by Sarah Jacobs
This week has undeniably been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It was my first year participating in a mission trip and I couldn’t have picked a better time in my life to come. As this week comes to a close, I am able to reflect with great joy on the life changing events that occurred these past few days.
To begin, I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve with such a wonderful group of people. I truly believe that the members this week epitomized the definition of altruism. Everyone who attended the mission left their home and put their life on hold for a week for one reason: to serve others. I have never been in a room full of such selfless, dedicated, and passionate people, who I am now proud to call my friends. The group’s energy was high starting from day one, and it failed to dissipate as the week progressed.
On our first day, we were given a tour of the orphanage, Hogar Miguel, and were introduced to Karen. Karen, who established the orphanage, is irrefutably the most amazing person I have ever met. She cares for and loves each and every one of the children that reside at Hogar Miguel, as well as many children from the village. This outstanding woman makes dreams come true and makes the impossible look easy. Her work ethic is nothing short of admirable and is truly inspiring. I was honored to be under her leadership this week, and I hope it will happen again in the future.
The next couple days I was assigned to working donations in the mornings, which I loved. Each child that came through the doors was able to take home a minimum of two t-shirts, a pair of pants or shorts, underwear, and socks. The look on their face upon receiving their clothing was priceless. It was as if each smile had enough happiness to fill the world.....twice.
One particular, little four year old boy stole my heart while working donations. As I ruffled through the clothes to find his size, I pulled out a pair of Bucky badger overalls and his face lit up. However, when I held them closer to him, it was obvious to the both of us that they were too small and his smile disappeared almost immediately. We then proceeded to find him a few shirts and pants that fit that he liked, but his initial disappointment broke my heart. As I continued with donations, I came across a pair of Bert and Ernie overalls that I knew would fit him and set them aside. Later that day, I showed him and once again his face lit up and my heart nearly exploded. He walked around showing them with much pride to everyone he saw, and then eventually changed into them. Shortly after, he took my hand and lead me to his room. We went to his bed and he asked me if he could be change back to the original clothes that he had worn that day. At first I was a little confused because I thought he adored his new overalls, so I asked him why, and his answer nearly brought me to tears. He looked at me and explained that he had to put the overalls underneath his pillow because he didn’t want to lose them. They were such a newly prized possession that he didn’t dare risk wearing them and have them be taken from him. When this happened, it really put things into perspective for me about how fortunate I am in my life, and how I often I take the little things for granted. I have this little boy in front of me whose most valuable possession is a simple pair of overalls. I wish I could give this little boy everything that he wants and needs, which is why I inquired about sponsoring him. I learned that he does not have a sponsor yet, so I started the process by giving my information.
On the third day, I was able to go into the village and help install a total of three stoves. The scenery was unbelievable, as were the enormous hills that we walked. The stoves were much easier to install than I had anticipated and only took about 45 minutes to complete (if you didn’t run into any problems). I valued this experience because I was able to go into typical Guatemalan homes and see how they live. Although they do not have much compared to what we have in the United States, they had pride in what they had earned.
In the afternoon of each day, I helped with the vacation bible school. We began every lesson with singing and dancing to songs. We packed just short of 300 children into a tiny chapel. Now imagine each of them singing at the top of their lungs....it was the cutest thing I had ever seen. After, they split into two groups and half went to make crafts and the other half went outside for games, which I helped with. Almost every day, we played soccer and I had the opportunity to play with them. Soccer has always been an important part of my life and it was exciting to be able to share the passion for the sport with the children.
Lastly, I was intrigued by the Guatemalan culture each day. Their optimistic outlook on life is inspiring. There are so many bright colors on the street and so much hope and positivity in their eyes. Also, upon arriving, I anticipated a language barrier, but I could not have been more wrong. I have been learning Spanish for several years now, and continue to study it in college, but I didn’t realize how much I knew. To my surprise, I was able to communicate everything that I intended to communicate, even though sometimes it wasn’t easy. Everyone was so accommodating and willing to understand what we wanted to say.
Altogether, I cannot speak more highly of Hogar Miguel and the things that they do for the children their. It is a place of true happiness in a not so happy place, and no one can take that away from them. The children taught me a new kind of happiness and love, both deeper and more passionate than I could have ever imagined. They also taught me that every victory is worth celebrating, no matter how small because everything in life has value. It is so simple to get lost in the chaotic routine that my life is back home, but now I am able to step back for a moment and appreciate all that I have. I came to Guatemala with tunnel vision, but I am leaving with full sight. My life and heart have been forever changed and I am eternally grateful for that. I will always cherish the memories created there and I hope I will have the opportunity to return again in the near future.