Beautiful Child of God

This blog is written by Irena, one of our Guatemalan friends and volunteers. Irena, along with other Guatemalan volunteers, have been making monthly trips to one of our partner organizations, Oasis, to help build and maintain relationships with the girls throughout the year. We are so inspired by the work that they do and the way they spread their love of God. 

**All pictures of girls here are not associated with the girl mentioned in this story as we want to protect her privacy**

Every time we enter the gates of Oasis, we feel overjoyed to be back and have the best time of our month! We’ve been making it a regular trip for a while now and there has been a lot of impact being made since the beginning of the year!

In February, we were able to start this journey again with the girls and in March we wanted to follow-up an activity we did last year. Our activity from last year was about their dream job or what they want to do when they grow up. We had some doctors, presidents, athletes and artists. So this year, we got some accessories so they could dress up as their dream job. Honestly, I was impressed because some of them seriously allow themselves to dream, and to dream big I must say. Some would like to go to Law School, to be advocates for children’s rights, while others would love to be teachers, musicians, nurses. We even had a maxillofacial surgeon!

Once they were dressed and ready to go, we took a picture to each one of them and let them decorate their own photo frame for it. It was such a fun experience! But none of us had a clue of how gorgeous those pictures were going to look like! Weeks later, the pictures were printed and when I got to see them, I could see real doctors healing people, real advocates fighting for justice, real artists sharing their stories through art, and real athletes being an example of discipline and attitude. Those pictures revealed just how determined those girls are and that they are embracing their future right now.

Then in April we came back and talked to them about how good is to help others, and that we must do it daily. We wanted to strengthen the love among them and emphasize that they could do favors without wanting something in return. We wanted to transmit the idea of a movie called “Pay it Forward”. The girls were told to write five favors they would do to their friends and were given a notepad where they could write favors they plan to do or that they did and the person for whom they did the favor. The five favors were written on paper with hand shapes, as to represent their selves. After making the helping hands, we hung them on a string creating a chain of favors.

After this activity, we were able to present them with their pictures! They were really excited and nervous to see how they looked! They didn’t want us to show their picture to the rest of the girls, because they didn’t feel pretty; this is the complete opposite of what we saw, because we all think they are gorgeous and seriously a masterpiece of God. But, when the activity was done and we were leaving, one of the girls approached to me and said, “Irene, take my picture with you, I don’t want it. I don’t like myself!” I was shocked because she was almost in tears when she said that. I talked to her and tried to make her understand how God sees her, how we see her, and that she is gorgeous herself both inside and out! She is loved, cared, cherished and valued by lots of people including us, which is what makes our time together so special.

After this visit, I had all sorts of emotions! I felt excited because I had seen the girls, but I also felt sad I couldn’t see some of the others because they were back with their families again. Plus, I was overthinking about this girl and how she felt about herself!

But then I could feel how God was trying to tell me that the way I see those girls, gorgeous and powerful, is the exact same way He sees all of us. We will never be able to comprehend His love, but we must understand something: We are loved by the creator of this earth. We are his children and He will never stop loving us no matter what.

And just to finish with this, while writing this post, I’m listening to “Who you say I am” by Hillsong Worship and the bridge of the song describes perfectly what I got to experience this that beautiful Sunday at Oasis.

“I’m chosen, I’m forsaken, I am who you say I am.

You are for me, not against me, I am who you say I am.”

And then in the chorus there’s a part that says:

“I’m a child of God, yes I am.”

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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Casa Bernabe 2017 Was A Huge Success!

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The Best Yet … REALLY

In October, we returned to the Casa Bernabé orphanage in Guatemala to heal through creative arts. This was our third collaboration with Casa Bernabé, and our I AM ART team led 9 workshops for 100 Guatemalan children during the weeklong camp. We picked up where we left off last year, and guided children into deeper understanding of themselves in God’s greater story or redemption.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1511210350588{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Check out this amazing photo montage from our storyteller, Emily Coffee with Sweet Justice Photography!

