Martiny Family Missionaries 2017 Mid Year Highlights

  • Took over as General Manager of CEI, a daycare for the profoundly disabled. Our staff of PT’s/OT’s/Special Educators and caretakers work to meet the personalized needs of these precious individuals, helping them to live lives that are as structured, independent and joyful as possible.
  • Over 100 children are enrolled in afternoon programs at our community center where students have Bible classes, learn computer skills and receive help with homework.
  • Opened a lending library at our community center for the students.
  • Worked with our local church, Casa De Libertad, to do an outreach to the children and parents at our community center, volunteers lead a VBS, ministered to the parents and provided much needed backpacks and school supplies to the children.
  • Started a women’s Bible study group with mothers and relatives of the children who attend our community center.
  • Lead a weekly discipleship group with girls from the orphanage Fundaniños.
  • Assisted three mission teams with their ministry here.
  • Attended the CAFO (Christian Alliance for Orphans) Summit to learn about how to better serve orphaned and vulnerable children.
  • Taught over 60 woodworking and engineering classes to students in our workshop at the orphanage Fundaniños.
  • Sharie gave weekly culinary arts classes to 18 students at the orphanage Fundaniños, focusing on teaching them how to prepare dishes for themselves that are nutritious, delicious and affordable.
  • Kept in contact with many of our former students from the orphanage who have aged out, providing them with council, prayer and making sure that they know they are loved.
  • Had the teenagers from the orphanage Fundaninos do a VBS for the children at our community center.

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Sharie leading the women's bible study group

So we started a women’s Bible study group

For some time now we had been feeling burdened for the parents of the children who attend our community center in the slums of Colonia Santa Fe.

We had been teaching and ministering to the children for years, instructing them in God’s word, helping them with their homework, giving them computer classes, taking them on field trips, and giving them a safe place to learn.

Yet as we came to know the parents better, we started to understand just how great their need was, and saw the opportunity to minister to them as well. They face immense difficulties in their lives, financial struggles, a lack of job opportunities, are surrounded by violence, and many have tragically lost children to murders by gangs that control the area. There is a general feeling of loss and discouragement amongst so many of them.

Seeing this cycle of brokenness, something we know that only the grace and Mercy of God can break. We felt a sense of urgency to work closer with the parents, to point them to Christ, to help them know who He truly is, and to teach them of His goodness and greatness. We want to give them a clearer understanding of who they truly are, image bearers of a wonderful God! A God of such great love, that He sent His son to pay a horrific price, not only that we might be redeemed from sin, but also that we might be adopted as sons, co-heirs with Christ who now have the privilege to address Him as “Abba” Father (Galatians 4:4-7).

Sharie leading the women's bible study group in prayerFinding a space to hold a Bible study group was somewhat challenging, as our small community center basically consists of a small room filled with desks, chairs, computers, and books. We have been praying for bigger location to better serve this community, yet we didn’t think that we could wait till we found the perfect place to start our women’s group.
So, after inviting the mothers to attend, I headed down there one Tuesday morning to make it work. We moved the desks to create a small circle of chairs, rearranged the stacks of books that are overflowing on our lending library, brought some cookies, and made some coffee…and waited.

It was far from the ideal setting, yet it was what we had. I knew that what truly mattered was not the perfect location, but that where two or three were gathered together in Christs name, He would be there among us (Mathew 18:20). I knew that I had at least eight women who had signed up, yet how many of them would be there I didn’t know. The only thing I was sure of was that the Holy Spirit had laid a burden on my heart to do this.

I was pleasantly surprised when they started to trickle in. As I took time to talk with them and get to know each one personally, I found out that some had walked for over 20 min with their little ones in tow, just to be there with us. It brought joy to my heart to see that they were not just interested in the programs we offer their children, or in the computer classes they take in our center, but that they had a desire to get to know God better.

We started with a topic that God had laid on my heart, learning about Him as our good Father, who He is, and why we can trust in Him. So far it has been great! With a lot of active participation, discussion, and commentary from the women. During our last class the discussion went on for so long that we were passed the allotted time, I was concerned that some of them might need to leave to get on with their day. I asked them if we should stop and continue next week. However, when I asked them, they all said that they wanted to continue studying “just a little bit more”. I was so excited to see their interest and hunger for God’s Word.

Sharie Martiny with one fo the children of the mothers in our Bible study groupOne thing that was beautiful to see was how well behaved their little ones were during the class. I made sure to have snacks and coloring pages for them during the class and they were quiet and well behaved, letting their mothers participate in the study.

Like so many of the things we do, it is a small beginning, but we are excited and looking forward to what God will continue to do in this community. Will this women’s group go on to become something bigger? I don’t know, will it last more than a month or a year? Again, I don’t know. But I do know that I have been called to play a part in His greater story and to work with those He has called me to reach. So, I am excitedly looking forward to seeing hearts, lives, and families changed through God’s redemptive power.

empowering women through woodworking

Empowering women thorough woodworking

Why do you teach girls carpentry? Are there any jobs for women carpenters in Guatemala? Is there a market for the things you are making? Are they capable of doing this on their own? What happens one day if you are gone?

