It is a beautiful experience to travel to another country on a short-term mission trip and experience all that the Lord is doing around the world. But have you ever been on a mission trip with your coworkers, paid for by the company? Well, several members of the Inspire team were able to share this very experience in November 2022 as we headed off to Guatemala together!
By way of introduction, Inspire Investing has long held a giving pledge as a corporation to donate at least 50% of our net profit generated from management fees to fund Christian ministry around the world (learn more at inspireinvesting.com/give50). Back in 2018, Inspire partnered with World Help and Hope of Life to take on a Total Village Transformation project in Guatemala to provide much-needed infrastructure and aid to our adopted village, Colonia Taguayni outside of La Union in Guatemala (learn more at inspireinvesting.com/guatemala).
The leadership team at Inspire had hopes of taking our staff and advisor partners to see the village transformation back in 2020...but COVID. As travel restrictions lifted and medical safety resumed a sense of calm, the trip made it back on the books! The goals for this trip were to dedicate the church building that has been constructed, connect with the local pastor in that region to learn how to help the community better, and review the projects that we have been blessed to be a part of (water supply, school repairs, medical clinic items, etc.). We also hoped to deliver food bags and hygiene kits to the families who live in the village and share the gospel of Christ with those we meet. Selfishly, I was also greatly looking forward to meeting the sponsor children my family supports monthly, all of whom live in Colonia Taguayni, and hand-delivering notes that my kids prepared for them!
Travel was relatively uneventful as we arrived at our destination in the Southeast corner of Guatemala. Thousands of acres of land just north of Zacapa constitutes the compound we call Hope of Life. On this land, you will find orphanages, homes for disabled children, schools, a hospital and clinics, elder care facilities, homes for rescued families, conference grounds, a pastor training center, an egg/chicken farm, heads of cattle, soccer fields, various guest lodging quarters, a cafeteria, swimming pools and so much more! The country of Guatemala recognizes this compound as a reliable safe haven for the nation's neediest families and children. It is the point of origin for ministry all over the region and a beacon of God's love for his children. The ministry is run by a staff of 500 and is led by dedicated servants who are sacrificially doing the Lord's work to care for widows and orphans. (Please take a few moments to learn about this incredible ministry by visiting: hopeoflifeintl.org)
Our team stayed in the Business Center on campus. This is a unique building designed for - you guessed it - business folks who travel down to Guatemala to observe the ministry and consider how they can get involved. The building is on a ridge with stunning views of a canyon on either side. Surrounding the structure is a moat with bridge access. The water is home to fish, turtles, and toads and features waterfalls and a rowboat for your paddling leisure. This may not fit the bill for what you might expect from your traditional mission trip, but the logic is simple: tired and drained people do a poor job at loving and serving like Christ. Therefore, the facilities are designed to provide rest and recharge so guests can give their all when they head into the surrounding villages for ministry.
Upon arrival at Hope of Life, we were shown our rooms and provided a tour of the compound. It was incredible to hear the stories of lives changed and hope restored for these neglected children, abandoned elderly and broken families. Visiting "Kelly's House" (a home for children with special needs) and seeing the smiles and joy of these precious little ones left dry eyes hard to find as the gravity of the impact set in.
Following our tour, we headed to a warehouse filled with items acquired or donated that were planned for distribution to recipients in need. We packed bags of dry food items and hygiene kits to hand out to the families in our adopted village, Colonia Taguayni. Following dinner, we held a team debrief and a round of corporate prayer as we postured ourselves to be used as a conduit of Christ's love for the villagers we would visit the next day.
Our visit to Colonia Taguayni the next day was a humbling and joyful adventure. After a three-hour trek to the village, consisting of unconventional travel experiences, we arrived at the church building that we raised funds to erect back in 2018. Pastora Betsy assembled a crowd of villagers to greet us, and they welcomed us with warmth and generosity. She greeted us with a public welcome and introduced the two village leaders. These two men act as spokespersons on behalf of the village and are expected to know the needs of their people and generally the happenings in the area. The village leaders took turns welcoming and thanking us for our work, then turned the stage back to Pastora Betsy, who spoke about how the church and ministry is growing in that area. A few of us on the trip had sponsored children in the village, so time was set aside for donors to meet their sponsor children and give gifts and cards.
