Finding God’s Family
“A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families.”
At our school we talk often about how God adopts us as His own when we surrender to Him and how His heart is always reaching out to bring us into His family. For many of our students who come from fractured family environments, these are not abstract ideas. Paola, now in Grade 9, realized from an early age that things were not normal at home: “I was about 7 or 8 years old when I realized that my Dad was an alcoholic. I began to realize just how much he fought with Mom. He began coming home drunk and he would hit her right in front of me. As I grew older he kept up his habit and would continually come home drunk. There was nothing I could do for him and that made me feel helpless.” Paola felt trapped in her situation, burdened by the home situation she had to go back to everyday after school.
Then one day her close friend invited her to come with her to a bible study that two of our teachers, Manuel and Haydee, had started with a number of the older students from the school. At the bible study she started to take her faith seriously: “I began to draw near to God and I began to have a real relationship with Him. When you have a relationship with God it is as though your problems aren’t as dark anymore and the load you are carrying gets lighter. I began to see all the problems I was dealing with from that point of view.”
Through her intimacy with God and with Manuel and Haydee’s encouragement, Paola was overcoming the struggles of her home situation. Then, earlier this year, her world was torn apart: “On February 15th my Dad died. I was so angry with God. Why had He taken away my Dad?” In her grief she felt herself questioning her faith: “I could feel myself getting farther from God and I couldn’t see things the way that I had before.”
“At one point it was like I received a revelation of God and His love for me. I felt Him embrace me. And I felt that longing to draw near to Him.”
Paola kept coming to our school and during our daily morning devotionals God continually reached out to her, demonstrating His love for her: “At one point it was like I received a revelation of God and His love for me. I felt Him embrace me. And I felt that longing again to draw near to Him. I’m so thankful for the devotionals each morning. They help me get into relationship with Him and understand the purposes and plans He has for each one of us. And I understand why my Dad is gone.”
We are continually grateful for staff like Manuel and Haydee who see themselves as far more than teachers. Many students in our school have similar family situations to Paola, and our teachers are often their primary source of encouragement, care, and stability. This has definitely been true for Paola: “I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for the Lord and His provision. Now I have not only one family, but two. God gave me Profe Manuel as a second Dad and Miss Haydee as a second Mom.”
The Kingdom Belongs to Such As These
A clinical counsellor’s impressions of the school.
Tyler & Emma Milley along with their three young children travelled to Guatemala for three weeks in March after responding to an invitation to visit from staff workers and friends, Christoph Sanz and Katrina Janzen. Debriefing with Tyler led to some interesting insights from his perspective as a clinical counsellor. We asked him to write out a few of these insights for you.
In my work as a clinical counsellor I have had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in dozens of elementary and secondary schools in the Greater Vancouver area. I try to enter each school with the same thought: The kingdom of God belongs to the likes of these students. I look for every way in which this reality is being lived out, and every way it’s not, but could be. In some schools this reality is incredibly difficult to find and in others it’s everywhere. Global Shore’s school in El Tizate is one such school where the reality of the kingdom of God is very easy to see.
On our first morning we arrived as the students were filing into the main hall for morning devotions. Many of them were smiling and laughing, holding hands with their friends, chatting with their teachers, clearly ready and excited for the day to come. As the music began, I witnessed hundreds of young students close their eyes, raise their hands, and lift their voices in one of the most sincere displays of worship I’ve ever seen.
As the days and weeks of our visit progressed, the care of the staff for the students became increasingly clear. We often witnessed teachers spending one-on-one time with struggling students, comforting young ones with skinned knees on the playground, and staying long after the students had gone home in order to perfect their lessons for the next day. The support staff were constantly smiling at students as they swept and mopped the floors, answered phones in the office, or handed a hungry child a chocolate-covered frozen banana from the kitchen at recess.
