The Wound Is Where The Light Shines Through

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I am sitting here at Lake Atitlan reflecting on my second I am art trip. Winding down and preparing to head home. This is actually my fourth trip to Guatemala in about 2 years. I came here originally to visit my son and family who were missionaries at the time. Earlier that year, my wife of 42 years passed away suddenly and I lost my job. It was a stressful year and honestly, I was angry with God for the tragic changes in my life. When I visited my son, he was providing food for about 50 homes in need in the area around Guatemala City. I ended up spending a day at a beautiful children’s home in Escuintla. I returned the following year with my church on a mission trip and I stayed on to visit the home in Escuintla. I have a degree in art and began painting seriously after my wife’s death. The year before she died, I felt lead to paint a large mural in the new addition to my church of Jesus seated and surrounded by children.  I had never attempted anything like that and after my wife’s death, I felt God was calling me to paint and I poured my grief into my painting.

While attending church in Guatemala with my church missions group, I met Rolando Monterroso who was filling in for the pastor that day. He found out I had painted a mural at my church. He started talking to me about I Am Art. The next day I found myself stranded for the day in Guatemala City waiting for my ride to Escuintla and Rolando showed me the mural at La Limonada and I was awestruck. We talked about I Am Art and Athentikos. I felt God had sent Rolando to me that day. Rolando called Amelia and Scott then and there to sign me up for the next trip. Honestly I was overwhelmed and skeptical of what was happening.  Here I was contemplating coming back to a foreign country after only ever leaving the US once. I came home unsure of the commitment I was making. But as we all know, God has a plan. Through that one mural that God led me to paint, I began my journey and a new life for me. At present, I’m working with 2 other artists creating the story of the Bible with 26 murals and transitions that upon completion, will be over a quarter of a mile long.

As awesome as that is, nothing compares to my two experiences with I Am Art. The first trip was to a home for sexually abused girls called Oasis. Initially was I very nervous and although I knew God sent me there, the unknown is always a little scary and so much in my life had changed. The experience at Oasis was amazing. I finally felt that my artistic ability that God gave me was being put to use. Spending an entire week with these girls was so moving. Just watching and seeing the arts impact their lives for 1 week and realizing that 1 week would in some way affect their lives long term and give them hope. Using my art as a tool to show them the love of God is always there. As impacted as obviously their lives were, mine was irrevocably changed forever.  That trip led to this trip to LA Limonada. After spending a lot of time working with kids in several locations and my fantastic experience at Oasis, I thought I was prepared for my experience at La Limonada.

I WAS NOT.

To go into the slums of Guatemala City gave me a glimpse of their lives. Spending time with the children was the most moving experience of my life. Seeing God and Jesus working in the lives of these children was beyond description. The people who dedicate their lives to helping these kids are amazing and in themselves a blessing from God.  Walking into some of the most dangerous parts of Guatemala City and seeing first hand the poverty and the people while standing with young men sniffing glue and seeing the hopelessness in their faces brought me to tears. I Am Art uses artists to bring hope to these kids.  To be able to work with I Am Art is a privilege and a blessing and will undoubtably change your  life forever as it did mine. I Am Art opened my eyes to the most important way that I can use the gift of my artistic ability to impact lives for Jesus. I will continue to work with I Am Art as much as possible and as God leads me, I will follow his plan.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_gallery type=”image_grid” images=”7931,7925,7924,7929,7928,7927,7926,7930″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Stories Are Written One Chapter At A Time

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The week of IAA has come to a close…what a full week it was!

The entire experience was a time to learn, to create, to make new friends, to listen, to communicate, and to grow. The children of La Limonada were so proud of their art pieces and the chance to show them off to their families and others in the community during their art show Saturday morning. The workshop leaders were all challenged and touched by the juxtaposition of these kids being so thrilled to play with balloons and create toilet paper costumes for their leaders…and the extremely hard environment they are growing up in. To see them at the art camp location, one would never know that these same kids have no running water, have little to no food to eat, have lost one or both parents, are often alone the majority of the day, or know loss first hand through the death of a loved one or friend. Many are confronted with gang violence on a regular basis and can walk 10 steps outside their door and see their peers using drugs or sniffing glue to get high. Many suffer abuse regularly. These are the stories of their lives.

