Author Archives: Timothy Martiny

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Graduation ceremony

Taking our programming classes to the next level

Graduation ceremony

We all have our limitations. There comes a time when we have taken something to the limit of our abilities and we can see where it needs to go but, don’t have the time, skills, or ability to get there.

I’ve often prided myself on being able to get things done, on being a problem solver, on being willing to tackle projects that others were afraid of, to start ministries with no funds or resources and to figure it out along the way. I believe that God gave me those gifts so I can use them for His glory, and they have served me well.

Yet a few months ago I found myself looking at one of our ministries, seeing where it needed to go, yet knowing that I didn’t have the expertise to get there. I needed help, I prayed for it, and God answered.

Ever since we started computer classes 12 years ago, with one broken computer in a small orphanage with twelve girls, I have constantly tried to improve both the quality and scope of our programs.

Over the years, through trial and experimentation, we developed a solid computer literacy program that has benefited hundreds of children at schools and orphanages all over Guatemala.

While learning basic computer skills and typing is an important part of being able to function in the world today, I always believed that we could go farther with our students.

I worked in technology prior to moving to Guatemala to serve fulltime as a missionary.  From the day I got here I saw poverty on every side. I didn’t just want to serve the orphaned and vulnerable; I wanted to serve them well. I knew that we had to do more than just say to them “be ye warmed and filled” but that we had to “give them those things that are needful to the body” (James 2:16). So if we were going to teach them the skills they needed to make a living, why not help them make a living in technology?

Tim Keller, in his article on The Gospel and the Poor wrote:

“Jesus calls Christians to be “witnesses,” to evangelize others, but also to be deeply concerned for the poor. He calls his disciples both to “gospel-messaging” (urging everyone to believe the gospel) and to “gospel-neighboring” (sacrificially meeting the needs of those around them whether they believe or not! The two absolutely go together.”

Mely Corona teaching web design to our students

Mely Corona teaching web design to our students

I believe that our work teaching vulnerable children job skills, falls clearly into the “gospel-neighboring” category.

But taking children who have never touched a computer, and turning them into computer programmers, is quite a journey. To be honest, I didn’t know how we would get there, so I tackled it like I do everything else I don’t know how to do, by praying, and then jumping in and trying things. My plan was simply to introduce the kids to technology, and see where it went from there, and it worked.

Years ago, God led us to one of the more dangerous parts of town called Colonia Santa Fe, and, in partnership with a small school, we implemented a program that taught students computer literacy It started very basic, teaching them how to place their hands on the keyboard, how to use a mouse, typing skills and they progressed to learning to use MS office applications.

With Wilson, one of our best students, at Graduation

With Wilson, one of our best students, at Graduation

Eventually we started our own community center and opened it up the whole community. Our enrollment grew to over 100 students coming for Bible and computer classes. We got an internet connection and it was amazing to see students advance within just a few short months from never having touched a computer to doing homework, school reports and making online investigations. More than anything, I could see it was opening up their minds as they realized just how much there was to learn.

We started to see students who were especially gifted, had an aptitude for technology, were ready to learn more, and were learning faster than I could figure out how to teach them.

It was time to let go, find someone who better knew how to do this, and let them run with it. We did and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I reached out to one of the only people I knew in the Guatemalan tech sector, an app developer and entrepreneur from church. Within a few minutes he had helped me make a connection that would change everything.

Melissa Corona is a web designer at Royale Design Studios in Guatemala and teaches at a university. Though only in her 20’s, she has worked on designing and branding for some of the biggest names in Guatemala. She is an active Christian with a heart of gold. When she heard about our project, she immediately started working on creating a course for our kids. Not only did she design the curriculum, but for two months she came every single week to teach it, and she convinced some other programmers and developers to get involved as well.

From her first visit, when she gathered the students in a circle and led them in prayer, I knew that God had brought us someone special. We had 15 of our advanced students in the class, and their progress has been nothing short of astounding. She even brought the kids to visit the design studio where she works.

