Mission Group and Lutheran Coalition Bring Hope to Guatemala

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  Members of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., present women in Vista Bella, Guatemala, with sewing machines.

Members of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., present women in Vista Bella, Guatemala, with sewing machines.

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Jan. 9, 2013) – Wearing brightly colored neon T-shirts and wide grins, members of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., empowered women in Vista Bella, Guatemala, by presenting them with nine sewing machines while on a mission trip with Food For The Poor. The enthusiastic smiles exchanged instantly united the group of 19 who traveled late last year with the South Florida-based nonprofit.

“I was so excited to bring the sewing machines to the ladies as a way to offer hope for their future,” said Karen Kuehnert, the mission leader at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church. “My heart went out to these women after seeing that they only had three sewing machines, and a [thread] serger to work with.  [They have] no lights to sew by, just two windows and a half-roof over the dirt floor. The beauty of their fabric creations is only what can give them pride, but the conditions under which they work limits how much they can produce, causing defeat.”

Food For The Poor development projects for women include vocational training courses in baking and sewing, group aquaculture and animal husbandry projects, access to clean water, permanent housing and shelter, and food for expecting mothers.

The sincere gratitude they received from the Guatemalan women moved Kuehnert to commit to covering the training center’s monthly rent and cost of supplies.

“After hearing about the rent they pay and [the] cost for goods, I felt compelled to pay their rent for at least the next year,” said Kuehnert. “I am praying for guidance and direction concerning fundraising to build a vocational center for these ladies to sew under better conditions, and be able to use it to teach others this skill and possibly other skills, like baking, candy making, knitting, crocheting, pottery making – the ideas are endless. And within this ‘Sewing Hope Center’ the Guatemalan women and children will learn about the hope they can have in Jesus.”

Mission group members also purchased food in a local market to prepare meals for approximately 80 students, helped to paint a school, and saw firsthand the poor’s need for access to housing, education and safe drinking water.

Travelers included Roland and Lyla Buuck (Waukesha, Wis.), Laura Elmer (Ft. Wayne), Julie Godwin-Crum (Ft. Wayne), Olivia Hall (Ft. Wayne), Rebecca Graham (Ft. Wayne), Gary Hagermann (Weston, Fla.), Karen Hall (Ft. Wayne), Erin Koglin (Ft. Wayne), Karen Kuehnert (Ft. Wayne), Natalie Kuehnert (Ft. Wayne), Jaime McNamara (Ft. Wayne), Heidi Marks (Ft. Wayne), David and Roslyn Reyes (Sherman Oaks, Calif.), Pastor Paul Short Jr. (Cape Girardeau, Mo.), James and Mary Whelan (Roslyn, N.Y.), and Mary White (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.).

In Guatemala, Food For The Poor partners with Caritas Arquidiocesana, The Order of Malta, and The Lutheran Church in Guatemala. The Rev. Ignacio Chan, President of the Lutheran Council of Guatemala, worked alongside Food For The Poor staff to explain to travelers how the charity is making a difference in the lives of the destitute.

In April 2013, members of the Lutheran Coalition will return with Food For The Poor to Pacomon in Salcaja, Guatemala, to inaugurate the school they raised money to build. The six Lutheran pastors to spearhead the initiative “Hope For Guatemala” first traveled in May 2012 to witness how Food For The Poor projects positively impact the lives of thousands of Guatemalans who previously lived in extreme poverty.

On their first day in Salcaja, they visited an outdoor classroom. The group was moved to build the school when they saw teachers were forced to teach from white boards tied to trees, and students utilized wood planks and cinder blocks to construct makeshift bench seats and school desks. Construction on the three-classroom school is being supervised by Rev. Chan.

The Lutheran Coalition is currently raising money to provide the community of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, with access to clean, safe drinking water. The Lutheran Church will be Food For The Poor’s in-country partner to help implement this project. Donations to Hope For Guatemala are accepted at www.FoodForThePoor.org/esperanza.

Members of the Lutheran Coalition include Pastor John Vaughn, of St. Paul Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Prior Lake, Minn.; Pastor Jeffery Skopak of Fountain of Life Lutheran Church and School (LCMS) in Tucson, Ariz.; Pastor Gary Bauch of St. John Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Hamlin, N.Y.; Pastor Kevin Wackett of Bethany Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Salisbury, Md.; Pastor David Winter of St. John Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Norwood Young America, Minn.; and Pastor Paul “Joe” Conner of Lamb of God Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Haines City, Fla.

To learn how your congregation can join the Lutheran Coalition’s mission, please contact Jayne Cunningham by calling 1-877-654-2960, ext. 6803 or emailing jaynec@foodforthepoor.com.

Food For The Poor, named by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. 

For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

Jennifer Leigh Oates
Food For The Poor
Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6054