It has been said that once a person goes on a mission trip, the experience often leads to another. La Porte City’s Jeff Hutton can vouch for that. Last summer, Jeff and his daughter Kayla, a 2009 graduate of Union High School, made the journey to Guatemala, where they spent nine days with a group from eastern Iowa doing mission work sponsored by an organization called Impacto Ministry. Impacto Ministry is a Christian organization that works primarily in Guatemala, with headquarters in La Plata, Maryland.
Guatemala is the most populous nation in Central America. Decades of Civil War, however, have taken a great toll on its people, who continue to struggle with poverty, crime, drug trade and instability brought about by corruption in the government. Located in southwest Guatemala near beautiful Lake Aititlan, which sits among peaks of volcanoes that have remained calm in recent years, the village of Panyebar is home to nearly 3,000 Mayans, many of whom live in extreme poverty. While agriculture is the primary life’s work for these Mayan people, their crops of maize, beans and coffee are literally carved into the steep slopes of the highlands that reach to the sky as high as 7,000 feet above sea level.
It was this environment in July that the Huttons chose to embrace, eager to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Much of their time in Guatemala was spent working with an after school ministry for malnourished elementary school children and a program that provides nutrition and activities for the elder extended family members who might otherwise be neglected.
As they worked with young and old alike, the Huttons were uplifted by the spirit of a people living in abject poverty, yet were so appreciative of what little they had. Jeff was particularly moved by Pedro, an elderly man he met as part of ministry called Abuelitos, a term of endearment that translates to “little grandparents.” As Pedro colored a picture using color fragments so small they would not be recognized as crayons worthy of taking on a mission trip, the pure joy Pedro expressed left Jeff feeling grateful for all the blessings he has in his life and determined to do more for the people of Guatemala.
Soon after coming home to Iowa, it wasn’t long before plans for a return trip to Guatemala were being made. This time, Jeff plans to take a more active role in leading a group of 10-12 people who want to share their love for humanity in a place where giving just a little can mean so much to those in need. As is often the case, participants of a mission trip often come home feeling they gained more from the experience than those who were recipients of their kindness and generosity. If it truly is better to give than receive, Jeff and Kayla Hutton would be the first to affirm the return on showing compassion for others is an infinitely rewarding experience. That’s why preliminary plans are now being made to return to Guatemala in February to continue the work started there.
Want to know more about the people of Guatemala and how you can help? An informational meeting at Heartland Community Church has been tentatively scheduled for October 30 at 11:30 AM. The meeting will include a PowerPoint presentation looking back at the mission trip taken in July, as well as an overview of what to expect for those who wish to join the mission in February, including fundraising activities that will help defray the cost of the journey. Please note: The mission trip in February is not exclusively reserved for members of Heartland Community Church. It remains open to all walks of faith, regardless of church affiliation.
For additional information or questions about the trip, contact Jeff Hutton by phone at 319-929-6860 or email,