My parents have always made service a priority in our family. They taught each of us to forget about ourselves from time to time in order to serve and lift others. About a year ago they invited me, my siblings, and any grandkids ages 10+, on a special service trip to Guatemala. None of us really knew what was going to transpire, but the goal was to have an experience where we could serve, enjoy a different country, and see the world in a new way. Guatemala delivered in every category.
What We Did In Guatemala
Each day on the trip we went to a different village and provided them with something their community needed. Unlike a lot of nonprofits, we went in asking what they needed, rather than giving them what we thought they needed. I loved this aspect because we got to do things for them that I normally wouldn’t think qualified as “service.”
For example, in the first village we made tortillas and played volleyball with the local team. They had been trying to win their regional competition and were borrowing a volleyball net from the city of Cahobon. We had a great time playing (and losing) a game against them, meeting their families, and spending time getting to know them. We were able to pay for them to get their own net, balls, and jerseys. It didn’t cost much and we learned more about teamwork, building relationships, grit, and hope than I ever thought possible. It was amazing to see this village come together as one and work toward a common goal. It had nothing to do with money or fame. It was all about working together. Because they chose to do that it sparked something within the community that bound them all together.
The next village we went to needed help building a structure where everyone could come together. We paid for the supplies and when we showed up they had almost finished it. We were thrilled to see them take over and be excited about their new addition. It was so freaking hot, but as we dug a few more post holes and put the roof on, everyone was smiling. The men in this village took so much initiative and prided themselves in contributing. The women were so strong and vivacious too. They taught us how to make chocolate out of cacao beans. It was not only mesmerizing, but incredible to see how they worked together using their talents. I learned about ingenuity, love, hard work and positivity. They fed us the most amazing meal and being able to see the way they live, eat, work and love was so simple. I feel like I long for a simple life such as that.
That night we played soccer with the local Cahabon team. The city of Cahabon hired a retired Guatemalan all-star soccer player to coach boys ages 12-20. He was simply amazing. His mission was to help the boys have a purpose and to work as a team instead of being on the streets. While we were playing my niece tried giving one of his players a high five after a goal, but he didn’t reciprocate the high five so the coach immediately took him out. It was so funny, but also such a good lesson for all of us about teamwork and being a good sport. The impact he is making in the community is incredible and goes to show that one person can make a huge impact in society. I often wonder how I can help my little corner of the world for good.
The next day we were so excited to visit a village that hadn’t had any help and was literally on the top of a mountain. They wanted to hang family pictures in their own houses so we took a printer, frames and some cameras to do that, but it ended up raining like crazy! The rain can wash the road away so when we got there we only had time to give away some Thrive Life food I brought from the USA to share with them and then leave. I’m glad we could leave a little treat for them, I’m sure they were surprised and wondered why Ameriacns eat freeze dried food… hahaha. In this village there was a little church that had been around for a couple hundred years. It was so beautiful. The women there were always dressed in the traditional, colorful, Guatemalan clothing.
An Unforgettable Experience
In addition to serving more villages along the way, we also got to explore the jungles, see incredible waterfalls, hike through caves by candlelight, go zip-lining, and see a huge underground waterfall. The food was incredible. The silky black beans with cream and plantains were honestly what dreams are made of. The people were some of the friendliest in the world. We got to spend some time in Tikal where there are tons of ruins and pyramids. They say only 3% have been uncovered and from what we saw, it was honestly incredible to see the work of so many who have come before us.
Our bus broke down a few times, I got too many bug bites to count, my tummy got a little bacteria and my bottom was not happy, the weather was hot, the travel was long, and we literally never stopped running. Was it unforgettable? Yes. Was it incredible? Yes. Honestly, I feel so blessed and even more grateful for all I have. I’m also so grateful I could learn so much from the Guatemalan people. We were able to share small and simple, yet unforgettable moments together. I can honestly say that making time for others, stepping outside yourself, and remembering to give more will always result in more for you, too. More blessings, more love, more happiness.
I want to end by saying that we don’t have to make service hard, or complicated, or difficult, or extravagant (ie: going on a trip to another country). We can take a moment to do something for our spouse, our kids, our neighbor, or a stranger. Service can look like playing volleyball, giving a hug, or even sending good vibes to someone.
Love you all!