And yet, by day 3 these children let us in, let us hear their stories, trusted us with their pain and anger, and allowed us to walk through it with them. They listened as we showed them their worth in the eyes of their Creator and shared the truth of Scripture with them. Some even encouraged our leaders when they shared their own stories of pain.

This trip was a learning trip, as the team was given opportunities to visit La Limonada and some of the kids’ homes while there. We were given the chance to pray with staff of Vidas Plenas, single mothers, children, gang members, and a very special lady that has become somewhat of a celebrity through her appearance in the Reparando film, collecting doll parts to restore it to a whole, from the Guatemala city dump. She welcomed us into her home, and shared about her current struggles, all the while displaying a deep and abiding faith in our God.

We met a man whom I have wanted to meet for several years, that is making handmade shoes in the La Limonada Community, and with the profits of the sale of the shoes, he is feeding 10 children in his community. In my book, he is a hero.  (We bought lots of shoes.)

The end of the trip was rich as we learned some essentials of Guatemala’s history by visiting the national cemetery and learning how their history has directly influenced the current, modern Guatemala. It was eye opening and helped to put a ‘WHY’ to the problems Guatemala continues to face. Interestingly enough, our own country’s actions are largely to blame.

As the trip came to a close, and we had our last team meeting, we realized that we started out as a team of strangers, but were now among new friends. Friends that experienced the rawness of the last 10 days with us and we knew that God was with us, that He had entered in. That He was working in each of us, as we sought to serve Him this week.

I am certain, that God is not yet done writing the story of I AM ART and Guatemala’s restoration. The question we leave with you is, have you considered that maybe YOUR name is included in the next chapter?[/vc_column_text][mk_button dimension=”flat” corner_style=”rounded” size=”large” url=”https://athentikos.com/iamart-projects/iaa-fall-2016/” fullwidth=”true” bg_color=”#dd3333″ btn_hover_bg=”#dd9933″]Click here to learn about I AM ART Fall 2016[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_gallery type=”image_grid” images=”7907,7915,7908,7910,7914,7913,7917,7916,7920,7911,7909″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The art of creating begins in our dreams

La Limonada

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Today was the start of I Am Art, Vidas Plenas. Our location is a small church outside the La Limonada slum in Guatemala City. The neighborhood isn’t pretty by most people’s standards and is a very hard place to live, but the people of La Limonada and those that live in the surrounding zone 5, are beautiful! We started off the day talking about the theme of the day, who we are. We wanted the kids to start to think about who they were, in their community, in their school and in their families. Most importantly who they are to their creator. That they are God’s workmanship or poetry as Ephesians 2:10 tells us and that all of God’s work is a marvelous creation therefore they are a marvelous creation. After the children went into their workshops we had a chance to talk with many of the children about who they are and who they would like to become. To our surprise many of them seemed to have it already figured out! They dream about a brighter future than what they currently have. Most are confident in who they want to be and the things they take joy in. Simple things are important to them, like ice cream, fotball (soccer), and their pets. They’re also concerned about weightier things like family, good jobs and safety for their future. The kids also know that they have to work hard to achieve their goals and dreams and are not afraid to try new things, whether it was learning to dance or write their own stories or try their hand at the art of miming, they quickly became engrossed in the task at hand and their personalities started to shine. We are looking forward to sharing with you throughout the week what the kids learn about who God says we are as a reflection of Him, and how that gives us purposeful lives.

