Over the summer, many people flock to exotic destinations to lay out on the beach or take in a beautiful scene.
Last week, a group of 38, under the banner of Lakewood Baptist Church, traveled to Guatemala City, but not on vacation.
Their mission: to help the thousands living in the city’s landfill.
Over the course of the week, the crew helped build roofs, install clean-burning wood stoves, helped with the construction of a new school and ministered to those living in the dump.
“The trip was life changing,” said Will Schofield, who went on the trip with his family.
He recalled one evening when the group was spending some time with local residents in the landfill, his daughter, Hannah, was playing with Guatemalan girl, Anna.
Anna took her “half of a two-liter bottle of Coke” and went to fill it up with rice and beans. When she came back, she saw that Hannah had no food.
“The first thing she did, as hungry as the little girl had to have been, was she offered my daughter her food,” said Schofield.
His daughter, he said, was touched, along with everyone who witnessed it.
“It was an overwhelming moment when someone from this country that has so much got offered something that all the little one had in the landfill,” Schofield said.
Robert Puckett, Lakewood’s minister of missions and outreach, has been on dozens of trips like last week’s. But with each trip, he said he comes back with something new.
“Personally, I’m amazed every time I go and get people involved in mission work,” said Puckett. “I just love seeing the light bulb go off, regardless of their age.”
He said once the trip is over the people that go on the trip are never really the same.
“They’re just kind of awestruck,” said Puckett.
“Sometimes they wonder why we have so much and other people in the world have so little. So there’s a lot of reflective time of: ‘Why was I born where I was? What do I do with this abundance of blessings?’”
Puckett said the church has tried to keep a presence in the area, where most of the people live in makeshift housing.
“It’s a long-term thing,” he said. “Not just a ‘Hey, let’s go down there, feel better about ourselves and come home.’ We’re invested for the long term down there.”
He said the relationships that are built down there are lasting.
Schofield saw that same and hopes he can continue some of that work locally.
“You develop a little bit of a relationship (with the locals), and just being able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the owners of those homes afterward and to be able have a prayer with them and hold their hand. ... It was a trip that I hope will change me for the rest of the time I’m on this earth,” he said.
“What I hope I can do is start doing a whole lot more of that right here in my own backyard. I hope all 38 us that came back can just live it out a little better on a daily basis.”