Impact Ministries. For more than a decade Impact Ministries has been furthering education, providing local health services and establishing churches in communities around the town of Tactic in rural Guatemala. Today, some of the teachers and administrators of these schools are themselves graduates of these schools. And while education and medical care have been the key development components of Impact Ministries, one major need has not been addressed: the need to care for abandoned babies.
The Challenge. Extreme poverty and already large family sizes have resulted in newborn babies being abandoned at hospitals (or even thrown out with the trash) once the mom has given birth. These babies enter the care of Guatemala’s social services with no guarantee of proper care, a chance for adoption or access to proper education and future opportunities. So in 2013, Impact Ministries assembled a committee to develop a proposal for an orphanage. In the fall of 2014, a parcel of land was purchased for the orphanage and immediately, eMi was contacted about providing a design team. On February 6th of 2015, our team of 13 arrived in Guatemala City and after resting their for one evening, made our way to Tactic.
Getting Started. Walking the land and simply getting to know Impact Ministries were our first tasks. Context is everything so we listened intently as we learned about the Guatemalan culture, witnessed the every day life of families, discovered the rules and regulations that govern the care of abandoned children and connected personally with the Guatemalan members of Impact Ministry’s Orphanage Committee.
Meeting the Kids. Morning devotion at 7:00 am at an Impact Ministries school was where we met students and heard their stories. In Canada we joke about walking miles barefoot through snow to school but for many of the children, if not for the one pair of shoes they receive through child-sponsorship, they would indeed walk barefoot for miles to school, through rain and mud from their small shack home on a distant hill. And yet they smile big toothy smiles, express their thanks to God for their school, worship with songs sung at the top of their voices and give us bear hugs around our waist in thanks for coming from afar so that orphans, children even worse off than they, could be cared for.
My Travel Buddy. Having Cameron with me on this trip was special. In 2011 Caitlin came to Haiti with me and now it was Cam’s turn. Cam and I have been travel buddies to his soccer tournaments for years. But this trip was for him to see what dad does; the reason we left family and friends behind in Vancouver ten years ago to join eMi in Calgary. If he was nervous, he didn’t let on…too much.
Lay of the Land. Land surveying is a demanding job. It is physical and conditions change with the weather (hot/cold/wet/dry), terrain (hilly/flat) and plant cover (trees/brush). Tactic is hilly and cool but for most of our time there, it remained dry. Hiking boots and fleece is not usually a part of Cam’s “urban” wear but he was a great sport, never complained and became a solid help to David, navigating tough terrain and standing still despite the many spiders he encountered along the way. Dad stopped by every once in a while to provide a "beef jerky break”.
The Orphanage Committee. The Committee is made up of mostly Guatemalans who are already involved with Impact Ministries but who also have a burden in their heart to care for abandoned babies. Sandra, a member of our team who also attends Foothills Alliance Church (my home church) in Calgary, is a many-time volunteer with Impact Ministries. She has also been on the Orphanage Committee and so became both a catalyst for our conversations as well as our team’s translator of both language and culture. We had both an envisioning meeting as well as a follow-up meeting during the week with the Orphanage Committee. By week’s end at the Final Presentation, what they saw presented was a weaving of ideas from both the eMi team and the Orphanage Committee.
It’s About the Kids. The eMi team proposed a phased development, a master plan that unfolds as the children grow and Impact Ministries welcomes a few more children into its care each year. Each year new house parents are trained and the land that is now quiet will come to life. Community will grow and together, children and house parents will dwell in the goodness and sufficiency of Christ; in Him they have hope and life and in Him they will represent this hope and life to their community and far beyond.
Final Presentation. Our Final Presentation was held on a Saturday morning following six days of master planning, surveying, designing and redesigning building layouts, digging & watering soakage pits, analyzing water & power supply distribution and establishing a structural design approach to combat earthquakes. Whew! When we see tears...of joy…in the eyes of those we came to serve, we are thankful and relieved. God is good!
A Final Thought. For our debriefing time, souvenir shopping and general winding down day we ended our week with a couple nights in Antigua, the old capital of Guatemala. Quaint and picturesque though it was, it was impossible to miss the evidence of forced colonial rule, syncretic beliefs and clashing cultures: colourful, laid-back latin ambience set against an imposed order, a rigid grid of streets. But I realize that this represents me as well because I too am a mixture of brokeness and hope, a story of what was, what is becoming and what could be. Although our past may be unalterable, our future is not set, our stories are not complete. I’m glad this part of my journey included my son, good friends and an opportunity to serve an amazing ministry and the beautiful people of Guatemala.
Photos. A new set of annotated photos has been placed in my Flickr Photo Gallery with various options to view it. If you want to browse the set, click here.
Thank you to all who make this work possible through your encouragement, prayer and financial support; you have been a part of making this project, and the resulting touched lives, a reality.