Building Identity

One of the most challenging aspects of moving to Guatemala has been the removal of EVERYONE from my life who know me well. All my relationships here are new. While the process of developing friendships is encouraging, it’s also difficult. When talking “culture shock” and the “transition process,” one main theme is the removal of identity. No one knows what you did before. No one knows what you’re good at. No one knows your family, your friends, the places you liked to eat. No one knows what makes you laugh or what makes you cry.

Over time those dynamics are rebuilt. I get to know people and people get to know me; my parents come and visit and now my friends here know some of my family. Piece by piece, identity is reconstructed. So where did this process start for me? Three places:

1. Baking.Back in November we had outreach camps and I noticed a key ingredient was missing – COOKIES! Young Life camp is known for it’s desserts, and seeing as I served as a baker on summer staff

My most recent cake endeavor - Nemo for Sam's first birthday!

during college this was a tragedy I could not deal with. So, for Mamacitas camp I baked desserts for every meal. It was something tangible I could give to camp since, at the time, I had very little Spanish. Now my baking skills have transferred to birthday parties – it’s fun to bring cakes and be a part of the celebration!

2. Games.I was on WyldLife staff in Hinsdale – middle school ministry with YL. I found that it worked better in club to play games more than sing, so clubs were usually all game clubs with a talk at the end. During my 2.5 years on staff there my game repertoire grew quite quickly. Again, when I arrived in Guatemala, this was something I could contribute. I could plan the games and explain them well enough. Update: I’ve officially planned games for

Playing "Four Corner Frenzy" at club.

4 camps and weekly YL club. I’ve started translating them into Spanish to add to the VJ game manual.

The interesting thing about leading games here is that I’m competitive and it seems as if kids are not. It relates to a lot of things – fear of losing, not wanting to embarrass themselves, etc. But, I’ve had many games that depended on at least a tinge of competitive spirit flop because the people playing them just were not competitive. This is a big change from game leading in the States!

3. Falling. Ask any of my teammates from high school and college basketball and they will tell you that I am really good at falling. Well, this trend has continued. There’s a saying we have around here that goes, “it’s not Vida Joven Guatemala if Annette doesn’t fall.” And it’s true. My grand entrance on program at camp was marked by a karate kick resulting in a huge wipeout; at our second camp I tripped on a metal grate and fell so hard I put a hole in my jeans; during club we were playing drip, drip, drop, and I slipped on the water and wiped out.

My most recent and greatest fall was on a silent retreat we had a few weeks back. It was really hot so I was reading and journaling with my legs hanging in the pool. After about an hour I decided I wanted to move – I consciously thought “I need to be careful – I have all my stuff.” As I was stepping out of the pool I either missed a step or slipped and faceplanted into the pool – clothes, books, bible, ipod, and everything. Needless to say, it ruined my focus for a while. I managed to dry out and everything that was soaked is still functional.

I know in my head that the process of acclimating into a new culture, a new staff, a new ministry, a new – well – everything, is slow. But at times I just want to scream, “there is more to me than cookies and games!!!!” In these moments I go to the Lord and rely on his promises, on who he says I am. That truth gives me the energy to dive into (hopefully not literally) the transition process and push through the hard times in order to find true relationship and true belonging here in Guatemala.

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