Many years ago, a good friend mine was instrumental in starting and leading a school in the South Bronx. God gave him a calling to provide a quality education for young people from one of the poorest communities in NYC. There is one phrase that he has repeated continually, “whatever it takes.”
The phrase exemplifies the dogged determination of our team in Guatemala to continue in the ministry in the face of a pandemic and lockdown. They have exercised the “whatever it takes” attitude to address the educational needs of the rural communities in the churches and the schools. They are not allowed to travel outside the city at this time but they are allowed to travel virtually.
In July we held the Virtual Run:Hope education conference. We had 35 teachers attend receiving instruction in “Developing a Learning Management System,” How to Teach the Bible in the Classroom,” and “Teaching with Virtual Tools.” Mr. William Carrillo who is an expert in the field of education led the conference. Not only were the teachers equipped they were encouraged as they sometimes have to even go door to door to teach their kids.
We deeply appreciate each one of you who have also done “whatever it takes” as you faithfully support during these uncertain times. Together we will continue to share the hope of the Gospel with your partnership in prayer and financial support.
Partnering with the Church to Spiritually and Physically Sustain the Communities during the Pandemic
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
As our communities continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and cries for justice sweep the United States and the globe, I find strength in the words of the Apostle Paul. Our faith compels us to testify the good news of God’s Grace in the midst of hardship and suffering. This does not mean we do not acknowledge the pain of the world and make space for grief. The crisis of COVID-19, even as it has impacted us all in many ways, has also laid bare social inequalities that existed long before the pandemic. Paul’s words are a call to live out the gospel through tangible actions of learning and love for our neighbors, as Christ taught us to do.
As in many parts of Latin America, COVID-19 cases are steadily rising in Guatemala, particularly in the capital. While curfews, travel restrictions and social distancing are meant to bolster an already stretched public health system, the large portion of the population that normally makes a living through informal work is unable to make ends meet.
How our team is responding: Our team in Guatemala City is still restricted from traveling to the rural areas, so they are splitting their time between communicating with church leaders in Quiché by phone and working in local relief in the capital. Through the generous gift for relief work from one of our supporting U.S. churches, we have been able to coordinate with local churches in the capital to provide food and medicine to 130 families in vulnerable neighborhoods. We work with local churches because they know the context of their own communities best and together we can work to address both spiritual and physical needs.
The current funds are sufficient for three months, but we anticipate the impacts of this crisis to last longer. If you would like to contribute to this ongoing relief work fund, please donate here. To learn more, please feel free to reach out to us directly.
Status of pastoral training programs & education: Our Biblical training program is currently focused on retooling our programming through other means of communication. While the internet is not an option in most of the rural areas, we have been exploring other ideas via phone and WhatsApp. Throughout the country, schools are struggling to stay connected with their students. Luz y Vida, the school we partner with in Salquil Grande, is using some internet, phone, and written communication to try to keep the kids up to date in their studies.
Our first and foremost request is for prayer. The ministry is changing each day and we are seeking to follow the next steps God has for us. The relief funds received go 100 percent to the families in need in cooperation with the local churches.
During this time we have not reduced salaries of any of the team members based in Guatemala, meaning we still need support so they can continue to adapt our usual programming to a new technological and social landscape.
Thank you so much for your love and support. We have been humbled and encouraged by the prayers and gifts of God’s people as no one has been immune to the challenges of this worldwide pandemic. Praying for all of you that together, we will keep a singular focus on sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ that our broken world needs now more than ever.
Sending our love and prayers,
Rick and Deb for our entire HOPE/AGAPE team
It goes without saying that these last few weeks have shown us more than in any time in the history of HOPE, the power of God and the inability of man to control the world around us. Our confidence has been and will continue to be in the love and care of our Heavenly Father. Isaiah 41:10 strengthens us with these words, Isaiah 41:10 ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
At H.O.P.E. Bible Mission we have ministered in faith for 70 years and there is no reason to change today. Our ministry team in Guatemala at this time is as challenged as we are here in New York City today. The national curfew is 4:00pm to 4:00am. Travel is restricted and all meetings are restricted. People are struggling to get food and living supplies and most work is suspended at this time. The country’s economy is taking a severe blow.
