Help-Portrait Guatemala (Photo Blog)

I recently traveled to Guatemala with a team of photographers and support people to take part in the Help-Portrait movement, delivering photos to families in VisionTrust's projects. 

"Bonita (pretty)." The little girl pointed at a child in the picture.

"That's you!" Our director assured her.

The girl glanced at the picture and then down at what she was wearing, back and forth multiple times, making sure it really was. 

Such beautiful innocence.

While we too often look at photos to scrutinize ourselves, monitoring which images are allowed to be seen, this trip was a sweet reminder.

Each of us is made in the image of God. Brimming with beauty waiting to be captured.

Weathered faces paired with gleaming smiles.

Pure moments of joy.

People using their gifts to bless others in tangible ways.

Kingdom come, thy will be done... 

And I've been wondering what it would look like if we all lived this out.  Seeking, at every turn, to show those around us (even complete strangers) how beautiful they are, how much worth they possess.

Praying that one day they would look at themselves and say, "Bonita" with confidence as they hear the Lord whispering over them, "That's you."

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'." -Erma Bombeck

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Guatemala Photo Blog

"It's weird that photographers spend years or even a whole lifetime, trying to capture moments that added together, don't even amount to a couple of hours." -James Lalropui Keivom. These are just some of the photos and wonderful moments I was lucky enough to be a part of in Guatemala.

This family was really awesome and the baby was so cute! When the men finished installing the stove and walked out of the room, one of the women called the rest of the family in to admire it. They were so excited! The best part is that they'll no longer have to breathe in the terrible smoke and soot.

This is 1 of the 70 stoves the team installed over the week. 1.6 million people die from wood smoke related diseases each year. These families will no longer be a part of that statistic.

I can't get over how adorable Victor (Emilio) is. He just had the sweetest spirit. Read more about him here.

This sweet girl is from our second project in Guatemala. The day I visited they were learning their shapes. A lot of the kids have to drop out of school to help support their families, so it's a rare blessing when these kids' parents realize how important it is for them to stay in school.

Every day at our learning center the kids come outside and brush their teeth. I didn't realize how much I took it for granted that my parents were the ones to teach me simple hygiene. 

I don't know if you can tell, but this cerdo (pig) was HUGE! When we asked the family if they were raising him to eat him they just laughed...of course they were. Mmm tocino (bacon).

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Guatemala Day 3: Today I Met Victor

Today I met a Victor.

He caught my eye because one of the teachers was bathing him in the sink. Turns out they do it for kids in special cases and they said Victor was a very special case.

His little belly sticks out a bit from worms and when the teacher turned away after spoon feeding him de-worming medicine, he spit out as much as he could. Apparently, even with lemon juice, it tastes terrible (so I can’t really blame him).
Victor bathing in the sink

He’s four years old and people see him wandering the village on his own. His mother isn’t around all day, leaving him and his two year old brother to fend for themselves. An old woman takes care of him, but they’re not sure who she is and one thing is clear, she doesn’t feed him.

After his bath they put two plastic kid’s chairs together and set him down so his feet didn’t touch the ground. The sun was out today (the weather has been incredible) and he joked with his teacher “I’m just tanning at the beach” when they were done checking out his flea bites. I sat next to him and he took my sunglasses off, put them on and we raced two hot wheel cars he was given when he had to endure his bath. “Uno, Dos…Tres!”

The thing I love about Victor is not his story, but his happy little spirit through it all. This morning in our devotions we talked about what it looks like to be your same self everywhere. One thing really stood out to me: while on mission trips it’s easier to enjoy distractions. Even though the men on our team are installing stoves, when the little kids asked to be carried up a hill they gladly do it. They’re patient and they see the joy it brings those kids.

So it was pointed out, what if we were just as patient and just as willing to live in distractions in our everyday lives? What if I was joyful despite my circumstances like Victor? And what if I took time out of my day to spend with the Victors that I might normally just walk by? Looks like I still have a lot to learn about what it means to be patient in the every day...
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Guatemala Day 1: The story...

I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings as we knocked on our hotel door, carved of beautiful wood, in darkness; a man cracked the door open and I felt like I need to come up with a secret password on the spot…I refrained and he took us through a dimly lit hallway that suddenly opened into a courtyard lined with two stories of rooms. We kept walking, literally from the outside this building looks like nothing, and to my amazement entered another courtyard.