Dreams are limitless[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_gallery images=”7847,7848,7849,7850,7851,7852,7853,7854,7855,7856,7857,7858,7859,7860″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

You Are Art

I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Team

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]On Thursday morning Laura held her breath and waited to see if her students would come back to class after she had melted their art before their eyes. Miraculously, they did, and as they sat down she finally got to reveal a sculpture she had made of her own melted pieces and those of her translator and workshop assistant—a mass of colorful, curling and swirling plastic, reminiscent of a Chihuly blown glass chandelier. The students approached with wide eyes and began turning, touching, and examining the sculpture from every angle.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]“Sometimes in our lives we might feel like trash,” she told them. “Sometimes we feel like we’re not who we’re meant to be, or who we thought we were going to be. But even when we can only see pain and ugliness, God has a purpose for us. Today we’re going to put our pieces back together to create something unexpected, and even more beautiful than before, just like God can do with us.” Without missing a beat her students broke into smiles and began eagerly reaching for the hot glue gun, lifting and turning their own melted pieces up to the sculpture to find where they would best fit.

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”7819″ img_size=”full”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]The finished piece was magnificent. At the art show on Saturday it spun in slow circles in the square between the church, municipal building, market, and school—right in the heart of Santiago. Rainbow colors shone and stretched as the sun’s rays pierced it through and Laura’s students stood guard around it, careful to make sure the other kids didn’t touch or bump it.

The other students’ pieces had been transformed as well. The cut-up prints now fluttered above our heads as giant paper stars and the once stripped bicycle passed in gay circles—bell tinkling, plastic dinosaur spinning, streamers flying—as kids and adults took turns peddling around the tables filled with art. Around the corner, a 140-foot mural stretched across the side of the soccer stadium, boasting symbols of pride and hope for Guatemala: the sun, the ceiba tree, the white nun orchid, Quetzales, giant kites, and even Santiago itself in miniature.

[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IAA_Se_Luz_2016_Mural.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”The I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Mural.” caption_location=”outside-image”][vc_column_text]That day we celebrated all we had learned and created by singing, dancing, hugging, laughing, and even letting paper lanterns drift into the sky as a sign that we had given everything we are to Christ.

Best of all, when Laura asked her students a critical question, they responded differently than they had on Wednesday:

“Do you think this is trash now?” she asked.

“No!”

“Do you think this is art?”

“Yes!”

[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_9454.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Laura’s class proudly displaying their art at I AM ART Se Luz 2016.” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_9009.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Adolfo proudly displaying the Chihuly art he made at I AM ART Se Luz 2016, after it was destroyed and repaired.” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_0006.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Chihuly Sculpture at I AM ART Se Luz 2016″ caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_0202.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Singing Soy Arte at the I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Art Show.” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]We all understand now, that no matter how you feel, no matter what you’ve gone through, no matter how may pieces you’re in, the same can be said of you. Give yourself to God and watch with patient trust how He forms you into something you never imagined you could be. That’s what we did this week, and our hearts are still singing:

Soy arte / I am art

Soy arte / I am art

Una creación de Dios / A creation of God

Soy arte / I am art

Soy arte / I am art

Envuelto en amor / Enveloped in love

Es amor / He is love

Es amor / He is love

Dios es amor / God is love

Soy arte / I am art

Soy arte / I am art

Soy arte / I am art

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_9921.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”The I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Art Show” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_0167.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Artwork displayed at the I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Art Show” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_9956.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Celebrating at the I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Art Show.” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_0094.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Artwork displayed at the I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Art Show” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_0113.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”Adolfo watching his sky lantern fly into the sky at I AM ART Se Luz 2016.” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_0125.jpg” image_size=”full” lightbox=”true” desc=”A Sky Lantern released at I AM ART Se Luz 2016.” caption_location=”outside-image”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_button dimension=”flat” corner_style=”rounded” size=”large” url=”https://athentikos.com/give” fullwidth=”true” bg_color=”#dd9933″ btn_hover_bg=”#000000″]Give a donation to I AM ART[/mk_button][vc_column_text]I AM ART needs you. Please consider giving a tax-deductible donation to help us continue this mission. THANKS![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Held in Pain

Children processing conflict at Athentikos I AM ART 2016 Se Luz

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Conflict day … On the Wednesday of each I AM ART camp week, the workshop leaders direct their students to destroy or drastically modify the pieces they’ve spent the last two days working on—pieces that represent the children themselves. Everyone knew this day would be difficult and many of us went to bed on Tuesday with knots in our stomachs.

