Jesika is a young mother who lives in the village of Conevisa, just outside of Zacapa, Guatemala. She and her husband and 3 daughters have settled on land that was formerly Zacapa’s city garbage dump. About 15 years ago, the mayor had the old dump bulldozed, covered with fill dirt and designated to homeless families who had no land of their own. Jesika’s family had been driven from their home in the mountains by druglords who seized it from them in a violent raid. She and her daughters began attending church in Conevisa in 2015. Two years later, Life of Promise Ministries (LOP) offered her a job in their sewing workshop. She was hesitant to accept, even though it meant she could earn enough money to pay for her daughters’ education. She hesitated because her husband was abusive and had recently forbidden her to attend church.
Although he was away a great deal, he often physically abused Jesika and their daughters when he was home. She was also concerned that he would take the money she earned and use it to buy alcohol. Jesika shared her concerns with Tom and Arlene Richmond, the missionaries who founded LOP in 2011, and together they prayed about the situation. The Richmonds advised Jesika to step out in faith and trust that God would guard the money she earned for appropriate use. So Jesika pressed on through her uncertainties and took the job, becoming one of the best seamstresses in the class. Her husband has since allowed her to use the money for the girls’ needs, and has stopped beating her and the children. He has also allowed them to go back to church — all thanks to prayer! Jesika is so thankful to the Lord for these blessings, and to LOP for the opportunity to earn a living.
Jesika’s testimony is just one of the many ways that God has intervened and changed lives in this area of Guatemala. Tom and Arlene, from East Stroudsburg, PA, were first introduced to this impoverished, third world setting in Zacapa on a mission trip in 2006. Subsequently they heeded what they believed to be God’s call on their lives—to minister to the people of this area. They felt a particular calling to the women and children. It has proven to be a difficult mission field but their efforts have not been in vain. They have offered hope in the name of Jesus to many, including residents living next to the new garbage dump where Jesika’s family lives. They minister in several other nearby villages and mountain areas as well.
Education and steady employment are hard to come by for these indigenous people who often find themselves unwelcome by the general population. The area is also very dangerous with a great deal of gang activity and much political unrest. Murders are commonplace, due to drug, firearms and human trafficking. “Nevertheless, we don’t fear what might happen because God has called us here,” Arlene says. “Even with our street smarts it’s not very safe. But God called us, and our desire is to obey Him.” Eventually, after finishing the second floor of the mission house, they hope to house mothers and their children who need a temporary place to stay. For now, they’ve built a playground on their lot and they invite the children and mothers to come play, listen to Bible stories, and enjoy refreshments.
The Richmonds feel overwhelmed at times with the great needs they see around them, but still are able to praise God for all the ways He continues to provide. Covid-19 hit the area hard and cut off much outside help like food and fresh water trucks the people depend on. As a result, food prices skyrocketed and food shortages abound. More requests for food than ever before have poured into LOP. The number of malnourished children countrywide has quadrupled since March of 2020. Families have been hanging white flags outside their huts to beg for emergency help.
Natural disasters have also added to the problems. The most tragic were two back-to-back hurricanes in the fall of 2020, which had devastating effects on the Zacapa area. LOP has been able to assist in many ways with emergency food and medicine, and has provided unique assistance in rebuilding homes for those families who lost theirs. They have teamed up with a Christian builder/contractor to build two-room homes that measure 12 feet by 24 feet. These houses have concrete block foundations, cement flooring, metal framing, wooden walls and metal lamina roofing. These elements give the homes stability and protection from weather, which is a huge step up from the makeshift huts that families had thrown together. Huts with dirt floors, walls and roofs made from tree limbs, plastic sheeting, and metal lamina were easily washed down the river in the storms. The cost to build one new home is $1,500.
The Richmonds are grateful for all the prayers, encouragement, and financial support they have received over the years. They appreciate the opportunity to share their needs with you. They consider it an honor to have faithful partners who assist LOP in serving these precious families in Zacapa, Guatemala. If you would like to donate towards the construction of homes for hurricane victims or for emergency food/medical relief, you may do so by credit or debit card on LOP’s website: https://www.lifeofpromise.org/index.html. Just write the purpose of your donation in the comments section if you wish to designate how your gift will be used. All donations are tax-deductible. Checks can also be mailed to Life of Promise Ministries, 24 Three Point Garden Road, East Stroudsburg, PA 18301.