The Beauty of Being a Beginner

About the author:

Cristha Fuentes is a powerhouse artist. She is a beautiful Guatemalan designer who uses the art of leather design to tell graceful stories. Her shoe and bag designs are outstanding. (Yes, most of the Athentikos teams now own her work.) Her work is inspiring and her compassion is even more contagious. She has been volunteering with Athentikos since 2016 and while she has participated in helping with several of our mural projects and has led other workshops, this was the first time she was in charge of the whole mural project. And it was a BIG ONE! On top of that, half of the artist mission team had to cancel at the last minute due to the growing concern at the beginning of March 2020 of the impact of the cornavirus. A week after this camp the world shut down. However, this “small” team completed one of our largest projects to date and still engaged with nearly 100 kids to encourage personal growth through various creative workshops. Each child loved participating in the mural project and loved picking a bright color to represent their home and presence in the community. Now as the kids walk by the mural daily, they will be reminded of their value, their rights and their unique purpose as a child of God.
Cristha’s reflections on this process below are inspiring. Cristha, THANK YOU for sharing your talents and passion with us. You are generous, kind, patience and beyond talented!  Check out Cristha’s work here.

“You only get to be a first time muralist once” David Lee, the Athentikos Team Leader said in one of the team meetings during the preparation time for an I AM ART camp. “That’s right!” I thought to myself. His comment made me put aside whatever conflicts I was facing in the first days and just focus on enjoying the beauty of being a beginner.
Before this mural, the last time I felt like a “beginner” was my first Athentikos camp in 2016, and it happened to be with the same community in Guatemala City of, La Limonada. God works in mysterious ways by bringing me back to this same place to experience being a “beginner” again.
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into until Sunday when we arrived at the church and I stood next to that 13x3m wall. It was overwhelming. I had no words to describe that feeling, other than I immediately felt myself shrinking and becoming a tiny human standing in front of a giant.
Frustration came first, then fear, but after that humility and excitement reigned; I wasn’t alone and I didn’t have to face that giant by myself. I had an amazing team! I had the talented Perry Tibbins (the master muralist) and the girlboss Jen Tercero to help me out during this process. And the kids loved being a part of something so large together. Sure, I’m an artist in my own way, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t learn something new, especially from such talented people. In that moment I realized I didn’t have to face this alone, and God’s plan started happening: my ego was broken, my mind was open, my heart enlarged.

Thanks to this mural experience, I learned so many lessons and so I want to list some of them:
By God giving me the feeling of being tiny, He was giving me the lesson that I’m just a small piece of a big work of art. I’m a tool in his master plan and I don’t get to choose if I like it or not, I just need to answer his calling and be open to whatever he wants to do. In this particular case it made me more humble, more aware, definitely less perfectionist and more happy; more like him, less like Cristha. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve grown in your relationship with God, there’s always something else to learn, some area in ourselves to improve. We have to make ourselves small so that HE grows.

Being a beginner is FUN. Since you don’t really know what you’re doing, you get to approach everything from a place of openness. You don’t know what to expect, you have no control and it allows you to be more aware and present. It’s really fun, it makes you feel like a kid again, and God loves kids (Matthew 18:2-4)
There are 2 ways you can approach things, whether in life or with a huge mural project: You can choose to be a critic, and try to find the faults and errors (and you will find them and you will never be satisfied.) OR you can practice grace, see beyond the flaws, and focus on the story behind the process. You will not only find beauty but also contentment.
I Am Art camps are amazing because they not only have a huge impact in the lives of the kids, but also in the lives of the leaders and team members. I’ve seen it not only in this camp but in ALL of the ones I’ve been to. God has so much to say and so much work to do in each person that attends these camps. I can honestly say that after all I’ve lived through and seen I want to continue doing this all my life. I’m simply amazed how God really works in mysterious ways, and I want to see how far He is going to take not only these camps but the whole vision of Athentikos.

Always mix the paints before using them! (This is not a deep lesson, I know, but for future muralists.) Don’t ever forget this, you’ll save so much time!
I could keep going, because there’s honestly so much to say…just like John 21:25 says: “There are so many other things that Jesus did. If they were all written down one by one, I suppose that the whole world could not hold the books that would be written”, there are not enough words to describe all he did.
To my amazing team: THANK YOU! You are family, and coronavirus couldn’t stop us!
– Cristha

Athentikos has been partnering with with Vidas Plenas and Lemonade International since 2010. Their work with the community of La Limonada is Guatemala City is featured in our documentary, Reparando.

The mural was generously sponsored by Veronica Riedel.