I’m very sad to say that today is our last day in Guatemala. It has been a truly life-altering trip. I am so extremely thankful to the school, our parents, and the Hope For Guatemala ministry for allowing us to be able to come to this beautiful place. It was amazing to see how happy and genuine all of these people are, despite their situations at home. These people understand the importance of finding our joy in the Lord and not in material items – a concept we Americans too often forget. I will never forget how every morning we were greeted by tons of faces smiling from ear to ear as they walked down the “hug train.” It is great to see the Lord moving through this ministry. I cannot think of a better group to spend this week with. From Gabe’s “Oh my people” to Robert’s cube skills, this group was totally fantastic! Everyone put their hearts into their work and I think I speak for all of us when I say this was one of the best trips ever!! Thanks again to everyone who made this trip amazing!
Por fin, estoy muy feliz para la oportunidad a visitar Guatemala. Muchas gracias a todas las personas de Guatemala. Ustedes son muy amables y es un honor conocerles. Dios les bendiga todos los dias de su vida.
Les quiero mucho,
Miranda Phillips (12th)
Wowza…The only word we can use to describe this trip. Throughout the trip, we fully felt the Lord impacting us in every single way. The kids, the culture, the kitchen staff, Guatemala in general has changed us for the better. Each day, we saw the kids and got to play with them and then did our day projects, followed by a usually cold shower, and then devotions and card games.
Today, after our regular duties, we took a home visit to some of the kitchen staff’s homes. They each lived in an area called Zone 18, where poverty is most brutal in the town. Each house was stacked on top of each other, with the house being as small as some of our bathrooms in America. The women made the entire group a traditional Guatemalan dessert. The most amazing part was that this dessert cost about half of the woman’s salary, yet the women gave it to us all willingly. What we all see as nothing, they see as lucky to have, and we think this is something we will each carry back, reminding ourselves not be more grateful for the experience we had here. Words cannot express the impact Guatemala left on each of the students here, and we are so grateful and thankful to be blessed with this.
—Abby Esslinger and Anna Cate Womack 10th grade
Greetings from Guatemala! I’d like to share with you a bit of a day in the life of a Guatemalan woman-at least the way a number of the students and I have been able to view it firsthand. I often hear the soft voices of the ladies who work or volunteer here as I am still in bed at 5:00 am or so, but they are walking outside my window on the way to the kitchen to begin cooking for the day. These ladies simultaneously work on preparations for breakfast and lunch for over 200 children and staff each day, in addition to teams such as our own. A pot of water is set to boiling outside over an open fire. Corn will cook for several hours and be used to make corn tortillas–200 a day! Mrs. Peterson tried her hand at it today and found it was not so easy. Two to three students have joined either Mrs. Peterson or I to assist them at 6:00am. Mr. Smith is a handy guy in the kitchen as well. We have discovered no part of their meal preparation includes the word “easy.” Buckets of oranges are squeezed to make orange juice.Every kind of produce imaginable is chopped by hand–no food processors in this kitchen! Our students have chopped and sorted produce–some familiar and some we’ve not seen the likes of before-until hands are stiff and stained. When asked to come to wash dishes (of which there is a steady stream!) in cold water- or dry them-usually with a damp or soppy towel, they are ready and willing. Today Bailey Wells and Share’ce Morton accepted an invitation to hand wash the overused dish rags and towels. Think, rolling a cylinder shaped bar of soap across each towel and then scrubbing it A LOT across a textured cement outdoor sink (used for all home washing by the average family here). After rinsing and ringing, towels were hung to dry. Imagine having to do this for every item needing washing in one’s home. It was explained that during the rainy season sometimes the choice has to be made to either wear a wet uniform to school or wear a dirty one. I for one have come to appreciate paper towels, hot water, and options for quicker fixes when it comes to food prep. And can I just say I have been SO proud of these students. I have yet to hear a whine or complaint. I see them volunteer to sweep, wipe tables, serve food when they are dog-tired. Parents, every one of you would be so proud of your child! I only knew two of them as their teacher before this trip, but I have come to love each of them. They have been a blessing to me and more importantly to the people here at Hope for Guatemala. Thank you for allowing us the privilege of serving here with them.
9th grade Bible teacher
4:20am is not exactly the most appealing time to wake up, but it was necessary for God’s plan to be carried out. Today, CJ, Brian Arp, and I headed to the largest market in Central America. At the market, we collected produce for the Hope for Guatemala and another Guatemalan ministry. It was difficult work, we collectively carried over 2,000 pounds worth of vegetables and fruits. It’s crazy that they do this every Tuesday! Also, I was completely stunned to find that many of the vendors give away their food to missions and ministries for free. They consider this to be part of their tithing. That’s something that I plan to bring back to the states with me. That having the selflessness and servant attitude of the Guatemalan people to help provide for the ministry of God!
