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Home is Where the Hugs Are


Editor’s Note: Before returning to the United States for a holiday visit, Missioner Amanda Ceraldi recalls a conversation she had with a Valley student and how it made her return to Guatemala all the sweeter.

Nearly three months ago, I prepared to leave Guatemala and return to the United States for the first time in two years. My student Jaime* came and offered to help put my suitcase in the car. When we lifted it into the trunk, he looked at me with the goofiest grin and laughed.

“Amanda, why is your bag so heavy?”

“Jaime, I’m going back to the United States for two months and I have a lot of things I need to bring back,” I responded.

At that, his face turned very serious. He asked me, “You’ll be back, right?”

“Yeah, Jaime, I’ll be back in January.”

He thought about my response for a few seconds and said, “But do you promise?”

“Of course, I’ll be back when you return from vacation.”  

With that response, Jaime hugged me and said, “Okay, but you have to promise, because you can’t abandon us.”

After this conversation with Jaime, I wasn’t sure how I could possibly go back to the United States for two months.  How could I leave Jaime and the other students at Valley?  I was afraid they would think I was abandoning them forever.  Part of me did feel like I was abandoning them. I didn’t want to get on my plane, but I did. Going back to the States was something I needed to do. It was good to have some time to relax before preparing for another school year at Valley, and it was nice to spend time with my family and friends I hadn’t seen in two years. I am thankful for my time at home, but I was ready to come back to my other home in Guatemala.

When I returned to Guatemala, I impatiently awaited the arrival of my students. The night before felt like Christmas Eve. I couldn’t sleep, I was so excited to see them. All I could think about was hugging Jaime, letting him know that I was back and that I had no plans to abandon him.

When Jaime walked through the door, I felt like my heart might explode with joy. He dropped his bags, ran to me, and hugged me has tight as he could. He looked up at me with that same goofy grin, laughed, and said, “Thank you for not abandoning us.”  

It’s good to be back; it’s good to be home.

Reflection Question: spend some time giving thanks for the many “homes” you have been blessed with. How can you show your gratitude to those who welcome and love you today?

Amanda Ceraldi graduated from The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. where she majored in Theology and minored in Peace and Justice Studies. Amanda was involved with Campus Ministry at CUA and worked as a Student Minister her senior year. As a Baltimore native, Amanda loves all things Baltimore and Maryland–Chesapeake Blue Crabs, the Ravens and the Orioles, Old Bay and much more. She has been serving at Valle de los Angeles School in Guatemala since January 2015.