Tutoring is underway once more
We're now coming to the end of the first month of the tutoring program and are pleased with how everything has been going so far.
The groups are a bit different this year - a bit bigger and we have 5 instead of 4 of them, as our intake has increased once more to a total of 40 students! Half of these are those who have carried on from last year and half of them are new students, and we are sharing about two of them each week on our profiles (Facebook, Instagram)
We started off the year with a devotional about health and briefly considered different areas - physical, mental, emotional, social, and most importantly spiritual, taking time to encourage them to have regular time in the Word, in prayer, in worship and in fellowship. We are also following our regular devotional pattern whereby some weeks focus on a worship time, others on Bible reading, others on prayer, and others teaching them.
As it's still near the start of the year the teens haven't had too much work brought along with them yet, but that will likely pick up soon as the year advances. Please be praying for them as they work through their tasks and research, to do the best they can do and get the highest grades they can in each of their classes.
And pray, of course, that they would grow as disciples during this year as we seek to share with them more of the gospel of the Kingdom of God as the months go by.
Club Exploradores is back!
We're thrilled to be able to announce that for the first time since the pandemic started we have finally been able to start up our kids club once more!
We placed this poster at the school we host the club at and also let the teens from Project VALOR know that their younger siblings were once again able to come along. As a result, we were pleased to have just shy of 40 kids come along yesterday for the grand re-opening of the club!
It went well, technical difficulties notwithstanding (the battery of the speaker we brought with us died after about 10 minutes of use - halfway through one of the action songs we were singing with them!) and we were pleased to be able to lead songs, games, crafts, and a message, and also give everyone some refreshments.
Wendy led a reflection on how Jesus taught his disciples not to worry about tomorrow but to seek first God's kingdom. The rest of us played the roles of Jesus and the disciples as he talked about the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields
All in all it was a great start to the year and we are excited for the weeks to come!
And just like that 2023 is underway (and we're somehow already a month in)!
We are glad to hear that the Biden Administration is officially declaring that 2020 will end this May (the Public Health & National Emergencies terminate then) - who knew one year could last almost 40 months 😅 [credit to the Christian email news reviewers The Pour Over for that joke.]
In all seriousness though, it is very encouraging to be able to enter into this year without the uncertainty that has come with the restrictions and changing requirements in different places. Although we still see a number of people using masks, and socially distanced floor stickers remain in many places, there are no longer any obligatory guidelines to follow here in Guatemala.
We are, of course, intending to continue to take our beneficiaries' health seriously but it is easier to plan and prepare for ministry this year knowing those changing requirements no longer need to be factored in (and, Lord willing, nothing else will come up that might bring them back!).
Our team in Puerto Barrios has been hard at work since the year started. Officially, classes aren't required to start until the last full week of February and so that is when our tutoring program will start in full, but a few of the students have started already.
For all of them, our year starts with purchasing, organising, and delivering their school supplies. Each teen sends us, as soon as they get it, the list of needed notebooks, pens, mathematical implements, art supplies, etc., that their school has required of them and we put those things together in a package that we then take to them. For those who are new to the program and some of the others we buy a new backpack (they are expected to take care of it and won't get a new one every year, but if they wear down we may buy another). We have also purchased them shoes for this year and will similarly help them with uniforms as they become informed of what they need.
In preparation for the months ahead we have also had meetings with the parents. We use this time to clarify what the program will look like this year, to remind everyone (teens and parents) of the rules that they have signed up to and the expectations & requirements that we have, but also to encourage them that we are all working as a team with these kids (them the parents, the kids' teachers, and us as representatives of the church) and relying on God to lead and help each of us.
Please be praying for our teens as we continue to equip them physically and start to prayerfully consider and plan how we can equip them spiritually in the year ahead - that they may, as Jesus did, grow " in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).
Although Pure Joy has it's break during the month of December, we do make sure to celebrate Christmas with our ministry beneficiaries.
We were pleased to be able to go into both of the elderly care homes and take them a Christmas meal, share a devotional message from Luke 2, and give each resident a Christmas present. We were also pleased to be able to offer a present to the staff of these homes, in recognition of the important work that they are committed to and the effort they make to care for these wonderful older people.
We were also glad to be able to visit the orphanage after such a long time without entering and deliver a meal to the kids there and Christmas presents as well. (We don't have photos to share from there because of their Child Protection policies, but the kids were all very excited to receive gifts and the staff expressed their gratitude too.)
Thank you to those of you who support Pure Joy financially, enabling us to offer these times of blessing to all of these children of God, and to those of you who pray for and over these ministry projects.
May the Lord bless you and keep you this festive season as you celebrate the birth of our Saviour!
