Mi Refugio

My Refuge in English. This is the school started by Kari Engen 30 years ago in Guatemala. It is a refuge for those who lived in the Guatemala City dump, the hills of San Juan & San Pedro. It is a refuge for boys and girls, for teachers and bakers, for short term missionaries. It is a place where God is moving, saving and bringing His glory down.

For the last 5 years it has been a refuge for me. After several trips, it feels like home. I have had the fortune of being a short term missionary that has partnered with Mi Refugio. We show up with every intention of being a blessing to the school and people of Guatemala. Yet every time I leave realize God has used Guatemala, the kids & Kari to expand my understand of God and His kingdom.

Of all of my times visiting the school–this past trip (March 2017) was the most difficult. This time I was put on the Medical Clinic team. We left the sanctuary of the school and set up temporary clinics in the Guatemala City dump and the remote village in San Juan. We saw poverty–deep, desperate poverty, the likes of which I haven’t seen anywhere else but Haiti.

It’s been a week as I write this and I still can’t shake what I saw. The children were hungry. The adults were weathered beyond their years. Most children were at risk of losing their hearing to ear infections. The adults were broken and battered, riddled with parasites and gastritis.

And yet… I saw God. He was there, in the poverty, sickness and pain. He was there. He was in the smiles of contentment and joy. He was there when they brought the medical team flowers, cards and gifts of gratitude. He was there when I met Maria and her brother Byron. Maria was 8 and her brother Byron was 5. The team evaluated them, treated their medical needs and prescribed medicine. When the interpreter was explaining how to take the medicine to Maria she learned of their plight. Their mother had walked to the market 3 days before this and they were left to fend for themselves. That was the last time they ate. They were too hungry to take their medicine with no hope of relief in sight. So we took them out of sight, gave them our lunch (sandwiches and fruit) and protected them from the birds of prey. Maria, starving and tired, sat her food down, picked up Byron’s and made sure her weak brother ate. I began to cry and I am not sure I have stopped. She was so concerned for her younger brother that she sat aside her own life threatening needs.

God was there. He was there when Maria fed Byron. He was there when a principal walked his students to the clinic. He was there when the woman walked in the clinic while having a heart attack. He was there when we had–to the exact pill–enough vitamins for all of our patients. He was there. I witnessed God moving and saving. I haven’t been able to shake it. And I don’t want to.