Making Lemonade

I AM ART Lemonade Stand

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 is to sell the lemonade and donate the proceeds to Athentikos. For the last four years, this group has raised funds to offset costs of specific art projects. In 2019, their efforts allowed kids near Lake Atitlan at the Opal House the opportunity to create a beautiful mural on their new school building.

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 a positive change in their community. 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.Highlights From Emily’s Trip to Guatemala with Athentikos

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. We praise God for Emily and her students and for all of those who help support Athentikos by donating their time, money, and

Why Mission?

Daughter with Daughter. Athentikos: I AM ART

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Why Mission?

The idea of a mission trip is daunting for most people. Anyone over the age of 6 has responsibilities and connections that beg us not to go. Add in caring for others and reporting to the people who electronically deposit your paycheck, and well, it’s tough. Of course there’s also fundraising and the acknowledgement that your heart will emotionally split right open. Then there’s the discomfort of the unknown, possible language barriers, and the threat of illness. Who wants to sign up?

No joke, all of that is true! But this would be a terrible promotion for mission trips if I didn’t suggest all the grace and growth you can gain too. I AM ART taught me that pain leads to growth. Heartbreak, grief, disappointment, struggle, and sadness can lead to a deeper understanding of love, joy, perspective, and contentment. Choosing to engage in mission is a subconscious decision to welcome grace into our lives.

My decision to travel to Guatemala with Athentikos for I AM ART at the Oasis Home For Girls, was a longing for healing and perspective after the deaths of my brother and mother, and to feel connected to my nephew that was born in the beautiful, yet complicated country of Guatemala. Knowing the story of Athentikos and the work they are lovingly committed to, I knew the perspective of my grief and the outlook on my world would change. I was pretty sure my heart would break deeper from observing and hearing the stories of people around me, but I was also confident I would feel a sense of healing by sharing my heart, humor, and empathy with the people I would met.

My heart did break open, many times for many reasons, but what continued to draw me back to center was the love that so obviously surrounded me. One of the most profound days on my trip was during “Conflict Day” when our class was invited to share our story with one another. I was asked to share what brought me to art camp. Through sloppy tears, and many pauses, I shared my heartache and fear with the girls. One of the older girls, Sondra, prayed for me with our group in such a detailed and beautiful way. She prayed for my courage and peace to trust God’s love for me and to release my fear. This girl, who had been removed from her home and family to heal from a crime committed against her … was praying for me. These beautiful children, even the girl mothering her own child, were lifting me up despite their own fears, heartbreak, and brokenness. We looked at each other and knew we are different, but our brokenness and humanness made us know and love each other deeper. Despite the pain, there was still so much joy and love.

[/vc_column_text][mk_gallery images=”7957,7958,7959,7960″ column=”2″][vc_column_text]From an early age, I have known the brevity of life. This has encouraged me to consider how I want to spend my time here while I have it. I have a servant’s heart, so naturally, some of my most profound understandings have come from serving others. I encourage you to discover your gifts and then use them in service to others. When you discover that treasure inside you and then give it away to a greater purpose, it fuels you in a way that has no need for caffeine or sleep. Well, maybe sleep and a little caffeine, but it is a force that can’t be denied.

Our world is straight up nuts right now. It’s scary and often it seems we’re either too afraid to or too numb to respond. Trying to understand one another is like wading through mud. Where do we step first? What if there’s conflict or pain along the way? What if we’re judged harshly by what our heart is feeling? And even worse, what if we do nothing? We are made for loving one another. Even the folks that get right under our skin and squirm around. Yes … we’re meant for loving them too.

[/vc_column_text][mk_gallery images=”7956,7962″ column=”2″][vc_column_text]While trying how to figure out a difficult relationship, I read a devotional that described a woman who kept asking God to change the other person so it would be easier to share her love. The answer God revealed to her was asking her to consider how HE loved the “difficult” person and asked her to try loving her in the same way. Perspective, it changes everything.

When we enter mission with an open heart and mind, and with the understanding we will occasionally be uncomfortable, magic happens … Grace happens. That grace helps us meet each other with a clearer vision that we are all connected. And, when we acknowledge we belong to one another our response changes. Our hearts soften, our ability to listen deepens, and our empathy allows us to respond in a more meaningful way.

