A Purification Ceremony

A letter from our friend Lorrie Carter who, with her husband Bob, is serving as a medical missionary in the mountains of Guatamala:

Nine days seemed like a good number of days to accomplish this mission, and this number is the most important to the Mayan calendar. We climbed many mountains, and four teams of five installed 16 stoves a day each for a total of 112 indoor (420 lb.) and outdoor stoves. We also installed 64 water purification systems. It was incredibly hard work. Bob and I worked well with the team and became experts in installing the stoves.

When it came to climbing the mountains, we were not so great. Between Bob and his back and me with my knee, we were quite the geriatric pair. Somehow we made it every day, even when the climbs were vertical slopes of rock covered with mud.

But all in all, I wonder if the reason for my presence was something entirely different. We had Saturday free in Antigua to decompress. Bob and I wanted to vegetate by the pool at the hotel, but God had another plan.

A couple had canceled their reservation for the Mayan ruins tour. Since the trip had already been paid for, Bob and I were asked to go along with two other missionaries to make the tour happen.

The ruins were small, and only the foundations remained of the Mayan royal quarters along with the many, many altars to their gods. We walked along marveling at the symmetry of the neighborhood and listening to our guide until we reached the far end of the complex where a trail began into a wooded area. The guide told us to be quiet because to everyone’s surprise a ceremony was beginning.

It was a rare appearance of the Shaman at this site. Something special was happening. The altar was a pile of rocks with small holes or caves with candles in front of each cave like a small curtain of fire. The Shaman wore a robe with a large embroidered bat on his back. Our guide explained that this bat symbolized the spirit coming up from the underworld.

The Shaman blessed and purified all of the Mayans who were at the foot of the altar, primarily young women in their early teens. The purification ceremony was to appease the gods so unclean spirits would be released from the underworld, rendering them harmless.

At the end, I bowed and prayed the Lord’s prayer until the ceremony ceased and we returned to the van. It was a super nova moon that night, and many celebrations around the world ensued. But in Guatemala on that day, Jesus was invited into an ancient ceremony by a small group of missionaries. Did it make a difference? Only God knows.



Filed under: Prose