Guatemala Trip : Community Visits

By Matt Eldredge
Nashillve, TN

One of the best days of my very first trip to Guatemala (in November 2010) was our visit to the Refuge Women’s Shelter and then to meet Pastor Jorge, some of the many families he is helping, and his church family at Refuge City. Best not only for the experience and excitement of seeing these new places where God is at work, meeting new people and hearing their stories, but also for the way those stories and testimonies wrecked my heart and mind.

That Wednesday morning I was invited to go along with Scott, Amelia, and Cesar to first visit the El Refugio women’s shelter and then Refuge City church and Radical Mission. That was an amazing time of visiting with their ministry, being treated to delicious cinnamon rolls and coffee for breakfast, and then of course hearing the sweet women share their stories. Afterward, I was already quite emotional and the weight of all we had just heard was so heavy on my heart and mind. But God is faithful! Our healer, awesome in power. Now the girls here are breaking the cycle of abuse. I watched as my friend, Cesar,  was also responding to these stories in his heart, and mine filled with warmth for what God was doing through the shelter to impact my friends in Guatemala. Thank you Cesar for your response about that special visit.

After our visit there, I was actually glad we had a little breather and I could mentally process and recover while waiting for one of the Refuge City church leaders to come get us. He picked us up and we rode to Burger King for lunch, and it was delicious, fresher and better than the states, of course! Pastor Jorge and his wife Annie met up with us there and Jorge started sharing the story of his past. Now here is a man that you could just sit for hours listening to his heart and his amazing story! It turns out that they both used to be high ranking in a militia and came to Guatemala after having to flee for their lives. You would never be able to tell just from seeing Jorge and Annie and their hearts, and I probably can’t share too many details for their protection, but needless to say these guys have an amazing testimony and are now radically saved. Jorge shared about many of the struggles of doing the ministry God has called him to. He has stuck to his calling and remains faithful even when some in the church try to discourage him from helping the sick, poor, and needy when it will not financially benefit him or the church. It was such a blessing to hear his passion for changing the community and see his faithfulness to God’s calling.

We drove to their house church, which is actually a garage type space, a big open room right next to his house that he gives to the church every week for their use. Other families across the street also give their houses each week for Sunday school! I was amazed just to see how he drove into the garage space, across two really narrow groups of pipe pieces. I would have been scared to attempt it, but Guatemalans are so resourceful!

Jorge then drove us in to visit with several of the orphan care families. They all live in a squatter settlement. During the war, so many people were displaced from their land and homes, and then the government divided this area up where families just live in shack type houses with no city services, no running water, nada.

One of the main missions they have is taking care of the orphans and abused and getting them off the street. The church has several families that are currently raising orphans, not to mention the countless that he and his wife have taken in themselves and helped with all their basic needs. The government has no official program to deal with the situation, but since Jorge and the church have been so active in helping for so long, they are actually being officially recognized as care providers and will hopefully be Government registered soon!

We got to visit several of these special adoptive families. The first was an amazing couple, 84 and 85 years old, that have taken in 4 kids! Jorge joked that this woman is probably stronger than he is and full of life. She still cooks and bakes many delicious foods to support her family, I think the jist was that she can do it all. The kids might affectionately call her “Grandma” considering her age but they know she loves them as her children. Their oldest boy was one of the smartest in his class, a very talented musician, and they are hoping to be able to send him to a great music program. He also teaches his own class of younger kids music and other art forms like dance. He really struck me as being so mature and responsible and wanting to do his best to take care of his family.

At the next home we visited, the foster parents were away but we met a 17-year-old girl that was so full of life and beauty, and her precious 2-year-old boy. She is overcoming a painful past and shared with us how very grateful she is for all the ways God is blessing her. Through the church and foster shelter, God provided her a really nice home and also paint and supplies so she can make money selling her own artwork! My heart broke for her and her son but it was also amazing to see God’s beauty reflected in her face and her art and how He is at work to redeem and repair their lives.

