One room, aluminum shelled houses, dug out and carved into the side of a steep mountain, is home to the people of Maria Teresa, a ghetto community in Guatemala City. The few more fortunate have a second room so that kitchen, bedroom, and family room are not one. Laundry, dirty dishes, and bathing are done in the same sink. Concrete floors and walls are more representative of a decaying zoo in the United States than of a home.
We were told by our leader and guide for the week, Pablo, that this is poverty. He also told us that later this week, we will see extreme poverty.
The center of the community, located at the bottom of the mountain after a winding descent of agility that was often foot in front of foot thin, is a concrete futbol arena. This is the resident’s mall, Starbucks, movie theater, front yard, dance class, and everything else. Do they realize there is a mall, Starbucks, and movie theater? I am embarrassed to think this.
The community is under the authority of Juanita. She is their Presidenti. I do not understand their authority structure and how the community is organized. It is clear though, that Juanita is in charge. The strong woman of short stature has a spiritual authority that can be felt in a powerful way.
Juanita led us on a journey into several homes through Maria Teresa. Our purpose for the visits was to pray. As we were introduced to various people, intimate details of their lives were shared. In some instances Juanita gave specifics and requested prayer; in some homes people sought-after requests themselves; in one home we were prayed for. The prayer requests were brutality honest. I will respect their privacy.
We would hide behind our many facades in the United States rather than share so honestly. Or, we would go on a talk show and make a spectacle of ourselves. One of the last things we might do is bare our souls, deepest fears, ask for help, or share our sins with a group of strangers in our living rooms and ask them to pray for us.
Over thirty hands were raised up or placed upon each individual we were there to serve. Juanita asked us to simultaneously pray out loud and petition God for intervention. I had never been a part of this type of prayer. It was uncomfortable for me.
How dare my comfort matter? This is not about me.