Women With Hope

By: Cesar Eguizabal
Guatemala City, Guatemala

On our second week of our trip in Guatemala, we were participating in the art camp with Build a Bridge and Centro de Alcance in Santa Catarina Pinula right outside of Guatemala City. We had a training on Monday Nov. 22nd. all day and on Tuesday Nov  23rd.  We had our first day with the kids which was amazing. But at the end of the day, I was so tired and wanted to take a break and rest. On Tuesday night, Scott asked me if I wanted to go with a few others from the team to visit a few ministries the next day.  One purpose of this Athentikos trip is to scout for new stories for upcoming documentary projects. Two issues of interest are street children & youth and women’s issues. I didn´t know what to do because I wanted to go back with the kids at the art camp and they needed my help translating. But after thinking about it I said yes. Although I have to say that at first I said yes because I wanted to rest a least for a day.

So on Wednesday we woke up early and Joel picked us (Scott, Amelia, Matt and me) up at the seminary and we drove to this regular, standard house. But this house is a Refuge for women that have been abused by their ex husbands, stepfathers, or other relatives. Mike Soderling, a member of the board, started by telling us about the shelter, El Refugio, the mission, the vision, what they do and a lot of information and history about the place. Here’s a quote from their website, “Sadly, the rate of domestic violence in Guatemala is overwhelming. In general, women are expected to accept domestic violence as their lot in life. High levels of alcoholism among men, and the inability for women to provide for themselves and their children financially only compound the problem. Limited police protection and a culture that says women must stay with their husbands regardless of how badly they are abused results in a lack of resources to aid or protect women and their children from violence. Shelters are almost nonexistent in Guatemala.” We learned that El Refugio has provided refuge and assistance for over 60 women since 2008. But they can only accommodate 7 women (and their families) at a time.

We also met members of the staff that work at the shelter. Our plan was to maybe talk with a few of the women that live at the shelter and to hear a little bit of their stories. We were told that maybe 2 or 3 women would talk, because it’s hard for them to talk about their past and to remember their experiences of abuse and hardship. A few minutes later all these women, some of them with their children, came to the living room where we are talking, and sat down with us. We start talking with them introducing ourselves.

To our surprise all of the women wanted to share their stories! It was incredible. One by one they introduced themselves and shared their stories: what happened to them and why they were living at the shelter. I not only had to sit and listen, but I had to translate their stories at the same time, that was so hard for me. Their stories are so heavy, I’m still struggling with processing the details I heard. All of these women have had been abused by Guatemalan men. I saw their pain in their eyes and how hard it has been to recover and heal.

So we talked with these women for 2 hours or so and after they left I cried and cried. I don’t understand why I reacted so deeply. I had a hard time believing all that I just listened too and I just kept thinking: “This is just so wrong.” I struggled with it because I sat with them, and as a Guatemalan and as a man I feel that I need to do something about it. We need to make a difference and make a change. This is happening all over the country, this shelter can take care of just 7 women tops. I kept thinking, “This is just wrong.”  Before we left, I prayed for them and wanted to say, “thank you.” But  I could hardly talk due to my own emotion. I was finally able to say through my broken voice, “thank you, thank you for sharing your stories with us.” And I encouraged them to keep going.

We hear about violence and abuse against women all the time in Guatemala, everyday in the news, in the radio, in the newspapers, but we don’t care. We are so used to hearing about it that for us is just another social problem that the government has to deal with or take care of.

But that day changed my perspective and now I think I can do something, we can do something about it, we can´t wait for others to come and take care of it. I have to respond, there is hope for these women, I don’t know yet how I will respond, or in what ways I will support them. I have a lot of things in my life I have to take care of and I am struggling with so many things as well, but this is the exciting part because God knows and I know that he will guide me and I can´t wait.

Right before we left the shelter I played for a few minutes with some of the kids and some of their babies and that made me so happy. And I just thinking about making a difference in their lives inspires me.

There is hope for these women. The shelter is doing amazing work supporting them legally, emotionally, spiritually and at the same time they teach them job skills and ways they can make money to support their children. Hope is rising.

