The Waters are Calmer

Have you ever stood on one of those floating piers? Where it seems sturdy, so you’re feeling pretty good about it, but then a wave comes, or you step wrong, and then all of a sudden you’re thinking: I’m not so sure about this pier.

That is the same type of feeling I had when I got home from my last two I AM ART trips in Guatemala. Mostly everything is okay, but occasionally, I feel a wave come and I’m thrown off balance again. Those waves are often tinged with a sadness or nostalgia because I miss my trip so much. There are always reasons I am happy to be home again, but I can’t help but miss seeing the girls and their artwork, bonding with my team, and exploring the beautiful country of Guatemala

The first time I came home from an I AM ART camp (fall of 2016), I was standing on my metaphorical floating pier in the middle of some kind of raging storm. I was not at all prepared for all my heart had been through for the past 10 days and my reentry was difficult to say the least. I struggled with coming home after experiencing such a powerful kind of passion and desire for God’s work through Athentikos and I hated saying goodbye to so many people who had left their fingerprints in my heart.

I recently returned from my second I AM ART camp. When I was preparing to go on my trip this year, I was filled with anxiety, but had a hard time pinning down what made me so hesitant. It wasn’t until the last days of camp were approaching that I realized I was afraid of stepping off the comfort of solid land and back onto the floating pier. However, this year I joined a few of my team members for an additional three-day stay at Lake Atitlán to relax and process following the camp. Lake Atitlán is quite possibly the most beautiful place I have ever seen and my time there gave me a sense of peace, reflection, and meditation. Now I can’t say that the three days were my solution to everything because either way I’m still out on the pier; however, I can see the difference in where I am now versus where I was last year. For one thing, the waters are calmer.

My experience reminds me of the story of Jesus calming the storm in the bible (Matthew 8:23-27). My first year, in the midst of feeling lost in my return, I felt kind of angry; I wanted to wake Him up and ask “why aren’t you doing anything to stop this?” Then this year, the water was calm and I could feel His reply: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” And as I sat in the dark, on a literal floating pier in Lake Atitlán, seeing my first shooting star, I knew that there was no reason to feel afraid.

Being at Lake Atitlán gave me the time to sit with God and listen to Him tell me not to be afraid. To learn to trust in His plan for me, for Athentikos, and for the children we work with each camp. I will probably never be able to go on one of these trips and come home and immediately go on with my life as usual. For that, I am grateful. I don’t want Athentikos’s impact to be so easily forgotten or ignored. When my heart is breaking it’s because I am experiencing the extraordinary fullness of it that God intended when He formed us. When I step foot onto my floating pier, it’s because God recognizes that we can’t know all of His wonder by staying on land.

An Oasis to the Soul

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1513271130881{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]This blog was written by 18-year old interpreter, Nicole Grajeda. Nicole was passionate about wanting to serve with a mission program, and after learning about Athentikos through a classmate at school, she served as an interpreter for our 2017 I AM ART Casa Bernabé Camp. We admire her bravery in joining our team without previously knowing anyone and we’re incredibly grateful that she was able to come back for a second time this year to serve with I AM ART at Oasis. 

My week at Athentikos’s I AM ART Oasis camp was one of the most challenging experiences ever!

I had the pleasure of being Jen Galvin’s interpreter, an artist who was leading the “Recycled Art” workshop; Tina Breede and Jen Arif  with Oasis were also a part of our workshop team. The I AM ART camp was hosted at Oasis, a home for sexually abused girls.

I AM ART camp went really deep this time. I felt my heart curious about what the results would be by the end of the week since the workshop seemed so interesting as we would actually be making art with things that other people would see as trash. We had a group of eight courageous girls, all of them with painful stories in their lives.

On the first two days, Jen taught us how to create beautiful landscapes with alcohol ink on recycled tile pieces, the girls were so happy with the results and so was I. It hit me really hard on day three (Conflict Day) when Jen asked us to break the tile with a hammer, even though I already knew what would happen with our art project; I cannot explain how hard it was to me seeing all the girls breaking the sunsets and mountains they had put heart and soul in.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_media_grid element_width=”3″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1513271698621-0e66badc-e9ed-4″ include=”9100,9102,9097,9103″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1513271162915{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

These brave girls taught me a lot, and I learned many things through this art process.

