Group heading on mission to Guatemala

Heather Latter

Mark Mast of Rainy River has travelled to Guatemala 12 times since 2005 to help build houses, serve at orphanages, and spread the word of God through villages there.
And he’s spearheading another mission trip there later this month, with 22 district residents, including a number of teenagers, going to assist in the cause.
“It’s my passion to expose young people to a cross-cultural mission opportunity and allow them to see the world from a little different perspective than they do from living here in Rainy River District,” Mast explained.
He tries to take as many young people as possible. And about half of those going this year have never been there before.
“Over the years now, we’re taken over 60 different individuals, so a lot of kids have really been challenged by the things they’ve experienced, seen, and done, such as dealing with poverty in some of its most dramatic forms,” Mast remarked.
While in Guatemala, the volunteers build houses for the villagers—12’ x 12’ units made from wood and tin with concrete floors.
“They are typically living in houses made of cornstalk, so while it a very neat shelter, certainly what we build is a mansion in comparison,” said Mast, adding the houses they build cost about $400 each.
“So it’s a lot different than the type of home you’d find around here,” he conceded.
But Mast said the building of homes is just the most visible of the work the district volunteers do. They also organize daily Bible schools for the children, as well as working at orphanages.
“In the village, where we build the 20-25 homes . . . each trip, we also then bring the kids together for about three hours each day for Bible schools,” he noted.
“It can be a very large group of kids. Last year, we had over 400 kids come out.”
And when they visit an orphanage, they usually have about half the group tending to the children while the rest of the volunteers take care of everything from painting to laying tile to construction.
“There’s always something to do,” Mast stressed, citing there are a number of orphanages they go to.
Another place the volunteers have visited in the past is an organization called “Potter’s House,” which exists to change the living situation for the more than 11,000 people who live and work in and near the Guatemala City dump.
Of these, nearly 6,500 are children.
“They live in very primitive shelters around the proximity of the dump and they scavenge,” Mast explained.
“So this organization provides a multi-faceted approach to helping them, from eduction to nutrition to clothing.
“We typically go for one of the days and we’ll do what’s called a prayer walk, where we take a 50-pound pail filled with rice, beans, cornmeal, flour, and oil and distribute this food to the people that make their living there,” he added.
These basic food items can last them for one-two weeks, depending on the size of their family.
The district volunteers also take, to a limited extent, items to hand out to the villagers, including school supplies, hygiene items, children’s clothing and shoes, and small toys and stuffed animals.
And while there remains much work to be done in Guatemala, Mast is amazed by the improvements he sees.
“I’m very encouraged to say that even from when I started going six years ago, everything you see is dramatically improving,” he enthused.
“But even as such, it’s still far, far different from anything we have here.”
Mast said the volunteers are very eager to help those in need.
“We have a nice cross-section [of volunteers from] the district here,” he noted. “A number of different churches are represented and communities, from Fort Frances, Emo, Devlin, Barwick, and Rainy River.”
The 10-day trip, slated for Nov. 13-23, costs about $1,000 per person, which covers airfare, rental vehicles, food, lodging, and insurance.
But then they also have ministry costs for the house construction supplies, etc., which adds up to several thousand dollars more combined.
So the participants have been encouraged to challenge their families, friends, and churches to contribute to the cost of the trip, so each volunteer can put their funds towards the ministry costs.
However, donations will be accepted.
Since the group travels through a U.S.-based organization, any monetary donations must be a money order in U.S. funds or a cheque for a U.S. bank account.
“The Guatemala trips allow young people to see beyond our little blessed area here,” Mast reasoned.
“And just helping kids realize that they can be such a vital part of bringing about positive change and bringing the good new of Jesus to other places.”
For more information, to donate, or inquire about next year’s trip, contact Mast at 852-3202.