Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 7

Icing on the cake... There surely isn't a more perfect example of this common expression than what I experienced tonight. My week in Guatemala has been a 10+. It exceeded all of my expectations and has left me full of joy. And yet, tonight, as we arrived in Guatemala City to prepare for our Saturday departure back to the States, it got even better.
After 5 years, I was reunited with Will's Birthmother and his Foster Mother. Ever since taking a photo with Maria and Martha, I have called our trio Las Tres Madres ~ The Three Mothers. Maria is his mother by birth, Martha is his "primera madre" (or first mother), and I am his forever mother. The three of us make quite a team.
In Guatemala, it is fairly uncommon to have the opportunity to meet your child's birthmother, so I feel humbled and honored to have met Maria twice. I can't quite explain how it feels to hold the person who gave your child life. With every extra squeeze, I tried to communicate my love, my gratitude, and my respect for her. This very special woman provided the missing piece to our family. And her words and expressions proved to me that she felt comfort in her decision, despite the deep loss. Maria will always be a part of our family, and I look forward to the day when we can travel as a family, along with Will's birthsister's family, to see her.
Will's Foster Family is as sweet as they were when we first met them in 2004. I can't express how comforting it is to know that he felt loved and safe during his first 8 months in Guatemala. I remember watching his Foster Dad, Bayardo, tossing him into the air as Will giggled with glee. They prepared him to transition into his new life with his new family - our family - and I know for sure that the love that they showed him then still blossoms inside his heart.
I'm feeling a bit lightheaded now, and it's no wonder with all of the emotions that are buzzing through my head. I can hardly wait to get home to Jay and the kids, and yet I already miss the new friends that I'll be leaving behind. The staff at Mayan Families sits on top of top notch. They are exceptional... extraordinary... remarkable. I was honored to observe them in their element and lend a helping hand when I could. This trip certainly felt like an Orientation to me, which leads me to believe that a return tip might be in my not too distant future.
I hope that you've enjoyed sharing this journey with me, and I hope that it might inspire you to take a step outside of your comfort zone and serve others in a way that is meaningful to you. My Guatemala may be your (fill in the blank here).
I am now convinced that, on your life journey, you must stop every so often and pay the toll. Your toll may be as simple as sharing something you no longer need or as complex as a trip to a faraway land to help the less fortunate. Exact change is not required... Just follow your heart, and it will lead the way.
Signing off from Guatemala,

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 6

I love "full circle" moments, and - as you can see from the photo - I had one of those today. Last fall, a dear pal of mine called to ask if I could help with a project. She and some of her fellow soccer moms wondered what they could do with their children's blue soccer uniforms after the league switched to Tewksbury red. Knowing that I can often find homes for "used but usable" items, she asked if I would find someone who could use uniforms if we were to do a collection. I jumped at the opportunity to send them to Guatemala.

Needless to say, the Tewksubry Blues collection was a great success. And, not only did our generous families offer their uniforms, but many donated gently used cleats and shin guards as well. I shipped the uniforms to Mayan Families as part of the Christmas shipment last October and, today, before my very eyes, I watched Tewksbury South play ball. And what a treat it was.

The uniforms were donated to a free sports program which is run by a retired American gentleman, named Willie, who has lived in Guatemala for the past seven years. Seeing the need for organized sports, Willie created a program that runs much like ours in the US. Children register to participate and must have parental consent and show a birth certificate. Of course, this program is free, since many of the families cannot even afford to register their children for school, never mind sports. Willie manages the program with a host of volunteers who coach soccer, basketball, and swimming. (He was able to convince a local hotel to offer their pool for one hour each day, five days each week.) The program continues to grow, but it stands at nearly 500 children today.

Because the program is free, there is no budget for uniforms or sporting equipment. Willie was overjoyed when he learned that a little town in Massachusetts was coming to the rescue. He is such a dear man, and it is clear that he cares so deeply for the children. He introduced many of them to me by name and shared stories of each. One of his favorite children is a young boy who appears to be eight or nine years old. Because of his family's extreme poverty, the boy works at a local restaurant rather than attending school. This sports program is an escape from the life he normally leads.

It is wonderful to know that the uniforms are being used several times each week by hundreds of players. Rather than distribute them (and fear that they not be returned), Willie's coaches bring them to each game, distribute them according to size, and wash them after each use. By doing this, the uniforms will be available for many years to come.

