A Final Reflection…
I am writing this at 30,000 plus feet over Mexico with my wife Janie and a very nervous cat – making his second airline trip. Spooky and his buddy, Fox, came with us from South Carolina in 2009. Fox died in 2019, but we are bringing the cuttings of the plant from the pot he was buried in back to the US. So somewhat like Joseph, his ashes are returning home.
This is my final reflection as I leave Guatemala having served as the Country Director of Kids Alive Guatemala for nearly 12 years:
1. It is hard to describe what it is like to live as an immigrant. To find yourself in situations where you do not understand the language or the culture is more unsettling than you can describe. What I am grateful for is that in almost twelve years I only encountered one resentful Guatemalan, and that was an angry tour guide in Antigua who thought I was taking away his business. My years here helped me understand God’s concern for the “foreigner” among us (Leviticus 19:34, Psalm 146:9).
2. What some children go through in this world is horrible. I will not share the things I have heard in my office and in court, but it made me want to pull my teeth out. That a child could still stand, let alone laugh, learn, be grateful, or play is totally amazing to me.
3. What Jesus can do in the heart of a child is a miracle. Recently a child asked in court to have her ties permanently severed with her family due to the abuse she suffered, and then she blessed them. What can explain that other than God?
4. You cannot remove a child from her family. You may separate them by distance, but they are always connected. Even when the family was abusive, the child is connected. That does not mean the child should return to that family, but it does mean you must address family issues honestly and compassionately.
5. A small group of believers can make a huge difference. I am in awe of how Vida para Niños impacted the child protection system of Guatemala. When Christians work in faith and do it with excellence, God opens doors.
6. The most important thing in the world is identity. Who we believe God is and who we believe we are is an essential ingredient to life. I love what Dallas Willard once wrote: “We do not believe something by merely saying we believe it or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.” How we act demonstrates what we really believe about God and what we really believe about ourselves.
7. I have a role to play but Jesus is Lord. I wanted to believe that I was essential, but I kept finding people who were better at everything I did than I was. And I never looked for them. Jesus just led them to His ministry. I learned that Jesus works through His followers and our role is to say, “Yes, here I am,” and let Him guide us.
8. The work of rescuing, redeeming, and restoring children is worthy. I am grateful to be a part of Kids Alive International and share in the work Jesus has assigned this ministry.
I am forever changed by the staff and children of Asociación de Vida para Niños (Kids Alive Guatemala). Jesus used them to make me a better follower of Jesus.
President, Kids Alive International
Despite pandemic related stresses, eighteen students graduate from 9th grade
Regardless of where you are, graduating is demanding and stressful. Layer this with the pandemic on top of a socio-economic geographic disadvantage, and the compounded stress levels only get higher. This is why we are more than thrilled to announce that 18 of our students graduated from the ninth grade** this year! They worked tirelessly to get where they are today, and we could not be happier to see them learn, grow, and arrive. It has been a blessing to walk alongside them, and we pray that they follow God's leading wherever He intends to take them.
While there is a lot of uncertainty, our students are thinking of their future. Many will enter the workforce immediately, while others will continue on to higher education, pursuing careers in teaching, accounting, and administration.
One graduate, Sofia*, interviewed for a Zapote Independence Fund Scholarship and has big dreams for her future. "I want to graduate (high school) so I can work and help my family." It has also been incredible to see their faith in the Lord continue to grow, even in a season of such uncertainty and stress. Sofia, along with many of her classmates, shares the same sentiment: "It's been hard, but God has kept us healthy and safe. He's protected my family and me through this time.”
We are so proud of our graduating class and are so excited to see what God has in store for them next!
(*Names changed. ** In Guatemala’s educational system graduating from the 9th grade opens the options of either going to high school, joining a professional course, or workforce.