The Seeds Among Thorns
An interview with Craig Hixon, who participated in a World Next Door trip to Guatemala in September 2013.
WND: Tell us about your Guatemala trip.
CH: This was my first time visiting Guatemala. Making the jump to such a different culture was mentally draining the first day, but I quickly came to love the people there. I couldn’t stop seeing how happy they are, how much they enjoy their lives…the level of contentment. I truly feel they are happier than most Americans.
What did you spend your time doing?
Most of our time was spent either at the Saber y Gracia school, seeing the classes run, or visiting the families of children attending the school. Going to the homes, meeting the families and talking with them was the most amazing part.
How would you describe some of the leaders and students you met there?
Because it is such an agri-centric culture (if that’s a word), it made sense to me to meet kids of many different ages in different grades. For example, we met an 18 year old who was only in 7th grade, because some of his earlier years had to be spent working on the farm. The kids have big smiles and huge hearts to go with them.
The leaders love what they do and seem to be personally connected to the kids’ lives. They know what the kids’ home life is like and have a pulse on which child needs extra help. The leader of the leaders, Rudi, has an amazing amount of energy and dedication to the school. Still running his family’s farm, leading the school as principal, leading the marching band, which has won many awards, and pastoring a small church left me amazed.
Did you see anything there that surprised you?
What surprised me the most was walking past a garage early one evening where I saw a few men huddled around something. I got closer to look in the window and realized they were butchering a cow to be split up as food amongst a few families. Very common there, but shocking to me!
Was anything you experienced there uncomfortable? Frustrating? Heartbreaking?
A young girl named Kimberly broke my heart the most. Her experience was uncomfortable, frustrating, and heartbreaking all in one. When I met her, I thought she was a very cute 8 year old, about the same age as my youngest son. She’s 16. She’s been battling a kidney condition that has stopped her body’s growth and leaves her on a regular dialysis schedule. Her father’s life was taken less than 2 years earlier when he was shot as a bystander to a store robbery. So Kimberly’s mom is now trying to work as many hours as possible to continue raising and feeding Kimberly and her two siblings. The medicine for Kimberly costs more than her mom can earn, yet God has been providing it. Some way or another, month after month, the medicine or the money to buy it makes its way to her mom.
Were there any specific moments that really stood out to you?
Meeting another man named Cesar was amazing. He’s paralyzed from the chest down, but becoming more paralyzed each year. I’d expect sadness and bitterness toward God, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone who loves God more than he does. He quoted endless amounts of scripture in describing God’s faithfulness and wove them together in what ended up feeling like a love letter to Jesus.
How do you feel your trip to Guatemala changed you?
I felt very sad that I had to go to another country, to see people that I initially thought were very poor, in order to see God at work. After being there for a few days, I could see how much love for God exists there, how He is doing miracles that we don’t see in America, and just how poor we are here. Our poverty is in spirit, but we don’t realize that fact due to our overabundance of objects/toys/escapes from reality that we can so famously purchase, when we are in a moment that could instead lead us to God.
Is there anything specific you’re doing differently now that you’ve returned home?
My most embarrassing question. I am very ashamed that I feel similar to the seeds that are thrown amongst the thorns in Jesus’ parable of the sower. The seed sprouted, but became choked by the pressures and problems of life. I’ve come back to a very significant change of my business which required many months of extra effort and focus from me. I’ve been cutting events and meetings from my schedule that I didn’t feel would help my business and ultimately, my attempts to provide for my family.
However, the seed isn’t completely choked. I am part of what is now a not-for-profit (official 501c3 status is in motion) that is led by those of us who went to Guatemala that week. We are starting the efforts to raise money for Saber y Gracia, along with other organizations around the world that are “cut from the same cloth”. We were all taken aback by God’s presence in Guatemala, along with the amazing faith of Rudi in pursuing a larger facility to teach more kids. We want to be part of that growth and a part of God’s work.