The women make “coffee bean” jewelry as a mico-enterprise project. The money generated from the sale of the jewelry goes into a saving fund which is given to the women when they transition from the shelter. Here are some examples of their beautiful work:

Waking Dream

by Scott Moore

Have you ever had a dream in which people from various places and times of your life are woven together into a magical story that makes sense to the subconscious but seems impossible when you wake? I have lived this waking dream.

This is my seventh trip to Guatemala. On each trip, I have returned home with countless stories of beauty and need, wealth and poverty, sorrow and joy, brokenness and restoration. I am blessed to be able to continue relationships with people who I met on our first trip to Guatemala back in 2005. These people are like family to me now. I am also blessed to have been able to come to know many people like Shorty and Tita that God is using to restore the broken here in Guatemala. I have had the honor of hearing and sharing their stories. The other day, several stories crossed paths in a way that only an omniscient author could have penned.

We were near the dump looking for Maria – the Doll Lady. She was not home, so we drove around the corner to meet with a family that needed a wheelchair for their son. We knocked on a few doors asking neighbors for the specific address. When we finally found the home and went inside, I noticed a plaque on the wall that said “… build by the Potters House”. I was thrilled to see a family near the dump thriving in a home built by this organization that is an integral part of ‘Reparando’. As Joel discussed the situation with the mother, I realized that both the wheelchair which was in need of repair, and the new wheelchair, which would be coming to this precious family were given by none other than Dick Rutgers – a man who is also a part of the ‘Reparando’ project. Dick lives in Chimaltegango, a long ways away from this quaint home near the dump in Guatemala City. For a moment, I felt like I was in a surreal dream with characters of my life coming together in a way only the subconscious could imagine. But then Joel explained that he heard of the need and connected these two stories together in order to bring restoration and hope to a family in need. I was struck in awe by the purposeful and yet selfless networking that orchestrated the union of characters in this beautiful story of redemption.

As we drove back around the corner and up the street to leave the neighborhood, I noticed Maria – the Doll lady’s grandson walking across the street. We stopped him to try to locate Maria. He took us to her and we were able to personally thank her for the blessing of the metaphor of redemption that her life’s work brings the story of ‘Reparando’. I cannot explain the joy that we all felt except to say we all had the same sparkle in our eyes. We all knew our own stories have been authored by a God who designed each of us for a purpose – a purpose that is greater when woven together into a collaborative narrative as trophies of God’s Grace.

I will no longer be surprised when characters and stories in my life cross paths. In fact, I have come to expect it. I look forward to life’s waking dream that makes no sense to my conscious mind but has a purpose much greater than I will ever know.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our Guate Family

By Amelia Moore
Nashville, TN (written in Guatemala City)

A little back story if you are new to our blog: This trip is exciting for me because we are premiering our documentary film project, “Reparando.” My husband, Scott, and I have lead a team of volunteers for two and half years to produce a 70-minute feature film which highlights the vast needs in Guatemala and how Guatemalans are responding to the needs in their communities. It’s a broad story of restoration and hope through specific people. I’ve now seen the film over 50 times and it still moves me. This week we have shown it in huge theaters in Guatemala City & Antigua, a High School and a church. The viewers’ responses have overwhelmed me: young people wanting to make difference; people who are already giving want to do more; individuals that want to invest in the least, the last and the lost of society; a high school student who wants to rally her peers; a grandmother crying; missionaries that desire to show the film to their churches; and more…

Five years ago we came to Guatemala to start our family… and God has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams in this regard. We have adopted two beautiful boys (Micah & Elliot) that were born in Guatemala and beyond that God has given us many friends that we consider family as well! I have been overwhelmed by the team of people God has placed in our lives to accomplish this task in the US and in Guatemala. In the US, God brought specific people to the project every step of the way: graphic designers, financial guys, admin folks, translators, artists, cinematographers, marketing folks and more! We have been unified by a common passion. Here’s a photo of the amazing people that have joined the team for this trip which include many of our best friends from Nashville and my fun mom from Virginia. And for a few, it was their first visit to Guatemala.

