The sun hadn’t risen yet when I left Chichicastenango at 4:20 a.m. to head for the Pacific Coast and the small village of El Esfuerzo — Spanish for “The Effort.” This was a village where about 65 families were putting their effort into scratching out a living on a mountainside in the Guatemalan jungle without running water, electricity, few money-making jobs and a dark culture of abuse and crime.
I joined up with Pastor Miguel Angel, his family and two other couples who have been faithfully visiting this place over the past two years to help the villagers know Christ and His love.
Personally, I was on this trip to help with the delivery of 30 plus solar lamps that would help these villagers bring physical light to the darkness that envelopes the village each night.
This village has been a very dark place. The slippery two-track that leads from the main road up into the village is known for being a dangerous route where people are attacked, robbed or even raped. In the village, there is a long history of young girls being abused, families in poverty, and churches that barely have anyone in their services.
Most of the families have no running water and there is no electrical connection to the national grid. A smelly gasoline generator rumbles out enough watts of electricity to run instruments, speakers, and a few light bulbs for an hour or two during church services or special activities.
As we drove through the jungle, the driver announced, “Here we are!” I looked around a little confused until I finally spotted the small green church building. As we pulled into a grassy area in front of the building, people began to emerge from the trees to greet us.
Looking at me, Pastor Miguel Ángel asked, “You’ve got a devotional right?” He said it in a way that wasn’t really asking.
So, I did.
After a few songs I was introduced and shared with the people about how Christ brings His light into our lives and changes us, enabling us to forgive those who have hurt us and giving us a new way of living. We prayed together with the people that they would let Christ light their lives and their hearts.
I did a brief training on how to use the solar lights and how to install the solar panels that come with them. We had brought a few extras and soon there were other families wanting in on the project.
This wasn’t just a give away. This solar lighting project was something the villagers had been saving up to pay for a portion of the lantern they would receive. By bringing Q100 (about $13) to contribute toward the solar lights (that each cost about $36.) they are helping light their village and others too. This project was a partnership between the villagers, a church donor, and RWM. We hope that by partnering with locals instead of just giving the lights away, we build stronger communities who help care for the needs of others.
After the villagers walked out with their lanterns, we installed a set of solar lights at the church building. Then we went down the road where I played with a few boys in an overgrown soccer field and then helped install more lights in a home and at the only other church in “town”. We could tell that these families were pretty excited about their new lights.
In another month, Pastor Miguel Ángel will be back to deliver more food, more hope and if there’s a need, more lanterns. He has plans to provide water filters and eventually, a water project to bring running water to the village.