It turned out that the founder of the company was from the same neighborhood where we have our community center. It’s one of the more dangerous parts of the city, with high crime, few opportunities and limited resources. He had started coding as a teenager, opened a business in his garage, and now has one of the top web design companies in the country.

Our students had basic computer skills, so this class was able to build on that and teach them to use; g-drive for file sharing, Canva.com for graphics and presentations, google earth for research, and HTML for basic web design. It was amazing to see our students sit through hours of class on Saturday hungry to learn and begging for the class not to stop, then watch them work throughout the week practicing what they had learned.

Javier, the founder of Royale Design Studios, who grew up in the same neighborhood where we work

Javier, the founder of Royale Design Studios, who grew up in the same neighborhood where we work

It was everything that I had dreamed of, and more. One thing that really excited me, was to see these young professionals, all of who are tops in their fields, eager to get involved with teaching these kids. The knowledge, passion and excitement they have for what they do, and their enthusiasm for their work, was contagious and the students began to see that they could make a career of this.

At the end of the program Melissa organized a fabulous graduation ceremony in her office building. She went all out, recruiting friends and volunteers to decorate the place and purchase gifts for the children, there was a live musical performance by a Christian singer, diplomas and refreshments. The children and families showed up in their Sunday best and our students prepared a skit about the value of a teacher.

We gave out diplomas and I was able to say a few words of thanks and give an explanation about our ministry. For me the most beautiful part of the ceremony was when she got up to speak. In sharing about the program and complementing the kids on the progress they had made, she was moved to tears as she described how working with these kids had changed her. She said she was thankful for the opportunity and felt blessed to get to know them and be involved in their lives. Afterwards several of her friends and family came up to me asking about our ministry and how they could help.

Mely told me that her company is going to continue to work with us on developing courses for our students and that we could count on them for their help.

This two month pilot program will be expanded to the rest of our students over the coming year and the students who finished it will be assisting in the teaching. Our next step will be getting all our students taking classes on www.code.org.

Beyond the mere educational value of class, I saw how much our students needed this. They needed to see people like them, not just some American missionary, investing in their lives. They needed people to come in and spend time with them, encourage them, compliment them and validate them as people. They needed to hear from someone who had succeeded to believe that they could do it as well. They needed someone to show them that they mattered. Often times the best example of to us of God’s love, is how it is demonstrated by those we come in contact with.

As I look back on this journey, a few things stand out to me. I had to be willing to take those first steps to start our program even though I didn’t fully know what I was doing, had almost no resources and didn’t have it all figured out. I had to be faithful to stick with the program, slowly building the foundation in these children’s lives, both spiritually through our Bible classes, Bible club and VBS, and educationally by teaching them computer skills. Finally, I had to reach out and partner with people who are experts in their field and let them take it to the next level.

In many ways that defines much of what we have done as a missionary over the years. We start programs, get them going, and then empower others to take them and run with it.

Understanding that this work is bigger than me, that our investing in these kid’s lives, giving them a safe place to learn, pouring into them spiritually, and equipping them to live a productive life as faithful servants of God, is just one small part of His plan for redemption and restoration of the world.

As I look back at how far we have come, where we are now and where we are going, I believe that this is still just the beginning, and the stories we will have to tell in the future, will far outshine the ones we tell now.

Sometimes being a missionary is about a nut and a bolt.

  Yes, you read that right, not the nuts and bolts, just a nut and a bolt. Having spent almost 15 years in Guatemala, I’ve learned a few things, like how to get things done, where to find things and who does a good job.

Developing countries are different in the sense that reliable help is often hard to find and once you find someone who does a good job, you hang on to them. Mission teams often comment that I seem to have a guy for everything. Need an appliance fixed? I Got a guy. Need a doctor or specialist? I Got a guy. Need to import your vehicle? I Got a guy. Need special ingredients? Got a guy. But probably the most helpful and in demand, need your car fixed? I got a guy.

