It’s weird to be thinking about a future that feels so far in away, while sitting in a cool coffee shop on a pleasant day in Chicago. But the truth is, that five months will go by very quickly– at least quicker than I realize. So, today I want to tell the story of how my future is coming to take this whole new path. I want to tell you about an adventure on which only God could have set me.
It all begins in 2005. I was going off on a missions trip with Harvest Bible Chapel and Buckner Orphan Care International to HueHuetenango, Guatemala. There was an orphanage in HueHue, called the Fundación Salvación and I was thrilled to be going with my Dad and one of my good friends at the time. Here’s young and excited me:
Welllllll…. it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the 90+ kiddos that were there. Especially one little boy, Luis (or Wicho, as he went by).
I was only there for a week, but I was hooked. We had done VBS ( one lesson of which I got to teach), helped build a sidewalk (I got to mix concrete by hand!), and just spent tons of time with the kids. I remember tucking Luis into bed on the last night I was there, crying, because I didn’t know if I’d ever get to do that again. The bus ride back to Guatemala City the next day took longer than usual and I remember sitting in the very back of the bus with a few of the other teenagers. We tried to keep our spirits up by playing dumb car games. All of us were exhausted physically, a little sick feeling, and emotional wrecks.
The second time I went to the Fundación, was in 2007, two summers later. I was still going with Harvest, and Buckner. This time, I would go by myself (no Dad, no good friend my age) and would be there for two whole weeks. The first week would only have 7-10 people from the church going there, so I was pumped to not have to share all the kiddos. Also, as an introvert, it was great to travel with less than 30 people. There were two other guys my age going with and as far as High Schoolers went, that was it. I realized very quickly that I was going to have two more brothers this trip and that we had each others’ backs.
Now, this trip plays hugely into my testimony, and who I am today. It’s an incredibly long story, but it suffices to say God dealt with two major areas in my life on this trip: 1) I knew very clearly that God called me to work with orphans on this trip. I had been praying about what to do with my life/where to go to college/if I should pursue musical theater or missions/etc., and God very distinctly made it clear that he wanted me to pursue missions. This resulted in me going to Moody Bible Institute two years later. 2) I had been struggling with secret, habitual sin for a long time when I went HueHue. At this point in my life, I was convinced that God had cursed me with this sin and that I didn’t need to give it to him. I figured that I could live in obedience in every other area of my life and in return I could keep this secret sin as mine, and say “screw the rest”. God definitely dealt with that in a hot second. I was convicted as I had never been before that I couldn’t do that. I realized that God was God, and living for him meant that I had to actually try and give him everything. Not just the parts of my life I wanted to give him– I had to give him EVERYTHING. This conviction/realization resulted in me getting baptized there at the orphanage in front of all the kids and people on the trip. Even now I want to cry thinking about that moment. God is so good.
Suffice it to say… that trip was incredible. It was everything I never imagined it would be, and more. My spanish was decent. I was at a conversational level and LOVED it. We did VBS, a carnival for the children, a little bit of construction/cleaning projects, but mostly built some really great relationships with the kids. I even helped to celebrate a Quinceañera of a couple of the girls. I was very close with my roommate, Tina, the guys on the trip, and after the second week of people joined us there, one of the girls (basically the whole HS youth group came the second week of the trip). And the absolute icing on the cake was Luis. He still remembered me. He knew me by name and was glued to my hip the entire two weeks. He would walk around and tell everyone that I was his girlfriend. If I could have adopted him, I would have. Much to my joy I got to tuck him in almost every night that I was there. Here are some great photos from that trip:
The third time I went to the Fundación was in 2010. I went for 10 days in August with East Martin CRC’s group who partnered with One Heart Ministries. It felt so good to be going back. I had spent a year at Moody and was thrilled to put some of my Bible knowledge to good use at the place I loved. I only knew two people on the trip– but I still had a great time. The focus of this trip was mostly relational: we had small groups with the older girls, did VBS with the kids, and tried to spend time with them. We painted some and did a little of construction, but not much. I had come from a summer of camp counseling (I had four days between returning from Ohio–I was there for over two months– and leaving for HueHue), so I was already tired, but really felt like I could excel with the girls in small groups. That was what I had spent the entirety of my summer doing. The hardest part of that trip was that Luis wasn’t there. He had been moved to another orphanage. I was devastated. I spent a lot of time in the baby room with the caretakers there. They remembered me too and had pictures on the wall of Luis and I. I grew quite attached to another little boy named Jonathan, but he didn’t really give two shakes about me. Haha, he was a quiet, cute little guy, that I still tucked into bed almost every night.