Then we went to another shelter where the oldest daughter, 19 years old, was home taking care of 4 of her 5 siblings. The next oldest daughter, 17 years old, was away at work and was a victim of abuse. She now has her own baby son. We played and took photos of the children for a little bit. It was refreshing to see their innocent smiles.

From there Jorge drove us through to another neighborhood and to an overlook down onto a beautiful valley and lake. There was a golf course hidden behind a huge wall of trees. The trees planted to block out the sight of their community and the needs they have. We then drove past an old coffee processing plant. The plant got busted for polluting the area, letting waste runoff drain down to the lake so they were shut down. Jorge shared his vision of purchasing and turning this space into a giant youth center with several indoor soccer fields and space for the kids of the community to be loved on and cared for, and away from the street and gangs! We need to pray that this will happen soon for their community. One of the biggest problems and recurring issues is the cycle of abuse from men to their wives and own daughters. Women are treated like trophies or possessions and then their children are left neglected or abandoned, or families are simply unable to provide the proper care and education to break the cycle. Abuse may be the only way of life they ever know, with no way out in sight. That’s why the work people like the El Refugio Women’s Shelter and Jorge’s church is so needed, and why we need to support them! We can change this generation, showing these young men and women the love of Christ and raising up new leaders for the next generation who will know how to love and care for their families with the support of these ministries, and us! I am so thankful to now have these friends who are responding and can continue to have direct hands on experience helping out with all the needs and opportunities we were able to hear. I definitely feel responsible for everything I saw in Guatemala. There are many opportunities for us to financially contribute through micro-enterprise and giving, but this first burden I am feeling is prayer, lots of prayer, no ceasing- it’s time to get serious!


As we were leaving the settlement, Jorge said he had to be honest with us and wanted us to hear it from him and not someone else: if we hear that it is very dangerous to go into these areas and minister, they are right. It is a hard place but this is the ministry God has called him to and he remains faithful that the Lord will provide, AMEN!

Reparando Guatemala – Episode 2

Behind the scenes with Athentikos as they travel to Guatemala for the premiere of ‘Reparando’.

Episode 2 includes Cafe Condesa, exploring ruins, and researching micro-enterprise.

Stay tuned for more episodes …

Reparando Guatemala – Episode 1

Join Athentikos as they travel to Guatemala to premiere ‘Reparando’, participate in Art Camps for children and scout future stories.

In Episode 1, Athentikos travels from Atlanta to Guatemala City and finally to Antigua where they enjoy dinner with members of the Athentikos: Guatemala Team.

Stay tuned for more episodes …

‘Reparando’ DVD NOW AVAILABLE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Athentikos opens online store to raise awareness and resources for Guatemala.
Nashville, TN—Athentikos opens their online store with the sale of ‘Reparando’, a documentary on Guatemala’s struggle to repair itself and its people following a 36-year civil war. 80% of proceeds from the DVD will be invested into Micro-Enterprise efforts in Guatemala.
DVD’s are being sold for the price of $20 and can be purchased here: www.reparandomovie.com/store/reparando-dvd/.

For more information on Reparando, visit www.reparandomovie.com.
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A New Thanks Giving

By Katie Milwee
Nashville, TN

Since I first saw the film “Reparando”, I have wanted to meet Maria, affectionately known as the doll lady.  Her job of repairing dolls is not glamorous, but what she creates is a stunning image of how the Lord is at work in each of our lives.  Her story is told visually in the film, weaving between the stories of the main characters, Tita and Shorty. Much like her physical act of sewing and mending dolls each day, her story sews theirs together with the message of hope and redemption.  Maria is given a small amount of money through a Microfinance Organization, The Potter’s House, which she uses to buy doll parts that are collected from the dump.  She then washes and cleans the parts and mends them together to construct a “new” doll.  From discarded items, she creates something beautiful.

