My daughter just returned from her 5th trip to Guatemala where she served as cook for a team of high school students who were spending their Spring Break serving others. The group of 65 spent the week at a home for orphaned, abused, neglected or abandoned children. Currently, there are over 450 children who live at the home. Every time she visits the home, she hears stories of unimaginable abuse, as over 80% of the children living there have endured some type of abuse, most of them enduring sexual abuse from a very young age. But, when she comes home from her time there, it’s not the stories of abuse that she wants everyone to know about, but rather the stories of hope, stories of grace. On her most recent trip, she witnessed sacrificial love being poured out on strangers. Here is that story.

“We shouldn’t have been at Casa on Thursday morning. Normally, our team leaves right after breakfast and goes into a neighboring town to do some souvenir shopping and sampling of the local cuisine. Our plans changed this year because of Holy Week. So, we were just finishing up breakfast when Mike, the man who started Casa 27 years ago, walked through the door of our dorm, looking a little weary, and asked for us to gather everyone into the eating area. Mike proceeded to tell us of a house in the nearby village that had burned to the ground overnight. He didn’t know the family, had never met them before this morning. Mike asked if some of our team would be willing to follow him down to where the fire still smoldered, to begin clean up of the site. He briefly told us about the family, which included 2 children, and how they had lost everything. To even say that a “house” burned to the ground isn’t giving an accurate picture. This “house” was a wooden structure with a tin roof, it might more accurately be described as a shed. I asked if our students could gather some clothes and shoes to donate to the family, and Mike said something that brought tears to my eyes. He said his girls (girls who live at the home, girls who are orphaned, abused, neglected or abandoned) had already begun to collect items from their peers, and any additional items we collect would be greatly appreciated. “

Did you catch that? The children living with very little were giving things away! These children have just a few items of clothing, a pair of school shoes, and a pair of play shoes, but they were willing to give sacrificially to other children, children they have never met.

My daughter continued with her story. “Our students, all of them, followed Mike to the site, and began to form a ‘bucket brigade’, hauling buckets of debris up the side of a hill to clear the area where the house once stood. Later, Mike would say that the students finished in 2 hours what would have taken the man 3 months to do alone. Our students were given such a gift that day. They saw what life was like in the village, outside the walls of the home. They saw what losing everything when you have almost nothing looks like. They saw what happens when a village comes together to support one of their own. Amazingly, Mike and his staff at Casa, along with some of the older boys who live there, began a few days later to build the family a new home, one of cinder blocks rather than wood and tin. A fire that would change their life forever will ultimately change it for the better. “

My daughter feels with each visit to Guatemala, her life is changed for the better as well. It’s got me thinking about giving, We live in such a blessed country, that even some of our poorest, are wealthy compared to other parts of the world. So, giving “stuff” may not be much of a sacrifice for many of us. But maybe, giving stuff isn’t so easy for you. Maybe you truly think that you need all that you have. I believe we are called to be generous in every way – even when we feel weak and needy ourselves. We should extend things such as respect, time, expertise, comfort, material goods and friendship to others. There is something on that list that each of us would feel if given, it would take sacrifice. Not all giving must be sacrificial, but I believe each of us has something on that list that we should give to others. Find something to give and share it with others!

Randel C. Goad – Mandt Faculty Supervisor