Almost 6 Months in Guatemala - A Check-In

The best way to describe the moment getting on the airplane to Guatemala is, I felt like a plucked chicken! I wondered - what happened to me? Don't my talents and abilities, my education, my wits, anything matter to you, God? Why on Earth would you want me to go to Guatemala? This makes zero (0) sense! Where is my dog, my house, and my baby? Where is my office building, my team, and my trips to Switzerland? What about ME?

"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!" Psalm 139:23  

Lately as I see more and more devastation in this country, including a friend and coworker being murdered in cold blood a couple of weeks ago, my mind takes me back to the U.S. -- the immigrants used to tell each other that the streets were paved with gold there, and now I kind of get it. There is a sense of enduring wealth, security, and prosperity on most streets in America, even the unkempt areas.

 Yes, I look back at the worst of what I've seen in America and it was still cleaner and safer than most places here.

Here in Guatemala, one the things that upsets me most is the disorder. Piles of rubble, general filth, and unfinished buildings or buildings that are falling apart everywhere along the streets. I am not really talking about Antigua where I live, which for the most part is stunning for tourist presentation purposes (in shambles, but stunning) - but almost everywhere else.

There is this near constant of utter chaos which my beauty, elegance, and simplicity-loving soul just recoils at. The people here are oppressed by constant fear of being robbed or murdered. The women can't even think about things like college with a religion that keeps them in constant cycles of pregnancy and bare-footedness.

My Life Before Guatemala

I am a lady who loves tea parties, rose gardens, pleasant conversation, pretty dresses, and gondola rides. I am old-school. I admit it. I want to go to galas and be surprised with a necklace of pearls. Yes, I want to "propose a toast" - I want to enjoy a sunset from a sailboat. I want to go back to Scotland and stay the night in a real castle, and I want a night at the Connaught after spending a day seeing Big Ben and other places I want to see in London and finding the address my Great Great Great Grandma Eloise once lived.

I worked hard to ensure I would have the life I desired in the United States, with the prospects I wanted, and the spontaneous trips I wanted. After realizing it wasn't going to fall on my lap, I drank so much coffee and worked myself to the bone. I worked through the nights with a day-light bulb, till my eyes went and I couldn't even look at the screen anymore.

One day my husband told me he felt the Lord was telling him we need to move to volunteer in South or Central America and he was getting an impression about Guatemala.

I hated this idea.

It wasn't glamorous, that's for sure. It didn't fit my plan which was finally coming together.

But I prayed for confirmation, and I got it. And I knew not going would be sin. So gave it all away, we did it.

What Life is Like Here in Guatemala

Now it has been nearly 6 months of living here in Guatemala. I find myself trudging at 7am to a bus that is a decommissioned U.S. school bus which is literally falling apart and speeding down the road on dangerous curves. My lungs which appreciate the clean air are instead breathing in thick volcano ash mixed with burning trash, mixed with vehicle exhaust, mixed with urine from men who commonly pee on the sidewalks.

I am here volunteering with my husband while we build our startup. Twice a week we go to this castle-like house that is a home for disabled orphans in a town called San Antonio Augas Calientes. It is like arriving to a different world where order and sanity exists as best it can.

And I am there just trying to love these orphans and make some kind of difference. There is one child named Alejandra who I thought might be helping, but I've recently pulled back significantly, concerned how I could be distracting her with play from her more effective therapies, and now my visits are less frequent.

On Sundays I serve on the worship team at my bilingual church, Shoreline Guatemala. It is a strong church full of inspiring people who are mostly missionaries. Yes, I have a strong community of ex-pats here. I live in a gated community that only outsiders can afford. I also demand strong internet so I can maintain bonds in the US and continue to build this business.

What's Next

Except for at church, I feel somewhat like an outsider who is shuffling on the outskirts because I'm not a Guatemala-lifer or a true "missionary" like most of the people I have met.

Am I supposed to want to stay here in Guatemala because I feel too guilty to go back, like somehow my contribution living here could help more?

I have been exposed to so much suffering and disorganization, so much tragedy and need for so many months, I'm sure when I get back to America it will all hit me differently and I will finally see how I've changed.

My country of The United States of America gives me - a young educated female - a chance to create a thriving business without fear. I can actually go to the grocery store alone, and count on certain systems to support me, my family, and my life. I don't have to live under the constant stress of being surrounded by a system that is crumbling, I can live with confidence that I will be respected and treated fairly, if not I have recourse.

