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"Everyone should experience a mission trip once in their life." (#ShareYourStOOry)

We're honored to share the Orphan Outreach story of Elissa Cohen. Now a freshman at Texas Tech, Elissa traveled to Guatemala with friends in the summer of 2017. She says, "Guatemala changed my life."


I'd like to show you exactly how much this trip has changed me. I'd like to show you my perspective, give you the grace, the passion, and the truth which I received, and the Holy Spirit which fiercely refurnished its flame in me and revealed itself in unexplainable ways... but that's the thing. This trip is unattainable to you, it's too unreal for words, which is why giving this to you through my eyes, through my writing, will not be enough.


Guatemala. To many of you, this is just a place, a place you haven't been to, which you probably know little about. A place to you that is so far, so different, so unimportant to our lives, as it was to me.

But now...I've been there. I've seen their world and I've connected it back to mine, and Guatemala is no longer just a place to me, it holds a certain value which changed me-a value which cleaned the foggy lenses which I had been looking through.
My love for this world is unexplainable. My passion for their culture, customs, and people has exceeded all expectations I once held. It is there where I felt most free, restrained from the everyday access of first-world experiences: no limitless technology, easy access to anything and everything, no schedule of my own.

I indulged in the sweet, slow-paced time of Guatemala, the simple yet beautiful life, and I am forever thankful not only for what I had the opportunity to do for them, but also what they did for me.

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I got to travel from orphanage to orphanage. I got to interact with underprivileged kids which had everything taken from them, yet they grew together, as a family. Their smiles were pure and true, their laughs were extraordinary, for these kids who on paper, should be miserable, were able to find joy in the simplest of things, the things that I used to take for granite every day.

I got to go to the Ravine, a dumpster where families sort through trash every day to make money. There were flies, vultures, and an abhorrent smell, and getting off the bus going there, I became frozen. I looked around, embraced the environment I was in, and while at first was concerned for myself, and where I was, I quickly got over it when it hit me.

We were walking through swarms of flies, piles of garbage, and an unavoidable stench. In the midst of this, I was talking to a little girl, trying my hardest to be perceived as unbothered by this environment. This little girl was surrounded by flies, countless ones after another landing on her body, but she just brushed them off, keeping eye contact with me the entire time. She was so unbothered, so nonchalant, and so accustomed to this environment, it's all she's ever known.

We were able to play with some of the kids from the Ravine later that day at an afternoon program provided for kids there to receive education. It was sad because a lot of these kids aren't able to participate because their families need their help at the Ravine. It turns into generation after generation getting born into the life of the Ravine, unable to get out of it and receive an education for higher things because their families are in need of their help.

The kids whose families did let go, though, were starting a new life for themselves. And their spirit changed me that afternoon. I was indulged in complete happiness.

We went to a field and set up games, obstacle courses, and of course, their favorite activity, soccer. I was playing soccer with the kids when all of a sudden it started raining. We were drenched, but we kept playing, for a while at least.

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A little girl then ran up to me with open arms. I picked her up and spun her in the rain and her laughter echoed across the open field. Soon, a crowd of kids circulated around me and my friends with open arms and smiling faces, as they took turns getting spun by us in the rain. It was the purest, most simple moment of joy I had ever experienced.

After this, a little boy took my hand and led me around the field. We participated in soccer, handstands, hanging from the bleachers, and then, well, this: I just followed him wherever he went and did whatever he wanted me to participate in. He ended up leading me to these puddles from the rain, and he started splashing in them. My turn, I guess, right?

I ran through the muddy puddles with him and became completely drenched. We both were dying in laughter by the end of this. It was the most freeing, humble experience I had ever felt.

These kids, compared to me, had nothing, yet were some of the happiest kids I've ever seen. They took the little things and found their happiness in them, the truly important things in life.

I remember being on the buses with my team, with the sweet sound of Christian music in the background. I was so content. I did not know where we were going next, I did not know what time it was, or who has Snapchatted me, or what we were having for dinner, but I knew why we were there, and that was all I needed.

I had zero anxiety, zero doubt in my mind that God was all around us, allowing us to do wonderful things in his grace. I was unbothered by the little things which so easily affect my mood here. I was on around 6 hours of sleep a night and more energized than I had ever felt.

I was completely changed, revived, and thriving.

Guatemala gave me the opportunity to humbly serve others in God's grace, and make lasting relationships with these beautiful children of God. I told the kids, "I will be back," and I know they will remember me, as I will always remember them.

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I came back home and was in complete cultural shock. Everything we have, everything we do, and how easy everything comes to us, we take for granted. I didn't fully realize how good we have it here, and how corrupt that can make us.

Never will I ever say I am starving again, never will I ever say it's not fair so-and-so has this and I don't. Because you see, I have everything I need, and I was so easily blinded by the things I didn't need to see that.

I have a family who loves me endlessly, a roof over my head, an education, clean water, food for every meal, and God. These are all the fundamental basics of my life and I will never, ever, take them for granted again.

Going to Guatemala changed my life forever, and made me realize that one day, I hope with all my heart I become a missionary. I would love to live my life, even for just a year, unattached to first-world materialistic items and indulged in God's grace, serving others and spreading the word of God.

So, I pray. I pray about it because if that day ever comes, I would be thankful beyond words. I pray that each of you get to experience what I did, because my writing doesn't give this trip half the justice it deserves. Each and every one of you should embrace this humble, life changing experience.


Join us on a short-term mission trip this year. The calendar is here. And we'd love to hear your Orphan Outreach StOOry! Contact Ronne Rock for details!

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