Why You Should Join an I Am Art Camp

Why You Should Join an I Am Art Camp

Former Athentikos intern Courtney Noya reflects on her unexpected participation with I Am Art, and how anyone can join despite doubt and inhibitions.

When I first began working with Athentikos in 2016, I didn’t quite understand what kind of path I was starting to journey down. To be quite candid, I began working with Athentikos out of necessity. I needed to fulfil a college internship requirement, and I was running out of time and options. Thanks to the small world we live in, my friend Tina was already connected to Athentikos through its founders, Amelia and Scott Moore. She had gone to Guatemala with their I AM ART program in 2015 and then did a mini art class with some preschoolers at an inner-city school as part of our church summer camp. I loved helping with the mini art class, so the next thing I knew, I was sending a text: Do you think Athentikos would want an intern?

And so, it began. First it was just for a few months for my school and then it turned into two years for my soul. The thing is, I never intended to go to Guatemala. I thought I’d help with social media, write some blogs, fill in wherever I was needed, but not actually GO on a trip. But Amelia can be quite persuasive, and I’m not one to deny an awesome opportunity, even if I am nervous terrified. Thus, I went to Guatemala. Not once, but twice. And then that wasn’t sufficient, so I made my thesis about it too. I researched whether going on a short-term mission trip (like an I AM ART camp in Guatemala) could have an effect on a person’s social awareness and desire for social justice. Long thesis short: It does.

At the time, I didn’t realize the full application of my thesis to my life. All I knew was that after seeing the beauty of mission work in a global context through Athentikos, it was something I wanted to keep as a significant part of my life. Or as my thesis found: a little taste of global mission made me want more. Therefore, when the opportunity arose, I applied for the Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and now I’m writing this blog from my home in Mexico, where I am living for a year while I work at a short-term migrant shelter.

What I appreciate most about Athentikos is that it doesn’t fall into the trap of “voluntourism”; there’s no going in uninvited and trying to fix communities by building a church, donating some shoes, converting people, or gawking at impoverished children. As a YAGM ,I learned the term for the style of mission work Athentikos embraces: accompaniment. The I AM ART camps are about creative people visiting communities that invited them in, listening to what that community wants, and helping it develop hope for the future. Building on that, one of the most amazing things about the IAA program is that the Guatemalan translators who have been connected with Athentikos for a few years now. These volunteers make recurring visits to our partner organizations every month. They’re strengthening their own community through their partnership with Athentikos, and helping make the program more than just a week of service.


I offered to write this blog for Athentikos because I know that recruiting for I AM ART trips can be a challenge, and I know that accepting an invitation to participate can be a big leap for many people. Not everyone feels “ready” to visit a foreign country where they don’t speak the dominant language, and a lot of people worry about not being “artistic” enough for art camp (I promise, if I can do it with my lack of artistic skills, anyone can). All of that to say though, it’s worth it. I encourage people to go on an Athentikos I AM ART trip not because you might find yourself becoming a year-long missionary like I did, but because it’s a truly impactful experience. There’s something extraordinarily valuable in crossing boundaries and building relationships.


We’re called by God to accompany one another in this world. It’s not always the easiest or most comfortable thing, but it’s always the right thing. It’s the thing that helps us grow and thrive in a world that is often filled with hatred, division, and misunderstanding. Athentikos is a small, nano nonprofit and the shelter where I work is a community supported initiative. I am not saying that involvement in either of these places is going to change the whole world, but they changed my small part in it. That’s not an opportunity that comes around every single day. That being said… this is your chance. Athentikos has FIVE opportunities to go on a trip this year and you can check out information about those trips here: https://athentikos.com/iamart/. If you’re on the fence about making that leap, reach out! Ask the questions you need to ask and listen to the stories you want to hear about. I know I am happy to talk about my Athentikos experience, and so are many other alumni/volunteers. Just send a message to Athentikos on any of its social media accounts or visit their website for more info. Take the first step. God will light the path and Athentikos will walk with you down it.

