White clouds sparkled in the sunshine as the Boeing 800 aircraft descended from five miles high and Guatemala City came into view. This city of one million souls, some very rich and most very poor, spread over the lush green mountains and valleys below in this homeland of the ancient Mayans. We would take buses one hour from this capital city to Antigua, an ancient town of 5,000 feet elevation surrounded by volcanoes and a favorite vacation place of my employer Mark Lanier and his wife Becky. Through the years they have become benefactors to residents in this ancient village of stone walls and cobblestone streets, whose charming hometown they now wanted to share with us attorneys and spouses of the Lanier Law Firm during four June 2006 days of business conferencing and considerably more rest and relaxation.
We stayed at the charming Casa Santo Domingo, originally built as a monastery about 1547 and retaining the same appearance and contemplative ambiance although now expanded into a modern resort hotel. Our two mornings of business seminar were led by Morgan Hill, a board member of Growing Leaders, but our own law firm head and host Mark Lanier also shared some thoughts broadly applicable to gracEmail subscribers as well. We move into the future, Mark said, not with a detailed road map but with a trustworthy compass of ethical principles and general goals: “Be the best person you can be; do the best work you can do; seize the best opportunities you can seize.” He didn’t quote Scriptures in this context but the message would be at home in his regular Sunday School class for which I sometimes substitute teach.
The streets in Antigua are full of indigenous women, many with little children tagging along, all dressed in brightly-colored hand-woven native clothing, some carrying baskets on their heads, eagerly selling their handiwork to any tourist willing to spend either Guatemalan quetzales or American dollars. We wished we could buy all their weavings, carvings and other crafts to reward their labors but that, of course, was impossible. Sara Faye and I did visit the Hermano Pedro Hospital in Antigua where longtime friend Dr. Fielding Fromberg from our home congregation in Houston annually goes on medical mission with Faith in Practice, helping to perform dozens of charity surgeries for cleft palates and a variety of other life-enhancing procedures.
Waiting in the airport in Guatemala City for our Saturday afternoon flight home, we visited with a group of Catholic priests, deacons, nuns and laity who had pilgrimaged to Guatemala from Oklahoma City to commemorate the martyrdom 25 years ago of an Oklahoma priest killed in Guatemala by a government-sanctioned death squad for teaching native peoples to read and to claim their self-image as humans made in the image of God. I particularly enjoyed talking to “Sister Susan,” a white-haired member of the Sisters of Mercy whose faced glowed with the love of God. “I am 62 years old,” I confessed to her, “and this is the first time I have ever spoken to a Catholic nun face to face.” I told her about gracEmail and she promised to pray for me as I also did for her.