Athentikos is planning two I AM ART camps in Guatemala this fall. The regular registration deadline is August 15. Take a look, and listen to your heart. Even if this is just a seed planted for another time, take a few minutes to see grace in action.[/vc_column_text][mk_button dimension=”flat” corner_style=”rounded” size=”x-large” url=”” fullwidth=”true” bg_color=”#dd9933″ btn_hover_txt_color=”#dd3333″]Click here to learn about I AM ART Fall 2016[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]

I AM ART Spring 2016

Athentikos I AM ART Spring 2016

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Announcing I AM ART Spring 2016

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Are you passionate about creativity? Do you paint, write, draw, dance, sculpt, sew, act, sing, perform … etc? Do you have creative media skills in video, audio, or photography? Are you interested in using your talents to make a difference? I AM ART is an opportunity to use your creativity in transformative community.

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Creativity As Mission

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Athentikos will equip you to teach creative workshops to at-risk children, and document transformational stories in photo and video. You don’t have to be a professional. Bring your skills, and passion to use them with purpose. Invite your friends and join the journey of transformation! Connect to the greater story, exercising the gifts you love!

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Athentikos is recruiting team members for I AM ART Spring 2016 in Guatemala.  We are partnering with Proximos Pasos, who will host an I AM ART camp at their facility. Space is limited and applications will be selected in the order they are received.

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Still have questions?

Watch the highlight video from I AM ART Fall 2014.

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I AM ART Spring 2016 Guatemala TRIP

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March 4 – March 13, 2016

A school for 160 girls who are unable to attend public school due to extreme poverty and cultural prejudice.[/vc_column_text][/mk_content_box][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][mk_padding_divider size=”20″][mk_slideshow_box images=”5824,5549,6082,5190,5612,5714,5716,6088,5718,5514,5556,6087,5605,5487,6084,6083,5550,5547,5558,5539,5439,5254,5191,5528,5557,6085″ img_position=”left top” slideshow_speed=”3000″ transition_speed=”1000″ slideshow_mask=”false” section_height=”400″ full_height=”false” full_width_cnt=”false” padding_top=”10″ padding_bottom=”10″]
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Prior to the trip, Athentikos will meet with you personally and in community with other I AM ART team members to equip you with everything you need to use creativity in mission including:

  • Explore your story and evaluate how it connects to the Greater Story
  • Understand the cultural and spiritual context of the trip
  • Introduce you to other like-minded creatives from North America and Guatemala to foster community
  • Develop and implement a fundraising plan using our media and crowd-funding platform
  • Promote your trip through strategic social media
  • Prepare lesson plans for a 5 day workshop using our curriculum guide
  • Research and pre-produce stories for short documentaries
  • Select the right media gear for international production
  • Pack strategically for a short-term mission trip

[/mk_icon_box2][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″ css=”.vc_custom_1430339043215{background-color: #f6f6f6 !important;}”][mk_icon_box2 icon_type=”icon” icon_size=”32″ icon=”mk-moon-airplane” title=”Trip Schedule” title_size=”20″ title_weight=”inherit” title_top_padding=”10″ title_bottom_padding=”10″ align=”left”]I AM ART trips are life changing, creative, cultural, and spiritual journeys.

  • Friday – Travel to Guatemala and spend the night in Antigua, a 500 year old Spanish Colonial City surrounded by three volcanoes.
  • Saturday – Get to know team members, explore, and spend another night in Antigua
  • Sunday – Travel to the I AM ART Camp location, meet with local leaders, and prepare the facility for the week-long camp
  • Monday-Thursday – Attend large group sessions, Teach small group session workshops to at-risk youth, and spend time with Artist Team Members from North America and Guatemala
  • Friday – Prepare for a celebratory art show and visit the surrounding community to get a cultural understanding of the children’s lives
  • Saturday – Celebrate the week’s achievement in an Art Show with youth and community
  • Sunday – Return home or travel on an optional excursion in Guatemala

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$1800 + airfare
INCLUDES: Training, materials, food & lodging for 10 days, transportation in country, insurance, admin (ask us about using airline miles).

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Athentikos is a 501c3 non-profit and can accept tax-deductible donations on your behalf. In addition, all I AM ART team members are offered a personal crowd-funding campaign through our web site. We’ll coach you through the fundraising process and provide the resources you need to communicate your opportunity to grow and serve.