Day of the Dead
It’s hard to believe we’re approaching the end of the year, but here we already having passed Halloween. Here in Guatemala they call it Noche de Brujas (Night of Witches), but thankfully it’s not an especially recognised day. Rather, it’s today that is most celebrated - Día de Todos los Santos (All Saints’ Day) or Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Although Guatemala and all of Central America is largely Catholic and this is a day about the Saints in the traditional sense of the word (Mary, Peter, etc., and especially those who don’t have their own feast days), it is also about the saints in the wider sense of the word, that is, all believers (hence, day of the dead). It is a day when people remember loved ones who are no longer with us and many people will visit the cemetery where their relatives & friends are interred to pay their respects and leave flowers and/or candles. Some with certain traditions will also leave food and drinks on the tombs.
In other parts of the country, people will hand-make kites to fly, traditionally seen as bringing one closer to the spirits of those they have lost. This is especially the case in a town called Sumpango in the Department (that is, the state or county) of Sacatepequez where dozens of groups will hand-make giant kites (between 6 & 18 meters / 20 & 60 feet across) from colorful paper. These can be incredibly intricately designed as you can see from the photos below.
All Saints’ Day (or Day of the Dead) is a public holiday, so today is a day off here but although we won’t necessarily be able to visit them all ourselves we will also be thinking of those who have been lost this year:
Wherever you find yourself today, may you know the Lord’s presence with you as you think of your loved ones.
Pure religion is…
Francis wrote another blog post recently that we are sharing here
James writes to the first-century believers that, amongst other things, pure & faultless religion means caring for widows in their distress.
Whilst Pure Joy may not be running a ministry to the elderly in all its fullness, we are pleased to be able to work with the evangelical ministry ‘Dios Es Fiel’ (God Is Faithful), and the Catholic church who run the two elderly care homes we are connected to (Refugio DEF and Hogar San Francisco de Asís, respectively).
These homes are run as non-profits by these churches, as there is no government-run social care net for them. Typically in Guatemalan culture, the elderly are cared for by their own children or wider family, so these residents are those who do not have family or have sadly been abandoned by them.
For a few months now we are grateful to have been able to once again enter regularly into Refugio DEF (pictured above) and run a devotional time for the residents there. At the moment there are about 20 residents there and most of them come along to the sanctuary building in the centre of the complex each time we are there.
Each time we enter we are greeted with smiles by the men and women who live there, several of whom immediately engage us in conversation before we get anything done. They are happy to see us and encouraged by having people who want to visit them and it is our privilege to get to spend time with them.
The devotional time consists of some opening prayer, singing together with them a number of the choruses that they all know, a devotional message from the scriptures prepared by one of our team, and typically a couple more choruses to finish on before the closing prayer. We then hand out refreshments to those present and deliver the rest to those who have remained in their rooms.
At this point we are engaged in more conversation by several of them, meaning there is both the “formal” and “informal” parts to our time there. Both, I believe, encourage them in their respective ways.
Although we have not yet been able to go in in a regular manner like this into the St Francis of Asisi home, we continue to deliver refreshments to the home each week.
[Last month] some of the residents there were close to the front door whilst we were dropping things off and asked when we would next bring their favourite food, ceviche - a dish containing prawns, onion, tomatoes, cilantro, lemon juice and a couple bits more.
So although we can’t go in and have a full devotional time with them yet (to feed them spiritually), we wanted to be able to at least bless them with a favourite food (and feed them physically). This is what is pictured above and below, as we were (as a one-off) able to go in to deliver this meal.
Thank you to those of you who are partners with us - your generosity is making a difference for the Kingdom in the lives of both young and old here in Puerto Barrios!
Francis wrote a post on his & Andrea's blog recently about some of Pure Joy's work that we are posting a copy of below for you all to see as well.
They say you can draw people’s attention by using sex, and here you are reading this blog! (Except, this blog is actually about the subject, not some marketing ploy to get clicks - there is nothing monetised at all about this blog... sadly 😜)
This month (Editor's note: this was July) we are using the devotional times in our tutoring program to disciple the young people who attend it by teaching them about a Christian sexual ethic. Partly this is because it is an important topic to teach on and it’s important that we are intentional in sharing what the Bible says on such significant matters, and partly it is because members of the tutoring program past and present have gotten pregnant unintentionally… 😅
After the mid-year vacation week we started the second half of the year with a visit from the local health centre who came and gave a presentation to the young people about avoiding teen pregnancy and the risks of sexual activity. They gave a well-balanced presentation that didn’t go into inappropriate detail anywhere, and was informative while also encouraging abstaining from such behaviour.
We are now in the midst of teaching them beyond just this “practical” advice, looking at what the Bible says in-depth - not just “don’t do it ‘til you’re married”, but actually considering how God has designed sex and why He wants us to treat it the way He does.
