A reflection by Danielle Fernandez Norkus
My missions experience in Guatemala seven years ago, though brief, profoundly marked my life’s direction. My limited, college-student worldview quickly imploded as I saw more intense human need than I knew how to process within an hour of my arrival. Much more remarkable than the striking poverty was the resilience of so many of those I encountered there, particularly the children. It was humbling to be received with such joy by the children inhabiting one particular railroad slum, whose school was patched up by our group. Often alone and unsupervised; hungry, shoeless, and abused, these sweet children climbed all over us, clamoring for attention and affection. Receiving instant love of this intensity is life-altering, especially from tiny humans who receive so little themselves. It was a privilege to meet and learn from their teachers as well, who tirelessly serve these children every day.
I remember one brown-eyed toddler whose father was dying. He stored his medical supplies in a hand-held cooler, and the family kept the groceries that we brought them on a table in the living room. The two eldest daughters disappeared for a moment, quickly returning with worn stuffed animals which they proudly gave to my sister and me. This simple offering continues to haunt and inspire me.
Today, many mission trips later, I work as a health care professional in Latin America. My experience with the selfless teachers and partners in Guatemala inspired me in my life and career, and I hope that they can continue to receive support in order to similarly inspire others.