From Belt of Death To Zone of Peace
Hey Everyone! I recently returned from an AWESOME (albeit exhausting) trip to Guatemala and Nicaragua. We learned so much and heard some incredible testimonies about how God is moving through these churches and ministries. I honestly could write a full blog about each day of our trip, but I’ll do my best to consolidate. Today’s post will be about our time in Guatemala, and then later this week I’ll post about Nicaragua.
So first some background on World Orphans’ work in Guatemala…We, along with AMG Guatemala, partner with 3 churches in zone 7 to care for orphaned and vulnerable children and their families. Zone 7 is a “red zone” which means there is a high concentration of extreme poverty, crime, drugs, and gang violence. Obviously, such circumstances lead to a higher population of orphans. Last year, we decided to expand the ministry into zone 18. Zone 18 is also a red zone, but its reputation for violence and gang activity eclipses that of zone 7. In fact, we learned that this area is referred to as the “belt of death”.
For the past several months, we have been seeking out churches in zone 18 who exhibit a commitment to love those in their community and are already actively caring for orphaned and vulnerable children. We identified 3 such churches, and our trip was the “rollout training” where we explain church partnership, how the ministry works, expectations, guidelines, etc. to the pastors and a small committee from their churches. We had heard that the pastors were a bit skeptical about what this ministry had to offer them (other than money since it’s often assumed that American NGOs can provide lots and lots of cash–a difficult misconception to overcome). So we bathed the training in prayer, asking the Lord to speak to the pastors’ hearts and help them to really grasp the vision for this ministry and how it could impact their communities.
As we dove into the training, it was clear that the pastors began to understand our hearts. They were encouraged to know that this partnership is based on relationship. They were relieved to learn that we submit to their advice and leadership when we send teams to visit. They were excited about the possibility of multiplying their ministry efforts. It was clear that this group of pastors, their wives, and the church committees were in fact “catching the vision” just as we had prayed. Certainly, there is still a lot of work to be done as we forge partnerships and hurdle cross cultural barriers, but the foundation of relationship and trust has been laid, and now we are eager to build upon it!
One of my favorite parts of the training was on our lunch break on the final day. Us ladies sat and ate with the pastors’ wives to chat and work on building relationships with them and let them know that their voices are heard too. We chatted about food mostly (one of my favorite subjects), their families, their hobbies, and various other topics. Eventually the conversation came around to zone 18, and their place in the “belt of death”. They readily admit that it is not easy living amongst such violence and crime. They admit to being afraid sometimes. But they also share about their passion to follow the Lord’s calling on their lives, serving these people, praying for them, and loving them. Even the tattoo-covered gang members and the prostitutes. There’s another emotion they share too–excitement–because in the last year, after the pastors began meeting together regularly to pray for their community, they have seen a decrease in crime. Praise God for answering prayers and using His Church to be a force of change! The ladies also tell us that they are “reclaiming zone 18 for the Lord.” Instead of referring to it as the belt of death, they have begun calling it the “Zone of Peace” declaring in Jesus’ name that He will bring peace to these bloody streets. Amen, sisters, amen.
After several long days of training and meetings with our AMG partners, we had a final day to relax and have fun! I spent the morning hiking the Pacaya volcano with our newest staff in Guatemala, Chris and Lauren. It was great spending some quality time with them. I even got to roast marshmallows from the volcano’s heat! So now I can check “hike a volcano” off of my bucket list.
Our time in Guatemala was so encouraging. It was wonderful to spend time with our friends who make up the incredible AMG team. I’m just so thankful that God allows me to be a part of this work He is doing in Guatemala and elsewhere. It’s a privilege!
Looking forward to sharing with you all about our time in Nicaragua!
Read our adoption story and why we felt God calling us to adopt.
Check out other blog posts about Lindsay’s ministry and our adoption.
Read Lindsay’s testimony and learn about her work with World Orphans.
We were able to adopt debt free thanks to the help of this resource.