Many people are surprised when they learn that vocational training programs, which include information technology, woodworking, pre-engineering and culinary arts, places an emphasis on having girls in our woodworking class. So I thought I would take some time to explain what we teach and why.First of all, we don’t teach carpentry. Carpentry is building houses, framing and decking. Little of which would apply to our students here as the materials used in the construction of houses in most developing countries is cinder block and cement.

Second, what we teach is woodworking, the art of working with wood, understanding it, designing with it, and working through the creation process to produce a product.

Third, what we do is as much about the process as the product. For children who are orphaned, have been abused, or experienced profound childhood trauma, lack of self-esteem is especially common. Fear is one of the root causes of a lack of self-esteem, fear of failure, fear of the ability to do, to accomplish, or to even try. They often believe that there is something innately wrong with themselves. When they make mistakes, they can feel stupid or insufficient and worry what others will think of them. This only serves to reinforce their own feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, undeserving or unlovable.

We have seen our program help to overcome those things. The pen they make is more than a pen, it’s a healing process, a process they control, a process they own, a process that produces something people value.

When someone comes in and sees a 14 year old girl working on a lathe, tearing into a piece of wood to turn it from a square block, to a beautiful pen or bracelet, when they see them using a machine that they themselves don’t know how to use, it elevates them. When that girl produces a quality product, one that people see value in, and are willing to purchase, they start to see value in themselves. All of those give a boost to their soul, raise their spirit, and, little by little, help build their self-esteem.

Fourth, work ethic, it’s not just about doing a job, it’s about doing it well. We believe that the work we do, can, in and of itself, be worship to God. We want the works of our hands to be acceptable in God’s sight. We want whatever we do to be done for Him, for His glory, and to honor Him. In our workshop we focus on quality of the work and the pursuit of excellence. If something is not the best possible quality, we don’t sell it. By raising the bar and expecting quality work from the students we empower them to do it, and they do.

Fifth, confidence, though they may not make pens, bracelets or Christmas ornaments for the rest of their life, they have learned that they can learn. They have learned to use power tools, lathes, miter saws, sanders and a cnc shopbot router. We have opened their minds to a bigger, greater world of possibilities then they ever knew was possible. We have shown them that if they can learn this, they can learn so much more.

Sixth, business skills, in our program they learn what it is to run your own micro-business. They learn about costing, sales, materials and more. They get to earn their own money, spend some on what they want while saving the rest of it in their bank account. They learn about banking. It’s hard to teach someone the value of money and how to manage it, if they don’t have any money to manage. The value of this in their life cannot be understated and it is something that few children in orphanages are able to experience.

Seventh, relationships, working with them in the shop gives us the opportunity to build relationships with them, to love and care for them on a consistent basis as the years go by. Yes, as missionaries our primary calling is to make disciples of all nations, but being obedient to our Biblical calling to serve the orphaned and vulnerable requires a holistic process that meets both their spiritual and physical life. It requires ministering to their soul to prepare them to lead Godly lives, and meeting the needs of their mind and body to prepare them to live a productive life that utilizes the gifts and talents that God has given them.
So, yes it’s about making pens, but it’s about so much more than just making pens.

It’s about empowering girls who live in a society dominated by machismo. It’s about showing them what they are capable of. It’s about helping them realize their full potential. It’s about showing them that they have value, not just as a wife or mother but as smart intelligent human beings who can think, dream, design, produce and create value. It’s a step in helping them understand that they are the daughters of God.

It might not be the most traditional way of teaching these things, but we have found that it works.

Adoption and the Cross

martiny easter photo 2017
That is the whole story of redemption. Starting in the beginning, in the garden. The universe was meant to be our home, it was created as the place where the image bearers of God would rule and serve under their Father. It was all to be ours. Yet, through primeval insurrection in the garden, our inheritance was lost, turning the universe into an orphanage. Heirs we were no more, sin had taken root, turned away from home and into the captivity of a serpent who held the cosmos in thrall.

The whole universe had become an orphanage.

There we were, orphaned. Orphaned, until Christ came to redeem us. Redeem us, yes, but what does that mean? And how does it apply to adoption and the cross?

As used by the Apostle Paul, to redeem means “to buy out”. Specifically in relation to the purchasing of a slaves freedom. That in scripture, we find it applied to Christ’s death on the cross, is significant. Romans 3:24 speaks of the redemption that is found through Christ Jesus. Christ bought us, restored us, redeemed us and gave us a path away from the life of an orphan, forever changed into one of an adopted son.

Just as a child cannot, of his own free will, be set free from the orphanage that holds him, neither can we, of our own free will, be set free of the sins which do so easily beset us. Something must happen, someone, some greater power must act, to liberate us from our current state of orphanhood and grant us permission to become a member of a family.

