guat's up | part one


It's been a month and a half. 

Let's back up. On June 4, 2012, I flew to South Carolina. Okay wait, TWO YEARS AGO. It was the summer of 2010. My friend was going to Guatemala! For two months! She would be serving at an orphanage there. For the whole summer. I stalked her blog. I stalked her team’s blog. I laughed in the happy moments.  I cried in the heartbreaking moments. These blogs were more then just words on the Internet. They were stories. Of people. Of real lives. Of actual adventures. I was reeled in, hook, line, and sinker. I stared at the pictures and soaked in the words. I can’t really explain it, because it hasn’t happened since, but everything felt so real and beautiful. I knew one thing. I wanted to be in Guatemala. But I was only 16. I had to finish school first. And June of 2012 seemed like a long way away. 

Going into my junior year of highschool that fall, Guatemala started to slip from my mind. I mean, junior year is the busiest one right? School, life, and photography took over. I ran cross country. I did some family sessions. I definitely passed every Advanced Math test that was thrown my way. I drank apple cider, celebrated Thanksgiving, wore sweaters, decorated for Christmas, opened presents, and basked in the post-Christmas haze that is the last few weeks before school starts back up again. 

I spent the last few days of 2010 as I always do at the end of each year. Wondering how the year went by so quickly, remembering the hard and wonderful and challenging and rewarding things. Reminiscing with my family. Do you remember that one time? Yes! When you dived off the diving board for the first time. When we made that dinner on Valentine’s Day. When Jude, our baby brother, was born after a scary week for my mom at the hospital. When you turned 16 and had your party in October instead of April! Good things. Beautiful and wonderful things. Then, on the night of December 30, I had a dream. Not one of those dreams where I meet my future husband in a Pride and Prejudice setting. And it wasn’t one of those action packed, adventure dreams where I can’t move my feet and I freak out. It was the quietest dream I’ve had. It was like a silent film playing out before my eyes. In my dream, I was standing in a courtyard. It was pouring rain. It was evening. My face was towards the sky and I was singing worship songs. (I couldn’t hear myself sing... but I knew I was praising my Savior.) Then, my dream changed. I was changing diapers in a small room filled with toddlers. I was surrounded by pottery. Dream change again. I was watching someone make tortillas... it was blurry... my dream ended. I woke up. What the heck just happened. It was the most real dream I have ever had. I’ve never felt so alive in a dream before. I knew it too. I knew that in my dream, I had been in Guatemala. 

I was freaking out. Was I supposed to go there? Like wait, what? I could not get that dream out of my head. I prayed. So hard. I prayed for God’s will to be done. I prayed that He would reveal to me exactly what that dream meant. Because it was special. I wanted to go to Guatemala. Like, really badly. But I had to wait. I believe God answers prayer. But for a while, I didn’t hear anything. I began to lose faith. Did God really send that dream or was that just a random occurrence? I hadn’t thought about Guatemala in quite some time... so did it mean something? Slowly, I let up praying. I didn’t forget about the dream, but I wasn’t getting anything. You know, I wasn’t getting a clear signal. A green flag that was saying, “Go! To Guatemala! I want you there!” from God. I let it slide. The spring of 2011 flew by. I turned another year older, finished junior year, and settled into a nice and cozy summer routine. God? Sure. He was there. Of course. 

In July 2011, some crazy things happened at my church that rocked my world. I began to realize I needed God more. I needed His presence more. I just needed Him. So I began to pray. My journal entries during this time are me crying out to God for mercy. I stopped journaling for a while. But I remember my thoughts clearly. What’s happening God? I honestly don’t know what to think right now. 

This was also when I started going to the chiropractor for my back. I started senior year. I went on an elimination diet to get rid of headaches. My life was a crazy whirlwind. And yet, Guatemala popped back into my mind. What is that Lord? You want me to go? But all of this craziness here... I have to focus on that. That dream. Oh yes. Wow, that dream is still very much alive to me. God brought me to my knees and said, “I love you, Ellie. I want you to pursue going to Guatemala. I’ll take care of everything. Trust in me. I’m your Father. I love you.” So um, yeah. That was the green flag I had been waiting for. I emailed the Summer Teams Coordinator for Rainbows of Hope about applying for the Guatemala trip in the summer of 2012 and received an email back. Hi Ellie, thanks so much for getting in touch. I’m attaching the summer team application. 

I think I chills went up and down my spine when I got that email. This is really happening? Like, I might be able to go? I printed out the application and read through it. There was a little box about half way down that stopped me in my tracks. It said that I had to get blood work done to test for HIV’s.  Blood work? I have to get my blood taken? Let’s pause for a minute. Needles? HA. Not my friends. Getting blood work done? Get out of town. I really stay away from that if it is absolutely necessary. So, when I saw that I needed to get blood work done in order to go to Guatemala, I panicked. Umm not what I signed up for!! I quickly realized something though. If God wanted me in Guatemala, He would give me grace to get a needle stuck in my arm. (Ew. Shudder. Ew.) I had to trust. So I prayed. Lord, I need you. Even when I think about getting blood drawn I freak out. Help me. Oh, and if it's possible, could I not have to do it?A few days later, I checked my email. There’s an email from the ST (Summer Teams yo) Coordinator. Oh, just so you know, the HIV situation has changed overseas so there is no need to do the blood test. I’m sorry, excuse me WHAT. I ran around the house, jumping up and down, thanking Jesus for his sweet mercy. No blood work needed. I didn’t have to take that needle. That was clue #1 that God had something special planned for next summer.

My application laid on my desk, half filled out for about three months. I would glance at it every once in a while and then move on.   I procrastinated, I didn’t know how to answer some of the questions. What if I answered some wrong? Trust in God. What if they didn’t accept me? Trust in God. The deadline was January 31, 2012. I postmarked my application on, you guessed it. January 31. I prayed right before I sent it off. Lord, this is in Your hands. Take it. Right now. My application, my dreams, my desires, they’re Yours. Off went the application. 

Weeks passed. No response. I plugged away with senior year. Summer was approaching. What do I do if they don’t accept me? Do I have other plans for the summer? Reading through my journal from earlier this year, themes keep popping up. Trusting in God. Relying on Him fully. Being content in Him. God was stirring something in my heart. March 1, 2012: God is really doing cool things in my life right now. “Stop and consider the wondrous works of God.” March 6, 2012: God is doing great things in my life. He is teaching me to put HIM first in my world and trust in Him for everything. I wondered what to do. After talking to my mom, I decided to call the Rainbows of Hope office. It had been almost a month and a half after sending in my application, they hopefully would have some sort of word for me right? I dialed the number, waited anxiously, pacing the floor as the phone rang. A sweet voice answered, Hello, Rainbows of Hope office! This is Julia. How can I help you today? I took in a breath and explained my situation. I had sent in my application. I hadn’t heard anything. I wanted to make plans for the summer and I was wondering if they had any idea when my application would be reviewed? She transferred me to Tom, the ST Coordinator. He kindly greeted me and asked for my name. Ellie Berry. "Okay hold on, let me check something." I heard rustling and murmuring. After a few seconds, he came back on the phone and said something that I will never forget. Well Ellie, it seems that we never received your application.