Serving in Central America
Serving in Central America; In 2013 our family started taking mission trips with an organization called Leah’s Kids. In the past six years, we have traveled to Central America to serve in Guatemala ten times and have fallen in love with this beautiful country and its’ people. When we are home we work to raise awareness and funds to support the people we have come to love.
About the Ministries
First, here’s a little information about the ministries we serve with. Leah’s Kids is a group of people from all over the United States that travel regularly to Guatemala. Leah’s Kids raises funds to help support ministries on the ground 24/7 in Guatemala.
The Casa Angelina Orphanage is one of the ministries where we serve. It is a campus that consists of ten homes, each housing 10-15 children who have been rescued from abuse. Some lived on the streets or in garbage dumps. Casa Angelina has a private Christian school, a church, and a medical clinic. They care for over 150 children, 40 staff and their family members as well as those who live in the surrounding villages.
BuildinGuate is a ministry that supports The Land of Hope- a community on the edge of the garbage dump near Escuintla, Guatemala. This ministry opened our eyes to the tragic reality of the lives of these orphaned children who are living in poverty and squalor in these dumps.
Guatemala is located in Central America just south of Mexico. It is the most populous country in Central America with the highest fertility rate in Latin America. This trend will likely continue due to the large reproductive-age population and high birthrates. Nearly half of the estimated 16,581,273 population is under the age of 19 years old therefore, Guatemala has the youngest population in Latin America. Unicef estimates there are more than 370,000 orphans in Guatemala (many other estimates are much higher).
The country was embroiled in a 36-year guerrilla war which ended in 1996. Because of this, people are very poor. Rural indigenous groups were greatly affected. More than half the country’s population lives in these rural areas in a country that is already un-developed. Frequent natural disasters occur due to earthquakes and active volcanos. There is virtually no middle class in Guatemala. In fact, more than half the population lives below the national poverty line and 23% survive in extreme poverty. As a result, Guatemala also has the sixth-highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. Unbelievably, half of the Guatemalan children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition!
Due to the extreme poverty of the country, there are hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children that live in or near one of the many garbage dumps in Guatemala. In the dump, people build their “homes” which really are sticks (or corn stalks) and perhaps a tarp they have scavenged from the smoldering trash. People scavenge during the day to find recyclables or anything that can be sold to a “broker” who gives them a pittance for their finds. The dump can be a place of extreme danger from collapsing mounds of trash, constant fires, and toxic chemicals that contaminate the land and air. There is no limit on what can be deposited, so everything makes its way to the dump. The extreme poverty of the population at the dump leads to issues such as high rates of alcoholism, drug use, prostitution, and abuse.
Serving in Central America: The Land of Hope
In 2016, our family was introduced to Building Guate, which founded The Land of Hope (LOH) on the edge of a garbage dump near Escuintla, Guatemala. We are grateful to now partner with them to help provide for the community at the LOH. The LOH is a safe community that is a stepping stone to help people get out of the dump. It is a place for the nourishment of the body, soul, and spirit for all who enter its gates. Currently, twelve families live there.
The church there is also a feeding center, a birthing center for mothers, and a clinic for visiting medical teams. There is a malnutrition clinic under construction. They founded a nearby school which supports students and staff. This is a young community, so there is still much need for funding and support. BuildinGuate hosts three fully funded soup kitchens each week, where people from the area can come to receive clean water and a nutritious meal at no cost. We are currently raising funds to increase this to FIVE soup kitchens a week in 2020. For $150 nearly 200 people can be fed.
If you are interested in helping, BuildinGuate has a generous donor who will match $10,000 in funds raised by January 1.
There is much going on at the LOH each week! There are Bible studies, church service on Saturdays, and classes to teach the women skills to support their families. Many of the women have come from a life of prostitution and have minimal education. Leah’s Kids is excited to be taking a team and seven new sewing machines in February 2020. Up to fourteen ladies can now learn how to sew!
BuildinGuate distributes infant formula twice a week. Women and children walk several hours one way in the smoldering heat to come to the Land of Hope ministry for Bible study and free formula. The distribution of formula has drastically reduced the problem of malnourishment. Two years ago the ministry found a family with five extremely malnourished children. One of the children was Oliver, who was seven years old and weighed only fourteen pounds. BuildinGuate was instrumental in getting him into a government-run malnutrition clinic along with two of his siblings but within days of their release from the short stay at the clinic, all three of the children died. This is one of the heartbreaking realities of life in this rural area of Central America.
It is stories like that of Oliver which has given us a passion to build a malnutrition clinic at the LOH. A clinic that would take in not only the child but the family – a clinic where they would stay for an extended period of time until healed. A time to feed and nourish the whole body, soul, and spirit. The clinic is now under construction but is partially funded and we are in the beginning stages of finding an organization to staff it. We are praying for a medical school from the states to take this on as a mission. However God leads, we know He will help us to finish this vision He has given us!
In conclusion, there are amazing things going on at Land of Hope but there is still so much to do! We feel called to be there, to speak life and truth to all who will listen. We are called to share hope and help provide for the desperate needs of the Lord’s people. In the words of the apostle, James, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27.
A huge “thank you” to True North Homeschool Academy family member, Rene Ingle, for sharing about ministering in Guatemala. It is important to know about the many needs in Central America.
If you want to learn more about the ministries mentioned in the article, click the links to visit their websites. For inspiration and ideas for volunteer work and homeschooling take a look at this review of Practical Proverbs or read Teaching Stewardship.