That brings us to the cross. We simply cannot consider the adoption scripture speaks of, as children of God, without turning to the cross. When Jesus is nailed to this Roman torture device, he bears the full weight of the curse of an orphaned creation. The apostle Paul is able to speak of us receiving adoption as sons only because Jesus took upon himself that curse, which was our separation from God. In removing it we can now find redemption, the door is opened for us to be adopted as sons of God and our inheritance is sealed by the Holy Spirit.  (Ephesians 1)

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).

When you truly understand adoption, you truly understand the cross, and when you truly understand the cross you truly understand adoption. Understanding of the one leads to better understanding of the other.

As we celebrate our Christs resurrection on this glorious day and our adoption into Gods family, let us also remember those here on this earth, so in need of both a spiritual and physical family and ask ourselves if we are not called to meet it in some way?

As our father has loved us, so let us love others.

Happy Easter from Tim, Sharie, Julia, Audrey, Vanessa, Jessica, Alex and Alison Martiny.

Fundaninos students serving

Teaching others to teach others.

The greatest gift any teacher can have is not just for his students to understand and learn what he is teaching, but for them to turn around and share that knowledge with others.

We were blessed to see that happen last month.

Over the eight years that we have served at the orphanage Fundañinos, a primary focus of our ministry has been to impart the truth, knowledge, and understanding of scripture to the children. Through Bible classes, devotionals, small groups, summer camps, and VBS’s we have done this time and time again. Christ tells us in Matthew 5:19 that if you want greatness in the Kingdom of God, it comes from both practicing and teaching His commandments.

In praying and looking for an opportunity for the teenagers at the home to serve others, we decided to open the door for them to not just be involved, but to lead a service project at our community center in Colonia Santa Fe.

Sharie took some time to plan the program and explained to them how the “VBS” would work and divide the responsibilities between the youth. Our theme this year has been Psalm 23, and knowing God as our good shepherd. After that it was completely up to them to learn the content, prepare the material, organize the activities and lead the program for 33 second and third graders that participate in our program in Colonia Santa Fe.

For kids living in an orphanage, life can often be somewhat isolated. Most of them live, play, go to school, and interact almost entirely with the other children at the orphanage. Merely engaging with kids from another environment is sometimes awkward. Asking them to step outside of their comfort zone to lead a class, hold a mic, explain verses, and organize games was a big, but much needed, step forward.

Needless to say, they did amazing! While many of them were a little shy at first, as the program moved on, their confidence built. Each of them had learned their part of the class correctly. No one got stage fright or refused to participate and many of them demonstrated assurance and boldness as they engaged with the children. In truth they did a wonderful job.

It is one thing to be taught God’s word, it is quite another to teach it. There is something about explaining something we have learned to others that helps to reinforce it in our own minds.

Surgical residency programs often utilize the philosophy of “See one, Do one, Teach one”, and we have found this to be an effective methodology in our work as well.

The part that I loved the most and what really touched me, was seeing the students help the little kids with their crafts. Assisting with cutting, coloring, the lending of their artistic talent, the willingness to get involved as the small children came up to them for help, and watching them make friends, smile and laugh with children they had only just met, filled me with joy.

Observing 2 Timothy 2:2, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” came to life before our eyes and gave me hope and faith that as long as the work we are doing is grounded in scripture, based on Godly  principles, and taught to faithful men, and women, it will carry on beyond the class or Bible study we are teaching today.


timothy martiny, julia martiny

Today Julia, my oldest daughter turned 18

timothy martiny, julia martinyThey say time files, and I guess it does, I can remember like yesterday the day she was born. I remember holding her in my arms for the first time, before she was rushed off to an incubator for 10 days due to complications.

I can remember the love I felt in my heart looking at her, so tiny, yet so perfectly made. I can remember thinking that I wanted to give her the best I could, that she would never lack for anything, that all her needs and wants would be met.

I was 17, newly married, and had spent a large portion of my childhood institutionalized. From a young age I was required to work to support my family. I knew how tough life could be. We were 11 siblings, plus several step-siblings with us on and off over the years, we had food and clothes, but not much more. I still remember buying my first pair of new shoes when I was 15, right before I left home. They were LA Gear and cost $9.99 at Kmart. I was so proud of them and wore them till the soles wore out. My education was sparse and I was ill equipped for life.

Needless to say, I didn’t have much in my childhood. So, as a young father, I wanted her to have everything that I hadn’t had, and was willing to do whatever it took to give it to her. I worked long hours to provide for my wife and daughter. Getting up at 5 am to work 12 hours and then rushing home to spend the with my baby was worth it. No job was beneath me, not even digging ditches in the sewer. While I gave her love, played with her often and read her Bible stories every night. I was practically a kid myself, and trying to figure it all out.

