Our family of four (my husband, myself and our boys … 13 and 14) ventured to Guatemala for a weeklong mission trip. Our FIRST EVER mission trip. We were stepping out in faith, on a journey with people we didn’t know, to a place that we had never been.
When George picked us up from the airport, he asked “What are you guys expecting from your time here?” I had no expectations … I was ALL IN … ready to be used as a vessel for God, in any way possible. Tony was ready to learn and Tony and I were BOTH hoping our boys would be shaken in a way they would never forget.
It’s so hard to put into words all the experiences we had. Our journey was PACKED FULL! Among the MANY amazing things we were privileged to be a part of; we made trips to the market, participated in an organized game of soccer with boys from the academy, we attended several classes at The Boys Academy, met countless people and listened to their testimonies and we spent time with the Sisneros family.
Trips to the market were more than just buying groceries for families in need. WAY MORE!!! As we walked through the 3 1/2 foot walkway of the market, it oozed the culture of Guatemala. The smell of fish, corn tortillas being cooked and food being fried, all filled the air. My ears heard sounds from chicken buses, animals making noises and people communicating, trying to get what they needed at the lowest price possible. My eyes couldn’t help but take in the amazingness around me.
Men and women were holding tight to their children, in many cases SEVERAL children, as they fought to sell their products to whomever would purchase them. Even young children were doing what they could, selling things to provide for their families. I saw babies sleeping; many wrapped up and sweating on the backs of mommies, grandmothers or older sisters and some laying on whatever they could, to stay close to mom or dad. Kiddos crying as moms tried to get them to pull it together so they could keep on with their day. I left knowing that these people were doing more than just “making money” at a 9 to 5 job … they were truly trying to sustain their family, while still trying to hold them together.
When George told us we were going to meet in the village to play a game of soccer with boys from The Boys Academy, we were all looking forward to it. As we pulled up to the field, boys rushed to George’s side. Their joy and excitement were overwhelming!!! The field wasn’t a manicured rectangle of grass like we see in the states. It was a tall weed field, located at what seemed like the center of the village right next to the community pila, where women washed clothes. The boys played for hours. Sweating and tired, their smiles held fast.
This game … this simple activity, is what effected my boys the most. As our oldest son Rylan walked off the field he said, “It hit me like a wave. This … this is where these boys live. For a moment I forgot that everyone was living in poverty. They don’t have what we have … But they still have joy mom.” THAT WAS IT!!!! This was their escape!!! Their escape from the struggles they face as young men growing up in El Rosario. A world where few men are available to “play”. Most men were absent because they have left for good and others work daily, making a few dollars a day to feed their families. No wonder these boys met George at the van the second we pulled up!!! He and Tony were men … men wanting to partake in their escape WITH THEM!! Men wanting to experience THEIR JOY!!!! As my youngest son Hunter said, “Mom … I never want to forget this!” I know he never will.
The visits to The Boys Academy we so telling. Boys showed up voluntarily to participate in English and bible classes. Two of the days we were there, the boys were actually off from public school … and STILL showed up! We saw boys eager to learn. Raising their hands, wanting to answer questions. They praised and worshiped with Rene, and read English bible stories.
George shared with us, that the boys that do the best in their classes, are often the ones that do the worst in public school. We watched George visit with each boy individually, as they discussed their mid-year report cards from public school. All the boys with the exception of TWO, improved their grades. Progress that George did not take lightly!!!! It was no surprise to me after watching the boys and George interact, these boys have a relationship with George that goes beyond “student-teacher” or even “friend”. These boys look at George as a mentor!!! A man of God who they seek to follow and learn from. A man of God that inspires THEM to be strong men of God as well. They are truly disciples!!! The Boys Academy is working!!!
George took us to the homes of families they are helping in El Rosario. Every single one of them willingly opened their homes to us. They poured their hearts out, sharing the testimonies. Some shared tragic stories that they have overcome or are in the process of overcoming. Others shared the redemption that The Lord has done or is doing in their lives. The common thread that ran through every story was “love”. They spoke of how grateful they were to God for the work He is doing through George and Vonda, in their village. You could feel the love they have for their families, for God and for George and Vonda. As George led us to each family he shared with us the struggles they face in the El Rosario. As he shared and as he helped translate for us during our visits, you could feel and see the love HE HAS for each and every one of the people in El Rosario. A love that was transparent, protective and real. A love that only God himself can place on the inside of a person. A love WE ALL should have for those that God puts in our path. It was so heart warming!
Every step of our journey in El Rosario was accompanied by the fellowship of the Sisneros family. George lead and guided us each and every day, on a journey of getting to know the hearts God has given them for the people in El Rosario. Their children set an amazing example of servant leadership, as they respected their parents and shared in the same love for those in the village. They also welcomed our children with open arms giving them a friendship that offered safety, joy and comfort in an unfamiliar place.
Vonda … What can I say!!!! She is the HUB of the ministry. She served us like royalty. She catered to our every need and filled our bellies with AMAZING meals that nourished our bodies each day. Vonda created an environment of peace where we were able to process our experiences. She truly helped bring the heavenly realm to earth!!! Vonda helped God make the connection he needed to make in our souls and our spirits to make our experience as impactful as He wants them to be. Without her vital piece to their ministry … so much would be lost.
I would have to say that Tony and I left with more than we ever expected!!!! Seeing people our world considers “poor”, because of their lack of resources and money, be so “rich” in faith and joy brings us to our knees! Seeing the Sisneros family be a true example of followers of Christ, leaves us asking exactly what God is leading us to do in our lives as individuals, a married couple, parents and children of Christ.
We have been hit with a humbleness that makes us long for our Father more than ever before. Leaving us to ask God for His eyes and start every day with the simple prayer … “How can we serve you?” As we drive around in the United States now … we ask ourselves, “Are we thankful for all God has given us!? Are we grateful that He chose us to be born here!?” Yes, yes we are. But our prayer is that we sit in a place of gratitude every minute of every day … Not EVER allowing our blessings to hinder us from making changes in our lives. We pray that if God asks us to make changes in our home or family … Or if he asks us to move from our home, our town, our state or even our country … that the comfort of the blessings God has placed around us will never hinder our obedience to follow Him. We realize now … that all the stuff doesn’t matter. For this life is only temporary and our preparation needs to be for our eternal home in Heaven.
Our trip didn’t consist of building homes, painting walls, digging holes or putting in water filters (not that those things aren’t helping). We built relationships; relationships with those who we met, with the missionaries we served, closer relationships with each other and most importantly a stronger relationship with God. We will be forever grateful for our trip and continue to look forward to all that God is going to do with our experiences in Guatemala.