Editor’s Note: Missioner Amanda Ceraldi shares how the kids she lives with and teaches at Valley of the Angels in Guatemala have challenged her to reexamine her emotional barriers and allowed her to be her full and complete self.

When driving nearly anywhere in Guatemala City, I am constantly surrounded by fences. Wooden fences, wire fences, tall fences, wide fences–on every street there are fences.

Some of these fences are lined with barbed wire or shattered glass, some are less like fences and more like walls, but nonetheless, Guatemala City is a city of fences. They gate communities, block construction, and encase parking lots and shopping centers.

These fences have many different purposes, but their foundation is all the same. These fences are for safety and security, to protect what’s behind them.

I’ve found that I have become used to the fences of Guatemala City. In many ways, they dictate my life. These fences tell me where I can and cannot go, they tell me when to turn left or right, they keep me protected from the unknown dangers that might lie ahead. These fences do what they were built for, they make me feel safe; they provide the idea of comfort, whether or not they serve their purpose.

But the fences that have surrounded me in Guatemala are not always physical. Sometimes these fences are more figurative. They are the fences that hide my insecurities, my fears, and my anxieties. Throughout my whole life, I’ve slowly built up these imaginary fences.

Similar to the fences I see everyday in Guatemala, my own personal fences are lined with barbed wire, they are brick walls, they are taller than I can see and wider than I can reach.

These fences are used for the very same reasons that the fences have been built in Guatemala City. My fences make me feel safe and secure, they provide me with a level of comfort, and do exactly what I built them for. Just like Guatemala’s fences, the fences I have built dictate my life.

However, these fences that protect me from facing my insecurities, my fears, and my anxieties, the ones that I have built up and block me from the uncertainty in my life, are coming down. Piece by piece and brick by brick, the kids at Valley of the Angels are taking down my fences.

July_taking down fences

Amanda with her students at Valley of the Angels

The love of these kids is taking away my insecurities, my fears, and my anxieties. Their love is showing me that these fences are not protecting me, but instead are hiding my authentic self.

The 215 precious angels that I live and work with have shown me how to be my authentic self; they have shown me that I don’t need my fences because these kids have replaced the bricks and the barbed wire with their unconditional love.

And for that I will be forever grateful.

Reflection Questions: What are your fences? Are they preventing you from fully loving or being loved?