This post concludes GUATEMALA WEEK on our Watershed social media channels (Facebook & Instagram) and blog! Throughout the week we’ve featured content written by participants from Watershed’s trip to Guatemala last month to visit our global partners, EducateBV. You can read each full-length post and view pictures we've posted here on the blog.

By Josh Banning

For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed being involved in the local non-profit community, whether that was through holding executive positions within a non-profit, attending fund raisers, tutoring kids, etc. I’ve also learned a lot going to Watershed for a little more than a year and have read some powerful books. When I heard about the opportunity to go to Guatemala, although hesitant at first, I had a feeling it would turn out to be powerful in some undeterminable way.

Shortly after arriving in Guatemala, we were already off to deliver a food basket in the village. As we walked, Mark and Gina graciously provided background and context for this community of houses made of block and sheet metal. The parents and children waved with curious smiles as we walked by while Mark and Gina greeted them by name.

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The differences in our two worlds were apparent immediately: a life of abundance compared to a life of scarcity and essentials. Upon completion of the tour Mark pulled us all together for a small orientation at the school.

  In our orientation Mark stated there were two underlying messages for this experience. The first one was to “Love All, Worship One.” The phrase is written on all their shirts and is the basic mission of what they do. The second message was to hold your expectations at bay and attempt to truly connect with the culture. For the most part, they seemed like easy rules to live by for the week.

The first full day of our trip we walked over to meet an amazing group of Guatemalan individuals who have started a new church in the village called the Salvation of Refuge. Primarily we were there as labor to help them level land and begin building the church, and as soon as we came in we were just that. All of us grabbed post-hole diggers and worked our way down the line of columns.

Almost immediately I noticed some issues with the foundational layout of the church, but I remembered that I wasn’t there to change their way of doing things. I already had my job digging holes and I could tell they were appreciative of our help. However, as the morning went on I decided I couldn’t just stand there, so I attempted to discuss the foundational layout with the men in charge before we broke for lunch.

When we returned after our lunch break, the pastor approached me with curiosity. He said his team reviewed what we had discussed and they also saw the errors in their layout. Despite the language barriers we utilized our collective knowledge to lay out a sustainable structure for their vision. Through engagement and mutual understanding, our role morphed into something greater.

That evening the pastor and his congregation of twenty joined us for dinner. They poured their passion for their church and community into each one of us and expressed appreciation for the knowledge and labor we provided.

We are a part of that tremendous passion now. I’ve seen pictures of the church since that day… (cue lump in throat).

The second day of our trip was largely the same for the men of the group. The overall team built a kitchen for a family in need. It was a very basic layout and it took us only a handful of hours. Again, it was rewarding being amongst the community and visually seeing how our efforts will help this family out, but something started getting under my skin…

In a place of such poverty, how does a beautiful school with perfectly trimmed grass not come off as the knight and shining armor? The epitome of wealth and prosperity? Privilege providing handouts to the under-privileged? How is the school correcting the broken foundational structures of poverty?

So of course… I asked Mark.

His response was simple: We don’t need to martyr ourselves of external possessions just to help out those in need. The school is a symbol. It’s a symbol of hope, it’s a symbol of change, and every dollar is utilized to reinforce that mission.

Each morning we watched the school children come in at 8am, but on the third day of our trip we were able to witness the kids on a typical school day. As we helped out in English class through various games, each interaction attempt was met with the biggest smiles of joy and appreciation from the kids. After three periods with that age group, we moved on to help out with the pre-kindergarten kids. We started with soccer and other games, but quickly moved on the big surprise, a slip and slide. All the kids were overjoyed, as well as some of the adults of the group! I was able to catch a video of Mark playing with the kids and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier person in my life. Every single heart was exploding that day, and that’s when it really hit me…

Mentally I completely understood the services DeepStream provides: education, a health clinic, labor and support when needed. To participate in an act of service in the face of injustice is one thing, but to provide those services because they are a byproduct of the extreme love you are living in is another. Everything started to make so much more sense. The Schmidt family consistently works from a source of extreme love, and every single task they take on flows out of that.

Wednesday night came and, as they do each week, Mark and Gina hosted a dinner for a group of the teens. The way the students engaged with all of us, you could feel their excitement for the future, their appreciation for the school, and their sense of hope for the community and themselves. Their souls weren’t defeated because of the poverty they were placed in, that wasn’t what affected them most. It wasn’t a factor of the have and have not’s. It was a factor of believing in your true self and connecting out of love.

As we ended our last day the message was clear:

Love All. Worship One.

Every person we met and talked to shared the same common traits: Hope, love and appreciation. That’s exactly what that school and the Schmidt family emanated.

I’ll never forget those smiles, the warmth in the hugs, and the love that was shared in Guatemala. The whole experience was a show on how to live out a place of love. We all don’t need to move to Guatemala, because those opportunities are around us every day. We all have been given opportunities others haven’t and we have the ability to do our part.

But first, we need to make sure our focus is right. It’s not about what you’re doing, it’s about where it’s coming from. Once you connect with the true source, boy is it powerful. Then we can be the wheat within the weeds and some of our broken foundational structures can truly be addressed.

Thank you, Watershed.

Interested in learning more or joining our next trip to Guatemala? Email!