I remember her first birthday party, it was a windy day at Lafreniere Park in Louisiana. We had a barbecue, invited all our friends, and spent way too much money on Fisher Price “Little People” toys. Thankfully they ended up being used by her 5 siblings that were to come.

We went all out. Looking back, I don’t think that there was anything wrong that, but it was more that I didn’t know myself what it was that really mattered in my child’s life.

Things did not turn out the way I had planned it. I went from installing doors for home depot, to a job in tech support, to taking my family to live in Guatemala for, what I thought, was going to be three months of volunteer work.

She was three years and seven months old when we boarded the flight to Guatemala that would change our lives forever. Going to help some missionaries we knew for short time, turned into a life of service to orphaned, vulnerable and disabled children.

There is something about seeing others in dire need that can fundamentally rewire the way we prioritize our life. I still wanted the best for my daughter, but as time went on, I was no longer convinced that what I thought was the best for her, was really the best for her.

Now that I have spent over half my live raising kids, I’ve come to the conclusion that parents have four fundamental obligations to their children:

  1. Keep them safe
  2. Provide for their needs
  3. Make them feel loved
  4. Prepare them for life.

I believe most parents intuitively understand and work towards meeting them. Yet how things play out, based on our culture, beliefs, resources, and how we were raised, varies.

The more time I spent working with children in orphanages, who were lacking in many of these things, the more time I spent thinking and praying about what it actually took to meet those needs. As I reflected on how to provide these things to those I served, it changed the ways I thought about meeting them for my own children.

I knew that I didn’t want her to be raised how I was raised. Besides having left home at such a young age, I hadn’t had a solid education, and didn’t know what a healthy relationship with ones parents looked like.

As time went on, my philosophy of how to meet the fundamental obligations to my children evolved.

Keeping them safe looked different in a less developed country like Guatemala, than it did in the U.S. She didn’t grow up in a perfect suburban neighborhood, she grew up spending time with me visiting the places I worked, driving across Mexico to the U.S. and back every few years, and often times, just being in my company. The safety came from being with a dad who was always alert and looking out for her, yet at the same time exposing her to new and wonderful places as she served alongside me.

Providing for her needs changed as well. There is something about seeing others with so so much less than us that can impact what we think we need. Many of the things we classify as needs, are actually just wants. Instead of mountains of new toys  every birthday, I started making presents for my children, from wooden flower planters with their name carved into it, to refurbishing and rebuilding old bicycles, we met their needs and many of their wants, in, yet tried to demonstrate a clear difference between the two.

Making them feel loved. My efforts turned from loving them with things, to loving them with time. For most of their childhood, I would come home from work and take them to park every single day. We played in forests and fields and spent time together. I can’t say that I have always succeeded in loving them perfectly in every way, God knows I have my failings, yet I believe that our focus on spending time and resources on experiences with my children, rather than on things, has paid off.

Preparing them for life. This is where some people might disagree with me. How could I throw away the “lottery of birth” my children had been given by being American citizens. The opportunity to grow up, live, attend college and find a career in what is probably one of the safest, richest countries in the world, with limitless options at their disposal. In exchange for a life in a largely impoverished country, where crime and violence are a daily companion, where they don’t have the same fast track educational prospects, live away from their relatives, and possibly suffer from the innate challenges that come from their parents being missionaries?

It’s something that I have given a lot of thought to and grappled with, and I don’t know that I have a perfect answer for it. I may not have given her the typical things that are so highly valued by most people. But I have given her something more.

I have exposed her to the world, not just to her country. I am proudly American, yet the world is bigger than my home country. By raising her in Guatemala, I have shown her the greater scope of humanity, beyond one race or culture. She speaks a second language, and easily engages people from different walks of life. Her education, while a mix of home school and local schools, has been so much more than book learning. It has been the places we have worked where she has served alongside us and developed heart of compassion. From time spent volunteering at church, to willingly helping with projects in our ministry, to assisting her younger siblings, I believe that service has become part of her DNA. She may not have had access to AP classes and been able to get college credits while in high school, but she has constantly been faced with learning opportunities and real world problem solving challenges that have constantly pushed her outside her comfort zone, and, of utmost importance, she has learned to learn.

She has had wonderful opportunities to see God to amazing things. While stuck at the border a few years ago facing a problem with immigration’s, she told my wife “I wasn’t worried, because Daddy always gets us through”. While I was encouraged and touched that she had such confidence in me, I could only point her to God as I knew it was Him who had saved us time and time again in our travels. From our car breaking down in the middle of nowhere in Mexico to dealing with corrupt cops and seemingly impossible situations in foreign countries. She had seen God do miracles us and for her and it had grown her faith.

Most importantly however, I have seen her develop her own personal relationship with God, from making the decision to be baptized, to aligning her activities, friendships and lifestyle with what has become, not just ours, but her belief system and her own personal convictions. I could not be more proud of her. Her faith is her own, and I think that is her true preparation for life.

