Kuyper Students in Guatemala

August 14, 2017

“Over the course of twelve days in various parts of Guatemala, our group was able to experience new sights, new sounds, new foods, new ways of living, and new ways of seeing God,” said Class of 2017, Damaris DeRuiter. She was part of a group of students who spent time in Guatemala during the Spring session. “One of the driving objectives of this trip was to sit at the feet of local Guatemalan Christian leaders and learn how they do incarnational ministry,” said group leader, Professor Lisa Hoogeboom, Kuyper’s Intercultural Studies Program Director. “That meant letting folks on the ground in Guatemala become the teachers and mentors to all of us.  We as the observers and participants brought back the things we learned and can now apply them to our own church and ministry settings.”

According to Hoogeboom, the students having been immersed in a different world, were pushed to demonstrate their ability to interact respectfully and meaningfully with people from another culture, “a skill that is needed in our globalized work and ministry environments,” she added.

The group spent time primarily in two areas. In Guatemala City, where they visited schools, day-care centers, churches, food markets, and the Guatemala garbage dump—the largest in Central America, and where many garbage pickers died last year when a mountain of garbage collapsed on them. In these places they saw local Christian leaders caring for both the body and soul of youth and other populations. They also visited a center for justice and learned about the newest efforts to litigate sexual assault cases, and visited with Kuyper College alumni Gary and Rachel de León and learned about the orphan situation in Guatemala.  “This was the most personal experience I’ve had with poverty,” said Elizabeth Hoogeboom, Class of 2019. “I’ve been in impoverished homes in the United States and I’ve seen documentaries and video clips about his kind of poverty, but I’ve never personally encountered such intense poverty. Through this experience I was able to see how racial inequality, socioeconomic disparity, police corruption, unnecessary war, and inaccessible education work together to create populations of poverty.” 

“This is exactly what the program is designed to do,” said Professor Hoogeboom. "The students were confronted daily with issues of poverty and injustice—helping them in the process of cultivating a Christ-like spirit of compassion, humility and hospitality in both words and actions.”

In the mountains, north of Guatemala City, home to mainly Mayan people, the group stayed at a lodge that has become a hub of holistic development work in the areas of nutrition, agriculture and ecology, as well as a focus on girls and young women of that region who come for education and skill-focused camps at the lodge.  “Our time at the Lodge also helped students understand the scope of the mission of God in the world, which includes holistic, word-and-deed ministry, as well as asset-based, gift-development approaches when working with people in impoverished situations,” said Professor Hoogeboom.

“This vision trip provided me with solid examples of holistic ministry. The ultimate purpose of God’s mission is the reconciliation of whole creation,” said Class of 2021, Haju Kim. "There were so many moments that I wanted to close my eyes and turn away from the painful reality—I am glad I did not.” 

The Kuyper Group in Guatemala

The Kuyper Group in Guatemala.

Kuyper group visiting with alumni Gary and Rachel De Leon.

Kuyper group visiting with alumni Gary and Rachel de León.