The kids’ reactions were much as expected. Those in the recycled art class kicked angrily at the lights, flowers, and feather boas they had been instructed to rip from the bike they were transforming into recycled art. In the printmaking class, every face was downcast as the children cut into their prints and set them aside, for what purpose they knew not. And in Laura’s mixed media class, Adolfo stared in horror, shaking his head and mouthing the word “no,” as she held his meticulously colored plate over a pot of boiling water.

What we learned that day was, for me, completely unexpected.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”7805″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]Jenn, the printmaker, tried to explain to her students that even though today was painful, they would be using their now cut-up prints to make a new, more beautiful piece of art tomorrow. “You’ll just have to trust me,” she told them. “But what if we don’t?” one student replied.

Meanwhile Laura’s students gathered their melted plates, cups, and bowls in their arms and began walking out of class. “Where are you going?” she cried. “We’re going to throw it away,” they said. “It’s trash now.”

“It killed me inside,” Laura says, her voice breaking. “I know what’s going to happen and I wanted so badly to just hug them and tell them it’s going to be okay, but I couldn’t.”

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”7806″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]The other artists echoed her sentiment and suddenly I understood a little bit better how hard it must be for God to allow us to experience pain and how much more it hurts us and Him when we don’t trust Him. Though God never positively wills our pain, He does at times allow us to experience it, with a clear vision of how He will use it to make us new, more beautiful creations.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”7807″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]

We went to bed on Wednesday night aching for our students who we had left in pain, who couldn’t see our vision, who didn’t trust us to transform their pain into purpose. All we could do was trust that God had His own, larger vision, and was holding us in this pain, using this camp to transform us all.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”7808″ img_size=”large” add_caption=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Discovering Dignity

I AM ART Se Luz 2016 Day1MixedMedia-3

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Today is Wednesday, the “peak” of art camp, and I am finally carving out time to sit and write. We spent last weekend in Antigua, resting and preparing ourselves for the week. On Sunday we made the 40-minute drive from Antigua to Santiago Sacatepéquez, the location for the I AM ART Se Luz 2016 camp. To put it simply, the transition was drastic.

Antigua, Guatemala’s capital when it was under Spanish colonial rule, bursts at the seams with color and enchantment. Volcanoes ring the city like sentinels, while tourists and natives alike bustle down cobbled streets, their shadows gliding across thick adobe walls painted orange, yellow, maroon, and teal. In Antigua, we ate, drank, and enjoyed ourselves to our hearts’ content. Coffee, wine, and chocolate were staples of our diet, and when we weren’t eating, shopping for gorgeously-crafted textiles, or touring nearby coffee plantations, we relaxed by the hotel pool, slept, and took long, hot showers.

“I wish we could just live here,” Laura remarked at one point. “Yeah, but”—MacLean shook his head and sighed—“gotta go help kids.”

[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_6238.jpg” image_size=”large”][vc_column_text]Santiago Sacatepéquez. Here, many families live in houses made of corrugated steel and cook beans, rice, and tortillas over an open fire. Those who are better off build their houses out of concrete and cook meat on stovetops. Poverty and a national history of racism, war, and corruption combine to magnify the social evils of alcoholism, drug addiction, gang violence, and teenage pregnancy. Santiago was downgraded from a red zone, or town with an average of one murder per day, just a few years ago.

