Friday, March 18, 2016

Business Training - Valerie's Story



Today is Tuesday, March 15th.  How does time move so quickly?  Three weeks ago today I was double-checking my packing list to be sure I had all that I needed to leave the next morning for a week in Guatemala City with my friends Lisa and Stephanie.  I had read the Facilitator’s training guide from Yobel International for the business skills program we would be teaching. I had attended my training meetings with Stephanie and Lisa.  The supplies were packed. 

This was to be like no other short term mission team I had served with before.  There would be no reading to children, no camps, no retreats, no painting walls (glory!), no interpretive dance, and no children’s home tour.  On this trip we had the awesome privilege of sharing the very terminology and skills that I had trained for in college and used to varying degrees over more than 20 years in the business world.  In my mind, this would be a very factual mission.  I had no idea how my heart would be touched.

Fast forward through security checkpoints, weather-delayed flights, a lot of turbulence, an airport sprint and the usual customs maze and we arrive at the good stuff.  On day one, we met the three ladies we would rely on so heavily for in the coming days, our translators!  Yessica, Licasta and Siomara would prove invaluable.  (They would also prove to be talented actresses!)



One of the most crucial parts of Yobel’s Entrepreneurial Training Program is information gathering.  At the beginning and end of the program, we met with each participant to learn about her.  We began with each lady’s current living situation, income generating activities and plans for the future.  This was my first chance to really get to know some of the entrepreneurs.  I was excited to learn about their skills. Some could sew, others enjoyed cooking, a few made jewelry and a couple of ladies were good with bookkeeping and accounting.  There were plans to sell clothing, shoes, cosmetics and more. 

Sadly, there was also a frightening common thread. Every single entrepreneur I interviewed that first morning mentioned the dangers of having a storefront in her community.  Each lady shared that gang members who knew there was a profitable business in the area would target business owners and extort them, demanding money with threats to harm family members.  Time and again the entrepreneurs answered that they did not plan to open a business in the community because it was too dangerous.  One by one my heart grew heavier for their unjust affliction.  But these 24 ladies were here! They signed up, they showed up and they were committed to learn what would be presented.  Determined. Fierce. Courageous. Unstoppable.

Quickly we moved right into the heart of the program.  Dreaming Big!  The entrepreneurs received truths from scripture about being fearfully and wonderfully made, believing the Lord would give them the desires of their hearts if they delighted in Him, being a valuable part of the body with necessary gifts & talents, and trusting that with God all things are possible.  They were given permission to decide on their biggest hopes for themselves, their families and their communities.  They learned how to recognize and overcome obstacles, and how to make SMART objectives to achieve their goals. They participated in every discussion and dug in when we learned about customer service, treating others the way we would want to be treated, meeting the needs of the community, marketing and gaining advantage over the competition.  They persevered through tough concepts like pricing, mark-ups, percentages, record keeping and ethics.  They embraced saving for business and family needs, tithing and budgeting.
I remember having lessons in the foyer of the new Building of Promise on Saturday.  The sun was shining brightly.  The ladies had just finished a role-play activity and were shining just as brightly as the sun.  There was excitement in the air.  I remember realizing how much this training would mean to each of them and to the community.  I recall realizing that these ladies were going to embrace these news skills, concepts, ideas and tools and they were going to grow successful businesses.  I remember realizing that a little while in the future each of these ladies would be equipped to share what she was learning with a friend.  I recall telling them how excited I get when I think of each of them mentoring a friend like the wise women of the Bible did for their younger sisters in Christ. 

Day after day they participated. In small groups they shared how what they were learning applied to their own business ideas.  Small ideas became dreams, logistics were discussed, and plans were made.  I recall the glimmer in Lis’ eye as she talked about her sweet shop, gave it a name and decided how she would perform market research before she launched her new business.  I think of how Beatriz realized her tasty tamales could become a delicious meal when served with bread and coffee.  Brenda’s beautiful smile brightened and she drew out the plans for her handmade doll clothes to become outfits that included shoes, tiaras, purses and other accessories.  Favi welled up with emotion when she realized the God-sized potential of her snow cone business.

I still pray for them every day.  You can too! Pray that they remain brave as they face obstacles. Pray they are not discouraged by the enemy’s lies, but rather they are encouraged by the truth of God’s Word.  Pray they stick to their objectives, take daily steps to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. Pray the seeds they plant now will be nourished over and over again until they produce fruit. Pray their families and friends will press on alongside them.  These women, they are ready!  Let’s hold them up high in prayer and encourage them every chance we get.


Oh! And there were a few personal favorite memories from this trip!  This was the first time I’ve ridden in the bed of a truck in Guatemala City rush hour traffic.  This trip also included my first volcano eruption (from a safe distance, of course!).


 





Also, I enjoyed a few minutes catching up with this little first grade cutie!

Here’s one special little way that God reminded me how much He loves me.  Back home I sleep with a fan running to drown the noise of the nearby highway.  I wondered how well I would sleep without a fan in Guatemala City.  We got to the dorms and what had Delmi left for us in the room? Yup, a fan just  because on a CP trip I am always reminded that I’m God’s favorite!