Reintroducing the Guatemala Action Project (GAP)!
A little background:
In 2011, Pease Church decided to move out globally with our missions... We reached out to an organization called World Renew, and we were soon matched up with an organization called Vid y Pampanos (Vine and Branches) in Quetzeltenango, Guatemala. In 2012, we sent our first group of global servants to Guatemala for a week! They spent their time building relationships with the leaders of Vid y Pampanos and the people of the rural mountain communities they serve. They spent their days traveling around the countryside visiting the local people, learning about their culture and listening to their hearts.
Since then, we have sent a group every February. On all these trips, time is spent working alongside and building relationships with the wonderful people Vid y Pampanos works with. Our church works alongside these communities to support the people of Guatemala through friendships that bring hope and encouragement as well as providing funds which enable them to complete projects for schools and roads. Our entire church has been involved in different aspects of making this trip possible. From making and selling apple pies to congregational offerings, prayers, making different projects to send along and many other things that have been happening behind the scenes...
Here's what's new:
In February 2020, the team that traveled to Guatemala was able to spend some time learning about our new partner. World Renew has recently solidified its partnership with an organization called AMI San Lucas. They are a branch of the Luke Society with its main location in San Juan La Laguna in Guatemala. Their director is a man named Isreal. He is also a medical doctor with a heart that strives to share God's love. The rest of the staff include Ishmael, Ryan, Andrea, and Rosa. Each staff member has a role in teaching and interacting with the communities on certain topics, including community health, youth groups, women's groups, and local churches. AMI has done incredible work over the years and we are so excited that we are able to support them and walk alongside them as they strive to grow God's kingdom and spread His love through action, teaching, and word. Now we will break down the different areas they focus on and the work that they are doing!
1. WOMEN'S GROUP- AMI San Lucas provides various training to women/mothers in areas like leadership, weaving, nutrition, empowerment, and entrepreneurship. AMI also trains a few women in each community to be counselors. These women are provided education and trusted by AMI to lead their peers by example and as a source of support. They are educated on how to weigh and measure babies/children and identify symptoms of malnutrition. They are taught how to weave so they can teach their peers, and eventually sell these products to be used as a source of income. Women supporting women is extremely important in these communities as they are often lonely and isolated, either staying home to tend to their children or bringing the children to the fields to help their husbands for long hours. This allows them to have a sense of community and empowerment as they are able to create goods for income to also support their family. While we were gathered with the women, there was laughter, group prayer, and lively interaction among those that normally would be isolated to their homes. They are grateful for AMI's training and support that continues to strengthen them as individuals and sisters in Christ.
2. WORK IN LOCAL CHURCHES- AMI works with seven local churches by reaching out to the pastors, deacons, and leaders. The program that they initiated five years ago is called "The Calling of God." Its mission is to empower the churches to do holistic missions within their communities. They also encourage the churches to continue including/valuing their youth. The churches that AMI works with are expected to be more than a place to gather on Sunday mornings. AMI provides training in gender equality, advocacy, and project planning for future goals they may have. Because of the lack of government support, they are also involved with health promotion and disaster response. Since AMI has been involved with the local churches, they have begun outreach programs, putting the training into positive action. A local pastor's testimony shared that since AMI has been involved, more people are coming to church and nonbelievers are now coming to him and his church for advice.
3. YOUTH- AMI has done an incredible job reaching out to their local youth. They strive to include, understand, educate, and share God's love, knowing that they are His children and play an important role within their families, schools, churches, and community. They make their teachings interactive and fun. They provide leadership training to empower students, and also help develop personal skills like confidence, public speaking, identity, relationships, and awareness of needs. More relevant issues that they focus on are addiction, mental health, sexual education, self-care, abstinence, learning what love is, what it means to find their identity in Christ, and ways they can get involved in their communities.
4. HEALTH PROMOTERS- AMI has worked in seven communities for the last two years with church pastors and community leaders to provide special training in health promotion. Trainings included preventative health, signs and symptoms of illnesses, and health education. AMI can provide funds and the installment of latrines to improve sanitation and hygiene, eco-filters to help with water quality, and stove ventilation systems. They noticed an improvement in respiratory issues after the ventilation systems were installed, as air quality was improved. The latrines led to less disease and infections as well. It is the pastor's job to identify families in the greatest need, and that family is responsible for a part of the funding. AMI provides the materials and training on maintenance, then trains the family for installation so they are involved in the labor as well. These communities can experience natural disasters like heavy rain, landslides, and earthquakes. AMI helps train local leaders in response, outreach, and how to advocate for themselves to the government. They also provided 14 schools with training on how to run earthquake drills throughout the year.
5. HEALTH CLINIC- AMI runs a small clinic in town that Isreal (the director) facilitates. The local leaders that do physical assessments in the community can reach out to the clinic if they think that person needs more medical attention and the clinic will help arrange transportation and bring them in. It is also a walk-in clinic. This medical care is also a way of compensating their community leaders as they are all volunteers. The cost of care for other patients is socioeconomically based. A specialist comes to the clinic three times per year to see patients, help with immunizations, and treat autoimmune diseases. Their goal is to get more volunteer doctors involved as the need for healthcare continues to increase. While treating patients, they also focus on health education and prevention. AMI has also been gifted a small portion of land and Isreal shared with us that his dream is for a bigger clinic, with more than one exam room, and to use it as a way to help more people and grow their ministry.
As you can see, AMI is a strong organization that is identifying and educating in many areas of need within these communities. Our partnership will look much different than in the past as they are already well developed and functioning. Just like everyone else, their work was greatly impacted by COVID. They were no longer able to gather in groups for teaching and in-person interaction. They were challenged to think outside the box and redevelop their action plans. They found that one of their strengths was their strong youth involvement. The youth were helpful with the technology and able to help their families adapt. Many meetings were held over ZOOM. If someone did not have internet access, AMI was able to provide a small amount of data that allowed the women, pastors, and children to continue to be in contact with them and each other. AMI stayed close to churches, and once COVID restrictions were in place, they developed a "Spiritual First Aid" training system based on the verse Matthew 22:37. They brought in a Christian psychologist to train pastors in mental health as many people felt the strain of the pandemic. They also taught about violence prevention and identification as that was increased during quarantine as well. AMI stayed very involved with the young people while they worked together to develop some exercise programs, cooking classes, and creative games. They also did a photography contest.
Our GAP leadership team met with World Renew and AMI over ZOOM in November 2020 and also at the beginning of this month to stay in touch and continue to learn about updates and current projects. They are so thankful and excited about this partnership- and so are we! World Renew has decided they will not be sending any teams for the remainder of the year 2021 and will meet this fall to discuss the potential for the year 2022. While we will not be traveling this year, we will continue to support, encourage, and pray for these new relationships and the work that they are carrying out. God is at work within these people and communities and that is evident by the progress made and the hearts that AMI sees changing. Please continue to keep GAP in your prayers as we begin this exciting new chapter!
If you are interested in participating, would like to know how to help, or have questions, please contact Julie Jaunich.