2021 is ending. For most people, it was a year of challenges and trials. But for the most vulnerable, the Covid-19 crisis has made life incredibly challenging.
Even so, as I look back over this year, I can see that despite the challenges, I can see amazing accomplishments in the work God has giving us serving 200 vulnerable children and their families through the Cadaniño ministry in Guatemala. Here are just a few of the ways we have had an impact.
We were open despite Covid
When the country went into lockdown in April of 2020, many ministries closed down, and missionaries went home. We prayed long and hard about what we should do and concluded that if God had called us to serve, we were going to be needed now more than ever.
During this crisis, time spent ministering to the students’ families created a bond that has strengthened our work, given us credibility, and proved that we care for them.
Often people need to believe that you care before they can believe that God cares.
Not only are we open for classes when many other places continue to stay closed, but our work has flourished in every area and grown in depth.
Those we serve are continuing to serve others
Missions is the lifeblood of the church. When you get out and serve others, it brings the Gospel to life in your own life.
The years we have spent pouring into our students paid off as they stepped up to help with food distribution and home visits to widows, the elderly, and the infirm in their communities last year.
Not only did their outreach continue once the lockdown ended, but it has grown. Every month, the San Jose Pinula center youth visit 30 families with over 60 kids to teach them Bible classes and bring them much-needed food.
We are seeing 4th generation evangelism. We discipled our teachers, who discipled the teenagers who are now sharing the Gospel with others.
All of our students stayed in school
In a country where people average just 5.2 years in school, with only 42% of students continuing to middle school, 24% enrolling in high school, and only 5.4% enrolling in Higher education. The requirement for all students in public school to study at home has been devastating.
In 2020 107,000 students dropped out of school. But every one of the students in our afterschool programs finished another year in school. Not only have they stayed in school, but they have thrived with their grades improving, and 20% of the students at the Santa Fe center placed first in their class at school.
Our afterschool programs have had a powerful impact keeping students in school through classes that reinforce reading, writing, and math. What we do helps vulnerable children continue their education instead of dropping out of school to work at a young age.
Studies have shown that for every additional year of education students receive, their earnings increase 8-13%.
Many of the parents of our students are ill-equipped to help their children with their homework. Some are illiterate, others dropped out of school at a young age, some work long hours. The Coivd-19 crisis has compounded this problem as all students have to study at home with very little interaction or assistance from their teachers. Our teachers have ensured that every one of our students received the help they needed to succeed and complete the school year.
Our team has grown
We have found that hiring local teachers is vital. We find people who live in the neighborhood, know their community, and care about it. They are trusted as they have lived through the same challenges, yet they have faith in God, hope and firmly believe that change is possible. This is what makes community ministry thrive.
For the first time, we have a full complement of teachers to serve the families in our programs adequately: math teachers, Bible teachers, computer teachers, English teachers, and tutors. Every day our team of 12 is there to ensure that every student in our classes gets what they need to succeed.
We raised funds to purchase land for the construction of a community center.
Through a series of miracles, an ideal piece of land has become available in the Santa Fe neighborhood, where we opened our first center.
We have been able to raise funds to purchase it to build a permanent facility to serve this community where we have been working for the past ten years.
Our hopes and prayers are for this facility to be more than just an afterschool program, but a church for those we serve, a hub for ministry, and a lighthouse to a community plagued by crime, drugs, and violence that is so desperately in need of the Gospel.
Relocated our San Jose Pinula center to a bigger facility
As the number of students in our program grew and the Covid-19 social distancing requirement forced us to limit the number of students who could attend at once, we prayed desperately for a bigger facility to serve this community.
God provided a fantastic building, 3x the size of our current one, with the space we need to serve all of our students properly, and we were able to relocate there in November in time for vacation classes.
Feed our students
When kids are hungry, it’s hard to learn. Even one nutritious meal a day can have a powerful impact on a child’s development, enabling them to focus on learning instead of the growling in their stomachs
Thanks to the fantastic support of so many, we were able to implement a nutrition program at both centers so students can have at least one meal a day before classes start. After several months, we noted a definite difference in many students’ ability to focus, pay attention in class, and improve their learning.
God provided in amazing way
As the number of people we serve increased, so did the number of teachers we hired, and so did our budget.
Cadaniño has always been a walk of faith, we have stepped out where God is leading, and he has provided as we moved forward. That said, meeting payroll for 12 staff has been a big step for us.
Yet, we have seen that each team member we brought correlates into a direct impact on the lives of those we serve and has been well worth it.
Those we serve have grown in faith
Everyone, from the students we serve to the parents to our staff, has grown in their understanding of who God is as a Father who loves them, cares for them, and wants what is best for them.
Our weekly staff meetings, daily devotionals, and personal time with our staff, teaching, counseling, encouraging, and praying with them as they walk their journey of developing a relationship with God, has brought each of them closer to Him.
Having a youth pastor serving full-time with us, working with the youth, and challenging them to go deep in the Bible and learn to study it for themselves, has led to tremendous growth in their lives.
The outreaches we have done with the parents have given us opportunities to minister to them, pray for them, and encourage them, strengthening personal relationships and friendships with so many.
This is just a small part of the many wonderful, beautiful, and amazing things that have happened this year. All of which would not have been possible without the help, support, partnership, and friendship of each and every one of you as you have walked alongside us in this journey to serve the vulnerable, empower the weak, point people to God, and impact lives for eternity.