More than anything I could have done to prepare, I gave her a path to God, where she could develop her own faith, and she did. Could I have done that back home? Certainly! Yet seeing God’s word come to life, when you desperately need it and there is no other solution, is an incredibly valuable gift to give to your children.

Did I do a perfect job raising my children? No. Would l do things differently if I was 17 and starting out again? Perhaps! The only thing I know I did right in raising my children is that in my desire to do it “right” led me to God, His word and His principals.

In truth, when I look at her, at the amazing woman she has become, despite all my faults and failings as a father, I don’t know that I would change a thing.

As she finishes school this year and begins to make her own way in the world. I know that while her life may not always be easy, she has the tools, character and connection with God to make to make the most of the life she has been given.

She is more than I could have hoped for, but everything I prayed for.

Julia Taylor Martiny, I love you and am so proud of you.

Serving with Casa de Libertad on Dia por Guatemala

Imagine a Church that Serves

Imagine a Church that reads the Bible, prays, and finally, imagine a church that serves!

This has been the theme at our local church in Guatemala recently. What would the church look like if the people who attended it, not only accepted the teachings of Christ, but were actually intentional about living them out? What could this city, this country, and the world look like?

We have been blessed to be a part of “Casa de Libertad” or, the House of Freedom church in Guatemala for the past six years. It is a young church,  planted 10 years ago, and its vision is to be a church that plants churches as well as a body of believers that gives glory to God through lives transformed by Jesus into lives transformed for Jesus.

New backpacks and school supplies for the students

New backpacks and school supplies for the students

For the past several years the church has held a “Dia por Guatemala” where all or most of the members would serve at a rural school or orphanage, do physical repairs and bring needed supplies. It has been wonderful to see the united effort of everyone working together. However, at the end of the day, many people left having only had a relationship with the wall they painted.

The focus this year, was to work as smaller groups that would serve at multiple locations, orphanages, schools in the slums, drug rehab centers, hospitals, churches in rural towns, etc, meeting physical needs, but most importantly, building relationships with the people they served. The hope was that this day would be a catalyst for regular, long term service that would encourage people to see missions, not just as a one day a year outreach, but as a lifestyle.

We were blessed to have two Bible study homegroups from our church choose to serve at our community center in the slums where we have worked for the past five years. Over 100 children are enrolled in our afternoon program that includes; Bible classes, prayer, typing and computer classes, tutoring and a safe place where they can come and learn in the afternoons.

We provided the outline for the VBS, and they took the lead, not just in the planning and preparation, but in the execution and running of the

Volunteer from Casa De Libertad serving at our community center in Colonia Santa Fe

Volunteer from Casa De Libertad serving at our community center in Colonia Santa Fe


On March 4th, over 20 volunteers showed up and served 110 children 50 parents.

The day consisted of worship and praise songs, a Bible lesson on God as the good shepherd, activates and crafts related to the class, and finally, school supplies and backpacks, donated, through a miracle, by the First Lady of Guatemala.

The worship was wonderful, the classes were excellent, and the volunteers did an amazing job engaging with the children. But for me, the best part of it was the prayer room we setup next door. We invited the parents to come in, have coffee, and talk with us about their lives, members of our church shared messages from God’s word, and prayed for them.

In one of the groups I worked with were three women, while all the ladies needed prayer for a job, mostly they just wanted to thank God for the opportunity we had given their children to learn in our afternoon program. The thanks and appreciation from each and every parent was so very touching. Our pastor came in and lead worship. It was so beautiful to see the body of Christ, worshiping and praising God together in unity. One man came up to my wife and said he had thought it was just going to be an activity for the children, but he was so grateful for we

Pastor Francisco Bendfeldt, leading worship and prayer with the parents.

Pastor Francisco Bendfeldt, leading worship and prayer with the parents.

did for him, talking the time to pray for them, talk with them and let them know that we cared. It truly was an example of Psalms 133:1 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

The outreach had an impact, not just on the people we served, but on those who served. There is something about getting out of your comfort zone, and serving others, that gives perspective on your own life. One of the volunteers commented to me on how much he needed this, how serving, praying and worshiping, helped him realign his perspective with what really mattered. Another told me that he couldn’t wait until next month to visit again.

1 Peter 4:10-11. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”



Why the world still needs Christian orphanages.


A few days ago, on March 7th 2017, a riot broke out at Virgen de Asuncion, a government run children’s home in San Jose Pinula, Guatemala. The underage residents were protesting poor living conditions, malnutrition and, reportedly, physical and sexual abuse, claims which had been substantiated by judges over the years. There had been calls for the homes closure after an investigation by UNICEF. However it was still receiving, by some reports, as many as 15 children a day.

So far 40 children, all girls, lost their lives due to a fire that was started after the riot when they were locked overnight in a small room. Many more have been admitted to hospitals with second and third degree burns and are not expected to make it.

