A New Kind of Trip

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.

“The ability to stay with the kids for a whole week allowed us to begin to know the kids and enabled them to begin to trust us.”

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.

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.”

It’s Good, Even When It Isn’t Good

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1523301570920{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Not too long ago was the start of Holy Week, a time familiar to Christians all over the world. On Maundy Thursday we remember the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples when he washed their feet and commanded them to love one another. The following day, which we know as Good Friday, Jesus is sent to his death. Betrayed, as it has said in the scriptures, by one of his own disciples. This is not good for Jesus. One of the most popular questions I get on Good Friday from people who do not share my beliefs is, “If Jesus was hung on a cross and left to suffer, why would anyone call that good?”

At our I AM ART camps, we spend two days making beautiful pieces of art. Painted tiles, self-portraits, paintings, sculptures, etc. fill each of the rooms or locations where we work. Much like Jesus and the disciples, we gather together. However, instead of washing feet, we humble ourselves in other ways, like opening up and learning about each other’s stories. Instead of breaking bread, we eat mandarin oranges or cookies. Instead of being commanded to love one another, we live out that commandment. Though things are different at camp than they were on the night of the Last Supper, the volunteers know what Jesus knew: by the following morning, the conflict would come.

Jesus was crucified on a cross in the early hours of Good Friday. He suffered death and was buried, yet we call it good. Our little artists, who work hard for the first two days of camp, are instructed to destroy their art on the third day of camp, yet we hope that they can find enough trust in us to know that it is good.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_media_grid element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1523301639390-3f505510-f2c4-1″ include=”9368,9355″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1523301586343{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Good Friday is good, not because of the violence and trauma that Jesus suffers, but because of what those events mean for us: redemption. Three days following his death, the tomb was found empty. The details of this event varies depending on which of the canonical gospels you read, but the overall story remains the same. We are redeemed, sins are forgiven, death is conquered. Unfortunately, it isn’t a story that fixes everything and makes the world perfect. If it had, then we wouldn’t be going to Guatemala on art camps to work with kids who have experienced some of the most difficult hardships. However, it is a story that inspires our curriculum.

On the third day of camp, we mourn our art and reflect on the things in our lives that cause conflict, but on the fourth and fifth day of camp, we start to understand why it is good. Death was not the end for Jesus and destruction isn’t the end for art. Tiles are repurposed, self-portraits recreated, paintings reimagined and the kids are renewed. In overcoming conflict and seeing purpose through pain, they learn about the beauty that God has created in them and for them. We continue to live out the Maundy Thursday commandment to love one another. We celebrate victories and relationships and joy. [vc_media_grid element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1523236157791-620640a0-9c2f-2″ include=”9360,9358″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1523236314927{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

The pain of the third day of camp is not gone, the pain we experience is not gone, but it is transformed.

The tomb is empty.

It is good.

He is Risen.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Investing My Life and Passion

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”9293″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text title=”Where I’ve Been” css=”.vc_custom_1519316679076{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

In 2014, I was working in Real Estate in Northern California. A close friend invited me to travel to Guatemala with him to teach art to at-risk children. I instantly fell in love with the country, the people, and the mission of Athentikos. After the trip, I decided to fully invest my passion in the mission, because I saw its power firsthand. It totally changed my life. Since 2014, I’ve taught at-risk children music and visual arts. In 2017, I focused on storytelling through video production. Over the last 4 years, I participated in 7 Guatemalan camps and 4 domestic projects, and it has been absolutely marvelous!

[/vc_column_text][mk_gallery images=”9303,9304,9305,9306,9307,9308,9309,9310″ column=”4″ height=”280″ disable_title=”true” visibility=”hidden-sm”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1519317100941{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]2017 was an amazing year! Athentikos helped transform the lives of over 600 kids, 50 adults, and 100 volunteers. We collaborated with 5 different partner organizations in Guatemala and the US, including orphanages, refuge homes for at-risk youth, churches, and inner-city ministries. I stepped outside my comfort zone and lived in Guatemala for 2 months during the fall of 2017, to prep for the camps and explore new potential partners in mission. I took on even greater responsibilities, working directly on every instance of the 2017 programming, and directing two separate video projects, one at each of the fall camps.[/vc_column_text][mk_gallery title=”Viaje A Nibirus” images=”9315,9314,9313,9312″ column=”4″ disable_title=”true”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1519317329496{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

At the Casa Bernabé camp, I led a workshop around the art of filmmaking. It was so inspiring to watch the children come up with their roles and content. When writing their screenplay, they decided on a suspenseful mood, and set the story on a faraway planet named Nibirus. Nibiru, by definition, is a supposed cataclysmic planetary event. The kids at Casa Bernabé named their wonderful short film’s imaginary planet after it. We walked through every step of production, from concept, to writing, to filming, and editing. The kids had a blast, and honestly, so did I! Here’s the result of all of our hard work. I am proud to present this short film to you on behalf of the children from the Casa Bernabé Orphanage.

