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Well, Its Been a Year For the Books!

As many of you know we have all had QUITE the year in 2020. Like many other organizations; For the Love of Mateo was impacted in many ways by the effects of Covid-19. We had to cancel all of our 2020 Mission Trips for March, June, August, and December. These mission trips provide us with opportunites to increase our support, sponsorships, and help fund some of our day to day operation expenses, so not having them really affected us finanically.

This was the first year that I haven't traveled to Guatemala since 2012, so it was really hard on me to not see the kids and those that we serve. We have so many of our FTLOM supporters that bring their families with us each year on our mission trips and they too expressed how their hearts long for Guatemala and cant wait to get back.

We definitely lost sponsorships due to our sponsors being impacted financially because of Covid-19, and were unable to do our typical fundraisers that provide quite a bit of the funding that FTLOM uses to help support our projects throughout the year. Although, we got through and we were STILL able to continue the same monthly support we ALWAYS do to our orphanages, nursing home, after school programs, community garden project, and scholarship program at Esperanza Juvenil. In addition to our usual support, we added Covid-Relief Grocery Sponsorships for families in need of help to feed their families. We also were able to donate groceries to those impacted by the Hurricane. Every time a need came up, we had our AMAZING FTLOM supporters step up and help us with whatever was needed!

For Christmas we were able to ensure all of our outreach programs received donations that provided gifts for the kids like usual. For the kids at Esperanza Juvenil we were able to raise money to cover the cost for each child at the school to receive a tub filled with school supplies and some Christmas treats. The children have mainly stayed at their homes and done homeschooling throughout 2020, but in January of 2021 the kids should all be back at Esperanza and living in the homes there. This will definitely help out a lot with the kids comprehension of what they are learning as there are many distractions as i am sure you can image in the villages where they live.

We were lucky enough to have a FTLOM, supporter and mission team member, Laura Harry organize along with her friends, to raise funds to provide all of the kids at Ninos Con Bendicion a new pair of shoes for Christmas. Normally we either bring these with us on our December mission trips or we fundraise the month and then have Claudia go purchase & deliver them for us. I am so grateful that we were still able to make this possible for the kids. For the Love of Mateo covers the scholarship for two children enrolled in the Ninos Con Bendicion afterschool program. Its been so fun to see them grow up over the years.

Our FTLOM supporters stepped up to make it possible so that the kids at Hogar Anna Madre received a new shirt, a pair of shoes, and a treat for Christmas. We were able to raise funds above what we needed for Hogar Anna Madre and decided to use the funds towards purchasing groceries and supplies that they request.

We have been able to almost reach our goal of providing funds for the classroom build that FTLOM committed to covering to be built in Yalu through The Bunk Bed Project. We are praying to have the rest of the funds to cover it by the end of January. We have 9 families that receive food deliveries monthly paid for by our FTLOM sponsors and delivered by The Bunk Bed Project on behalf of FTLOM. We were also able to provide funds to help pay for some of the Christmas gifts for the staff at El Amor.

We were able to pay the salary of a third gardener for the community garden in San Antonio supported by The Ninos Con Bendicion. So in total we pay the salaries for three men who work in the garden 6 days a week and donate the vegetables and fruits to the families in their after school program, the elderly in their community, nursing homes, orphanages, and others in need of support. In San Antonio, we have just sent funds over to have our 15 home built in San Antonio that have been completely funded by either our Mission Trip Team members, or our FTLOM supporters. With these 15 homes, and the 4 that have been built in Yalu paid for my FTLOM, we have in total raise money to have 19 homes built within these communities! We have delivered hundreds of bunk beds, over a thousand water filters, around 50 stoves, and not to mention all of the 'little things' that we have been able to step up and cover when a need is there. We also have a few families in San Antonio receive groceries monthly though our Grocery Sponsorship program in San Antonio. We are grateful to Tino & Lesbi who started The Ninos Con Bendicion program for finding the families that are in need of homes, groceries, and support. Its been so great to work with such servant-hearted people who are TRUE leaders in their community.

We have been able to continue to provide funds to pay for the Sunday breakfasts for the shoe shiners through DBO Ministries. We have also been able to continue supporting the residence at the nursing home by having monthly donations delivered by our FEARLESS in-country assistant, Claudia Flores. Without her, I have no idea where we would be. She has been the BIGGEST blessing this year, and has single-handily made sure all of our projects received their monthly donations. She is always on the lookout for us and does a great job of letting me know when there was a need she thinks that we could maybe help out with. Our entire FTLOM family is SOOO grateful for her!

I could literally list one thing after another that was taken care of by our INCREDIBLE For the Love of Mateo family, we are SO grateful!!!

On a personal note, 2020 has been one that has been filled with heartache for our family along with some blessings sprinkled in. In March and the end of April, both of my parents had heart attacks. Thankfully both of them survived their heart attacks and have recovered, although both are still battling some ongoing health challenges. Both of my parents have been to Guatemala with FTLOM to serve, and are so amazing to continue to support FTLOM as they can monthly and when big needs arise.

