I received a Facebook message this week from my friend, Francisco, who is Mayan and lives in a small mountain village in Guatemala, called Chontala. Yes – they have Facebook.
Chontala is a second home for me. Actually, maybe, in many ways, Chontala is home for me. I’ve been going there for about ten years, and have been many, many times. At one point, I was visiting about three to four times a year. I used to leave some of my belongings in Chontala, as I was traveling back and forth so frequently.
The people in Chontala are my friends. They are my extended family. I love them deeply. It’s been a year since I was last in Chontala. I miss everyone there terribly, and it breaks my heart to have been away for so long.
My friend, Francisco, is a bit younger than me. He’s married, and has several smaller children. He is a subsistence farmer, and is very poor. He actively attends the Methodist church.
Francisco’s message to me was not well written, as he is not well educated. It was written both in Spanish and in the Mayan language Quiche. I know a little of both, but not a lot of either. He opened by saying, “This is Francisco. I have not seen you in a long time. I am Estella’s brother.” Francisco, my friend, was reminding me who he is, in case I’ve forgotten over the last year. I definitely have not forgotten him!
We exchanged a few lines, back and forth, thanks to my limited knowledge of Spanish and Quiche, and a little help from Google Translate. His last message was, “My family misses you a lot. Also, the brothers of the church greet all of your family. We wait for you with open arms.”
“We wait for you with open arms.” I wept when I read it. I’m weeping now, as I type it. I could use those open arms right now.
The Quiche expression for welcome is “utz a patik.”
So, I’m feeling a little home-sick for Chontala this week. Chontala isn’t exactly a convenient place to go to. Finding time to go has been a challenge. I used to take mission teams, but haven’t found a way to do that recently, and don’t know when I’ll be able to do that again.
So, I’m feeling kind of sad, and homesick. Estoy triste y nostálgico. And, it breaks my heart that anyone there might think I’ve forgotten them. I’ve not forgotten Chontala or anyone who lives there. They are on my mind, and in my heart, every day.
But, in my sadness, I’m also deeply grateful. I’m grateful for Chontala and the people who live there. I am grateful for their love and friendship. I am grateful for all that I have learned and experienced there. I am grateful for who I have become because of that place. I’m grateful, knowing that I will return, somehow. And, it is so good to know that there is a place in this world where, “We wait for you with open arms.” It is a blessing to loved, wanted, and missed by people who are so dear to me.
And, I know it is not the only place where I am loved and welcome. For that, too, I am grateful.
Extraño a todos en Chontala. Espero volver a ti pronto. Katuah.