Ella Varel is a freshman at the Episcopal School of Dallas, and is a student member of Women for Orphans Worldwide (WOW). She traveled with Orphan Outreach to Guatemala, and we are honored to have her share her personal story today.Last summer was the first time I went to Guatemala. My sister had gone a few years before and told me about her trips. Even so, I didn't really know what to expect.Before the mission trip, I didn’t know a lot about Guatemala. It’s not like France or England where, when asked, most people can name a few significant things about the country. I knew Guatemala was in Central America. I knew that there were mission trips that went down there to help, but I didn't know why.The only people I knew on the trip were my sister, my mom, and another family from my school. That quickly changed. I became friends with everyone on our mission team and we all have fond memories from all the time we spent together.Our first day was a blur. Check in, take a nap, find something to eat. The second day, we went to a baby orphanage where we repainted a playroom that had mildew and mold along the ceilings. One of my fondest memories at the orphanage was repainting the play room. I was in charge of painting the very tall ceilings.Another day we went to a dump. I didn’t exactly know what we were doing or why we were going to a dump, of all places. But, it turned out to be one of the most emotional experiences of my life. I hadn’t even stepped out of the van and I was struck dumb.Picture a barren place. There are trees in sight, but too far off to reach. Now picture that to one side of the barren place is a deep ravine, too deep to see the bottom. Now add vultures and flies, flies by the thousands. Picture skinny, mangy dogs roaming around. Imagine little makeshift huts with people inside. People of all ages, men, women and some children. Now picture that this barren place is not exactly barren. The ravine is filled with trash that seems to go on forever. Visualize heaps of plastic bottles, cardboard, and paper. Smell the waste and the smoke from fires. Could you work in place like that? I couldn’t. But these people can and they do. They work everyday picking through the trash that we throw away.Many of the people at the dump had sent their kids to school that day. Some were pessimistic about sending them because it meant that they would have less help to work and earn more money.Later that day, we visited the homes of the people who work at the dump. We installed stoves with chimneys for so their kids won't get sick with respiratory problems. After we finished, one of the women asked to see all of us. We gathered around. She bowed her head and started to cry. While she cried she prayed. She thanked God for the stoves, for the many blessings she had received, and for us. We were honored to be in her home.The feeling I had as she prayed is indescribable. It was the feeling that if I had dropped dead right then, I would be happy with everything I had done. "Content, I guess, is the right word.Towards the end of our trip we went to this place called Esperanza y Futuro or Hope and Future. It is a home for girls and boys that are unwanted or have children themselves. I met girls my age with children. One girl had a toddler and she couldn’t have been more than a year older than I am. I met another girl who had had three children and she had just turned 15.We had time to play with the girls, and talk to them about their lives and their dreams. One girl wanted to be a teacher, another wanted to be a doctor, one wanted to run a home for girls like Hope and Future. While we were there, they weren’t mothers - they were regular kids and teenagers. After talking to them I offered to hold one of the girl’s baby. She gladly handed him to me. I held him for an hour and while she played with the other girls and learned American dances such as the Cha-Cha Slide and Cupid Shuffle. She laughed and joked like a kid, not the mother of an infant.When I went to Guatemala I had no idea what to expect. I just hoped that it was all that I had heard it was. Honestly, it was so much more than I could have ever dreamed. I knew that mission trips went to Guatemala, but didn't know why. Now, I have a pretty good idea. Some people go on a mission trip as a way to give back. Others go because they feel obligated. No matter what your expectations or reasons for going, if you try to learn from everything and everyone, I promise you will receive so much more than you give.Women for Orphans Worldwide is the auxiliary organization of Orphan Outreach, providing critically needed support for major ministry projects in Guatemala and Honduras. Learn more about WOW, and join us on a mission trip in 2016!