21 May, 2024

Life of Hope Ministries Brings Hope to Guatemala

by | 1 May, 2024 | 0 comments

By Laura McKillip Wood 

Joe Walenciak was teaching at an American university in the 1990s when he visited Guatemala as part of his work. His heart was touched when he saw innumerable street kids and their many needs. Guatemalan street kids are children whose parents have died or are unable to care for them. These children have been abandoned to the streets—they live hand to mouth, scavenge in landfills, and survive in dangerous areas. Often, they resort to joining gangs. When Joe returned to America, he sought to raise awareness of the situation. One thing led to another, and in 2004 Life of Hope Ministries officially began. 

Saul and Layla Perez were Walenciak’s original Guatemalan partners. They began a medical clinic and a church near the gates of the city dump, where many street children live. The Perezes and other Guatemalan partners began by providing food and other basic provisions to the children, but soon they realized they were becoming involved too late. They were trying to help children who already lived on the streets, but they needed to prevent them from being abandoned to the streets in the first place. The Perezes began to look for ways to stop the cycle of poverty.  

According to the Life of Hope Ministries website, 75 percent of Guatemalans live below the poverty line; that includes 90 percent of indigenous Guatemalans. Meanwhile, 17 percent of Guatemalans live on less than $1.25 per day. Subsequently, 50 percent of Guatemalan children grow up malnourished.  

Multifaceted Ministry 

To minister to those already facing life on the street and prevent more children from ending up in that situation, Life of Hope Ministries supports several Guatemalan partners who serve in a wide variety of ways. Only two people serve in the ministry stateside, and all the rest are Guatemalan Christians working hard to serve those in need in their own country. Among them . . . 

The Perezes started a clinic called Corazon de Amor and a church named Cristo es el Camino. Their ministries focus on people living in the landfill by feeding the children, providing medical care and educational opportunities, and giving plenty of chances for the children and their families to experience and learn about the love of Jesus. Their medical clinic serves more than 20,000 people a year. 

Julio and Adonia Chavarria work with a ministry called Life and Hope Association in a neighborhood called Santa Faz. They provide tutoring, food, medical care, family counseling, and church services to 85 children and their families. They also work with Life of Hope teams who assist with a construction ministry that rehabilitates houses, builds bunk beds, and installs efficient stoves for people in the community. 

Tita Evertsz operates five Christian schools in a poverty-stricken area called La Limonada. More than 500 children attend her schools, which also provide counseling, feeding programs, and medical care. La Limonada is considered a “red zone” and is off-limits to most Guatemalans, but Tita has gained the trust of the gangs that control the neighborhoods and is able to work there.  

Erwin “Shorty” Luna runs a ministry called Tesoros de Gracia, which also focuses on La Limonada. This community is filled with gang activity, and there are few established churches. He establishes house churches and has started a rescue house focusing on youth. His work brings the light of Christ to dark and dangerous places.  

Cesar Garcia runs a ministry called Tiempo de Rescate. Cesar is an EMT and has worked as a leader of street rescue programs for many years. Tiempo de Rescate helps people find emergency health care, basic education, vocational skills, and personal guidance. In addition, the ministry serves the juvenile courts system of Guatemala City. Cesar has the experience to research reported abuse and neglect cases and recommend action that can rescue these children. 

Alfredo and Irene Salazar, who had a child with Down syndrome, began a ministry called Down Guatemala. This ministry provides early stimulation services, education, and training for children, adolescents, and elderly people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. They provide them with tools to improve their quality of life. Alfredo and Irene also pastor a local church. 

In summary, these ministries focus on several main areas: food, education, living space, medical care, and spiritual support.  

Life of Hope Ministries’ feeding program provides more than 82,000 meals each year. The medical program consists of a clinic, pharmacy, child development area, and a dental program. Their medical professionals provide care for more than 20,000 people yearly. The construction program rehabilitates houses and provides stoves and beds. A community center provides ongoing programs to children and families, including tutoring, food, counseling, church services, and medical care. A scholarship program enables more than 825 children to attend school yearly and provides uniforms, books, and tuition. Life of Hope Ministries’ partners also distribute Bibles, conduct church services, disciple and teach believers, and find clean water sources for baptisms. 

Child Sponsorship and Short-Term Opportunities 

A child sponsorship program is a key way Life of Hope Ministries is able to do their work. People in the United States can sponsor a child for $35 a month. That sponsorship provides funding for Christian teaching and tutoring, food and nutritional programs, basic and emergency medical care, and emotional and spiritual support for the children and their families. Sponsors receive regular updates on their child, notes from the child, and the opportunity to visit Guatemala on short-term mission trips. Life of Hope Ministries leads frequent 7-to-10-day mission trips to Guatemala. Participants visit the various ministries supported by Life of Hope Ministries and join in projects when the skills and abilities of the teams fit the needs of the Guatemalan partners. These trips increase the connections between Guatemalan and American Christians and strengthen bonds between those who support the work and the ministries themselves.  

To learn more about the work of Life of Hope Ministries, sponsor a child, or join a short-term trip, visit www.lifeofhope.org


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