What is our Resolve?
H.O.P.E. Bible Mission was founded to bring spiritual and physical relief to war torn Europe after World War II. Today that mission continues with a different war. Our ministry team is resolved to continue to focus on strengthening the rural church in Guatemala. We will continue to teach leaders to spiritually lead their churches and reach their communities for Christ. We cannot physically travel to the rural areas at this time and our team is preparing creative ways with the limited technology that is available.
Read about the Founding of H.O.P.E. Bible Mission
We will continue to focus on strengthening the rural schools. At this time school is not in session and virtual learning is not an option. We are working with our schools on how to continue to provide a quality education which our children must have in this new world. We are looking at new methods which will involve technology. These are ideas that we have dreamed about addressing in the near future and now they are the vital needs of this new reality.
We will continue to help meet the physical needs of the community in partnership with the local churches with which we have strong relationships. Our medical team is ready to be on the ground caring for those in need. The rural areas do not have hospitals or clinics. Respirators are hours away. Our team is preparing for how we will respond.
For the A.G.A.P.E. partner ministry, for the time being, ministry flights in Guatemala are closed. However, we are allowed to do relief flights. We have the most experienced aviation team for small airplanes in Guatemala for this challenge to reach the rural areas. Eri, our director, just did an emergency evacuation flight for six US women this past Monday, who found themselves stranded in the Peten region unable to get to Guatemala City for the last evacuation flight out to the U.S. You can view an update of this flight on our webpage hopebiblemission.org or our facebook page “Hope Bible Mission.”
Read on our March Blog Post, Flights During Difficult Times" about a recent AGAPE relief flight
What is the Need
First and foremost we need your PRAYERS. We have personally experienced this in the United States. We want to DO something and they tell us that the best thing that we can do is to stay home. In NYC we have been physically restricted but we are in no way spiritually restricted. We are called to Pray. We need all of our HBM supporters to pray.
Second, we do continue to face the financial challenges that many of you are facing. We deeply appreciate each of you whether or not you are able to continue your financial support. We recognize that some will not be able to continue financially, but we so want the continued support in PRAYER.
Many have asked us about our needs at this time. Here is a general budget of our needs as we consider ministry opportunities during this time:
As we mentioned earlier in this letter God has always met the needs of this ministry. There have been days where we went to bed wondering what would happen to our mission financially, to wake up the next day seeing God’s provision. We believe that this is because of the current prayer support and the original vision of a faith based ministry from our founders 70 years ago. Whatever financial or physical situation your church is currently experiencing, we know that prayer is the most vital resource for all of us at this time.
We are praying for you. Please take care of your families and your communities. God has given His church the opportunity to shine.
The HBM Team
This past Friday Rick received a call from a church in Pennsylvania. There were five women from their church who had been serving in the Peten department of Guatemala. (top northeast department of the country) All U.S. citizens had been directed to return to the U.S. and they found themselves in a very remote area without a safe way to reach the evacuation flight to the U.S. from Aurora Airport in Guatemala City. Rick immediately contacted our pilot and director of A.G.A.P.E. ministry, Eri Alas, who within two days was able to receive permission to land at an army base in the Peten . He flew the group out early this morning in a small Cessna 206 so they were able to make the last evacuation flight to the US today.
We are thankful for Eri and our team with AGAPE! When we first came to Guatemala, Eri was a volunteer mechanic in the hangar. He went to seminary and underwent rigorous flight training and now has his commercial pilot’s license. Instead of working for a major airline, his ministry is with A.G.A.P.E., directing this ministry to edify the rural churches and flying to assist various ministry groups to access areas harder to reach in Guatemala. They are in a very difficult situation right now with the entire country in lock down to avoid transmission of COVID-19, especially to remote regions without the medical facilities to care for the sick. Although this is the best way to slow the virus, the economic ramifications are severe for Guatemala and our national team there. Although our teams have had to suspend all classes in person in the Quiche region, they are still working to share biblical teaching and the love of Christ in any way that they can. Please keep the ministries of H.O.P.E. Bible Mission and A.G.A.P.E. in Guatemala in your prayers as we lift each other up here in the US as well.