So, on Thanksgiving afternoon our van drives through trash filled streets near the Guatemala City Dump passing people with blank stares and then stops outside of a cinderblock home.  Maria comes out and greets each of us with a sweet smile and a loving hug.  Immediately her gentle spirit brings comfort and warmth to the hard streets. She invites us into her home and shows us her “workshop” which is an old rickety card table. It’s there that she sits for hours on end repairing and mending. This is her job, just like my job is an accountant, or your job is a teacher, doctor, filmmaker, or whatever. She is tired and weary, just like we can get from long days or stressful projects, but when I see the smile lines on her face and the joy in her eyes, her gratitude and thankfulness for her work is undeniable.

So, that I afternoon, I saw Thanksgiving through new eyes, through eyes of real thankfulness, through Maria’s tears and my tears, and through the beautifully completed dolls that she proudly showed us. With these new eyes and humbled heart, I am thankful that I am a new creation in Christ, no longer left in the trash, but mended together and clothed in righteousness on display for His glory.

We invited the crews from Philly and Michigan to join us to visit Maria after our time at art camp. Several of us bought dolls (which Maria signed). These precious dolls remind us of God’s redemption in our lives. We are grateful to Maria for allowing us to share her story.

Beauty In The Midst Of Chaos

By Jonathan Porta
FreedomGuatemala
Guatemala City, Guatemala

I love how God is in the business of redeeming the beauty found in the midst of our chaos. How He rescued us from our mess, and now we can bear witness to what He has done. The 2 weeks of premieres in Guatemala were some of the most exciting and challenging weeks for me. Not because of my job or my task… but because of the eternal lesson of trusting in God in every step of the way.

My involvement with the film started a little over a year ago. I was a part final product development process. This created anticipation and excitement inside of me. I have loved seeing this film over and over again. And as a Guatemalan all I really just want is to help spread the word about what God is doing and what He wants to do next.  So, these two weeks where just the tip of the iceberg or better said… it was the flourishing of the building up of months of work.

For the week of Premieres my job consisted of setting up the venues and organizing the event details (enlisting volunteers, setting merch, interface with the venues, oversee the tech set up). Of course I didn’t do this by myself; I could never dream to have done this alone. God in His master plan, handpicked each and every person who got involved in the process and became part of the team to help make all of this happen.  At the beginning stages of the process everything everything went smoothly: negotiation, arrangement, and details. THINGS WERE HAPPENING and we were getting somewhere. We were all set and ready to move forward!

Our first premiere was scheduled to happen in Casa Santo Domingo, Antigua on Tuesday November 16. Everything was ready UNTIL Monday came around. The Athentikos team decided to go check the venue out, and noticed certain concerns. By the time I came around to talk to the hotel and address those concerns… the location, the sound system companies, and people were just dropping out and things started falling apart. I did EVERYTHING I could ever do to hold it all together, but it all just slipped away of my grip and control. I remember hanging up with the last bad-news-call and just sighed and said: “Ok God, this is your event, not mine… you take over, I’m done!!” and through God’s continued faithfulness…

I drove to Antigua with Hubert to see what we could do and by the time we were there… everything was solved. Location, sound, people, volunteers… EVERYTHING, down to the last detail! It was all fixed within an hour, and all I had to do was: wait and trust God! When we ended that day after our first event, I was just so grateful to see what God had done!! The people’s responses were amazing; and we were all grateful to God for being a part of His work.

Then on Wednesday I went to the movie theater with Hubert to prepare for the follow night’s cinema theater event. We spent all morning figuring things out, making sure we were prepared to set up the next day, and everything was great and ready. However, when Thursday came around Hubert went in early to the movie theater to start setting up when I got a call from the manager. I met with the theater manager, and turns out that we couldn’t move forward with the event due to financial miscommunication. EVERYTHING fell apart and this was our biggest event of the week! We already had over 400 people RSVP for the event.  I remember getting on the phone and doing all sorts of things and just shaking. I tried my best to make this happen; but it just wouldn’t happen. Yet again… I just sighed and said: “Ok God, this is your event, not mine… you take over, I’m done!!” and when I let go …  EVERYTHING got solved in a miraculous way and had yet another full packed event.

