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A letter from YAV Juli Smith in Guatemala

July 2011

This past year in Guatemala has most certainly been the most challenging, stretching, growing experience that I have ever had. I changed contexts completely, from my college apartment in Oxford, Ohio to living my life in Spanish with large Guatemalan families in a developing country. I've had to live in challenging situations of family turbulence, gotten to know people that live with daily questions of how to make ends meet, as well as seen the very real effects of draughts and floods in areas with no infrastructure for repair.

This year I've also gotten to build incredible relationships through my host families and with my fellow YAVs. Ive gotten to experience great joy in attending family weddings, quinceañeras, and Sunday afternoons when the whole family gathers for a meal. Im so thankful for these parts of my experience here, because they've helped me to get a real glimpse of life in Guatemala and I feel fortunate to have gotten this year-long peek into such a different context, as well as to have a Guatemalan family to come back and visit in the future.

For all that I have experienced this year — the good, the bad, and the ugly — I am thankful. Though challenging, I know that God perfectly crafted this experience for this point in my life, and I am so thankful to all of my supporters for making it possible. Thank you for your donation, for praying for me, and for following my journey this year! This truly has been a partnership, and I could never have made it through the year without such a great support network, so thank you!

I have learned so much this year- about myself, about my faith, about Guatemala, about loving people, about serving, that it's hard to know where to go from here. After a year of learning so much about Latin America and its people, I feel I want to still be in a highly Latino context, but that I want to be closer to home, and so I have decided to do another year of service through the Young Adult Volunteers program, this time in San Antonio, Texas. I will be working with primarily Latin American women who are victims of violence through a coalition of organizations seeking to end domestic violence and abuse. I'm very excited to work with Latinos, especially women, from this side of the border, and to get to live intentionally in a house with other Christian young people who are YAVs. I feel that my time in Guatemala prepared me for this next experience, and I hope that you could continue to partner with me in this next chapter, as I continue to discover where the Lord is leading me.

Thank you again for your ongoing support as I finish this year in Guatemala, and for continuing the partnership into next year´s new adventure in San Antonio.

Bendiciones, juli

Also, for more, check out my blog and online photo albums.


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