Now, when I say how God has designed sex, I don’t mean the biological parts and functions, I mean the fullness of how he has designed it. As we have considered its purpose we have mentioned three aspects - the first is procreation (obviously), the second is the creation of an intimacy between a man & wife that can’t be replicated elsewhere (most definitely not in casual hookups), and the third is the image it gives us of God’s love for the church.
I don’t have the space to unpack everything we have and will (Ed: did) talk about with them here [...] but it has been encouraging to share how it is that we guard what is precious, and how saving sex until marriage makes it priceless and shows the world how what God has for us is more valuable than any pleasure sex can give us.
This week (Ed: at time of writing) we are looking at lies about sex found in the culture - things like “if it feels good then it’s ok to do it”, “sex before marriage doesn’t hurt anyone”, “but we’re going to get married anyway”, “you need to find out if you are sexually compatible”, and so on - and also lies found in the church - “if you don’t wait until marriage then your sex life will be tainted forever”, “sexual purity means being a virgin when you are married”, “if you lose your purity then it’s gone forever and you are damaged goods”, etc. There is a lot of falsehood not only in the world but also in the church when it comes to this area.
Next week (Ed: that was the last week of July) we will be considering what it means to strive to maintain sexual purity and hopefully all of this will have encouraged these teens to pursue God’s plans for their lives. Please pray that this would encourage them, challenge them, and inspire them to live fully and show the world around them that there is a better way.
The teens were thankfully receptive to the teaching and we will be sending them a copy of the notes Francis made in preparing for it. Please pray that God would speak to their hearts about guarding themselves in the area of sexual purity, not in a legalistic way but rather in a way where they appreciate their worth before Him.
Visits to Homes
We are now into the second half of the year, and some schedule changes have been made, though unfortunately not all of the ones we had hoped for.
We have successfully been able to shift the tutoring program from five groups to four, and we are pleased to report that in answer to prayer we now have three volunteers who are helping us with this program at some of the points of the week (we are also currently exploring the possibility of a couple of other helpers providing some extra tutoring to the teens who would most need it).
Please pray for wisdom as we lead devotional times with the teens, that we may disciple them well.
We have been able to go into one of the two elderly care homes and have been pleased to be able to deliver not only the refreshments - as we were doing before - but now a time of singing, praying, and devotions. We rotate our team through who is in charge of leading the devotional message, and we can also report that one of our new volunteers has a gift and a passion for preaching and is getting involved in this ministry too.
It is lovely to not only be able to lead something from the front for the residents of this home, but to also be able to take some time after the structured program to walk around, sit with them, and chat individually. Several of them have expressed directly how grateful they are that we would visit and how just the simple act of sitting & talking with them means so much to them. It is a real privilege to be the hands and feet, ears and mouth, of Jesus in this way, and we appreciate being able to hear their stories and listen to all that they want to share.
Please pray that we would be able to continue to encourage, uplift, and edify them during these times, both in the messages and worship songs we can deliver from the front, as well as through the one-on-one conversations that can be had with them afterwards. Please also pray that the other home would extend an official invitation to us to re-enter and do the same there, as that has not yet been given.
Unfortunately, the kids' club has not been able to start owing to ever-changing restrictions. Puerto Barrios as a whole keeps switching between being classified as a yellow zone, orange zone, and red zone, and on top of that the school whose grounds we use has shifted back from whole classes to small groups, all of which meaning we can't run our large club quite yet. Please pray that the club may become a possibility again soon.
In the meantime, the extra time we had made for the kids club, and for the second home that we can't yet enter, we are using to do home visits to families and individuals in need. Some of this is the families of the scholarship kids, such as one whose father was tragically killed in a robbery recently, and some are individuals we know who have economic, health, or other needs. Please pray that we might be able to encourage them in the Lord as we meet with them, share, and pray for them.
Ministry Schedules & Restrictions
We're approaching the mid-point of the year (both the calendar year and the school year, since Guatemala's schools follow the calendar year rather than starting in September) and next week for most schools will be the mid-year vacation week (woohoo!)
We've been keeping a constant eye on classifications regarding the pandemic and restrictions around Guatemala, and Puerto Barrios has now been a Yellow zone for a number of weeks. Whilst our tutoring kids still use masks and we have hand gel available things are a little more relaxed, which is also ok because we are in small groups and are meeting in an outdoor location.
Please pray that Covid cases would continue to fall and restrictions can finally all be lifted here in Puerto Barrios and across Guatemala.
When we return from the vacation we will be making a few changes to our ministry schedule, depending on some externals.
We have been in contact with the managers of the two elderly care homes that we are connected with and we are now able to return to one of them, and hopefully not long after posting this we will have confirmation for the other one. We will be delivering refreshments to both homes each week but alternating which home we go into to have a devotional time with them. Most recently we were able to go into Refugio Dios Es Fiel (the Refuge run by God is Faithful Ministries) and share with them.
