Guatemala Food Crisis

With many parts of the country reporting no rain since May, Guatemala is facing a food crisis. Several of our projects are in communities that are hardest hit by this. Many important crops have been lost by the drought and people who were struggling to survive are now left without sufficient food to feed their families. I have asked our regional directors for an update on how communities surrounding our projects are being affected and what we might be able to do to help. More information to follow.

Testimonies from the Field

Many of our more than 500 workers here at AMG Guatemala are former students of our various projects around the country. We recently began asking some of our former students to share their stories with us. I would like to share one each month or so with you all. I have been so encouraged by these stories and hope that you are as well.

The following is the testimony of Gilberto Castillo Valenzuela the director of our Oratorio project. (Those of you from First Baptist in Portland...this is the project your children just bought desks for!)

My Life as a Sponsored Student:

Since I was a little boy my family suffered from poverty. My father was unfaithful to our family. He had other women and homes and that always hurt us. He abandoned us when I was 10 years old. Thank God there was an AMG daycare center in our village and I had the opportunity to enter as a sponsored child since I was 4 years old. I remember that it was a great blessing and benefit for my family and for me to attend the project. I adapted to the program very well. I liked to play and have fun with the games. Maybe I was not always a calm boy in the classroom and I was a playful boy, but I always tried to behave well. I had many classmates and friends and I learned a lot about the bible and praised God with songs. I met many teachers at the childcare center, and many people and sponsors from AMG International, and if I would see them again I would recognize them and my heart would still be full of joy. As I was growing up I continued with my studies and thank God I finished high school and I graduated with a high school degree in marketing in the year 2000.

I want to thank AMG International and my sponsor Marilyn Calpist from Canadá, who I hope is still alive and reads this testimony. I am sure she will be proud to know about the sponsored child that she helped for 16 years and to see that I did not let her down but I valued this gift and tried to make the best use of the help that she sent me.

On January 12th 2002, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and I got baptized in July 14th of that same year. I then got married on November 3rd of that year with Patricia, my wife. Since I accepted Jesus I have been working a lot at my church. I have two daughters Mariana and Kimberly. Actually I am the treasurer of my church, I am the director of the music group and I love to play the keyboard. I am also a deacon of my church, Macedonia.

The most special thing in my life is that now I have been working at AMG’s Oratorio project for the past 5 years…the same place where I received the help when I was a student! I worked two years as a teacher and now three years as the Director. The truth is that I feel a great joy in my heart and so much gratitude because God allows me to work at AMG and accomplish the mission to preach the gospel and motivate and support the children and youth to serve God. Many of them take full advantage of the help that AMG International gives them and they value it very much.

Dear sponsors and those who make possible this wonder help for our children, I want to tell you that you have a kind heart are are full of love for many needy children, and you help people not only from Guatemala but also from many countries of the world. I pray that God blesses you, and that He protects you and prospers you for what you are doing in His work and for so many families. I say good-bye now with a bible verses of Proverbs 19:17 “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done”. God bless you today and always.

In the Garden

Through our Life Skills Program, we have been working this year to teach our sponsored students gardening and planting concepts that they can share with their families, creating opportunities for them to grow their own food and/or sell to their communities. The students have been given plots of land near their classrooms to grow many different vegetables that they can bring home and enjoy. They have been so excited about this new program and were thrilled with the results shown below: (we recently had our first harvest! They were all so proud of their work!!

We´re Back in the Saddle

Greetings to all from Guatemala! We are remiss at providing an update, due to our travel to the U.S., and want to provide this with all intentions of returning to regular posts now that we´re back in action!

June 17th we departed Guatemala for Boston (All 8 of us) and began our 6-week visit. The reason for our visit was to 1. Present Micah Nathaniel to our family and friends. 2. Visit several churches and share our progress/find child sponsors. 3. Meet with my former company and solicit their support of our child sponsorship program. 4. Attend various meetings regarding the loss of our small home in Alton Bay to fire/handle insurance obligations and plans for reconstruction if possible. 5. Rest and prepare to assume the Directors position at AMG Guatemala upon our return, as Bob Hastings and family return to the USA on furlough.

Our trip was con-sponsored by State Farm insurance, thank you Lord! We had a provision for "loss of use" in our policy, and therefore were given a budget for lodging and some meals. This was an amazing blessing, as we were able to travel some to visit friends, family and various churches...without any cost for lodging! While we were in hotels they even covered our food bills. We spent several nights in Boston, 2 weeks in Maine, 3 in Alton Bay in a rented cottage and then several nights south of Boston at our former church, Easton Baptist. I don´t know how we would have done it without this provision! Thank you State Farm!

We arrived in Boston and I prepared to speak at the launch of the NEW Spring Air International (my former company). I shared AMG´s work with the new management team and they have agreed to include our organization in their new "Spring Air Cares" program, by helping children in our programs. This was very exciting and indeed an interesting combination of my two worlds!

We then were loaned a Suburban from Rob and Holly Groom (from our church First Baptist in Portland) THANK YOU SO MUCH GROOMS!!!! This vechicle was such a blessing as we travelled without problem around New England. We headed from Boston to Augusta and spent a wonderful week with our families; catching up, enjoying little Micah and loving on each other! We had a wonderful time presenting AMG and then fellowshipping at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Farmingdale (both Mary´s Mom´s and my parent´s church) Thank you Pastor Kline! From Augusta we headed for a visit to First Baptist to share an update and visit with our church family...what a blessing! Next we headed to York Beach with family and enjoyed a week of rain and cold on one of New England´s nicest beaches (that we never really saw). Despite the weather and poor choice of location during rain, we had a wonderful time swimming and playing games with the family.

From York we travelled to Alton Bay where we enjoyed spending time with our many friends and family there. We enjoyed the blessing of having our parents there with us and visits from many friends (Reeses, Ulmers and more) and family members. I shared a presentation in the chapel one night, soliciting child sponsors and giving an update on our past year and a half. Many agreed to spons children and we enjoyed answering many questions about our life here. We ended up enjoying several good weather days and got out on Lake Winnepesaukee with the Turners (Thank you Steve and Beth!) and also the Paulls (We love you Jimmy and Karen!)

From NH we headed for the last days of our trip to the Easton, Mass. area. We were so warmly welcomed by our former church, Easton Baptist and shared in both services. Steve and Becky Lundberg invited us for a wonderful dinner with the Richards and then Sunday we were deeply touched by Vinnie and Nancy Marturano´s invitation to a barbecue, which turned out to include almost everyone we knew from the area!!! You are the best hosts Marturanos!!!

We spent a restful night in Boston and then with many mixed emotions, departed on July 28th. As we walked into the airport in Guatemala that night, we all agreed as a family that we felt like we had arrived home and were excited to move forward with our life here... what a blessing. We swiftly and uneventfully passed through customs and then collected our luggage to leave. An employee of the airport stacked our 10 bags on a cart, lifted 3 of my children up on top of them to ride and took us out to the curb, where Bob Hastings was waiting to bring us home.

We have spent the last 2 weeks readjusting to life here, settling back into our home and me rapidly trying to learn everything I need to know before Bob leaves. We celebrated Aaron´s birthday on Aug 1st with many friends and had a wonderful time. I will be travelling soon to Holland for meetings with Word and Deed (our partner organization) and have also been preparing for that, reading many documents about their relief work and plans for the next five years.

Please pray for our next year here...that I have the wisdom to lead our organization forward, demonstrating the love of Christ and transforming many lives. Pray that our children re-integrate nicely into school later this month and that our family can be a light to those around us. We love you all and will keep in touch!