As you can imagine, watching the children play in their Tewksbury Blues was magical. I remember counting and rolling and banding each and every one, and I now realize that I have touched each child that wears one in a very real way. What a perfect example of one community reaching out to help another.

P.S. to the soccer story... Scroll up to see the dilapidated ladder in the photo. I had to climb down that ladder backwards in order to reach the soccer field. Adventure!!!!

The other highlight of the day was assembling and distributing Semana Santa baskets. These baskets feed a 10 person family and consist of a chicken, carrots, green beans, sugar, mosh, incaparina, a pineapple, sweet breads, and chocolate. It's all the makings of a traditional Easter meal. Supporters of Mayan Families purchase these baskets for their sponsored children or for general distribution at a cost of $35 each, and families in need line up outside the door to request one... as if they are waiting to purchase front row tickets to the best concert of the year.

Back at Mayan Families...

Today, I helped to create more than 450 baskets, but it was passing them out that was the most fun. Many of the women brought pieces of traditional Mayan fabric to wrap their basket and carry it on their heads. Each of them expressed genuine thanks, and many stopped to offer a hug and a squeeze too. This week, I have been among a great people... warm and loving and thoughtful and proud.

I feel so entirely grateful to all of my pals who participated in my jewelry fundraiser and also those who generously offered funding for this project. Together, we raised over $800 which purchased 24 baskets for general distribution and which fed around 240 people. Now that's something to feel good about!

And so, this was our final full day in Pana, and we'll be traveling back to Guatemala City tomorrow. What a great finale to an absolutely awesome experience.

Thanks for sharing my day.

Your friend in service,


Day 5

I am reminded each and every day how blessed I am to have such kind and generous friends. As I began planning this adventure, my friends expressed their enthusiam and encouragement, and many of them even offered some resources of their own to share with the people of Guatemala. One specific offering made the picture you see here possible.

Cayetana is one of the sweetest souls you could ever meet. Her body may be small and frail, but this woman is strength defined. We believe that she is in her eighties, and we know for sure that she has lovingly cared for her two disabled daughters for more than 50 years.

I met Cayetana through pictures quite some time ago, and - today - I had the pleasure of embracing her and sharing some love from a friend. That friend popped by my house last Friday and quietly slipped some money into my hand and ensured me that I'd know how to spend it when I arrived in Guatemala. And, sure as she said, I did.

With no other family support, Cayetana walks the hill from San Jorge La Laguna each day with her blind daughter and she begs by the side of the main road to Pana. Her second daughter, who appears to have Downs Syndrome, stays in their home and waits from her mother and sister to return... perhaps with enough quetzales to buy a small supply of food. Well, today, Cayetana received a surprise visit from a gringo bearing gifts... and that gringo was me. Through our pals at Mayan Families, we delivered a large sack of food containing rice, beans, sugar, protein fortified cereal, eggs, and more. I felt unworthy as she kissed my hands in thanks, but I'll be sure to pass it along to the rightful owner when I return home. There is no doubt that my sweet new friend and her daughters are sleeping with full bellies tonight.

After visiting Cayetana, we continued on our journey to visit a pre-school and elementary school in San Jorge. Again, thanks to my friends, I continued my role as Santa Claus and distributed more than 100 beanie babies, toothbrushes, and toothpastes to several classrooms. The excitement in their eyes when they heard that we had brought "regalos pequenos" (small gifts) was sparkling, and their gratitude, as we shared the gifts, was genuine and sweet. There's nothing better than being a kid magnet, and I enjoyed every second.

I spent the afternoon visiting the homes of sponsored children and witnessing the pride that these families have in their homes and the very few items that they possess. One two room house that we visited slept thirteen people. It reminded me of my mother's stories of growing up in McLarenville with six sisters sharing the attic... but that was 60 years ago. It seems so hard to believe that people still live without electricity and plumbing, and that they fashion roof-top forts to house those who don't fit within, but that is indeed the norm here. And yet, their smiles are wide, their dignity intact, and their spirits still seem to soar. It's a kind of inner strength that I will surely try to summon when I return to my daily routine.

