Heather Marquez is on a mission. Marquez, the CEO of Mind Links, LLC, a Waterloo company she founded in 2014, recently traveled to Paraguay with 250 fellow certified international coaches from the John Maxwell Team.

You could call it the ultimate field trip. Spend four days in a country more than 5,000 miles away, teaching more than 20,000 top government, military, education, business, faith and other community leaders a proven method designed to further develop their leadership skills and abilities. This initial effort marks the first step taken by the people of Paraguay on a journey that will hopefully provide meaningful increases in social morality, national unity and strong economic growth.

Paraguay is a South American country approximately the size of the state of California. Home to 6.8 million people, Paraguay has suffered through decades of political, economic and social upheaval. In recent years, the country’s economy has grown substantially. Unfortunately, corruption has kept the benefits of a stronger economy from reaching many of Paraguay’s people. Poverty and a sense of powerlessness continues to permeate throughout the nation, particularly in rural areas.

In 2013, with the election of a new president, Horatio Cartes, came the promise of a more open government, the pledge to uproot corruption and a commitment to restore prosperity to the people. In September 2015, Cartes met with Dr. John Maxwell, a New York Times bestselling author and one of the top leadership and management experts in the world. From that meeting came a vision, “La Transformacion esta en mi” – which translates to “Transformation is within me.”

Transformation, Maxwell says, can be defined as bringing a beautiful change into the life of a person.
“It first begins within us,” he said.
“We cannot change others until we change ourselves. We cannot add value to others until we value ourselves. So transformation begins with one.”
In February, Maxwell returned to Paraguay with more than 250 of his specially trained coaches, including Waterloo’s Heather Marquez, each poised to make their own unique contribution to what promised to be a remarkable experience.

That more than 250 people from around the world would travel to Paraguay for several days to work alongside its citizens from all walks of life, teaching them about leadership values, intentional living and transformation is noteworthy. What makes the “ultimate field trip” remarkable is the fact that each and every coach who participated volunteered their time and paid their own expenses for the trip. Why volunteer?

“We were asked that a lot when we arrived,” Marquez explained
“The people were shocked that we were willing to do that [volunteer]. The culture of the John Maxwell Team is not just to be successful in our day-to-day lives, but to lead a life full of significance. For us, it was fulfilling a vision of doing something very significant. Our hope is ten years from now when people talk about Paraguay, the conversation is very different because of the work we did there,” she added.

Maxwell offered insight into the culture his team members enjoy, saying, “The moment I am changed, then I have the passion, a calling to add value to others. Transformation means I live a life of significance. Every day I intentionally add value to the people around me. That’s what we’ve been teaching in Paraguay.”

Next Week: “The youth of Paraguay have the dream, the passion, the talent and the vision to make their country a greater country,” John Maxwell declared. Learn how Heather Marquez and members of the John Maxwell Team worked with leaders in Paraguay to further their leadership development. Along the way, Heather learns an important lesson about purpose that helps her make a special connection with her Paraguayan “students.”

Read Part II

Named the number one leadership and management expert in the world by Inc. Magazine in 2014, John Maxwell is a pastor with more than twenty-five years experience leading churches in Indiana, Ohio and California. In 1995, Maxwell began devoting himself full-time to writing, speaking and consulting. He is a #1 New York Times bestselling author who has sold more than 24 million books in fifty languages, including The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. Among his many endeavors, Maxwell dedicates time each year to teaching internationally. Before launching the Transformation Initiative in Paraguay last year, Maxwell led a similar effort in Guatemala in 2013.


Population: 6.8 million
Capital City: Asunción

Languages: Spanish and Guarani (indigenous) are both considered to be Paraguay’s official languages.
History: Paraguay was once one of the largest countries in South America until the war of the Triple Alliance, which pitted Paraguay against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in the 1800s. The war cost Paraguay a third of its population, half of its male population and half of its territory, including direct access to the ocean. As a result, Paraguay has suffered through a long and difficult history politically, economically and socially. Despite its struggles, the country has a young population that is eager for change and the opportunity to participate in the country’s transformation.

Government: Paraguay’s president is Horacio Cartes, a wealthy businessman who became president in August 2013. His goals include making significant improvements in the country’s infrastructure, education, and foreign investments, as well as making government more transparent and accessible to the people of Paraguay.

Economy: Much of the Paraguayan economy is based on agriculture. The country’s main exports are beef, soy, wheat and cotton. The manufacturing and service industries also represent a large and fast growing sector of the economy.