This blog was written by our team member, Anita Spirek, after our 2018 Summer I Am Art Trip to Magdalena, Milpas Altas.
I have been traveling to Guatemala with my daughter Sarah for short term missions since 2014. We had just completed an 11 day trip in February to Quetzeltenango and San Lucas. Soon after returning home, I saw the Athentikos 2018 trip schedule posted. We had several friends that were involved with Athentikos and had followed the ministry on social media for years. “I Am Art” camps seemed a perfect fit for Sarah but we hadn’t had the opportunity to participate due to scheduling. I forwarded the information about the 2018 camps to Sarah and she applied for the Zapote trip that very evening.
Sarah is creative and talented in art and music, and she loves children’s ministry. I am not an artist and didn’t really consider applying for the trip at first. I had already taken time off for our trip in February and had planned to be off several other weeks for school trips and vacation. As the days went by, I began to reconsider. This could be the last opportunity to do ministry with Sarah for a while, as she was graduating from high school and had plans to be away from home the following academic year. I applied for the trip and began rearranging other obligations.
Several weeks before the trip, Volcan Fuego erupted cutting off access to Zapote. Athentikos was able to make last minute adjustments to another location in Magdalena Milpas Alta. The church and school in Magdalena is a great asset to the community. The pastor knows each of the children and is dedicated to praying for and encouraging the families and the greater community. He led us on home visits to meet families of the children that attended the school and was aware of the specific struggles they were facing. We were welcomed into homes and were blessed to have genuine conversations and prayer.
The sessions with the children were great fun! The kids came to their small group sessions after a long day at school but were still energetic and excited to learn. After a week of hard work, the kids presented an amazing art show to their parents. The show was well attended by the community and was filled with beauty, color and excitement! At the end, the children proudly took their work home with them.
I so appreciated the tone of this trip. It was something that cannot be done when you spend a day or two at a ministry site. It is this kind of relational ministry that allows an opportunity for a true expression of the love of Christ because the kids begin to know that we love them. The Athentikos curriculum is relevant to these families as many suffer serious hardships. It seemed that teaching on conflict resolution and the commonality suffering was a great encouragement.
The whole trip was a great experience and made me consider short term missions in a different way. I had been coming and trying to get so much done in the short week that I was leaving drained and exhausted. Focusing on one community really changed that dynamic. I am now on one of the last days of the trip feeling great and wishing for another week with the kids. During the week I saw team members truly serving the kids, passing on their skills and knowledge to a new generation. There was no pity or condescension. There was no seeking after recognition. The team was united in quiet humility and service in partnership with the local ministry. Authentic aptly describes my experience this week and I am leaving encouraged and with a fresh perspective.