Here in Guatemala our friends from EdT and Freedom Guatemala have worked hard to organize, promote and manage the events: Joel, Jonathan, Hubert, Liz, Sylvia, Gary and a team of over 20 volunteers! I have been amazed at how humbly they have all worked together. They have encountered many obstacles this week and continually they praise God for His provision. It was an extreme blessing to be served by them and to watch them all work together to make each premiere event a huge success. God has also brought into our lives a very dear friend, Cesar, who has served our team as a translator and team coordinator (on all of our Athentikos trips). Cesar also joined us in the states in September to help us with the US premiers this fall. So we have also had the honor of living with Cesar the last two months. We have been so blessed by his calming presence and fun spirit. And our boys fell in love with Cesar. He has become part of our family and we are so thankful for the time we have gotten to spend with him. It will be really, really difficult going back home without him. Here’s a photo of him with Elliot & Micah right before we left the states for our trip here (the boys stayed home).

On the second Sunday of our trip, we had honor of visiting Cesar’s home and spending a little time with HIS family. We had a fun time jumping on his brother’s po-go stick (yes, that’s correct), playing the keyboard & guitar (thanks Tyler & Scott!), drinking coffee and listening to Cesar’s father play the guitar. They are a beautiful, warm family. We had a great visit and can’t wait to visit them again.

We’ve had great time hanging out and getting to know others from the Guate team in their homes, praying, playing cards, over dinners, at church and more. We are definitely thankful that we’d had time to connect with, encourage and get to know our friends here. It’s been such a tremendous blessing to share the joy of the journey with them. Here are just a few more faces of the Guate Reparando team:

I am so thankful that we get to continue our relationships with Cesar and all our Guatemalan friends. And that our boys will grow up knowing them and their examples of passion for this beautiful country. Thank you to everyone who has worked to make this week successful and for your hearts for God and passion for Guatemala. We are blessed by your friendships and that you have become like family to us.

Hope IS Rising

By Emily Sutherland
Nashville, TN

This is my first trip to Guatemala, and I have been overwhelmed. This country is beautiful, the people are beautiful, the scenery is beautiful and the stories that we are hearing are beautiful. I am still processing what we experienced Thursday (the 6th day of our trip). It began with showing Reparando to a Christian Missionary school in Guatemala City, and the response was amazing. The main characters in the film shared a little afterward and Shorty was overcome by emotion. Dozens of high school juniors and seniors waited for their turn to meet and speak with Tita and Shorty. Since I have seen the film several times, I was surprised at how emotional I was;  I now realize it is not only the film itself that brings the tears, it is physically meeting the real people of the film. Tita and Shorty are authentic and humble. Our hope and prayer is that the high school kids will want to react to the film and collectively make a difference in their own community. I am confident that God will make that happen.

Scott greeting Shorty; Herbert and Matt preparing for the pre show at the High School.

Sharing with the students after the film; Shorty started to get emotional.

The students were really overwhelmed and inspired by the message of the film.

A few hours later we had the opportunity to join in a visit with Hector and Italo who minister to some of the young people that live on the streets. I was a little scared because we had been warned to take off all of our jewelry and anything else that we didn’t want to give away. Hector told us that they are not afraid to ask for anything. They are accustomed to begging and stealing for their daily needs, and they are always using drugs. We walked about three blocks to their “home” and along the way picked up about five of them on the streets – all of which were inhaling solvent in order to stay high. Their home, aptly named the Tank, was in a vacant lot in Zone 3 of Guatemala City, surrounded by a cinder block wall. The roof was a blue tarp and some mattresses and a few torn and broken chairs were all they had for comfort. I couldn’t focus on one thing because I was trying to take it all in. I found it amazing that they were so welcoming to all of us and that they were truly a family. Each one of them has a story and slowly we were able to sit down and hear them. I scanned the room at one point and there were four or five different conversations taking place, most of them ending in prayer, and in some cases, tears streaming down their faces.

Italto hanging with one of the young people. He is teaching this young man professional clown skills in order to make some income.

This is the “house” (an abandoned lot)  where about 20 of the young people gather to live, hang out and sleep

I found myself wondering where the hope is in their situation. They are uneducated, addicted to drugs, and most of them cannot go back home. But in the spirit of Reparando, hope IS rising. There are men who are investing their time and money into these kids, and the more exposure the kids get to genuine love and acceptance, the more they can understand that God loves them, too. One young man has been restored. Cesar has moved back home and is now ministering to his own peers in the Tank. I’m struggling with how I can help because it is not good enough for me to say goodbye, cry a little, and then pray that it all works out. God showed me this and he wants me to respond. It might be that I need to help financially for a little while, but I know God will never let me forget them. I want to see them again. I want for them to be repaired and restored and in turn helping others that need it. This is already happening…because that is how God works. He is at work when we don’t even realize it.

