Today, the team loaded up and drove to a town just north of Antigua called Jocotenango. Juan Pablo warmed up to the driver and wanted to get a first look at the sights as we navigated to our destination. The boys are becoming even more fascinated with the country and culture.
We spent the morning at the Family Hope Center (FHC) in Jocotenango. This location is a facility that has been under construction for the past 5 years and is opening just in time for the upcoming school season, which begins on Monday. The concept of the FHC is to serve and build up the family. Services provided include training for adults to gain skills to obtain a job, classes for English and computers, tudors for children, life coaches, and reading and writing classes. Buckner recognized that a permanent solution for displaced children was to unite and preserve the family rather than establish more facilities to house children with a limited number of adults. The Family Hope Center is an answer that has proven to be effective with a Christ-centered approach to helping the family.
As our van rolled up to the FHC, there was already a line of children waiting outside the facility to start the day’s activities. We later learned that there were around 300 kids overall. Some traveled over an hour and a half just to be there. The children ranged in ages from elementary to high school. All of the kids gathered in the large open space just past the entry where they were greeted by Buckner staff, volunteers, and our team. Each child was assigned to a group and would eventually rotate through various stations throughout the morning.
Our teams split up into our designated groups that were going to provide one of 4 activities for the children that included a Bible lesson, hygiene instructions (brushing teeth, washing hands, etc), craft, and recreation. My family participated in the Bible group and shared a lesson with 4 different groups of kids within about 2 hours. The lesson, planned in advance by one of the Dallas team members, presented a message of hope and redemption through David’s story who was chosen as a shepherd boy to one day be the king of a nation. David had a heart for God, but made several huge mistakes. The kids learned that God has a divine plan for their lives, can choose the least qualified, and offer us His mercy and forgiveness when we fail.
Each of the characters mentioned in the lesson were represented by members of the group who had costumes and props. Young David was played by Sam, who after the 4th time through the lesson was able to confidently step forward in front of the children when announced into the story. Sam was followed by an older King David played by John. Emily and Karen Perry split the duties of teaching the lesson, which was translated very effectively for the kids. Juan Pablo entered the scene in another part of the lesson as the angel that appeared to the shepherds in the field on that first Christmas night. Again, the message maintained the theme that God can speak and use any of us. In this case, God chose to reveal the birth of His one and only Son to a group shepherds, who were a lowly group of people at that time. Juan Pablo as the angel addressed the group of shepherds that consisted of Sam and a few other volunteers.
Most of the children knew the answers to the questions that were posed during the lesson such as the King who would be born to heal the land of Guatemala, the United States, and the entire world: Jesus. Our translator also shared John 3:16 with the kids, led us in group prayer, and ended with song.
Once the 4 groups of kids visited each station, the teams assembled around the inside perimeter of the facility to give each of the kids a new backpack filled with school supplies and a new pair of socks and shoes. The children start back to school on Monday after a 2 month break. Many of them had shoes with holes in them or were just really worn. The backpack and shoes were a timely blessing and essential for them as they return to school.
Our first trip to Guatemala in 2005 was a shoe trip during which we placed shoes on the feet of many kids throughout the country. The children who came to the FHC, however, actually live with their parents and some even had siblings at the program with them. We greeted each child, removed their old pair of shoes and socks, washed their feet, encouraged, and prayed over them. It was a humbling experience, but an honor and very rewarding to say the least. It was also very special to see Juan Pablo interacting and smiling with the kids. He recognizes that at one time, he was just like one of these children receiving a new pair of shoes from a team would visit his home and bring new footwear. Sam was also excited to be on standby as he helped put their old shoes and socks in their backpacks.
After lunch at the Family Hope Center, we proceeded to a church in Antigua where we were greeted again by a line of families for the Back to School program.
Inside, we assembled into our teams, but this time would only present to a single group of children and their families who were seated inside. There were over 100 kids in attendance for this program. In order to participate, many of the families had to walk a great distance from their homes to the church. As we waited on some of our translators and volunteers to arrive, the team proceeded to teach on hygiene and Bible, then went into the backpack and shoe distribution. Buckner partners alongside local churches in Guatemala to carry out the mission of presenting the gospel and enriching the family.
Emily presenting the Bible lesson
Sam and Emily work together to fit new shoes on a young girl
Next, we visited the Buckner FHC in Antigua that is a 2 story facility that offers a number of services to families as mentioned earlier in this post. Below are pictures from the 2nd floor, the computer classroom, and the outside of the building. This Buckner location is fully staffed to meet the needs to families in the city and has been around for about 10 years.
We ended our day with a special treat at a restaurant in Antigua called
El Tenedor del Cerro. It was quite a trip up in the mountains, but offered a great view of the city, mountainside, featured various museum exhibits, fountains, a private market, and outstanding food. Definitely the right way to wrap up a beautiful day of serving. Our table had a perfect view of the sunset that fell behind the volcanoes Agua and Fuego. The Fuego volcano is active and was letting out regular puffs of smoke.