This trip absolutely solidified in my mind, that I was in the right major: Intercultural Communications. I told Sandra (the woman who started and ran the orphanage), that after I graduated college, I just wanted to come back and live and work. I just wanted to live there with the kids and help take care of them. She told me to email her when I graduated and that I would always have a place there. I was thrilled. That trip was another incredible one. Here are some more photos from it:
Unfortunately in December of 2011, I heard the tragic news that Sandra had been killed in a car accident. At this point I emailed the Fundación and told them my whole life’s story basically, saying how I still wanted to help out in any way I could. I received a reply that said I just had to email them and tell them when I wanted to come and they would have a spot for me to stay. Since I still had a year left until I got my degree, I knew I wasn’t in a place to leave then. Yet I still very much wanted to return to HueHue at some point.
After graduating in December of 2012, I knew two things: 1) If I went to Guatemala again I wouldn’t go short term. I knew what the short term experience was like, and I was done with it. If I went, I wanted to go and be able to make a difference. 2) I knew that I wasn’t ready to go. Guatemala was a dream of mine, but one that would have been extremely unhealthy to fulfill last December. I was exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. College was wonderful and draining. I wanted some time to get my feet under me again.
In March of 2013 I started praying about Guatemala. I didn’t know when I wanted to go, but I knew it was still very much a burden from the Lord. But since I was already determined NOT to go for a couple weeks I realized that I either had to get a killer job where I could save loads of money before I tried to stay there for an extended amount of time OR I had to go when I would have a job there in Guatemala to sustain me.
In May, shortly after walking in graduation and settling into a new apartment, I stumbled across More Than Compassion’s blog. More Than Compassion (MTC) is an organization that I had heard of shortly after Sandra’s death. I knew they were doing stuff at the Fundación and that was about it. They had also advertised for volunteers to come and stay with them, citing it would cost a little over a $100 USD a month to stay there. Well on this particular day, a blog entry came up on Facebook newsfeed (gotta love social media!), and I started to read it. It was all about how The School of Hope had gotten started. As I read, I became an emotional mess– we’re talking full on tears. I was at work at the time, so I quickly exited out of the blog and told myself I’d read the rest later. The founder of MTC, Brooks, wrote about how he came to want to start the School– this was something that started for him right after Sandra’s death. He wrote about his interactions with the children of the orphanage– the children I knew! And my heart just broke thinking about them coping with Sandra’s death. By the end of the blog post, I was ready to read anything I could about the orphanage. I quickly surfed to MTC’s site to check and see if it was still about $100 USD to stay there– it was just a little more than that– and then I saw a button on the School of Hope. I clicked it, thinking I would just see the same blog post I had just read. But I saw something different, an application to teach for this next school year (Dec.- Oct.). I skimmed through it, realizing that I wanted to apply. “No…” I told myself, “this is not the right time. You just moved. You’re happy. You’re finally at a stable point in your life. You’re invested here. This is not the right timing.” I fought with myself for about a week. In actuality, I didn’t sleep for about a week. I had that telltale prompting of the Spirit that I was trying to shut out. “The timing is all wrong” I kept saying. But I couldn’t do anything else that week but think about HueHue. After about a week of stressing and one friend telling me: “Rachel, this is a cool opportunity, but it’s all hypothetical; you haven’t even applied. They could say no.”, I decided to apply. I couldn’t keep stressing about only a theoretical opportunity. So I did… and then I didn’t hear anything for three weeks.
