From Minnesota to Guatemala: Opportunities and Blessings
For the Moakley sisters, the NPH Guatemala trip with Side by Side Ministries is not just an opportunity to serve others. It is a blessing.
"I went into my first trip thinking I was going to serve others, but I left knowing that the children at NPH had served me, selflessly and unintentionally," Katie explained.
The work they do varies from year to year. In 2013, they worked on volunteer houses. This year, they completed labor-intensive tasks at a church site. But regardless of those details, the most important aspect of the trip has always been the smiling faces of the children at NPH.
Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos Guatemala is dedicated to providing a home for orphaned or abandoned children. While the SBS volunteers cannot fix the difficult situations many of these children have faced, they hope that the relationships they develop serve as an example of love that transcends time and distance.
"I feel really blessed that I have been able to be a somewhat consistent figure in the lives of my godchildren," Meaghan said.
Although the volunteers’ only goal for the trip is to serve others, they have found that they never go home empty-handed. As Libby explained, “The joy and happiness that these kids radiate is refreshing.”
To the Moakleys, visiting NPH Guatemala is a reminder that our differences are nothing compared to the joy of mutual respect and friendship. By sharing their personal experiences, the girls hope to spread this beautiful truth to everyone willing to listen. The names of the children have been changed to protect their privacy, but their stories remain powerful.
Meaghan had the opportunity to meet her godchild, Anna, more than five years after the Moakleys began to sponsor her. Their first interactions were tentative, but it wasn’t just the language barrier that posed a challenge. While NPH Guatemala provides these children with a consistent home, no amount of good will can erase the pain they’ve endured.
"A lot of these kids have seen so many people come and go in and out of their lives…they don’t trust that people will stick around," Meaghan explained.
Meaghan quickly learned that building a relationship with Anna would take time, but she knew that acting as a source of love was more important than her disappointment that they didn’t immediately click.
Anna spent more time with Meaghan and her sisters on her second trip, but it wasn’t until the very end of that week that Meaghan knew she had made a connection.
“I knew she wanted to show her love for me when she gave me a bracelet that she made,” Meaghan recalled. “I felt that she had finally warmed up to me and begun to trust me. I told her I loved her and would see her again very soon.”
The next year, their reunion was even sweeter. “We ran at each other as soon as we saw each other,” Meaghan said. There were smiles and tears of joy all around, and Anna rarely left Meaghan’s side.
While Meaghan’s Spanish skills have greatly improved since her first visit to NPH, she and Anna soon realized that they didn’t need words to communicate their joy. “We could just walk or sit and watch soccer in silence, just happy to be with each other,” she explained.
For Meaghan, building that connection with Anna has been one of the most special parts of the annual trip. “I’m so glad that I was able to show Anna that when I say I love her, I mean it,” she said. “When I say I’ll see her again, I mean it.”
Meaghan and Anna have cultivated a friendship that is stronger than geographical boundaries. “I know that godparents improve the lives of the kids at the home, but I have seen my life improve from having a godchild at NPHG,” Meaghan reflected.
Libby was apprehensive when choosing her seat for her very first meal at NPH Guatemala, but she made an instant connection with an eleven year old girl, Sarah. Though Libby had what she describes as “awful” Spanish-speaking skills, it took only minutes for the two to begin chatting about silly topics like boys and celebrities.
When Libby left NPH at the end of that trip, she told Sarah through teary eyes that she loved her and would see her next time. Sarah laughed at her for crying, but she told Libby that she loved her, too. “That was one of my hardest goodbyes,” Libby recalled.
When Libby returned to NPH this year, she found Sarah wearing a sweatshirt bearing her last name, a gift from the year before. The tears began again, but this time, they were filled with joy. “That,” Libby declared, “was one of my happiest hellos.”
Like the year before, Libby sat with Sarah and her friends, laughing about silly topics and poking fun at Libby’s broken Spanish. But this time, her connection with Sarah grew deeper.
“She began to open up to me about what happened with her parents and how she ended up at the home,” Libby explained. To share such a deeply personal story was a defining moment in their friendship.
This year’s goodbye was no easier than the last, but Sarah and Libby exchanged handmade bracelets with the promise to reconnect next year. “Although my heart aches to be with her, I know she is safe at NPH and that I will be with her in a year,” Libby reflected.
This year’s trip to NPH Guatemala was a highlight for the Moakleys, but it wasn’t the labor at the church site that will remain in their memories forever. The relationships they’ve formed with the children at NPH Guatemala are what keep them returning year after year.
The cultural differences and language barrier presented challenges at first, but the sisters soon learned that love is a universal language. With a little understanding and a lot of trust, any differences can be overcome to create something good. The blessings that pour out with each visit to NPH Guatemala motivate the Moakleys to continue inspiring good when they’re back in Minnesota through their company, 1People1Earth.
World peace might seem like an unattainable goal, but change doesn’t always happen on a global scale. Even the smallest acts of kindness and love can make a difference. If you can befriend or help just one person, you have succeeded in making the world just a little bit brighter. Whether at NPH Guatemala or at home in the Twin Cities, the Moakleys know it only takes a spark to light a flame and inspire good.
To learn more about the trip, visit http://sbsyouth.org/mission-blog/, or watch Katie’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSk8CO3Yx8c&app=desktop! To learn more about 1People1Earth, visit http://1p1e.com.