Updated: Mar 14
While our focus at Cadaniño is serving vulnerable children and families, it is incredible to see how our ministry has been a blessing to the staff we have hired.
A core focus has always been the teaching, training, and development of the teachers who have come to work with us, working to help them, like our teachers, grow in their relationship with God.
Here is the story of how working at Cadaniño impacted one of our teachers.
In 2019 when we were looking to build out our after-school programs for vulnerable children at one of the Cadaniño Community Impact Centers, God led us to hire a teacher as a part of our team.
Though she was a believer and had some knowledge of God, the Bible, and an interest in learning more, she was not attending a church and didn’t seem to have a solid personal relationship with God.
Since the role we were hiring her for was for tutoring and computer classes, and she had skills in those areas, we felt let to hire her anyway.
We have always believed that ministry to our teachers, training them, and helping them develop a personal relationship with God, is key to the work they do serving children from difficult places.
Every day at our centers, the staff meet for devotions and prayer. We do read books on faith and had Bible studies, and she began to participate in these.
Little by little, her faith began to grow. She began attending church at the invitation of another staff member. With time, she started getting involved in ministering to the parents of our students, praying for the families during our home visits, and sharing messages of eternal hope and encouragement during outreaches.
Soon after, she went through some personal crises that were very difficult for her, and when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, she suffered significant personal loss.
In one short week, both her parents and her brother passed away from it, and she found herself in isolation with a severe case of Covid.
This was a challenging time for her, there was little she could do for herself, yet she felt God’s presence during that time. He comforted her, encouraged her, and revealed Himself to her making her feel that He was right by her side during this difficult time. The God that she had heard, read, and studied about, became real to her.
After she recovered, she stepped up and became more involved in serving the parents of our students. The struggles she had faced empowered her to serve others. As the country went into lockdown for six months, there was no transportation, people could not work, and the families we worked with faced incredible hardship. She could draw from her personal situation to comfort, encourage and speak words of hope, life, and truth to those who most needed it.
She went from someone who hadn’t had a relationship with God to someone who personally knew God and felt Him in her life. The year she has spent us learning what it means to be a child of God, and a follower of Christ had given her a faith that would sustain her when it seemed like her whole world was falling apart.
She became a pillar in our ministry who was able to pray for, comfort, and encourage the parents of our students in their times of desperation.
Her work became so much more than just a job. She took a personal interest in our student’s lives and invited them over to her home to tutor them and minister to them.
She has expressed how the love she gets from the kids. That it fills a hole in her heart and she gets as much from them as they get from her.
She has shared time and time again how grateful she is to have joined our team. Through it, she was able to develop a personal relationship with her savior, and without that, she would not have had the strength to get through the overwhelming challenges she had to face.
Here is a letter she gave us recently.
For me, being at Cadaniño had been a great privilege and a great honor, and it became a family that God gave me with which to share marvelous and unforgettable moments. I was given the teaching and training to know my Heavenly Father better so I could trust in Him, and it placed in me the love I needed to unconditionally serve each of the children, young people, and families we work with.
What is Cadaniño to me? It is a place where I can help teach and train students in practical skills that are a blessing to their future and encourage them to take what they learn and use it to be a blessing to themselves and their families.
Cadaniño allowed me to share the Word of God with the families of the students, helping them learn how God is in control of each of our lives and supplies our needs. I loved visiting the homes of our students, and we shared moments of joy and celebration over the years.
I feel so happy that I have seen how the children and teenagers I taught have advanced in learning to use computers and gotten better grades in school. I know that they will continue to grow until they have even more knowledge and become great systems engineers.
I can see that my purpose is to help the children and youth of today become the great people needed for Guatemala’s future.
I pray blessings into the lives of those who started this ministry and each of the people who contribute financially to make it possible.
I want to give a profound thank you to the Martiny family and the team at Cadaniño for having trusted and allowed me to be part of the team. They have all meant so much to me; I greatly bless their lives. I have deep thanks, appreciation, and affection for everyone here. I know that Cadanino will go further than we can imagine because God is the one who is guiding it.
Though this dear teacher is moving on from our team to a new opportunity, and we will miss her, we can clearly see the blessing she has been to our students and how God has used the ministry to impact her life.
Though she won’t be working for us as a teacher, she will still be involved in ministry to the families we serve and will always be a part of the Cadaniño family.
We serve vulnerable children who are living difficult lives. While we know they face challenges, it’s not until they trust us that we see the extent of just how hard things are for them.