Please pray that we would be able to go into both homes regularly and without problem to share encouragement and devotionals with these precious people.
We're also hoping to be able to start up the kids club again. There are a couple of limitations on this though.
One will be the school itself. Although they recently returned to normal full class teachings, they then reverted back to small groups because a lot of kids were having colds and they had no way to determine what was or wasn't Covid so are playing it safe. Inasmuch as the school itself is not having the kids together in large groups we will not be able to either, but if the seasons of having colds passes quickly and they return to full class sizes then the school can start.
The other is a practical consideration on our part and that is that we will need to make sure we have a sufficient ratio of adults to children. As a team of only three full-time staff at present we will need to ensure we have committed volunteers as well to be able to safely have many small kids with us.
Please pray that God would help us find volunteers so that this club can start up quickly in the second half of the year.
To have time to run both of these ministries again we are restructuring the tutoring program a little by shifting from 5 small groups a week to 4 slightly less small groups a week. The young people have been telling us how much more they have appreciated being in smaller groups compared to the large groups pre-pandemic, even though it means coming once a week instead of twice (especially since we give them the option of coming on any of the other days should they feel they have extra need), so we are keeping that in mind as we consider future ministry schedule development.
Please pray for wisdom as we continue to look to do all we can to bless these teens and help them finish their secondary-level schooling.
Thank you for your prayers for and giving towards the Kingdom work that is happening here that you make possible
The tutoring program exists not only to help with homework, but also as a place where we can be intentional in discipling the young people that the Lord has entrusted to us at this time.
Each week the teens come along with their homework and we use the time helping them with investigations and exercises and whatever they may need to learn from. But before getting to any of that we start each session with a devotional time together. We’ve shared before about how we aim to vary across the weeks the different spiritual disciplines we use - sometimes with a focus on worship, sometimes on intercessory prayer for the requests they bring, sometimes on reading an extended part of the Word together, and sometimes on bringing a particular teaching.
The teachings that we bring are informed by prayer but also by inviting input from the young people themselves. During the first couple of tutoring sessions of the year we asked them to share with us areas they might like to hear more information on. Some of this is more “spiritual” - questions about praying better or how to read the Bible - part of it is more practical - questions about things like dating or drugs. Throughout the year we will aim to speak into each of these themes in one way or another. Sometimes this will be with us leading a discussion ourselves, sometimes it will involve inviting someone in who is a bit more informed.
This week we have been fortunate to have someone come and share during one of these teaching times - Hugo has been coming along to share with each of the groups about his experiences earlier in life with drugs and addiction, and then his testimony of how God saved him from that lifestyle. It has been interesting and encouraging to hear as he has shared about the decisions he made as a teenager - around the age that many of these young people are - and the effects that had, but then how God saved him and has used him since.
Please pray for our young people, many of whom are living in places where these kinds of temptations are likely to be realities - that they would grasp not only the reasons that drugs are bad and they shouldn’t use them, but also how much greater God is so that they wouldn’t be interested in anything else in the first place
Caring for our Elders
It has been a difficult couple of years for everyone, but not least for those in care homes. For elderly care home residents around the world it has been a tough time of separation from loved ones, and that has been felt no less by those in the care homes we work with.
The care home of 22nd street has been somewhere we have visited for many years, as care homes here are quite different from those in the West. In Latin American culture it is generally expected that elderly members of the family will be cared for by their relatives as a way of honoring one's parents. In Guatemala I am not aware of any government care facilities that retirees may move to when unable to care for themselves and there is not a social care safety net like more developed nations tend to have.
Instead, the care homes here are charitable organizations usually run by churches, and their residents are typically those who have nothing and have no one to look after them. This may be because they never had children, or it may be that they have been abandoned by their family. This means that the regular visits we usually do are even more important, because these are mostly individuals who have no one (beside the care home staff) who regularly checks in on them.
So it has been with sadness that we have not been permitted to enter the care home on a regular basis since the country had its initial lock-down in early-2020. We have, however, continued to deliver the regular refreshments to them every week, waving from the door at those that we can see, and asking the manager how everyone is. We are grateful for a couple of instances when we have been able to enter in a limited manner - to deliver Christmas presents, and when Kathy has visited.
But now we are hopeful, because the residents are due for their second vaccine dose, after which we have been told the care home will hopefully become available for visits by those who have received three vaccines shots. We are prayerfully waiting for the impending visit by the Ministry of Health workers to come and administer these second doses, and hope that once the residents have recovered from any possible symptoms we may be able to enter and have full devotional times with them again.
Please join us in praying that this becomes a reality, and that for both the care home on 22nd street, and the newer care home that we have more recently connected with, we will be able to enter and run encouraging devotional times for them.
