This previous June I went on a missions trip to Guatemala with ten other students and five teachers from my high school, an incredible and eye-opening experience that changed me forever. Many people applied and few got accepted, and when I received my acceptance letter I was overwhelmed with excitement as well as fear, for I hoped that they wouldn’t think it was a mistake in choosing me. I was ecstatic to travel to a new country and actually get to learn about a culture first hand, rather than read a history book. Since I got accepted in October, and the trip was in May, there was a lot of time for the excitement and anxiety to build, and I was so excited to bond with my team, but I had NO idea how close we were going to be by the end of the trip; By the end of the trip we all had seen each other without makeup, smelled each other without deodorant in 110 degree weather and 90% humidity, and had literally talked about everything, from our relationships with God to how much diarrhea we had the night before. My journey began at 2 o’clock in the morning on the last day of May, and we arrived in Guatemala later the next day, exhausted as well as dripping in sweat. The next few days we learned about and explored the natural beauties of Guatemala, visiting bat caves and hiking to the top of Semuc Champey, one of the most strenuous hikes, yet well worth your while once you get to the top which overlooks a beautiful river and the entire jungle. I also visited several Mayan ruins, hiking to the top of them to watch the sunset. Watching the sunset from the top of an ancient ruin, overlooking the lush green jungles of Guatemala really opened my eyes to the incredible amount of beauty in this earth, and also made me realize that there is beauty everywhere, all around the world, and it’s terrible to not appreciate it. We then traveled to Manchiliquila, a ten hour car ride, where we did some missionary work with the church, and would spend time with the kids and do any construction work. We arrived at the church at 11:30 at night to a lovely greeting of fireworks. I felt so loved and welcomed by this community, and was shocked how warm and friendly they were while they didn’t even know me. This taught me one of the most valuable things I have ever learned-to love each other. Even though that sounds so simply and cliché, it’s the most important thing in life, to love others and spread the love. After two weeks of serving the church and learning about the amazing history of Guatemala, I returned home expected to bounce back into the routine of our daily lives-but that was not the case. I came home exhausted, feeling more empty than I ever had in my life. It wasn’t until weeks later that I realized how much I learned and how much this trip changed me. I didn’t particularly miss my friends, family, or bed for that matter, and I woke up the next day with the most intense feeling of dissatisfaction; Facebook, TV, Shopping-all the things that I used to enjoy completely disgusted me. Nothing seemed to fulfill me; the only thing that seemed worthwhile was interacting with people, and even that sometimes got boring. As I reflect on that journey, I know I gained a new perspective on life to say the least, and realize that loving people and not getting attached to material things is the key to having an overall joyful life.
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