Looking back on what God has done with the ministry of HBM in 2019 leaves us thankful and anticipating our next steps in 2020. Many have used the year “2020” to relate to seeing more clearly. We are thankful that God has already given us a clear vision of the work that needs to be done in the rural communities of Guatemala to share and live the Gospel.
This past year we have experienced the blessing of being used by God. We have unique ministry partnerships that we have been able to develop over the last 15 years. Each of these partners in ministry has as the fundamental principle to share the Gospel of Christ. Each of these partners uses education and enablement to build the body of Christ and touch the community.
This ministry started as an aviation ministry to bring relief to the rural communities. HBM has partnered with AGAPE to bring Biblical teaching to these rural areas where there is little or no Biblical training. In the early days the plane was vital to get to these Bible programs. Over the last ten years the roads have improved enough to make going by land a viable option. It can take up to 10 hours but it is significantly less expensive and we can reach more locations.
The plane is still used for medical relief and other medical trips. Income from the plane also supports 20% of the budget for the Bible teaching programs.
This past year the AGAPE team has made more than 30 ministry trips to 3 regions where they have discipled and trained more than 80 pastors and church leaders. This has directly impacted more than 20 churches and multiple communities. In 2019 we fully completed the programs in Ilom and Pombolse. The leaders in these churches are now more prepared to teach correctly the Word of God and to share more effectively the Gospel in their communities.
In 2020 the AGAPE team will be discipling and teaching the Bible in the towns of Samochoch, Chajul, Chiguatal y la Taña. Through a generous gift we were able to add the additional community. We need $5,000 a year to fully support the Bible education program in one community. The AGAPE team will also continue to follow up with the churches of Ilom and Pombolse to provide further help as needed.
In 2020 we will have three short term missions teams that will partner with the local churches of Chel, Ilom, and Pombolse with evangelistic outreaches. This demonstrates a fundamental ministry principle as those who are students become partners in the ministry. There are also former students in the programs who now travel to other communities to teach what they have learned.
Salud que Transforma (Health the Transforms)
This unique ministry is led by a physician who is an ordained minister. He understands that the medical ministry is not a tool of evangelizing but a result of accepting Christ. Our local pastors and church leaders have the desire to live the love of Christ through caring for those in need. This ministry provides direct medical care as well as training of local first responders.
We have an active clinic in LaPerla and a satellite clinic in Chel. These communities are more than 2 hours by rough roads to the nearest small hospital. We have had 11 ministry trips this year and have seen more than 6,000 patients. They have had health Issues such as pneumonia, hypertension, diabetes, urinary infection, prenatal care, etc. In each of these trips the Gospel has been preached and His children have been physically strengthened.
The other key part to these ministry trips is training local first responders who can address the more basic needs. For example, over the past few years In the town of LaPerla cases of infant mortality has been reduced to zero. This has been maintained through ongoing teaching of midwives and mothers.
The challenges that we face are lack of equipment and resources to address the greater needs in the surrounding area. In 2020 our objective is to establish a clinic that will grow into a larger medical facility serving communities within two to three hours of Chel.
One of the greatest challenges facing the rural areas of Guatemala is lack of accessibility to quality education. Less than 25% of the students who complete their elementary education continue on to middle school. A smaller fraction have the opportunity to attend high school Without education most have very few options, especially in this changing world.
Run:Hope addresses this need with a three part program. First is the most basic need of establishing schools in partnership with local leadership and assisting the students to financially attend. The families are heavily invested in this education as well as the leaders of the local churches. The objective is that this school will not be “our” project but that it will be “their” school. When leaders are invested in the school it will be established into the fabric of the community. Our former Bible students are key to this leadership.