[/mk_icon_box2][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][mk_icon_box2 icon_type=”icon” icon_size=”32″ icon=”mk-icon-calendar” title=”Payment Schedule” title_size=”20″ title_weight=”inherit” title_top_padding=”10″ title_bottom_padding=”10″ align=”left”]– $150 non-refundable deposit is due on Saturday, October 25, 2015 after official teams are announced.
– Total Cost ($1800 + airfare) is due on Friday, December 11, 2015.
– Team members may continue to raise funds until 10 days after the trip end date to recoup any personal funds paid on theDecember 11, 2015 Deadline.
– After the I AM ART trip, when financial balances are settled, Athentikos will reimburse any funds up to the total cost, personally submitted by team members to make up for fundraising shortages on December 11, 2015 when total cost was due.
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Space is limited. Sign up today …

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Join creativity in mission! If you have any questions, please email us.[/vc_column_text][mk_button dimension=”flat” corner_style=”rounded” size=”large” outline_skin=”dark” outline_active_color=”#ffffff” outline_hover_color=”#333333″ bg_color=”#dd3333″ btn_hover_bg=”#252525″ text_color=”light” icon_anim=”none” url=”” target=”_self” align=”left” fullwidth=”false” button_custom_width=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”15″]

Register for I AM ART Spring 2016


Guatemala Trip : Community Visits

By Matt Eldredge
Nashillve, TN

One of the best days of my very first trip to Guatemala (in November 2010) was our visit to the Refuge Women’s Shelter and then to meet Pastor Jorge, some of the many families he is helping, and his church family at Refuge City. Best not only for the experience and excitement of seeing these new places where God is at work, meeting new people and hearing their stories, but also for the way those stories and testimonies wrecked my heart and mind.

That Wednesday morning I was invited to go along with Scott, Amelia, and Cesar to first visit the El Refugio women’s shelter and then Refuge City church and Radical Mission. That was an amazing time of visiting with their ministry, being treated to delicious cinnamon rolls and coffee for breakfast, and then of course hearing the sweet women share their stories. Afterward, I was already quite emotional and the weight of all we had just heard was so heavy on my heart and mind. But God is faithful! Our healer, awesome in power. Now the girls here are breaking the cycle of abuse. I watched as my friend, Cesar,  was also responding to these stories in his heart, and mine filled with warmth for what God was doing through the shelter to impact my friends in Guatemala. Thank you Cesar for your response about that special visit.

After our visit there, I was actually glad we had a little breather and I could mentally process and recover while waiting for one of the Refuge City church leaders to come get us. He picked us up and we rode to Burger King for lunch, and it was delicious, fresher and better than the states, of course! Pastor Jorge and his wife Annie met up with us there and Jorge started sharing the story of his past. Now here is a man that you could just sit for hours listening to his heart and his amazing story! It turns out that they both used to be high ranking in a militia and came to Guatemala after having to flee for their lives. You would never be able to tell just from seeing Jorge and Annie and their hearts, and I probably can’t share too many details for their protection, but needless to say these guys have an amazing testimony and are now radically saved. Jorge shared about many of the struggles of doing the ministry God has called him to. He has stuck to his calling and remains faithful even when some in the church try to discourage him from helping the sick, poor, and needy when it will not financially benefit him or the church. It was such a blessing to hear his passion for changing the community and see his faithfulness to God’s calling.

We drove to their house church, which is actually a garage type space, a big open room right next to his house that he gives to the church every week for their use. Other families across the street also give their houses each week for Sunday school! I was amazed just to see how he drove into the garage space, across two really narrow groups of pipe pieces. I would have been scared to attempt it, but Guatemalans are so resourceful!

Jorge then drove us in to visit with several of the orphan care families. They all live in a squatter settlement. During the war, so many people were displaced from their land and homes, and then the government divided this area up where families just live in shack type houses with no city services, no running water, nada.

One of the main missions they have is taking care of the orphans and abused and getting them off the street. The church has several families that are currently raising orphans, not to mention the countless that he and his wife have taken in themselves and helped with all their basic needs. The government has no official program to deal with the situation, but since Jorge and the church have been so active in helping for so long, they are actually being officially recognized as care providers and will hopefully be Government registered soon!

We got to visit several of these special adoptive families. The first was an amazing couple, 84 and 85 years old, that have taken in 4 kids! Jorge joked that this woman is probably stronger than he is and full of life. She still cooks and bakes many delicious foods to support her family, I think the jist was that she can do it all. The kids might affectionately call her “Grandma” considering her age but they know she loves them as her children. Their oldest boy was one of the smartest in his class, a very talented musician, and they are hoping to be able to send him to a great music program. He also teaches his own class of younger kids music and other art forms like dance. He really struck me as being so mature and responsible and wanting to do his best to take care of his family.

