Oh my word, 15 days without an update, sorry!
So, as I wrote in my latest post, my parents were here last week. They came in the late evening of June 13 and left in the very early morning of June 23. It was so awesome and we did so many cool things that it is hard to remember everything. I would love to write it all down, but then I would not be able to stop blogging until next year. If you can read Dutch you’re lucky, because at the Daily Dutch section you can actually find an update on all the days. Or try Google Translate if you really want to know it all. So, here is a small update on the important things we did.
My parents came with a group of Dutch sponsors from Woord & Daad and I had the privilege to travel with them. The first three days we stayed at the AMG guesthouse in San Cristóbal, so I could show my parents my neighborhood, the place I work, the places I go to eat, the big church, and they could finally meet all of my amazing friends and colleagues. We survived two earthquakes, we ate those horrible black beans together, we travelled together, laughed together, cried together. We visited four schools in the city area and Campamento Canaán in Chimaltenango to meet with the sponsor kids and to learn more about the work of AMG. I’ve been working with AMG for almost two years now, but there was still a lot that I didn’t know. On Saturday we packed our bags and moved to Quetzaltenango for a few days where we visited another six schools and one of them was the school I worked at in 2015. It was incredible to see how the community had finished almost the entire building. It looked awesome!
I can’t write about everything that happened, but I would like to share a few moments with you that really had an impact on me.
God’s sign of faith
On June 19 I celebrated my 22nd birthday (and my brother’s and sister’s 26th birthday). We had a busy day ahead so there was not a lot of time to celebrate it. That was fine by me, since I never really celebrate my birthday. After visiting two schools in the Quetzaltenango area, we ended up in a really poor community without a new. The poverty, malnutrition and lack of basic services were high. There was no doctor, no real school, no clean drinking water and the electricity only worked every once in a while. One woman opened her workspace to use it as a classroom. Every two weeks there was a teacher that came to the village to teach the almost sixty kids. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. The situation in the little village was bad and the stories of the villagers were heartbreaking. When the group was out on a tour through the town, Brian (director of AMG) and his wife Mary visited a young woman and her kids. The woman told them that her husband was run over – accidentally or on purpose – while he was drunk, lying on the side of the road. She was left with almost no income and no source of food for her and her kids. Her kids were highly malnourished and the woman lost all her hope on a better future. While the rest of the group made their way back down the mountain, Brian, Mary, Sam, Ruth, Corjan, the drivers and I stayed behind because there was not enough space for us in the little trucks. While we sheltered for the pooring rain in the little classroom, we were talking about the possibilities to open up a new AMG-school in the little village. Brian told me that this is how every AMG-project once started. I couldn’t believe that I was a whitness of what could be a new center in a few years. While we talked about what we could do for the village, the rain stopped, the thick clouds dissappeared and a bright and warm ray of sunshine fell through the open door. As we walked outside to enjoy the sun, we saw a double rainbow right above the house of the woman who lost all her hope. God never left her side. He gave His promise. He gave us His sign of faithfulness. God will rescue this village, even if AMG will not be part of it. This village has a bright future and He won’t let go of His people.
Sharing in sadness
One of the first days with the group in Guatemala was also one of the hardest. After hours of driving to a school named Villa Laura, we were welcomed by a big group of students. I felt that there was something different about this school, but I couldn’t really place it. We continued to watch the presentations that the students had prepared for us, but after a few minutes the school director, who was standing next to me, started crying. I had to translate everything for the group, because some of them didn’t understand English. The woman told me that the Sunday before our visit, one of their former students – an 18-year-old boy – was shot to dead by his best friend. He and his friends were using drugs and drinking alcohol in a shopping center when his best friend pointed a gun at him as a joke. “Shoot me if you dare!” He pulled the trigger, thinking the gun was unloaded, and shot his best friend to death. The woman could barely tell us what happened and after that I had to translate it. I almost broke down myself, but I managed to keep it together. We could feel the sadness. Not only in the school, but in the whole village. Another innocent life taken. What we didn’t expect was that the mother of the boy was in the school at the moment we were there. She brought some home made tortillas to the center, like she does every day. We all gave her a big hug and tried to comfort her as much as we could. When I wrapped my arms around the old, broken lady, she hugged me really tight and didn’t let go for what felt like a few minutes. “Lo lamento mucho”, was all I could say to her. “Muy duro, muy, muy duro.” It is so, so hard. I think she compared me to her little boy because of my age. It was hard not to cry.
Becoming like Jesus
One of the things I really looked forward to was to visit Campamento Canaán with my parents. This camp is so special for the kids of AMG that they just had to see it. When a child turns twelve, he or she can come to the camp for one week every year. At the camp, amazing things happen. Kids find God, learn to trust Jesus and make friendships that will last a lifetime. One week a year they can be the kid they are supposed to be. They can escape from the everyday violence in the city for a full week and be a kid. Jose Luis and his wife Orfa have been the passionate owners of this place for over thirty years and they still love to share their story and testimony. Luis showed us around at the camp and when we gathered into one of the bedrooms, he started crying. “Thank you so much for all you do for our kids. You are changing Guatemala. We can not do it alone.” He fell on his knees and thanked us with the tears streaming down his face. When we walked out of the room, Luis thanked me too for translating his message. “It is not that special, everybody speaks English in the Netherlands, so I don’t feel like I do something valuable”, I answered. “No, you áre special. You are like Jesus. He connected the heaven with the earth. You connect the Dutch people with the Guatemalans. Thank you for doing that.” I don’t think I’ve ever had such a beautiful compliment.
When you travel with a group of sponsors, you will – of course – meet a lot of sponsor kids. But the one meeting that I can remember vividly is the one with Kimberly, a 15 or 16 year old beautiful young woman. She is sponsored by a great couple that travelled all the way across the ocean to see her. I got to photograph their encounter and when they started talking, Kimberly mentioned that she would really like to study some more and go to university. When her sponsors told her they would continue to sponsor her for as long as she needed, the girl broke. I could see the happiness in her dark, brown eyes and also a great relief, because she didn’t have to worry about her future anymore. She could become whatever she wanted. My family and I’ve had sponsor kids ever since I was born. George in Kenya, Loudemie in Haiti, Emely in Peru, Gicel in Mexico and Senait in Ethiopia. All of them are having a bright future ahead because we were so blessed to be their sponsor. But I never realised what it meant to a kid to sponsor him or her. Now I know. You are giving them the possibility to dream. I always think about what my biggest dream was for a very long time: moving to Guatemala. Would I be able to do that without any education? No. I would probably not even know how to travel or how to speak English and I would probably not even know where Guatemala is or that it even existed. I always liked to go to school, because I knew that the more I learned, the more possibilities I would have to make my dreams come true in the future. That’s why I think sponsoring a child is one of the greatest thing a human being can do. You are giving them hope and you take away their fear of never reaching their goals. Kimberly doesn’t have to be scared anymore. Her dreams will one day turn into reality.
If you want to give one of our AMG-kids the opportunity to dream too, leave a comment at the comment section below or send me a message through the contact form!