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I led a filmmaking workshop (a first for I AM ART) and guided the kids through producing a short engaging story. We wrote a script together about a group of teenagers who were running from their fears. In the end, the teens had to trust in the sacrifice of a stranger to be saved. The kids took on roles of acting, camera, sound, and even editing. In five days, we produced a short film, and showcased it to everyone at our Art Show on Saturday. The kids were so proud of their accomplishment! It was such a blessing to help lead these kids in a new creative endeavor that taught them a deeper lesson.I was reminded again of the power of creative arts in telling a story that leads to healing. It really is overwhelming. Every year, I leave camp thinking we’ve reached the top of the experience, that there is no way future camps could top what we’ve done before. And, each time I am wholly surprised with the result. It just keeps getting better and better!

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My heart is so invested in this community of people. As I have spent more and more time in Guatemala, I am certain that I am in the right place to use my talents to heal others and experience healing myself. Athentikos is at a crucial point in its organizational life. We have been presented with multiple opportunities to make great impact here in Guatemala, the United States, and other countries, but we need your help. I have decided to stay in Guatemala during the interim period between our two fall camps this year to visit other potential organizations that have requested we bring this program to them. I am so excited over the potential of our work here. However, in order to continue, we need your help. If you feel that the stories that you read here are important and the impact we are making is the type of work that you could see yourself participating in, please sign up for a volunteer opportunity, donate your money, or come to Guatemala and experience this great journey of healing with us!

Please consider giving to Athentikos’ programming by using this link: Donate Here

[/vc_column_text][mk_button dimension=”flat” size=”large” url=”http://athentikos.kindful.com/athentikos-2017/i-am-art-programs”]Click here to support I AM ART[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Making Lemonade

I AM ART Lemonade Stand

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We’re all familiar with the idiom, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. But what do you do when life gives you lemonade?

For the students in Emily Litsey’s high school art class, the answer was to sell the lemonade and donate the proceeds to Athentikos. We are so privileged to be able to share Emily’s story on our blog. Like all nonprofits, Athentikos depends on the generosity of our volunteers and donors. Stories like Emily’s inspire our spirits, and enable us to impact the lives of at-risk youth at our camps. Emily first learned about Athentikos through her involvement with Lemonade International when she took a trip to Guatemala, specifically, to La Limonada. La Limonada is a huge slum in one of Guatemala’s “red zones”. Athentikos’s documentary, Reparando, highlights La Limonada and a few of the people living there and using their creative power to make positive change in their community.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”8987″ img_size=”800×600″ add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]Everyone who goes to Guatemala with Athentikos comes back with inspiring stories about their experience. Emily was most inspired by the response Guatemalan kids had to art and the creative process. As an art teacher, she found the reaction to creativity was similar to her U.S students. Emily describes her trip as a reminder that kids are kids no matter where you are, and that art is a universal language. She didn’t want her trip to be a single event in her life that she completed and quit. She plans to return to with Athentikos, but in the meantime, Emily wanted to stay connected with Guatemala, and bring her experiences home to the students in her art class.

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Highlights From Emily’s Trip to Guatemala with Athentikos

[/mk_fancy_title][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/bBUhRzhbwF4″][vc_column_text]Emily originally began having her students do projects like creating personalized pieces of art for kids in the La Limonada school. However, one day, a student suggested raising money to help benefit Athentikos programming and sending kids to camp. In honor of La Limonada, which translates to “lemonade”, Emily’s students began a lemonade stand at the school. It runs for a full week during the spring semester each year and has become such a staple at the school that students anticipate its arrival each year. Emily loves the lemonade stand because she believes her students benefit from having the opportunity to learn how to organize and implement a project/fundraiser as well as being involved with philanthropy. But what is even more powerful, is that it also teaches her students about being aware of other’s needs and the ability of each person to serve others. While Emily has always loved art, she says that now she has a richer understanding of its importance. She’s motivated to help students realize there is more to the world than just the town they live in.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]We praise God for Emily and her students and for all of those who help support Athentikos by donating their time, money, and talents.

