I am currently sitting at my gate at La Aurora Airport in Guatemala City, watching the sunrise, and feeling oh so incredibly blessed. I could not have asked for a better time here. I learned so much about this place, the culture, the people and myself. I felt so many things I either never felt before or have not felt in a really long time. I feel different coming home. I truly feel as though I am leaving Guatemala a different person.
I feel changed. I feel happier, lighter, more confident and inspired to continue doing work that uplifts others. My mom has always said to me, “It is not what you say or do that makes people remember you, it is how you make them feel that leaves the lasting impression.” I greatly understand this because the way I am feeling right now is a feeling I know I cannot and will not forget.
…the feeling when they gave me a reassuring smile
…when they repeatedly passed me the soccer ball even though I failed to do anything successful with it every time
…how they asked to come with me after school to paint
…when they made one of their goofy faces just because they know it makes me laugh
…when they said a joke I heard a thousand times, but they know the joke is ours, so they say it again and again anyways
It is laughing together, embracing one another, encouraging each other, highlighting one’s strengths and strengthening one’s weaknesses. I felt these things: all of these pure, raw emotions that inevitably caused me to absolutely fall in love with this country, these people, my experiences and my new family here.
It is in these moments when I have this feeling, and the only way I know how to describe this feeling is that in each of these moments I am feeling His presence. I am realizing now as I am writing this that the reason I feel so changed is because this experience, these students and this place reintroduced God into my life, and for that I am eternally grateful.
I feel spiritually strengthened. I’ve been lost for the past few years with my faith, not whether or not I believed, but that I did not feel His presence. And now I do in everything I do. He is this feeling that I keep talking about. I feel Him when I walk into the school and a herd of students run to me and welcome me with hugs and besos. I feel Him when I walk through the streets of Antigua and am constantly surrounded by His creations. I feel Him as I mediate and reflect on my experiences and worries. I feel Him so fully and not only in the beauty, but in the suffering because I know He is present to teach me, help me get back on my feet, and guide me through the deepening of my faith. And I feel Him now as I sit here writing this is in the Guatemala City, watching the sunrise, and feeling so incredibly blessed for this opportunity I will never forget.
I came to Guatemala to help and support the school, but every time I leave this place, I know that these students and these people helped me and saved me in ways I didn’t even know I needed to be saved. It’s funny. I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t even know I needed any of this, but the Lord works in mysterious ways, and I truly believe that this journey—my journey—could not have happened in any other place, at any other time, and without the people that helped me experience this feeling.
I learned that pure, true love comes not from similarities or how well people get along, but from how you overcome one another’s differences. It is about seeing a person for who they are, accepting them and embracing each perfection and flaw to the fullest, while pushing them to be the very best version of themselves, even when they cannot see it.
Escuela Integrada and Guatemala did for me what I could not do for myself. I made friendships in Christ, questioned and deepened my faith, and experienced a love for others and from others unlike I ever have before. I feel ready, as I head back to the United States, to begin this next chapter of my life through Christ.