By Kelly Nelon Clark
We made our first mission trip together as a family in October of 2013. We were invited by an organization called Manna Worldwide, which has several feeding centers and orphanages around the world.Â They specifically wanted us to travel to Guatemala to take a look at their work there.Â It is a trip I will not soon forget. You see all the commercials on TV and honestly you think to yourself, it can’t really be this bad.Â Its worse than I ever thought it might be and life changing to see.Â We should be so thankful for everything that we have, never complaining.
Our trip definitely had a rocky start. We have had a busy schedule this entire year, making life a little crazier than normal. On the day of our flight out to Antigua, Guatemala, Jason could not find his passport. He had just had it a few days before but as we searched the house over it was nowhere to be found. Finally, we made the decision for the girls to head to the airport so we wouldn’t miss our flight and if Jason found his passport he could join us later.
We rushed to the airport and finally got to the desk. I was already stressed since we were going without Jason, when the lady at the counter said that Amber was not going to be able to go. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. â€œWhy not?â€ I asked her. â€œWell her passport has some indentions in it. What happened to it?â€Â Amber said, â€œWhen our dog was a puppy, he got into my purse and chewed on it a bit.â€ The lady said Amber couldnâ€™t go. At this point I was about to cry since they had already put Autumn and my luggage on through.
Now it is down to just Autumn and I on the flight. I asked the lady if she could call someone higher up to look at it. In the meantime, Jason found his passport but would have to dash to make it before the flight left. Then another representative came and looked at the passport and said it would be fine as nothing was messed up on the inside, only some teeth marks on the cover. Amberâ€™s luggage was sent on.
Finally, Jason made it and we were on our way. I must admit I thought maybe we werenâ€™t supposed to go on this trip, but sometimes God shows His greatest work through our trials. It was to be a most memorable trip.
We arrived in Antigua late that night where we were picked up and taken to our hotel. It seemed a little scary because it was so dark and the hotel had big, closed doors. However, behind the doors was a beautiful hotel that would be our home for the next few days.
Early the next morning we started our tour of the first Feeding Center. It was a short drive and we soon drove up a cobblestone road to a house that feeds hundreds of children each day. We toured the center before the children were to arrive. This center was nicer than I thought it would be and it was complete with a kitchen. The only thing was that the restrooms were outside and primitive and without toilet paper. Good thing we brought our own!
We started preparing the food. That dayâ€™s menu consisted of rice and a soup of beans, tomatoes and pork, and a tortilla. Asking as many questions as I could think of, I found out that some of the children will walk more than 45 minutes each way to have the one meal a day. Some of the businesses in the area will donate food that they can use, including broken eggs that we saw in the refrigerator and day old bread. I also found out that you can tell when a child is malnourished by looking at their hair. The hair at the end of the strand will be discolored, having almost a red tint. Stunted growth is another sign. I saw one little boy who was around 14 but looked like a seven- or eight-year-old child.
I began to hear sounds of children outside, so we went to greet them. They were the most loving children and they were happy even though their circumstances were dreary. They really wanted to be loved. We played games outside with them. Duck, Duck, Goose was their favorite. They say, â€˜Pato, Pato, Ganso!â€™
Amber and Autumn were a big hit with the children. One little girl really loved Autumn and the bracelet she was wearing, so she ended up giving it to her. The little girl was thrilled!Â Amber had two girls sitting with her in the swing and she did the â€˜Itsy Bitsy Spiderâ€ over and over with them.
Soon the children began to line up to enter the Feeding Center to eat. I noticed that one of the workers was standing at the door. Her job was to tell the children in line when there was no food left.Â That broke my heart to think that a child might have walked 45 minutes to get there and find that there was no food left. The children entered one by one until it was completely filled.Â There were only a couple of children who were to be turned away that day, but they managed to shift some food around so all could eat. This makes me cry as a write this!
After being seated, the leader Maria started the Bible story and songs. The children listened intently to the stories about Jesus and sang the songs with all they had. Then she introduced us and we sang for them. Mario told me later that as we were singing a little girl looked up at her and pointed to her arm where she showed her that she had goose bumps. What a blessing to be there with them.
After the stories and songs we served the food.Â Hundreds of plates and juice were given out and the children left fed in their spirits and body.
