Hospitality In Return

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, May 20, 2012

Heucks Retreat adventurers have been to his village many times, but Guatemalan César Abimael Arreaga arrived in Brookhaven for the first time on Friday.

     Heuck’s Retreat Baptist Church takes a mission trip to Chimaltenango, Guatemala, every April. For nearly five years, Chimaltenango’s Arreaga has been their interpreter.

     During his trip to Brookhaven, he is being hosted by Heucks Retreat pastor, the Rev. Ken Parvin, and church members Tillmon Bishop and Maurice Gaskin. Arreaga will return to his Central American home on Sunday.

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     “Beautiful city. Really, really beautiful,” said Arreaga of Brookhaven.      Bishop said Arreaga’s first words about Brookhaven were, “You have walls around homes.” It was the first of several observances about the differences between Brookhaven and his home city.

     Arreaga described his village as a busy, small city.

     “Violence, robbery, murder …” he said of one side of the city, while the other side is one of beauty: majestic mountains and volcanoes.

     Much of the soil is composed of volcanic ash, so the village survives by growing and selling beans and corn. Most of the 10 x 10 houses are built out of old corn stalks; the floors are dirt. There are children everywhere with no shoes.

     “It’s a sobering sight,” said Parvin.

     Parvin, Bishop and Gaskin treated their friend to Cracker Barrel for breakfast the morning after he arrived.

     “He freaked out. He didn’t know what to order,” said Bishop, laughing. “He cleaned his plate.”

     Arreaga also laughed about all he had eaten.

     “(It) was great flavor,” he said.

     Traveling was another difference Arreaga noticed. In Chimaltenango, road rules are more “suggestions” than rules, he said.

     “(There is a) lot of order here,” said Arreaga about the need for “complete” stops.

     He also praised Brookhaven for being “clean,” “quiet,” and “safe,” and the people for being “very polite” and having “good hearts.”

     “Very great people,” he said.

     Arreaga teaches Bible history and video/audio broadcasting at a local seminary in the roughest part of Chimaltenango. He also speaks at a church a few times a month.

     When Heucks Retreat representatives arrive in Guatemala, they build homes, and distribute food and medical supplies with the nurses and doctors they bring. Arreaga shares the Gospel with the locals, dedicates the homes and explains why they were built.

     Parvin said that they go hoping to give, but receive more.

     Heuck’s Retreat normally partners with Lakeside Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala, but next April, the church will make the missions trip alone.

     “Biblically, we’re instructed to go,” said Bishop, adding that anyone who wants to join them next April is welcome to do so.

     Arreaga has a 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter. He said he and his family are “surviving by the hand of God.”

     “I can see Him in very action that He does for us,” he said. “We are surviving because He is taking care of us.”