I just returned to the US after 12 days in Guatemala. During my time there I had the opportunity to spend quality time with our team and our friends in La Limonada. Each time I return home there is a sense of joy and heartbreak as I look back on what I experienced while there. And this trip was no exception.
Here’s a summary of what I experienced…
Both schools in La Limonada are buzzing with life! The dedicated staff at the schools continue to provide the children with an environment filled with love and learning. Even the teenagers who present the teachers with behavior challenges continue to attend classes because they know they are loved unconditionally.
On two separate mornings, parents gathered at each of the schools for a town hall meeting of sorts – providing the staff with feedback about their expectations of the schools and staff, their opinions about what can be done to improve the ministry to their children and to share what their families’ greatest needs are. One father worked three extra hours the night before the meeting so he was able to take the necessary time off in order to attend. He was the only father in the room.
Communidad de Fe:
Since late last year, Communidad de Fe (Community of Faith), has been a church in La Limonada that goes to the people… gathering in various homes in the community. Last week we met in the home of one of the gang members who is part of the Carpentry Workshop. His two-room house (approximately 200 sq ft) was filled beyond capacity with people standing in the doorway and out on to the street. It was a beautiful time of singing together, hearing an encouraging message and praying for one another. It was like I picture what the church was all about in the book of Acts, but in the context of La Limonada in 2010.
In less than two months the carpentry workshop program has been instrumental in the transforming process of nine young current and former gang members in La Limonada. This program has been in the works for well over a year, so it was incredibly fulfilling to see the young men, to meet their instructor, and to spend quality time with them and “Shorty” (their pastor and mentor). We even got to play basketball with them one day and fútbol (soccer) with them another day. While we know there are many challenges in store for these young men as they seek a better life, it is clear that God’s love and grace is flowing into and out of their lives.
The “muchachos” (hands pictured above) in the program wanted me to thank all of you who have helped to make the carpentry workshop a reality. God has used this opportunity to provide them with hope!
Home Visits (Johanna’s Family):
Visiting the people of La Limonada in their homes is a daily occurrence for anyone spending time with our team there. One particular visit from this trip will stay with me for a long time. For those who read the blog regularly, you know that Johanna passed away at the end of April after a battle with cancer. She was survived by four small children who are now being cared for by their grandmother who has no means to provide for them. We visited with them, prayed for them, and brought them food to last them for the next couple weeks while our team continues to seek for ways to provide long-term care for them.
The Lemonade House & Intern Program:
About six months ago we began renting a home in Guatemala City to provide a place to live for some of our team members and interns and a place to stay for short-term groups serving with us in La Limonada. It was great to stay at the house and to spend a lot of time with our team members who are living there. The house is still in need of several things to make it feel like “home” for those staying there, but it’s functional (we’d be grateful for any groups who would like to provide funds for items like bunk beds, couches, chairs, desks, etc.). We have been blessed with team members who are dedicated to serving God and the people of La Limonada. They have left behind their lives in the US (including family, friends, and many of the comforts associated with life here), and have fully embraced life in Guatemala City.
Microfinance Pilot Program Progress:
I had the opportunity to have meetings with key people who will be instrumental in the implementation of our microfinance pilot program that will begin in July in partnership with the Community Empowerment Fund, and Fundacion Micros, The UNC-Chapel Hill Carolina Microfinance Initiative. We have identified a loan officer who will begin training with Fundacion Micros in the next couple weeks. Then in July, while three UNC-Chapel Hill students begin a six-week internship program, we will implement the program with two groups of five borrowers each. More information about this exciting program will follow in the weeks to come.
So much happens in La Limonada in such a short time that it is hard to summarize and to capture in words. Whenever I am there I think of everyone back here in the US who prays and gives so faithfully. I think of what a beautiful partnership that exists between people here and children and families there who are so grateful for your love. Please know that your prayers and generosity are making a difference in the lives of many!
-Bill Cummings, Stateside Director