Forgive me father for I have sinned, it has been way too long since my last blog post……
But in sincerity, I apologize about how long it has been since you last heard from us. We have been in a very busy transition period over the last three months, but please know that we love you, and appreciate all your support and prayers. Now that we have come into a rhythm we hope to give updates on a more regular basis. Over the next couple weeks we look to publish some posts catching up on stories, victories, and just overall life here in Guatemala City.
Since moving to the city and getting to work at the ministry God has opened up many doors and introduced us to some amazing people with unbelievable hearts and generosity. I have had the honor of meeting and sharing part of my heart that is Hope for Guatemala with many people coming here for their first time, or returning, on short term mission trips. It never gets old to see how over the course of a week this place has a way of capturing hearts.
I have formed relationships with people that I now call family and I am grateful for God’s hand in all of this. I have learned that when you return from a mission trip, God never sends you home whole, but He sends you home full.
I’ve also had the honor of forming and developing relationships with the Guatemalans here in Zone 18. From the kids in the ministry, to the teenagers, to the workers of the ministry and their families, I have met some of the most incredible Jesus-loving, hard-working people.
As I’ve grown closer with the people here, I have started to receive many invitations to important events. Over the past few months, I have had the awesome opportunity to be invited to four graduations and one Quinceanera. One of these graduations and the Quinceanera was for a girl that is very special to the heart of our family: Esmerelda. I first met Esmerelda in 2013 when she was 11 years old.
She is the oldest of four children, with two sisters and a brother. She spent most of her days taking care of her youngest sister Dulce who totally won over my heart on that first trip in 2013. Through my relationship with Dulce I found myself able to serve Esmeralda by taking some of the pressure off of here during those weeks that I was here. It was during these weeks that I got to see her go from caretaker to child as she was able to run around, play, and giggle with her friends. Today I watch her and she still has a caretaker instinct. Dulce is now old enough to take care of herself, but you often see younger kids under her watch. She has an amazing gift to love on the younger kids in the ministry.
I was first invited to Esmerelda’s graduation from what we would call middle school. I was honored and excited to go to her school and it meant a lot to me…little did I know the impact this step would have on her.
I stepped out of my comfort zone into her school with my limited Spanish vocabulary, feeling as if stepping out of my comfort zone was an important to step into this girl’s world. I went and everything went great. I was able to see her dressed up and tell her how proud I was of her and how much she and her family meant to our family.
The following week was her Quinceanera and I was once again invited to attend. A quinceanera is a celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday celebrated in most Latin American cultures. This celebration is a special coming-of-age party that is meant to mark the transition from childhood to womanhood. In Guatemala, typically the celebration lasts most of the day and includes a religious ceremony, dancing, food, and a special moment where the birthday girl’s flat shoes are removed and high-heels are placed on her feet. After the 15th birthday are when girls begin to wear make-up and dress in more adult style clothing.
The party was in her neighborhood in the late afternoon/evening. I won’t lie I was a little nervous about spending so much time in this location because of what I know about that area. But God provided a peace about it and I felt him tell me that I needed to attend.
He reminded me that what we as Americans often see as dark and dangerous, to these kids it is simply home.
So….I went. It was an amazing event! She looked absolutely beautiful in her dress and it was cool to see so many of the other kids from the ministry, in their neighborhood. I think they were excited that I was willing to come right there with them!
I noticed the absence of her father, and through a little hesitation and the help of a little peer pressure I took the first dance with her. There in the streets where she lives we danced and again I was able to tell her how proud I was of her!
After the ceremony we were served an amazing typical Guatemalan dish called Pepian that is often reserved for special occasions because of the cost of the ingredients and the preparation it takes!
The hospitality that was extended to me was incredible. There is just something special about the people of Guatemala and the way that they love so unconditionally. It was such an incredible night being with these people and getting to know them a little bit more.
It wasn’t until the following week that I realized what these events meant to this little 15 year old girl. One day at the ministry, Esmerelda’s mom approached my wife, Becca, and thanked us for being here in Guatemala and for the love that we give their family. Becca thanked her, but then the mom went on to explain that Esmeralda’s dad does not claim her as his own and explained that is why he was absent at these two big events in her life. She said that Esmeralda spent the weeks leading up to these events heartbroken and even extremely angry that she would not have a father attend some of the most important events in her life. The mom prayed with Esmeralda that God would provide for her and was able to give her comfort heading into the graduation and birthday.
Then, she explained to Becca that when I showed up, I stepped into that role as a father to Esmerelda for those occasions. She said that God provided the answer to their prayers through me. Through ME.
Of course, Becca cried telling me this story, and instantly my heart melted as I realized that God was able to use me to fill such a void she had felt. He used me to fill a void that I myself had felt for a great portion of my life. I am grateful that I have a stepfather who came into my life and filled that void to be the father he didn’t have to be. I am also grateful that I found a perfect father in God and that I know that He has always been there, even when I was totally lost!
It was such a humbling experience, one that I will never forget, for God to use me to be present for these events and play the role that I was able to play just by stepping out of my comfort zone and accepting an invitation. I know that God sent us here to come alongside a ministry that is dedicated to ending cycles of poverty, abuse, and fatherlessness. I’m grateful that He chose me, someone who has experience these same cycles and voids, to come and help break them. I can’t wait to see what else He has in store for my family in our time here. Thank you again for your support and prayers, we could not be on this journey without you!