This was a facility built for 400 children, but ended up with, by some reports, as many as 800 children at times. It was serving, not just as a home for abandoned, abused and orphaned children, but was a place where judges would send juvenile delinquents, some of whom had committed murder. About 150 residents were disabled, most of them profoundly, with conditions ranging from microencephalitis to down syndrome. It had become a catch all home for children the government didn’t have a place to put anywhere else.

I had visited the home several times over the years, and was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenges the government must face in trying to make it work. It seems at some point, things got beyond their control, and, as a result, many precious children lost their lives.

Besides the four government run homes in Guatemala, there are, according to CNA (the Guatemalan organization which oversees adoptions and children’s homes) over 100 privately run orphanages in Guatemala, almost all of them run by Christian organizations, foundations and missionaries and funded largely by Christians.

While orphanages originally existed to house children who had lost their parents, they have, over the years, come to serve as the de facto foster care system for less developed countries. When governments have limited resources, they often turned to privately run Christian orphanages to help meet the need.

Would children with no parents or relatives, be better served by being adopted? Yes. Would children removed from their families because of physical or sexual abuse, receive more personalized attention by being placed with a foster family? Without a doubt. Would children feel more secure after the loss of their parents if they had the option of community based care in surroundings where they have grown up, surrounded by people who they have known all their lives, who take a vested interest in keeping them connected to the only life they have ever known and who keep them connected to their culture? Certainly.

Would I rather see any of these options over a child being placed in an orphanage? Yes! Even a good orphanage that operates on a family based model cannot compare with the personalized care a child receives when they are cared for by a loving family.

Yet, when I see the lives lost because of this horrible and preventable tragedy, I can’t help but think, that an orphanage, even one that instutionalizes the care of its children, is a better option than one where children burn to death.

When we look at the alternatives to placing a child in an orphanage, we find that there are valid reasons why orphanages, especially Christian run orphanages still exist, a few of them being:

Adoption. While it would be great for every child without parents to be adopted. The reality, in many cultures, is that people don’t adopt. In 2016, Guatemala saw 100 adoptions, compare that to the 4000 children it saw adopted through international adoptions in 2006 – the last year it was allowed before it was shut down for a variety of, very valid reasons. And when you start to understand that there is a difference between how different cultures view taking someone into your home who is not your own flesh and blood.

Resources play another factor. Guatemala for instance, is in some ways “a third world country with first world laws”. A decade ago, after investigations into the way adoptions were being done in Guatemala, the government, under international pressure, closed down international adoptions and adopted some very good, comprehensive regulations for handling them. they created the CNA to manage the adoption process and properly investigate children in the system (children living in government and private homes) to ensure that, based on a long list of requirements, they were truly eligible to be adopted. However, trying to implement a US based system, with Guatemalan resources, is like trying to put out a forest fire with a garden hose.

Foster Care. Another great option, either for long term care, or as a temporary place for children who have been removed from their environment for their own protection. The challenges here are the same, limited resources and lack of willingness on the parts of families to consider this an option. Even in the US, with many times the resources available to Guatemala, the foster care system struggles. Thankfully many churches and Christians are taking the lead in accepting that The Church (those who call themselves followers of Christ) have a God given responsibility to care for the orphaned and fatherless. Families all across the country are opening their homes and lives to take in foster kids, with many eventually adopting. Sadly, Christians in other countries still have lots of room for growth in this respect.

Also, it takes an entire system of trained social workers and case managers to properly execute such an undertaking. Even in the US, with immense resources, and a multitude of trained, passionate, hardworking staff, there are immense challenges in foster care. How much more so would this be the case in less developed countries that lack even a fraction of the resources? Even if there were a cultural shift, and people were willing to foster in places like Guatemala, it takes time to setup the infrastructure to support it.

Community Care. How about keeping children in their environment instead of placing them in a home? For children who are in danger, or suffering from abuse or neglect, this is not an option. For children who are truly orphans, it is certainly preferable. Yet a multitude of factors come into play. In some cultures caring for those within your community is the norm, in others it is not. Some countries have adopted strict laws regarding how children are cared for, and have completely ignored this as an option, to do so without government permission would even be illegal in some places.

Which brings us to residential care facilities, or, as they are more commonly known, orphanages. Historically, orphanages were created to provide a home for children who had lost their parents. With time, in many countries, they came to house an increasing number of social orphans, children who needed protective custody, or those who had lost one parent and the other no longer had the means to care for them.

Would children placed in orphanages do better by being adopted, placed with foster families or given into community care? Certainly. Would social orphans be better served if greater resources were directed towards the reason that put them in orphanages in the first place? Yes. Do we need a greater emphasis placed on reunification programs that provide targeted resources to their families to care them? Yes again. What is comes down to, is that we need a continuum of care for orphaned and vulnerable children, and residential care facilities are part of that.

Many of the private orphanages I know of operating in Guatemala are faith based organizations, their work is made possible by true believers of the Christian faith, that accept, that they personally have a responsibility before God, to provide for and serve the orphaned and fatherless. They put their money where their mouth is, so that these children can receive the care they need.

