As 2020 comes to a close, we took some time to look over all that God has done this year in our ministry.
Despite the trials, challenges, and unexpected excitement that this year brought, I can truly say without a shadow of a doubt that it was our best year in ministry yet.
Not because we did anything extraordinary, but because we are continuing to build upon 18 years of constant, faithful ministry. Like a workman building a house, brick by brick and stone by stone, we have labored in the mission that God has called us to do, and we can see that His work is being accomplished.
Here are a few of the highlights from our ministry.
Building a Team
We can truly see how God brought together the right people for the ministry He placed us in. When hiring people for ministry, I have learned that skills are important, but people’s heart is more important. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach someone to have compassion for others.
Every one of the five staff in our centers has a heart for the children we serve. Yes, they have skills that make them useful, but they care about each of the students and their families, which makes them so great at what they do.
As we faced the challenges that Covid-19 brought and adjusted our programs to meet the needs of those we serve, it allowed the staff from both centers to work together and build camaraderie.
We have a limited staff, who are all very good at their jobs, but there is always more work that needs to be done than there is time to do it.
By leveraging our team’s skills, we could divide tasks between the centers so that the staff in one center could plan the Bible classes for both centers, while our team member, who is better at administrative tasks and tech, could provide support to both teams.
Though we had been working towards this goal, the Covid-19 crisis provided a sense of urgency that pushed our team members to make an effort.
While we have seen all of our team members grow in faith, it has been incredibly encouraging to see Merlyn, our reinforcement teacher, who is Catholic, develop a personal relationship with Jesus.
When we hired her, we knew she was a phenomenal teacher. She had been volunteering with us for several years, and her kids were in our program, but we didn’t know what her faith was like.
We have regular devotions with our team, where we read the Bible and pray. For a long time, she would listen and be quiet.
At the beginning of the year, I asked her if she had any thoughts on what we had read. She responded that she appreciated how we explained the Bible. She said she had gone to Mass her whole life and never really understood anything, but the way we talk about and explain what the Bible says gave her the ability to know God.
A few months ago, she volunteered to pray for devotions for the first time. She prayed an extraordinary heartfelt prayer to God that showed the depth of a personal relationship.
Then, when it came time to look up the Bible passage, she raced to find it first before the other staff. Seeing this happen was made all the more impressive because she didn’t know where anything was in the Bible when she started with us.
She commented the other day how she sees her kids’ faith growing and how they will come and share what they learned in Bible class.
Mayra is another one of our teachers. While she was raised in a Christian home, she was no longer attending church or walking with Christ when she came to work for us.
Over the past two years, Sharie invested a lot of time praying, counseling, and pouring into her. Though she has been faced with a lot of challenges in her personal life, the result has been that it has driven her closer to God, and she has seen His hand in her life caring for her and providing for her.
She began attending church, studying the Bible, reading Christian books, and has grown in faith. She is now a solid believer and involved in spiritual ministry at the center, ministering to the families, praying for them, and pointing them to God.
It’s said that Missions is the lifeblood of the church.
There is something about service to others that makes it come alive for us.
We have indeed seen this come to pass in the lives of those we serve.
When we began providing emergency food bags to the families in our program and the elderly in the community during the quarantine and shutdown in Guatemala, we knew that it was more than we could handle.
We reached out to the students’ parents enrolled in our programs and asked them to help, and they responded with enthusiasm.
They help pack the food bags, clean the centers, screen people as they come in, unload supplies, and more.
They have come to understand their service is necessary to make this ministry run, and that creates an environment of gratitude instead of entitlement.
Youth in Mission
Our “Youth in Mission” program was started with the primary purpose of challenging the teenagers in our programs to live a “missional life” through reaching out in service to those around them.
Because of the community’s great need as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, we saw an ideal opportunity for them to start serving.
We took time to teach and train the youth on the Biblical principles of service, that service to others is an extension of the love that God has for us, and that as Jesus laid down His life for us on the cross, so are we to lay down our lives in service to others.
Then we provided food bags for them to deliver to the elderly, infirm, and destitute in their communities.
Not only did they do an excellent job seeking out those most in need, but with every bag of food, they brought spiritual food for people as well. They took time to share God’s word, encourage, and pray for those to whom they delivered the food, sharing the lasting hope that only Christ can bring.
It has been amazing to see those who had spent years in our program, learning the Bible, learning about God, now going out and living out what they had learned in service to others.
Though we had to suspend in-person classes for six months during the lockdown, this ended up being a blessing in disguise.
It made us reevaluate every aspect of what we do and why.
We evaluated each of our programs, Spiritual Formation, Educational Reinforcement, and Family Strengthening, and pivoted to meet our students’ needs in this new dynamic.
Our team of teachers developed a distance learning program that enabled our students to continue learning when most of their peers were missing classes all year.
Parents came in every week to pick up Bible classes and educational worksheets for their kids and turn in the completed ones from the previous week.
Our teachers followed up with zoom classes for those who could, phone calls and text messages for the rest. Doing so had an incredibly high impact as it not only provided follow up to ensure the worksheets were being done, but it gave children who were stuck inside tiny houses with tin roofs contact with someone who cared about them.
Weekly engagement with the parents provided our staff with the time needed to get to know them personally, and the parents saw how much we truly cared for their children.
As time went on, parents began to open up about their lives and how they were doing, allowing us to point them to Christ.
We implemented an in-home reading program that continues even though we are now back to in-person classes in our centers. To date, students have read hundreds and hundreds of books. Many have developed a love for reading that will benefit them for a lifetime.
In making the switch to distance learning for half the year because of Covid-19, we had to develop new ways of tracking and implementing our programs to ensure that they were effective.
Working with our team, we developed a process for implementing new programs and projects so that whatever the world throws at us, we can effectively tailor our program to meet the need.
Our matrix is Objective, Planning, Messaging, Tracking, Review, and Improvement.
Most importantly, this year, we saw the Word of God come alive in our ministry. From our staff to the parents we serve to the children, the truth of God’s Word is working to change people’s hearts, lead them to salvation in Christ and impact the way they interact with their families and their communities.
These are just a few of the highlights of what God is doing in Guatemala. I could fill pages and pages with stories and testimonies of lives changed and hearts impacted for eternity.
To all of you who have helped make this ministry possible, thank you! You are truly laying up treasures in heaven, and one day, when you stand before God, you will have a glimpse of what has been accomplished through the power of the Gospel at work in the lives and hearts of those in these communities.
Will you partner with us in the work that God has called us to do here in Guatemala during Covid-19?
Give now in a way that lasts for eternity
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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.