In addition, at times it seems that everything in Santiago is bleak and dirty. A walk up the hill behind town offers a sweeping vista of steel rooftops in various stages of rust, broken occasionally by concrete walls—a patchwork of gray, tan, and reddish-brown. On the streets stray dogs wander in circles looking for scraps of food and we can’t look ahead as we walk for fear of stepping in dog or horse feces. The dirt that covers buildings and streets soon covers hands and feet as well. At our hotel (it still surprises me that Santiago even HAS a hotel) we experience intermittent losses of electricity and water.[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_4810.jpg” image_size=”large”][vc_column_text]On Monday and Tuesday, though, we discovered that in spite of the struggles the children of Santiago face, they are as full of color as the streets in Antigua. The artists used their workshops to help the kids explore who they are and where they come from, with magnificent results. In the mixed media class, for example, the kids colored plates, bowls, and cups with hues that reflect their emotions. In the miming class, each child practiced trust as he closed his eyes and ran toward a wall of his peers, their arms open, waiting to catch him. In the paper-making class, children traced and decorated their own footprints, recalling that they walk in the light of the Lord, who is always watching over them.

As artists, we left feeling overjoyed at the way the children had used the tools we gave them to express the beauty of their individual selves. Their dignity is seldom celebrated, often violated, resulting in wounds that cannot be healed by anyone but God. At the end of day two we felt thankful that He had put us in this place and used us as His instruments—His artist’s brushes and tools—to help the kids recognize their infinite worth.[/vc_column_text][mk_gallery images=”7787,7788,7789,7790,7791,7792,7793,7794,7795,7796″ column=”5″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Between Today and Tomorrow

Kati joins Athentikos I AM ART

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I’m currently fundraising as part of my Athentikos I AM ART Trip this summer, and my emotions include: frustration, hopelessness, doubt, despair, shame, anger, guilt, anxiety, panic, fear, rejection and loneliness.

This process of preparing for my journey to Guatemala has been MUCH more intense that I could have imagined. Yes, ALREADY. I find myself in an extremely humbling and uncomfortable place now: contacting people who I haven’t seen in years to ask for money, Trying to explain why on Earth would I work for free, and even PAY to do it, retaking video clips again and again only to find out it’s impossible for me to speak one minute of English language without pronunciation AND grammar mistakes.

I ask, am I really sure about this?

There was no voice, there was no assurance. But somehow, it felt logical and possible, surely inspiring and exciting. So, I jumped in. I wasn’t sure what I would be doing when I signed up, and I’m not sure of the details even now. I do know that traveling to Guatemala has been on my heart for 13 years! I also know that this journey is not about me …. And it’s not about the kids there either. It’s not about the donors, and it’s not about the man sitting next to me in the plane. It’s about all of us … together …

I was told that I will be amazed how much people will want to support me, how much I’ll feel blessed and believed in. I must say, I’ve been struck by how people actually DON’T want to give me support, or don’t think this idea is very smart at all.

But Also …

There are other people who are thrilled about this vision and want to help support my trip, including my colleagues, and people I hadn’t contacted in years. To my surprise, there are also other people who I don’t even know who wanted to help. I DON’T EVEN HAVE A CLUE WHO THESE ANGELS GIVERS ARE!

So, it is true. I AM AMAZED. This IS mind blowing. This is humbling. This is hashtag blessed hashtag seriously, with capitals. It’s not even about the money, weather or not I will be able to gain enough of financial support. It’s about what kind of a person I, we, you, are becoming in this process. It’s somehow about… Transforming pain into purpose? YUP. And I’m assuming this is only how it starts…

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_button dimension=”flat” corner_style=”rounded” size=”large” url=”http://athentikos.kindful.com/i-am-art-vidas-plenas-2016/connect-campaign-kati-korosuo” target=”_blank” bg_color=”#dd3333″ btn_hover_bg=”#000000″]Help Kati Fund Her I AM ART Trip to Guatemala[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Where Our I AM ART Trip Began

La Limonada

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Throughout my life, I have been profoundly influenced by the work of missionaries, and have been exposed to many of them personally.  From a cousin who served for many years in Haiti, to missionaries that visited my childhood church and shared the Gospel with me as a 3 year old in Cubbies clearly enough that I knew I needed to know Jesus for myself, to some friends from my years as a teenager that are now actively serving on the mission field in Bolivia, and very dear friends of ours who left the ‘American dream’ behind to obey the call of God on their lives to serve in full time mission work in Jamaica and in other parts of the U.S…..  YEP! It’s safe to say that missionaries have left their imprint on my life and world view.

