On June 14, a team of nine from Connexions Church in Dexter, MI, will be headed to San Juan Sacatepéquez, Guatemala on a mission trip to serve the needs of the people in the community. Among the team will be the Gary Family, who will be returning to Guatemala for their second time in less than a year.

The following is written by Shelli Gary.

Last year we were in the Mayan Highlands in Santa Apolonia. The town was beautiful, and full of the traditional Mayan culture, that has not changed much over the years. The women and young girls still wear the traditional Mayan Huipals and Cortes (hand woven and multi-colored tops and wrap skirts). We served in a church by hosting a children’s fair and Vacation Bible School for more than 250 children! But, it was the Mayan people who captured our hearts and we fell in love with them. The Mayans are very warm and beautiful people, and very family oriented. It is not uncommon to see older siblings carrying their younger brothers and sisters around on their hip, or grandfathers carrying their grandchildren around on their shoulders. The family unit is very strong in the Mayan culture. But we also witnessed much need. There is great need for health education and medical and dental services, and the illiteracy rate is 64%, one of the highest in Central America.

When we head back to Guatemala next week, we will be taking lots of supplies with us to help meet these needs. Our team has been blessed by so many individuals and organizations with donations. The Dexter Lion’s Club and other individuals have donated over 500 pairs of used eyeglasses that we will be taking! Local Optometrists in the Dexter area have been reading the strengths and coding the glasses for us, so that we will be able to give simple eye exams to help the people pick out a pair of glasses that will help them see more clearly. In the Mayan communities, it is very difficult to have access to eyeglasses, and most go without. The cost of a pair of eyeglasses is worth 2 months salary to most, in addition to the cost of transportation to get into Guatemala City and the cost to see an Optometrist. These will be a big blessing to the people!

A local Rotary Club, who has in interest in Literacy, has donated 50 lbs. of Spanish children’s books! The collection of books includes both fiction and non-fiction and will be a huge blessing to the teachers and students of a school in San Juan Sacatepéquez! We are excited to spend a morning at the school and offer a brief geography lesson about Michigan and teach a bit of English (numbers and colors) with the students.

We will also have the great opportunity to teach dental hygiene to a group of 100 children and 40 teens. Thanks to the generosity of local dentists and many individuals, we are taking dental hygiene kits for these children and for their parents. Many people have been dropping off small tubes of toothpaste and toothbrushes for us to make these kits and we are very thankful. I don’t know if people realize how their small act of generosity and sharing will make such a huge difference in the life of another individual.

We had a request by the church who is hosting our team, to teach about pre-natal and post-natal care along with family nutrition. We have a nurse on our team who will be teaching basic nutrition and personal care, and we will also participate in a group question and answer time. Remember, many of the women cannot read and have little or no access to medical care, other than the community midwife. It will be a very special time, as we also learn more about the lives of Mayan women. There is a local senior center here where women have been knitting baby hats for us to take. We will be giving these to expecting mothers. We are also taking prenatal vitamins to share, that will greatly improve the health of the pregnant mother and her baby. The infant mortality rate is an alarming 50% in some of the Mayan communities.

Our team will be staying in the church that is hosting us, sleeping on the cement floor in sleeping bags. I hear it is the rainy season in June and a bit chilly in the highlands (we will be at a 5,000 ft. elevation). We will eat fresh corn tortillas everyday and the local women will be cooking for our team – it will be delicious! Our boys will have the opportunity to make friends with others their age, and to practice their Spanish. Our team will also have two translators with us who are from Mexico City. They will be an invaluable bridge for our team, not only in the communication, but in bridging the cultural differences.

So many people have made this trip possible for our team with their kindness and generosity

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. I thank God everyday for this opportunity and know that with Him, all things are possible!

Go to our Flickr page to see photos from the trip last year.

For donation inquiries please contact Shelli at shellig@chartermi.net