The beginning of 2021 looks much different than in previous years. However, we are blessed to continue finding ways to serve God in the communities to bring light and hope. Today’s story comes from Steven Hinkeldey from our Sponsorship Site in Guatemala!
Recently, our Jr. and Sr. High boys decided to rough it! Despite COVID-19 and restrictions in Guatemala, we could have our first ever camping trip in the Sponsorship program. Sixteen boys attended along with a few brave staff who sacrificed their sleep (and their backs!), so they would not pass up a fantastic time of relationship-building. In a few days, our girls will go and do the same.
Our program currently has 105 students in the elementary grades through high school. We have some fantastic sponsors who are supporting these students and the work that we do. It would not be possible to have this ministry without their support. Although myself (Steven), Aaron and Brianna represent the “boots on the ground” in SI Guatemala, we could say that this ministry has over one hundred ministers. Each sponsor is that vital to our ministry. So to our student sponsors- THANK YOU for your service and sacrifice!
In Sponsorship, the relationship is everything. Supporting our students with academics is one of the pillars of what we do, but truth be told, it is the easy part. It is easy to write a check and send a kid to school. Building relationships is the hard part.Many of our students come from challenging backgrounds. They lack parental and authority figures in their life and have repeatedly heard how little value they have and that hoping and dreaming is not a luxury they can afford. These are all lies and, through the Gospel, we are trying to expose said lies.
This camping trip was a significant step towards building stronger relationships with our students. Not only did it get them out of their comfort zones, but it also got them out of the house! All of our students are currently studying online. Most of their time is spent at home and playing games on their cell phones.
Our night of camping provided us with some good fresh air and a return to the simple life through campfire hot dogs and conversations that usually do not happen on a typical day of ministry. Conversations about desiring to change came up spontaneously, along with a humorous time talking about girls and girlfriends. Carlos, of our Appropriate Technology Site, shared his testimony, and the small group of students listening hung on to every word.
At the end of the trip, I learned a precious and cultural lesson. These boys want to spend time with us. They long to know that someone cares for them. We went into the trip, having it well over planned. We had evening games, night games, morning games, prizes- all the things we tend to do in a typical youth ministry atmosphere. But, in the morning, one of our students came to me and asked, “Can we take a walk?” That’s all they wanted, to walk. To feel like somebody wanted to spend time with THEM. Not with a program. That walk was eye-opening.
Even after four years in the field, I am still learning about the culture. I am still learning how valuable these students are to me and how helpful I might be to them. My hope and prayer are that as we continue to walk together more, they will see how valuable Jesus truly is for each one of them. He camped with us. He walked with us. Maybe they did not all sense it, but soon, they will!