In August, my very best friend Laura Park passed away after a year and a half battle with cancer. Laura and her family travelled multiple times to Guatemala with For the Love of Mateo. She was also on our FTLOM board since the beginning, and she is my son Mateo's godmother. I cant begin to describe the pain I feel for her loss. Her family created a memorial through For the Love of Mateo in her name , Laura's Trust in Gods Plan which was able to pay for one of the gardeners salaries for a year, and also provided a generous donation that allowed us to support the kids at Esperanza and Hogar Anna Madre through supplies & groceries that were needed.

In September we had to move both of my in-laws into an assisted living facility here in Paola. Both of them had been dealing with symptoms of Alzheimer's /Dementia for some time. Unfortunately my father-in-law's health declined significantly once he was moved and he passed away on November 13th. My in-laws had just celebrated 59 years of marriage. Seeing someone you love go through that and then losing a family member to a disease that is so tough to watch & experience first hand, is definitely not easy to do. It has been a very emotional process. Thankfully my mother-in-law is doing well and coping okay with his loss; even with all of the restrictions of Covid-19 & living now at an assisted living facility. My husband and his siblings have been an AMAZING support system for their parents and i have seen them really come together to take care of all that is involved with what they have had to face with their parents this year.

One of the GREATEST blessings to come out of 2020 was the birth of our first granddaughter, Stella Monroe. She was actually born about 5 hours after my father-in-law passed away. We really did experience the 'Circle of Life' in one day. Being a grandmother has been one of my greatest joys. Watching my daughter Rylie become a mother and seeing both her and Cam love and care so deeply for their daughter, is heart warming. Especially as a parent, to see your own daughter give birth and then be this amazing Mama to her own daughter, its AMAZING! Rylie actually from college in May, with her BSN & with honors i might add. Although due to Covid-19; her school cancelled the traditional nurse pinning and actual graduation ceremony. Fortunately they live with us as she will be starting up her nurse practitioner program in May of 2021; so we get to have the three of them living with us! That means more snuggles with our granddaughter! Hopefully we will be able to get to experience an actual graduation ceremony for her when she graduates from her NP program. Our middle daughter Adyson is a junior at KSU and only lives about 2 hours away from us, so she is able to come home often to visit. She is biting at the bit to get back to Guatemala as she really bonded with an older gentleman at the nursing home we serve at. Mateo is our youngest and believe it or not, he will be 14 in March! He is in 7th grade and has been adjusting to life during the pandemic. He is a social kid so having to do home school for three months wasn't fun for him and on top of that; he is a teenager, so i don't think I need to say more there! LOL As parents we are dealing with the normal teenage stuff but also there is the adoption piece thrown in there, and raising a boy; so we are navigating our way through all of these things and doing our best to support Mateo and any needs he has in anyway.

When I think about 2020 and look back on ALL that we have experienced in the world, as well as the personal losses we have had to face; I am STILL able to see LIGHT through the darkness. The light would look like 'God Winks' that would come in the form of a new sponsor signing up to sponsor a child in one of our programs or a family who needed their monthly groceries covered. Or a supporter stepping in an providing a donation that covered whatever was needed at that particular moment, or a phone call i received when it was needed the most, or meals delivered to our family that were totally unexpected but so helpful, or the cards received on a hard day, or the pictures of our kids we sponsor coming to us monthly via email, or getting to experience a new life coming into this world, growing new friendships; and just experiencing the PURE GOODNESS of HUMANKIND.

I think of all the times I have felt stressed when planning my back to back 3 week long mission trips or the times I felt overwhelmed and would question whether or not I was doing the right thing by doing all that i was doing for FTLOM and those we support, and if the negativity, gossip, and jealousy that unfortunately you can see & experience when working with other organizations, in another country, was all worth it. Being home this year and not having the ability to serve like I am used to has made me so much more grateful for what I GET to do. I realize that serving is part of my calling, and with all of the blessings & the ups you experience; there will also be tough times and downs you may have to face; but there are lessons there for you to learn something from during the hard or the waiting period.

No, the 'not so great parts' of running a nonprofit isn't my favorite; BUT on a whole, YES... its ALL worth it! What we get to do for others, and what we get to see; DREAMS & PLANS that become a reality right in front of your eyes, that's THE BEST!

So truly, from the bottom of my heart; I want to give a BIG THANK YOU to each and every supporter of For the Love of Mateo. What we do would not be possible without you. You are the piece to our BIG PUZZLE. We are a family, and each one of you is a part of the bigger plan that God had for this amazing blessing called For the Love of Mateo.

I have always told Mateo that God has big plans for his life, and even during a hard year like this; I can CLEARLY see that YES, he definitely did have BIG PLANS and there is SOOOO much more we have yet to do! I cant wait to see what all we do next!!

Wishing you and your family a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS & a HAPPY NEW YEAR! xoxo, Val

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