I was drawn to Outtatown with the knowledge that service projects make up a fairly significant portion of the program. I wanted to learn about the world around me in a raw and real way, while also aspiring to learn more about how I could make a difference.
We were invited to serve through Porch de Salomon, an organization in Panajachel, Guatemala, where we would be helping to build a house for a family in need. A fire was lit within me. I was excited to start—ready to challenge myself, hoping to make as big an impact on this house as possible. I have participated in a few short-term missions projects before and thought I knew what to expect, however, it turned out that this one was a little different.
Porch de Salomon is intentional about building personal relationships with the family, which is something I really strived to do over the week. While getting to see where all eight children slept in their small, worn home on our first day, I noticed one of them shyly but curiously looking up, eager to meet us but understandably nervous at the same time. I remember squeezing next to her and asking her in my slow, broken Spanish, “Your name is Maria, right?” After a nod, a smile, and a proper introduction, we were fast friends. Soon she was frequently popping by my area of the build site in the afternoons, sometimes for a quick hello, other times to sit and chat (as best we could) while she watched our work come together before her bright, curious eyes.
The humble and gracious seven-year-old that she was, she never held back her eagerness not only for her new home, but also to see us again the next day. She is what kept me inspired and driven. I can’t count the number of hugs I received in those four short days, but I can tell you that the one that she gave me during our final goodbye was probably the longest I’ve ever had, and I’ll admit, also the hardest. I wish I could have expressed to her that she has helped me more than I could ever have helped her.
Creating relationships puts faces to names, stories to people. I encourage you to ask God to open your heart to look beyond someone’s “status” to find the human in them–it will instill a love and dedication even more lasting and valuable than could have been imagined, and a desire to do and be your best for those around you. I believe that every person you meet will leave an impact. I know the impact made on me by Maria and her family will continue for a long time, and I can’t wait to see how that shapes my future with Outtatown and in life.
– Hannah Beatty, Guatemala Student 2017-18