Treasures in the City of Reu

By Matt Nguyen

By Matt Nguyen, SPU Senior

It was a dark and rainy evening in the rural city of Reu. Really. Tired and wet, my Guatemala team and I made our way into a local public school to apply fluoride to the children’s teeth.


Walking into a dim and dark second grade classroom, we were immediately lit up and warmed by the bright eyes and smiles of the children. With the little Spanish I had learned a week earlier, I attempted to talk to the kids about important matters, such as “¿Te gusta Pikachu?” Who would have thought that Pokémon was a universal language!


As we applied fluoride to the children’s teeth, we were amazed that despite the poor health of their mouths, the kids were smiling brightly. After we had finished, it was time for our team to depart. Walking away and waving goodbye, the kids began to swarm us and bless us with their hugs. I remember one particular boy asked me to wait, skipped to his desk, and swiftly returned with something shiny in his hand. Curious, I looked closer to the glimmering object and was greeted with a puff of wonderful fragrance. The boy had sprayed me with some cologne! Immediately, the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume came to my mind. In the midst of poverty and pain, this boy took the time to bless me with something that was valuable to him.


Leaving the school that evening, the scent stuck to me, serving as a reminder of what it looks and smells like to love. Whatever our treasures may be, whether it is education, job, talents, or even a bottle of cologne, they need to become gifts — gifts given to serve and to love unabashedly. As it is written, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). That night, those children helped me learn this by making me feel like a treasure. That night, those children were Jesus to me.


A recent scientific study conducted by the University of North Carolina found that hugs can improve one’s health. After my recent trip to Guatemala, I can attest to its validity. Greeted by hundreds of wide-eyed, smiling children, my body, heart, soul — and my waist were never safe from their loving embrace. This trip was a life-changing experience that reminded me of the necessity to slow down to truly experience the love of others.

AuthorMatt Nguyen is a Seattle Pacific University senior from Portland, Oregon, who's majoring in biology. He plans to attend medical school after graduation and hopes to work as a medical missionary someday. In Summer 2009, he visited Guatemala as part of a medical mission team from the Seattle Pacific Reachout International (SPRINT) program.


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