Thanks From Those We ServeNovember 2, 2022
A Banjo Player and OrphansDecember 11, 2022
We pray that you are well and that God is blessing you in this season of Joy. While Christmas is often a time of happiness and celebration, it can also be a time of grief and sadness for people.
In my twenty years as a missionary in Guatemala, I've encountered a lot of hardship, seen a lot of pain, witnessed many broken families, and cried many tears for the suffering of those who are lost and hurting.
Working in orphanages for many years, I served children who had been removed from their families because of abuse, negligence, and poverty.
Even with an unhappy home life, most children still love their parents and want to be with them. Being torn away from the only family they ever knew, and placed in the dorm of an institution where everything is strange and foreign to them, traumatizes them in profound ways, and does damage that can last a lifetime.
While the symptoms of why children with families end up in orphanages vary, the root is always the same.
We live in a broken world that is fractured by sin and affects everything.
I should know, my traumatic childhood included being separated from my alcoholic father at five and my mother and most of my family from seven to eleven when I was mostly separated from my parents.
Despite or perhaps because of my challenging childhood, I have a deep-rooted desire in my heart to serve children who come from difficult places, and I've spent the last 20 years of my life serving vulnerable children in Guatemala.
We started out working with twelve orphan girls. Then we set up vocational training programs at orphanages and helped children aging out integrate back into society. We ran programs for people with special needs. Finally, we started the Cadanino ministry, which provides spiritual formation, academic reinforcement, and family-strengthening services to hundreds of vulnerable children and families at our two community impact centers.
In starting our work in the slums, we had one primary goal, to serve vulnerable children and families and see their lives changed by the Gospel.
What started as a program for 35 students quickly came to serve 200.
That's a lot of people, but no matter how many students we enrolled, there were always more who needed help and we struggled to come to terms with the question of just how many children we could serve well.
Given our limited resources, we decided to focus on quality over quantity, limiting the number of students in our program to give those we serve the best help possible.
Saying no to promising students because of insufficient space or a lack of teachers is hard.
I know I can't personally save the whole world and fix every problem for every child. But I also know that God truly loves and cares for everyone, and something needs to be done for ALL children in need.
So how does a ministry like Cadaniño, with limited space, limited resources, and limited staff, go about serving a seemingly unlimited number of children who are in need?
The answer is found in 2 Timothy 2:2 "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."
We realized that we could have a bigger impact by hiring, training, equipping, and discipling local teachers to serve in our afterschool programs.
Those teachers then minister to the 200 children and youth currently enrolled.
We meet students' physical needs through our nutrition program. We help develop their academic abilities through our educational program. But, most importantly, we teach them what it means to be disciples and followers of Christ.
Then we encourage the teenagers in our program to take what they have learned with us and teach it to others.
Since starting our local mission’s program two years ago, 23 youths go out every month teaching Bible classes to over 70 children in their communities.
The result is a ministry serving the vulnerable has now become a platform for making disciples who go out, share the Gospel, and serve others.
The limited constraints of how many children we can help directly through our afterschool programs are removed as those we have served commit to serving others.
The Gospel is going out into the streets, alleys, and homes in the communities where we work, changing hearts, transforming families, and impacting lives. It is reaching into places we can't go, impacting families we could not reach, and serving children our limited resources can't.
How far can the Gospel go? If you create disciples who create disciples, it can go to the ends of the earth.
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