Setting them up for Success
It's the middle of March now and you'll be pleased to hear both the schools and our tutoring program are well under way again. The schools (mostly) didn't start until the last week of February (the few that run only at weekends started earlier) so the start of the school year is once again delayed in comparison to the pre-pandemic early-January start. Since school finished late for the last two years they have started late the last two years too but we were hoping things might start to move back to "normal" this year. No such luck.
The week that schools started was the week that we had a visit from Kathy & Joel, so we didn't start tutoring that week (they wouldn't have had any homework to catch up on in that first week anyway) but did have times for the young people to come and meet with us to have some time with Kathy.
Over the last couple of months we have been continuing to put together backpacks with the school supplies the teens need as we have received those lists from them. The kids studying at the weekend got theirs first, and the rest have received them here and there, meaning we have sorted a few back packs at a time seemingly every week - we are still waiting on one or two more to give us their finalized lists!
Related to this, some schools have asked their kids to get uniforms and some haven't. It is unclear though as to whether later in the year, if we return to a fuller form of in person teaching, they may then ask them to buy them. For all of the students, however, we have been buying shoes. We were able to purchase and deliver shoes for all of the boys so far, but the vendor we have been using has been waiting on a delivery of girls shoes for weeks now, so we are having to look elsewhere to buy shoes so the girls can have them now.
More importantly than all of the school related supplies (important as those indeed are), last week we were able to gift Bibles to each of our students.We used them that week as part of our devotional time and are asking them to bring them with them each week.
Every tutoring session begins with a devotional time, and this year we have decided to cycle through a variety of spiritual exercises each month.
- In the first week we are having a time of sung worship together.
- In the second week we are spending time in the Word by reading through the book of Mark, reading through a chapter by taking turns on each verse.
- In the third week we are making space for prayer, asking them to share any prayer requests but also praise reports for previous prayer themes.
- And in the fourth week we are going to be having a time of teaching based on the issues or areas of interest they ask to teach on. Last year we asked them for a list of questions they may have about life, the Bible, school, faith, work, family, or anything else, and used those questions to guide our messages. The plan is to do the same this year.
- We are also planning to use the occasional fifth week as a time to look back and celebrate the birthdays of those who have had them in the couple of months since the previous fifth week.
Please pray for us as we look to encourage these kids in their discipleship, that the Holy Spirit may instil in them a passion for worship, a love for the word, a desire for prayer, and an openness to learning. We hope to see them move closer to God each week as we run this project and know you do to.
Thank you for your prayers and support for these teens!
It has been an interesting time to be in - well I was going to say ministry, but I’m sure that sentiment is true for literally any career in the world. Whoever it was was right when they quipped that we should “take a moment to appreciate that everyone asked the question ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ five years ago gave a wrong answer”!
We have had to learn to adapt to doing what ministry we can in the conditions in which we find ourselves - in some cases that has meant putting some on hold, in others that has meant adapting how they are run to account for new rules, and for others it has meant doing something completely different. We’ve also found that, perhaps to balance the weeks with little to do early on in the pandemic, there can be bursts of time where there is a lot to do.
In a way, we’re in one of those bursts - although that’s a bit more typical for this time of year. It is the time of year when our scholarship students are finding out what school supplies they will need, and so, we find ourselves in need of purchasing a great many things, organising them, and delivering them. This includes not only school supplies like workbooks, pens, pencils, and so on (and also some specialist items depending on a given student's course), but also new backpacks, new shoes, and new uniforms and sports kits.
At this time, however, the tutoring has not fully started back up yet, so it’s not been an overwhelming degree of busyness. For the most part, because schools overran last year (for the second year running - no need to explain to you why) they are starting late again this year. However, for the young people studying in schools that run at the weekend their classes have already started - for those kids we will be starting our tutoring times tomorrow. The rest of the schools start in the final week of February, so our first full week of tutoring will be in the first week of March.
Please do be praying for us to be able to effectively equip these young people for their schooling this year, and for the young people to be ready & eager to dive right into learning as soon as they are able.
Living with uncertainty, still
The Guatemalan school year follows the calendar year, which means since we have now entered into the final quarter of 2021 we’re looking at winding things down and starting the planning for 2022.
There are some struggles with this though.
For one, we’re not 100% clear on when the school year will end this year. Typically the school years starts about the second week of January and runs until mid-October. This year, however, with everything going on with the pandemic, school did not start until halfway through February.
In fact, that time was a whirlwind of its own.
Because schools started 4-5 weeks later than usual they will have to finish later to make up for at least some of that time (and that’s not to mention the weeks lost last year when the pandemic started up).