The second aspect is improving the education of the schools through the further education of the teachers. The typical teacher has a high school education. The Run:Hope ministry provides for the teachers a scholarship to attend college. It is still a significant sacrifice since they have to travel weekly at least two hours to attend classes. Run:Hope also provides two enrichment conferences focusing on teaching in a Christian context as well as ongoing coaching. We have a team coming later this year from Living Faith Community Church to be a part of this enrichment.
The third part of the ministry is community engagement. Each class is expected to develop a project to positively impact their community. This encourages the students to use what they have learned to support their community.
This past year Run:Hope has provided middle school education for 150 middle school students and elementary education for 90 students. 26 teachers have received a scholarship to attend college and successfully completed their studies for the year. Two community projects were successfully completed by the students in partnership with North Shore Community Church.
In 2020 the plan of Run:Hope is to expand the program into at least one new community. We already have registered 28 teachers for this year. We have also developed a student sponsorship program which makes it easier for donors to participate more personally with their support. We are asking our supporters to consider sponsoring a student for 35 dollars a month which will provide tuition to attend school, a portion of the scholarship for their teacher, materials, and resources for the community service project. These young people are the key to the future of these communities.
Viala Clinic and Training Center
Twelve years ago God put it on the heart of Rick and Dr. Estrada to purchase a piece of land in the Viala neighborhood of Chel. The vision was to develop a clinic and Bible training center to serve Chel and the communities within a two to three hour walk. The resources were not in place at that time and HBM used the land as a coffee mill for a few seasons. The coffee program has continued but we have found it more effective to process the coffee in LaPerla.
Last year God put it on our hearts once again the need for this facility and we have decided to build Viala Clinic and Training Center. This facility will eventually become a small hospital with the dual function of providing a place to train medical first responders, BIblical leaders, and educators. The site is ready for buildings and we will use the drying patio that was donated and built many years ago by our partner church Calvary Bible Church from Lewiston, PA. God always has the bigger plan.
Our first step has been to form an association of pastors from Chel to be a part of the leadership of this project. This ministry is an arm of the local churches and they need to be our partners from the beginning. The church leaders that are participating are participants from the AGAPE Bible programs. The next step is to educate the community about the reason for the existence of the facility. We have a short term missions group coming from Oversea Chinese Mission coming to assist in this step. Later this year we also have a team coming from North Shore Community church. The community needs to be an active participant of this project.
Phase I of the facility will be to build a small clinic that will be operational by June. Our initial budget for Phase I is $30,000 which does not include the equipment for the clinic. Our goal is to have Phase 1 completed by July with equipment when the team from North Shore comes to help us continue to Phase II.
As we begin this year please join us this week as we pray.
The rural areas of Quiche, Guatemala are filled with talented, creative, capable hard-working people who are do their best to care for their families and communities. They are not asking for charity. They are looking for the opportunity to address their personal and community needs in the face of limited educational and economic opportunities. Schools at best provide education up to the sixth grade with an inconsistent school calendar. The agrarian economy is largely dependent on coffee which is controlled by profit margins of entities far away. The opportunity for medical care is inconsistent and the majority are hours away from a diagnosis and medicine. And most importantly the spiritual communities are often led by well meaning but poorly trained leaders.
H.O.P.E. Bible Mission is responding to these needs based on two foundational principles. First that the basis for all solutions is Spiritual and we begin with the local church. We believe that the transformation that occurs when accepting Christ as Savior is what motivates leaders to care for others. The Spiritual solution through Christ gives hope to keep working in the face of adversity providing an eternal perspective. Discipled churches share this hope with others. Spiritually transformed church communities care for the needs of their communities as an expression of the love of Christ.
The second foundational principle is that all solutions occur with partnership. The need is for partnership not paternalism. True change will only occur through programs and projects where resources from all those involved are pooled to achieve solutions. We believe that our brothers and sisters of the rural communities are vital partners as together we each provide our strengths and experience.
