The van ride from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango (Xela) is a three-hour trip along a winding, mountain road. The drive is the last leg in the arduous journey to Good Shepherd Children’s Home – Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) new affiliate orphange.
For Tabitha, the trip was a great adventure and dream come true. Earlier, she traveled from BCH’s Broyhill Home in Clyde to the airport in Atlanta, GA. She then completed the three-plus hour flight from Atlanta to Guatemala City.
During the van ride, Tabitha’s gaze was fixed on the world outside her window. This was her first trip to a another country.
“I loved that drive,” Tabitha recounts. “I loved looking out the window and seeing the faces of all the people.”
For years, Tabitha dreamed of seeing the faces, foreign landscapes and experiencing the cultures she learned about in grade school. She also desired for her first trip abroad to be a mission opportunity.
“I’ve always had an interest to work in the mission field,” Tabitha explains. “Part of going to Guatemala with BCH was to see if it’s something I really want to do.”
The staff at Broyhill Home arranged for Tabitha and her brother Trevor, who is also a BCH resident, to travel recently to New York with a mission team from Riverside Baptist Church in Waynesville.
Helping the city’s homeless alongside the Riverside group deepened Tabitha’s desire. When she first learned about BCH’s partnership with North Carolina Baptist Men and International Indigenous Community Development (IICD) to begin the orphange in Xela, she asked BCH’s president Michael C. Blackwell and chief operating officer Keith Henry if she could go to Guatemala.
On May 15, the day after her 18th birthday, Tabitha received the news – she would travel with a BCH team for a week-long trip to the new orphanage.
“I was so excited,” Tabitha recalls. “Ms. Vicki, Ms. Lou, Ms. Vivian, and Ms. Shehva all helped me to prepare.”
Shehva Kier, resident manager at Moody Home in Franklin, accompanied Tabitha on
her journey. They joined BCH’s Regina Keener, Linda Russo, Miriam Matias and Brooke Childe on the trip. While the other team members spent the week training the Guatemalan citizens who will serve at Good Shepherd Children’s Home, Tabitha and Shehva carried out their own unique mission. The duo created a mural on the building’s large courtyard wall.
The courtyard is the central area of the facility and will serve as a play area for the children who will live there. Every room inside the structure has a door that opens into
“I like to paint, and I think the mural will be enjoyed by the children,” Tabitha says.
Colorful drawings of flowers, butterflies and children adorn the long concrete wall. Scripture from Isaiah 54:13, written in the country’s native Spanish language, completes the artwork.
“The building itself is beautiful,” Tabitha says. “I hope it will feel like home to the children.”
While the mural and training sessions took the majority of their time, Tabitha and the BCH team members were also able to explore the surrounding area.
Even though she knew about the difficultliving conditions of the Quiche people in Xela, seeing it firsthand was eye-opening for the teen.
“I saw little children playing in a house with no roof, door or floor,” Tabitha says. “I also saw a woman and children going through a trash pile on the side of the road looking for food. There was a dog with them eating out of the same trash pile.”
Tabitha says it brought back memories from her childhood. “I know about being hungry. I remember growing up and occasionally eating at a soup kitchen – and not always having three meals a day. I’m thankful for what I have today.”
The experience of her first foreign trip has fueled her aspiration to be a part of mission work in the future. “I feel that it’s something I want
to be more involved in. After seeing these things, I don’t know how you would not want to help.”