This past summer my husband and I led a trip with college students to Guatemala.
I didn't want to go. In fact, we had made the decision earlier in January that I wasn't going, because we had learned that our family was growing.
Sadly a couple weeks later, we lost our baby.
I was heartbroken, overwhelmed, upset, and not at all giving a thought to Guatemala.
The trip was scheduled for July and around May, my husband encouraged me to go with him.
As exciting as it sounds to travel, my grieving heart had no strength to go.
But, I chose to honor my husband's wishes and serve with him.
I began selling personalized maps in order to support our trip.
Our family and friends were completely behind supporting our trip.
So much so, that a good portion of our trip was covered through these maps.
I was certain that the success of the maps wasn't just because of the art, but because
I needed to be on this trip.
When we first arrived to Guatemala, grief was weighing heavily over me. I was distraught, and still trying to figure out why my body had deceived me. I still had no desire to be in Guatemala, but I was looking forward to seeing the beautiful kiddos that we were called to love on that week.
Our first full day we had kids from a private Christian school coming over to the place we were staying at. The organization that we came with (Redeemer's House) worked closely with the school, and even designed an after school program to help the kids expand on what they were learning.
As my husband and I sat down and waited for the children to arrive, I remember trying to suppress the anxiety and brokenness my heart felt.
Then came, Valentina and Renata, running from the gate straight into Jay and I's arms.
We didn't even know these girls, yet their hugs and excitement was a soothing balm to my broken heart.
Throughout our entire stay in Guatemala, Jay and I would wake up super early and wait to see those toes under the gate. With excitement in our faces, we'd wait for our girls to run to us, and hug us ever so tightly.
I needed that, and I cannot describe to you how healing it was for me, and for Jay.
Needless to say, on our last day, my heart was so broken to leave.
I wanted to stay with sweet Valentina and Renata.
On our last day we also found out that these girls, were sisters and a big family of six kiddos.
(The father is active in the lives of the kids, but because of the large family, he works a ton.)
After arriving home, Jay shared the sweet experience with our church pastor, and they made the decision to take a vision trip to Guatemala in October.
The plan was to go and see, how we, as a church family can serve the organization best.
But I, I went with some extra plans.
As a business owner, I've grown passionate about serving my community and loving people well. My desire was to figure out how Love Offering can serve Guatemala. And I knew that this second trip there, would reveal what that looked like.
When we arrived for the second time this year to Guatemala, we explored different areas of Guatemala in which the organization is currently working with.
We met at Guatemala City, went to a rural and very dangerous area there, and then stayed the night in beautiful Antigua.
The next day we drove a couple hours to Panajachel. I could barely keep it together, because I knew that I would be seeing my little girls.
Early in the morning we walked back to our place from eating breakfast at a local restaurant, and ran into Renata and Valentina's brother Job. We asked him if the girls were home, and he walked alongside of us, to get Jay and I to them.
But first, I made a stop at the place we stayed at and grabbed a bag of Reese's Cups, our favorite "American" candy.
We arrived to their home, and quickly realized how little they had but how content they were. Their sweet mom made us some delicious coffee, and even offered us breakfast. We played with all the kids, and then I had a conversation with their mama.
She had shared that three out of the six kids go to school. One being to young to attend school, but attends the after school program every now and then.
Their dad works really hard to provide for their family. They get no help from anyone, and work their booties off to make ends meet.
My heart was touched, because as I looked at these sweet girls, I saw myself.
A family with lots of kids, probably looked at as a middle class family, yet fighting to make ends meet and give all their kids the chance to dream.
Renata and Valentina weren't just sweet, they were smart, with the potential of becoming powerhouses. Through them I was not only comforted, but I was encouraged.
They made due with what they had, and lit up a dark room with their gorgeous smiles.
In Guatemala, families with an abundance of children are encouraged to send the oldest child to school, and then have them teach the other siblings. They typically choose the boy in the family to go to school. Very rarely do they finish, in fact sometimes they stay until third-fourth grade and then start working.
Jay and I desire to not allow this to be Renata and Valentina's story. We've decided to not just verbally encourage them and love on them, but show them that we believe in them by donating funds to scholarship them to school. We believe that these girls can shift the culture of their country, and bring light and love into the world.
As we enter the holiday season, and my favorite, Philanthropy month I want to encourage you to do as our motto says,
In a world full of hardships and darkness, we must take action and be a light. And we choose to light up the worlds of Renata, Valentina, and their family as much as we can.
And we would love for you to share in this amazing opportunity with us.
From now on, 50% of the funds received from the personalized lettered maps will be donated towards Renata and Valentina's school funds. If you, purchase a map you will be taking part in lighting up the worlds of those beautiful girls.
I'd love for all of our friends to take in on this mission, but overall I desire to see love displayed in this world. I think that, a lot of times, we allow low funds to keep us from giving, without recognizing that love is free.
And we don't have to spend to show that, most times people desire time more than gifts.
One of the biggest reasons we chose to gift this family schooling for two is because it'd take unnecessary stress of their plates, and they'd be able to see their papa at home.
I know that's one thing I'd wish I saw more of when I was little.
So here we are. With an opportunity to raise $600 to allow these beautiful girls to dream big, and make memories with their beautiful family.
Join us in making a difference.
To purchase a map, head on to our shop. or order a personalized Map through our Etsy shop.