Late this afternoon, I had the pleasure of observing my brother, David, meet his sponsored student, also named David, for the very first time. Little David is 7 years old and has just started the first grade. His age is deceiving, as he is the size of an average 5 year old by US standards. Little David's mother is recovering from a respiratory disease which claimed a part of one lung and was likely caused by overexposure to smoke from cooking over an open fire. She is not able to work at this time, and yet she has six children to support. Thanks to (big) David's generosity, she is able to send her little guy to school, and she will be able to take care of some household expenses while she continues to recover. Think of a time when you were feeling down and out and someone lent a helping hand... that's what David's mama and Cayetana and quite a few other people we visited today are feeling tonight.

We finished our day with a visit to Casa Hogar Feliz in San Andres. This is an orphanage for children from ages 4-14 who have either been abandoned or come from such abusive situations that they are pulled out of their homes and find refuge here. The children were delightful and were so happy to receive jumpropes, sidewalk chalk, books, and other new toys. But we drove away feeling uneasy because it was clear that many of the children are fast approaching age 15, when they will literally be thrown out into the street because they have "aged out" of the system. What must it do to the psyche to suffer a horrific family life, then be nurtured in this safe and loving environment, and then to be forced out of the only place that they had truly called home? Our dreamers at Mayan Families hope to, one day, offer these young people housing and an opportunity to learn a trade, which will provide them with a bridge into adulthood. These are the kind of "hand-up" opportunities that MF coordinates with help from their friends.

It took a phonecall tonight with the Jayman to dig deep into this experience. I could feel his love and joy as he told me with such sincerity how happy he was that my trip was going so perfectly well. But what we realized during our conversation is that this trip, for me at least, is not life changing, but - instead - it is life affirming. For many years now, I've been doing this kind of work on a small scale... coordinating school or church or commuity projects that lift up someone in need. So, I guess what I've now confirmed is that I'm on the right road, in the middle of my journey, and that I should stay the course. This is my life's work... it's my calling... and it's what I'm meant to be.

With excitement on the horizon for tomorrow - our last full day in Pana - I wish you a day in which you too feel the love and support of those you hold dear.


Solamente Beth

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 4

As each day passes, I feel more and more at home here in Guatemala. In fact, today, I ventured out on my own for a bit and was hardly approached by the street vendors. I must have lost that "deer in the headlights" look that they immediately noticed when I arrived.

And yet it was still a day filled with "firsts." This morning, we traveled by tuk tuk to Mayan Families, and it was a very exciting ride. The tuk tuk system is best described as a taxi service in a three wheeled vehicle with the driver in the front and room for three passengers in the back. There is no room for cargo, but these little vehicles can surely get you where you need to go in a hurry. As I rode today, I was reminded of my experience sitting in the back seat on the Antique Car ride at Canobie Lake Park, with Juliana as my driver. There is lots of starting and stopping, and the engines literally sounds the same. If you were to close your eyes, you surely couldn't tell the difference... other than the fact that the ones in Guatemala go really, really fast.

Another first was a visit to the lakefront. What a beautiful sight to behold... blue skies on top, blue water below, and towering volcanoes as the backdrop. It's incredibly soothing to stare across Atitlan and breathe in every ounce of its serenity.

Much of my time at Mayan Families today was spent sorting and distributing donations. I found treasures for Griselda, and Jesus, and Elvis, and lots of other visitors who had some urgent needs and came to the right place. I will never underestimate the value of our shipments of donations. They are life sustaining... there's no doubt about that.

This afternoon, I gladly accepted an invitation to follow along on the delivery route for the elderly feeding program. This is a new MF program that sustains some of the oldest and most dear in the community. Those who know me well know that I totally dig old people... always have and always will. (Have you met any other college student who chose to spend her class-free Fridays volunteering in an adult day care program?) I am truly touched by the labor intensive work performed by MF staffers on a weekly basis to ensure that these nutritionally fortified meals are prepared and hand delivered to so many lovely souls.

It should come as no surprise that, on the way back from a feeding program visit, we rescued a dog. Imagine a place where - when you find someone (or some animal) in need - you help. No excuses and no exceptions. Panajachel is teaming with stray dogs and many of the injured ones find their way to Mayan Families. A staff member (or visiting volunteer) notices one, a call is made to Sharon, and she lovingly instructs the caller to bring it home to get care. The sweet puppy we rescued today was laying two feet away from the edge of a bridge enbankment , and he had what appeared to be a broken or sprained right paw. One phone call to Sharon and a quick trip up the road by Don Bartolo resulted in this sweet pup visiting the vet's office and getting immediate medical attention. The ease with which this all happened was inspiring. I truly believe that if more people understood how easy it can be to help others (human or canine or otherwise), they would challenge themselves to do it more often.

