2009 was a new year for me. 2008 was the hardest year of my life. That year I became a widow with 6 kids and was completely overwhelmed. It felt like I was on a roller coaster ride and just wanted to get off! My mom taught me to serve when the going gets tough, so I decided that the time was right to do something I had always wanted to do- a humanitarian mission. SO many people had given to me the past 9 months and this is one little way to try to pay the world back. I just said yes when this opportunity came up without even thinking too much about it, and paid the money for me and my 18 year old daughter to go. The Humanitarian mission is called Smiles for Guatemala. It was a group of dentists and assistants giving kids dental treatments that had never had any work done before. I am not a dental assistant by trade, but my dentist trained me for 3 months to be his assistant while out of the country. In April 2009 I was off on a 10 day trip to Guatemala City. We didn’t bring any luggage because we filled our two 50 pound bags with dental supplies and gifts. My carry-on had my clothes and stuff in it.
What a beautiful, warm country. Warm in more ways than one- the temperature and the people. I have never been around such sweet people. I felt like I was a million miles away from home which is what I had been looking for, but I also felt very disconnected from those I loved. The cell service was not good at all and the email worked once in a while if I could find the perfect spot in our hotel. But we didn’t spend much time in the hotel- we were doing dental work for kids 12-16 hours a day. I was busy and liked that because it got my mind off what was going on at home. The thing I loved the most were the humble people of Guatemala. I have never met such gentle, courteous kids in all of my life. They touched my soul. Most of them never had dental work done before and they were terrified. It was interesting because I didn’t know any spanish and they didn’t know any english but a hug went a long way.
One girl I felt a bond with immediately. Anna had just lost her mom the day before she came to the clinic. I looked at my daughter who had lost her dad 9 months earlier and the feeling was similar- such a great loss. My heart ached for her. Anna spent most of the day at the clinic because she had to have so much done. Cleaning, cavities, root canals (my dentist and I were in charge of), and oral surgery. By the end of the night she was streaming tears and so was I. She gave me a gift when she left- earrings she had made–they are incredibly giving people. I still keep in touch with her thanks to google translate!
A couple of the days we left for field trips. I took toys from my company glowdough.com and passed them out to kids all over the place. We saw things that hurt my heart- kids in cancer hospitals, orphanages, and homes many lived in with the bare minimum. Each day I was so grateful for everything I had. What was inspiring was they were happy despite what they had or what they were going through. It showed me a lesson in life- it doesn’t take things to be happy.
After a few days I felt so far away from home and couldn’t communicate with my kids and the man I was falling in love with. I was going crazy inside. My eyes kept filling up with tears and I wondered how I was going to make it another 8 days. I have been through so much the past 9 months and feel like it has been a tough burden to carry, but a really amazing learning experience. I finally decided that I needed to go pray by myself and let some of these emotions out. I went in a bathroom and got down on my knees and cried. I thought, “Here I am in a country far away from home on a bathroom floor in Guatemala, but my Heavenly Father knows where I am and can hear me.” I begged Him to help me be able to sort through all of this- 9 months of a hell I never would have guessed would happen to me. After I was done throwing all my pain out there I stayed on my knees and listened. In just minutes I felt a great peace come over me and I heard 4 words that I will never forget, “STAND UP AND LIVE”. What a beautiful answer to prayer. I felt so much better. I need to stand up and move forward. I need to keep smiling. Get up from being hit from behind- wipe off my knees and stand up tall. Take the experiences that I have had, learn and grow from them and don’t look back. What a great answer! Just what I needed to hear. I can do this. So I did. I stood up with a renewed energy. I will live life to the fullest and stand up for good. Life has never been the same. I love my life and am so grateful for each and every day!