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A singer, pastor and attorney in the heart of Guatemala

Another country?

In my last few blog posts, I’ve been sharing about my experiences from a recent trip to Nicaragua. What I haven’t mentioned is that after spending eight days in Nicaragua, my coworker and I flew one hour north and spent another week in Guatemala. I can’t begin to describe the drastic difference between the two countries – the culture, food, economics, vegetation, weather and much more. I quickly embraced this new country, new people and new experiences.

My body, however, did not agree with the change. As soon as we landed, I got sick and spent the remainder of the trip sore, achy, feverish, weak and nauseous. I remember suddenly missing my bed and wishing I had the comforts of home. My attitude got a reality check on the second day.

Elena poses for a photo with her sisters in Guatemala.

Elena reads stories from the Bible to her sisters every day.

The smell of smoke and a sweet smile

My coworkers and I made our way through a winding, hilly community, the air thick with the smell of pungent, sickeningly sweet burning smoke. It was the only thing I smelled since arriving in Guatemala. After a grueling walk uphill, we arrive at our destination – a small house made of mud and wood. It was dark and cramped inside. I put my camera away. A young girl pulls out rickety, old wooden chairs and invites us to sit down.

She’s dressed in traditional Guatemalan clothing, smiles shyly and sits a few feet away from me. I quickly forget about the aches in my body and already, I’m moved by her sweet disposition and welcoming presence. She talks to us about her life, her dreams and her relationship with God. She tells us about her prayers and missing her mother, who has left the family to find work in the states. She introduces us to her grandmother and younger sisters. I ask her how she learned about God and what life was like before him. This is her story:

Elena’s story

Before I started going to the kids’ Bible training in my village, I disobeyed my mother a lot. I treated her and my siblings bad. I started going to the training and was impacted by the Word of God. I started to read the Bible and started painting too. I learned not to treat my family members that way. I asked for their forgiveness. We are living well together now. My sisters do not attend the training, so I come home and teach the training to them. My sisters and I also pray that our mother will come home and we ask God to give her a job so she can send us some money. I also pray for my siblings’ health.

Elena is 12 years old and is in fifth grade. She is a sponsored child with Food for the Hungry (FH) and learned about God through FH’s kids Bible training program in her community. I am floored by Elena’s maturity level and spiritual depth, and I am overwhelmed with love for this child. Mostly, I’m grateful that someone else in the United States, a complete stranger who has never stepped foot on Guatemalan soil, has opened their heart to change Elena’s life and support her and others like her in the community.

Before we leave, we ask Elena what she wants to be when she grows up. She says a singer, a pastor and a lawyer. And to our surprise and delight, she starts singing. Her sweet voice fills the room as we all fall silent. I am mesmerized for a few moments and thank God profusely for this experience.

Elena poses for a photo in front of her house in Guatemala.

Elena learned about God through a kids Bible training program.

Afterthoughts and encouragement

Later, in my electricity-filled hotel room I can still hear the verses of the song Elena sang. I want so badly for her to have the opportunity to sing again or preach to an audience or become an attorney. And I realize I want that for all the children I’ve met so far on the trip.

I encourage you to think of someone you love and what their needs are. What would you be willing to give to fulfill those needs? Make their dreams come true? As you answer these questions, remember Elena and consider sponsoring a child.

Here’s how you can do it ->

Elena and her family laugh together as they pose for photos in front of their home.

Elena and her family laugh together as they pose for photos in front of their home.