I am determined to go back and make the most of everything I used to take for granted, and pour out on these new heart connections and new dreams of supporting friends and loved ones in Guatemala.

I believe that's where I stand now, and I'm more grateful than ever.

Mis Raices - Learning the Spanish Language in Guatemala

I think because of the nature of our current political situation around immigrants, this story matters now more than ever. It's time to share more about my Grandparents, who are a huge inspiration to me, and I really don't talk enough about them. Their story of struggle and victory would blow you over. They are hands down the best people I know.
FIRST, KNOW THIS: We are all ignorant, whiny, lazy losers compared to them, I assure you.
These amazing humans changed their destiny through a strong faith in God, unstoppable tenacity, and a heart of service. Before coming to Guatemala to volunteer, I had a blessed conversation with my Grandparents, Osvaldo and Carmen Iris Enriquez who emigrated from Puerto Rico and made a good life in America.
My Grandpa gave me a GREAT piece of advice that has stuck with me. He said to improve my handle of the language in a new place, I should read their local newspaper every day.
It's super hard. It means humbling yourself and taking it slow. It means getting to know what matters to the people you live among, from their perspective, in their language.
It's how he taught himself English decades ago, as a young man looking for a better life in New York City. Soon to serve our country facing the horrors of Vietnam with a great bravery and strength that demands our honor and respect. He then sacrificed the rest of his working life to service in the Army, even living in Alaska for several years with his wife and children. BTW I'll spare you the stories of the ridiculous racist disrespect he had to put up with... and still has to put up with... I know HE rarely speaks of it and doesn't complain about it...
So today I may struggle to read the paper (even with AP Spanish and Puerto Rican blood pulsing through my brain, this is HARD) but I know that within me is a legacy of victory over challenges like this, and far greater than this. My favorite paper to read is Prensa Libre, because of the quality journalism.
One day I will know this language of Spanish inside and out. I would love nothing more than to honor my heritage, and make the most of the place in the world they worked so hard, and sacrificed so much, to carve out for me.
Get over yourself America. Open your doors. The people you let in are not rapists and terrorists, those are racist lies. They are people like my Grandparents.

Announcing our Online Bible Study for Discerning The Voice of God!

Hello Ladies,

I want to thank everyone who participated in the Armor of God Bible Study series. We grew so much over 6 weeks and made many new friends! I loved it and I'm so glad I have my little mobile "war room" now - these prayers have been powerful and effective.

Do you desire to hear from God and really know it's Him speaking to you? Maybe you're going through a season where it seems He is silent. Maybe you just want to recognize His voice better. Well, we are starting a new online study together that I think would be right up your alley.

It's another great study by Priscilla Shirer that came highly recommended to me. And based on conversations with ladies in the group and prayer over this, I know the timing will be right. It's...

So are you up for it? Let's learn all about that and make a few new girlfriends too! This is a 7 week video/workbook study. Priscilla does a great job breaking it down and making it very practical.

To join you will need the workbook (please support the site and purchase here: Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God Speaks (Bible Study Book) ) and I will provide the videos!

I hope you will join us, the start date and other details are to be announced, so in the meantime please join us on the Facebook group where we will be getting excited together!

Join the Facebook group here:

I can't wait to see you on the inside!

Never stop learning, growing, and reaching!


If Your Loved One is In The Hospital, Order Your Flowers Direct

One of my loved ones is having surgery at Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City, FL today. Every time, I always use a local florist called Creative Flowers by Glenn. They always do such a great job. I call them up on their local number (813) 754-7449 instead of their 1-800 number. And there is a specific reason I do that!

I know from working as a florist in a floral shop that if you order through 1-800 Flowers or from the florist's website, often a big company takes a fee from the small shop.

And there are many benefits for me, too:

  1. I can choose a floral shop that's closest by looking at the map, which means they can probably get the flowers there faster without a bunch of fees
  2. By calling them directly, I get to hear Glenn's cute raspy voice and make a specific request like a type of flower rather than going with one of the cookie-cutter designs
  3. It matters to me that I support the small businesses rather than the major chains
  4. I connect directly with a human about a purchase that matters to me
  5. I can request a certain price point, and ask that they do their best to work within that. And because the florist keeps a bigger % of the sale they can pass a little savings on to me as well 
So I hope you'll keep this in mind next time you're looking to buy flowers. Support the local floral shops! Long live your flowers! 

Content by Laura Gabriele