Without the Christian orphanages that exist in Guatemala housing thousands of children, children who were placed there by the Guatemalan government because they had no other viable option, how many more lives might have been lost in this tragic fire? Even now the Guatemalan government is turning to these homes to place children displaced by the closing of their own orphanage where the fire took place.

Does this mean that we should go on an orphanage build spree? Absolutely not. There is a consensus amongst faith based orphan care organizations that family care is the ideal, yet there is an understanding that it will take time to get there.

Buckner International, one of the oldest orphan care organizations in the world, took 20 years to shut down its residential care facilities in the US, and it will take time to do so in other countries as well. Shutting down private institutions without first building up other options, will have tragic consequences.

For children who have been institutionalized for most of their lives, thrusting them into a different environment from the only one they have even known, can be traumatic as well.

Many of those who have lived and worked in less developed countries, and have been on the front lines of orphan care, have conceptually worked their way upstream to the root of the problem as to why so many of these children are in orphanages in the first place. If we want to reduce the flow of children into orphanages into orphanages, we have to better serve the families where they come from.

We need to better serve the families where these children come if we want to reduce the flow of children into orphanages.

Are orphanages the ideal place for these children? No. But at times they are the only viable option given the available resources. As Mike Douris, the President and Founder of Orphan Outreach explains, we need a “Continuum of Care”. What does that mean? “In basic terms, the continuum of care is different modalities of care along a spectrum of least restrictive to most restrictive. Each type of care has one single goal: to point towards the safest and most nurturing permanency plan for the child as is possible, given the resources available in any environment.”

Understanding that each form of care, has its place within the continuum of care, while at the same time developing programs and funneling resources that place more children into family care environments, working to change laws to make this possible, and encouraging change within cultures so that people see that THEY own the responsibility to property care for, foster or adopt the children of their own country, is necessary.

Why Christian orphanages? None of the Christians I know that work in orphan care have anything against private secular run orphanages, they just understand, based on their Christian faith, they when they see someone in need, they are called to personally help in some way. Since the early days of The Church when Christians were known to rescue unwanted children abandoned by the Romans to die, to this day and age when they open their homes to foster, adopt, and even head to foreign countries to serve orphans.

James 1:27 tells us that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

The Christian church has always been, and should always be on the front lines of orphan care.

True, simply wanting to help, and actually being a help, aren’t always in lockstep with one another. But as orphan care organizations, orphanages, churches, missionaries and volunteers work to serve with excellence, ensuring that their help is rooted in knowledge and best practices, children, at whatever point in the continuum of care they are at, will only be the better for it.

cafe du monde Guatemala

Empowering women through Business as Mission

cafe du monde GuatemalaOur journey in orphan care over 14 years has been a fun and interesting one. We started out as a ministry initially focused on evangelism to orphaned and vulnerable children. Like all missionaries, the heart of all we did was related to our desire to share the “Good News” with those we were called to serve. Over time, as we worked and learned; we saw that in order to properly serve them, we had to meet their physical needs, and as well prepare them for life. Our programs expanded to include educational, vocational programs of computer, woodworking, engineering, and culinary arts classes.

The students were hungry to learn, they enjoyed the classes and did well in them. Yet, one thing we saw time and time again, was students struggled to find decent jobs.

Guatemala, like most less developed countries, has high unemployment, and we found our students continually competing for work from people who were better connected, trained and had more flexibility in their work hours and transportation. That, coupled with the learning curve for children who have spent most of their lives somewhat isolated growing up in an orphanage and lack the family and social support structure that most others have, led us to consider creating employment options for the long term residents of the children’s home we work with.

Our objective was to create a business that tied in with our existing vocational training programs and provided a safe place to work, in a healthy work environment with patient bosses that will help them develop their job skills.

Looking to leverage the skills and gifts that God has given us, we decided to open a coffee shop kiosk with unique, quality products, and flavors for sale that were not readily available on the market. We called it Café Du Monde, based on the café in New Orleans of the same name. We sell Beignets, a French doughnut, scones, muffins and coffee.

It was a long and complicated process, but we finally opened the kiosk in the second half of 2016. We have two fulltime employees, both older women who are single mothers. We have had three girls from the orphanage work at the kiosk for job training, and the results have been positive. One of them was able to transition to another job, and the other two worked for us during their vacation and will continue to do so part time while they are in school.

Right now the business is just barely paying its bills and employee salaries, but we are hopeful that with time, it can become a profitable business that will benefit not just the children from the orphanage, but provide widows and vulnerable women with fair employment in a job, where they can make a good living and support their families.

We believe that business can be a God-given vocation and institution in society with the potential to bring multiple benefits to people, communities and nations. By operating this business as a mission we hope to intentionally leverage the intrinsic power of business to address spiritual needs, hand in hand with social, economic and environmental needs.