It wasn't long after the puppy rescue that I met my sponsored student, Daniel Pablo, for the very first time. He arrived with his brother Antonio (sponsored by my parents), his sister Maria, and his mother, Alejandra. Honestly, I felt as though I knew them long before I even shook their hands. They are a wonderful family. With some tears in my eyes and a bit of a shaky voice, I explained to them that my Mom was especially honored to sponsor Antonio and to help their family because she too was the child of a single parent family after her own Dad passed away when she was just 5 years old... the same age at which Antonio's father passed away. Like my Nana Sughrue, Alejandra is a strong woman, and she is protective of her brood. She spoke with such sincerity - in her native Mayan dialect which was then translated into Spanish - when she explained how hard her life had become after her husband's passing and that the gifts from Jay and I and from my parents had helped to ease the burden. Can you even imagine what it must feel like to know that there are people in another part of the world... a world you hardly know because you cannot read or speak the common language and because you have never traveled away from your village... who are willing to lend a helping hand? Perhaps that is why this culture calls its sponsors "Padrinos" or "Madrinos" which literally translates to Godparents. There's no doubt that God has played a role in creating this very special relationship. My time with this family ended with the sharing of some gifts that I had brought from home (including Boston Red Sox t-shirts for the boys) and arranging for the purchase and delivery of a new bed and new armoire for their home, thanks to Los Padrinos Patterson. That Mom and Dad of mine will surely never step on Guatemalan soil, but I am overwhelmed by the generosity that they have shown to Alejandra's family and to the people of their Grandson's homeland. They taught me well.

The grand finale of our day was grand indeed. The children of a community called El Baranco traveled to Panajachel to perform a Mayan dance ritual. It included traditional clothing, ancient hunter/gatherer dances, and even a monkey dance in which they were covered with soot and wore masks to resemble the hairy primates. It was clear that, not only had they practiced, but that these dances sprung from their little bodies as only something that is part of your being can do. I am reminded how diluted my ancestry is and how I don't hold tight to the traditions of those who came before me. That is certainly not the case with these children from El Baranco. They are pure Maya and they wear it with pride and dignity. There are too few places in the world like this... where tradition is not on the endangered list. Keeping it alive is truly a gift that all the world should see.

Who knows what is in store for tomorrow, but it is sure to be another dia magnifico!

Abrazos Grandes,

Solamente Beth

Day 3

If yesterday was all about chickens, then today was all about avocados. Let me tell you why....

We were very fortunate to visit Tierra Linda today, and I absolutely fell in love with this community. It sits on the mountainside, above Panajachel, and most families climb the dirt pathway to travel to and from. We drove with Sharon and Dwight in their pick-up truck up lots of windy paved roads and then over bumpy dirt ones. It was well worth the trip!

As we walked down the dirt road to visit the new school built by the supporters of Mayan Families, Sharon pointed out a beautiful tree... an avocado tree. Honestly, in all of my years of eating copious amounts of avocados, I hadn't really considered how they were grown. I guess I thought they were a vine fruit, because - when I saw an actual tree, dripping with ripening avocados - I experienced both shock and awe. First thought that came to mind was how I might be able to bring that tree home to Captain Circle. But I digress...

The Tierra Linda school is fabulous. The children are incredibly excited to attend school, and the teachers we met were dedicated and caring. If only they had all the tools that they needed. This community is so friendly and the children exude so much joy... it really is a pleasure to be an observer here. I couldn't help but think about episodes of Little House on the Prairie as we walked the street from the school to the community center. Tierra Linda, to me, felt quite a lot like Walnut Grove. I loved watching the children walk home from school and stop along the way to giggle with friends or catch a ride on the back of a passing truck. It seems so primitive to this mom, who drives her kids to and from the bus stop each day, to consider the freedoms that the children here experience, yet it all feels so safe and comfortable. Just like Walnut Grove...

The Tierra Linda Community Center is yet another building made possible by supporters of Mayan Families. The group Conexiones, from Canada, was working with the pre-school children in this great building, while an irrigation expert consulted with the local farmers on a new contraption, essentially consisting of a bagged water supply and tubing, which could be used to ensure maximum harvest. It's yet another example of what I love about Mayan Families; they are teaching people how to help themselves and how to earn a living wage.

