As I look back on our trip to Guatemala, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude and hope. I went into this trip thinking I was going to be God’s hands and spread His love to the Guatemalan people, but I never expected what I would get in return. Every person I met poured into me even more than I did them. They all truly have my heart. These people are filled with infectious joy, and I admire their positive perspective on life.
We were able to serve these people by building houses, bathrooms, stoves, and washing their feet. Each family welcomed us with open arms. The gratitude they showed us was like no other. They would offer us soda or make us bread, even when this generosity would take away a majority of their money for the week. Even with a language barrier, I was amazed to realize I was still able to connect with each of these families and learn their story.
The most impacting relationships were ones that we didn’t even speak, but we were able to just be together. Through this, they were able to feel the love God has for them. I am so thankful God hand picked each person on this team to bring us together. Each of us were vulnerable and stepped out of our comfort zone, but in this it showed me that God works in the most unexpected ways.
In Guatemala, once an orphan turns eighteen, he or she is kicked out of the orphanage into the streets. While this is difficult for many orphans, it’s especially challenging for those with special needs. On the Pray America campus, there is a house, Casa De Sarita, for aged-out orphans with special needs. Hugo and his wife, Gilma, have a heart for taking in aged-out orphans, and together they are the house parents for several aged-out orphans in Monte Flor, the Pray America campus.
Our team had the honor of being the first to include the Casa De Sarita kids on our team for our projects throughout the week. We were able to bond with them both on and off the projects, and this allowed us to get to know their hearts. They each had a heart longing and willing to serve, and our team wouldn’t have been complete without them!
Returning home, we want to continue the mission in our daily lives. Our goal is to be the 20% of people who go on mission trips and actually change the way they live afterwards. The Guatemalan people put such value in every relationship they have, and this is something we admire about the people we met. We want to invest in everyone around us in our daily lives and spread the love of Jesus in our community.
As a group, we have grown so close and made connections that will last a lifetime. Together, we want to spread the love and joy of knowing who Christ is throughout our community. This trip has been an eye-opening and life-changing experience that has made us value the importance of our relationships with each other. And none of us were made to face this life alone.
Story written by Zen Rosen and Kaitlyn Snyder
What I remember most upon first meeting Julia Linton was her smile. This young woman radiates with joy and can light up the room with a simple hello. I’m not the only one who believes this to be true. Julia’s senior class voted her as “Most Likely to Brighten Your Day.” I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Julia over the past few years and admire her in every way.
Julia was born in Kazakhstan and spent the first six and half years of her life in an orphanage. In 2004 she was adopted by a wonderful, loving family whom Julia says, “…taught me about God’s love for me.” Julia and her family moved here from Michigan in 2010 and joined Port City Community Church, where Julia became active in the student ministry. Later that same year, she attended Fuse, a camp for our student ministry, and decided to give her life to Christ. Julia states, “The experience changed my life.” A couple of weeks later, she was baptized.
There is more to Julia than her beautiful smile. She has a huge heart and a desire to serve others. Before her big move to start college, Julia volunteered as a Small Group Leader in Treasure Island. When I ask her what she loved most about serving in Treasure Island, she responds, “I loved working with the kids and teaching them about Jesus.”
Over the summer, Julia worked as a camp leader at Wilmington Christian Academy where, as a parent of a child attending, I got to witness her interaction with the children. She’d often peek into classrooms just to say hello, and as she made her way through the halls, little children would come running, arms open wide, waiting for a warm hug. Julia clearly loved her job, but even more, she loved those children.
In sharing the love of Christ, Julia’s devotion goes beyond her own community. In August of this year, her faith took her all the way to Guatemala working with Manos de Jesus/Pray America. Upon her return, she shares, “I’m so thankful that I went to Guatemala […] to serve widows and their children.”
Julia and the Port City Community Church Missions team visited different families each day to help make home improvements like building bathrooms or installing stoves. As they built homes, they were also building relationships. Julia found herself relating to those who shared stories of being orphaned and then finding a home through adoption. As she shared her own story, an unbreakable bond had formed.
Julia closes sharing about her time in Guatemala with a verse from James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” She says the verse has impacted her life in a major way. “This verse stuck with me during this trip because it says that God looks after orphans and widows. It reminds me that God was looking after me when I was an orphan, and now He has a different plan for me.”
Julia not only inspires me, but challenges the way I want to live my life. She chooses not to view her past as an obstacle to overcome, but rather a significant part of her story that God is using for His grander purposes. Thank you, Julia, for being a bright light in our community and to the world.
Story Written By: Mandy Hughes