When I first came to Guatemala, Fermina and I’s relationship was stoic, cordial at best. There were two main factors involved in the stiff nature of our relationship:
- We didn’t speak each other’s language. I could stammer out what I needed (most of the time) but that was it. Neither of us could communicate our greatest desires, what brings us joy, what breaks our heart… everything we women need in our relationships!
- There are a lot of adults who have come in and out of her life, and (I assume) she’s pretty guarded by now. Many of the little ones don’t feel the weight of this yet, but the big kids have struggled with the repetitive and sudden loss of people who have filled the roles of mother, father, sister, and brother for them. It’s hard to openly welcome new people into their lives knowing this person will likely leave or be taken from them too.
Also, our personalities didn’t quite mesh at first either… which was basically the cherry on top. She was kind and cordial towards me, but I quickly learned that she was simply being polite. She kept her distance for the most part and didn’t often interact with me. Most of the older kids were like that to be honest, very polite… but emotionally unavailable.
At the time, I didn’t take it personally. The language barrier really hindered the depth I needed to build any real relationships with the teenagers, so I poured my time and energy into the little ones. I jumped on the trampoline, kissed boo-boos, let them tangle/pull out my hair in failed braiding attempts, and chased them around the yard until my sides ached. I will always cherish those months full of play, snuggles, and laughter; but I still ached to fill the gap between me and the teens.
Then in in the last week of October 2018 I went on a little trip with them, and was assigned to a room with Fermina and several of the younger girls. Upon discovering this, my anxious thoughts swirled in my mind. Poor Fermina. I think she hates me, and now she has to spend four nights in the same room with me. I’ll try to make these nights bearable for her. How can I reach her? I began to pray, asking the Lord to give me wisdom and grace.
I shared a queen bed with Fermina, and we squeezed the other three on the second bed. On the second night, Fermina and I had our first real conversation. My comprehension of the language had grown over those first three months, and I was thrilled to engage in any sort of discussion with her!
Over the next few nights we stayed up late talking about a wide variety of topics… sometimes stifling giggles into our pillows, and other times wiping away silent tears. She told me about how fear gripped her heart from an early age, and how Jesus saved her from it. We talked about spiritual warfare in her family, and how we both don’t like scary movies. Finally, we had a common ground and the foundation of our friendship had been built!
I was so excited to press into our newfound friendship and start building, but upon returning back to Quiche something switched. I was disappointed to see her distant politeness return, and our relationship was stoic once again. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any time to win her back, as I left for the States 1 week later, and then returned to Guatemala for one month… only to leave to language school for two more months.
When I came back from Spanish school, I felt like a new woman! I could finally understand and converse efficiently with the kids (and without a translator)!! Finally, Fermina and I can have a shot at being real friends. I thought. Throughout the following months our friendship felt like two steps forward one and a half steps back. I had several sleepovers with the oldest girls (and some transitional girls) at my home where we all giggled about “girl stuff”, watched cheesy movies, and ate junk food. Each time, I had a flicker of hope that our friendship had been reignited… only to find things had fizzled later. It also didn’t help that I was pulled into several issues that arose during this time that indirectly involved her, which was unhelpful in gaining her trust.
Since June, I feel like our relationship has been on a slow incline. I sensed a new warmth slowly growing in our interactions as this relationship went from a one-way street to two-way. She genuinely laughs at my impish antics, hugs me a little tighter, and initiates conversation more often. I wouldn’t call us “besties” by any means, but I’d definitely say we are friends.
Even still, I’ve felt cautiously hopeful as if a gust of wind could take us back to our initial aloof existence… well… that is until our emotionally charged conversation on her birthday just weeks ago.
I took her and Sandra (one of our young women in the transition program visiting from out of town) to play soccer with Fermina’s friends and family who live here locally. After Fermina and I’s team won (crushed the opposition actually) we went out to our favorite restaurant in town for a birthday treat. We were enjoying crepes and coffee after our meal, and Sandra began to express a desire to return someday to Quiche permanently. Hopeful of the prospect she actual would come back to Quiche, I smiled at Sandra and told her that my house is always open to her.
Suddenly, I felt a slap on the arm. I jerked my head to the left to see Fermina looking at me wide-eyed, her face holding a mixture of emotions. “Why have you never offered that to me?” she exclaimed. Given our history, this outburst all but stunned me.
Now, to give you all a little background information on the topic at hand…. We had been ardently searching for a Guatemalan family in our city for six months. She has stood in front of several churches with our Director asking if there were any families willing to take in a young woman to care for her as a daughter while she continued her education. Granted, I’m sure there are some God-fearing families who would have considered it, but resources are scarce and it’s difficult to commit to another mouth to feed here. With no luck, she reached out to a family who lived 3 hours away to see if they had space for her. When they said yes, she seemed to be elated. We were hesitant, as there were concerns about this placement, but her mind was made up. Just a few days before she announced where she would live, I had started praying as to whether or not I should ask her to live with me… but when she made known her excitement over her new living arrangements, I received that as a closed door and said nothing.
