Thank you for all your support and prayers for my trip to Guatemala. I'm now back in school and this trip has revealed to me so much of what God is doing among the social outcasts, the prodigals, and the economically unprivileged in Guatemala.
For the trip, we worked along side with reformed gang members in the Ghetto of Guatemala city for a construction project; we worked at a girls' orphanage for those who are rescued from abuse; we visited a women's prison to hear how God is transforming their lives in the prison. We were blessed to be able to join Ashley Williams with her ministry in Guatemala (I mentioned her in my previous update, who had a nearly fatal car accident two months ago), the cofounder of Hope Renewed International. Ashley is an American in her late 20s, who dropped out of Bible college after her 1st year and went to Guatemala to serve ever since for the past 9 years. Her ministry was mostly with the gang members of the ghetto of Guatemala City. Through building relationships with the local gangs in the past 9 years, Hope Renewed International and Ashley were able to bring many gang members off the streets and grant them access to secondary and higher education opportunities.
Here are some of the things that God taught me:
Jesus' heart for the nations:
At the beginning of the trip. I was reading Luke 19:41-44. In that chapter Jesus wept over Jerusalem. His heart was deeply moved and wept because of the injustice committed in the city and the blindness of the people. The other place Jesus wept was in John 11:28-37 when Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus. It struck me that the way Jesus heart was broken for a city (or a nation) was the same way it was broken for a death of a friend. Similarly, Christ's heart is broken for Guatemala right now and for the injustice, oppression and blindness in the country.
God is transforming lives:
Half of the trip we spent in the Ghetto (La Limonada) and city dump of Guatemala City. La Limonada is the largest slum in Central America.
We worked on a few construction projects with the residents of La Limonada, many of whom were once gang members but are now on a Hope Renewed scholarship to complete their secondary and higher educations. Through interacting with them and visiting their homes, I was touched by their hopes, dreams, past, and the mighty work God is doing in their lives.
Here is one of the people that we met:
Jackelin is a mother of two children, who lives with her parents in the Ghetto of Guatemala City. At a young age she was diagnosed with cancer and spent most of her childhood in hospital. She was miraculously healed from cancer through praying persistently. Through this experience, she vowed to God that she would become a doctor. Through years of hardship, she's now in her second year at the top medical school in Guatemala with the scholarship from Hope Renewed International.
(Below is a picture of La Limonada, the Ghetto of Guatemala City, where we served)
Weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15). Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them (Heb 13:3):
God taught me what it means to weep with those who weep as Christ is weeping with them. From visiting the homes of the Ghetto of Guatemala City and a women's prison, I heard numerous stories of the devastating effects of sin and injustice. We visited homes of those who lost family members to drug overdose and gang activities just days before. We also heard stories of women who were taken away from their kids and family and put in prison because they were falsely accused.
Father of the fatherless and protector of the widows is God in his holy habitation (Psalm 68: 5):
One of my highlight was spending a couple days at the Mazatenango Girl's Home, an orphanage for girls that were rescued from abuse. It was inspiring to see the love that the staff there was pouring into the girl's lives, and what Hope Renewed is doing to provide schoolings for those kids and to transition them into society.