Next, we broke up into three teams and traveled the village, going door-to-door for home visits as we distributed the hygiene kits we had prepared. We visited with families, learned of their needs, received their hospitality, and prayed with them. It was a beautiful experience! In a few cases, the villagers had seemingly nothing but still wanted to send our group with gifts and did so with joy. During these visits, we invited the villagers to attend a church and school dedication service that would occur the next day, where we would hand out the food bags that we packed along with Christian tracks explaining the gospel in simple ways, written in Spanish, to share the love of Christ.
That evening, during our debrief, our team was contemplative and prayerful as we considered what the Lord would call us to do in response to the evident needs of this community. Pity and sorrow were not emotions expressed by the group. Instead, there was a profound sense that these villagers may have a lot to teach us about how we, perhaps, may be the ones who are poor. Not in material possessions nor finances, but in the richness of relationships, in the hope of Christ, and the depth of peace and contentment. Just as the Lord spurs us to act on behalf of the physical needs of these people, He is also calling us to examine our lives for opportunities to make changes that will allow His Spirit to move in more powerful ways amidst our family, our home, and our community.
The next day, we returned to Taguayni mid-morning and were greeted by hundreds of villagers. It seemed that the whole community arrived to welcome us and participate in the dedication ceremony! Their show of support touched us.
We began our visit at the village school, which provides education to the children in the surrounding area. In 2018, the school needed many things, including a new roof, additional classrooms, and recreation playground equipment. Glory be to God that we were able to provide these things for the community! The teachers at the ceremony expressed their sincere gratitude for these improvements.
Next, we migrated up the road to the medical clinic, where we made some repairs. We reviewed the supply shelves of the clinic to find that they were mostly bare and in need of basic supplies such as bandages, gauze, Tylenol, gloves, and other simple items usually taken for granted. We will prayerfully consider how we can assist with routine supplies to meet this need.
At this point, we paused the tour in front of the clinic to do a ribbon cutting in honor of the school and clinic renovations. It was quite celebratory as the crowd counted down "3-2-1..." as Robert had the privilege of cutting the ribbon accompanied by a cacophony of firecrackers!
Keeping the celebratory momentum, the crowd led the way to the new church building, where we assembled in front of the structure and drew the villagers in for a message. Robert Netzly, CEO of Inspire, read aloud from 1 John chapter 5 (Spanish translation) and testified of the work of Christ. It was amazing to see the villagers gathered near receiving a message in their native tongue about the love and sacrifice of Christ, the hope of glory, and to witness the boldness and grace with which this message was shared by Robert and followed on by Pastora Betsy.
Following the message, we held a dedication ceremony for the church. Pastora Betsy was overwhelmed with gratitude, joy, and thanksgiving as she cut the ribbon to celebrate the event. This structure meant much more to her than we may ever truly know.
Next up was food bag distribution. The villagers lined up to receive their items by family unit and were furnished with a bag of food (that will provide some basics for about two weeks), a hygiene kit, and gospel tracks printed in Spanish. This process took quite a while, as there were almost two hundred family units to serve. However, our team later commented that the villagers were incredibly thankful and so kind and loving as they came through to collect these essentials.
Leaving the village came with emotional goodbyes as additional staff members found their newly sponsored children, took photos, and promised to write. We piled into the beds of our pick-up truck taxis and waved "see-you-later" to the locals as Colonia Taguayni drifted into the distance. We had lunch down the hill in La Union and finished our trip back to Hope of Life.
After a day of sightseeing in Antigua, our team headed home. We were physically tired, but our spirits were strong. This journey was wonderful. Our group of travelers blended well as a cohesive team as we labored together for God's glory. We pray that the Lord is glorified in Colonia Taguayni and that the church grows in number and depth of faith.
Several more children still need to be sponsored in this village. If the Lord is laying this on your heart, you can join us in this effort by visiting: worldhelp.net/guatemala-colonia-tawayni
We are thankful for our clients, advisors, and team, whom all work together to make this ministry possible! We cannot do this without you. May the Lord be glorified in this work, and may we be presented with additional opportunities to share the love of Christ with the world! We plan to return soon and hope that many of you reading this will have the opportunity to join us on our next adventure. Blessings and peace to you all!