A Gringo’s Impression of Guatemala -Bus Travel to Solola
It’s the dry season in Guatemala. The pine dotted mountains of the South look surprisingly arid as our bus twists its way towards the town of Solola, near lake Atitlan. “Chicken Buses”, imported US school buses individually purchased, brightly painted and chromed out like an LA low rider, jockey for position around us. Like hulking leap-frogs, they pass and cut one another off, grinding up the steep grade. Their goal: beat just one more competitor to the next stop where a few additional passengers wait for the standing room only space.
I’m thankful our driver doesn’t feel the need to compete since our seats were pre-purchased from Antigua. It costs a few dollars more, but the peace of mind is worth every last penny. I recognize that each saved quetzal (Guatemalan currency) is probably precious to those tolerating the chaos, but I need to arrive ready for a meeting. That justifies the expense, even as a supported missionary, right? So why the aftertaste of remorse at a few dollars? I think it’s in part a “missional tension” in navigating seculular cultures for Kingdom purposes. Being good stewards of money balanced with time, energy and overall physical stamina. Yet the tension remains. Even so, it’s unnerving to have these wheeled works of art precariously passing and re-passing us. One in particular displays a bright yellow “Jesus Salva” (Jesus Saves) sticker sandwiched between two stereotypical truck mud flap silhouettes of reclining, naked women. Biblical truth expressed amidst gritty, earthy artistry. Faint echoes of God’s glorious handiwork. Rumors of His glory.
As we wind in and out of hills, multiple volcanoes in the distance help me keep track of our direction of travel. I can see “Volcan Fuego”, literally “Fire Volcano” in the distance. Last night missionaries Rick and Becky Mackey along with Justin and Jeimmy Smith sat with me atop our residencial enjoying sporadic, brilliant fireworks from this monster that laid waste to an entire town less than a year ago. Such beauty and power, but I prefer to keep a healthy distance. What an amazing world we’ve been given pointing towards a creator to be feared for His immeasurable strength yet loved for his incomprehensible mercy and beauty. Glimpses of Glory seen through creation that suffers the consequences of sin.
Our bus pauses at an intersection. Sweet smelling “Elotes Locos” or “Crazy Corn” roasts alongside the road. A few cents gets you a large cob smothered in mayonnaise, ground cheese, fresh cilantro, chili powder and lime. Now I realize I’m hungry. A girl looking to be about 6, wearing what was once a brightly colored Guatemalan dress, sits on a dusty black plastic beer crate selling bright avocados from a similarly faded red plastic wash tub. Mom (aunt, neighbor, friend?) sits behind her in a slightly less faded dress, slowly and methodically tapping away on an iPhone. What a mix, or rather clash of cultures. A man in a black leather cowboy-looking hat holds wood carvings up to the bus window, searching for a buyer. Crudely tooled images of toucans, sloths and Bart Simpson rotate in front of each window before we move through the intersection, no buyers here.
In various ways we all have the privilege of following the Holy Spirit’s lead to confirm the rumors of God’s glory expressed every day within the rich culture of Guatemala and throughout the world.
What a blessing to be part of His Story!
-Thank you to Bruce Cockburn: "Rumors of Glory" ------------------------