Growing up with these influences, and in a Christian home, I always knew I wanted to serve on a short term foreign mission trip ‘one day’. In 2010, the church we attended at that time announced that they were looking for a small group of adults to go and serve in Guatemala City, for a ‘work trip’.  I knew I could swing a hammer and I could wield a paintbrush – but I didn’t really have an interest in going on a WORK trip.  But, after 3 nights of waking up in the middle of the night with GUATEMALA as my first cognitive thought, I asked with my heart pounding in my chest, “Is that you, Lord?” Turns out – it was!  The trip that was designed to be a ‘work trip’ ended up being a group of 5 women who did not once hammer a nail or paint a single wall. God was up to something!!

On that trip in 2010, I visited the community of La Limonada for the first time.  It is one of the largest slums in all of Central America.  It is a hard, extremely poor, often dangerous place.  No amount of ‘preparation’ could have truly prepared me for this trip. Our group ran a VBS type lesson with activities and crafts for the children attending the mission based academies within the slum, the heartbeat of the AMAZING ministry of Lemonade International/Vidas Plenas. Emotionally, I was completely undone on this trip.  As a mother of two small kids, I could not imagine what life must be like raising a family in that environment.  I found myself wrestling with the Lord all throughout the week on WHY ME?  WHY WAS I HERE?  WHAT COULD I DO?

On day 3 of our trip, we visited the second mission- academy on the opposite side of the slum, and there was a boy around 10 years old that was very quiet and shy who had deeply sad eyes.  I couldn’t stop staring at him from across the room.  I asked our translator if he had a sponsor family yet, and the translator told me that he didn’t think so.  In that moment, I knew what God wanted my response to this experience to be, and that was to sponsor Yeremi.  My translator introduced me to him as his ‘padrino’ which is spanish for ‘god-parent’.  That day started a relationship that is in tact 6 years later.  We write letters and send pictures and gifts and he knows how much he is loved by us and by his Creator.  It gives this dear boy dreams of a better future, one outside the walls of the slum, one that does not embrace gang culture, one that helps him to aspire to rise above the circumstances he has been brought up in. He has tangible proof that HE MATTERS.

Upon my return to the states in 2010, I tried to articulate all that God had done in my heart and mind, and how my world view had shifted on it’s axis.  I spoke of it so much, that I just KNEW I had to get my husband there to experience the slum and meet the precious people of La Limonada for himself.  At that time, we were leading a new college ministry and realized that many of those students would learn from experiencing it as well, so just 8 short months later in 2011, my husband and I traveled back to La Limonada a second time, with 3 college students in tow. The sheer size of the slum, and the vast needs represented there hit my husband like a punch to the gut, much like it had to me the first time I had visited.  Guys, this place demands a response from you!  We were able to work within the classrooms again with the students, and many of them remembered me from my first trip – and boy!!!… was Yeremi surprised to see us!!!!  We were blessed to have a day with him and his mother and little sister.  It was an experience I will never forget.  We also did many in-home visits and heard stories of so much hurt and sickness, and having to go without – something most of us in our American way of life never truly experience.  While life in La Limonada is hard and each day is with it’s own set of challenges – I could not deny the unwavering faith many people declared in our GOOD GOOD FATHER .  We prayed with them in their homes, we heard their joys through their sorrows, we saw their contentment with so little… and this place, that so many see as scary and terrible and dangerous?… took on a new quality to us.  Is it a sad place?  Yes, of course.  Is it dangerous?  Certainly. But you know what else?  It’s BEAUTIFUL.  In this place, I felt the presence of God more tangibly than any other place or time in my life.  His deep love shows all throughout Scripture for the least, the lost, the broken, the widows and the orphans…for the typical people of a place like La Limonada! This place matters to God!  God is there, He sustains when all else is empty, and it is etched into the faces of so many of the people there who have experienced His faithfulness in the midst of their struggles.