There is a missionary mailing list that goes around in Guatemala & often times there are requests by new missionaries about where to find something or someone. As often as possible, I try and take the a few minutes to send a quick response pointing them in the right direction. Proverbs 3:27 tells us “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” Many times in scripture, Christ demonstrated this for us, both through his teachings, and his actions.

I vividly remember when I first came to Guatemala, a young 20 year old missionary who didn’t know any Spanish and had never lived in a developing country. It was hard, there were few people to help me out or teach me the ropes. I remember how many times I needed council or advice and didn’t know where to turn. As time passes and I learned how to do things and where to get help, I have tried as much as possible to share that information with others, always remembering Mathew 5:42 “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” This is instruction that is given to all followers of Christ, not just missionaries.

Our first years in Guatemala, our resources were especially meager. Regardless of that, I have always believed, and more importantly, tried to act as if I was only the steward of whatever resources God had entrusted to me and everything I had belonged to Him. It is rare that any of us can meet someone’s needs completely, but I think we can always help everyone in some way, if we trust that God has brought that need to our door, then we can trust that He will provide us with the means to meet it.

God has tested us on this many times, years ago, when we were in extremely tight circumstances, a missionary family we knew with 5 kids was staying in a one room apartment. We had 5 kids in our small home, but we made room and took them in for a few months to help them get on their feet, save money, and move on. We could barely pay our own bills at the time and it was a real stretch for us both physically and financially. Yet, when many others around us with greater resources declined to help, we felt we had no choice.

A ministry leader of a US based missions organization was recently visiting our community center. They wanted to see how we ran our programs as they were setting up something similar. I gladly shared my knowledge, offered assistance and whatever resources I could. Towards the end of our meeting, she told me that I was one of the few missionaries she had met that was willing to help other ministries, most people just didn’t seem to have an interest or desire to partner, serve or work outside of what they were doing. Her words were a great encouragement to me as there have been times when it seemed God was the only one who noticed.

Over the years I’ve lent vehicles to missionaries countless times, my vehicle are old, but we baby them as the roads we drive are rough and we would be hard pressed to replace them. Several times the vehicles have come back in poor shape when we loaned them out to missionaries and they did not take care of them. Did that make it difficult to keep giving? Yes? Did I wonder if I was being a good steward with what God had given me? Yes. But I decided long ago that if I was going to make a mistake in regards to my giving, it was going to be on the side of giving too much and not too little.

James 2:14-16 tells us otherwise “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”

Almost every time we have given to others it has cost us. When a missionary drove here at Christmas several years ago, and the transmission went out on their vehicle, we cancelled our family vacation so I could work with him to get his car fixed and I lent him my truck for 5 weeks. When a missionary had an accident which resulted in his vehicle being impounded and he asked to borrow my van for week, but kept it for months and months, we let them. When another missionary moved here and needed a vehicle to get around until she could buy one, we lent her ours.

When a missionaries have needed help with legal paperwork, immigrations or importing things, I have given up days and days to help them, and it has cost us.

Yet if time is money, and if God is the true owner of all that I have, does not my time belong to him as well?

A few weeks ago I got a call from some missionaries I had met only once. They do a wonderful job running an orphanage far outside the city. The phone call was a cry for help. They were on their way into the city and due to fly out the next morning. Evidently there was a clunk and their microbus was no longer shifting gears. They didn’t know anyone else to call, but they had my number and were wondering what I could do.

That day, like most days, it was an extremely busy one for me. It was the only time I had set aside in the whole week to sit at my computer, get my newsletter done and answer the backlog of emails that had piled up while I was busy teaching and ministering. Going out to help them would mean trying to fit the work in late at night after my kids went to bed and I was tired. But what choice did I have? If that person in need represented Jesus, and he was calling me asking for help, could I really say no?

So I did what I always do, I called around for one of my guys. My first two mechanics where not available, but the assistant of guy number three was, as long as I could drive out, pick him up and take him to where they had broken down. So that’s what I did. While I talked with the missionaries about their ministries, the mechanic was able to diagnose that the bolt connecting the gear shifter to the shifter bars in the transmission had fallen out. Digging through his toolbox he was able to find a nut and bolt that were exactly the right size, fix the van and send them on their way.

