How I started with SI

My first experience with Students International was in January, 2008. I went on a two week missions trip through my school, Greenville College, as a part of a sociology class. Students International is an organization of long term missionaries in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and other areas that host short term student groups to work along side the missionaries in occupational ministries. So the ministry of Students International is that both the students and the poor would encounter God through these ministries. The ministry sites in Guatemala now include education, health care, microfincance, agribusiness, and more! For my two week trip as a student in 2008, I worked at a tiny little art school, run by the most amazing Guatemalan couple that I have ever met. My experience in the art school impacted me so much because I saw how much joy these people had even in a situation that I couldn’t even imagine.

Magdalena, Guatemala is a rural farming community in the mountains in Guatemala. Most of the people work in subsistence farming and make only about $4 a day. Alcoholism and abuse in the family are major problems in Magdalena and the neighboring town, El Gorrión. El Gorrión is a town of squatters, refugees from hurricane Mitch, that lacks running water and governmental representation. A lot of children drop out of school at a young age to work and the adults do back-breaking work in the fields even to a very old age. These are the people that Students International works with. The first major challenge is to bring them hope that they can overcome their situation and seek a life with meaning. Many of these people just accept the fact that they are poor because their family has been poor for decades. They don’t see any relief or reason to strive for a better life. By showing them that there is a God who loves them and cares for them, their life can regain value. The different ministry sites in SI work with the people, bringing them education and empowerment to make a future for themselves. Though not all of their problems will be automatically solved, they can find new hope and support in the Christian community. Students International hosts students from the US to build relationships with the Guatemalans. Many of the Guatemalans don’t understand why a happy, rich person form the US would choose to spend money to come down to work with the poor of Guatemala. But by sharing Christ’s love, it is easy to see that it is all about a relationship where both parties can learn from each other and build each other up. Students leave Guatemala with ignited hope for making a difference in the world. Building friendships with the poor in Guatemala brings such joy and purpose that we don’t realize we lack when we are charging forward in the American dream with our head down and our blinders on.

That is what happened to me on my two week trip with Students International in 2008. I was so impacted by my experience and I was so moved by my relationships with the Guatemalans and SI staff that I really wanted to continue building these relationships and learning about how God views the world that I decided to return to Guatemala as a summer intern that same year. So I spent 6 weeks as summer staff in Guatemala, working in the art school once again. As a summer staff member, my biggest job was to translate for Carlos and Telma and the art students who don’t speak English and for the students from the US who don’t speak Spanish. I also helped facilitate the relationships between the students and the Guatemalans so that they could impact each other’s lives.

The next summer, I decided to return to Guatemala as summer staff again because nothing else seemed to have as much significance or make such a difference. Any summer job or internship that I looked into just couldn’t hold a candle to what I knew would be happening in Guatemala. So I was blessed with the opportunity to return to Guatemala and work in the health clinic in Magdalena. I learned so much that summer and really found a passion to work in the health field. Even though I have never been medically trained, I found it to be such a blessing to be able to squeeze a hand through the pain and rub a back to give comfort. Once again my main job was to translate for the doctor who didn’t speak English and for the students who didn’t speak Spanish.

After I graduated in 2010, I thought to myself, “Ok! Now it’s time to grow up and get a real job.” But once again, as I started looking, nothing seemed to be as important as what was happening in Guatemala. I figured that this summer would be my last opportunity to be summer staff before I made a long term commitment to some job, so I decided to just go for it! I was summer staff one last time in Guatemala, once again at the art school. This summer, my parents were also able to come down with me for the first two weeks. We worked in the agribusiness site and injected cows, castrated pigs, and built a chicken coop! It was quite an experience! It was really great to have my parents come down and to see what I had fallen in love with. I was in Guatemala for a total of two months this summer.

At the end of my time as summer staff in 2010, I dreaded the idea of not being able to return to Guatemala for an extended period of time again. I had been turned down for my application to the Peace Corps due to medical reasons, and my future was still wide open for me. So I decided to pursue the idea of becoming full time staff with Students International in Guatemala. I know this is where my heart is and it is truly my passion. Now seems like the best time while I have no strings attached any where else. I am done with school for the time being, and I am free to start out anywhere I’d like. Well there is only one place I want right now. More than anything, I would just like to continue experiencing God’s majesty in Guatemala.


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