Since our trip in 2011, there has not been a single day that I haven’t thought about La Limonada and wanted and wondered when we could go back again.  It is a place that we cannot travel to on our own, due to the dangerous nature of the slum, finances have been a concern, and our timing has not been right….until NOW!  Now, this summer, my husband and I have been selected as team members for a trip with Athentikos – (another ministry we are very passionate about)  and we are so compelled to step out in faith and GO! The most amazing thing of all – is that this trip will be serving the people of La Limonada!  We are so excited to be going and facilitating an art camp for the children!  Through this camp, we will help the children discover who they are, and who God sees them as.  That each has value to the Creator who loves them and wants them to know Him.  We are leaving our own 2 children, ages 8 and 10, to be able to go and minister to these precious kids who need to see and feel the love of God and we want to be an example to our kids of what it looks like to serve and be uncomfortable for the sake of His name.  We desire to have Yeremi involved in this art camp as well, and hope we can somehow make that happen.  We want to be an encouragement to our friends on staff at Vidas Plenas that we have remained in touch with, and we want to once again, allow God to wreck us for His glory.  We are asking God to stretch us in this experience, we are seeking and asking what He wants our response to be this time, and we covet your prayers as we are trusting God with the finances and other details of this trip.

For His Glory and Our Good –

Harmony Charles

[/vc_column_text][mk_button dimension=”flat” corner_style=”rounded” size=”large” url=”http://athentikos.kindful.com/i-am-art-vidas-plenas-2016/connect-campaign-sottharmony-charles” target=”_blank” bg_color=”#dd3333″ btn_hover_bg=”#dd9933″]Help Scott & Harmony empower children of La Limonada with a tax-deductible donation.[/mk_button][vc_single_image image=”7518″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Kristen Paquette: To Be the Hands and the Feet of Jesus

As I prepare for Guatemala, I have been reflecting on my past experiences that have led me to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus. It is hard to believe that the trip is fast approaching. In the midst of excitement, I often feel anxious and I find myself in a panic. During the moments that panic sets in, God reminds me that He has equipped me with knowledge and the skills to go on this trip. These are the seeds that have been planted in my heart.

Recently, during a moment of panic, I realized that I have a heart of compassion and a heart that breaks for Guatemalans. Ever since I took a sociology course while I was attending college. Remember, this was 9 plus years ago and I still vividly remember watching a video in Developmental Sociology. The video captured children that were living on the street and as a method of survival they resorted to “huffing” any type of aerosol products they could get their hands on. After all these years, that image has always vividly remained in my memory. Then as time went on, my friends Scott and Amelia Moore adopted two handsome sons from Guatemala and started the nonprofit organization Athentikos. As I followed their posts about the I Am Art trips, something resonated within me.

I would of never thought my first overseas mission trip would include me teaching an art workshop to adolescent girls. I always imagined my first overseas mission trip would be to Sierra Leone, Africa with a medical team and during the trip I would be administering vaccines, conducting HIV testing, and working in the maternity clinic. Naturally this makes since. Right? I do have experience as a public health nurse and this is within my comfort level. Then God kindly reminds me that my preconceived ideas of my first overseas mission trip was my plan and not His. God really does has a sense of humor.