For us business as mission is demonstrating what the Kingdom of God is like in the context of business – and as we do so, engaging some of the world’s pressing social, economic, environmental and spiritual issues.

Our desire for this business is that it is profitable and sustainable; a place that furthers the Kingdom of God and His purpose and impact on people and nations; focused on holistic transformation and the multiple bottom lines of economic, social, environmental and spiritual outcomes; concerned about unreached and un-evangelized peoples; and, that when other businessmen see the principles we are operating on, how we are treating our employees and customers, that they will do the same.

Business as mission is not a new idea. Throughout Church history it has been combined in different ways at different times. We believe that if the global Church were to fully integrate its business goals with the call to take the Gospel to the whole world, if believers were Christian businessmen, not just businessmen who happen to be Christian, if followers of Christ were to integrate Christian principles in their work and business life, it could be a catalyst for bringing God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.

Joe Plumber, the editor and chair of the editorial board of BAM, wrote, “Business has the potential to generate wealth through a combination of creativity, risk and work. A profitable and sustainable business is able to create new jobs, drive new innovations and increase resources for society. Business can provide goods and services that are needed in a community and is established on a wide network of relationships. “These activities, products and relationships are integral to business and part of the God-given potential of business to transform society and glorify Him. Through business we can intentionally tackle poverty, increase quality of life, bring positive social change and carry with us the message of eternal life.”

We are still fulltime missionaries, in service to orphaned, vulnerable and disabled children, yet we see this as an opportunity to use our God-given talents to impact those we serve through this micro-enterprise.

We ask that you keep us in your prayers as carry on in this journey.

The Jingle Sisters

Missions, not a trip, but a lifestyle.

So we ended up in the U.S. for Christmas. For most of the 14 years we have been missionaries in Guatemala, we have celebrated it there, away from our families, so it is nice to be with relatives for a change.

As good as it was to spend time with loved ones, there was an aspect of Christmas in Guatemala that we missed, celebrating Christmas with those we serve.

We have embraced that our calling is to live a life of service, to extend to others the love, grace and compassion that our heavenly Father has extended to us.

Hosting and participating in Christmas celebrations for the orphaned, vulnerable and disabled children we serve, has been a part of our holiday tradition for so long, that not being there to do so, created a vacuum in our hearts. Two of our daughters, Vanessa 12, and Jessica 10, along with their two cousins, had been working on preparing a show for the family Christmas dinner.

A friend of ours in New Orleans heard about it, and invited them to perform at the nursing and retirement homes he was visiting and to sing Christmas carols, show love and bring Christmas cheer to the residents.

It was a wonderful experience. The people loved it! We could see the smiles and joy brought to their aged faces as the kids belted out Christmas choruses, performed their songs, held their hands and prayed for them. It truly was a wonderful thing to see.

Everyone participated, from Julia, our oldest daughter, down to Alison, 5 years old. It was a perfect way to remind our children of the true meaning of Christmas, not toys, or parties or dinner, but the celebrations of the birth of Gods son over 2000 years ago.

You see, one thing that I found in my many years of service is that we as Christians are called to LIVE in missions, reaching out in service to others, loving the least of these, helping our neighbors, and sharing the Gospel of the good news of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, is not just something that we are limited to doing 2450 miles away in Guatemala where we serve as missionaries. Neither is it something for those here at home to simply do when they go on a trip.

We must take on the proper understanding that missional living starts with a true understanding of who God is. God, by his very nature, is a “sending God” who has taken the initiative to redeem us, His creation. Because the church is comprised of the “sent” people of God, the living church, or body of believers, is the instrument of God’s mission in the world.
It is not so much that “the church has a mission” as “the mission has a church”.

Engaging in a missional lifestyle means that we see the mission as both the originating impulse and our organizing principal. It means we pattern our lives after what God did with Jesus Christ, sending him out to the world.

If we consider that as 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, we are “bought with a price”, then our lives our no longer our own to do with as we please. As Christ was sent out, so are we, and we must understand that being missional means that we go out to those that need to be served, not just expect them to come to us. Being missional represents a significant shift in the way we think about the church. Being missional means we should engage the world as Jesus did—by going out rather than just reaching out. If being missional means that we, as a church, are living IN mission, then it is a sign that we are the true church.

Living in missions is a lifestyle that we must embrace day in and day out, if we are to truly call ourselves Christians, or followers of Christ. It must be something that we live and breathe, so that when, like the Samatarian who helped a beaten, robbed and destitute man by the side of the road, we come across a someone in need, we understand that our mission is to stop and serve them.
Serving children in an orphanage in Guatemala or bringing joy and happiness to septuagenarians in a retirement home in New Orleans, all are equal demonstrations of living out the mission as all are equally loved the in God’s eyes.

Our time here, serving others in a different, yet equally important way, reinforced to me that Missions is not a trip, but a lifestyle.

*Inspiration from this article came in part from an article on on what it means for Christians to be missional, you can see the full article here:

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