Towards the end of our visit I had the privilege of spending a great deal of time meeting with Julianna (the Guatemalan director), Karina (the school principal), and Jervin (the school pastor). I was immediately impressed by the obvious care and concern they have for each individual student. This is clearly not just a job to them. This is their joy, their passion, their hearts. They know the students’ names, their academic strengths and weaknesses, and what their home situations are like. They are highly invested in their success not only as students, but as people.
We spent a great deal of time discerning how they could better include students’ parents in the culture of the school by expanding the home visit and food hamper program. We discussed how they could better support students who were struggling academically with more individual tutoring. We agonized over students who were experiencing incredibly painful situations at home and thought creatively about how the school could continue to provide classes for their eldest students despite financial constraints.
Even though we live in vastly different cultures, and even though everything we said had to be interpreted between languages, I was overwhelmed by the privilege it was to briefly join in on a journey that had clearly been going on at this school for years – a journey to fully realize the reality that the kingdom of God belongs to the likes of these students.
Tyler, Emma, their three children, and their new sponsor student Aiverson.
We are praying that God would continue to provide the ministry with people who, like the Milleys, catch a hold of what God is doing through our staff in Guatemala. If you or someone you know would like to be involved in a greater way in supporting the vision of Global Shore, here are two ways you can partner with us!
The Nathan Trust
While many of our supporters give through a child sponsorship, we want to highlight a giving opportunity called the Nathan Trust. Child sponsorships run at $38/month, but the actual cost per student is over $70/month. We are always looking for people who have caught on to the vision that we have and want to partner with us by giving on a monthly basis, allowing the ministry to direct those funds where they are most needed. We have called this parntership The Nathan Trust, since Nathan comes from a Hebrew word that means “to give” or “God has given.” You can find out more by visiting our Nathan Trust page.
Sponsor a Teacher
Classroom teachers like Manuel and Haydee are frontline ministers of the Gospel to their students, many of whom carry deep emotional and spiritual needs with them to school everyday. Partnering with a teacher at our school means assisting financially in providing for their employment and committing to pray for them. You can find out more on our Sponsor a Teacher page.
The Summer Program
Our 13th Summer Program is going great! Seven young adults from across Canada have moved into a little renovated country church in Southern Ontario. They are currently working on a local asparagus farm while growing in their relationships with Christ together as a team. In July they will fly down to Guatemala to serve us on the ground there for over six weeks, living with local families and helping out in the school and the local community.
The smaller team size has led to a beautiful family dynamic and it has been a joy for us to host and grow alongside this team. They’ve been learning about what it means to grow in intimacy with Christ and have been reaching out and making positive connections with their co-workers on the farm. We can’t wait for them to be on the ground in Guatemala soon!
Come Serve in Guatemala for a Year
One of the most tangible ways friends of the ministry can have an impact in Guatemala is by coming down and teaching English. 2017 might seem like its pretty far away, but we are getting the word out there that we are looking for new English teachers. Graduating school with a solid grasp of the English language is a huge economic boost for our students; it opens so many doors for them and has the potential to transform their entire family.
If you know someone that is passionate about service, overseas experience, and working with kids, let us know! A formal TEFL degree is not a requirement, but an openness to living in a new culture and a servant-heart are a must. You can find out the details at our Teach English page. The deadline to apply is August 1st.
Upcoming Short-Term Opportunities
We’d love for you to join us in Guatemala to experience and take part in the work that God is doing in and through the school. For more info visit our Teams & Individuals page.
Grad Celebration Trip (October 10-21st, 2016): Come celebrate our graduating class! Applications have started rolling in, but there are still some spots available. Beyond our usual service and ministry elements, this trip will also include a weekend away at the stunning Lake Atitlan! The deadline to apply is July 15th.
Annual January Trip (January 9-20th, 2017): Available to all ages and friendly for both genders, this is a standard trip with service and ministry components including assisting in the school, construction work, being involved in outreach to families through food hamper deliveries, and partnering with a local church to offer children’s ministry activities.