The Moment I First Saw God I was in Guatemala

A view from Lake Atitlán

Hey everyone, this is Josh Cox. After much thought, I reflected upon my time in Guatemala and the impact it had on my spiritual journey.

My experience in Guatemala had a very deep and powerful impact on me. I embarked on this journey with Westminster Presbyterian Church as a youth leader, with nine of our high school kids. Up until this point in my life, I have always struggled with my faith. I felt like there needed to be proof or a sign; instead, I watched my friends and family go through struggles nobody should have to go through without any help from above. Then two months before leaving for Guatemala, I witnessed a policeman, who was also a good man, a father, a husband, get shot and killed. This senseless act of brutal violence shattered any remnants of faith I was holding on to. I was broken.

If there was a God, how could he just let this happen?

I asked myself that question many times, and my spiritual doubt reached an all-time high. The anger and the sadness I felt inside only fueled my doubt, and I was lost.

The time to leave for Guatemala came. I knew this would be a life-changing and eye-opening experience, and I was ready for it… or so I thought. I had no idea how powerful this journey was going to be, and how it would impact my faith. We started off the week learning about Guatemalan history from Héctor Castañeda at CEDEPCA. This is where I first really understood the level of poverty, destruction, and violence that had befallen Guatemala and the corruption in its government.

Hearing his story along with the histories was very powerful despite all these horrible things going on. The Guatemalan people we encountered were all incredibly faithful, happy and filled with a sense of community that I hadn’t seen before anywhere. We ate, played, hiked, and went on adventures with the youth from our partner church.  Despite America’s decadent involvement in Guatemala’s corrupt government, they treated us as equals with kindness and respect.

Josh having fun with his prayer partner, Edy.

Halfway through the week, Esvin, one of our guides with CEDEPCA, told us his story. I won’t go into detail, for it’s not my story to tell, but he told us of his hardships and struggles over the years, many of which were hard to listen to. Afterward, we talked for the better part of an hour and it was as if we’d known each other for many, many years. I told him about my anger and my spiritual doubt, and he reassured me that God doesn’t allow any of these things to happen, but instead feels all the pain with you. It was in this moment, after we talked, that it dawned on me that I was, in fact, experiencing God for the first time.

It was so profound. I needed to walk away and take some time, and I broke down.

The Westminster members pose for a photo with our Guatemalan friends and mission co-workers from CEDEPCA before a big hike.

The last thing he said to me still sticks with me today, that just us being there embracing each other’s cultures gave him some sense of dignity and humanity that isn’t always felt. It’s crazy how something so small as spending time together can mean so much, and it was the same for me.

My time in Guatemala shaped me into a better person. It’s crazy how spending one week with people you’ve never met, from different cultures and backgrounds, speaking different languages, can have such an impact on how you view the world. I witnessed love, caring, and a passion for faith and community that put a lot of things in perspective.

The youth of Iglesia Presbyteriana and Westminster Presbyterian Church – Wilmington smile for the camera after a nice joint dinner.

We go through life idealizing celebrities and prioritizing technology instead of spending time with people who are important. The Guatemalan people taught me a lot about what is really important in life and proved to me through that lesson that God exists. This trip made me a better person and gave me a new outlook on life. I can’t wait to return.

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