Journey of Hope to Guatemala
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (April 17, 2009) — The president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, and Food For The Poor Executive Director Angel Aloma have just returned from a three-day “Journey of Hope” to Guatemala. The men witnessed how the Lutheran Church of Guatemala – an LCMS partner – is working with Food For The Poor to alleviate suffering in the country, where an estimated 75 percent of Guatemalans live in poverty.
The Lutheran Church of Guatemala has several initiatives underway in the country. These include water projects, school renovations, orphanages, tilapia farms…even a unique animal husbandry operation – The Widows’ Pig Farm. This facility, run by formerly destitute widows, has become a productive business, empowering the women as successful entrepreneurs and providing an income.
Guatemala, which is slightly larger in land area than Ohio, has a largely agricultural economy and has been battered in recent years by flooding and drought. Because of this, malnutrition and hunger have become more prevalent.
"While having visited many countries and communities where the poorest of the poor live, I was moved, as have been numerous LCMS leaders before me, to experience firsthand in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, the plight of some of the people served by Food For The Poor,” Kieschnick said. “These are truly destitute people, but by the grace of God and the fine work of Food For The Poor, aided by the people of the Lutheran Church of Guatemala, these people, many of whom are women and children, not only are receiving assistance of food and clothing for their daily sustenance, but also are learning skills that are enabling them to support themselves.”
Pastors Dick Goodwill and Walt Volz were part of the group that made what they called “an emotional journey.” Goodwill said it was his first trip to Guatemala, and he was particularly touched by the story of a widow who had no home. Given the chance to have a reliable roof over her head for the first time, she insisted that others take it instead. “I thought, we have to build that lady a house,” Goodwill said, and he promised to build her one.
Because it was a three-day trip, the itinerary was filled with back-to-back visits. In addition to the pig farm, the group visited a nutrition center, water and housing projects and Colegio Martin Lutero project at Chajabal. When the visitors stopped at the garbage dump, they talked with the people who gather there daily to pick through trash, and then Kieschnick offered an impromptu but powerful prayer amid the mess.
At one stop, where Food For The Poor had brought clean water to an entire community, the group was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic welcome and sheer joy expressed by the children who rushed out to greet them and who jostled to be included in the photographs. “They not only had recovered their health, but they had recovered their self-esteem and confidence, even the very little ones,” Aloma said. “The people, especially the children, really touched our hearts.”
Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the United States, serves the poor of the Caribbean and Latin America. Food For The Poor provides food, emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, basic housing, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. More than 97 percent of all donations received go toward programs that help the poor. For more information, visit www.foodforthepoor.org.
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