We think schools are supposed to end some time in November but don’t know when exactly - and it may vary from school to school…
The other thing, then, is that we don’t know when schools will start next year. Because the year will end later than is usual, we don’t know if the holiday will be extended again, or whether there will be a push to get us back to the “normal” schedule. And that’s just considering the start date.
So far nothing has been said about changing the color-coded system, but there is a definite desire of many for schools to start to return to in-person teaching. Vaccinations have advanced well, I don’t know the percentages of the population, but they steadily lowered the ages that could receive them, and are now vaccinating 12-18 year olds. But plans for 2022 are not forthcoming. Will the Ministry of Education change their guidelines? Or are we looking at another year of remote learning? Will we be able to have bigger groups meet for our tutoring? Or are we going to have to keep to small groups?
There is still a lot up in the air with this, to say nothing of the other ministries to the elderly and to the smaller children, all of which are still on hold. We still have no idea when these places may be open for us to visit and minister in.
Please do join us in praying for clarity and wisdom in making decisions as we start to prepare for next year. If you feel the Lord shares any verses or words of wisdom or encouragement we would love to hear them :-)
Thank you for how you partner with us in this ministry
The backgrounds and family situations from which our young people come are varied, but many of them come from low resource situations. One of the families that we work with live out in a small village an hour's drive away over steep and bumpy terrain. Their house is a relatively simple wooden structure with bundled leaves for roofing and with a dirt floor.
Thanks to a generous group giving a donation to the work of Pure Joy we were able to offer this family (who, if I recall correctly, have had ten children, though some grown and moved out) to give them a cement floor in part of their property (they have two separate structures for their home).
At the end of July, having consulted with a builder and having procured materials, we were able to go along and help out with making their new cement floor. CLICK on any of the below images to see the process of installing this flooring.
After we had left they had the process done so that the floor was smoothed out and they send a couple of photos later on after they had started moving furniture back in.
The family is so grateful to the donors who made this possible and we are glad that Pure Joy was able to help coordinate this.
Thank you to all of you who are a part of Pure Joy Missions by your giving, prayers, and support. This work is a testament to the love of God and of His church who He works through!
We've been Tutoring once more!
Want to know how you could help these kids from afar? Read below to find out more!
It only took 16 months but eventually we were able to return to in-person tutoring - and the young people (and several of their parents!) were ready for it!
We are pleased to report that most of them have adapted well to learning from home and having to be self-motivated to get their work done because we can tell you that there have been several times when they have come along to the sessions even though they didn't have any school work to do! But this shows you how keen they have been to have a reason to get out and go somewhere other than home.
It's been a tough almost year and a half for everyone, and for some more than others when it comes to these kids, so we're pleased to be a place they feel safe and happy to come to. Obviously things are different this time around and there are some things that are nicer, and some not as enjoyable.
One blessing has been that the owner of the factory around the corner from the community where most of these teenagers live offered to let us use the space in front of their guest house for our tutoring times. It's a lovely little building in a nice green area, shaded and breezy, which is really important here! Three mornings and one afternoon a week we use this space with small groups of students (no more than seven). The other day of the week we meet with the students who live further away than this (a group of about seven come to that too) in our apartments.
The less fun side is of course what we are all more or less used to - temperature checks, masks, hand gel, etc., to try and be as safe as we can be to protect the kids, to protect ourselves, and to protect all those we come in contact with.
One thing we have been encouraged by is that we have been able to spend some more time in sharing devotions with them. The first week we talked with them about the importance of having a regular quiet time and shared some tips for how to do so effectively. The week after that Yeni & Wendy shared their testimonies with them and the week after that Francis taught on principles that can help us in hearing God's voice.
We asked them in that first week to write down for us any ideas or themes that they thought they would like us to bring some teaching on - not just limited to faith but anything in life - and we received a variety of ideas to do with God, family, career, and more. If you think you'd be interested in leading a 15 minute devotional that would encourage teenagers in growing up and/or in their walk with God please do get in touch and we'll see how we could make it work (we can find a way to translate for you) - Email email@example.com or leave a comment below to let us know - we'd love to have you share with them 😃
Tutoring Program OPEN again!
Praise God we were able to start our tutoring time in-person for the first time in almost a year and a half! We are having much smaller groups every day to be able to social distance and we have masks and other protocols in place but we are so pleased to finally be able to see the young people like this! Please continue to keep the students, missionaries and the program in your prayers!
"Kathy, there is an elderly man that just showed up here, without a family or anything. What should we do?" Silvia asked me on my recent trip to Puerto Barrios. The team and I were handing out care packages to the Project Valor students when Silvia, a mother who works at the dump, told me about the lost elderly man.
His name was Israel. He was a sweet man, but obviously a little confused and lost. He remembered his name and some parts of his background, but he didn't remember completely how he got to Puerto Barrios, why he was there, where his family was, or even how old he was/when his birthday was.
