It’s GUATEMALA WEEK on our Watershed social media channels (Facebook & Instagram) and blog! This week we’re featuring content written by participants from Watershed’s trip to Guatemala last month to visit our global partners, EducateBV. Follow along as we post several pictures and thoughts throughout each day. Full-length blogs by contributors will be linked in each day’s final post.

By Jen Ford

In today’s world, it is so easy to get lost in mundane, the routine. To forget what it’s like to be excited or have passion about what is going on around you or even the future. To actually have hope. In visiting Guatemala for the second time, I was reminded how hope and passion can come alive in you again from two simple, yet impactful situations: a field trip and seeing the home of a student. And not just any student, but someone who I have gotten to know over the last year and half by sponsoring her through the Gateway program at Educate BV.

For the students in Buena Vista, field trips are a rare occurrence. Many of them don’t have the resources to buy their uniforms or school snacks, so how could they provide for a field trip? Our team was able to pay for the school bus and the admission to Mayan ruins for the 7-9th graders in the program. For many of these students, it was their first time leaving Buena Vista, let alone seeing anything about their native heritage.

I sat next to a young girl on the school bus on the way up. I didn’t speak Spanish and she didn’t speak English, so you can guess what happened on that trip. Silence, but at the end there was a peace offering when she gave me a small piece of candy. No words; it was just a simple thank you for helping them get out of the classroom. We all know what that felt like!

As I watched the students appear to be listening to the guide and then, during free time, chat and laugh with one another and wander from the artifacts, it reminded me no matter where we find our freedom and adventure, that is what life should be about. And to look around and see there is more to the world than the situation we are in and realize we can achieve so much more when we have support around us. On that trip I hope the students realized that they do have support: from the Schmidts, from their families, and even from complete strangers who don’t speak their language but sit next to them on an hour-long bus ride just to bring them somewhere they have never been.

Jen and Cindy are on the left side of the picture - Cindy is wearing an orange vest.

Jen and Cindy are on the left side of the picture - Cindy is wearing an orange vest.

When I signed up for the trip, to say there wasn’t a slight selfish motive would be a lie. Since the start of the last year’s school year, I have been supporting and sponsoring Cindy Paola through the Gateway program. She is currently an 11th grader and will graduate this year. I was able to talk to her (through a translator ;)) and get to know her at the Bible study and dinner on Wednesday night. She is a typical teenager trying to navigate what she wants and desires versus what society is telling her to do. She is trying to finish her degree when everything in that culture tells her she should be home starting a family already.

While we were on the field trip with the younger students, she and the rest of the 11th grade class went to visit the university to understand their programs and their options. Once we got back, we stopped at her house to see where she lived and to ask her how the trip went. Cindy Paola was so excited about what she saw - you could see it on her face as we talked with her. Her dreams and goals were coming alive as she realized they were actually obtainable! Even though this trip was my first time truly meeting her, I felt proud. Not from a financial perspective, but from a faith one. Cindy Paola has been in my prayers and on my heart since I became her sponsor. I know personally what it’s like to go against the grain and I’ve prayed she would too. I’ve prayed that she could find the hope and passion to achieve something greater and build a future for herself and her family.

I know most sponsors of the students in the Gateway program never have the opportunity to meet their students face-to-face. I was fortunate enough to look Cindy Paola in her eyes and say, “You are loved, supported and, most importantly, not alone. There are people all over the world praying for you and your classmates, knowing that your circumstances may seem to be blocking you, but God has a plan and you can overcome all of your challenges with His help.”

And while Cindy Paola needed to hear that, the reminder was good one for us as well.