If you’d like to help us, you can donate here:

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Impact – Oasis 2016

Corbey Dukes, Director of Oasis

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Athentikos, I AM ART processes pain through creative arts, and resolves conflict through God’s greater story of redemption.

We’re grateful to partner with organizations like Kids Alive’s Oasis in Guatemala, a ministry that seeks healing and restoration for girls who have been rescued from abuse. Oasis Director, Corbey Dukes shares his perspective about the impact of I AM ART in the video above. Special thanks to Emily Tuttle for the video footage & interviews.[/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”Corbey’s Interview”][vc_column_text]

One of the measures I can use for how effective the I AM ART Camp is, is the reaction of the girls. And, the girls love it! The girls are excited about it, and I can guarantee that I’ll have 20 girls ask me, “When are they coming back?”

People want to build things – build a new house, or an office complex. And that’s great. But I’ll say, the most important thing that can be built is a new heart. And programs like I AM ART, programs that Athentikos puts together to come in and make an investment in the child and in the staff … that’s heart building. It may be harder to measure than how many hundreds of pounds of concrete that we pour. But, the impact is huge! Because often, something like this is the first time they (the girls) have done something beautiful in their lives.

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They came from very dark, ugly places, and to be able to generate something beautiful with color, with harmony, with music, with self expression … It’s a way for them to reclaim their humanity. It’s a huge boost to their identity of who they are in Jesus, the power they have over their voice and their body. Their body is reclaimed. It’s theirs. It’s clean. It’s not stained by what others did to them. And, they can start to realize they’re chosen for something different than their past.

I’m running a home and I’ve got responsibility for a hundred kids, and for me, this is an investment that I love. I love Athentikos. It’s a ministry worth your prayers and your encouragement – worth promoting for people in your church or community to be a part of an Athentikos team. Man, it’s worth it. And it’s certainly worthy of your financial support.

-Corbey Dukes
Director of Oasis

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Something Changed Forever

 

The following blog was written by one of Athentikos’s volunteers and workshop leaders, Kati Korosuo. 

Going to Guatemala had been hunting me for about 13 years, until last summer (2016) I finally made it there. I spent five weeks in the country teaching Dances to a Beat (DTB), a dance technique I’ve developed myself, to a vast variety of different groups: from teenagers in an elite dance school, to dancers in a wheelchair dance company, to kids in the ghetto of La Limonada. DTB is a technique based on improvisation, repetition and rhythm. It deals a lot with seeing oneself as part of a bigger, meaningful picture and understanding one’s crucial importance there. DTB is a technique where the aim is to not just to accept one’s own movements, history, and personality, but to appreciate and enjoy them. It ultimately is a technique to celebrate the uniqueness in each of us!

 

I was very happy to be able to share DTB at Athentikos’s I AM ART camp with Vidas Plenas in La Limonada. Athentikos’ values about authenticity and transparency resonated strongly in me, and I had a good feeling about this collaboration. In La Limonada the extreme poverty, criminality and violence become a concrete reality that was, literally and metaphorically, thousands of miles away from my everyday life in Finland. Teaching the kids there had an impact on me, that is difficult to put in words. It changed something in my heart forever.

After my experience that summer, the culture shock returning back to Finland hit really bad. It was frustrating and difficult to become interested in all those meaningless things that we, in a western welfare state, have the luxury to become interested in and spend our lives on. And this shock didn’t ease out until I had decided to go back to Guatemala.

I wanted to continue working with Athentikos, and ended up spending two months in the country planning and executing an Artist in Residence pilot program that Athentikos plans to launch in 2018. This residency included two IAA camps and in-between working with Athentikos’s established partner organizations plus creating new connections with the local art scene there. I realized that coming back to Guate to continue the work I had started there was like a reconciliation: an action that had to be followed after that something that had started to stir in my heart.

