first I thought it was just wind from the storm, but we quickly realized it was the river that runs in front of our neighborhood. We knew this could be a disastrous situation for many people living very close to the river, some actually live in the riverbed.
Lee & Wes headed out to see what was happening around town. Normally, the river is less than 10 feet wide, shallow and mostly peaceful. Wednesday it was 50 feet wide in places and raging, muddy brown filth. You could hear the boulders and rocks crashing together in the river. The force of the water washed away thousands of pounds of sand, dirt,and rocks. We saw several buildings and houses fall into the river. Lee had purchased wood at a little wood mill shop on Tuesday. On Wednesday, that business was completely destroyed and hanging in the river.
The expanded riverbed!
Wood mill shop
As we walked around town and talked to people, we realized a few things. The storm had caused some damage to homes and businesses, the roads out of Pana were closed, school was canceled, and some businesses were closed in order to take shelter from the storm. BUT it doesn't appear there was any catastrophic loss of life or property. People seemed calm and curious, not panicked or distraught. This storm was just another interruption in the daily life of Guatemala. This is normal - storms come, storms go, you clean up and begin again.
Some people asked if we had problems at our home from the storm. We had a few power outages but not for long. The biggest inconvenience during that is the interruption of internet service. We had a window that leaked a small amount of water. It soaked a few stuffed animals - which I threw in the dryer for 20 minutes - problem solved. We had to cancel our plans for the week, since it included driving on the roads and boating across the lake. This forced us to be in the house more than planned with 5 active kids. (The kids got along famously and had a great time!)
Scavenging for wood.
Half the road washed into the river.
I was a little worried that the Peterson's would be disappointed in the experience. Their kids didn't get to do all the great things we had planned. They didn't get to see all the great ministries happening here. They saw a lot of rain, a raging river and they got to play with friends for 3 days. Not exactly the "mission" experience we were hoping for. Yet, they were very flexible and open to whatever the Lord chose to do with our time together.
I have just started a new Bible study called, "Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted." I knew this study would be very applicable to this season of life. Our life in Guatemala has been interrupted by a God-sized call to do something very different than we imagined. I find it bringing perspective to our interrupted week as well as our interrupted life. This morning I read the following: "what we consider an interruption, is actually an invitation to participate in Kingdom purposes... these God-interruptions may not be convenient or easy, but we get the joy and honor of partnering with the Lord in His purposes for his kingdom in this generation. It doesn't mean having no plans or ambitions of our own. It means holding them loosely, always leaving room for 'the word of the Lord' to reshape our purposes."
I look at what happened this week and I am humbled beyond measure. Most Guatemalans did not plan to have school canceled, businesses closed and the inconveniences of non-stop rain for three days. I experienced some minor inconveniences, but I didn't loose 2-3 days of wages. I didn't worry about feeding my family and house guests. I didn't have water pouring in through the roof or under the walls of my home. When my clothes got soaked, I could throw them in the dryer.
A house that fell into the river.