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When I was in high school, my youth group went on an international mission trip to Peru. Forty youth plus chaperones set out from Cedar Rapids determined to make a difference in the lives of other people. We even made t-shirts.

I remember the night that we came up with the slogan for the back of our shirts. We were at a planning meeting… a barbeque in someone’s backyard. We divided into crews and we all did our own brainstorming and came up with ideas, and then we merged into larger groups and condensed ideas and eventually we came up with this:

Building Hope, Changing Hearts… one nail at a time.

What I remember most profoundly was the idea that we were the ones who would be doing all of this. That as high school students we had the power to truly transform lives. That we could give of our time (in the middle of summer no less) and our talents (as meager as they might be) and other people would be changed.

Sometimes, I think back to how naïve we were. To really think that a group of teenagers could work for 8 days and completely change a community.

But in the end, people were transformed.   Only, it was us, far more than the children at “El Refugio de Esperanza” (the Refuge of Hope).

When we give, we are changed. It is as simple as that.

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