My third I AM ART camp in Guatemala was held at Oasis, a home for sexually abused girls, where I had visited twice before. The camp didn’t start off so well, and new girls kept coming into my workshop in the middle of the week. They were super shy and reluctant teenagers, who seemed to resist everything I suggested. I quietly acknowledged that this week wouldn’t be so great now, however, I still wanted to do my best. And on the third day things changed. The girls started to open up and they would end up telling me things I would have never imagined. They shared with the group and they shared with me privately. They wrote letters. They told me how important this week was for them and how they had learned so much about dance and self-worth, how this group was like a family to them and how they wished this week would never end. The last days there entailed more hugs and tears than many months would.

Photo by Amelia J. Moore

Spending longer time in the country gave me the opportunity to understand the Guatemalan culture better, the both wonderful and challenging sides of it, as well as to connect on a deeper level with the locals. There was time to form real friendships and to see the kids in different moods, having good days, having struggles, having graduations. Returning back to places, seeing the kids again outside the camp setting also made me to understand that I’m just a visitor in their lives. I will be gone, and they will be just fine. However, after my last IAA Camp at Oasis, this perspective was challenged once more as I realized that the experiences we had and lessons we taught will stay with them forever.

One night at the camp the director of Oasis told our team some statistics and facts about the sexual violence in Guatemala and generally about some of the girls’ cases. I had not prepared for such hard facts and intense stories. This reality was very difficult to take in. In the beginning I had surely wondered about what kind of a story each girl there had (especially when some of them went to court and hearings during the week), but later, every time a story would get a face and a name, I crashed. I then felt that it was better for me to work with these kids without knowing all the details of their pasts. When I taught them, I wanted to concentrate on the things we were doing together and the qualities that make all of them incredible kids, not their heart-breaking pasts. 

All these three art camps by Athentikos have been different yet equally meaningful for me. The highlight of this last camp was the process with the girls. Again, like after each of these camps, I feel that I have been operating with something that is like the most important thing on Earth. And that my heart is exposed and broken in a way that it hasn’t before. It feels absurd that I wouldn’t return here anymore.

Photo by Amelia J. Moore

Being Blessed Back

I’m Ivette, a Guatemalan I AM ART volunteer and currently a full time university student. In addition to working with I AM ART, throughout 2016 I was also temporarily an interpreter, nursery teacher, and radio host. I suppose you could say I do my best to fulfill any need in Jesus’s kingdom.

My first I AM ART camp was at Casa Bernabé in October 2016 as an interpreter and it was one of the greatest weeks of my year. I was able to be part of an awesome experience, so when Athentikos invited me to be part of the last camp of the year, I was excited to work at Oasis. Because of the incredible time I had, I now want to share my experience with you.

As the days passed in the week, our relationship with the girls got closer and our hearts started to become full with God’s love. I, as an interpreter, try to help the international volunteers get that beautiful connection with the girls, but this time I wasn’t “just” the bridge between English and Spanish.

The I AM ART camp started Monday morning but I didn’t get to Oasis until Tuesday, so I didn’t know the girls yet. My first time in the room, the girls were quiet and shy. They looked concentrated on their projects with the instructions that Becky, the collage workshop leader, gave them. I didn´t know anything about collages until that week. Everyone was focused on what they want to express for the first two days, so they were quiet at first, but then I started seeing the girls open up to the workshop leaders and to their projects as well. I watched the girls using bright colors and different shapes and I enjoyed seeing the girls experiment with something new. Even though the girls followed the instructions given, I could see their personal creativity and the love they put into their projects. It was like watching a super famous artist working on her next masterpiece; each girl was putting on a unique touch that would be hard to replicate. I saw real artists doing what they love with a variety of materials like glue, paper, tape, canvas, paper punchers and even nail polish. They were able to express through art what some of them are not able to express with words.

So, just as it happened to me I bet it happened to the girls: we all started with an idea of how the week is going to be, but never imagined what God has prepared for us by the end of it. The entire week was an art piece. Just like Becky said constantly, “When you make collages, and art in general, you never know how it’s going to look at the end, but that’s the beauty of art.” After the conflict day (Wednesday), I saw the girls more connected and comfortable with what they were creating and trusting that the final project would look amazing. And it did!