Now, back at the scene unfolding in the middle of a busy restaurant… I began to stammer a reply to her question saying that I had wanted to, but she’d seemed so determined to go live at this other place, so I didn’t. “No!” She exclaimed with increasing volume, “I want to stay in Quiche! I want to live close to my family and everyone at Casa de mi Padre!” I sat there still dumbfounded by the fact that she had hit me and stared at her in confusion, still trying to figure out where this was all coming from. I made my next statement cautiously, “Um… Well… Fermina, my house is open to you too… Do you want to come live with me?”
“Are you serious?” she said shrilly. A quick scan around the room told me we weren’t the only ones invested in this conversation now. She stared at me, and in her still-very-wide-eyes I saw a mixture of hurt, confusion, sadness, and a tinge of anger. “Yes Fermina. I would love to have you come and live with me!”
Now she was the one stammering. “Yes! Well… I need to pray about it. Can I hug you? I could just cry!” And just as suddenly as this whole thing started, it ended. She wrapped her arms around my neck and began to sob.
One would think that someone in my position would be prepared for bursts of strong emotion such as this, but au contraire. I sat there frozen for a moment, and then wrapped my arms around her and let her cry it out. After a few minutes, the other folks in the restaurant returned to their meals, seemingly satisfied with the end-result. Then she collected herself, and we began to dream about the future as we finished our (now cold) crepes.
Within a week we had the Director’s blessing to proceed, and she will be moving in very soon. Y’all, I am overjoyed at this new development! The Lord so graciously answered both mine and Fermina’s prayers. She gets to stay close to the ones she loves, and I get to have a housemate to share life with! Given the stiff nature of our relationship initially, I would never have guessed that she would want to come live with me… but here we are!
Also, since that passionate discussion, our friendship has grown significantly. Part of me wonders if she needed some kind of “grand gesture” from me, to feel safe to trust and commit to our friendship. Whatever it is, I think we had a breakthrough; and her and I are in a really good place.
I’m excited for all of the new possibilities that come with having her presence in my home. My hope in our friendship from the beginning, was for it to eventually develop into one-on-one discipleship, as that was a really big part of my life when I lived in the States…. And I really miss it! I once shared with her mydesire to host a young women’s bible study in my home, and she was really interested in being part of it. The largest hinderance there was who to invite, and then the Lord placed a handful of young women in my path when I served at camp.
So just like that, God has seen my struggles and wonderings of 2019, and provided the solution in 2020. What a Happy New Year this is!
The Lord has provided for all of my needs this year through the generosity of all of you. I am so thankful for each person who has supported me, both financially and in prayer. I wouldn’t still be here without you incredible people!
There have been many changes for me this year… I went from living alone, to living with three people, to living alone again. I purchased a beautiful Honda CRV that can fit down narrow city streets, and bounce around the rural dirt roads.
I’ve also resolved to staying for a while. I’m not sure what the Lord has for me in the long-term, but I will definitely need a clear calling to return back to the U.S. With that in mind, here’s my new monthly budget for the foreseeable future.
For the last year and a half, I’ve been short on monthly income… but the Lord has provided in other one-time gifts to help me cover my expenses. Now that I’ll be a host home for young women in our transition program, my expenses will increase significantly.
I want to be transparent about my financial needs and expenses throughout my time in Guatemala, so I have provided my budget for the upcoming year below, with detailed explanations as well.
Transition Home: Now that Fermina is coming to live with me, I will be considered a transition home. Our ideal is for our young adults to integrate into an established Christian Guatemalan family, and have that family as a life-long resource. As discussed previously, finding these families is no easy task. Therefore, I’ll be stepping in to take care of Fermina’s needs while she continues her education and prepares to live as an independent. I’ll be covering all of her most basic needs: shelter, food, medical care, etc. As we will be living under the same roof and eating the same food, my living expenses are included under this line item as well.
Ministry Vehicle: My little CRV is doing great! In addition to what I’ve budgeted, I have an immediate need. In the next month or so, I will need new tires on the front and new shocks in the front as well. The total for these repairs is $627.
Ministry Expenses: These are all expenses related to ministry.
Support Raising Trips: This category covers the plane ticket, car rental, food, and other expenses related to my biannual return trips to the U.S. to raise support.
Admin/Child Care: This category covers a wide variety of expenses, from any administrative expenses, taking kids out to ice cream before court cases, purchasing ingredients for our sugar cookie decorating activity, snacks for sleepovers with the girls, etc.
Continued Education: This coming year, I will be taking Spanish lessons online through Christian Spanish Academy. My two months in Spanish school were great, but the language barrier gets in the way still from time to time. I’d like to build on what I learned and refine skill (and hopefully be fluent someday!).
Women’s Bible Study: The Lord has really put hosting a bible study on my heart for months now. I’m budgeting for snacks and materials with the intent of starting it in January or February.
Giving: I’m presently praying about how to better support and serve this community. I currently pay for the tuition of a 17-year-old girl I know and am looking for more opportunities to bless those around me.
Personal Expenses: This includes health insurance, doctor’s visits, medication, monthly phone bill, etc.
Foundations for the Future: Over the last year and a half, I haven’t saved anything or put any money into retirement. God has been so good to provide, but my monthly income has gone directly into covering my living expenses. It’s become evident I need to start planning for potential crises and retirement as well (missionaries need IRAs too!).
Please consider joining my support team, and being a part of work God is doing here in Santa Cruz del Quiche! Also, thank you to my current supporters, your generosity enables me to love and serve these children!! I couldn’t do this without y’all!