Cheney Free Press -


Chelsie Sunbe: world traveler at age 15


Chelsie Sunbe, a 15-year-old sophomore at Christian Heritage School, spent three weeks in Guatemala this past July. As part of a team from Students International, she and eight other teens performed what they called relationship building, making friends and smoothing the way for missionaries who would arrive later. Three adults accompanied them, including the principal of Christian Heritage School, Marty Klein.

“We spent four hours every day of the first week learning Spanish,” Sunbe said. “We spoke Spanish all the time we were there.”

One of Sunbe’s first attempts at conversing with a native had a humorous ending. She thought she was asking a lady for almond chocolate. Sunbe mistakenly said “almohada.” Unfortunately that word meant pillow. The woman simply shook her head and walked away. Surprisingly, chocolate is the same word in English and Spanish. For Chelsie Sunbe there was no pillow chocolate to be had. “The Guatemalans were gracious whenever we said something wrong,” she said.

The group stayed in local host homes in Antigua.

Sunbe shared some of her experiences with us:

“I really liked their food,” she said. “Guatemalans do not cook with a lot of spices.

“On the second week three more of our group arrived. We went to the small town of Megdalina. There, we chose what kind of work we wanted to be involved in. There was finance, agriculture, health care, education and other options. I worked on the media site. I went to different places and took videos of the people. The children were fascinated with my camera.

“We played with the children and helped with general chores,” Sunbee said. “The natives carried wood on their backs. We helped carry wood, but not on our backs. I helped with cooking too.

“Jose, our leader of the media site, told us to go to a tortilla shop. He said it was painted blue. We started out and found that other buildings, including houses, were blue. We were situated on a large hill and tramped up and down trying to find the right place. Finally we climbed to the top of the hill and found the tortilla shop we were looking for was right next to our house. Jose said, ‘Where have you been? I thought you had died!’”

The group happened to be in Megdalina while there was a fair. Sunbe said it was “crazy” and loud. At three a.m. there would be a marching band, dogs fighting, fireworks outside a person’s home day or night. Sunbe mentioned the ferris wheel, “It was dangerous, and went faster and higher than the ones we have.”

Now at home, with the teen’s mission accomplished and the missionaries beginning to build a church in Guatemala, Sunbe said, “I would like to go again. The culture was exciting and the people were really nice. They would greet us with ‘Good morning, dear.’”

Next time, Chelsie Sunbe, when you arrive, that almond chocolate might just be waiting for you.

Luella Dow is a Cheney-area author who can be reached at


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