I’m sitting on the plane. The man next to me is fast asleep. I have three hours to think; so I do. What on earth just happened to me? I left the comfort of a typical American lifestyle and wound up in a country where I knew not one soul, did not speak the language at all, and had no idea what was expected of me. Result? Unbelievable personal growth, new friends, a scant smattering of Spanish words and a new appreciation of God’s sovereign providence.

There is a certain comfort in returning ‘home’, wherever that might be, and I’m experiencing it as I fly over the Gulf toward Atlanta and then Michigan. However, I start letting my mind process my time recently spent with mostly teenagers for long blocks of time each day, trying to convey to them an art concept that even I was skeptical of! My fellow team members did an excellent job of supplying me with what I needed to pull it off. Along with the supplies I purchased and lugged to Guatemala, I was well equipped. And so we began.

Within 10 minutes of my dive into the approved workshop, I scrapped it. This isn’t going to work with this group. I sensed a guarded and apprehensive mentality. Let’s face it: I was a white American woman of privilege coming into their world. There wasn’t much common ground there. Or was there? I calmly put aside my agenda, sat on a chair in the middle of the room, and told them about my life. My real life. The one where my 5 year old son died while I was pregnant. The one where my husband left me with 4 kids. The one where my roof collapsed.

I stared into the eyes of 10 interested kids. They saw that even I, this white American woman of privilege, had real issues. From then on, they trusted me. We began the workshop. They knew I cared about them, their lives and struggles. I may not be able to fix all or any of the stuff they dealt with, but I knew with all my heart that we would connect on some level that transcended skin color, location, language, age, and status. We were all on the same artistic journey.

I watched them as they used their individual talents to transform a simple mirror into a reflection of who God made them to be. I shared the meaning of their names with them. They quietly took that information in.

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They were so special and so unique. I would have taken any one of them home with me. I said my “goodbyes” to each of them individually. My tears flowed freely. They looked me in the eye and told me that they too would miss me. We connected. We shared. I was blessed beyond anything I could have imagined when I began this journey.

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I now see the lights of American soil and the Atlanta airport. I get a lump in my throat at the real possibility that I will forget their idiosyncrasies and individual quirks; all the things that make me want to return and once again sit in a chair in the middle of a room and become a real person to real kids and delve into art… and so much more.

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