Editor’s note: now returned missioner Amanda Ceraldi shares the impact the kids at Valley of the Angels in Guatemala had on her during her time on mission.

I stood at the front of a line of the 210 children at Valley of the Angels.  Each one of them was waiting to hug me.  After three years on mission, watching countless short-term mission groups say goodbye to the children at Valley through the fila de abrazos (hug line), it was finally my turn.

One by one, the children of Valley walked up to me and hugged me.  Many whispered well wishes in my ear or told me how much they would miss me.  Some even asked me not to leave and said that Valley would never be the same without me.  As I stood there hugging each of these children that I had formed intentional relationships with during my time in Guatemala, I was flooded with different memories and emotions.

I remembered the Christmas that I celebrated with Jessica* during my first year on mission when we opened presents and watched fireworks at midnight with her family.  I remembered my early days on mission when Charles* would follow me around everywhere I went and wouldn’t leave my side.  I remembered holding Maria* in my arms as she cried after hearing the news that her father had been killed by a rival gang.

These memories and countless others came to the forefront of my mind.  I carried them with me in my final days at Valley of the Angels, remembering each one of the children who changed my life forever.

As I said goodbye, a line from one of my favorite poems came to mind: Some people feel like home feels.  Nothing could be more appropriate. Some people feel like home feels.  The children at Valley feel like home feels.  They are safe.  They are warm.  They are comforting.  They are home.

On days where I felt like I wasn’t cut out for life on mission, they were there. 

 On days where I wasn’t sure if I ever made an impact on their lives, they were there.  On days when I felt like I was abandoning them, they were there and they reminded me that I will always be home when I think of them.  Some people feel like home feels.

It is impossible for me to completely describe how much being on mission impacted and changed my life.  I am not the same person I was when I left for Guatemala, and I credit much of that to the kids at Valley.  They opened their minds, hearts, and souls to me and became my home.

Reflection question: What (or who) is your home away from home?