At the end of this school year we attended the school graduation ceremony at the orphanage Fundaninos. In Guatemala there are certain years that tradition mandates are celebrated with a graduation ceremony, when students complete “Prepa” (the grade before 1st grade), 6th grade, and 9th grade.
Standing there looking at the students receiving their diplomas, I couldn’t help but be struck by how far some of them had come.
We have been serving at Fundaninos for eight years. Yet I remember like yesterday the first day I drove out there to setup our, very limited, computer lab. I remember the first English classes and computer classes when some of these students were too shy to even speak up, and didn’t know how to place their hands the keyboards as they had never touched a computer before.
I remember the look of awe on their faces as the letters they punched on the keys translated into words on the screen, and how happy they were when they finished their typing class and got to play an educational computer game.
I remember the first day Evelyn, Joselyn and Stacy came into the English class and the smiles on their faces when I invited them to have a seat and participate in language learning games.
I remember how much all the kids enjoyed it when I divided the classroom into two groups, often boys vs. girls, and had them compete to see who could get the most correct answers as that group would get to go in for computer classes first.
I remember when Chupete told me that he was bored in English class because he knew all the answers, and how he loved it when I asked him to man the computer instead.
I remember when I appointed Fatima as my assistant, and she would help me when I got stuck with Spanish words and oversee the students in the computer classroom.
I remember when I told them if they memorized enough verses, they would get their own Bible, and how each and every one of them did just that.
I also remember how the kids loved showing up to classes, whether because they liked me, or liked the bananas and nut I would bring for snack at the end of the class, I don’t know, but it didn’t matter, they were there.
A friend of mine reminds me how on his first mission so long ago, I went out and played soccer in cowboy boots with the kids, it was probably more due to the fact that they were the only pair of shoes I had at the time and not a desire to be a “cool” cowboy soccer player.
I remember the first time we had all the girls over to our house for youth group, and how though I didn’t really know what we were going to do, I knew that inviting them over, bringing them into our house, and giving them community was important.
All these memories, and more, came to mind as I saw student after student, that I had poured my life, heart and soul into, get up, stand tall, and receive their diploma. To see how far they had come, and that I have been blessed to walk alongside them through the ups and downs, joys and sorrows. To celebrate birthdays, Christmases, and well…life, with them, has been a wonderful experience.
A fellow missionary told me recently how he was jealous that I was blessed to get to see my students grow up, make their way in the world, and lead fruitful lives. I thought about it for a minute, and then thought back on the 14 years we have been in Guatemala being faithful to the scriptural calling to serve the orphaned, fatherless and vulnerable I told him that yes, we were blessed to see fruit in our ministry, but that that blessing required obedience, years of diligently serving those that God led us to, often in places where no one could see.
Being True rue to our mission to love each and every life that God put in front of us, to serve them and help them get to the next step, whatever that was. Believing that if we were faithful to plant a seed in someone’s heart, water and tend to a soul, trusting that someone, someday, would get to see the fruit. Confident that the conviction that God had given us to serve was more important than the passion we might or might not feel in the moment, that somehow enabled us to carry on long enough in ministry. So at long last to see the fruits of our labors is an amazing gift, and while we don’t deserve it, feel so very blessed to have.
As I saw the students file away off stage with their diplomas, and I looked at all those sitting in the audience, I couldn’t help but feel excited at how I might look back, 14 years from now, and think back on all the new memories I will have.