A Bridge Between Hearts
— Hannah Otazu · Wednesday, April 12, 2023 —
It’s a warm, early morning and Elena is sitting in the bow of a small boat. She’s crossing the lake near her home in Guatemala, preparing to meet up with a team of volunteers on one of Orphan Outreach’s short-term mission trips. This is Elena’s second year serving as a translator for Orphan Outreach (not counting the year and a half lost to COVID), and she is passionate about this work. She is one of many translators Orphan Outreach employs throughout its programs worldwide. Today, we’ll meet three of them: Elena, Ana, and George. As translators, they serve as a cultural bridge, connecting two different worlds, and helping them understand each other in a deeper way.
One of Orphan Outreach’s Marketplace ministries Elena has visited with is a co-op run by a woman in San Juan, named Ana. Marketplace is a retail extension of Orphan Outreach that provides dignified work and fair wages to our artisans all while providing care for orphaned and vulnerable children in Guatemala. Ana is one of the artisans who has partnered with Marketplace. Her co-op provides work for 50 families, employing both men and women from her community. “Ana is this indigenous woman from the highlands of Guatemala whose shop is nestled in the mountains,” Elena explained. “It’s so inspiring to see how she organizes and administrates her business. She’s trilingual, has a Master's in Business, and is using that knowledge in a way that works best for her people and her culture. “She’s incredibly strategic and detailed when it comes to designing new products. She treats her employees with dignity and respect. Many of them didn’t go to school and don’t know how to read, so she has created these simple systems that validate their intelligence and allow them to work in a way that makes sense for them.”
Elena isn’t the only one inspired by the work happening through Orphan Outreach. For George, the transformation he witnesses in the children at the Montessori program in Santa Caterina Pinula, which offers education, social, and life skills training for children three through six years of age, has been nothing short of remarkable. “When we first visited the Montessori Program, they had only been working with the children for two months and with all respect, the children were a mess. They were running everywhere. They were crying. Even at 6 or 7 years old, most of them were non-verbal, only communicating through violence. “But when we returned this past May, they are so different! Now, they are able to manage their emotions. They came up to us and said, ‘Hey, good morning. How are you? My name is this and that, and I am really happy for you to be here. If you want, you can sit down and work with me.’ I was shocked! They’re talking and reading! They have a future now. It's been amazing to see this program grow and to see how it’s growing the children,” George expressed.
Ana, too, has been blown away by the growth she has seen over the past several years-even through the pandemic. “Every program grew through the pandemic, which was shocking. You would expect to see a decrease, that they would lose some kids or participation, but they didn’t. They grew a lot.” Having the opportunity to see this growth happen over time has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the job for Ana, but she also enjoys getting to soak up individual moments with the kids, as well. “I appreciate the teams that come through because they always do such fun activities with the kids. For example, my last team brought the kids from the CCC to a place where there was zip-lining, rock climbing, and lots of other activities. It was amazing because none of the kids have the opportunity to play like that on their own. But their favorite part isn’t even getting to be outside. They just love having the volunteers there to play with them. The first thing they say is, ‘Thank you so much for spending time with us!’ It means a lot to them and to us,” Ana expressed.
In the midst of playing with and serving the children, the translators often have the opportunity to connect personally with the trip participants. George sees these opportunities as sacred ground, where God’s children can come together and celebrate how God is using them in His grander mission. “We have opportunities to talk with the trip participants during lunches, dinners, and small breaks,” George shared. “I think it's really important for the participants to know about Guatemalan people, to know about our culture, and for us to be able to explain where these kids are coming from. And for us, listening to the participants opens our minds, too, because they are explaining all the things they do and how the love of God moved them to come to Guatemala and visit our kids. Elena, Ana, and I feel like we are the voices God is using to bridge two languages. Because of this, we are able to meet halfway and understand each other.”
When George reflects on his time with Orphan Outreach, He is filled with a deep sense of gratitude. From his perspective, the volunteers who travel to spend time with the staff and children are providing more than they might imagine. “When people donate to Orphan Outreach, they are not just giving money. They are changing lives. They are helping families. They are turning tears into smiles. In my country, we are struggling just to get through another day. But when people come to Guatemala to give a hug, to be present, to say, ‘I love you. God loves you,’ they are providing nothing less than the love of Jesus. So, if this conversation touches someone’s heart and moves them to say ‘Yes, I want to go; I want to do ministry in Guatemala,’ I think it would be great because that’s the heart of Jesus. He’s the one who is bringing you from your country to my country just to help my people...and I really appreciate that,” said George.
These three translators are a critical part of the work being accomplished through Orphan Outreach. As they serve as the conduit for God’s love to flow from one heart to another from one country to another. If you wish to experience these stories firsthand, reach out to us today and learn more about short-term mission trips to Guatemala and around the world and how together, we can restore hope.
Start a conversation