At the next home we visited, the foster parents were away but we met a 17-year-old girl that was so full of life and beauty, and her precious 2-year-old boy. She is overcoming a painful past and shared with us how very grateful she is for all the ways God is blessing her. Through the church and foster shelter, God provided her a really nice home and also paint and supplies so she can make money selling her own artwork! My heart broke for her and her son but it was also amazing to see God’s beauty reflected in her face and her art and how He is at work to redeem and repair their lives.

Then we went to another shelter where the oldest daughter, 19 years old, was home taking care of 4 of her 5 siblings. The next oldest daughter, 17 years old, was away at work and was a victim of abuse. She now has her own baby son. We played and took photos of the children for a little bit. It was refreshing to see their innocent smiles.

From there Jorge drove us through to another neighborhood and to an overlook down onto a beautiful valley and lake. There was a golf course hidden behind a huge wall of trees. The trees planted to block out the sight of their community and the needs they have. We then drove past an old coffee processing plant. The plant got busted for polluting the area, letting waste runoff drain down to the lake so they were shut down. Jorge shared his vision of purchasing and turning this space into a giant youth center with several indoor soccer fields and space for the kids of the community to be loved on and cared for, and away from the street and gangs! We need to pray that this will happen soon for their community. One of the biggest problems and recurring issues is the cycle of abuse from men to their wives and own daughters. Women are treated like trophies or possessions and then their children are left neglected or abandoned, or families are simply unable to provide the proper care and education to break the cycle. Abuse may be the only way of life they ever know, with no way out in sight. That’s why the work people like the El Refugio Women’s Shelter and Jorge’s church is so needed, and why we need to support them! We can change this generation, showing these young men and women the love of Christ and raising up new leaders for the next generation who will know how to love and care for their families with the support of these ministries, and us! I am so thankful to now have these friends who are responding and can continue to have direct hands on experience helping out with all the needs and opportunities we were able to hear. I definitely feel responsible for everything I saw in Guatemala. There are many opportunities for us to financially contribute through micro-enterprise and giving, but this first burden I am feeling is prayer, lots of prayer, no ceasing- it’s time to get serious!

As we were leaving the settlement, Jorge said he had to be honest with us and wanted us to hear it from him and not someone else: if we hear that it is very dangerous to go into these areas and minister, they are right. It is a hard place but this is the ministry God has called him to and he remains faithful that the Lord will provide, AMEN!

Is That All It Takes?

by Bobby Marko

I had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Got to sleep in a little bit, hang out with my wife and daughter, more this weekend than I have in the last few months! Got to see some family, be together and have some great food, got stuffed! I even did a little yard work, wow, where did I get the time??? And as the weekend started to come to a close, I reflected a little more on what it means to be thankful.

My wife, Susan, myself and Emily only were able to stay in Guatemala a week so we were able to spend Thanksgiving here at home with family and friends. But I found myself spending allot of time reflecting back on the week before while we were in Guatemala. One of the last days we were there, Amelia, Matt and myself were able to go into Guatemala City and have a chance to visit some ex-gang members who escaped the gangs in order to have a better life for them and their family. Our friends Joel and Ignacio picked us up that Friday afternoon and we went on our way.

While in the car, on our way to the first stop, Ignacio explained some of the challenges of getting these guys and their families on the right track. One of them being the discrimination from employers against people who have tattoos. Since tattoos are significant amongst gang members, employers do not hire people with them, fearing this would bring an unwanted presence into their company. But in most cases, that fear is unwarranted. For example, the first guy we met was gracious, humbled and you could tell he just had a desire to provide for his family. We sat down and spoke to him about what he does to make money. We’ll call him Jose (since these guys are still sought after by current gang members, we don’t want to publish his real name), Jose sells shoes. But because he doesn’t have a store, he has to sell them on the streets. Jose sets up his work area in a small hallway between his one bedroom apartment (which is about a 10×10 foot room where he and his wife, 2 year old little girl and 4 month old newborn all sleep) and the bathroom. He makes 60 pairs of shoes, on average, a day! Jose was gracious enough to allow us to watch some of his processes that go into making a shoe. He has very little tools, applies glue to the shoes with his fingers and works very fast! We were amazed by his speed and quality.