Those three weeks were great. I figured I had been obedient to the Spirit, and I was finally sleeping again. Plus, I hadn’t heard anything back, so I would be staying in my great spot in Chicago with all the people I loved. It felt like a triple win scenario. Don’t get me wrong, I did want to go– but I’m also a person that strongly resists change at first. I like stability and consistency. And I felt like I had just found it here.
Out of the blue, on July 1st I got an email to have a Skype Interview for the teaching position. I was ecstatic, flattered, and scared all at once. Two days later I had the interview, got loads of information on the position, and was told that they would get back to me by the end of weekend. I didn’t sleep for the next three days either.
Bright and early Saturday morning (July 6th), I got an email saying that I had been accepted and that I had a week to give them a response. I think I sat in bed, open mouthed for nearly five minutes. I couldn’t believe it. Then I freaked out, and tried to read my Bible– unsuccessfully; I couldn’t sit still– and then decided I needed to go for a run and think about this before I had anyone else’s opinion coloring my own. I eventually came back and told my roommates and family. They were elated and said they’d pray for me.
I prayed about it the whole week and talked to a lot of my friends about it– just trying to get wisdom. My hang up was the timing– and the realization that being a teacher at the school was not the only way for me to help these kids. I questioned that maybe I was supposed to go like next summer, for instance, and just help out. I went back and forth all week, praying for guidance and asking lots of questions. I really felt like God was leading me to go, but given the fact that this decision was huge, I felt like I had to be certain.
I ultimately knew without a doubt that God was calling me to go and go now. This was an opportunity that he orchestrated and was calling me to. It felt kind of crazy– I mean, I’m at a great place right now and feel hugely content with my life– why would I want to change that? But ultimately, it’s not that crazy. Guatemala has always been a burden I’ve felt from the Lord, and I spent the last four years getting trained in cross-cultural ministry. I also had just been praying for the last two months that if God wanted me there, he’d have to find a way to provide for me to go there and stay. If anything, Guatemala is the natural decision, and not crazy in the least bit. As far as the teaching portion of it goes– I have spent the last six months working at a Christian School in the city with the exact same age group as I would be teaching at the Christian School in HueHue. I have really been prepared for this opportunity in so many ways, those just being a couple of them.
I know that God is leading me. To stay at home, as wonderful as that would be, would be disobedient. And I am excited and terrified and thrilled and anxious and happy and sad… all at once!
So what now? Now, I am trying to prepare as much as possible. Here’s what I’m praying about/doing:
- Hoping to take Spanish classes to brush up on Spanish, although I will be teaching in English.
- Praying for find someone to sublet my space in my apartment from Jan.1 – May 1. (So if you know of anyone– email me!)
- Working & trying to save money, so that when I come back and look for a job here I’ll have some monies in my bank account.
- Trying to raise some money for traveling there (I have to pay my own travel expenses) and for a little extra $$ each month, since the $90 USD/month I get for: food, clean water, any and all personal items, and extra stuff for the kids, is not a lot.
- Checking into fun teaching ideas and curriculum. I’ll be teaching Math, English, and Art– though I don’t know to what grade, yet.
- Figuring out all sorts of travel stuff: insurance, vaccinations, moving, taxes, mail, banking, etc.
Plus, praying for all the kiddos….. That’s a big one. There’s a lot to do in the next five months. A lot. So I highly covet your prayers. And that’s all. This was a really, really, really long post. Haha, I feel like it may be one of the most honest things I’ve ever written. So thank you for reading. Before I end this I just want to stress that I am so blessed by all of you. I so appreciate being able to tell you all about this crazy adventure that God has me on right now. I am so excited to see how God works and provides in this journey. I’m terrified, but enthralled, for nearness of my God is good. And I am grateful.
My thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Thanks for reading.