Last summer, my mom, my brother, and my two best friends went along with me on a Bridges of Hope mission trip to Guatemala and El Salvador. We arrived in Guatemala on a Sunday night and left our hotel Monday morning to serve at the dump in Guatemala City. The first thing that hit me was the smell. Then I saw the vultures. People living in the trash, people living off of the trash… I didn’t know how anybody could live in such a filthy place. And there I was, in my clean clothes, not even able to stomach the smell of it.

That afternoon, our Bridges of Hope team went to a village near the dump for a food distribution. I talked, cried, and prayed with about a dozen people living in the dump, but there was one boy’s story I will never forget. He told us he never knew his dad, and his mom went missing a couple years ago while working in the dump. He had seven younger siblings, no job, and an alcohol problem. He was 16 years old. How do you reassure someone in this situation that God cares about them? How do you try to make things better? All we could offer was our prayers. It was then I knew only God can fix some things.

The mission trip I went on last summer changed my life. I became more comfortable praying in front of people and realized how fortunate I am for everything God has blessed me with. Most of all, I was exposed to God’s never-ending love and grace. Our Lord has a plan for everyone, no matter if you live in the slums of Guatemala or in a safe, comfortable neighborhood in Kentucky.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. ~Proverbs 31:8

– Claire (Guatemala/El Salvador 2015)