I’ve heard people say that when they step off the plane into another country, it’s like stepping into a storybook. Antigua, where we have the pleasure of staying, is definitely like that. The city is lined with cobblestone streets and buildings painted red, yellow, and teal, all faded by the sun and dirt. Every piece of Antigua makes me smile.

But Cruz Blanca, a village in the mountains where we work an hour away from Antigua, is equally as beautiful to me…just in a different way. Its streets are lined with dirt. Every roof is made of tin and easy to drill through (lucky for us when it came to making stoves), floors of dirt and the walls are either tin, cinder-block, concrete, sticks or a mixture of the above.

The children are beautiful, I mean really beautiful. Big eyes with even bigger smiles, dressed in the most beautiful colored patterns (I’m bringing their style back to the states, I’m in love with it).
So today, day one, was full of absorption for me. It’s 9:18pm here and I’m barely awake so I’m going to give you the highlights (lucky you, you don’t have too much more reading to endure). Today we:

-Explored the learning center

-Installed 19 stoves and 19 water filters all around Cruz Blanca (both are awesome and I can’t wait to tell you about them)!

-Got in a tickle war with 6 kids. Even though I’m not ticklish they still won, man so much energy.

-Awkwardly laughed countless times when the children spoke to me in Spanish and I had no idea what they were saying. Used the phrase “No Intiendo”, but did learn a few more vocab words and remembered more than I expected from high school…

-Loved it!

Can’t wait to see what else God has in store for this storybook. Thanks for the prayers!!
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Guatemala...not to be romanticized

So in case you haven't heard, I'm going to Guatemala.

I don't know how you wouldn't have heard, because I've been obsessed...almost in an irrational way, with excitement. I'm only going for a week (in February), but people, I'm stoked!!

I think part of it is, I want to be excited. This is my first trip with VisionTrust, my first "business trip" overseas, my first time going to Central's a lot of firsts. After a while, people get weary of traveling. But, I'm not hardened yet, I'm soft and gooey toward good ole Guatemala.

I think I'm also stoked (ps- stoked is my new word and so it's great) because people are supporting me, cheering me on, just as excited (okay maybe a little less) to hear what the Lord is doing through VisionTrust there. And to all of those people, really "thank-you" just doesn't seem like enough.

But I will say when I found out that I was going, I came across a little heart issue I needed to address. My first thought was "I'm going to actually get to do something!" Oh...wait...I'm actually doing something here in the states...I work for VisionTrust full time...I have people who support me that I truly believe are doing more than just something.

This realization brought me face to face with the fact that this year has been a hard "brain" transition for me because it's a common thought that if you're not out in another country doing work, the role you play is less important. False. Or maybe it's not that it's less important, but less interesting to others. I want to say that's false, but I don't know if I can (the unknown always seems a bit more entertaining). I've shared this quote before, but as I get closer to this trip I need a reminder:

"Following Jesus is not to be romanticized through impressive Facebook status updates or photos of exotic places on our blog. Discipleship is often ugly, messy and painful. Faithful service will regularly lead us into dull labors and bewildering struggles that would make unexciting press."

So yes, I'm going to Guatemala. And yes, I'm really excited. But, this trip doesn't take away the value of what I do every day and what you do every day. I love that the Lord can work in all circumstances, situations, people, and geographic locations.

(Stay tuned to hear specifics about what I'll actually be doing in Guatemala. In the meantime, you can check out what VisionTrust does in GT here.)
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What am I supposed to do with this?

The first time I threw a little boy in the Philippines a Frisbee he turned it over in his hands and said to our host, "What am I supposed to do with this plate?" - He was a Frisbee master by the end of the day...

A little boy in our VisionTrust Guatemala program was given a ruler the first time he went to school. He asked, "What is this thing and what am I supposed to do with it?" - He is now in second grade, uses a ruler on all of his drawings, and wants to go to college to become an architect...  

A little girl in our Brazil program had suffered every possible abuse by the age of one when police found her parents trying to sell her for less than $300 to buy drugs. She joined our Learning Center when she was two and I can only imagine that upon seeing the toys she thought, "What am I supposed to do with these?" - She is now a well adjusted kindergartner whose favorite activity is playing dolls.

I've been learning two things from hearing stories like these.

One: I take so many simple things for granted each and every day.

Two: I've been given a lot of new things in my life lately and maybe the best thing I can do is say, "God, what am I supposed to do with this?"

Who knows how He'll use it.
Irve, one of our little boys from the Philippines. I just couldn't resist this picture with this title :)