Guatemala (MNN) — It’s been over eight years since Guatemala shut down international adoptions in January 2008. Previously, thousands of Guatemalan children were being adopted internationally each year.
Now nearly 400,000 orphaned children live in foster homes or on the streets in Guatemala, primarily due to abuse or neglect. And their only hope for a family is domestic adoption.
In Guatemala, Cesar Eguizabal works as Missions Coordinator for Orphan Outreach. He also serves as President of the Board for the Alianza Cristiana para los Huérfanos (ACH) — Guatemala’s Christian Alliance for Orphans.
Eguizabal and his team are supported by a number of churches and NGOs, including Orphan Outreach. They provide resources and education, and encourage Guatemalans to serve orphans through family preservation, foster care, adoption, and caring for those who have been rescued from abuse and neglect.
“The situation here in Guatemala is really hard,” says Eguizabal of the orphan crisis in his country.
Guatemala’s Christian Alliance for Orphans focuses on three primary initiatives: adoption education and support, the ACH Conference, and Orphan Sunday.
Equizabal shares, “We are working on a partnership with the CNA, which is the entity in Guatemala that processes and does all the adoptions here.”
The goal is to increase the number of adoptions taking place in-country. While international adoption has been closed since 2008, domestic adoption is legal and encouraged.
Interest in adoption is slowly growing in popularity, and the ACH is developing partnerships with local churches to help families throughout the process.
Currently, two large churches are leading the charge in adoption and orphan care. The first is Fraternidad Cristiana with pastors Alex and Aixa Lopez. They themselves are adoptive parents, and their church has opened its doors to provide support groups called Corazon Fertiles (Fertile Hearts).
“Last year they started the first one, and this year we already have four groups in all of Guatemala City, and we are about to start a fifth one,” Eguizabal shares.
The second partnership is with Vida Real Church and their social outreach ministry, I:58 (based on Isaiah 58), which focuses on equipping the Church to “just follow the mandate we have from the Lord to care for widows and orphans.”
A nationwide ACH Conference is set for September 17th. The first conference held in 2014 was the catalyst for the alliance’s launch. On the heels of the conference, Guatemala will join countries around the world in celebrating Orphan Sunday in November.
Because the ACH’s goal is to be a link between churches, individuals, and the thousands of vulnerable children in Guatemala, Eguizabal says, “We are the ones who are sending them off to different group homes and children’s homes in Guatemala. We are also sharing some tools of equipment they can have to help serve those children well.”
Eguizabal says the ACH is also providing critical insight to those who express interest in starting children’s homes or orphan care ministries in Guatemala.
“We’re trying to educate them on exactly what that looks like, because when they have good intentions but they don’t have the experience, that can be an interesting process. We’re starting to see that families and people are passionate about getting involved. They just need direction, and that’s why we’re trying to find the best way to do that.”
Eguizabal asks for the Church in the United States to pray for the Church in Guatemala as they rise to serve orphans.
“Even though we are in different settings maybe or different environments, we are all the same and we’re all created by the Lord. We have to be reminded of that every day.”
He also asks that prayers be lifted up to heal their country of prejudice and racism. “My prayer is that we — as a country and as the body of Christ — can really just get rid of that.
“We can just pray God really to give us open minds and open hearts so we can be a blessing to many kids and many families down here.”