In December of 2010, I organized a mission of hope, returning to my beloved Guatemala to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with family, friends, and the people of Escuintla, Guatemala. I spent many days preparing for this trip, preparing myself spiritually, and raising needed funds to bring hope to children in need.
Through donations and my personal funds I was able to purchase over 80 Christmas presents, and thanks to the kind donations of Lorraine & Matt Dudek and Pam Carson I was able to collect additional toys and clothing. Clothing that was donated by Pam Carson was given to Rebeca and her daughter, a young women who took in 9 children after the murder of her sister, and a sweater was given to Eva, a young girl from the community where we work in San Felipe.
The flight took off at 12:30p.m. on December 24, 2010. Arriving in Guatemala, I was greeted by my dear friend Pastor Neri Flores, Claudia Hurtarte, and Karen Tahon, Pastor Abel, and we had a wonderful time of fellowship at Pollo Campero. That evening I traveled to Escuintla, Guatemala, there I was greeted by many children, and they expressed how much they have missed me, and overwhelmed me with hugs and lots of love. Words can not describe how I felt, I missed everyone so much, seeing them again, was as if I found my heart. Later that evening I invited the children in the house to give gifts, as they opened their gifts their faces were glowing with anticipation and appreciation.
Throughout the week I spent time with the children in the community. We played games in the streets, laughed, took photographs, and I spent time talking to the children which opened the door for providing words of advice, love, and guidance. One example of my many conversations was with a young 12 year old girl named Sandra. She lives in an abandoned piece of land in a one room metal hut with her Mother, Grandmother (Who can’t speak because a man punched her in the throat), her two younger half-sisters, and an abusive Step-Father. The “house” has no electricity, running water, or bathroom. One morning she asked if I would sit with her on the street, as we sat there she began to weep, and started to share her life story. She told me about how ever since her Mother married her Step-Father around 8 years ago, her Mother neglects her, emotionally abuses her, makes her work instead of go to school, and her Step-Father recently offered her men for money. Sandra asked me if I know of anyone who can help her get out of this home. With everything within me I fought back my tears, and promised her that I will do everything I can to help her. I let her know what I am trying to do through the Hope Movement, and that I am trying to raise funds to build a home for abused and abandoned children called the City of Hope. I told her I am fighting for you, and I will do everything in my power to give you a better life, for you have a purpose, God has a destiny and plan for your life, and I refuse to allow abusive individuals to rob you of your destiny.
Another day a precious little girl name Nayeli and her brother came the house where I was staying, and whispered in my ear that they have a Christmas gift for me. They handed me a little gift, wrapped in Christmas paper. As I opened the gift, inside I found a letter written by the children. In their letter they thanked me for their Christmas gifts, and said that they love me like a Papa, that my hugs warm their heart. Throughout the week, more children came and gave little gifts, letters, and cards to me to express their love. I would often spend quite time in my room and would read these cards and letters over and over, and as tears flowed down my face I would pray for God to open the doors for me to help these precious children.
Adela Chacón Tax (Sister of Rebeca, the woman who we met) was brutally murdered in July 2007 and left behind a houseful of charming, boisterous family members, including her three children and her sister Rebeca. Rebeca is struggling to get justice in a system imbued with societal normalization of violence against women. There is documentary that will soon be released entitled “Justice for My Sister” which investigates the concept of femicide, or gender-based killings, in Guatemala, and how different people in the rural town of Escuintla remember and make sense of Adela’s death. I spoke with the Director of this documentary awhile back, and emailed her before my trip and informed her that I am going to Escuintla with some toys and clothing, and asked her if she could send me this families address. One hot afternoon, myself, Pastor Neri Flores, Betty Flores, Ivett Flores, Anahi Monzon, and Marlon Monzon visited this precious family to give toys, financial assistance, and words of hope. It was an inspiration to meet a young woman who has dedicated her life to taking care of her children, her sisters children, and fight for justice.
On December 31, 2010, myself and Pastor Neri Flores with the help of Victor (Mayor of the community), Mama Betty, Johanna and Marlon Monzon, Pastor William and Lely Lopez, Merlyn Escobar, Eluvia, Joselin Escobar, and other volunteers organized a street event for over 200 children in the community in the Colonia Madrid and San Felipe. Pastor William drove an hour to Escuintla and brought a sound system and keyboard, ladies in the community prepared the food, and Marlon assisted in blocking off the road. We started the event inviting everyone in the community to attend, and began singing songs with a Biblical message. The children sang, laughed, and danced, and a sense of love and hope filled the streets. As time passed more children came, and even adults came and sat near by to listen to messages and songs. Pastor William’s wife Lely shared a message with the children and incorporated the children in the lession. Later Pastor William introduced me, and I grabbed the microphone. I began to share the Bible story of Samual, the young boy that heard the voice of God. One evening God called Samual several times, but Samual thought it was Eli calling him. When Eli realized that God was calling Samual, Eli said the next time God calls you, say, your servant is listening. The point of the message was that we are never too young to be called by God. As we grow up we will hear many voices, people saying to try drugs, have sex, drink, say this, do that, we must focus on the voice of God. I told the children that you are the generation that will transform your families, communities, and nation. You will be the ones who will break the cycle. I asked them, when someone ask you to doing something that you know is wrong what will you say, and they yelled “NO”, I asked them when God speaks to you what will you say, and they yelled “I AM LISTENING”, I asked them are you ready to be used by God and transform Guatemala, and they yelled “READY”.
After the message we prayed with the children, and Pastor William asked the children to get in a line, and one by one they all gave me a hug. It was one of the most special moments of my life.
After the message and hugs, we set up two pinatas and we had so much fun, one by one the children, and even myself hit the pinatas. When they exploted with candy the children dove to the ground to gather as much candy as they could find. Afterwards, we fed all the children, giving them enchiladas, juice, and a small bag of candies.
That evening I had the privilege of spending New Years with the Flores, Monzon, and Alvarado family, as well as the precious children in the community. We ate, laughed, took photographs, and hugged until 3 in the morning. The morning of New Years 2011 I walked in the room and kissed little sleeping Anahi good-bye, hugged the family, and journied on my way back to Miami. Everytime I leave, I feel as if I am leaving a piece of me behind. I know that my calling is to live and work there full-time, and I wait for God’s perfect timing to return, and see His vision made into a reality. A vision of unity, the uprise of a Movement of Hope, flooding hope in the streets like a mighty river, breaking the cycle of the past, and transforming Guatemala into a Haven of Hope, a lighthouse to many nations.
- Jonathan Roiz
Founder/ Executive Director/ Missionary
The Hope Movement