I also get reminded of the importance of art in my own life and how it has helped aid healing during the most difficult times. In the midst of anxiety and panic, God gently reminds me that art is a big part of my own life. From childhood until I graduated from College in 2006, I was a dancer and taught dance classes. Then as I started my career as a Registered Nurse I stopped dancing as a profession. However, I am all about impromptu dance parties (just saying). In 2008 my husband and I attended professional ballroom dance classes to prepare for our first dance at our wedding reception that we hoped would “wow” our guests. As a child I grew up in an art filled home. My mom taught me at an early age how to cross stitch. She was a “crafter” and often had a booth at craft shows. I remember watching her “craft” which stirred up my own interest. I would often get in trouble for raiding her craft room and leaving it a mess as I attempted to create my own masterpieces. As I grew older I learned to knit, scrapbook, make jewelry and sew. To be honest I find myself working with all kinds of art mediums. For me, the sky is the limit. I have realized that I resort to my art hobbies during times of joy such as making a baby blanket for a co-worker to celebrate a birth. During times of sadness I make items that remind me of a loved one that has passed away. Art is apart of who I am and God has reminded me that, “No Kristen, not every Guatemalan is an artisan and yes, you have the skills you need to teach them a art workshop.”

During my moments of fear and panic, God reminds me that I have a heart that breaks for adolescent girls and I especially love mentoring to middle schoolers. For the past year, I have helped out with youth ministry at my church. These middle schoolers have won over my heart. I have a small group of middle school girls I meet with every Sunday morning. I have learned a lot from them and they bless my heart each and every week. So of course this is another way God has gently reminded me. “Duh, Kristen. Yes, it makes perfect sense for you to go on a mission trip to Guatemala to work with adolescent girls.”

I am filled with so many emotions in regards to my upcoming trip. During my moments of panic and feeling of inadequacy, I am reminded of the moments that have already given me the skills and knowledge needed to go on this trip to Guatemala. I am so excited and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for the girls at Oasis Home and the I Am Art Mission Team. Please keep all of us in your thoughts and prayers as we prepare for this amazing journey where we get to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus.

Gratitude – Tina Beede

I heard it would happen. That feeling of uncomfortable gratitude that comes from fundraising for a cause that means something to you. It’s been a jam-packed month of finishing summer, planning for my new year of preschool, getting my own kids ready for their new year (middle school and 3rd grade – how did that happen?), and then starting the fast-paced routine of getting acquainted and feeling the excitement of the new school year ahead.

In the middle of all that, I reached my fundraising goal for my trip in November. I actually exceeded it! When I logged in and saw that my goal had been met, I immediately had butterflies of joy, relief, and this overwhelming humility. Close to forty people helped me get there. Forty of you generously gave money, and a sea of others have asked me about the trip, prayed for me, encouraged me, and shared their own stories of mission work that shifted the focus of their life.

The Athentikos team has been so encouraging and have been giving us a lot to consider and think about in preparation for our trip. We’ve had a few Google Hangout meetings to introduce us to each other, help us ask questions, and hear more about what to expect at the Oasis Home. I am still unsure about the logistics of my kids’ schedule meshing with David’s. I’m also still unsure what exactly I’ll be teaching these sweet girls once I get to Guatemala, but I have no doubt it will work out. The closer November gets, the more I’m feeling this underlying feeling of something big happening. I can’t put my finger on it, but it feels like the start of something different and exciting.

I’m a big fan of opening myself up to relationships and have learned (more than once) that when things get hard or uncomfortable or unpredictable, the people engaged in your life want to help. They want to be part of your story to help ease the burden and influence you in a positive way. I’ve learned to ask for what I need. It’s not easy for me, but I do ask when I know I must. Along with asking, I’ve learned that “no” is a fine answer to receive so it doesn’t offend or keep me from asking someone else, or at another time. And I’ve learned to cut people some slack. We aren’t created to do it all for everyone all the time. And because I have a hard time not being able to do it all for everyone all the time, I’ve learned to trust that people are cutting me some slack too. I’ll be reminding myself of this before I set off in November–the day after Thanksgiving–for a week and a half, right before Christmas.

Enjoy some pictures of an art-day fundraiser my sis-in-law hosted. Isn’t amazing what a few canvases, lots of fun paint, creative kids, and generous families can produce? It was a really fun day filled with faces I love and in just four hours, the kids and their parents donated $300!