–Bailey Armstrong (12th)
The kitchen crew (Alena, Mrs. McCain, Anne Cate, and me) was also up bright and early at 5:30am to go help the ladies peel what seemed like about a million different vegetables. Afterwards, we once again greeted the kids with what is referred to as the “hug train”. It was so cool to see the kids faces light up and they made B-lines for certain people, and the relationships that have already formed after just one day together. Today we rotated the kids through a sports camp with basketball, baseball, soccer, and a Guatemalan game that I can only describe as dodgeball on steroids. Alena, Miranda, and I were assigned to help blow up water balloons for our water day tomorrow. We assumed that this activity would be fairly monotonous and straightforward, but all of that was proven false when one little boy named Edie, that I had the pleasure of befriending last year, showed up to “help”. It took a total of two minutes before he was chasing me down with a water balloon in each hand. Not long after that, his brothers and some of the other teenagers joined in on the shenanigans with the three of us. My stomach still hurts from laughing so much. One of my favorite parts of this trip has been reconnecting with kids like Edie and getting to build on the memories and jokes we had from the year before. From the moment I left last March, not a day has gone by that the faces of kids, including Edie’s, has not come into my mind. This place and its children are truly so special and I cannot wait to see what God continues to do throughout the rest of this week.
–Alex Toole (12th)
Never have I hugged over 50 people in 5 minutes, that is until today. As we lined up along the walls, each child stopped for a hug or a handshake. Our hearts were full as we met each child with a warm embrace. We then served them their breakfast and joined them afterwards. Honestly, I was so awkward and terrified at first. I mean I’m not the type of person who is particularly skilled at starting conversations with strangers, much less people who speak a different language as me. It wasn’t long, though, until I was playing soccer with a group of 10 yr old boys, who I would hang with the rest of the day. Throughout the day, we all went to devotional and then played about a million different games. We danced. We chased each other around. We straight goofed all day long. It was so much fun. Throughout the day, God reminded me of 1 John 4:18 (There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love). God’s love has no insecurities, and it’s not afraid to reach out. The best way I can love someone is the way Christ loved me. Loving with Christ’s love doesn’t even worry about lacking the particular skill set I was so concerned about not having this morning.
-Faith Thompson (12th)
Today was an amazing day filled with lots of love and fun games. I woke up this morning very excited to see the children today. When we served them breakfast and began conversing with them, I started to feel the love from this country and these children. They are so welcoming and kind, and I immediately felt comfortable around them. I helped out with this game that involved balloons and one of the teenagers there, Alex, kept popping the balloons around me and the noise would scare me, but we had a lot of laughs. Also, one of the little girls who was about 6, was so loving and always wanted to hold my hand or sit in my lap. I had so much fun today and I can’t wait to make more memories in the days to come.
-Alena Loven (12th)
**More picture on the NCCS Facebook page**
We woke up way earlier than I wanted to due to a guy Charlie… he’s a rooster. A loud one. We started off the day by getting a nutritious breakfast of Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes, and Coco Crisps, they were yummy. Then, we went to a market place where we bargained for prices. The people were really nice and I learned how to fluently say “no gracias.” After we left the market, we went and got some big chicken at Pollo Campero –
it’s Guatemalan KFC, but had better mashed potatoes and chicken. A highlight from today’s adventure included dropping off of a zipline and flying above a wonderful canopy. That was fun. 🙂 Afterwards, we went to get some yummy gelato because it was so hot and we sweat. A lot. Soon thereafter, we gathered as a whole to play soccer. We are bad, very bad. We all got showed up by Daniel, who is a native Guatemalan, but it was a very enjoyable experience that brought us together as a group. Later in the night, we participated as a group in worshipping together (Faith, Alex, and Anna Cate led us in worship) and then Alex Toole shared a devotion with us. She encouraged us to be open to new experiences and to never shy away from something foreign to you (haha get it?). Soon thereafter, there was a multitude of games that were being played as we were anxiously waiting for the children to arrive in the upcoming hours. We have really bonded as a group so far on this trip and we are so excited to finally get to meet and serve the kids here tomorrow!!
—Brian Arp (10th) & Carly Fletcher (12th)
What an exciting day it has been! After our early departure from school, we made it to the airport, and navigated through many groups leaving the country to share the love of Jesus with others! Our students are serving each other well! They have been so kind, thoughtful, and willing to help others without asking. We had Spanish vocabulary and grammar lessons while waiting in line before going through customs. (Miranda made flashcards for her peers to learn basic phrases in Spanish.) They are anxious to start using what they have learned.
We arrived at Hope for Guatemala, Brad, his wife, and children (on staff missionaries from Alpharetta) were excited to welcome us here. After we got settled in, Brad gave us a tour of the property. We saw the coffee plants, banana trees, where the corn is planted, and the garden area. In Guatemala, the students have the week off for “Holy Week,” so the children will be here for longer periods of time each day.
After dinner, a soccer game, and card games, we had devotions. Miranda and Faith reminded us that we are here to be the hands and feet of Christ, by loving on the children, not worrying that we are or aren’t doing enough, and just let God to the work. We read the scripture from Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have to only be silent.” Moses only had to lift up his staff and the sea was parted. The Israelites just had to trust that God was in control.
We are hopeful, expectant, and excited for the work the Lord will do here with us, as His servants, and with the people of Guatemala!