Creating refuge for Guatemalan orphans

Head of Strategic Partnerships, Stuart Noble, visited a special project in Guatemala, bringing hope to orphans. Here he shares his unforgettable experience.

Having driven across Guatemala City in the intensity of morning rush hour, we left the busy highway, taking a sudden left turn down a small hill. As we parked under some of the pine trees that surround the Casa Bernabe School and Orphanage, the noise of traffic faded and was replaced by the shouts and laughter of children playing.

They seemed carefree, talking animatedly in small clusters or tackling the climbing frame – balancing, swinging and trying to impress each other. But the reality is that most of these children have suffered greatly.

Paving a new way for abandoned children

Casa Bernabe is one of many orphanages run by the Social Welfare Department of the Guatemalan government. The need is great. UNICEF estimates that there are more than 370,000 orphans in the country. Furthermore, at least 5,000 children, abandoned by mothers too poor to keep them, live on the streets of the capital city alone.

Even though their basic housing needs are taken care of in these homes, the children, many of whom are likely to have been victims of physical or sexual abuse and exploitation, are still incredibly vulnerable. Without support and clear guidance the risk is that the cycle of violence they have experienced in their early lives will continue and many will be lured into a life of crime as they get older.

But, thanks to the generous gifts of supporters, our team in Guatemala is making a difference through the Wings of Refuge project. Our team visits Casa Bernabe and other safe homes every week, using games and Bible stories to teach children the messages of love, peace and restoration in the Bible.

Carlos' story

Carlos (not his real name) greeted us with a smile, laughing as we tried out our rudimentary Spanish. Aged 14, he seemed just like any other teenager, but I was deeply moved as he told us about his life.

‘My father was sent to prison and I really struggled,’ he explained. ‘I was out of control.’ Carlos became violent and his family rejected him. ‘It’s dangerous on the streets and hard to survive.’ Eventually he was picked up by the police but when his family wouldn’t take him back he became a ward of the state.

On top of everything else, Carlos was caught up in a terrible tragedy. In March 2017 a fire swept through the girls’ accommodation at the Virgin de la Asunción Safe Home where he was originally placed. 41 girls aged between 14 and 17 were killed. Afterwards Carlos, plagued with terrible memories, was separated from many of his friends and relocated to Casa Bernabe.

But Carlos’ story doesn’t end with rejection and tragedy. At Casa Bernabe Carlos encountered the message of the Bible. ‘It’s helped me to come to terms with what has happened. Also, I used to be very angry with my family but now I have forgiven everyone who has hurt me.’

The power of prayer 

I’ll never forget the moment Carlos asked if he could pray for us, a group of strangers he didn’t know. He thanked God for the Wings of Refuge project and how it has changed his life and prayed for God’s blessing on us. What an incredible display of God’s grace and the power of the Word of God!

Later, I watched teams of children participate in a Bible-based relay game, designed to reinforce their Bible knowledge and allowing them to show what they have learned. There was laughter, competitiveness and lots of fun in the warm Guatemalan sunshine. I pray the message that God has not abandoned them and has a plan for their lives will sink deep into their hearts.

Our team in Guatemala asked me time and again to pass on their thanks to you for your support and asked that you keep praying for the children. 

We're able to help The Wings of Refuge because of our generous Bible a Month gifts which help shine a light of hope into the most desperate situations. Find out more about Bible a Month.

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