FBC Avondale, along with two small Michigan churches, has been partnering with Food for the Hungry (FH) since 2011 to help lead a village out of physical, relational, and spiritual poverty.
Our village, Janlay, is located in the northern mountains of Guatemala in the Ixil triangle. The Ixil people are one of many indigenous Guatemalan peoples who descend from the Mayan Indians, speak their own native language, and live in chronic poverty. More than 200,000 Mayan descendants were systematically killed during the 36-year Guatemalan civil war that ended in 1996.
Our three churches are walking alongside the village of Janlay to help them to find God’s grace and discover that they still have a future and a hope in Christ. Guatemala has the third highest level of chronic child malnutrition in the world, with the majority of malnourished children found among the mountain villages. Village children are stunted in their growth physically and mentally, and are unable to reach their full potential. Through FH, our church members and friends sponsor village children and seek God’s blessing for the people of Janlay.
Each year, our members take a trip to Janlay to support a community project, run a Vacation Bible School, visit sponsored children’s families, and share the Gospel. In past years, we’ve helped build a sports court at the village school, paved the steep rocky road leading up to the school and medical clinic, and helped till vegetable gardens at village member’s homes, encouraging them to supplement their diet of corn and beans with more nutritious vegetables.
This year was our most successful trip yet. In addition to running a VBS and visiting sponsored children, we helped install water filters in each home. The families were extremely grateful and very excited to be able to have clean, uncontaminated water for their children. This gave us an opportunity to share the Gospel with them. We also conducted church services and a VBS parents’ night in the community, allowing us to share the Gospel with them in larger groups.
We’ve seen many changes in Janlay since the beginning of our relationship. The children have become attached to us, and us to them, almost immediately since our first trip, but the adults are also now growing to know and love us. Their demeanor has shifted from polite aloofness and suspicion to warm embrace and trust.
In addition, we’ve seen the Gospel grow. During our first VBS, we noticed that the children had barely any understanding of the Gospel. Over the past few years, however, we’ve seen a greater depth in their understanding of Christ and His Good News. A year ago, our team brought Bibles for the village school so that every child could have their own. Unknown to us, the Guatemalan government had just previously mandated that every school child would be taught the Bible weekly.
In the past year, Janlay school children have read from the Bible twice a week for 45 minutes at a time. Through our monetary gift, the three churches in the village, two Evangelical and one Catholic, will all run the AWANA program weekly for village children this next year. This year, in an effort to supply the village pastors with Bible resources, we were able to give a laptop to each church and the village mayor, loaded with Bible software, several theological books, and a full library of Charles Spurgeon sermons.
We’re excited at the progress we’re seeing in this village and know that the Lord is using us to end spiritual poverty at the same time we are addressing physical poverty and child malnutrition. It’s an honor to be part of God’s work!