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FAITH AND FAMILY — Global neighbors: Rotary service effort left indelible memories

Rotary International couldn’t solve all of Guatemala’s problems during a recent trip to Central America. But the 60 Rotarians, most of them Texans, who traveled there recently helped where they could and, in exchange, came to a new appreciation for their global neighbors.

Former Port Arthur Rotary Club president Callie Summerlin said the June 23-30 trip met her goal of traveling abroad only for mission work, a promise she said she made to God after extensive international travel as a college student.

“I had reaped the rewards of travel,” she said of her previous trips to Spain, Portugal, Central America and Mexico. “I wanted to give back.”

Summerlin, who serves as Sabbath school supervisor at Groves Community Seventh Day Adventist Church, said when Rotary offered her an opportunity to do service work in Guatemala, she leaped at the opportunity. She told her fellow Rotarians Thursday about the work accomplished there.

Rotarians had a three-fold mission that included improving a boarding high school in Guatemala City by building bunk beds and making improvements in hygiene; working a project for at-risk youth needing fast-track employment; and responding to housing and family needs related to a 2018 volcano that destroyed part of the country.

She also did work at a center for abandoned, wheelchair-bound children.

The visiting Rotarians worked with local Rotarians in addressing those needs, but the result, they said, was providing “on-the-ground solutions by Rotarians in Texas.”

That meant exercising painting, carpentry skills and more and, in return, learning about a culture with its own inherent beauty. The value of the Rotarians’ mission was estimated at about $250,000 and, more than simply writing a check, involved the Rotarians’ own toil.

“My goal was to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to understand that the position and privilege that God has given me isn’t to be enjoyed,” she said. “Our greatest calling is to serve others, to be useful in others in their lives to the point where we sacrificing some of our own comfort to provide for others.

“We have a great responsibility. To the Rotary, our world is our neighbor. Through these trips, we have to go to them and treat them like our neighbors. But we leave them feeling like they are part of your family. You never forget them.

“These people left an indelible mark in our hearts.”