The world can be a lonely cold place, and these girls choose hope, even though they have experienced world`s evil first hand; they know that there is something that only God can do, restore. Getting sweet genuine smiles from them without knowing how many times they have been abused or beaten; without knowing how many times their hearts, souls and spirits have been broken, over and over again, was what made me question to myself : “Who says the story has to end in brokenness?”In our lives many things get broken, and I was having a hard time trying to accept the fact that once something breaks, it can never be the same way it was before. I had been stuck for a while, holding my broken pieces close to my chest, not letting anyone help me with them, not even letting anyone see them. In my mind I thought that perhaps somehow I was going to be able to make it the way it used to be, the way I liked it.

However, God opened up my eyes and helped me see the beauty in brokenness, so I could finally let go and let Him take control. Our group leader, David Lee, asked us at the beginning of the week who was God for us, and it took me a while to have an answer for that. I am getting to know God as an artist. There are times when we look at ourselves in the mirror and all we see is trash; we feel like we are useless and unnecessary. I am grateful that God looks at our lives as we looked at the recycled materials, and responds:

“Wow, we could do something beautiful with these broken pieces.”

What better way to understand redemption than taking those tile pieces and making them into something inconceivable! Because that is pretty much what God does in our lives. We used grout, jewelry and some buttons to decorate a vase, with the tile as our principal material to show it could still be beautiful, valuable, precious and worthy of being used by the hands of an authentic artist.

By the end of the week, the results were astonishing! The girls, God’s masterpieces, were as beautiful as ever, with some tears in their eyes and huge smiles on their faces. The real pieces of art at this camp, made me feel the healing in them all, just like an Oasis to the soul.

“You mend what once was shattered

And You turn my tears to laughter

Your forgiveness is my fortress

Oh Your mercy is relentless.”

Song: Shoulders — For KING & COUNTRY

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Understanding Our Experience

PROCESSING YOUR STORY

After participating in an I AM ART camp, we now share a life experience that touched our hearts, and maybe changed us in incredible ways. The contrast of our time in Guatemala with our life back at home can be jarring, and often it’s difficult to process. It’s certainly difficult to explain it to people who have not experienced it for themselves.

Photo: Sweet Justice Photography

Sometimes we’re overwhelmed with a barrage of questions while other times, we anxiously wait in for people to ask us deep questions about our trip but the questions never come. We want people to care, and know, and feel what we felt. Maybe they do, but they are busy with their lives … and we quietly think to ourselves, “You just don’t understand.”

No matter the situation, our hearts are stirred. But maybe … we don’t understand ourselves.

Have you asked yourself how this experience impacted you, personally? What fingerprints it has left in your heart and soul? Have you found yourself asking “how has my trip impacted my life?” or “how should it impact my life?” Maybe your answer to the question is clear. Maybe you’ve already sprung into action. Or maybe, the question still sits there waiting to be answered.

If you’re uncertain about the answer, the question may make you uncomfortable. You may find it haunting you at times, or you may find yourself avoiding it. But, here is some peace: There’s no wrong answer. Each of us will answer the question differently.

But, the questions will not go away until it is given proper attention. It may fade into the background for weeks, months, or even years. But at some point, the question will reappear.

SO NOW WHAT?

Here’s the good news. Answering this question does not have to be scary, and it does not require dramatic changes in your life. In fact, when you address the question, you will better understand yourself. You will experience more peace and gratitude towards your time of service.

There are many ways to begin processing your one-of-a-kind experiences. We want to encourage you to use the team journals to work through the questions you have. We put in the “Share your Story” section to help you work through your story in the same format as camp. There are sections centered around character, setting, conflict, resolution, and community. Each day has a short prompt that allows you to consider the different aspects of your experience. You can also reach out to someone on the team to connect with and process your stories together. Whatever your method, we hope that you’ll find joy in exploring and sharing your story with others.

Photo: Sweet Justice Photography