We were standing in a dark street, garbage littering the ground from the daily market that would be set up in the morning and taken down each night. Hungry people and their children gathered in hushed quiet. Several dogs lay on the ground like they were settling in for a story.
A man everyone came to see starts speaking. This man, Giuseppe, who carries a message from God, who walks without fear because he is following God’s lead, tells the people gathered that God sees them and loves them. He tells them they are children of God, that they have purpose. He knows most of these people by name, and looks them in the eye. He treats the people with dignity and respect. It is an honor to serve sandwiches, hot soup, and milk to these people, to look them in the eye and see them. We stood on this holy ground, a littered, dark Guatemalan street, where God surely was present. We are thankful that HopeChest and our church can come alongside local leaders like Giuseppe. He is a man with a vision and a heart for the most vulnerable in his community.
Out of the love and care for the people on these Guatemalan streets, Giuseppe has established a school worthy of teaching these children and giving them the gift of education. The school “Apoyate EN MI” was created. As kids arrive off the bus each day at school they are greeted by teachers and staff with hugs. It’s aptly called the hugline. Kids come streaming off over-packed buses to be greeted and welcomed with a hug and kiss on the cheek. Some kids look joyful, some tired, many excited for the day, but always with the anticipation that when they walk through that school door they would get a hug and kiss to show that here, at Apoyate EN MI, they are safe and loved.
Our church, The River, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has blessed with a partnership and friendship with this school. This past July we brought 15 people, 6 of whom were teachers who worked one-on-one, and within group settings, to train and pass along useful classroom tools to the Guatemalan teachers at Apoyate EN MI. The other half of us spent our time leading group activities for the kids. A highlight for all 15 of us was the opportunity to meet our sponsor children at the school, to hug them and know them. At the end of the week we left feeling like the next time visiting our friends at this school could not come soon enough. Our prayer is to do whatever we can to bolster, equip, and come alongside the teachers at this school, and to do everything in our power to help change the trajectory of the kids’ lives both through support of the school and by sharing the love of Christ.
God has called us to not just partner with “Apoyate EN MI” – he has called us into partnership with him and what he is doing in Guatemala. In the book Doing Good is Simple, Christopher Marlow says, “In fact, I would say it is the ordinary people who will determine how much impact is done in the world. It’s the ordinary folks that have great responsibility.” He goes on to say, “Jesus is calling you to partner with him – you, the imperfect, the broken, the overwhelmed, the confused.” We at the River, in all our brokenness and imperfection, humbly offer up our hands and feet, our hearts and minds to serve and build friendship with all the people that give Apoyate EN MI its life. We desire to stand on holy ground, whether that is in our neighborhood in the small town of Kalamazoo, or in a small school in the enormous Guatemala City. May God continue to change the world through men like Giuseppe, the teachers at Apoyate EN MI, and through the humble servants at The River.