The orphanage serves 122 children from toddlers
to teens, providing the children’s basic needs,
including a school.
of Life International website (www
. hopeoflifeintl.org) and saw descriptions
of some of the difficult things we would
encounter: malnourished children with
thin limbs and distended tummies, babies
with cleft lips, severe poverty. I worried
that it might be too much for my children
to handle. Then I remembered that Pastor Rick and Virginia had adopted their
daughter Wesley from the same orphanage. To Wesley it wasn’t a disturbing setting on a television screen; it was where
she had spent the first years of her life.
Wesley was 8, just a little younger than my
daughter. If this scene was a reality for her
and so many other children, why should I
Our family had different reasons for
wanting to go. I wanted them to experience the beauty of Guatemala and
its people while doing God’s work. My
husband wanted to help people, and
he’s always up for an adventure. My
oldest son Tim ( 15) shared my husband’s motivations for going, plus he
wanted to brush up on his Spanish. For
hensive about her first plane trip, but
Wesley calmed her fears. As an added
blessing, my father-in-law would join
us. He had been on mission trips to the
Ukraine and knew what a blessing this
would be for us.
The day of our trip arrived. We met the
bus at the church at 2 a.m. and traveled
about three hours to JFK Airport. A couple of hours later we were taking a three-hour flight to Miami. It took another
three hours to travel to Guatemala City,
and a three-hour bus ride then delivered
us to the orphanage.
When we pulled up to the orphanage,
several children were waiting for us. They
were all smiles. Before I even got off the
bus, I knew I loved these kids.
Once off the bus, one of the boys
jumped on Tim for a piggyback ride.
There were hugs and pats, as though
we had known these kids forever and
were returning from a long journey.
We were hungry and had a simple dinner, the same type of meal that the
children at the orphanage had eaten earlier that evening. In our room we met
more friends: a lizard and two tree frogs
clinging to the walls. The next day we
toured the facility.
Hope of Life Ministries was established twenty-five years ago by Virginia’s
uncle, Carlos Vargas. It began with one
needy child and one elderly man and
blossomed into a ministry that serves
thousands. It is not federally funded but
instead relies on gifts from churches and
private donors. The extensive campus
continues to grow and aid the community and outlying areas. The orphanage serves 122 children from toddlers
to teens, providing the children’s basic
needs, including a school.
Hope of Life rescues at-risk babies
and returns them to the nutrition center on campus. Many of these babies are
near death when they find them. The babies receive medical attention; Hope of
Life Ministries nurtures and cares for an
average of twenty infants at a time.
Malnutrition and unclean drinking water are huge issues in Guatemala.
Hope of Life runs seventy-eight feeding
centers that directly benefit 26,000 families annually. They also have built five
hundred homes this year and are nearing
completion of a five-floor hospital that
We did a number of things during
our stay. We visited a local landfill and
saw people actually living in the dump.
They had constructed shacks out of old
signs, bags, and sticks. Barefoot children
ran around bits of broken glass, metal,
and all matter of debris. A woman from
the village visits the landfill three times
a week to serve food to its residents. We
were part of this mission, serving food to
about forty people. They lined up with
their small plastic bowls, which we filled
with rice, beans, tortillas, and tomato
sauce. We filled their dirty empty plastic
bottles with juice.
We filled two hundred bags of food
with corn, rice, beans, and Nutributter
and distributed them to families in two
villages that had been washed out by
mudslides. As we delivered the food, we
The new St. Luke’s Hospital on campus under
construction. It will be open 24/7 and serve
the whole community.
A large store on campus obtains goods rejected
by large American stores and sells offerings at