Sometimes life can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Since moving to Guatemala I would say that I experience this even more intensely, as if the nature of my life here has heightened the possibility for a high to be immediately followed by a low or vice versa.
Last night I was with our youth, a group of young men aged between 15-19, for our weekly ‘family time’ activity. As I sat preparing our meal, Sam came and had some cereal which I would usually not allow that close to dinner, but I believed him when he told me he hadn’t eaten since the morning and it was now past 5pm. He sat across from me and started asking questions.
He asked about England, my family, the foundation, all kinds of seemingly disjointed, unconnected questions. I answered and shared with him whilst chopping vegetables as he munched down his snack. Once he had finished and washed his dishes, he looked at me and in his roundabout way, said thanks and that he would go upstairs now.
It wasn’t long before Andy appeared at my side, with affectionate hugs and greetings. He proceeded to lean on me as I tried to continue chopping veg. After initial questions and pleasantries, he simply sat by my side, listening to his music. He had offered to help, but I had it under control. He often chooses to be by my side, it would seem, even if there is nothing to say.
When dinner was ready, we sat down to eat together, five young men with three adults.
Dan led us in a prayer that warmed my heart. All it took was a few words and I was full of joy. As he prayed, he thanked God for our ‘family,’ referring to the people present at the table. In that moment, I was reminded yet again why I live and serve here in Guatemala. These young men are my family and I am theirs. When we share together over food, games, prayer, films, whatever else, we are family. That’s why the disjointed questions are in fact shared life, interest in my life in England and perhaps seeking to understand why I came here and chose to make a new family with them as part of it.
As you can imagine then, Thursday evenings are one of the highlights of my week and I am always left on a high afterwards, even if it is almost the weekend and I am flagging from a long week.
So, I arrived at work this morning for our Friday morning team worship and prayer time. We joined together and worshiped God side by side as a team, as a family. Following this we lifted our praise and petitions before Him.
But then heartbreak. Duncan shared with us the sad news that Paul, one of the young men who lived on the streets, had died that morning. He was only 20 years old.
He had spent many years living on the streets and abusing drugs.
He had recently had more than one hospital stay and several opportunities to leave the streets. Only a few weeks ago he had been in rehab. Sadly, he kept on choosing the streets and drugs and today his body simply gave up. What a shame, such a young life lost.
My heart broke for him, but it also broke for those team members whom I love, that poured so much into Paul. They had visited him faithfully for years, loved him, offered him help, support and opportunities. Now, they had to plan his funeral and bury him.
Life can shift in a matter of seconds sometimes from joy to despair, laughter to grief. The ride can be rough and sometimes devastating. Honestly, it is only in God’s strength that we can keep on going. That we can still be able to enjoy the highs.
That we can praise Him through it all.