The sun is rising over a beautiful backdrop of mountains as I sit and drink some of the best coffee I’ve tasted and reflect on our trip so far. There’s a calmness that comes as I spend the morning trying to process the prior days’ events and quietly try to open my heart to what God might want me to hear. Our first day was especially tough for me.
We started the trip with a graduation celebration in the heart of the city. It was a culmination of a year of hard work for both the teachers and students. Kindergarten and 6th graders were dressed in light blue gowns and their best clothes as they came on stage to be presented with their certificates. Parents crowded the aisles to take pictures much like we see back home. The presentation was followed by each class joyfully performing a song and finally each student was given a medal in honor of the school year being complete. Their school schedule runs January to October here.
As I looked around the community center, I was reminded just how alike we as human beings are no matter what your cultural background.
Teenage girls still gathered together and giggled as they walked by, the boys were shy about dancing and hung in the back rows, parents proudly took pictures and hugged their kids and the community celebrated what the kids had accomplished together. The kids were never short on hugs and love for our team. As they came off stage they greeted us with an eager embrace, even though they’d never met many of us. These kids love abundantly and openly. My, how we could all learn from their examples. I left the ceremony feeling excited about the week ahead. The learning center Connection Pointe supports was making a difference in the lives of these kids.
The team excitedly walked back through the village chattering about how wonderful it was to see the children and community support. As we were walking it was impossible not to notice some of the broken down homes and images of poverty I previously had only really seen in pictures.
After arriving back at the center we settled in for lunch and started talking to Josh, one of our leaders in Guatemala. It was through his sister’s vision the center came to be. We asked what we could do to help support them more when he began telling us about the plan to expand into 7th grade. While this requires money, we thought it an obvious next step and didn’t quite grasp just how difficult what Josh would tell us next would be.
You see if the center didn’t provide a 7th grade option many of these kids would be done with school completely after this year. They would go on to work with their families and become providers. As I sat and listened to him speak, I looked over at my current 7th grader traveling on the trip with me and could hardly grasp what I was hearing. I often worry about sending my son to college and some of these happy, loving children almost the same age as as my own son wouldn’t make it past 6th grade. My heart was shattered. Josh explained the difficulty of getting the necessary certification to teach the older grades and the distrust in the community as many people scam the villagers and offer an education that’s isn’t valid in order to make money. Even with the potential of scholarships for the kids, convincing the parents to allow their child the opportunity to continue their education rather than help the family could be a tough sell. All of this amazing work the learning center had done in their lives might suddenly be done and the kids sent into the real world without any real possibility of bettering their lives.
The families have a difficult choice to make, risking desperately needed financial help from the kids working for what could be a great opportunity if all goes well with the potential it could be a sham, or take the safe more common route of having their kids go to work. What a heartbreaking challenge they are faced with.
As I tried to process everything I was hearing I was overwhelmed with what we had witnessed and experienced earlier in the day. These families and children face difficulties we can barely fathom every day, and yet they are filled with so much love and joy. While I realized how lucky I was to potentially be able to bless the children, I hadn’t fully prepared myself for just how much I would in return be blessed. Time with these kids replenishes your spirit. A hug is more meaningful and genuine than any material gift I could be given. The children in Guatemala if nothing else are truly resilient and inspiring.
If you are currently sponsoring a child, or have prayed for these children, know what a huge difference you are making to the kids and also their families. Through the learning center they have an opportunity to dream and hope of going on to do amazing things in the world. I am blessed to have met them and spend time with them. If you aren’t involved, I encourage you to pray how you can be more involved in changing a child’s life.
They are so worth it!