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Poverty at the Foot of the Cross

WRITTEN BY SHAWN PLUMMER

President Shawn Plummer takes his daughter Lauren to visit Guatemala for the first time.

It was a joy to return to Guatemala in March to see the incredible work that has been growing through our partnership with indigenous Guatemalans and their beautiful culture. 

This particular visit marked the first time that I was able to bring one of my kids on a trip to experience a country where Dad’s been visiting for work for so many years. 

My oldest daughter, Lauren, is just 12. 

It was very special watching her experience and respond to developing world poverty for the first time. 

On the surface, Lauren seemed oblivious to the glaring forms of physical poverty we were seeing in the isolated communities around the Nebaj region. She was quickly swept away by giggling girls her age to play games that cross international lines.  



But as the days wore on and we ventured on rough roads into remote villages, Lauren started seeing the inequity between how they lived and how she lived back home. 

Houses in poor shape, low quality materials for building, ongoing struggles to find food, water, and access to medical care and education for their children. Nothing she saw seemed easy to her —daily life was a grind, quite opposite from her lifestyle in Canada. 

But she surprised me with an interesting perspective. 

Despite the challenges, people seemed happy and were frequently playing outside with their friends and family (and not dependent on their electronic devices inside). 

Throughout the week Lauren overwhelmingly saw joy in the people we met.
Lauren (2nd from right) and fellow Canadian kid visitors pose with their new Guatemalan friends.

The locals shared how they were grateful for what they had, how they counted God’s many blessings, and how important it was for them to greet, celebrate, and care for family, friends, and guests. In short, how important “community” was to them. 

That was the beautiful thing I realized as I saw Guatemala through Lauren’s eyes.

No matter where we live, we all experience different forms of poverty, whether it be economic, physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. But as theologian and writer Henri Nouwen put it, there is a “coming together in poverty.” 

Our Canadian team’s daily encounters with local families and leaders revealed a sense of community where our shared poverty was acknowledged and accepted. This sense of community brought a richness to the new friendships being forged as we dreamed what was possible as God was invited into the process.

On our last stop before home, Lauren and I happened to be on the cobblestone streets of the centuries-old colonial city of Antigua when we stumbled upon the Spanish tradition of ‘Semana Santa’, the Holy Week leading up to Easter.
Semana Santa float procession in Antigua.

Devout purple-robed penitents carried on their shoulders huge floats that commemorated the passion, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The floats depicted scenes of Jesus carrying his cross while marching bands walked behind the floats playing a solemn tune. On the eve of Easter Sunday, the churches will begin celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, lifting the solemn mood of the city and replacing it with celebrations and fireworks. Hope is symbolically restored to the city. 

It’s a powerful image of transformation. 

As you gather with family and friends and church this Easter morning, I pray you find joy in every circumstance and fellowship in the community of paupers. 

We are all poor at the foot of the cross. We are all transformed at the empty tomb. No matter where we come from or how we live. That’s the wonder of Easter.

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Food for the Hungry: Poverty at the Foot of the Cross
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