Forced into creativity
Statistics say that more than half the population of Guatemala lives in poverty. This means that, from the over 15 million Guatemalans, approximately eight million have difficulty meeting their basic needs. Illiteracy is still common, and many people can’t find a job.
The difficult and challenging situation has made the people of Guatemala artists of survival and forced them to be extremely creative in their daily lives. As resources are scarce and opportunities limited, they've learned to make the best out of what they have and to use even the most useless thing for something productive.
Two broken chairs together make a perfectly good seating accommodation. Old tires can be used to build a practical table. A plastic bottle cut in half makes for a nice vase.
Once, during a medical outreach amongst homeless people, an older man who, judging by the smell was an alcoholic, came to me and gave me a gift to show his gratitude for the service we were offering. It was a beer can cut into pieces and then formed together to make a beautiful flower.
Many of the cars on Guatemalan streets have seen better days, and I am often amazed and wonder how they keep running. Often, it’s with a few cables and wires--and probably lots of prayer.
To me, all of this makes Guatemala into the joyful and colourful country I love. Beautifully painted buses, traditional clothing that could compete with rainbows, and children euphorically playing football with a piece of trash. The Guatemalan people showed me that money and riches are not all that matter--but to make the best of everything you have and to be full of joy and gratefulness.
Isn’t this what Philippians 4:4 is all about? "Rejoice in the Lord always." Being full of joy no matter the circumstances.
In Switzerland, my home country, everything has to be perfect or at least appear to be perfect. After all, that’s what Switzerland is famous for: precision and perfection. I too used to be a perfectionist and tried to do everything in the best way possible. When I wasn’t able to do something in a way that would make me proud, I felt like a failure.
Since moving to Guatemala, this has changed enormously!
I still want to do things as well as possible, but I don’t have unrealistic expectations anymore. I had to accept limitations, be it my own or from the circumstances. Now, I can see the beauty in simple things that people have created with almost nothing and have a new understanding of creativity: take something useless and create something beautiful.
In missions, we often have to be creative, as well, and have to try to make the best out of limited resources. As money is almost always short, we have to find a way to achieve our goals a different way. We have to be creative.
For example, the screen of the computer I’m writing this entry on doesn’t have a stand (I think it was lost somewhere during transportation), so it was placed on an old piece of office equipment which I don’t even know what it once was used for.
It works perfectly fine.