Off to Guatemala!

Posted on: 05/11/2019

Author: Sally Kolenda

I can’t believe it’s already May 11. It is just after midnight, and once again, my parents, the Huebners, and I are packing donations in trunks and finalizing morning logistics. And why wouldn’t we be? We don’t have to be at IAH Terminal C for six hours, so if we hustle, we can get four hours of sleep. [facepalm]

“Sally,” I hear my mother shout from the other room. “There’s half a trunk here for the toiletries. Save the other half for Toni Laas.” 

“Okay, Mom. Thanks!” I head into my parents’ living room, or what used to be their living room. On the Friday before leaving for Guatemala, the space converts into a warehouse stocked with surgical instruments, medical supplies and medications – each packed according to the forms submitted to Guatemalan customs officials months prior. I place a massive bag of hotel toiletries donated by friends, primos and colleagues in the trunk. 

“That’s a good haul!” Kathy exclaims as she remembers out loud, “And I’ve got a stash of cosmetics bags and toiletries to add as well!” She runs off to her bedroom.

“Now they’re offering vouchers for people to take a later flight. There’s no way they can bump us from our flight if we don’t check in until the morning, right?” Gene asks with concern, while lifting a trunk onto the scale – the kind you see in a doctor’s office.  “And the forecast still shows thunderstorms. After last night’s rain, people are freaking out that we won’t get out tomorrow.” He pauses, “And how many trunks can we check over 70 lbs.? I’ve got at least two, and your mother isn’t done packing.” 

There is extra strain in the system this year as Houston experienced an intense thunderstorm the night before, leaving major parts of the city flooded and some out-of-town team members stranded after flights were canceled or delayed. 

I look at my watch. 12:15 a.m. “Why do we always do this to ourselves?!” I think. 

My mom emerges from her room with cosmetics bags and more toiletries. “We are down two team members due to family emergencies. We need to keep them in our prayers.” 

That’s when it hits me. That Holy Spirit sensation that runs through your body and shakes you to your core. Our focus is out of whack. This trip is not ours, it’s God’s. 

“We’ll definitely keep them in our prayers. They are right where they need to be. God always provides for this trip, and this year will be no exception. He will give us the people and weather conditions we need to complete this mission how He wants it completed. We just have to let Him be in control.” I offer, hoping that it’s some comfort in the moment. But just in case it isn’t, I add, “And I can take two trunks over 70 lbs., so we should be okay there, too.”

“You’re right,” Gene says, “It always works out. God always works everything out.”

And right on schedule, around 1 a.m., we head to bed so we can get up three hours later. No sooner did my head hit the pillow, and BEEP! The alarm goes off. I go to put on my red team t-shirt only to realize I left it at home. Blerg. I settle for red pants and decide I’ll stand in the back of the team photo. We wait for Tammy and Diane to arrive, quickly load the trunks and head to the airport.

On the ride there, it hits me. It’s not raining. and it didn’t rain last night. God’s hand is already at work,” I think and smile.

We arrive at Terminal C and see a sea of red shirts waiting inside near a stack of trunks. It’s 6:20 a.m. (five minutes late is right on schedule for us), and our flight doesn’t leave until 9:30 a.m. The check-in process usually takes forever, and we rely on certain people to check trunks. Even with the usual airport confusion, God makes a way – we get everything checked in by 7 a.m. and no trunks were overweight. Thank you, Jesus!

I’ll use a Seinfeld “yadda yadda yadda” and fast forward to arriving in Guatemala. God continues to provide for us – no issues at customs, a delicious sandwich on the bus to Antigua, team orientation at our hotel, and before you know it, we’re taking the team photo. “Sally, get in here!” I hear, from the front row. So much for blending in.

Exhausted from travel, we eat dinner at 7 p.m., play the obligatory icebreaker (that was actually pretty fun – props to Laura and Kathy!) and get to know our fellow team members. Everyone heads to bed early tonight. Triage day is tomorrow, and we need to rest up. 

As I lay down, I talk to God. “The more I know You, the more I love You. You were involved in every step of the journey here, and You’ll lead us through the week as well. We’ll see signs, wonders and miracles, and we’ll be sure to give all the glory to You.”