Holding in my hands a child of God, a tear rolled down my cheek. It ran down the gentle skin of someone who smiled through all the pain and praised our Lord regardless of his situation. His brown eyes sparkled in the light and he giggled as I spun him around in circles over and over. The joy he and the other kids had was contagious.
Every single one of us who went on the mission trip to Guatemala with Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls could not help but wonder how lucky we were to meet such amazing children. I expected to go to Guatemala and have an impact on the people I met, but I never expected for each of them to change me.
I stumbled on this amazing opportunity when K-LOVE had a contest a few months before the trip. In order to enter I had to submit a picture of a pair of shoes. The idea for my picture came to me when I asked myself how I could help these kids. The first thing that came to mind was through sharing God’s love for them. I immediately decided I wanted to send this message through my picture.
When I got the call from Scott and Kelli saying I won the contest, I was speechless. I couldn’t wait to see what God had in store for me, and the fact that I was able to share this experience with my sister made it even better. After spending a few days in Guatemala City I realized I did not just stumble across this opportunity. I began to believe this wasn’t luck – that God had a purpose for sending me, just like He does with everything else.
During the seven days I spent in Guatemala, what stood out to me was how grateful everyone I met was despite the poverty. These people still had so much love to give and taught me a very important lesson: no matter what life throws at you and no matter how hard you are thrown to the ground, God will never forget you and He will always have a plan.
On the last day we spent at the orphanage, the little boy I mentioned earlier said something I will never forget. As I held him tightly for one last time, I asked him if he knew God still cared about him and that He will always be by his side. He not only said he did know, but that God also had a plan for me. To hear this from someone so young was amazing.
My trip with Buckner has encouraged me to step up and be the light I want to see in the world. It has taught me I have the power to do great things through God’s love. Mother Theresa once said, “Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.” That is exactly what we all should do.
We cannot ignore that cry right outside our door. We need to fight for the broken, hold on to love, reach for the lonely and keep changing the world.
Betty Hociota was born in Sibiu, Romania and moved to Ohio with her family in 2005. She will be a junior in high school next year. The recent Guatemala shoe delivery trip was her first-ever mission trip.