“Please, I need you to pray for my mother.”
It was the urgent cry of a young woman who had participated in programs at our community center in San Jose Pinula last year.
The Cadanino ministry serves vulnerable children and families through afterschool programs that provide spiritual formation, educational reinforcement, and family strengthening.
The population we work with faces incredible challenges almost daily, and we’ve had to deal with the spectrum of extreme problems that come with helping those who live on the edge.
“My dad is ill, and my mom said that if my dad dies, she will stop believing in God, which will probably make my brother stop believing in God as well. Can we pray for her?”
Our ministry had served their family for several years. While they came from a Catholic background, there wasn’t much of an understanding of who God was, and the girl standing before me wasn’t someone who had shown much interest in growing her faith.
If our 18 years as missionaries in Guatemala has taught us anything, it’s that evangelism and discipleship take time. Time spent building relationships. Time spent building trust. Time spent going out of your way to seek people out and let them know that you care. Most importantly, it takes time spent doing what the Bible does, pointing them to the cross.
Our ministry to this family was like that of so many of the almost 150 families in our programs. The teenagers who attend our youth group had been growing in faith. The mother, grandmother, and other relatives occasionally come to participate in the weekly women’s Bible studies taught by Sharie. We also take time to visit them in their home.
It’s the slow sort of planting and watering that is so common in discipleship where you do your job faithfully, trusting that God will bring the fruit in his perfect time.
So it was quite encouraging that when the family was in crisis, their kids turned to us.
This family has faced a lot of hardship. While they live in the town, in a house with tin walls, dirt floor, and chickens running around, they survived by farming a plot of land some ways away growing beans, corn, and whatever else they could to feed themselves.
The father had diabetes, and his feet and legs were being eaten away by sores. We had helped him with doctors’ visits and medication when we could. He seemed to be improving, was becoming more mobile, and had started working the fields again.
We are a small ministry with minimal resources, there are things we can do and some things we can’t do. But one thing we can always do is pray, comfort, and point people to God. More often than not, that is what is needed most.
So when that young woman showed up and asked for prayer, I knew I had to take the time to minister to her.
Besides praying for her father’s health and her mother’s faith, I explained that faith in God is not like having a genie in a magic lamp that exists to serve our desires. True faith is trusting in a Father who loves us, cares for us, and wants what’s best for us, even though we may not understand it at the moment. We talked about Job, and the Bible tells us that he was blameless, yet through his suffering proclaimed, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
That time together opened the door for deeper ministry with this family, and a close friendship developed between them and our teachers.
While the father’s health improved for some time and diabetic sores started to heal, for some reason unknown to us, God chose to answer the request for his continued healing with a no, and last week he suddenly passed away.
We had prayed often for him. We know, that like all prayer requests, God answers some with a yes and some with a no.
Few things can compare to the pain and sorrow of losing a loved one. Even when you know it’s coming, it’s hard.
Soon after he passed, we went to visit the family in their home, and, as expected, there was great sorrow and sadness.
We delivered a special care package to help them, gave some words of encouragement, and offered to read Bible passages with them.
It was amazing to see the impact this had, and their demeanor changed before our eyes.
The truth of God’s word that had been shared with them all this time came to life, and the mother began to proclaim that while they may not be able to understand God’s reason or plans, they know that God is good and they will choose to trust in him.
She started sharing beautiful stories and testimonies with everyone about God’s goodness. One particular story stuck out to me.
The week before her husband passed away, they were in their fields tending to their beans and corn. He commented on how good God had been to them over the years, how people had helped them, and how the Cadanino ministry specifically had been a great blessing and encouragement to their family, during the pandemic, providing them with food and ensuring that they didn’t go hungry when they had no money.
He had decided that once the harvest was in, he would share part of it with our ministry as his tithe.
I thought it was beautiful how one of her last conversations with her husband stated that God is faithful.
During our time there, it was increasingly clear that the person who had threatened to reject God last year if her husband died was not the same person we were seeing in front of us.
At long last, we had the blessing of seeing the fruit that comes from faithfully sowing God’s word into people’s lives.
Where once there were ashes, now there was beauty. God had given this family joy for mourning and a garment of praise for their spirit, all so that God might be glorified. (Isaiah 61)
We know that discipleship happens best in the context of community. It’s one thing to tell people that God loves them, that he sent his son to die for then, and he wants them to be restored to him as their father. But it’s quite another to walk that journey with them, day in and day out as we did with this family.
This is just one story of many among the 150 families that our ministry serves day in and day out in Guatemala, working to build the relationships that lay the foundation for a church of living stones.
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We are missionaries in Guatemala with our six children, Julia-now is college- (19), Audrey (16), Vanessa (14) Jessica (12), Alex (10) and Alison (8). We both come from missionary families and were raised overseas, Timothy in Europe, and Sharie in South East Asia and Mexico.
We work primarily in orphan care and prevention. The Biblical call in James 1:27 to care for the orphaned and vulnerable is our calling. Our ministry works with vulnerable children and their families in their communities through programs we run at two community centers in Colina Santa Fe and San Jose Pinula.