One of the things I’ve learned in the many years I’ve worked on this site is that my family has a habit of following in the wake of its ancestors, even if the followers were reluctant to admit it. Our trips to the Bahamas were in the wake of Chet’s SPA trips; our moving to Palm Beach followed Chet and Myrtle by seven years, and on and on. My wife and I managed to repeat this with a trip to an entirely different place–Guatemala–but how we got there is an entirely different story.
In the early 1950’s my mother and father departed on what she described as a “Banana Boat” from New Orleans. Their first stop was in Havana, before the Ugly Guy with a Cigar and Beard Whose Name Cannot be Spoken in Parts of Miami.
After that they went to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, and from there ascended up to Guatemala City. My guess is that they stayed in a guest house of the United Fruit Company, which ran the Banana Boat (with provision for passengers) and was very powerful in Guatemala in those days.
My father never talked about this trip; my mother was another story. They visited many sites in Guatemala, some of which we’ll see below. The one place she really didn’t like was Chichicastenango; it deeply offended her Baptistic sensibilities. That’s a good place to begin the transition to our own visit over Christmas 2019.
I joined the North Cleveland Church of God in 1983. The Church of God has a strong presence in Guatemala, and our members there don’t think any better of places like Chichicastenango than my mother did. One of the people I met at North Cleveland was Harvey Harkins, who was raised in our church’s first children’s home (which is celebrating its centenary this year) and was/is something of a legend in our church. Three years after I joined he announced he was going on a mission trip to Guatemala. The real nature of the mission trip became clear when he came home with a wife. We all thought Harvey a confirmed bachelor, so this development was a shock to us (as it happens it was to him, too.) They had a daughter, who married in 2017. In the meanwhile they’ve become like family to us, so when Christmas 2019 rolled around and it was time for the new son-in-law to meet the family in Guatemala, we were invited to go, which we did.
It’s strange in a way to retrace your parents’ footsteps in this way, so many years after they came. But we went to some new places as well, and experienced new things.
In Guatemala we found a beautiful country which, although with problems, is a place of charming people. I was encouraged by what I saw and experienced, especially as a Christian. When missionaries go out to do their work, their idea is to win those they encounter for Christ. What they may not consider is the fact that they are adding people to the church who will enrich the church with their presence. Pentecostal missionaries went to Guatemala with few resources, but the church is better for the harvest, and that’s something good to keep in mind moving forward.