In a snack break we had Thursday one of the girls said, “That is what life is about, you don’t know what’s in store for you tomorrow, but you are the one who’s creating your most wonderful and colorful masterpiece”. It was a very blessed week for me because God used the girls to show me that it’s time for me to work on getting closer to Him and trusting Him on another level. I was questioning myself about my relationship with God, but it looked so easy for them to have faith in Him. They showed me how much easier it can be just by trusting every day in His hands.

I want to finish this with a small story that had a big impact. On Thursday night at the bonfire, one of the girls from my workshop approached me and surprised me with a handmade letter. She is Carolina*. She is energetic, smiley, delicate and smart. During the week, she was always smiling and giggling, giving her opinion, and actively participating with the collages. I wasn’t too close to the girls at the beginning because as the interpreter, I usually think that it’s the workshop leader who they should remember and not me, but this time it was different. I didn’t read the letter until I got home after camp, and I was surprised that she wrote, “I’ll be praying for a man who will protect you, and who will love God first and you after, for you to have hope in God’s plan.” You might say “how sweet!” and it certainly was a sweet gift, but it’s even more heart-touching to read this from a girl that suffered through mental and physical abuse. I’m not sure why she mentioned finding a man in the letter, but what I am sure about is that she cares about me and others, just like God cares for her.

These girls learned that in God’s love, there is great healing. They are mighty in God’s strength and what I love the most about them is that they share it with others. Everyone involved in the camp was hit with this truth: God will talk to your heart no matter if you are the organizer, the workshop leader, or an interpreter. Remember as you do God’s work to bless others, as they will bless you back.

*Carolina is a fake name

Awake My Soul

AWAKE: fully conscious, alert, and aware : not asleep.

We have been leading teams to Guatemala for nine years now through the Athentikos documentary projects and now the I AM ART camps. Over the last 5 years, we’ve led eleven camps in Guatemala with 6 different partner organizations, 120 artists/volunteers, and nearly 2,000 at-risk children to transform pain into purpose through creative arts and God’s greater story of redemption. I have the honor to lead a camp each year and I love it! It’s a highlight of my year. It has been humbling to see this vision grow as well as how others participating in and facilitating the camps experience something new within themselves. I love showing others the beauty of Guatemala for the first time. I love seeing the team bond, as it’s significant that most people come on these trips not knowing others. I love seeing the kids get excited about their art projects and hearing stories about God’s healing in all of our lives. I also love the fun times of dancing, playing card games, and site-seeing with the teams. It’s all significant and each camp leaves a deep impact on my heart.

While some aspects of the trip may not be as awe-inspiring to me anymore… like seeing an active volcano or all the colorful textures in Antigua. I always leave these trips with a new sense of life stirring in my heart. As we led our teams through some mindfulness exercises to be in the moment, I sought to understand the impact on my own life. What is it about these trips that stir something new in my soul? 

After returning from the trip, we were singing a song in church that deeply touched me because I felt that the song’s message is what happens to the soul when experiencing a trip like this. I went to look up the Chris Tomlin lyrics and then came across one of my favorite songs by Mumford and Sons with the same title: Awake My Soul. It’s a different song than what we sang at church, but these lyrics deeply describe me:

“How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know
My weakness I feel I must finally show

Lend me your hand and we’ll conquer them all
But lend me your heart and I’ll just let you fall
Lend me your eyes I can change what you see
But your soul you must keep, totally free

Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul”

Part of my soul re-awakes each time we travel to Guatemala. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m removed from my day-to-day routine and connecting with God, others, and myself in a new way, or if being in a different culture allows my perspective to shift ever so slightly. Maybe it’s because hearing stories of great heartbreak and amazing healing is inspiring. Regardless of the triggers, part of my soul awakes during each trip. 