This story was shared by Luke Dove, the youth pastor at the Community Impact Center in Colonia Santa Fe.
Recently we held the first retreat for the youth in the Cadañino ministry. It was done in partnership with Casa de Libertad, our local church. It was a great day, filled with laughs, games, a sermon and a time of worship, etc, and we closed the day by opening up the floor for testimonies. As we had studied the book of Mark with the students, we had discussed the importance of sharing our stories, and we wanted to provide an opportunity for them to do that. One of our teachers started us off, really pouring out her heart, and then we gave the students a chance to share.
One girl, whom we’ll call “Mary,” got up and began to speak. She’s a student in my morning youth class, 16 years old, and a smart girl, but quiet and not very outspoken.
She talked about her family how things had been really hard for them. Her grandfather, an important figure in her life, had been arrested and put in jail for allegedly trafficking narcotics. She spoke about the bullying in school, how all her friends distanced themselves from her, that she was accused of being a drug dealer and that everything she had was from dirty money. She was made fun of, abandoned by her friends, and her family was in shambles dealing with the repercussions. It was so bad that she had to change schools, making her feel even more alone.
She worried that if she opened up at all or even shared her name, people might figure out who she was, and the cycle of bullying would start all over again. She went through all of this while her family lost everything and ended in complete poverty during the pandemic.
To be honest, I don’t know if her grandfather is guilty or not, and it doesn’t matter to me.
Regardless, this young girl’s life has been shattered.
As she stood there that day, under a tin roof, on a mountain, I realized the depth of what she was dealing with in her life. Though I’d talked to her many times, there was so much I didn’t know. At school, she felt alone. At home, she felt like just another mouth to feed. To her friends, she was a pariah. To the world, she was a statistic, one of the thousands of children in Guatemala who grow up without the resources they need to succeed, unlikely to finish school or have a career.
Most of the circumstances in her life had led her to believe that she didn’t matter.
But then she began to speak about Cadañino. Specifically, about the youth group and what the series of Mark had meant to her. How she had learned that the God of the universe knew who she was. That He loved her. That she was His daughter. That He had come to earth to die and pay the price for her sins so that she might be saved.
Last week we did our eighth round of food distribution, and as always, we took some time to pray beforehand about what message we would share with the families when they came into to receive their food bags.
We strive to take advantage of every opportunity to plant God’s Word in the hearts and lives of those we serve. We endeavor to share hope and bring a greater understanding of who God is to the children and families enrolled in our programs.
After six months of pandemic, quarantine, and shutdowns, we had seen how the weight of the situation had affected so many people around us. Fear, worry, and despair had crept into many people’s lives and impacted how they engage, act, and deal with situations.
As Christians, we know that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
In some ways, Covid-19 is nothing new.
The world has always had and will always have trouble, turmoil, and tribulation.
As believers, we are called to place our faith, hope, and trust in a God who works above the brokenness that we see around us in this world.
Proverbs 10:11 tells us that “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.”
Paul reminds in Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
And Jesus himself said, in John 11:25-26 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
We took these truths and wrapped them into a message titled “Faith or Fear, What Are You Spreading? A virus is contagious, but so is Faith and Hope. Speak Life!
During our talk with the parents, we shared how pandemic has changed the way we interact with others.
Everywhere we go, we are bombarded through the news, TV, and social media with a message of fear.
Fear of this pandemic, fear of catching the virus, and fear of death.
Latin cultures are known for being warm and welcoming. Yet now, many people are afraid to engage with those around them.
They don’t greet people, shake their hands, or give hugs and kisses.
In order to avoid this virus, physical contact is removed, people interact less with one another, and everyone is filled with fear and insecurity.
We wanted to impart the message that whether you have the virus or not, everyone is spreading something.
We posed the question, “What are you spreading to those around you?” to the parents.
We asked everyone to greet the person next to them and speak words of blessing, encouragement, and hope, even if they did not know each other.
Our teachers led by example, and then we went around with everyone taking a turn.
It ended up being a special time for everyone!
Not only did the parents speak words of hope, faith, love, and encouragement to each other, but they surprised us thanking our teachers and staff for the help, support, and encouragement we had given them during this time.
Besides the regular food bags that enabled them to feed their children, they truly appreciated the regular devotionals our staff prepares for the parents. Many of them commented on how much it means to them that our team takes time to talk and pray with them when they come in to pick up their children’s educational material.
