Journal Entry: April 16, 2019
I stood outside of the dining area of the children’s hospice center listening to the director describe the organization. I snapped a few pictures of the area and watched as the children played. It was quite a sight to see. The center was located atop a hill in a beautiful area outside of Guatemala City, and even though most of the children I observed were HIV/AIDS patients, you couldn’t tell. Beside the fact that this is also called the silent killer, you couldn’t tell because the children were full of life and love.
It was a special moment for me and I wanted to take it all in. I was, and I still am, amazed that God called me to the nations and not even in a year’s time of that call, I had already been on two of these trips. And in that moment, I was with children, so beautifully innocent, in Guatemala City, and for a reason I couldn’t pinpoint at that moment, it was so special to me. From the moment I walked through the front gates of the center, I felt a tug deep in my heart.
I was brought back to the present moment when a little girl ran to me and hugged my leg. I hadn’t seen her yet and I thought maybe she confused me for one of the staff members. I reached down and gently patted her shoulder. Without looking, she reached up and grabbed my hand. I knelt down and asked her what her name is and how old she is: Lily, eight years old.* “Vamos a jugar,” she told me (let’s go play), and pulled me over to the play area. She was hugging me and jumping all around. She noticed my bracelet and asked me what it meant. My bracelet read Be Bold and I could not for the life of me remember how to say ‘bold’ in Spanish. I told her it meant, “Con fuerza” (with strength) and prayed that her child-likeness would understand what I was trying to say. She asked me to say it again, but in English, and she smiled every time I said it.
Next thing I know, she shoved her Minnie Mouse doll onto my lap, told me to hold her, and ran to the swings. Another team member accompanied her and gently pushed her on the little tire swing. Lily smiled as she swung back and forth…I wonder what she was thinking about in that moment.
I told her we were going to tour the facility and asked her if she wanted me to take her baby with me, but she jumped off the swings and grabbed my hand again. As we were walking, she kept asking about my bracelet. We began working on her pronunciation of Be Bold. Every few minutes she would point to my bracelet and say, “Be bold,” and smile. Then she pulled me into her room. She let go of my hand and ran to her drawers. She desperately searched through her clothes until she found her pink and blue crocheted purse. She threw her Minnie Mouse, a pair of pants, a ruler, and her hairbrush in the purse. She grabbed my hand and led me back to the group. We were quite a ways from her room when she stopped me and said she had to go back because she forgot her pillow. I told her we couldn’t go back, but she insisted. She told me she needed it. After going back and forth a few times, she relented and we followed the group. It was then I thought Lily might be expecting to leave with me. My heart sunk.
We made our way to the chapel and had a beautiful time of prayer and worship with the children. I figured the best thing to do for Lily was to just be present in the moment with her. She asked me about the statues around the church. I explained who Mary and Joseph were, as well as baby Jesus and man Jesus. She had many questions and to every single one of my answers, she responded with, “Why?” So we had a conversation about Jesus coming to earth to die because He wanted to save us from the bad stuff because He loves us so much. But He didn’t stay dead and now He lives with Father God in heaven and one day we get to be with Him. As I was having this conversation, I realized something. This is it. This was the deep tug I felt when I arrived, and this was definitely one of the greater reasons God took me to Guatemala. Sweet little Lily asked Jesus into her heart.
I placed my bracelet around her little wrist. Her eyes lit up. “Keep this,” I told her, “and remember that God is always with you. No matter what happens in life, whether it’s good or bad, He is with you. Jesus gives you everything you need to be strong and powerful. Always remember that, okay?” We hugged tightly and said our goodbyes. I don’t think she realized I was leaving forever, and that broke my heart.
I stared outside of the bus window trying to process everything I just experienced in those short two hours. It was a lot. It was heartbreaking and heavy. I wanted to sneak Lily in my backpack and bring her back to the states. Once I met her, I knew she, as a human, would forever have piece of my heart, but I also knew that she, as a vessel of God, would change me forever. This was true for the entire trip. From every church we visited, to the visit to the mayor, to the police station, and to the orphanages; people and experiences were immediately changing me. I know, though, that other changes will also come as I process and pray about many things.
After my first ministry trip, coming back home and going back to church was an adjustment for me. This time I asked God to go before me and help me. After Colombia, I wanted everyone to see through my new perspective, but of course it didn’t happen that way. At that time, I didn’t understand why people didn’t care or didn’t want to hear what I had to say. It was discouraging for me, but in time I began to understand.
Not everyone is going to have the same experiences I’ve had. Not everyone experienced the hunger for Jesus like I did in Colombia. Not everyone spends the morning in a children’s hospice center in Guatemala. That being said, though, I will also not have the same experiences as everyone else. Life experiences mold us, and because everyone lives completely different lives, we will all have different perspectives. But this is something so amazing, because we all have something different to offer.
I want to share everything I learned and I want to spark changes in specific areas in my family and community, but I want to go about it in a gentle and loving way. I think about the Samaritan woman in John 4. She had an encounter with Jesus and went to share with the people all that took place, and that is simply all we have to do; encounter Him and share Him.
I only returned yesterday, and though I have been holding in tears all day and there is much to pray about, I am excited about two things:
1. The newfound tenderness in my heart.
2. Where to next?
With every experience I have on these trips, God is peeling back my preconceived notions about life and allowing me to have real-life experiences outside my bubble of comfort. There is an obvious distinct way people in the U.S. live, which could either be good or bad. I often catch myself thinking how I wish I could just bring everyone I meet from other countries back with me to the United States, because surely they would have a much better life. Then I realize that as I’m going into these other countries, the people, cultures, and lifestyles are teaching me so much. I am being broken and rebuilt.
Maybe they would have a better life, or maybe they wouldn’t. It’s not up to me to decide.
All I have to do is follow Jesus and love people.
Be bold, dear reader,
Love, Sarah Lynn
*Name changed for the privacy of the child.