Life Is No Bed of Roses!

A Letter from Richard and Debbie Welch, serving in Guatemala

August 2019

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“Life is no bed of roses!” My mother was full of expressions like that. Usually they were accurate, although they were sometimes annoying when they were directed at me. However, our five years of living in Guatemala have convinced me that this one is just not true. Life is a bed of roses! I suppose because my mother always grew beautiful roses, in memory of her, I have felt it necessary to have at least one rose plant growing wherever I have lived. This is not particularly my area of giftedness, but I keep trying despite how hard it is. In order to have beautiful fragrant roses one must prune carefully, fertilize, water, battle disease and insects like aphids and leaf-carrying ants, and watch out for those thorns — they are wicked. Life is like that too. It’s hard and takes a lot of work and at times it’s just downright painful, but we keep working at it.

The year 2019 began with a new school year, two visiting groups from the U.S., and then a whirlwind trip to the States that put over 6,700 miles on our car as we drove through 17 states and visited with our Presbyterian friends and family for three months sharing about our work here. Upon our arrival back in Cobán on June 2, the pace did not slow down or become easier. We immediately had a houseful of guests as we put on our second annual teachers’ workshop for the Libros para Niños (books for children) project. Although it was a bit insane trying to do this right after being gone for three months, it’s such a joy working with these eager, enthusiastic teachers.

As soon as the workshop was over and everyone had gone home (with the exception of Amelia, our college student from South Alabama who came to spend the month with us), we found ourselves engaged with the first of five groups who would be working here in Guatemala this summer with their partners in mission. By the time the second group arrived, I found myself stretched beyond what I thought myself capable of in anticipation of assisting them with a Vacation Bible School in a very hot and humid small village with about 150 super-energetic students. Exhausted at the end of the day, I was coming to realize just how homesick I had become for our home in Spokane, Washington, our family there and a much simpler life where everyone speaks English. And yes, I was feeling sorry for myself.

Then came Sunday morning, when our group had the privilege of worshiping at the Monte Carmelo Church, which was to be followed by the VBS at the neighboring school. It was hot and humid, but the church in its simplicity was beautifully decorated. The wood slat walls adorned with handmade wall hangings, the fresh flowers lovingly placed all across the front, and the bright, colorful fabric draped from the rafters were all in sharp contrast to the bare cement floor and wood benches on which we were seated. And then came the music. A beautiful young lady whose name I don’t even know came to the pulpit to sing a beautiful song I had never heard before. One that for a few minutes carried me away into the presence of our merciful, loving God. It was a moment I didn’t want to end. And I realized that one day I will have to leave this place and these people and return to our home in Spokane, and I will be heartbroken to leave a people I have grown to love. With tear-filled eyes, I realized that each moment is special, and I need to cherish every person and every experience in every moment of every day. Sooner than I can imagine, I will be back with our family, and I will cherish that time as well. And then one day, I will have to leave that place too to go to my true home with God.

So, in the meantime, I remember another one of my mother’s sayings … “life is short.” Yes, life here is difficult, with sick children, no money for medicine or doctors, abusive husbands, jealousies dividing brothers and sisters, miscommunications or no communication at all, lack of work, lack of education, a corrupt government, crops that fail, loneliness, times of doubt and questioning faith … Yet we walk with one another through it all, lifting each other up. And through it all we thank you for walking with us. I am reminded of the scripture verse we used as a theme on our trip to the States this year: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Since we have returned, this verse has even appeared on billboards. I think this is a good message not only for the Guatemalans with whom we work but for all of us. Yes, life is difficult. It requires hard work and is filled with thorns, but it is worth it. I have come to realize that the beauty of life comes from God, as do the fragrant rose blossoms, and I must trust him.

Debbie and Richard Welch

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