Faces of Guatemala
I'm so happy and blessed to share some stories and photos of the beautiful people I met in Guatemala! It was hard to edit my hundreds of photos down to a handful that I felt really captured the essence of these sweet and beautiful people. I can only hope and pray that these photos honor and share well the stories of those whose paths I was blessed to cross. Take a look, and see if you can tell which ones were taken on film and which were on digital!
We came to Guatemala to serve a small community called the Tracks - a longterm squatter neighborhood in an alleyway of old abandoned railroad tracks, pictured in the photo above. The families we came to serve live on either side of these tracks in makeshift houses. The ministry we were working with has created 32 solid/safe/stable houses where there once were shacks. We still have about 70 more to convert for them, but progress is progress. The ministry also built a church and school at the Tracks which has done wonders to spread love and hope and joy in this area. That's the thing about Jesus you guys... When you bring Him into the neighborhood, things are going to change. It was an honor to play a role in serving these families and to witness the work of God in this neighborhood. To learn more about this ministry, follow this link to their site, or contact me directly with any questions you might have. So many of the kids need school sponsorship ($30/mo) so if that's something you're interested in, definitely reach out for more info.
The girl who is on the right in the first photo and in my friend Matt's arms in the second photo is Delmi. Delmi is the only kid on the tracks with both her parents living at home and with their whole family active in the local church. The presence of Christ in her home life made Delmi stand out as bright as a light in the dark. You could tell Delmi was loved well because even though she still wanted to love on us and hang out with us, she was okay if were busy. She wasn't neglected and desperate for affection like some of the other kids. It grieved my heart to see some of the kids so in need of love, but it gave me hope to see this little spunky pigtailed girl every day just waltzing down the Tracks like she didn't have a care in the world. Thats the thing about love, when you have it, you don't need anything else, not even cool shoes or proper clothes - all that stuff is temporary (helpful, yes, but temporary). Love gives us a glimpse of something eternal, gives a sense of what we're coming home to one day.
These two girls in this right photo standing with their grandmother are Maria and Camilla. I spent a great deal of my time in Guatemala holding these girls, laughing with them and learning about them - they totally stole my heart. Maria is the best big sister I have ever seen in action. She minds after Camilla with such attentiveness and selflessness. Maria is also a natural teacher - I often found us walking along the Tracks and she would point to things and teach me the name for them in Spanish. I so greatly appreciated her patience with me as I learned. These girls were just so very special to me, and the Lord showed me a lot about myself through my time with Maria and Camilla. I have a strong memory of one afternoon with them in particular. Our group was walking along on a very busy highway and I had these two sweethearts clinging to me for safety, the littlest on my hip with her arms tightly around my neck and the biggest clenching my hand as we walked along. In that moment, keeping them safe became my mission. For once, I finally didn't think or care for myself. I just lived to make sure they were safe. It was such a glorious freedom for my heart to lose sight of itself for a while. It helped me realize that the less I focus on myself, the freer and happier I am. I think we were designed to come alive in moments like these - instances that require us to leave ourselves to step further into the current of something more meaningful.
This is Emily. Emily is, hands down, the sweetest most gentle hearted human being I have ever encountered. Just being around her makes you better, I think. Her goodness is contagious. Emily was born with a facial deformity but is in relatively good health otherwise. She gets picked on by the other kids sometimes, mostly because she's so kind that they know they can boss her around. But even despite those circumstances, Emily shines. Emily and I spent a lot of time together and everyday I made it a point to tell her that I loved her and that she was a beautiful person, in response she would always smile and bashfully bury her face in my arms. It caused my heart to just explode with love for her. I remember on our last day in Guatemala, our group was making our final walk to the car. It became a parade of sorts, each of us with 3, 4, or 5 children on us. All of them vying for our attention, scrambling to hold our hands before we left. Well Emily was holding my hand and I was carrying Camilla on my hip. Instead of continuing to hold my hand for the little time she had left with me, Emily went and found Maria and asked her (in spanish) "They are leaving, do you want to hold her hand?" In that moment I was overcome with tears. It may seem so simple, but these kids are desperate for love and affection and for Emily to so simply, so sweetly, so selflessly find Maria and ask her if she would like time with me too before I left.... Well. I just don't have words. I can only hope that God would grow me into the type of person Emily has proven herself to be. I learned so much from this angel.
Phew. That's it guys. I miss Guatemala and the families at the Tracks so much, it almost hurts to revisit these photos today. I cannot wait to return and I can only pray patiently that God would find a way to bring me back again. Please consider sponsoring a kiddo, or making a one time donation, or taking time to pray for these families and children. I consider myself so blessed for the opportunity to travel to Guatemala and to meet these families of such upstanding character and substance. I praise God anytime I think of the goodness that is constantly unfolding at the Tracks. Thank you Lord.