As I took the mechanic back to his shop, he asked me if they were close friends of mine. I responded that they weren’t, but they were people in need and that God had chosen me to help them. He was quiet for a minute and then said he didn’t know anyone who would do that for someone they barely knew. I told him that there were many times in my life when I needed help and God sent someone to help me, so I try and help others that God sends my way.

It is my belief that if each and every professing follower of Christ would simply obey His explicit commandments in Mathew 5:42, James 2:16 and Galatians 5:13, to serve those that come to us in need, then we would see His Kingdom come alive around us as His will was done, though us.

He agreed and told me to call him any time with anything I needed help. I responded in kind and gave him my card.

I got home having missed most of the time I had set aside for the work I had to do, yet rejoicing inside at the opportunity God had given me, not just to serve another one of His children, but that my service could be a testimony to others in the process.

My hope and prayer in sharing this with you, is not to give ourselves a pat on the back, but to encourage and motivate you to be alert and aware of the opportunities in your own life to serve those in need, who God places in your path.

Sincerely,
Tim and Sharie Martiny

Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

CADANINO, CEI

Serving those with special needs

CADANINO, CEIOver the years, we have been involved with a variety of different ministries. Despite seeming differences in the profile or place where we serve, one thing has always remained constant; we look to aid those in need, to love, teach, train, empower and equip those who, many times, do not have the ability or resources to do help themselves.

Understanding the love that God has for us has given us the desire to show that to love others. It is what led us to serve orphans. It is what led us to open a community center to serve vulnerable families in the hopes of keeping their kids out of orphanages. And, it is what led me at the beginning of this year, to take over running a ministry serving the disabled.

The ministry was founded by a good friend, Jamie Waller, when he saw the need to improve the care for the disabled in Guatemala. What started out as a simple project of hiring Christian caregivers to work inside an institution, eventually became a “Dayhab” facility that provides care for children with PMLD (Profound Multiple Learning Disabilities).

Every day 17 children come into our center to be loved and cared for by caregivers, physical therapists, occupational therapists and special educators. Some are in wheelchairs, many wear diapers and almost none can talk. I am there two days a week and responsible for the management of the program, supervising the staff and ensuring that we are doing the best we can to serve these children.

Why? You might ask, with all that I have on my plate, teaching vocational training programs in an orphanage, running our community center in the slums and everything that our ministry entails, would I choose to take on more work, specifically serving the disabled?

Ultimately, we find the answers not just in scripture, 2 Corinthians 5:14 “For the love of Christ constrains us;” but in examples laid out for us by the early church.

Compassion and kindness were not well-developed virtues among the pagan Romans. Mercy was discouraged. They saw it as helping those who were too weak to contribute to society, and therefore a wasted effort. In the squalid, unsanitary hovels of the typical Roman city, with their miserable cycle of famines and plagues, the sick found no public institutions devoted to their care and little in the way of sympathy or help. Perhaps a family member would come to their aid, but often times even close relatives would leave their own to die.

In Rome, sick or elderly slaves were often left to waste away or exiled to an island. Unwanted children, especially disabled or “defective” newborns were left to die of exposure. It became such a common practice, it was written into the Twelve Tables of Roman law that deformed infants should be killed and it was common practice to drown children who were weakly or abnormal.

This is one of the reasons why the sincere charity and compassion of the early Christians was so powerful. Central to Christian belief was the understanding that God’s Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14a). They understood that the motivation for our service and charity was God’s self-giving love to us, reflected in His nature (1 John 4:8). God loved the human race enough to send Christ in human flesh, to die on a cross for our sins (John 3:16).