In our short time here, we've met so many people who have fallen in love with the Maya and have made significant commitments to giving back to this community. Stan and Dave and their group support Tierra Linda, and Louise is working in Chuk Muk, and Connie is raising funds AND recruiting volunteers. In my few spare moments, I've already begun to think about what my contribution might be. It's an entirely spontaneous reaction, and I doubt that anyone who has visited hasn't felt the same way.

So, let me tell you about the highlight of my day...

As we entered the grounds of the Community Center, I spotted Florinda Ben Ben. Our church has sponsored Florinda for the past three years, and I had hoped to meet her while in Pana. Yet another wish come true for me. Not only did I meet Florinda, but I was able to visit her house and meet her family.

Susie and Julio accompanied me on the walk up and down a narrow mountain path to reach their home, and they reminded me how much more difficult the walk would be in the rainy season. As we approached the house, Florinda's mama, Juana, approached with a beaming smile. She is a warm and lovely woman and she was anxious to show me how much they loved the gifts that the church had purchased for them over the years: an Onil stove, a bed, and a wardrobe. The children kindly allowed us to take pictures, and I tried my best to photodocument as much as I could so that I could share my journey with the kids back home in our Sunday School program. The visit was incredibly special, and - as we were about to leave - a beautiful thing happened....

Juana presented me with a gift of thanks for all that TCC has done for her family. And what might that gift have been, you ask? Well, it just happened to be my most favorite thing... a great big bag of avocados! I was so touched and so honored and so thankful that I began to cry, and Juana and I embraced yet again. It was one of those moments when you realize that God put you together for a reason. In our family, that happens quite a lot. And so, yesterday was chickens and today was avocados and I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

I am blessed beyond words to be having this experience, and I am treasuring every moment.

Buenas Noches,

Solamente Beth

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 2

Today was our first full day in Guatemala, and it was incredible. How is it possible that I already feel at home here? The people we've met have become fast friends, and it's no wonder. We are like-minded souls who feel a true calling to the work that we do. Now this is what I call a team sport.

If I do say so myself, I'm communicating quite well "en espanol." From the archives of my High School Spanish class memory, I'm retrieving nowns and verbs that I thought I'd never recall. And, better yet, I'm practically speaking in complete sentences... with properly conjugated verbs, nonetheless. When I get home, be sure to ask me how to say "How much do four of these cost?"

Today, we visited the Sunday marketplace in Chichi and it was an experience I'll never forget. David stuck out like a sore thumb as a tall gringo amidst the shorter statured Maya, and that made him quite the magnet for salespeople. I'm guessing the youngest seller was about 5 years old with the average age probably ranging from 8-10. It was hard to not buy something from everyone. That said, I think David did actually do so. If you are in the market for chicken potholders, he's your man.
After Chichi, we returned to Pana and visited the Mayan Families headquarters for the very first time. I finally was able to see the place where our boxes are delivered. I can only imagine how I'll feel the next time a Medrano Express truck pulls away from Captain Circle, because I now have the full picture of their ultimate destination. And today, not only did I see it, but I was blessed with the experience of distributing some of those donations. The level of gratitude expressed by the warm people I met today is as genuine and true as it ever gets. I felt it... inside and out.
And how can you top a day like today? It's hard to do, but I'll tell you how in just one word.... chickens!!! I can't quite explain why passing out live chicks makes me jump for joy, but it does... it really, really does. I've been excited about it for the past two weeks, when I learned it was on the MF agenda during our visit, and it lived up to my expectations, and more. We provided 20 families with 10 chicks each and a bag of chicken food to keep them healthy. The women brought baskets and boxes and bags with which to carry their chicks home, and it was a sight to behold. Many women walked away with their containers of chicks balancing on their heads. Still haven't quite figured out how they do that, but I'm compiling a list of things I've seen on heads and chicks and bundles of firewood are in the running for most challenging and interesting.
We ended our time at Mayan Families today meeting with Sharon, one of the co-founders. She, my friends, is remarkable. She is everything that a good non-profit needs, and more. I loved watching her with the children, ensuring that everyone got what they needed and that the big brother of a newborn baby had a few things to bring home to his new sister. I loved watching her bathe a week old kitten with a cloth and warm water as we were discussing our plans for the week... and how she checked the temperature of the kitten formula with her pinky finger to make sure that it was just right. It is that same level of love and warmth and kindness and respect for all things that makes Mayan Families so special to this community and to so many of us who support it from across the miles. I am simply in awe.
Tomorrow, we hope to visit Tierra Linda, and it is quite possible that I will be able to meet Florinda Ben Ben, the 10 year old girl sponsored by our church. We spent some time this evening sorting donations and preparing to deliver them tomorrow. Lots of wonderful things to share, thanks to the generosity of our family and friends.
Hasta manana,
Solamente Beth

