CORTLAND - Having spent time in some of the poorest sections of the world, a Newton Falls man has returned from his mission trip enlightened.
Eric Thompson was among a local group who spent time living with people in the mountain villages in southern Guatemala.
Thompson, of Newton Falls, a businessman and magician, was the guest speaker at the monthly Breakfast at the Lake series at Lake Vista of Cortland.
Thompson said his time in Guatemala ''changed the perspective I have on my own life.''
''It was a very humbling experience. A week and a half really changed how I looked at my life, job, family,'' he said of the time he spent in 2013 along with 14 other local residents in the country.
He said he felt a tremendous burden and obligation to do something more for the children and families he met and left behind.
''I wanted to continue to do something to make their lives a little easier and just a little more pleasant,'' Thompson said.
While visiting the mountain villages around the area of Zacapa, near the Honduras and El Salvador border with Guatemala, Thompson was moved by the people, especially the children, who never complained nor begged.
''They are all happy. They wore smiles on their faces even though by our standards, they exist in stunning poverty. They have little more than a change of clothing, yet they always appeared clean. Their homes do not have any conveniences,'' he said.
Thompson said the cooking is done in a small stone fireplace in an outdoor kitchen. The furniture inside the home is usually no more than a white plastic stacking chair that most people use around a pool or on a patio.
''I did not see a single book in a home other than the Bibles that my group left behind when visiting them. Their homes are generally made of a clay-based mud mixed with straw and sticks and dirt floors. The roofs of these 'huts' is corrugated aluminum held in place with large heavy rocks, as nails or fasteners are a luxury. Very few of the homes I visited had electricity. The children attend school through the eighth grade but even the schools are primitive and void of many books,'' he said.
As a magician, Thompson performed 12 shows in nine days.
''When I did the magic trick, it was hard for them to understand. Because of the language difference, the tricks were not always well received. They did not know how to react,'' he said noting he would point to his watch to get people to watch his hands do a trick.
He said while Guatemala City was modernized with tall buildings, police and fire and appliances, if you traveled a few miles away you were in poverty.
Thompson has told his story to different groups, sharing pictures and stories of the time he spent in Guatemala and the plight of these indigenous people.
Thompson went on the mission trip through Greg Miller Ministries, which helps improve the lives of families in Guatemala. Long-range goals are more education and to bring food to the people.
He said local groups in Cortland and the Mission of Love in Austintown help get clothing, backpacks and desks to the children, which they value.
Thompson said his mission trip this year will be to Africa.