There are FIVE I Am Art camps happening in the Summer and Fall of 2019! If you are interested, follow the link below to learn about dates, locations, and more. If you cannot attend a trip but want to support Athentikos’ mission of creativity as healing, you can also donate to our I Am Art program.  

The Best Prize

This post was written by Guatemalan team member Diego Armando, a Spanish teacher from San Pedro La Laguna. Diego served as a translator and photographer for the camp

Athentikos’ is an amazing mission because it’s a way to know how much can I do for other people. My experience with Athentikos at the jungle school was wonderful because I was able to share a part of myself with the students, and in the end, this project let me learn and understand many things about my own life. The team was incredible and talented, and we became good friends really quickly. I appreciate the opportunity I had to learn about each person on the team, and students as well. I was definitely satisfied with the camp and all the activities we did. The best prize was the smiling faces of the students every single day of the camp. Thank you to everybody who is a part of this mission. I enjoyed this camp very much. If you are not in yet, I recommend you to try to join the program and live the experience of changing and impacting your life and the lives of the other people!

To support Athentikos’ mission through financial donations, or to read more blogs from I Am Art alumni, click the links down below!

Still Working

This post was written by Athentikos Alumni Jen Galvin. She has participated in several I Am Art camps, both in Virginia and Guatemala, and returned this December to serve with Athentikos at The Jungle School.

The Jungle School and the children that go there have really left me feeling like I need to do more, to be more for them, and for the world. God has
really spoken to me this week through this experience and the children at Jungle School. Saying goodbye to the team and Guatemala gets harder each
time I leave. I learned to know my kids and appreciate each of them, and wished I could have stayed

As my workshop walked through the week, we made lots of art together. We journaled together, laughed together, and then, of course, on conflict day, they got a little upset with me. This conflict day was a little different from my past experiences. It felt like the kids didn’t want to admit they were upset, like if they admitted it, they would
be admitting defeat.

Our workshop made prints and put them on bags. By Wednesday they had each made eighteen prints, one on each side of nine bags. On conflict day I asked them to cut their bags. After cutting his, one of the boys asked ‘is that all?’ and looked at me like I was a little crazy when I asked him to cut it. After we finished I asked them how cutting their bags made them feel…

Silence fell. My translator asked again. Still silence. One child said good, one said bad. We asked both why…the girl said bad because they are no good anymore. The boy said good because even though they were broken, he was still working.

Still working…. This child knew. Even though he hadn’t experienced the
redemption of changing our bags into stars, he                                                                                          knew that he needed to keep working through the pain and the troubles, because if you stop nothing gets achieved.

The next day I asked them if they thought there was any hope for their bags. One girl said, “No”. Then I took out my example of all nine bags glued together in a gigantic star, she gasped and said, “Oh, beautiful!”

These words let me know they got it. We talked about how God is always with us as we work through the conflict, even if it looks like there is no hope. God is always there and there is always hope. And there is beauty.

That is what I AM Art does, it helps leaders and children in our camps see that there is beauty, even when conflict takes over, and gives us the courage to keep
working even when it looks bleak and we don’t know where we are going. God
is always there. God is good all the time!

If you support Athentikos’ mission of processing pain through creative arts, please consider joining a trip (stay tuned for 2019 trip announcements!) or donating to support trip fees, operational costs, and camp supplies. You can stay posted on blogs, newsletters, and announcements by signing up for our mailing list and following us on social media.

We Are the Light of the World

This Blog was written by Danny Rodas, a Guatemalan translator  who has participated in two I Am Art camps.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
– ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭22:6‬ ‭

Jesus told his disciples that they are the light of the world.  This is also said to us, that we are the light of the world. Children are tremendously important; as adults, young adults or elders it’s our job to help them learn, to hear about their father, to learn his love and his purpose for them, and to worship and glorify him. We need to teach them how to accept and understanding who they are without God, and who God turns them in to after salvation…New.

This was my second I Am Art camp, and it was my first time at Casa Bernabé. It is always so encouraging to see how such strong relationships with the kids are developed in such little time. Teaching the kids that they are unique, companions, brave, strong, and that they are art is just wonderful. I Am Art definitely teaches the kids that we are the Creations, works of art by the God Almighty! I’d like to thank Athentikos and I Am Art for making me a part of this, for letting me help and serve my Jesus in this wonderful way… the experience was wonderful

…and the art camps are always super fun!

