Jeff is an energetic businessman with a heart of gold. We first met Jeff four years ago in Guatemala at the Transformation Guatemala event, turns out we live in the same area in Canada and we have since become good friends. On that trip he also visited Hope of Life, a ministry located in the mountains about 4 hours from Guatemala City, and it changed his life. When I heard the stories and read the book ‘Dreams are Cheap’, going to Hope of Life was now on my bucket list! A couple of months ago while we were having dinner with Jeff, it came out that I still had not been to Hope of Life. Jeff immediately invited Mike and I to go with him on his next trip, and here we are.
Arriving in Guatemala we stayed in the beautiful Camino Real Hotel for the night and the next day had breakfast with a local businessman. He invited us to tour the private school that he and several other businessmen support here in the city. This is not just any school, but a school that gives the poor a chance to be educated and move out of the cycle of poverty. Girls and boys are selected because they have good grades and good attitudes. They are tested and interviewed and then their parents are interviewed as well. If accepted they will board at the school free of charge for the four years of high school. We visited the girls school which has just under a thousand girls attending. They study with computers, have science labs, learn to sew by making their own uniforms, live in an organized and structured environment and most of all are exposed to a better way of living. All 22 Departments (States) in the country are represented. We were welcomed with paper flower leis and entertained with traditional dances from Guatemala, Mexico, Korea and hiphop! We were treated like royalty!
What an opportunity for these girls. If their grades are good enough they are also eligible for scholarships to university, but all are skilled enough after graduation to get solid jobs. The organization was founded by an American priest who went to Korea in the 50’s and saw the need to help the many children who were abandoned in the streets after the war. He established a school for them with the help of donors and now there are schools like this in Mexico, Brazil, Korea, The Philippines, Guatemala and Honduras. The nuns who showed us around had been students themselves, now serving and teaching the next generation and giving back. A great start to our day!
Then it was off to the airport to take a helicopter to Hope of Life, a 45 minute ride vs. a four hour car ride winding through the mountains. Thank you Jeff!
Guatemala is a country of mountains, even the capital city is built on the tops of hills and divided by deep gorges. Hope of Life is also built on the top of a mountain. The first thing that comes into view is the white 5 story hospital that represents everything Hope of Life stands for – saving lives.
Carlos Vargas, the founder of HOL was born in Llano Verde, Guatemala and went to the States when he was 16. He began working in the jewelry business, was a hard worker and soon he had started his own jewelry business. He married, had 5 children and was very successful, then he got very sick and could hardly walk. The doctors gave little hope and he returned to his village thinking he would die there. One day a blind man being led by a girl came by begging. Carlos gave him some money and found out he had no home. He was touched with compassion and that night he prayed asking God to heal him and promising to come back to help the poor, neglected and forgotten people of Guatemala. Three days later he was completely healed and he made good on his promise by buying an acre of land and began building a house with additional rooms added to take in the homeless and suffering people of his village.
That was 30 years ago and today there are many buildings, places for the elderly, for the disabled, for the orphans, a hospital, a pre-school, grade school and high school, chapels, rooms for the hundreds of volunteers that now come to serve, four huge warehouses filled with donations, fish farms, cattle, a dining room that seats 200, coffee shop, gift shop, a large beautiful pool surrounded by palm trees, paved roads, pathways and models of new projects that are just a vision waiting for the funding to be built – I’m sure I left things out! An amazing place that words can’t adequately describe. Check them out @ http://www.hopeoflifeintl.net
When Carlos stepped out in faith and bought that first acre of land, he had no idea what it would turn into. He just took that first step and God has blessed him abundantly above what he could have ever imagined. People have come along side and partnered with him, donations of money and supplies have poured in, and Carlos keeps taking steps of faith by dreaming and creating models of new projects and plans. I have been personally challenged, where do I need to take a step of faith and get out of my comfort zone, to not be satisfied to coast, be comfortable, be safe. Where can I, should I, step out? I am blessed to be a blessing, it is not just for me. What can I, should I, do? I know it won’t be easy, I’ll have to stretch, to grow, to change. But if I stop growing I begin to shrink. I don’t want to miss out on anything because I didn’t have the courage to do something new or challenging. It may be as simple as sharing the love of God with someone, to step out in faith to say something rather than just stay silent. It’s an adventure and risk comes with adventure. There is no adventure in playing it safe, taking it easy, only doing what I know. I wonder where it will take me?