June 9, 2015

Christians: Let's Start Being Strategic in Our Giving

Post by Brittany Tedesco

If you're paying even a little bit of attention, I don't have to tell you how dark this world is becoming, no matter what corner of the globe you focus on. While Islamic terrorists oppress and kill thousands of people overseas, the U.S. wallows around in its own depravity, celebrating evil—parading it around to be consumed by the masses.

In Guatemala City, gangs and poverty have skyrocketed in the last 10 years.

In all of these places, children are the victims. Young, vulnerable, and subject to their environments, they suffer the consequences of their parents' sins.

As Christians, we can't just turn our backs.

What do we do, for instance, about all of the young children living in grinding poverty, neglected by their parents, who are being recruited daily by Guatemala's gangs?

Countless humanitarian organizations have poured gazillions of dollars into places like Guatemala throughout the years, and things have only gotten worse.

Violence and murder is rampant. Two rival gangs, MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang, continue to grow unabated. The average age a child is initiated into one of these gangs is between 14 and 15 years old. Often their initiation involves killing someone.

Multitudes of mothers are sending their children across the U.S. border, illegally, knowing they'll never see them again. It's better than watching them get swallowed up in the dark criminal underworld.

Guatemala's children are looked at with disdain and suspicion because so many become thieves and drug addicts. They're ignored or abused by parents who were treated the same way by their parents.

In the meantime, gang members promise these children love and community — everything they lack at home. They wait for them outside of their schools, where they do their best recruiting.

What do you and I do about this? Throw money at solutions that the world tells us will work. . . and then get frustrated because they don't work?

Can we acknowledge that the world's solutions won't fix the world? And are we ready to be strategic about where we put our resources?

Allow me then to present to you something that's actually working. Allow me to introduce to you, in the words of a Guatemalan mother, a "special man who loves children."

This man moved into the Guajitos slum, a district in Guatemala City that has been described as one of the most dangerous places on earth. As he walks down the alleyways of broken down communities, people emerge from their dilapidated hovels to embrace Him. Tiny children run outside and wrap their arms around His legs.

"Let the little children come to me," he says. "And do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

No, I'm not describing Jesus Christ. I'm describing Humberto Chavez* , a follower of Him.

Along with his wife Martha*, Chavez ministers to children day in and day out. Together, they created a haven where abused and abandoned children can find solace for their souls.

Two centers located in the midst of Guajitos' most dangerous barrios act as a refuge from the oppressive darkness outside.

Since the Chavezes started their ministry, Living Stones, in 1997, they've had their facilities broken into and robbed 11 times. But they're not afraid.

One of Living Stone's "working principles" states: "We will use the spiritual authority that God has given us to destroy strongholds."

Children gather at one of Living Stones' ministry centers in the Guajitos slum, Guatemala City.

What kind of strongholds are we talking about? Out of the roughly 1,000 children who've completed the programs offered at these centers, not one of them has joined the gangs that cripple Guatemala's security and economy. And none have fallen victim to the lure of the human traffickers who require thousands of dollars in exchange for transportation to the U.S./Mexico border.

The cycle is being broken.

"We talk to each child about the goodness of God and how our Heavenly Father can give them a better life than they will ever find in the gangs. We want to plant the Word of God in their hearts while they are young," Chavez said.

Safely in the confines of the centers, children are discipled in God's Word, served nutritious food, and invited to take part in recreational activities. Here, they find a father and mother in Humberto and Martha.

"These children are looking for a mother's love they have never received in their homes, because sometimes both parents are alcoholics so whenever they come here they have their hearts wounded—hurt by words and physical violence. And they see that, instead of being offended by them, we try to teach them that Jesus Christ died for them," Martha said. "When they say, 'my mom treats me badly,' I tell them, 'for me you are a son or a daughter.'"

Added Humberto: "We want to be God's hands to protect them. We want to be God's heart to love them. We want to be God's feet to carry them to a better future, and we want to be God's eyes to show them the right path."

Last year, 70 children and adults received Christ as Savior through Living Stones Ministry.

"We found out about this ministry from someone who told us about a 'special man who loves children'," said the mother of a child attending the center. "So we invited him to our community and he helped us to see the need of children because they didn't know about the salvation of Jesus Christ."

Real change is happening in Guatemala. And it hasn't required gazillions of dollars. It's taken some dollars, strategically placed into the hands of people who serve the only One who can bring about real change—the kind that begins in the heart.

"I don't have the capability to change the children's hearts, but I do have confidence that God's Word truly does change people. And for years, we have seen many children being changed," said a ministry worker.

When asked what kinds of changes they've seen in the community due to the existence of Living Stones, another worker said, "Less children on the streets. More children interested in the ways of the Lord and the Kingdom of God. The children want to be successful, they want to grow up and be professionals."

As word has spread through the slum about the "special man who loves children," children hungry for love—for a touch from Jesus—clamor to get inside. But there's limited space. Not all of the children who arrive at the center are able to participate in any given day.

Let the little children come to me. And do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

The words our Master. How do we obey?

Chavez needs a bigger center, a place that would accommodate twice as many children. A place where he and his wife would have the space to start a vocational training school for all of the children who've been changed by Christ through his ministry, and who now have ambition and want to make honest livings.

The building they would like to purchase has 16 multiuse rooms where youth would learn skills and trades like carpentry, sewing, and baking. Martha envisions a space where she can hold parenting classes to provide biblical principles for raising children in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord.

Let's help them. Let's be strategic about where we put our resources. This new facility will cost $100,000. Together, we can provide this amount. Inside the walls of this building, people will be changed. Hope for that broken nation exists. You and I can literally take part in changing the future of Guatemala.

Do you really believe that the only thing that can change the people of this world is the love of Jesus Christ?

Then let's support people who are pouring out that love every single day. People like the Chavezes, who give and give and give—to those who can offer nothing in return. People who speak up for those without a voice, who protect the vulnerable, who defend the weak.

In the words of a Living Stones ministry worker: "We know that when we share the gospel of Jesus with the children, we will have a nation that will know the Lord in the future."

* Names changed for security

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Eugene - posted June 12, 2015
Such a beautiful story! Thanks very much for sharing, I will pass along.