Understanding God’s love caused them to respond in kind by demonstrating their love, not just to their fellow Christians, but to all humanity which John 13: 34 and 35 tells us was created in God’s image. Their practical morality was a radical departure from the social norms of the day and laid the foundation for Christian philanthropy. Despite great danger, hardship and persecution, the early church carried on in active ministry to those in need.

Even today, in our supposedly advanced culture, it can be easy to look on someone with a disability and assume that there is something “wrong” with them, that they are broken or need fixing. Yet the truth is that we, each and every one of us, are broken; in some way. We must understand that there is more to a person than just their physical bodies, we are spirit and soul as well. Just because someone’s body does not seem to work correctly, does it in any way shape or form make them less of a person?

When we understand, from a holistic perspective, that all human beings bear God’s image, regardless of their physical or mental capacity, we see that the image of God cannot be compromised or lost in any way and we recognize that even the poorest functioning human being is a profound reflection of God’s image and worthy of our love.

That is what we are trying to accomplish in our Dayhab. Loving them as God has loved us. Ours is a program with a great many challenges and difficulties. It’s not easy to work with them, many have been starved of love, care and affection for much of their lives. Some have been abused or abandoned by their families. Others suffer the effects of long term neglect, malnutrition or institutionalization.

Yet each and every one of them is deserving of our love. Each and every one of them deserves to be treated with dignity and respect as someone made in God’s image. When they are treated as people, they start to respond as people. Yes, it takes time to undo all the harm that has been done to them in their lives. Yet, as we and our staff care for them, we see them change. We see them improve. We see them come out of their shell. We see them learn new skills and abilities, and, most wonderfully, we see them react to being loved.

For many, their physical condition may never change here on this earth, yet, through our ministry to their spirit, soul and body, we are living out what it means to understand the love that God has for us, by showing it to them.

1 John 3:18 “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Martiny Family Missionaries 2017 Mid Year Highlights

  • Took over as General Manager of CEI, a daycare for the profoundly disabled. Our staff of PT’s/OT’s/Special Educators and caretakers work to meet the personalized needs of these precious individuals, helping them to live lives that are as structured, independent and joyful as possible.
  • Over 100 children are enrolled in afternoon programs at our community center where students have Bible classes, learn computer skills and receive help with homework.
  • Opened a lending library at our community center for the students.
  • Worked with our local church, Casa De Libertad, to do an outreach to the children and parents at our community center, volunteers lead a VBS, ministered to the parents and provided much needed backpacks and school supplies to the children.
  • Started a women’s Bible study group with mothers and relatives of the children who attend our community center.
  • Lead a weekly discipleship group with girls from the orphanage Fundaniños.
  • Assisted three mission teams with their ministry here.
  • Attended the CAFO (Christian Alliance for Orphans) Summit to learn about how to better serve orphaned and vulnerable children.
  • Taught over 60 woodworking and engineering classes to students in our workshop at the orphanage Fundaniños.
  • Sharie gave weekly culinary arts classes to 18 students at the orphanage Fundaniños, focusing on teaching them how to prepare dishes for themselves that are nutritious, delicious and affordable.
  • Kept in contact with many of our former students from the orphanage who have aged out, providing them with council, prayer and making sure that they know they are loved.
  • Had the teenagers from the orphanage Fundaninos do a VBS for the children at our community center.

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empowering women through woodworking

Empowering women thorough woodworking

Why do you teach girls carpentry? Are there any jobs for women carpenters in Guatemala? Is there a market for the things you are making? Are they capable of doing this on their own? What happens one day if you are gone?

Many people are surprised when they learn that vocational training programs, which include information technology, woodworking, pre-engineering and culinary arts, places an emphasis on having girls in our woodworking class. So I thought I would take some time to explain what we teach and why.First of all, we don’t teach carpentry. Carpentry is building houses, framing and decking. Little of which would apply to our students here as the materials used in the construction of houses in most developing countries is cinder block and cement.

Second, what we teach is woodworking, the art of working with wood, understanding it, designing with it, and working through the creation process to produce a product.