I hope to do this again, God bless Athentikos and I am art!

To donate and support Athentikos’ mission of creativity as healing, click here! These donations will provide supplies and resources for the team, and the children they serve, at future I Am Art camps.

Serve Each Other With love

This blog was written by Mafer Farnes, a Guatemalan translator who helped with the Casa Bernabae I Am Art camp in October of 2018.

I give thanks to God because despite the difficulties that happened to me during the year, God has blessed me with experiences like this, and I can say that my year is ending in such an amazing way. I was blessed to serve as a translator in the art camp with Athentikos. It was the first time I shared with the children at Casa Bernabe, and I couldn’t be more grateful to each person who made this possible.

I must confess that I was doubtful about going to serve, but I believe in a God and His perfect plans and I’m sure it was His will for me to go be a part of this amazing camp. God changed the lives of these beautiful kids, and my life for sure. The happiness that the kids experienced during each day made all the effort worthwhile.

The main goal in working at Casa Bernabe is about giving love, affection and compassion to each of the children, but I experienced the inverse of this. Their smiles light up your heart. When they run to hug you they fill you with love. When they ask for help, and tell you that you’ve helped them, they teach you to be more humble and grateful. It’s likely that you’ll shed some tears. The kids definitely make you stronger. They change the way you see the world and the biggest feeling that struck me was how I wanted to be in a favorable situation so that I could adopt these children who are so wonderfully talented.

Thanks to all the people who work at Casa Bernabe, and to the incredible team of people who came to donate their tim e and love. I am sure that God will bless them, and will continue blessing  the staff and children that are the light of the Casa Bernabe. Gods light shines in their hearts and faces.

“Serve each other with love” Galatians 5:13

Because recruitment goals were not met for our fall and winter camps, Athentikos is in need of financial support. Please consider donating to I Am Art to provide supplies and support as we try to advance our mission of creativity as healing! 

The Power of Story

This post was written by team member Bethany Cok who currently resides in Guatemala 

I leaned against the concrete wall of the high-ceilinged room we’d decorated to the rafters with balloons, streamers, and chalk art, the explosion of color matching the explosion of chaos that descended on the room every afternoon at 1:50. I watched and couldn’t help but laugh, looking at over a hundred kids running in circles, chasing balloons and volunteers and each other, and I tried to savor the moments before we all sat down for our (hopefully) more orderly group activities.

One of the second-grade girls in the art group I was helping with, Artes Mixtas (Mixed Media), came up to me in the chaos, gave me a huge hug, and ran off to keep playing. And I couldn’t help but think, looking at this group of kids and volunteers, how incredibly different were the paths that brought each of us to this echoey, concrete room in Magdalena Milpas Altas, Guatemala. The kids lived there, growing up in homes so different from mine, in an area with high rates of poverty and alcoholism, some with loving families but others with absent or uninvolved parents. The rest of us were visitors to the neighborhood: young Guatemalan men and women there as patient, enthusiastic artists and translators, passionate art workshop leaders from the US visiting Guatemala for the first time, and a few others like me, in the middle, born and raised in the States but who moved to Guatemala and decided to stay for a while.

Hugs in the middle of chaos

Throughout the week, we talked about identity, community, conflict, resolution­—the arc of Jesus’s story of redemption in the world and in our lives. We encountered it through art projects, crafting this story with our hands, and we discussed it and tried to live it out. As we talked about God’s amazing story for us, a story of love and redemption and perseverance, I was struck by how each of our unique stories intersects with that great story, and how these stories matter profoundly in ways we can only begin to understand.

At the beginning of the week, I talked with some incredible young workshop leaders from the States who had come down to Guatemala with open hearts and suitcases full of art supplies, and I heard something that surprised me. These people whom I immediately saw as creative shared some of their insecurities, saying things like, “Oh, I don’t really see myself as an artist.” And I also saw this in some of the kids as they expressed doubts about their own abilities: “Oh, I don’t know how to do that. I can’t do that.”