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day 1

Bienvenidos a Guatemala! After an incredibly long travel day, we have arrived in Panajachel and it is wonderful. The sun was setting over the lake as we drove into town, and the heat of the day made for beautifully colored haze. I imagine that the blue waters will look even better when we see them tomorrow, but the hues this evening were spectacular. We hear that the locals felt the rumblings of a 5.something earthquake today, but I'm guessing it happened before we landed. Might make for an exciting week.

Our airport experience was made much longer due to many mission teams joining us on our flight. Unfortunately, the eye doctors claimed their luggage before ours rolled out and we were forced to wait for a very long time in the scanner line as customs checked each and every piece of their medical equipment. Why they wouldn't instead make a FAST PASS lane for those bringing much needed supplies to the neediest of the needy in this nation is beyond me, and I think those waiting behind me in line would agree.

We stopped at the former Marriott to freshen up and have lunch before our 2.5 hour ride to Pana, and the level of emotion that I felt when I walked through the door caught me by surprise. I sat on the couch where I first met and held Will as a four month old, and I got a little teary. I remember exactly where his Foster Parents sat, and I recalled Bayardo tossing him into the air and Will giggling with delight. How blessed Will was to have felt such love at every stage of his young life. It warms my heart enormously, yet it also reminds me that we missed eight months with him. I hope that he can, someday, come to terms with his unique journey into our family.

In my short time here, I am surrounded by Will look-a-likes. It's hard to describe, but - in the States - people are "mixes" of so many different nationalities, and so they are easier to differentiate. Here in GUA, a very large percentage of the population is 100% Indigenous Mayan Indian, just like Will. And so, I swear I've seen him - or bigger or smaller versions of him - at least 100 times.

I'm coping right now with what Will's life would have been like had he been raised by his Birthmom in Guatemala. I say coping, because it's hard to describe the feeling. I live with significant guilt for taking him from his homeland, and I feel grief for the loss of his Birthmother in his life. At the same time, I can't imagine not being Will's Mother. He is every bit "my own." I love him so deeply and know in my soul that his life as a McFadyen will provide him with more love, and more security, and more opportunity than he would have known otherwise. But, I think it's my profound love for Will that makes me feel the deep ache of the losses in his life... perhaps before even he feels them. The rollercoaster ride begins...

In the morning, we're off to Chichicastanango to experience the Sunday marketplace. It's an hour drive from here, but it will be worth the trip. And then, we're back to Mayan Families for a mission highlight (for me).... the distribution of chickens!!! If we can figure out the photo upload, I'll post pictures tomorrow. For now, I'm off to bed, having not slept since Thursday night.

P.S. Don't tell David, but I'm loving having him here with me, and the bozo is already proving more valuable than me. It's like high school all over again. :)

Buenas Tardes Mis Amigos!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Faith First

Dear God,

Ever since I was a child, I have felt your presence in a very real way. And, through the years, my Faith and my convictions have become all the stronger as I have grown to be a better Christian. You have given me great teachers… wise grandparents, generous parents, a thoughtful brother, and perhaps the most loving partner the world has ever known. You’ve made it easy for me to give back, because you’ve provided me with so much. Tomorrow, I dive Faith First into an entirely new experience, and I’m counting on you to guide me on my journey to Guatemala.

Lead Me… when I’m feeling scared or vulnerable. Help me to make wise choices, and caution me not to take risks that could put me in harm’s way.

Follow Me… when I am full of joy and doing your work. Know that you have created me not only to serve others but to inspire similar journeys that, at this moment, may only be a thought the size of a mustard seed.

Carry Me… when I feel overcome by sadness and guilt for those whom I cannot help. Blanket me with comfort in knowing that I am just one of your missionaries and that others will rise when they too feel called by you.

Dear Lord, bless my sweet family and open our children’s hearts and minds to a life of service. May they show kindness to friends and strangers, and may they live by your sacred words… “Love One Another.”

And so, the journey begins… Thank you for this day and for the days to come.