In many of these communities we have established a partnership through Biblical training. In partnership with these local leaders we have been able provide middle school education, medical clinics and church edification. Now God has given us the opportunity to take a significant step forward in this partnership with the establishment of the Viala Community Clinic and Training Center which is named after the neighborhood where we are building.
Our objective with the Viala project is to establish a small hospital and training center that will serve the communities within two hours of Chel. Viala will provide consistent desperately needed medical care. The facility will be the central point for the Biblical, Medical and School Education programs. Viala will be the center for building solutions with these communities.
The men in this picture are key leaders in the community of Chel. We are working in partnership with them working together to build the Viala Clinic and Training Center. These are leaders who have been taught in our Bible programs. Their churches have been trained in children’s ministry. Their sick have been helped through medical teaching and care. Their young people are able to attend school. We are their partners in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Please keep this project in prayer as God provides wisdom and finances needed to achieve this dream.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24
Why the “Run“ in Run:Hope?
The rural areas of Guatemala are facing incredible economic and social challenges which require bigger solutions than simply sending financial aid. One key challenge is access to quality education through high school. The “Run” of Run:Hope speaks of preparation and perseverance to run the race of life. Both parents and students need to recognize the value of education even though it does not produce short term change of life. With the dedication of our teachers, support from our parents, and the hard work of our students we are seeing results.
In our Christian school in Salquil Grande our students on an average are 1- 2 years ahead of the public school. The female enrollment in our community middle schools has increased by 50%. In all of our schools 90% of the teachers are increasing their abilities by pursuing further education some traveling 4 or more hours on a weekly basis.
It is a challenging race that God has given to us. The apostle Paul says that in the race of life we should “run in such a way as to get the prize. Paul tells us that anyone can run the Race of Life but only those who are prepared and run with a purpose will persevere. The Race that Paul is talking about is even greater than the race for education in our schools. It is a race to become the person that God has created us to be through Christ. We want our students to persevere to achieve their education. We want our students to realize who they are in Christ.
We have many partners in this Race. There are financial supporters. For $35 a month a student can attend school and through this monthly support teachers are going back to school. There are short term mission groups that assist in various projects. And we have those who raise funds through running. The recent participation of Run:Hope runners in the Run The River 5K raised over $5,000. We appreciate all of you because together with God's power we will finish the Race.
On September 24th we were able to place the remains of Blanche Harkinson in the cemetery with her parents in North Haven, Maine. It took some time to trace the location of her parents and to make the arrangements with the local cemetery committee. The final step will be placing a stone provided by the Veterans administration. We are thankful for the many years that Blanche served the Lord with H.O.P.E. Bible Mission. She has been with the Lord for several years now and we are thankful that we have been able to show this final act of respect to her memory. We will continue to honor her memory as we serve the Lord in fulfilling the mission that God has given to H.O.P.E. Bible Mission in the rural areas of Guatemala.
1 Peter 4:10-11
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
To our Partners in the Ministry,
We often share with you about the partnership that we have with our brothers and sister in the Ixil triangle of Guatemala. We have told you about the pastors who are diligently studying the Word of God to lead their churches and share Christ with their communities. We have shared with you about the teachers who are faithfully studying and teaching in the schools to provide a quality character forming education for our young learners. And we have shared about the medical volunteers who faithfully improve their skills and use that knowledge by caring for others.
Each of these CoWorkers is a blessing. And yet there are others who do not tend to get as much attention. Those who quietly serve behind the scenes. One of those was our dear sister Anna. Anna has touched the life of almost every one of our team members. She was instrumental in every team that we took to the Chel community. Without her the projects would have been more difficult. Anna, along with her daughters was the dear sister who prepared our food and took care of our housing. She used her gifts to serve. And now the Lord has taken her home.
Every short term missions team member that I have spoken to speaks fondly of the time that they had with Anna. She was a wonderful cook. She kept a tidy home. She loved the Lord deeply and glorified him by serving others. We have been blessed by the service of Anna. She is and will be missed. And we praise God that our dear sister is with Him in Glory. Please pray for the family of Anna.
The HBM Team
Anna's Family and some members of the HBM team