One of the things I loved most about this week was seeing the change in the hearts of the workshop leaders and the kids, seeing them gain the confidence to step into their gifts and say, “Yes, I am an artist. I can do this.” To me, this is the essence of the phrase “Soy Arte.” When you dare to say “I am art” loudly and boldly, when you sing it in a packed church room with a bunch of boisterous kids, you can’t help but start to believe it. To say that we are art affirms that we are created by a Creator and that we are creative. It affirms that we are valued, that we have something to offer the world.

Something stuck in my heart from that week. I came away asking, What are the stories we tell and believe about ourselves? What are the stories we tell and believe about God? And how can that change everything we are? During Soy Arte, we didn’t just talk about stories—we created one and we lived it. And it’s my prayer that a piece of this great story stuck with those rowdy, wonderful first-graders I worked with, so that beyond everything else, they know they are loved and redeemed and part of the greatest story ever told.

Because when we accept God’s story, what He says about us, and step into the fullness and richness and deepness of that incredible story, we can then begin to help others step into that same story, and together we’ll paint the world around us to be just a little bit brighter.

Registration for the December I Am Art camp at Jungle School has been extended! We are in need of more team members to join us on this new adventure! Check out this amazing opportunity here, and if you can’t make it we’re also collecting donations to help support the camps with operational costs and art supplies.

Why Are You Here?

This post was written by Chloe Hunsbarger who participated in the 2018 summer I Am Art Camp at Magdalena Milpas Altas

Upon arriving in Guatemala, David challenged our whole team with the simple question, “Why are you here?” Right out of the gate. Before any of us had the chance to really sink our toes into the experience.

So all week long, I searched high and low, ferociously awaiting for that lightbulb moment. I thought to myself, “When my reason for being here unveils itself, I will be so ready. It’’ll be so clear. I’ll have my camera on standby. I’ll be prepared to write it all down. I am pumped”.

But what I’ve gathered from spending this tiny portion of my life in Guatemala is that it’s the tiny, holy moments of climbing out of bed, pulling on my shoes, and tying my hair back where I come face to face with the God who calls Himself “friend.” The same God who steps out of His intimidating highness of Heaven and meets us in the kitchen for morning coffee. It’s here in these mundane moments I am reminded that there’s a man who plants excitement and hope into our very bones. And because of this, I’m ecstatic to be small and human, simultaneously sinful, and drenched in candid grace.

It’s in these moments I’ve found myself totally humbled, knowing that my reason for being here doesn’t have to be something big and grand. It can be as simple as the call to love; my reason for existence here on this earth – to love. Even when I feel utterly incapable and unnecessary for this type of work. Being God’s hands and feet. Even when I don’t have a handle on my lesson plans or can hardly understand the kids.

Good question, David. Why on earth AM I here?! I’m just a small human with big sin and a lot of fear.

But boy is there beauty to be found hiding in those insecurities. Because duh – God knows all of that! He knows how messy we are and He still invites us in and says: “Look, just be who I say you are. Because I promise you it’s enough.”

That’s why I’m here. To do what I can, even if it isn’t much. Even if it’s just holding little hands, giving hugs, kissing cheeks – repeat. It’s my effort and my willingness God wants. He’ll handle the rest.

And that’s something I hope to carry with me wherever I go.

Creative Relationships

This post was written by Kelsey Beyeler, who has been working with Athentikos since 2017 and experienced her first I Am Art camp this summer as a workshop leader in watercolors. 

It is my belief that a productive relationship is one that enables creativity and inspiration rather than stifling it. My relationship with Athentikos has provided just that. Now of course, traveling with a group of artists leaves a pretty open environment for creativity to thrive, but one aspect I didn’t realize before going was that the circumstances which we travel towards are always so inspiring. It’s hard to feel imaginative and colorful during a home visit, watching a family struggle with sickness, mental health, alcoholism, or other adversities.

