Iguana Boy

Six years ago November I moved to Guatemala. My second week here we had the privilege of serving at the first Young Lives camp in Guatemala. It was a beautiful experience and many of those women (and their now much older children) are still dear friends.

Duck, Duck, Goose at club

On Friday, a dear group of friends joined me to help with childcare at club. Sadly, the ministry is no longer part of Young Life, but the beauty of relational ministry is that it’s not connected to one organization – so, six years later, leaders keep loving kids and pointing them to Jesus. And now we get to join back in.

Nanci met us, explained a bit about the history and what’s currently happening with the girls, then Fito walked us around the community and explained a bit of his community development work. As we were standing there, a little boy came up and gave my friend Kate a huge hug. He wouldn’t let go. We kept talking, they chatted a bit, and he kept hugging.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the boy asked “do you have an Iguana?” Kate looked confused. “No.” “I do. I have a lot of iguanas.” And with that, he ran away, presumably toward home.

When I told Joel the story later, he laughed. “I know that boy! He showed me his iguanas…Guess where he gets them.” Joel proceeded to tell me how this boy goes to the cemetery and hunts iguanas. He explains that these are not pet store iguanas. They are dirty, gross…cemetery iguanas. But they’re his pets.

Cemetery iguanas. The image sits with me.

City Sunsets

What do I do with it? Children are children wherever they grow up; people can find beauty in the most unexpected places…..

A difference between the me now and the me who moved here six years ago is that those nice messages I learn in these moments – while true and beautiful – are not enough anymore.

Now, my heart breaks because no little boy should have to search through the dust and the dead to find his pet. No boy should have to walk through dangerous streets alone to find a place to play. No boy should have to cling to a complete stranger – why isn’t that embrace happening at home?


My heart yearns for justice for my friends in Zone 3, for my friends who suffer under the weight of systemic poverty, racism, oppression, and hatred all around the world.

I’ve written and deleted about ten paragraphs to end this post – going in the direction of the US elections, of the alt-right leader nominated to the presidential cabinet, of immigration policies rooted in fear of the other that would decimate regions of the world…but I want to stay with Iguana Boy.

For him, I have to believe there is hope. I have to go back to the me of six years ago and believe that hug was enough, that hug was God’s grace in his life that day, in that moment, and that makes a difference.

I have to believe.  I have to be present. I have to act. It’s all I can do.






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