“So encourage each other and build each other up …” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV).

They were young, so very young … when last they saw this land. In fact they were just babies when their eyes barely would have noted the lushness of the green hills edging the sprawling Guatemala City basin. Their memories were hardly formed when they first left behind their homeland.

Our two brown eyed Latin cuddly bundles of joy had grown up in spite of our tensioned desiring they would stay little forever. They are now, beautiful young women of uniqueness, laughter and character. How would they react to the homeland they could not remember? How would they connect to the people they had never known? Would they find a joy here midst the unknown reasons and separations from their birth family? Would they sense deep lingering questions or find some mysterious answers to longings not yet identifiable? Would our time here, open up emotions tucked away in their hearts or fill their hearts with new emotional attachments? Even beyond all of this, how would they react to the dozens of children who are now just as they were, many years before … waiting for a family to love them?

So to Guatemalan, our girls came and partook of life … life in their homeland, midst the children at the orphanage and alongside the people of Guatemala. Our girls warmly opened up and loved the children with smiles and hugs coming quickly and without hesitation as affection flowed back and forth naturally. Our hosts welcomed our girls and our family to their land with  genuine love and thoughtfulness. They answered to the serious and probably the annoying questions with honesty and help. They showered us with insight and perspective and came to our aid countless times as we struggled to convey and communicate with those around us. They filled us with the joy of the flavors of Guatemalan food and culture and touched our souls as we joined them in service to the people of Guatemala.

So deep were the connections; that we talk of going back to Guatemala as if the journey were just a few miles instead of thousands. We talk of the many parts of Guatemala that we have yet to see, as a yearning we long to satisfy. We mention the children we miss and shed a tear for each of them who are attached to the most special parts of our hearts. Our daughters long to go again and look for their family unknown and undiscovered. Our girls also fondly connected with the family who walked us through all the legal aspects for them to come to the Maas family in the first place so many years ago. We talk of ways to help and share with the many in need in this place. We have been changed by our time in Guatemala. Our daughters were profoundly encouraged by these friends who made Guatemala more than just a homeland to them. The encouragement from these friends new and old have made their homeland, a home to them. A place you long for and will always desire to go back to; again and again because it is a place of love.

All the photographs have been processed, all the mementos have been put away on shelves and the colorful and traditional fabrics have been laid upon the tables as fond reminders of our trip but the loving connecting pictures in our minds of the children, mothers and friends overflow in our hearts alongside the gifts of smiles and thousands of feelings so bright and varied … and these will always be the priceless and timeless treasures we will hold most dear in our hearts from our time in Guatemala.

Sometime we tend to think of encouragement as momentary word or passing thought expressed to another. Encouragement is not just a simple statement but an involvement, an interest, an investment and a desire to come alongside another person with genuine love and dedication. Real and simple acts of encouragement given to others, really do great and remarkable things. So encourage someone today, it will make a difference in their life and yours.

We say, “Muchas Gracias,” to our dear friends Pablo, Abel, Dr. Castro, Thelma, Thelma, Roger, The Special Moms and the many children, we dearly love, who sincerely encouraged the Maases during our time in Guatemala.



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