As we talked to several people who live near the dump, they shared that Israel had been there for two nights and that he gotten off a bus on the main road with luggage that later got stolen. He was left with a walking stick and a black plastic bag with a water bottle and an empty plastic container.
It was obvious that Israel needed help, but none of us where quite sure what was the best way to help him. Did he have a family? Did he have dementia? Where was he from? Was his family looking for him?
We reached out to a police officer of the neighboring town who Silvia knew. We were all concerned about him spending another night outside, so the police officer said to bring him to the police station and they would see if there was a missing person case filed under his name.
We shared with Israel that we wanted to help them, but he was very hesitant to come with us. It took quite a while, but eventually he agreed to come with us, thanks to the patience of our missionary Wendy, who patiently and kindly shared why and how we were going to help him. As we got into the pick up truck, Israel got unsettled when he was in the passenger seat. Wendy, recognizing this, hopped into the passenger seat too and put her arm around Israel and comforted him.
We arrived to the police station where we met several policemen. They all quickly showed concern for our new friend and started calling governmental agencies. Unfortunately, there was no missing persons case under his name. When we heard this, we called the two nursing homes in Puerto Barrios-- the one we visit each week and the new Christian run nursing home that was started by a pastor a few months ago. We had recently learned about this new nursing home from a friend who called the pastor and shared with him the needs of our new friend Israel. The pastor said he would gladly take Israel if he needed a home.
Per the police protocol, they said it would be best to take Israel to the hospital to get checked out and the social workers there would work on reuniting him with his family or find another home for him. They graciously offered to take him there, and we said our goodbyes to Israel.
Later that evening, we told the pastor from the nursing home that Israel went to the hospital, and he said he would check on him and see if there was anything he could do.
Several days later, I got a message from the pastor with a photo of Israel safe in his new bed at the nursing home. We still don't know if Israel has a family, but we are so thankful that the community came together to help this elderly man.
I have been reading through the Old Testament, so the word Israel has such a deeper meaning each time I hear it. It reminds me of God's faithfulness, unending love and mercy. He is such a good father who loves his children. Just as God faithfully loved the Israelites, he loves our friend Israel.
Please pray that if Israel does have a family, that they will be reunited. Pray for his safety. Pray he doesn't feel alone. Pray for this new nursing home. Pray their needs are met and that they can continue to bless the elderly that need a home.
Recently, our team went to visit the new nursing home. They were able to visit Israel. Praise God, he is doing well! We are so thankful for Pastor Mario and this new home for the elderly in need.
Care Packages: June!
Each month, we continue to provide care packages for the Project Valor teens and their families. We are in the process of starting the tutoring program (YAY!), but when the tutoring program does start, we will not be eating lunch with the teens like we usually do due to COVID restrictions. As a result, we will continue to provide these care packages each month. Thank you Project Valor sponsors for your continued support!
June Update & Prayer Requests
COVID is still affecting how we are able to work, but we are thankful for our dedicated team who keeps serving this community! Since we haven’t been able to do the tutoring program in person yet, our missionaries take time each week to call the students and see how they are doing, check in on the parents and every few weeks call the school to check on each student’s progress. Each week, they also spend time praying for the prayer requests of the students.
-For our missionaries- continued dedication, passion and safety
-The elderly at the nursing home- for protection and for comfort. Pray they don’t feel alone
-The students- that they do well in school and continue to learn, even though they can’t be in person yet. Pray for safety in their homes. Pray we can start the tutoring program soon!
-The families at the dump- for provision, that God would meet all their needs
-The children at the orphanage- for good health and safety, pray that we are able to visit them again soon. We miss them!!
-The government- pray they make decisions would be most beneficial for the people.
-The Pure Joy car- during a huge rain storm that flooded the streets, water got in the motor and the car has been in the mechanic for weeks. Pray the repairs get completed this week!
Thank you for your continued prayers and support!
Project Valor May Care Packages!
With the funds we would have used for the tutoring program lunches for the Project Valor teens, this year, we started making care packages for their families instead. Thank you Project Valor sponsors for your support!!
Since we are not able to host the tutoring program yet and therefore aren't purchasing lunches for the students, we have been able to use the Project Valor funds to purchase care packages for the students and their families. These packages include Guatemalan staples like rice, beans and corn flour, and a variety of other items including sugar, milk, cereal, salt, coffee, a nutrition drink, spaghetti and sauce, cleaning supplies, etc. We are thankful we can support the students and their families in this way. Dropping off the care packages also gives us an opportunity to check up on each student and see them in person. Please pray we can start the tutoring program soon!
"This is a moment to thank God for his mercy, because He has protected us from this disease that is attacking humanity; But it is also beautiful to remember that he gives us the privilege of serving others and to know that by helping we can bear witness that Jesus is in our hearts and that God loves them.