 I had a hard time writing this blog because it’s hard to explain the feeling of your soul awakening as it’s difficult to explain the powerful impact of our I AM ART trip. Many times I have said that it’s hard to express our experience in words. And that is the power of art: to express an inner abstract idea. Throughout time, people have used art for this same purpose— to communicate their stories, to worship God, and to express the thoughts of their soul. Dance, music, painting, sculpture… all of these and more allow the soul to express itself in ways our words cannot. And sometimes  you have to find yourself in the journey of creation.

In addition to leading the team, I taught a water-color class this time around. I love the fluid nature of the water and the paint. I  love putting water on the paper and adding color and watching it create with some direction. You can kinda direct the outcome of a piece, but for the most part the nature of watercolor technique is to allow it to “develop” itself.  You have to really let go of control and watch the beauty unfold. And the creation is beautiful!! While I LOVE this and think it’s really a simple medium, it was difficult to teach and for the most part, it was difficult for the girls to work with the water instead of controlling it. We did a variety of techniques and projects that followed our  themes, but in the end the essence of the teaching was in working with the water and how it relates to our relationship with God. As I sat and worked with the girls, I felt a connection to my soul that I rarely experience back “home.” The simplicity of creation allows the soul to feel, explore and breathe.

As I look back on 2016, I am very grateful for the four I AM ART teams in Guatemala. Like the creation of the watercolor pieces, our leadership team took steps of action to put “water and color” on the paper, but it was God that created the beauty that unfolded through the camps. The people on our teams are the core of the experience and the reason we are able to offer the I AM ART camps. I love the deep sense of community we feel during our time together as well as getting to know so many different types of people. I am grateful for the kids who willingly follow our direction in the creation of their art projects and humbly share parts of their stories with us. I am also thankful for our partnership organizations: Vidas Plenas, Lemonade International, Se Luz, Ten Fe, Kids Alive, The Oasis Home, Casa Bernabe and Friends of Children Everywhere who generously opened their communities to us. 

I hope in this New Year that our collective “artwork” will develop even more into a grand piece that only God can direct. It’s difficult letting go, listening to the depth of your soul, and taking steps in and towards God. Even though we love the I AM ART vision and want deeply for this vision to grow, at times it is extremely scary to trust God in this. We need money, people, and leadership to accomplish the great vision God has laid on our hearts. Our hope is that we will all continue to be the color that God is using to create this beautiful piece of art. While this blog isn’t necessarily about an opportunity to give, I do want to make that offer: If you have joined us on an I AM ART trip in the past, you understand the power of art and you know the sense of your soul awakening in new ways. We need you to continue to be a part of this by financially supporting the vision, please consider joining our monthly financial support team at http://athentikos.kindful.com/. If you have not yet been able to go on a trip, you can still support us! You can donate using the same link listed above and/or follow us on social media. Be on the lookout for future I AM ART camps you might want to join or other ways to support Athentikos. Your investment will make a difference in the communities we serve.

“In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life

Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul
For you were made to meet your maker
Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul
For you were made to meet your maker
You were made to meet your maker”

To get the full lyrics to this song click here.

Many, many, many thanks to all who are a part of our community, who have shared stories, invested, loved and listened. You have left an impact on my heart and many more.  Happy 2017 to you all!

Interpreting God’s Call

The following blog was written by one of our Guatemalan volunteers, Irene. She has volunteered with Athentikos as a translator in the past, but this year she took the chance to become a workshop leader. We are incredibly grateful for her creative and passionate spirit! 

Hi! My name is Irene and I’m a student of translation and interpretation from Guatemala City. Last year I had the opportunity to work with I AM ART (IAA) Camp during Fall 2015 at Oasis. As several times before, I was prepared for a normal week of interpretation, but this one just changed my life and my way to live. I’ve been a Christian since I was 7 years old but I’ve never seen the love of God expressed through art like I did last year. I was the interpreter for Amelia and Tina in their self-portrait workshop and I loved everything about it! I loved their creativity and the way they worked with the girls, even with the language barrier. The love of God could be felt throughout the whole week and I just knew that I wanted to come back and work with IAA again!