The next visit we made was a small inside shop where we saw 8 sewing desks with consumer grade sewing machines on top. In the room that was about 12X8 foot sat about 5 workers, all ex-gang members. The man in charge, we’ll call him Freddy, again, not his real name, him and his wife ran the shop. The shop had no windows and also served as his home residence for him and his wife. They lived and slept in a back room not much larger than a typical walk-in closet! However, as we spoke about their work and what their desires were, they lit up! They were so eager to just make quality clothing they could sell and be able to provide for themselves and the other people that were working with them. The problem was they spent so much time and money getting the machines, getting the materials, they didn’t know how to calibrate the sewing machines for the different types of material. I asked Freddy, how much would it cost to the machines calibrated. He told me it would be about $100 to have someone come out, calibrate the machines and show the workers how to do the calibration so they could do it themselves. I thought… $100… is that all it takes? Who do I make the check out to???

I was amazed that $100 is the only thing holding these people back from getting their feet off the ground. It also made me stop and think that in most situations, just a little nudge is all these people need. They are eager, willing to learn, wanting to work but they just need that extra little help to make it happen. Listening to these stories moved me, it got me thinking how easily $100 is easy to come by in the U.S. How most of us could sell something we own and get $100 easily. But for many people in Guatemala, who are trying to overcome their past, it’ so much! These are the stories that need to be heard.

I’m so thankful that we live in a country where opportunity is abundant, that I have the ability to travel to places like Guatemala and hear these stories, to have the freedom and the opportunities to do what I love for a living. I’m also thankful we can do so much for so many people if all we do is listen.

New Stories

By Susan Marko

I am sitting in a school auditorium in Guatemala City as middle and high school students view the Reparando film for the first time.  Shorty and Tita are sitting in the room with us and I am, once again, moved to tears. This trip is my first time in Guatemala, but I have watched Tita and Shorty’ s stories for the past two years as my husband has been working on footage from his two trips with the Athentikos team.  I couldn’t help but be captivated by their lives and ministries.  Now that Bobby and I are both here to participate in the premiers of the finished product, we feel overwhelmed and humbled that God has allowed us to be a part of what he is obviously doing through “Reparando.”

On Wednesday night the team met at Joel Van Dyke’s House in Guatemala City along with our Guatemalan friends who have given so much of their time, passion, and effort towards preparing for the premiers this week.  I was overwhelmed by the hope they have that this message could make a real difference for their country.  Everyone who has been a part of this film has such a sense that God crafted the story and the results are all to his glory.  Now we are all just standing back in awe as God takes his message to the people.  Again, all of our showings are full and frequent calls are still coming in of people who want to see the film.  But beyond the numbers, we are hearing stories of how hearts are truly being awakened and a passion is forming to serve God’s people like never before.  I include myself in these numbers.

So far this week we led an art camp for students near Antigua who have had little exposure to the idea of creative expression.  It was amazing to see their joy as they realized a talent that they never knew they had, or to see them express their thoughts about themselves, their family, and God, some for the very first time.   This idea that they can see God in the small things, that trash can be something beautiful, that they have the potential to dream and to “ask beautiful questions” is a brand new concept to so many of them.  The teachers, who participated in the classes along with their students, seemed equally inspired and wish to continue the art program in their school.

We have also visited some extremely poor communities and walked with people who are giving their lives away to bring hope to these families.  We interviewed a pastor (Mario, above) who was born and raised in the same hill town where he now serves.  God reached him through powerful visions and some missionaries who came to work and serve in the community years ago.  He then took us to meet some families who have been given a chance to provide for their families through a microfinance project, allowing them to borrow money in order to purchase chickens or other livestock so that they will have products to sell.  These families were so thankful for the little that they had, and they thanked us for coming to their village to share in their stories.  All we could do is hug them and smile and tell them in our broken Spanish how we were thankful too.  God truly does use the weak to shame the wise.  God’s heart is for the poor.  “Blessed are the poor” is not only those who are poor in spirit.  God truly dwells with those who are in need and as Tita says in the film, God is “tangible” in these places.

In trying to process all that we have encountered this week, I know I have to respond.  All I can do is tell God I am standing here with open hands and trust that he will tell me how.  It seems that our involvement in this film is just the first step.  To God be the glory.