I feel blessed to see the faces of the teens from the tutoring program and some of their parents when they received the food and school supplies that the sponsors have donated. I can see the gratitude that is in their hearts. That fills me with joy and my heart feels satisfied knowing that I can be a part of this blessing."
Missing Club Exploradores!
It has been one year since we have entered into isolation due to the COVID 19 pandemic. It was something that shook us all, none of us were prepared for this sudden change. We couldn't go out, go to school, go do our jobs, go to the park, or go to church. We felt like prisoners with fear in our homes.
With this, we were not able to do various ministries as we do regularly. Club Exploradores was one of the most affected ministries, and we still cannot bring the children together. I was surprised that one year into the pandemic, I received a call from a mother asking when we would start Club Exploradores again. "We miss very much that our children hear the Word of God," the mother shared. "We want the program to come back soon," she told me. That fills my heart with joy knowing that they want to hear the Word of God.
We know that this seed is falling on fertile ground.
-Yeni, Pure Joy Missionary
Pray with us that we will soon be able to start Club Exploradores again!
Meet Our New Directors!
In March of 2021, Francis and Andrea became the new Guatemalan Directors of Pure Joy Missions. We are thankful for their dedication to the ministry and willingness to serve in this new role. Francis and Andrea both have God-given leadership abilities, and we are excited to see how God uses them to grow and strengthen Pure Joy. Check out their update below!
This year so far has had it’s aspects that have stayed the same and those that have changed.
The continuing constant in our lives is that of Covid-19, a pandemic that, at least in Guatemala, doesn’t look to be finishing up any time soon. The restrictions around it haven’t changed much, except that they did and then they didn’t. The school year here was delayed in it’s start and so kids started back in February rather than January, and we were able to help Project VALOR students register for their courses and get equipped with school supplies. The day that schools started Puerto Barrios was actually downgraded from being a Red Zone (according to the Ministry of Health’s colour coded system of Red, Orange, Yellow and Green) to an Orange Zone, meaning that after months of remote learning students were going to be able to go to (reduced) in-person classes, typically one day a week. We were in touch with them as we heard about how it was working at different schools and we started to gear up to start in-person tutoring times, making plans to have them in reduced group sizes, developing protocols, and coordinating locations and supplies. Then after about a month of classes the Ministry of Education released updated information on restrictions within the different colour zones. Schools went from being closed in Red, hybrid in Orange & Yellow and open in Green, to being closed in both Red & Orange and hybrid only in Yellow.
And so we find ourselves again back where we were. The orphanage and old folks home remain closed to visitors (though we still deliver practical helps as best we can), and the senior center has not started back up yet (but is under new management so we will need to see what effect that may have). Schools being closed means that Club Exploradores cannot run, and the advice we have received from the Ministry of Education is that our tutoring sessions should not go ahead yet either. We are, to say the least, frustrated that where we were ready to start working with the kids in person again this has been almost immediately blocked once more. But we continue to do what we can to help them. We are in touch via phone calls regularly to see how they are, have offered to print off & deliver any work they may need that done for, are speaking with teachers to check how they are doing, and are sending them weekly devotionals to encourage them in their discipleship. We have been able to deliver care packages to their families and hope to develop this a bit over the coming weeks too, hopefully being able to deliver some activities for the younger kids of these families, in lieu of running Club Exploradores. Please pray for us to have wisdom as to how best to minister during this time.
For us personally as a couple and as a family there have been some big changes very recently. We were asked by the Board of Directors whether we would be willing to take on the role of local directors for Pure Joy here in Guatemala, which we have accepted. However, we have only been able to do that in a limited capacity so far because of impending maternity & paternity leaves. And, on April 6th, 22 days early (and over a week earlier than even we thought) we were delighted to welcome Liam Matthew into the world! Charlie & JJ are both thrilled to be older sister & brother respectively and both Andrea & Liam are healthy and doing well. We are taking some time off right now as we adjust to being a family of five and are so happy to be together like this. We are also grateful to Yeni & Wendy who are carrying on without us for a little while, but look forward to coming back together as a team soon to continue to work together in seeking God for how to develop this ministry going forward.
Thank you for your support of Pure Joy Missions and the work that is being done here in the name of Christ to raise up young people who can influence the country for the Kingdom. God bless you.
-Francis & Andrea
The Start of a New School Year!
The majority of our Project Valor students are starting off the school year with online learning again. As a result, in addition to receiving the beginning of the year school supplies, shoes and backpacks, we are also providing the students with monthly internet packages. This enables them to do their school work at home. We hope and pray that COVID-19 numbers decrease, so these students can safely return to school. Please pray with us! Check out some photos of our Project Valor teens receiving their school supplies. Thank you sponsors for helping make this possible!