Next we visited a home, which consisted of a two-room shack with a grandmother who had already raised ten children of her own and now raising 15 of her grandchildren. Â She allowed us to come into her home. Her name was Sabina and she carried her six-month-old grandchild on her back. She was inside making tortillas.
Shocked is the only word I can give to explain what I saw there. It was two rooms with dirt floors. The kitchen contained a wood-burning stove and the smoke was so overwhelming that I continued to smell it in my nose for two days. Looking up, I saw black soot and grease everywhere. The other room had three beds in it, a table in the middle and I noticed some stuffed animals on the wall.Â I wondered how all 15 people could crowd in this room to sleep.
We asked Sabina if we could pray for her.Â She said, â€˜Yes, yes,â€™ and gathered all of the children around.Â She told us through the interpreter that one of her daughters was in the hospital and Sabina feared that she would never return home to care for the baby.Â She said, â€œPlease pray that God will send help to me, I am too old to care for all these young children.â€Â It is a load too heavy for her to bear. We began to pray and the children put their hands in prayer form and began to pray out loud too. It was one of the most touching moments I have ever been a part of.
We laid our hands on Sabina and asked God to protect her and her family, and to send the help that she needed. Big tears fell from her eyes and I felt so helpless for her. I hated to leave her in that condition. It was just one of the many heart-breaking sights that we saw.
At this point, the day was almost over and we were heading back to eat, but we wanted to see a little of the country. We took a little trip and saw some active volcanoes and went on a zip line excursion. This is a beautiful country and we saw some breath taking sights on the zip line.Â I still can’t believe I did it, but I’m glad I did!Â We found a place to eat in the city that night and walked through the open-air market and then returned to our rooms for some much needed rest.Â The next day would be a packed day.
After rising early, we left the hotel at 7:00 am for a two-hour ride to the next Feeding Center.Â We stopped at the ocean to meet up with another church group from Texas and had lunch. I wasn’t sure if Autumn and I were going to be able to eat when we saw the fish and the shrimp. They still had eyes in them and they were huge! I tasted the fish and could not bring myself to eat the shrimp. Autumn and I ended up eating the French fries, with a desert of fresh coconut. Jason ate it all.Â Amber ate nothing!
On our way to the Center, it had rained and as we passed the make shift shacks I noticed they were flooded.Â Their homes and where they sleep were flooded as well. People riding on bicycles, which most of them do, were splashed by the cars that passed them. I can’t imagine living like that! Sometime after the rain, the heat and humidity became unbearable.
We arrived at the Feeding Center after two hours and discovered that it was also a church. It was totally different from the other place we had visited. The church was open air with a dirt floor kitchen. It seemed that the children here were much worse than the day before, but you could not tell it by the smiles of the faces on the children.
Ironically that day was national holiday known as â€˜Day of the Childrenâ€™ and it meant that â€˜every child deserves a party.â€™Â It was very festive on the outside with balloons and a clown. Once again they enjoyed Bible stories with games and songs. We sang, â€˜If You’re Happy And You Know It.â€™ They sang it with us in Spanish. They also began singing a song and it took me a minute to recognize it, but it was Joel Hemphill’s song, â€˜He’s Still Working On Me.â€™ It warmed my heart to hear them.
The children were fed spaghetti with pork that day and of course, a tortilla. They had all kinds of games and PiÃ±atas that they hit blind folded to get the candy out. We were told not to hold or pick up the children here because lice ran rampant. How could we not hold them?Â Autumn had a little three-year-old girl who loved her and though I worried about Autumn picking her up, I prayed for God’s protection as she did. She also shared her snacks of fruit-roll-ups and Ritz crackers with cheese. It was such a sweet sight.
We left the feeding center with our windows down as the children waved and followed us as far as they could saying, â€˜AdiÃ³sâ€™ or â€˜Farewell!â€™
We left for the airport at 2:30 am for our flight back to Atlanta.Â I still have the children and the grandmother Sabina etched into my memory. I pray for them daily that God will provide and that He will make a way that we can help. I come away with thankfulness in my heart for everything I have been given and that great gift of LOVE, love that can be shown in so many ways.
Lord, show me how I can help and what I can do to help others and show your love.
What about you?Â Let’s show love to others who are in need.
For more information on The Nelons click on to http://kellynelon.com/
Written by Kelly Nelon
First published by SGN Scoops in December 2013.
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