I don’t want to make this any longer, but trust me, I can continue going on and on, about things that went wrong (I still want to look good after you’re done reading this blog 😉 ) but at all times I saw the beauty of God’s hand and how He worked EVERY SINGLE DETAIL in the midst of my chaos.  God reminded me several times, “I AM IN CONTROL!”

I am excited as a Guatemalan to see my own people understand the call that God is making to them! To us all! And being part of this process has been humbling and a true Honor. I am deeply grateful to God for everything that HE did this whole 2 weeks and the opportunity of being a small part of this amazing work that HE is doing!

Jonathan, Scott, Amelia, Joel and others meeting prior to the first screening in Antigua

People hanging out after the Screening in Guatemala City

Merch Table at the Antigua Screening

Some of the volunteers with Jonathan after the screening in Guatemla City

Jonathan and Scott meeting folks after the show

Lobby area after the screening in Antigua

Cables, Stories, Friends & Hope

By: Hubert Bendfeldt
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Some of the “A” Team: Jonathan, Major, Darlene, Hubert, Scott, Matt, Cesar, Katie, Tyler, Tina & Amelia

It’s hard for me to write a post about a trip that meant so much for me. As a Guatemalan, it was a privilege to be part of the Athentikos team. I didn’t get to hang out that much other than at the Guatemala “Reparando” Premiere screenings due to the fact that most of my participation was at the shows.  I was responsible for setting up the audio and visual components of the event. So most of my memories start several hours before the show with the computers and cables. I remember the long days with Matt Eldredge (from the US Athentikos Team) at the Mall and all of the other stuff that made us sweat while we set up! It was interesting to see the empty venues for hours before tons of people would come and fill the empty chairs with faces full of excitement and expectation. During the actual event, I sat in the projection room and would try to not to move to make sure that no cable would be touched nor unplugged. I was so nervous!

Photos of the “Reparando” screenings in Guatemla City; (photo above) Liz, Scott and Joel sharing after the film.

But among all of those things, (all the work, logistics, walkie-talkies, black shirts, cables, lights, DVDs, etc.) I found moments during the projection of the film to stop and just watch at people’s faces. During different moments of the movie, I could see how God was working in their hearts, how people’s eyes were being opened, and tears being shed. I enjoyed watching the different shades of color reflecting on people faces and the sound filling the room with words in Spanish and English. I would sometimes pray, sometimes sigh, sometimes just stand there and watch.

For me, all of this was just divine moments in which I could see God working. The film is transforming lives and is calling people to respond. After the showings people eagerly went to the tables to buy DVD’s and t-shirts or sign up to “respond”.  Over 1,300 people viewed the film just in 5 showings during the Premiere Week in Antigua and Guatemala City! We had such an amazing response, that we added a FIFTH show which filled up in less than 24 hours! The movement that all of this is creating so far is beautiful.

After the show when everyone was gone, I would find Jonathan {Porta} and give him a huge hug. I just hope and pray that all of this is just a bit of what God wants to do in Guatemala. I think the desire for everyone that participated in making of the film and the events is HOPE. And this film is the start not the end towards that for my country. My prayer is that this movie would continue to stir something within Guatemalan’s people hearts.

Hubert working with Jonathan about pre-show logistics… the hugs came later…

Now it’s time to dance (with Major)

A little team futbol.

Jonathan, Scott and Hubert at the airport

Most of my stories are about the showings and what happened behind scenes, about the time we would share together as a team, about the conversations that I had with people, about individuals, about the brothers and sisters that I encountered during that time. No one can deny that those 2 weeks were intense, we had fun, we made new friends, we shared stories, our hearts were transformed, and we became family.

This trip for me is hope, good news, new friends, a reminder of the last, the least and the lost, a reminder of my responsibility towards them, new ideas, new vision for a lot of Guatemalans; this trip means more than what I can explain on paper or video. This trip was beautiful, this trip was laughter, this trip was sharing, this trip was learning, this trip was friendship, this trip, was part of our lives…

And for many of us, this trip, is just the beginning.