I was caught in a fog of subtle depravity.
That is how I would describe my first years living in Guatemala. It is terrifying what one believes to be truth and noble when done in God’s name. Evil has no boundaries.
In 2011 I started working fulltime in Guatemala. I worked for a school that serves low-resource children. Coming from an upbringing in a normal Christian church I was full of energy and excitement to brave living in a new culture, working against the cycle of poverty and abuse to bring education to the next generation of children in the villages surrounding Antigua, Guatemala. I was in my early 20s and had the typical 20 something mindset of thinking that I knew everything—knowing exactly where the lines were, knowing what was right, knowing more than everyone else in general about God, life, and circumstance.
Of course working in a ministry for the impoverished was virtuous calling, I thought. But why did it not always feel “right?” I know I am supposed to be here—was the constant confirming voice in my head. This struggle continued for years:
“This doesn’t feel right...but I know I am supposed to be here…”
“This doesn’t look right…but I know I am supposed to be here…”
“What I am doing is not right…but I know I am supposed to be here…”
These thought were never overpowering, but lingered always in the back of my mind. Because after all, I was working for a Christian organization, what could be wrong when everything looked so right? But, as I said, evil has no boundaries. It creeps up and pretends to be the caregiver, the helper, and the savior. It is petrifying to see how deep manipulation can truly go, especially in oppressed people, the ones who are looking for a caregiver and a helper and a savior. In his book People of the Lie, Dr. Scott peck states, “The reader will be struck by the extraordinary willfulness of evil people. They are men and women of obvious strong will, determined to have their own way. There is a remarkable power in the manner in which they attempt to control others.” Can you imagine what that does to beleaguered people? It destroys them and they do not even know it. This was leadership I was working under. Thankfully it eventually came to an end, but not before peoples lives were left in a tangled mess.
If there is a stereotype of a good missionary girl then take that stereotype and turn it in the opposite direction and that is where you will find me standing. But I hate stereotypes. What I love is potential. I strive for it. I look for it in everything. I love working in a school full of children and young people and discovering their God given abilities and the amazing things they are capable of.
I work with children whose circumstances have made their lives difficult. Children who cannot do their homework at night due to lack of electricity, children who cannot bath due to lack of privacy, children who skip school because they don’t have money for transportation. I work with children who are molested, beaten and who are constantly being stomped on or looked down upon. These children have purpose. They have hope. They are bright shinning lights. After so many people seemed without hope due to oppression and manipulation, things are changing, there are so many now who have hope. Things are changing and hope is springing out of every part of their being.
I will always work towards hope, I will always listen for the constant confirming voice and I will always look beyond.
-Hannah Noella Nadeau