It was very touching to hear the words of comfort, encouragement, motivation, concern, and blessings to each other.
Things like, “I wish you the best!” “Stay in God’s word!” “Keep your eyes on God!” or “May your home be filled with peace!”
These words filled a void. An emptiness had been growing in people from a lack of interaction with others since this pandemic started.
Giving them a chance to both give and receive words of life and blessings, feel that others care, and show others that they care had an almost magical, supernatural effect on everyone, and everyone’s spirits were visibly lifted.
We followed this exercise with a message encouraging them to continue to spread faith, hope, and encouragement to others as they go about their day.
It was amazing to see that when we asked how many people had experienced moments of fear during this pandemic, almost everyone would raise their hands.
Fear is a normal, natural reaction when faced with challenging situations, but we are not to be controlled or live our lives beset by a spirit of fear.
Just because we have to wear a mask and maintain our distance from people, it doesn’t mean we can’t great people, say hi to our neighbor, or talk to those we meet. We can and should be spreaders of life, hope, and encouragement to the many people going through tough times of loneliness, despair, or darkness.
The truth is, while we might wear masks and take necessary safety precautions, we don’t place our faith, our hope, or our confidence in any of those things. We place our hope in a God who saves.
And that message of hope is what we need to live out and share with others, looking for opportunities to speak words of life to them.
Before closing and giving everyone their food bags, we had them open their Bible and read a scripture for themselves so that they could personalize God’s promises to them.
They left knowing:
That God is the same yesterday, today, and forever
That they can take comfort in the fact that we belong to Him, that He loves us, and nothing will happen to us that is not for our good.
That His perfect love casts out fear.
That they can be an instrument used by God to spread life, speak truth, and bring hope to those around them.
At the end, the room was filled with peace and joy. Everyone left with smiles on their faces, thankful not only for the food received but also for the word that was shared and the encouragement that filled their hearts.
She shared how I took time with her one day when I had just started serving at Cadanino. She came in feeling especially alone and in a dark place. In addition to all these other things she had been going through, she had just lost a family member to sickness.
After I finished the class, I asked for a volunteer to pray and close out the class time. She volunteered, which was surprising as she never spoke up. As she began to pray, she became choked up, struggling for words and just clearly not able to finish. I stepped in, finished the prayer, and we moved on. The students left for their next class, and I pulled her aside and asked if she was okay. She broke down crying in my arms, and we walked into the office for privacy.
Slowly and haltingly, she began to share what she was going through. One sentence at a time, through her and my tears, it all came out. I just listened. I knew that there were nice pastoral things and Bible verses that I should have shared with her, but none of them came to mind.
But it didn’t matter. She talked, I listened, and we cried. That is what mattered. I took time away from everything else I had to do and spent it with her. She was a young girl who felt like she was a burden to everyone in her life, a number to her teachers at school, and a nameless face of poverty and systemic issues beyond her control.
She kept asking me if I had to go out and teach the other kids, and I told her no, my place is here with you.
As she shared this story with the other students at the retreat, she said something profound. She said that at this moment, for the first time in a long time, she felt that she mattered, that she was important, and that her life had value.
She finishes up her story by saying that she knows that Cadañino, (which means Each or Every Child in Spanish) is more than just a name. It’s something her teachers believe.
Once again, I find myself crying alongside her, and not just me, but other students as well. She gave words to the pain and suffering that so many of our students feel.
My job as a youth pastor is to teach these students the Bible, but it’s more than that. It’s taking the time to stop whatever else I’m doing, put it on pause, and say, right now, at this moment, I need to be here for this one kid.
One of our students’ favorite worship songs is the Spanish translation of the song “Reckless Love” which is called “Love without Conditions” in Spanish. It’s about the parable of the shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the 1.
Hearing her share about how much the time I spent with her meant to her makes me realize that that is what we do at Cadañino. We strive, however imperfectly, to teach, impart and live as an example of the never-ending love of our Savior who leaves the 99 to pursue the heart of the one.
Why? Because we believe, as our Heavenly Father does, that every life, whether it is Mary’s, or another one of our students, matters, that they are important, that they are loved, and that they deserve to feel that love.
This is just one story of one student whose life has been impacted by Cadañino. Now, multiply that by 200 students enrolled in our programs and add in their families who we also serve, and it will give you a glimpse of what God is doing here in Guatemala to redeem and restore shattered lives through the love and hope that only the Gospel brings