Our team of eight flew out of Charlotte on Sunday in route to the bustling, beautiful Guatemala City. Yet upon arrival we did not head for the center of the city. Rather, our destination is northeast of the city, a place called La Limonada, arguably the largest such slum in all of Central America, where we will work in four different Christian academies. The eight of us are on a week of mission, for a multitude of reasons.

Colby tells the group that he had ignored the calling of going and serving the poor in a foreign country, something God laid on his heart for the last few years and he finally decided to stop making excuses and surrender his comfortable life in an effort to enhance the Kingdom. The first day he was in awe of the joy that he saw in the midst of chaos and destruction. For the first time in his life he is seeing what it means to be materially poor but spiritually rich. He says, “I don’t think I’ll ever be the same.”

Amy stated, “I’ve always had a servant’s heart and I love the idea of helping children. Recognizing God’s command to go and serve the poor, I decided that this trip was an incredible opportunity to be obedient. The first day wrecked my soul, though, as I saw the material brokenness and spiritual strength of this community. I found myself in constant tears as I felt the Holy Spirit moving in me.”

For his motivation, Kendall paraphrases a verse from Matthew 25, in which Jesus says what we’ve done for the least of these, we’ve done for him. This has always struck a chord with Kendall and developed a yearning to go and serve the least of these. He had made the trip to La Limonada the previous year and it had such an incredible impact on his life that he just had to come back and continue the relationships. He got to meet the teacher that he sponsored last year who now has become the director of one of the academies. He shares, “I got to speak with her and pray with her and tell how much she is appreciated.”

Cortenay is another repeat visitor: “I went on the February 2016 trip to Guatemala and had such a life-changing experience that I had to come back and rejoin the rest of the team and continue the relationship building efforts in La Limonada.” Having been with Cortenay on both of her trips here I can tell you that the impact on her has been profound and long lasting. Her heart’s desire has been to return here to La Limonada and try to give back to the families and community who have given her and her family so much.

Bailey is making her third trip: “Everything about Guatemala makes me excited. This is my third time coming here and I keep coming because I just want to help out as much as I can. I’m still a teenager so I can’t help in financial ways but I can certainly give of my time and serve the people of La Limonada. On the first day when I walked into the school, the kids recognized me and it gave me affirmation that what I’m doing is having an impact. Having that happen was both humbling and gratifying.”

Her dad, Patrick, was impacted as well: “I wanted to come on this trip to see the place that changed my daughter’s life. I wanted to see what breaks her hearts and what motivates her to want to be a medical missionary. The first day I was extremely humbled as I saw the material brokenness of these children. To see these kids who have very little yet are so grateful for what they do have absolutely crushed me and brought me to tears. I’m thrilled I decided to come on this trip.”

I know why I’m here. I’ve fallen in love with this little corner of the world, and with the people who live here. Most of all, I am in awe of what they’ve done in this place. They are winning over families with hope, they are creating community, and they are pointing people toward Jesus … always the latter. The organization Vidas Plenas is promoting the idea that the families of La Limonada can live lives to the fullest, which is what their name implies. And people are believing.

That leaves just one more: our fearless leader, Jody. She’s not so fearless, as it turns out. Yesterday, she said she feared growing numb to the need here, that somehow she would not cry as much or care as deeply for the students and teachers who live in this place. This is her fifth trip. First day proved her wrong. The team ended up at the home of the founder of Vidas Plenas, a lady named Tita. and there we saw Jody—encouraging Tita to write, weeping for the change she saw in Tita’s life, and praying for her as Tita moves forward with the vision God has given to her for this place. So much for caring less.

We all have our reasons for being here. The thing is God may have some of his own, and He is doing a work in each of us beyond what we might have thought or imagined.

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