The lot is surrounded by this white wall in which many of the young people have painted their own messages of hope.

THEN… Last night was our big premier at the theater in Mira Flores, one of the nicest shopping malls I have ever been to. I was almost uncomfortable being in such a nice place since only hours before we had been in the other extreme. The massive movie theater was packed, holding more than 390 people (our awesome volunteers had to sit on the floor)! The story that sticks out to me, is one that is completely behind the scenes. Earlier in the day, Joel Van Dyke received a panicked call from one of his staff members that the movie theater was going to cancel our showing unless we paid for the theater. Originally the theater was not making us pay because the manager was friends with one of our team members here in Guatemala City (and we weren’t charging a ticket fee). Apparently it was illegal to give us the theater for free and we had no other choice but to pay or cancel. Through God’s divine intervention, there was a man that was placed in Joel’s path and extended his heart and his wallet. He was in no way connected to Reparando, but he knew he has there for a reason. Why do we ever doubt that God will make it happen? I can dream the biggest dream possible, but God’s hand is infinitely bigger.

Packed theater! Sharing after the show.

We really missed the rest of the A-Team this week. We wished they could have ALL been here to experience this amazing evening (and week).

Some of our “Reparando” volunteers (We have nicknamed the RepaRAMBO team)! THANK YOU SO MUCH for all your work this week!!

Photos by Amelia Moore (www.ameliajmoore.com)

New Stories

By Susan Marko

I am sitting in a school auditorium in Guatemala City as middle and high school students view the Reparando film for the first time.  Shorty and Tita are sitting in the room with us and I am, once again, moved to tears. This trip is my first time in Guatemala, but I have watched Tita and Shorty’ s stories for the past two years as my husband has been working on footage from his two trips with the Athentikos team.  I couldn’t help but be captivated by their lives and ministries.  Now that Bobby and I are both here to participate in the premiers of the finished product, we feel overwhelmed and humbled that God has allowed us to be a part of what he is obviously doing through “Reparando.”

On Wednesday night the team met at Joel Van Dyke’s House in Guatemala City along with our Guatemalan friends who have given so much of their time, passion, and effort towards preparing for the premiers this week.  I was overwhelmed by the hope they have that this message could make a real difference for their country.  Everyone who has been a part of this film has such a sense that God crafted the story and the results are all to his glory.  Now we are all just standing back in awe as God takes his message to the people.  Again, all of our showings are full and frequent calls are still coming in of people who want to see the film.  But beyond the numbers, we are hearing stories of how hearts are truly being awakened and a passion is forming to serve God’s people like never before.  I include myself in these numbers.

So far this week we led an art camp for students near Antigua who have had little exposure to the idea of creative expression.  It was amazing to see their joy as they realized a talent that they never knew they had, or to see them express their thoughts about themselves, their family, and God, some for the very first time.   This idea that they can see God in the small things, that trash can be something beautiful, that they have the potential to dream and to “ask beautiful questions” is a brand new concept to so many of them.  The teachers, who participated in the classes along with their students, seemed equally inspired and wish to continue the art program in their school.

We have also visited some extremely poor communities and walked with people who are giving their lives away to bring hope to these families.  We interviewed a pastor (Mario, above) who was born and raised in the same hill town where he now serves.  God reached him through powerful visions and some missionaries who came to work and serve in the community years ago.  He then took us to meet some families who have been given a chance to provide for their families through a microfinance project, allowing them to borrow money in order to purchase chickens or other livestock so that they will have products to sell.  These families were so thankful for the little that they had, and they thanked us for coming to their village to share in their stories.  All we could do is hug them and smile and tell them in our broken Spanish how we were thankful too.  God truly does use the weak to shame the wise.  God’s heart is for the poor.  “Blessed are the poor” is not only those who are poor in spirit.  God truly dwells with those who are in need and as Tita says in the film, God is “tangible” in these places.

In trying to process all that we have encountered this week, I know I have to respond.  All I can do is tell God I am standing here with open hands and trust that he will tell me how.  It seems that our involvement in this film is just the first step.  To God be the glory.