Carrying a total of 400 pounds of clothing, books, school supplies and more, four Creston Valley residents visited Guatemala during a February mission trip, bringing joy to those less fortunate and returning home with unforgettable memories.
“We went to plant seeds, but they planted seeds in us,” said Ann Range. “You just want to pay it forward.”
Three other Glad Tidings Pentecostal Church members — Pastor Stephen Schneider, Madison Lacoursiere and J.J. Trepanier, plus two from Trail and two from Surrey — joined Range on the 10-day trip, in which they funded a new roof for a school, ministered at a dump and a police station, and visited 12 schools, handing out Bibles and a Seeds International workbook that teaches students about God, morals and respect for others.
The cash and items they took with them largely came from Creston Valley residents and businesses — including Pharmasave, Shoppers Drug Mart and Creston Valley Dental Centre — with Extra Foods donating about $4,500 of clothing, pencils and shoes.
The shoe donation came about after former Glad Tidings pastor Carl Sawler, who was in Guatemala, sent Range a photo of three children with no shoes. She took it straight to her boss, Extra Foods owner Ryan Leeming.
“He said, ‘Go take what you need,’ ” said Range.
The roof on the Chiquimula school was expected to cost about $5,000; donations from Creston totalled far more, allowing for the purchase of a sump pump to help with water storage.
And in the mountain schools, hats and shoes were particularly well received — some of the families are too poor to educate their children past Grade 5.
“There are people less fortunate in the world, and people in town helped make a difference,” said Range.
The difference was felt most keenly at the Jalapa dump, where the air is filled with smoke from burning garbage and many families — about 200 people, according to a 2011 estimate — live in whatever they find suitable, sometimes wrestling with dogs and pigs trying to get their hands on recyclables.
They, too, enjoyed new clothing and food, with members of the group washing the children before they ate.
Throughout the mission, the group was grateful to be escorted by police — signs of unrest are everywhere, with homes having metal doors, and dogs fighting in the street.
“At first it was a bit scary because you know how much crime there is,” said Range.
“For birthdays, they wake up at midnight and party into the day,” said Schneider. “One night, we were sure there was gunfire, but it was just firecrackers across the street.”
In addition to a 15-minutes sermon, the group also delivered the police a framed photo of the Creston RCMP detachment members.
The 10-day mission was a busy one, with very little downtime. But the trip wasn’t about relaxing, it was about helping people — and those people will never be forgotten, nor will their enthusiastic reaction to the Canadian visitors.
“They’re all huggy,” said Range. “They’re very, very affectionate people.”
“They don’t have our Canadian ‘bubbles’,” added Schneider.