A Story of Purposeful Singleness by Hannah Carnes

I had a plan for my life and when I would accomplish each of the “milestones”. You know, graduating college, getting married, having children. I can remember being in high school and whole-heartedly believing I’d be married right out of high school. I was a freshman in college when I pushed that timeline up a little further. But I was certain I would find my husband in college. I’m now twenty-three, a college graduate, and still single. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t bother me. I have battled with every lie that a single person could have thrown at them. You aren’t pretty enough. You’re too tall and skinny. You’re too much of an introvert. I can remember the tears streaming down my face in anger and frustration, asking my mom why God didn’t give me the deepest desire of my heart. All I have ever wanted to be is a wife and a mother. That was my heart’s most intimate yearning, and it was going unfulfilled. I’ve learned that while God knows and understands our desires, He ultimately knows best when it comes to our needs. In my time of waiting, praying, and believing, He has called me to a larger purpose.

God’s timeline and plans are so much greater than we can ever imagine. In 2013, I went on my first of several mission trips to Guatemala with an organization called Hope of Life International. It was on that trip when my life was completely turned inside out in the best way possible. There I met a chunky little boy named David Kenneth, who goes by Kenny. At the time, he was an orphan living with several others in a home on the Hope of Life campus. Within minutes, that little dimpled face made a lasting impact on my heart and was the driving force for me to return five times over the course of three years.

God has a way of imparting gifts into us that are meant for His glorification and benefit. Writing was one of those gifts. Since fourth grade, I’ve been writing, but I never knew how to turn that gift to give God the glory. Since my first mission trip, I had been praying for a way I could give more to the Guatemalan people. I thought it’d be in the form of long-term missions. At the time, God has closed that door. Instead, He opened another one I never would’ve dreamed. It was 2015, and I was on a Delta airplane bound for my fourth mission trip to Guatemala. I sat in the middle between another man in my group and a Guatemalan man on my right.

We had reached the point in our flight when we had to fill out our customs papers. Being a writer, I always come prepared with multiple pens, but I was limited to only one blue pen. I didn’t think the customs agent would like it if I filled the form out in purple ink. I felt the man to my right, who hadn’t uttered a word the whole trip, glance at me. I hastily filled out my form thinking he needed a pen. I placed the pen on his pulled out tray and looked over my completed form. A few seconds later, the pen was placed back onto my tray. I looked at the man, and he didn’t meet my eyes. He was busy rummaging through his backpack.

Even though I had been on several mission trips to the Spanish speaking country and was two classes away from minoring in it in college, I still knew very little Spanish to communicate with this man. I tried pronouncing some of the words but I failed miserably. Finally, after he had emptied the contents of the yellow mailing envelop, he handed me a piece of paper no bigger than a credit card. There were two words stamped on the light blue paper, and those two words shrunk my world to the size of a seedling. Illegible. Illiterate. Those two words, I realized, had been a label for Jose his whole life. He had to depend on others for everything. Getting to the airport, making sure he had the right ticket, finding his correct seat, and that was just the help he needed for that trip. He could never drive or read the newspaper over a piece of toast and fresh coffee in the mornings. The very thing I cherished, this man was never able to experience the joy it could bring.

It was in that encounter that God had answered my prayers, and through meeting Jose, 11:29 Initiative was born. I founded the literacy non-profit in July 2015 with a singular goal in mind- literacy. Initially, I was going to supply books to the rural Guatemalan schools, but when I realized that Guatemala has the lowest literacy rate in the Western Hemisphere, at 75%, I knew books would be useless without someone there to teach the phonetics and sounds to the children. It broke my heart to think that Jose had lived sixty-five years without anyone teaching him to read or write. I looked into the faces of the Guatemalan children I visited that week and vowed to not let them live to be sixty-five without someone giving them an opportunity to read and write.

Since 2015, we’ve raised close to $3,000 that benefits the children in Altamira, Guatemala. The money goes towards school supplies, including backpacks, pencils, notebooks, pencil sharpeners, crayons, everything a child needs to be able to succeed in a school environment. We’ve also begun working to equip each classroom with a library specifically for that classroom. Our motto is simple- Writing a new page from poverty to hope.

I used to compare myself to others and the way their lives have been shaped. I’ll admit sometimes I still do. I see high school friends married, engaged, and even with children. Marriage is an amazing gift of God, and while I do hope and pray that God meets that desire of my heart, even if He doesn’t, He is still God and is still watching over me. He has blessed me abundantly with the passion to pursue my non-profit and raise awareness of the literacy and education system in Guatemala.

Our worth isn’t in our relationship status. Our worth is found in Christ and His Calling on our lives. So in this season of singleness I find myself in, I take comfort in knowing that God isn’t finished with me yet. I’m using my gifts and my calling and pursuing whatever door He opens.

If you’re interested in learning more about my non-profit and feel led to get involved or donate, visit us at www.1129initiative.com.

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