[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YK0bO5FNqGg”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text title=”Drone Choreography” css=”.vc_custom_1519317694855{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

At the Oasis Camp, I worked with another Athentikos team member, Kati Korosuo, who is a dancer. We came up with the idea of documenting a dance choreography video from the sky with a drone. The idea was similar to synchronized swimming, but on a soccer field with the perspective of a bird. Kati is an extraordinary dancer and worked well with instructing the girls. They worked out their choreography step by step and I captured the process with the drone, making sure the shots were as uniform as possible. It was fun to watch the process, and even more fun to celebrate with the kids during the art show by watching the edited video! The video below is a portion of the project. Due to security concerns for the girls at the home, I have edited this from its original form to blur the faces of the children.

[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/D37PoKdVPJ4″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1519318156681{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]These two projects continue to inspire me because they document the creativity and spirit of children who have painful pasts, but are celebrating their true identity as art of the Great I AM. These children carry traumatic memories, but these projects helped them build confidence, pride, and genuine joy … joy that overflowed to everyone around them.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text title=”Where Am I Going?” css=”.vc_custom_1519318237009{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Join me on this journey!  In 2018, we are leading 4 camps in Guatemala to continue the work of investing love and creativity into these youth that come from such struggle. You can make a difference by bringing your creative talents to work on projects with children and show them potential that no one believed was possible. Check out the link below to learn all the details![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_btn title=”Click Here To Learn About I Am Art 2018!” color=”sky” align=”center” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fathentikos.com%2Fiamart||target:%20_blank|”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_cta h2=”I Need Your Help!” txt_align=”center” add_button=”bottom” btn_title=”Click Here To Support Me” btn_color=”danger” btn_size=”lg” btn_align=”center” btn_link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fathentikos.kindful.com%2Fathentikos-2018-2018%2Fdavid-lee1||target:%20_blank|”]In 2018, we are operating at a critical level on funds. I need your support to continue building out the programming and administrating the opportunities that we want to bring to the children of Guatemala. As a nonprofit, we depend on donations from people like you. Please consider becoming a sustaining donor by creating a monthly gift. Even $20 a month can make a huge difference for our nonprofit. We’ll recruit over 50 artists and serve over 600 children of this beautiful country. Help us bring art and healing to the orphans and abused children in Guatemala! Click the link below to give a tax-deductible donation to my campaign, to raise funds for my mission with Athentikos in 2018![/vc_cta][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/dsc_9288-athentikos-2017-iaa-casa_bernabe-151.jpg” frame_style=”rounded” title=”2017 Casa Bernabe” align=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Vacationing at I AM ART Camp

My name is Cesar Eguizabal, from Guatemala, this past fall I had the privilege to serve and support the I AM ART camp at Oasis, a home that provides holistic care and counseling to girls who have been abused in different ways. All of the girls come from hard backgrounds and hard circumstances back at their homes.

I have known Athentikos and their work for 10 years, and I had the opportunity to be a part of their production team in 2009 for the documentary Reparando. I absolutely love the heart, passion and vision of the organization from the first time I worked with them. I believe art and creativity are a part of how God created us and Athentikos moves us to discover those talents and gifts in ourselves in various ways.

Cesar got a birthday surprise from girls from Hope and the Future, one of the visiting homes at our Oasis camp.

For many years, I have been connected one way or another with Athentikos and I have been able to help and support in bits and pieces, but this year was different for me. I also work in ministry with another organization that serves children homes, community programs and churches in Guatemala. I love serving and working with children when I can. So this year I challenged myself and instead of taking a trip somewhere or staying at home resting and relaxing, I signed up to volunteer for one of the I AM ART fall art camps in 2017 and let me tell you that has been the best “vacation time” I’ve had in a while.

Now let me be honest with you, I am an introvert and I don’t consider myself very creative; I love music and have played the guitar since I was 10 years old but that’s it. I am intimidated by artists that can create beautiful paintings and murals and play with colors and no matter what they do it’s going to be an amazing masterpiece. But I told Amelia and Kathlyn I just wanted to help. I have management skills and I have experience leading mission teams, but I was still not quite sure how could I help or what could I do, so I volunteered to be an interpreter for one of the afternoon workshops and help oversee the workshops and make sure things were running smooth. A few days after I agreed to come to camp Amelia sent me an email and asked me if I was willing to lead a workshop, again I didn’t think I would be good at that, so I told her that I would rather not lead a workshop; I felt that was too much for me.

The first day of camp, I was excited because I finally had the opportunity to serve the whole week and be at the camp all week and not only one or two days like previous years. I had a very busy week at work prior the IAA camp but I was excited to take a break from work and to serve in another context and with another team of friends and really a big family.

