Guatemala (MNN) — The town of Chichicastenango has a mangled history; one where its citizens were brutalized by multiple people groups. During Guatemala’s 36-year long civil war from 1960 to 1996, the Mayan men were attacked and killed by both the government and the rebels for choosing to not fight.
Today, the loss of their men’s lives is still heavily felt in the Mayan communities of Chichicastenango.
These communities are also living in extreme poverty, with numerous orphans and widows. Yet, there is hope.
Steve Biondo with Family Christian explains, “We work with Manos de Jesus, or Pray America, and its profound work in that it’s really trying to revitalize communities in Jesus’ name…. The way they work is they actually build widow homes, they provide fuel efficient stoves and clean water filters. The elders in the community actually dispatch those. So they empower the elders, they empower the local church to give these beautiful homes, stoves, and water filters to needy widows.”
Family Christian partners with Pray America as part of its James Fund to physically and spiritually care for the orphans and widows. Pray America is known locally in the Chichicastenango area as Manos De Jesus, which means ‘Hands of Jesus’.
The Call to Serve
Over time, Pray America has worked to build long-term relationships with the pastors and elders in the Chichicastenango area. After the civil war, it’s not surprising these people don’t easily trust strangers. Over the years, Pray America has built a deep relationship with this people group and the churches in the area.
Furthermore, Pray America helps the local economy by purchasing local supplies to construct the widows’ homes. But the actual houses are built by short-term mission teams. Teams come and within half a day’s work, a widow’s home is built.
“By noon [or] one o’clock of the first day of the build, we’re actually blessing that widow and her family with the keys to a home that is totally hers, given to her in Jesus’ name. We pray with her, give her a basket of food, and then we give her an audio Bible that has the New Testament in her heart language,” Biondo shares.
In addition, Pray America also has ministries to feed kids and widows in three communities. At these meals, there’s a teaching program prior to the meal where attendees get to learn about Jesus. Once the meal concludes, often times children from impoverished families will take back a portion of their food to share with their family.
Pray America also has a child sponsorship program through Bethany Christian. These sponsorships support an entire family and provide proper education, nutrition, and an opportunity to hear the Gospel. It also helps family with purchasing needs such as a stove or water filters.
Answering God’s Mandate
As Biondo says, this ministry is a great example of living out God’s commands to care for orphans and widows — in carrying out justice for them, feeding them, clothing them, rescuing them, and building them homes.
During one short-term mission trip, Biondo encountered the son of an older window. He and Biondo began to build a relationship, despite the language barrier. Once the house was done, Biondo and his team presented the widow and her son with food and also an audio Bible.
“It was a cool little celebration and we ended in prayer, and that was kind of the end of the process, I thought…I looked off behind the house, the build, and on a stump sat this young, 28-year-old Guatemalan man, [the widow’s son],” Biondo shares.
“He had the audio Bible to his ear, and I came around because I wanted to get a photo of this…. But I came around and I recognized that this was a much bigger moment than I had initially perceived, because I saw tears streaming down his cheeks as he listened, literally for the first time, to the Good News of Jesus Christ in his language.”
For the first time, this young man heard the Gospel of John. He heard how Jesus was born humbly. He listened to Christ’s ministry, the miracles He performed and how He loved the same people society despised. And he listened to how Jesus Christ, because of God’s love and grace, gave His life on the cross so that the world might come to know Him.
But he didn’t just hear the Gospel. He was able to witness Christ’s love and grace firsthand through the building of his mother’s house, the food, and the actions of the Pray America short-term mission team.
Go and Make Disciples
“This is a place where I would really strongly recommend short-term teams to go. You go to the website, prayamerica.org, it’s a profound experience. You’re way out of the normal culture of America, you’re amongst the beautiful Mayan people,” Biondo encourages. “It’s not a hard trip to get to, but it’s a profound trip to go on. So, if you’re a church listening, if you have a heart to go on missions, this is the place to really go.”
But even if traveling to Guatemala isn’t in your near future, please pray for the area of Chichicastenango and for rain as it’s experiencing a famine. Pray for healthy crops, food, and pray for the widows and orphans there.
Ask Christ to draw the people to Himself, and for the men in the community to rise up, meet Christ, and lead their people in Him. And pray for the Church to take up the orphan and widows’ cause in Chichicastenango, as well as the rest of Guatemala.