This week we are going to take a look at one of the ways The Door has lived out Life on Mission. From 2009 – 2015 we were involved with the organization Food for the Hungry (fh.org) and the communities of Paapa and Chioya in Guatemala.
Erin Weaver and Karen Kaufmann were a part of the core group and traveled with many of the teams to Guatemala. The following is an interview with them about their time serving and representing our church, The Door, in Guatemala.
1. Do you remember how C2C (Community 2 Community) and the connection with Food for the Hungry started?
Erin: C2C stands for Community to Community. I loved that name because the name itself just spoke of people helping people. Not an, us and them.
Karen: Community 2 Community was a program offered through FH (Food for the Hungry) as a way for churches to sponsor communities that have signed up with FH to receive help in becoming self-sustainable. As a church, we had ended a book study called Hope Lives through Compassion Int’l, and there was a strong desire to be involved globally. FH aligned with our values of Making Friends and Connecting to Jesus as they focused on the relationship with Christ and others.
2. What did it look like from the beginning? Were there meetings? If so, how often and what did you do at the meetings?
Karen: We met twice a month on Sunday mornings over the 7 years, but typically took a month or two off after each trip. In the beginning, it was exploratory. Getting to know FH, Guatemala, our communities, sponsoring children, planning for trips, praying for the communities, sharing/engaging with the church congregation, planning fundraisers and VBS (Vacation Bible School).
Erin: One of the first things they did was to go through a class called Poverty Unlocked.
3. What was the name of the area we supported in Guatemala, and in what ways did we support them during these seven years?
Karen: Sponsored children in Chioya; sponsored children and financed projects in Paapa.
Projects: Sport court, Industrial sinks, Water filters, Helped build a middle school, a medical building, and a fence around the school.
Erin: Many families at The Door became sponsors of children from these villages. The money sent to FH each month didn’t go directly to our sponsored child but to the community. Food for the Hungry works with teachers, community leaders, and families to better the community as a whole. They don’t want handouts, nor do they only want to pour money into making communities better. They pour time and love into them as well. They train elders and leaders and parents to be stronger role models, healthier people who are knowledgeable of the land they live on and the food they eat. And it’s done slowly, through relationship.
4. According to Karen, teams traveled to Guatemala in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015. What was the purpose of those trips and what are some of your memories from those times?
Karen: To be hands/feet of Christ, share about Him, show support, build relationships with FH staff and families in communities, cheerleaders from afar.
Many sweet memories of experiencing Guatemala together as a team; learning about a new culture, visiting my sponsored child, Ingrid, and getting to know her, and returning to see how God was growing and transforming lives and the community.
Erin: The purpose of the trip was to build relationships. We were always told that relationship with the community members was much more important than getting the project done.
For every trip, we also planned a vacation bible school for 2-300 children. As intensely chaotic as that was, that was probably my favorite part of the trip, every time, hands down. Kids want to learn, and they want to feel wanted. What better way to show them that in being thousands of miles from your home, just for them.
Our days looked like this :
Wake up in a beautiful country, new smells, and sounds. Eat a delicious breakfast with the team (including someone from FH) and then head out to the village. Once we got there, we split into two or three groups. Some of us stayed in the village to work on the project, and others visited sponsored families. Those visits were so special. The families, with the little that they had, welcomed us proudly into their homes. Most of the homes had dirt floors and some were barely more than one room, sometimes divided by a wall or curtain. Yet they invited us in, sat us down, and some fed us a meal (broth, potatoes, carrots, chicken, and tortillas). Others gave us a drink and/or snack. And then we talked and connected. We shared about our life, asked about theirs, exchanged gifts and blessings.
(I’m pretty sure I cried at some point during a lot of those visits :)) And then we were on our way to the next.
5. What are some difficulties the team faced, or difficulties in running a program like this?
Karen: Keeping the momentum of team and church participation. We were a small team that didn’t change much. We didn’t do much in terms of vision or strategic planning or team development which I think hurt our progress. Burn out occurred and we experienced the law of diminishing return in that it took more effort to keep momentum with less energy.
Erin: I don’t have specific memories of difficult times during the trip, other than once in a while having personality clashes with other team members. But even that was very rare. We were all in it together and learned to lean on the Lord and each other to get through the days.
And yes, there were sometimes stories that were really hard to hear, but in a lot of those, there was also a lot of hope.
6. If you were to create a group like this again, what would you keep, what would you do differently, and what should we, as a church, think of for future involvement?
Karen: Have a project charter that lists purpose, goals, expectations that are reviewed/updated on a somewhat regular basis. Inspiring leadership with good project management is key. Maybe have temporary sub-teams for short-term projects within.
And for the future…Don’t hold back because of past experience. Treat it like a new opportunity, and allow God to guide and direct the purpose and goals.
Erin: Oh how I would love to do more global ministry like this! I think the majority of our church really needs to be on board if we were to step into something like this again.
One last thought from Erin as we remember our involvement with these communities, and keep them in our prayers.
“Something that has stuck with me for many many years though…. more than once, as we were wrapping up a visit or just a conversation with someone from the village, they said, “don’t forget about us when you go home.” I wish I could assure them that they are forever seared in my heart. The best I can do now is pray.”
Thank you, Karen and Erin, for sharing. You are a blessing.