Joann and I returned from Guatemala two weeks ago and I am still fantasizing about our experience there. Although it was my 9th trip and Joann’s 3rd, every hour spent in Guatemala with our sponsor Catalyst Resources International was a blessed one. This was the largest team I have lead to date (19) and I honestly think it was the best trip ever. We had 10 adults and 9 teenagers representing Atlanta, Dallas, Maryville (TN), Cape Cod and Philadelphia. Our team worked hard for our donations and managed to raise over $5,000. These donations allowed us to build a home complete with bathroom, shower, water purification system and proper cooking stove as well as to deliver a large amount of clothes, toiletries and toys to the village and orphanage where we spent most of our time.
This year, we built a home for Flor, a 26 year old vivacious, hard working single mom and her two boys Damian (4) and Ismael (7 mos).
This is the shack she was living in with just a dirty boxspring (not even a mattress) on the mud floor. It’s hard to see for the first time it’s so unfathomable.
When we arrived, little Damian was THRILLED that someone would kick around his new soccer ball with him all day (THANK YOU JEN FINLAY!).
Our work awaited us…
My brother in law Paul and nephew Dylan joined us for the first time from Cape Cod and they were ready to get to work!
It’s so rewarding when the first frame goes up!
Gracie, Jen, Elise and Lillian did an amazing job coloring with the village kids, jumping rope and running a hair salon! Kids do not care about a language barrier (although Elise and Gracie did a great job with their high school Spanish skills) – charades works just fine to get your point across!
It was a GREAT first day!
Leaving the bubble of our chaotic, self absorbed lives is such a relief – to unplug, to work hard and sweat and never once think of yourself but only how you can make another human beings life better is a liberating feeling.
We worked hard for three days to give Flor a house she had never had in her entire 26 years. One with a strong roof that doesn’t leak in the heavy Guatemala rains, a concrete floor that stays dry and clean, walls to keep the heat and bugs out, proper beds with sheets and blankets (not 1 but 4 beds!) and a door that locks to give her a sense of security she’s never felt before.
It was an emotional time for all of us.
To hand over those keys to Flor was a blessing and an honor (please pass the tissues).
Our houses always have some special touches (we had a lot of designers on the team after all)!
Our team rejoiced for Flor and her babies!
We walked away with our hearts full of love knowing we just changed the lives of a family and a community with our own hands.
Our day ended with a big moment as my friend Melinda surprised her husband Robert with a vow renewal (after 20 years of marriage) in the tiny village Catholic church. Everybody from the village came to honor them. More tissues were needed!
The next day, we visited House of Hope orphanage to bring gifts of toys and necessities like baby wipes, cough medicine, Neosporin and formula. My husband Mike was thrilled to revisit some of the babies he met for the first time last summer. This little cutie was abandoned on a city bus (umbilical cord still attached) and was just a teeny tiny newborn when I met her last Christmas. By the looks of those cheeks, I’d say she’s doing fine now:)
Remember Chayo who had the cochlear implant 6 months ago? She’s doing great!
I was so proud of all of our teens – they all have a servants heart.
The next two days we played tourists with a special overnight trip to one of my favorite locations –Panajachel. Pana is a charming Mayan community, 5240 ft. above sea level, on Lake Atitlan which is the largest and deepest lake in Central America (1,000 ft. deep!). Surrounded by volcanoes, it is a place to behold. We stayed at Casa del Mundo, a small hotel accessible only by foot or water. For a whopping $75/night, we felt like kings and queens!
The beauty of this hotel built into the side of a mountain was incredible.
Joann held court in the morning over a breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruit.
Kaki enjoyed the hammock with the owner’s cat who jumped right in her lap!
Before we crossed back over Lake Atitlan to shop the next morning, my husband Mike surprised me with a totally planned vow renewal ceremony by our good friend, pastor and co-founder of Catalyst Resources International Fontaine Green. I was completely shocked. Fontaine baptized my daughter Riley and myself 4 years ago so this was extra special for me to have Fontaine presiding over this ceremony celebrating 25 years of marriage (our anniversary was the day before).
I can’t lie, shopping in Guatemala is always on the itinerary!
We ended our tourist time with some epic zip lining!!
I am so grateful to all of you who donated to our trip this year. Thank you so so so much! As you can see, you changed the lives of our new village friends, of small, precious orphans and of our team who went home with a new outlook on life, on giving and loving with a servants heart.
If you’d like to learn more about our sponsor and special friends Paula and Fontaine Greene and their family, please click HERE. You can also connect with Catalyst Resources International and watch live feeds of their work in Guatemala on Facebook HERE. If you’d like to ask me any questions directly, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll be going back in December so stay tuned.
Blessings and Hugs,