The issues that surround the I Am Art camps are not the forces in the world that enable creativity, they are the ones that stifle it. This is the hard side of what we do; the kids are considered at-risk for a reason. It’s easy forget that in the middle of a workshop, because in those moments the kids aren’t in any risk, they’re just kids enjoying the beauty of art. It was difficult knowing that when the workshops ended some had to walk back to situations not so colorful.

But the model of I Am Art teaches that circumstances don’t have to stifle. It teaches us that pain needs to be transmitted in one way or another, and we worked together to explore creative ways to do that. We tried washing it away with watercolors, or dancing, or letting it go during worship. These are productive responses to pain, and if you allow it to, the process can result in beauty. This is how I know I’ve found something special with Athentikos, because it has helped me generate meaningful relationships with the kids and the team, while strengthening my own relationships with myself and God.

We still have three more 2018 I Am Art Camps! If you are unable to attend a camp but would still like to support Athentikos’ mission, we would greatly appreciate donations for our upcoming camps.

Art. God’s Love. Children.

Art. God’s Love. Children.

My passion is centered on these three. Being a part of I Am Art, I felt at home. The team worked together to shine God’s love through the tools of creating artwork we enjoy and were comfortable with. We were confident in what we were doing even if we found areas we were not so confident in, such as speaking Spanish.


As an art teacher my confidence is in preparing and delivering lessons. Athentikos has done a great work in creating a curriculum to follow. It is flexible in the visual outcome, but unified in the main scriptural themes. As the camp was in session each workshop task looked different – drawing, painting, dancing, mosaic – but the main lesson of the day was the same, just being expressed in a variety of avenues.


In group activities, the kids used tissue paper to transform their workshop leaders into superheroes.

Though we came together as strangers we quickly became brothers and sisters in Christ working together to spread God’s love to children whose lives may be broken. Providing the children with artistic expression to wrestle with their trials in life.

Athentikos has 3 more trips this year!  Click I AM ART below to learn more details and sign up for one of our amazing fall opportunities!  Click Donate to help us fund our mission of using creative arts to resolve conflict around the world!

Learning New Steps

This post was written by Krissy Smith who led a dance workshop during the 2018 I Am Art camp in Magdalena, Milpas Altas.

My workshop group presented a dance routine which was not the originally planned presentation—but we went with it.

We had approximately 3 minutes and 20 seconds for a dance routine to sum up all that we walked through together that week. Most of the girls were shy during the final performance and didn’t move as “largely” as they did during the week. But I could relate. As I grew up, I’ve always had a problem with moving “largely” in my pursuit of music and dance. But there was a sentence in the I AM ART Manual that stuck with me. “Creativity is about process, rather than product.” So while, to the public, we presented 3 minutes and 20 seconds of a dance routine (where I was more focused on smiling at the girls to alleviate their fears than the routine) it was actually the process that really impacted us all. And isn’t it that way for many of the truly valuable things of life? Our friendships/relationships, the pursuit of our passions, the development of our own being, our walk with the Lord…

It’s the process which reveals the most while simultaneously being hidden from the public eye. The process which can’t fully be presented on our own accord because it is often the hand of God that designs it for us. The process which is often the core piece of the artwork that we can’t take credit for because, most of the time, we intended to compose the process differently than how it actually occurred. The process which acts as a complementary shade behind the artwork which makes the product THAT much more intimate and beautiful, especially for the artist (and sometimes the audience).  The process that hurts, challenges and builds us. The process which, through its unexpected hills and valleys, serves as a reminder of God’s voice saying “Soy El Artista.” And through that process God smiles at us, urging us to carry on. The product we present to the world—the process happens to us.

So maybe the 3 minutes and 20 seconds was more a celebration of our process than a presentation of a final product. Or maybe it was a reminder that the product we create is often merely a glimpse of the process God designed. I hope that myself, the girls, Anita, Daniela, and the rest of the kids at the school and team members of the Soy Arte Camp continue to carry on all that God has placed on our hearts as His will, most importantly as we continue to shine as his own works of art.

We have 3 more wonderful camps this fall!  Click on I AM ART below to view the details!