As the camp started, I found out that Tamagochy, the leader of the Miming workshop, wasn’t going to make it to camp until Tuesday morning. So I was asked, along with one of the volunteers, Brandon, to take over that workshop Monday morning. We came up with some games and introduction activities to get to know each other a little bit among the group of girls that were in the workshop. That morning we all went outside to the playground and started our activities; we had fun and the girls were excited to start with Tamagochy the next morning. On Tuesday morning, Tamagochy took over the class and I continued to assist him on Tuesday and Wednesday.

To my surprise, Tamagochy asked me on Wednesday night if I could take over, continue working with the group on Friday, and lead the presentation on Saturday at the Art Show. Somehow, without thinking about it, I told him, “sure I can do it, don’t worry; just tell me what you need and I’ll help out.” After a couple of hours though, I got stressed out and nervous. I knew I didn’t know how to lead the workshop but I decided to pray and let God help me.

Tamagochy told the girls on Thursday that he wasn’t going to be at camp on Friday and Saturday. The girls got discouraged and very sad because they wanted him there and they wanted to continue working, practicing, and rehearsing with him. In that moment, I felt the pressure. But on Thursday I also had the opportunity to walk around all the workshops and check out some of their projects, I loved seeing the creativity of the girls, their perspectives, the colors and shapes they were using. I even worked on one of the workshops with Amelia and it was fun to do something and get a little messy with the colors. It was relaxing and I was able to enjoy spending time with the kids.

Finally, Friday and Saturday came and I started working with the girls. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing but because I connected with the girls throughout the week we had a blast. They wanted to rehearse for Saturday, but they also wanted to play, talk, and open up and I realized that they girls felt comfortable and safe.

We all sat in a circle and talked about life and some of their struggles then finished our workshop praying and letting God come to our lives to changes us and give us joy. Saturday was so beautiful. It was amazing to perform with the group and I felt proud of them because they worked hard and they felt so proud of themselves.

During the IAA camp, I was able to witness a program for children that truly make a change in the lives of the children forever. Athentikos does an incredible job through I AM ART because I believe that they do what most programs or organization don’t.

Athentikos focuses on healing, processing and restoration of the heart; the value of this process through art is beyond measure. I believe that the girls are changed after one week of Art Camp, I know I was restored and changed after that week. At IAA camp God works not only in the kids’ lives but also in the volunteers’ lives.

 

 

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

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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

Casa Bernabe 2017 Was A Huge Success!

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1511209992804{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

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!

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1511225108879{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

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!

[/vc_column_text][mk_gallery images=”9057,9056,9055″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1511209197422{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

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]

Investing Love in Nashville’s Inner City

This blog was written by Athentikos’ own David Lee, who has been a key player in the development and execution of our Summer 2017 IAA camps at Front Porch Ministry. 

As I reflect on the first three domestic I Am Art events and we head into our art show, I am very grateful to be a part of what is happening in Nashville.  Front Porch Ministry has been a blessing to partner with and the work that they are doing cannot be understated.  The community they serve has a population of kids that have great potential.  Thom and Michele are truly investing into these kids with love.  Watching the family operate and the relationships they have with the kids there is a beautiful thing.  Their work is truly a work of compassion.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_media_grid element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1500664866486-8ae3cd9b-838a-2″ include=”9006,9009,9013,9008″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The projects that we have put on so far have brought together local artists and inner city kids. This is opening channels of communication from the far reaches of the county all the way to downtown.  The stories I was originally told about the neighborhood we have been working in were somber and detailed a hardened community but as I met more and more people that lived there I saw hope and grace that was being cultivated around the literal front porch of Thom and Michele’s house.

The mural was our first splash into this community and that is exactly what it became.  We played water games and painted our way through the heat of Nashville’s June until we completed a 24 foot long mural!  We cannot thank local artist Ellie Caudill enough for the time and talent that she invested in the lives of these children and in the beauty of this neighborhood.  Our first camp was with a smaller group and consisted of an abstract self portrait workshop led by other local artists, Lauren Dunn and our own Amelia Moore.  We were able to focus deeply into individual friendships and develop long lasting relationships.  I think that these projects have truly made an impact in the children’s lives and we look forward to displaying these works at the end of the summer.  

The conversations that we have around creating these art pieces always explore the theme of how we handle conflict in our lives.  Having these conversations in Guatemala for the last three years presented an interesting juxtaposition to the inner city Nashville neighborhood, however, the result remains the same. Grace presents us with the path to ultimately resolve the conflict in our lives and this journey can be done with creativity and community! We just completed our last Nashville I Am Art camp that ran from July 20-22 and we ask that you pray for our Art Show tomorrow on July 28th. The art show is such a pivotal part of our camps as it brings our young artists a sense of pride in their gifts from God. It is the perfect ending to this beautiful story of I AM ART.