Guatemala Orphan Conference Inspires New Alliance!

Guest Post from David Hennessey, CAFO Director for Global Movements

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead

I traveled to Guatemala City last week, for a pastors’ conference designed to inspire the Guatemalan church toward caring for Guatemalan orphans. It was so obvious that God had been orchestrating not only the conference, but the hearts of Guatemalans and foreign missionaries here for years!

The conference went very smoothly, especially with the collaboration of a team from Orphan Outreach, Hope for Orphans, LifePoint Church, SETECA (the seminary host), and Family Life Guatemala. Just around 300 pastors, pastoral students, and orphan care advocates attended this first-ever orphan care conference in Guatemala, and they were blessed with powerful messages from pastors, former orphans, adoptive parents, government officials, and foreign guests.

I was one of the last speakers, and focused on discussing the global orphan care movement in terms of Nehemiah rebuilding the broken wall of Jerusalem. Just as each family focused on the walls and the gate around their homes, churches around the world must focus on rebuilding the walls of care for the orphan in their own countries, cities and villages. I directly asked the pastors if they would provide the human resources to accomplish this task, provide the tools necessary to their congregations, and support the work with prayer and encouragement. The feedback was very positive, and several pastors and students thanked me for waking them up to this problem and seeing the need for Guatemalan churches to take the lead.

Guatemala Conference 2013
Guatemala Orphan Conference
at SETECA (Theological Seminary for Central America)

I also had the blessing of meeting with the SubSecretary for Social Welfare, Karla Maldonado de Molina, who is on fire for Christ and for His children that are in her care.  While she is not responsible for adoption (another organization, CNA, is here), Karla is responsible for foster care, children in institutions (orphanages, detention centers, etc) and migrant children.  She is focused on improving the care of children in these institutions and developing a working foster care system (which is in desperate need of repair here).  Her willingness to work with churches and ministries is exciting and refreshing!   Praise God for this amazing servant of Christ and new friend!

Guatemala-New Friends of CAFO
Karla Maldonado de Molina, Myself, and Paul Branch (SETECA)

That night, we met with a group of about 25 leaders to discuss developing a Guatemalan alliance. I explained how this process has worked in other countries, and noted the fact that NGO’s are typically the ones to begin the cooperation, with churches coming alongside once they see the alliance progressing. It was a great sign that after a couple of hours of discussion, the conversation shifted from English to Spanish, with the Guatemalan leaders getting more and more excited and talking about possible plans, mission and projects! Several Guatemalan ministries and churches committed to meeting again in July to develop a leadership team and invite other Guatemalans who were not present last night. At the end, one of the volunteer coordinators came to me, saying, “See you in July!” I smiled and politely said, “No, I will not be coming back for your meeting. I will help you prepare, coach you through the process, and support you in prayer along the way, but this is your alliance!” He thought for a moment, smiled back, and said, “Thank you!”  What a blessing to equip and prepare indigenous leaders to care for orphans in their own country and culture!

Please be in prayer for this fledgling movement in Guatemala. This conference certainly proved to be a catalyst, and I am thrilled that Guatemalans are excited to take the next step!