I looked out the window at the people on the sidewalk. This was Guatemala City, home of 9 million people. We had driven the eight hours from the campus at Los Pinos, the last two of which had been stop and go as we made our way into the city center. After a long search we found lodging at the Pan American Hotel. It was about 2 blocks from the very heart of the city. We found out it used to be the Astoria Hotel before it was sold in 1942 to its present owners. The cost was $35.00 per night for a room and it was quite comfortable by any Central American standards. There was an elevator with a sliding brass mesh grate that came across the door and a handle that was moved left or right to make the contacts and move the car. Just like in the old movies!
In the morning we set out to make our purchases for the orphanage across the city. After stops at the bank and copier supply store, we went to the power equipment store. I intended to buy mowers and price weed eaters and a large cement mixer. It was sunny and cool in the city. As Berny Leonardo and I inquired about the items and made the choices, Annette went just outside the door of the store to soak up some sun and watch the street scene. I heard the pop, pop, pop sound, but it did not register to me what it was. The manager quickly moved to Annette and pulled her back inside the store. It was gunfire! After it was quiet for a minute or two, we saw a man on the ground about 200 feet away. The sirens announced the arrival of the ambulance and the police and the wounded man was loaded into the ambulance and carried away. The manager shrugged his shoulders and said “Drugs.”
The manager responded to my question about the safety of this part of town by pointing out that it wasn’t very bad here at all. This only happened about once a month! He warned that there were areas where it was not safe even for him, let alone a gringo. Berny was careful to tell him that he would not let us go anywhere that was not safe.
During the next two days in the city I heard the sound of gunfire often. I got so I could distinguish it from the fire crackers that are common too. I was glad to have Berny with us and to be on an errand for the Lord with his protection.