On the other hand, besides my interpreter profile, I am also an artist. I’m a drummer, bassist and singer. This is why I fell in love with Athentikos — because they use art as a tool to spread the word and love of God. As a Christian, I’ve seen and heard of God’s love and care through words but as an artist I’ve never seen how it can be expressed in such a powerful way: no words, no long sermons, nothing but ART. I completely understood that we are God’s Masterpiece, and that if He has given us gifts, we must use them to serve others. So, I took the challenge and jumped into a new adventure, leading a workshop at the Art Camp Fall 2016 at Oasis.

This year I was beyond excited to go back and see the girls again. What I didn’t expect was that my love for that place and all the girls was going to be greater now! I cannot express how different it is to be on the side of the interpreter and the side of the workshop leader, both of them are awesome experiences but way different. As an interpreter, I didn’t have to care about what project I was going to do, how much material I was going to use, how conflict day could match with the week project, etc. When I decided that I wanted to participate, I didn’t have a clue about what kind of workshop I was going to teach. I didn’t feel prepared to be a workshop leader and sometimes I thought about declining the invitation and just interpreting, but I knew God was calling me to do something different this time. I was worried about whether the girls were going to accept me, or if they were going to like our workshop. I was worried that my personality was not going to match with theirs, but once again, God surprised me.

This year Ale, a friend from church, and I led the dance and rhythm workshop. It included jazz movements and a very basic drum technique. We were really looking forward to the camp. She didn’t know what to think since this was her first time working with Athentikos and I didn’t know how to react since this was my first time as a workshop leader. I wanted the girls to have the best experiences and to leave every worry in God’s hands. I wanted them to express whatever they’ve been through, with art, and it surely happened, but it also worked with me and Ale too.

Last year I didn’t have a strong connection with the girls because I was focused on my role as an interpreter, (as I’ve been taught, the good interpreter is the invisible one). I thought that this year just being a “workshop leader” would mean things were going to be different and the connection with the girls was going to be quicker, but it didn’t work like that…at the beginning of the week the girls were shy and a little distant. They would get distracted by the staff from Oasis that were helping us and it made things a little bit harder. By Wednesday (Conflict Day) we knew each other a little better, but that day we had a perfect connection with them. We got the chance to share with the girls the little things in our lives that have been a conflict to us and how to overcome those dark moments. They opened their hearts and allowed us to know their past. From that moment, for the rest of the week, things got better. We were blessed to have girls not only from Oasis, but also from two other houses of girls that have suffered sexual abuse. All of the girls are examples of forgiveness, love, fight and strength!

Our workshop was divided into various activities: dance, rhythm and crafts. The main idea for our craft was to work on a t-shirt that the girls were going to use for their final performance. We got to Oasis on Sunday, they gave us the list of the girls, and with that came a huge surprise! The t-shirt sizes were way smaller than our girls’ sizes!! We worried, panicked, and lost track of what was going on and what was going to happen. Thank God, creativity came upon us and we decided that the t-shirts were going to turn into a scarf. That changed part of our project but in the end, I think it worked better than the original plan.

My heart melts when I see the pictures of their lovely and innocent faces! Their hearts are huge and their future is astonishing. I will never forget these girls, how much they taught me, the way they made me feel when they called me “tía Irene” (they call “tías” the people that’s in charge of them, or the ones they appreciate), and of course how God worked through all of us with the amazing gift of arts.

I just get to think about the story written in 2 Kings, chapter 3. Two kings approach Elisha to ask for help, but before he gives them the prophesy he asks for a musician to come with him. Then when the musician starts to play the power of God came on Elisha. I would like to say that all the artists of this camp can be compared to this musician. I would say: “and when the artists overflowed with their creativity, the power, healing and love of the Lord came upon these girls.”

I know it wasn’t because of us, but it was through us. It happened because we are attending to our call. Well done Team Oasis 2016! We made it!

– Art transforms pain into purpose. –