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New Beginnings

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Editor’s note: Missioner Misty Menis-Kyler looks back on her first few months of mission and her time at Valley of the Angels, telling of encounters which have shaped her time on mission for the future.

The months here at Valley have gone by in a blink of an eye. The days and weeks seem to fly, and I catch myself already wondering what I am going to do after my two years here on mission. I know it is too early to be thinking of this, but with the speed I am currently going, it seems two years will have past before I know it. I want to press the pause button and just take in my surroundings. I want to really be present to the children and to teaching them. I want to soak in the Guatemalan culture and learn as much as I possibly can during my time here. I have already come to love Valley, and the children are so welcoming. They are always smiling and laughing and giving out hugs, and it is impossible to have a bad day. Even with my poor Spanish, we still find ways to communicate and giggle over mispronunciations.

Recently, the FMS short-term mission group were here for a week, and I got to experience some of the projects they were involved in. One project that I really enjoyed being a part of was going to the nearby village and delivering food to the families most in need. Meeting them and seeing the joy and happiness on their faces reminds me of why I am here and why I love to do this work. They all invited us into their homes, which were not very large. I remember a one-room house, with space just large enough to fit two beds, and I learned that five people—3 children and 2 adults, with another child on the way—all lived there together. It was heart-breaking to see, but the families were so grateful for everything, including life. I hope to learn this same joy while I am here.

Another wonderful experience I had this past month was with one of the little boys. I have not had a chance yet to really get to know any of the boys at Valley, due to the fact that they only speak Spanish and the classes I teach are with the older girls. On this particular day, I was having a hard time; I was feeling very lonely and frustrated with myself that I still could not really speak Spanish while my other housemates were all nearly fluent. I was walking over to dinner alone, and the boys had just finished up and were walking back to the dorms. I said a meek hola,” and we walked past each other. All of a sudden, two tiny arms reached around me, and I felt a squeeze from behind. I was startled and looked back to see a young boy giving me a hug and a smile. No words were exchanged, but that moment has stuck with me, and on days when I am struggling, I think back to the little boy, the simple hug, and how much that meant to me.

The Living Stations at Valley

Most recently, I had the amazing experience of watching and helping the students prepare for Holy Week. One of the major preparations involved the children making Alfombras, which are colorful rugs made out of dyed sawdust. The designs are drawn outside on the ground and then filled in with the sawdust. The students worked on them all night and in the the early morning so that they would be ready for the Living Stations performed on Good Friday. The Living Stations are beautifully done, and the children take their roles very seriously. They walk on the carpets as the crowd moves to each station leading up to the death and Resurrection at the Church. Even watching from the side of the road, I was moved by their commitment and seeing the Stations reenacted. It was the most beautiful Living Stations I have personally ever seen.

Time has indeed been flying by, but I have experienced so much in my time here already. These experiences keep me aware of why I do mission work and act as a reminder of all the exciting new adventures I will have in the future and all the many new things I will learn traveling around the world accompanying people. This is where God has called me to be for now, and I will continue to be present here.

Reflection Question: What are the personal encounters in your own daily life that remind you of what you are doing and why you are doing it?

Misty’s participation in volunteer experiences and service trips during college deepened her desire to live among and serve impoverished communities. She then spent two years teaching at St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, Montana, with Cap Corps Midwest, a Franciscan volunteer program. In alignment with her Franciscan spirit, Misty’s path led her to overseas mission to accompany those who are marginalized, uncared for, and forgotten. Originally from Rochester, Indiana, Misty studied pastoral leadership at Marian University.