Third, what we do is as much about the process as the product. For children who are orphaned, have been abused, or experienced profound childhood trauma, lack of self-esteem is especially common. Fear is one of the root causes of a lack of self-esteem, fear of failure, fear of the ability to do, to accomplish, or to even try. They often believe that there is something innately wrong with themselves. When they make mistakes, they can feel stupid or insufficient and worry what others will think of them. This only serves to reinforce their own feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, undeserving or unlovable.

We have seen our program help to overcome those things. The pen they make is more than a pen, it’s a healing process, a process they control, a process they own, a process that produces something people value.

When someone comes in and sees a 14 year old girl working on a lathe, tearing into a piece of wood to turn it from a square block, to a beautiful pen or bracelet, when they see them using a machine that they themselves don’t know how to use, it elevates them. When that girl produces a quality product, one that people see value in, and are willing to purchase, they start to see value in themselves. All of those give a boost to their soul, raise their spirit, and, little by little, help build their self-esteem.

Fourth, work ethic, it’s not just about doing a job, it’s about doing it well. We believe that the work we do, can, in and of itself, be worship to God. We want the works of our hands to be acceptable in God’s sight. We want whatever we do to be done for Him, for His glory, and to honor Him. In our workshop we focus on quality of the work and the pursuit of excellence. If something is not the best possible quality, we don’t sell it. By raising the bar and expecting quality work from the students we empower them to do it, and they do.

Fifth, confidence, though they may not make pens, bracelets or Christmas ornaments for the rest of their life, they have learned that they can learn. They have learned to use power tools, lathes, miter saws, sanders and a cnc shopbot router. We have opened their minds to a bigger, greater world of possibilities then they ever knew was possible. We have shown them that if they can learn this, they can learn so much more.

Sixth, business skills, in our program they learn what it is to run your own micro-business. They learn about costing, sales, materials and more. They get to earn their own money, spend some on what they want while saving the rest of it in their bank account. They learn about banking. It’s hard to teach someone the value of money and how to manage it, if they don’t have any money to manage. The value of this in their life cannot be understated and it is something that few children in orphanages are able to experience.

Seventh, relationships, working with them in the shop gives us the opportunity to build relationships with them, to love and care for them on a consistent basis as the years go by. Yes, as missionaries our primary calling is to make disciples of all nations, but being obedient to our Biblical calling to serve the orphaned and vulnerable requires a holistic process that meets both their spiritual and physical life. It requires ministering to their soul to prepare them to lead Godly lives, and meeting the needs of their mind and body to prepare them to live a productive life that utilizes the gifts and talents that God has given them.
So, yes it’s about making pens, but it’s about so much more than just making pens.

It’s about empowering girls who live in a society dominated by machismo. It’s about showing them what they are capable of. It’s about helping them realize their full potential. It’s about showing them that they have value, not just as a wife or mother but as smart intelligent human beings who can think, dream, design, produce and create value. It’s a step in helping them understand that they are the daughters of God.

It might not be the most traditional way of teaching these things, but we have found that it works.

Adoption and the Cross

martiny easter photo 2017
That is the whole story of redemption. Starting in the beginning, in the garden. The universe was meant to be our home, it was created as the place where the image bearers of God would rule and serve under their Father. It was all to be ours. Yet, through primeval insurrection in the garden, our inheritance was lost, turning the universe into an orphanage. Heirs we were no more, sin had taken root, turned away from home and into the captivity of a serpent who held the cosmos in thrall.

The whole universe had become an orphanage.

There we were, orphaned. Orphaned, until Christ came to redeem us. Redeem us, yes, but what does that mean? And how does it apply to adoption and the cross?

As used by the Apostle Paul, to redeem means “to buy out”. Specifically in relation to the purchasing of a slaves freedom. That in scripture, we find it applied to Christ’s death on the cross, is significant. Romans 3:24 speaks of the redemption that is found through Christ Jesus. Christ bought us, restored us, redeemed us and gave us a path away from the life of an orphan, forever changed into one of an adopted son.

Just as a child cannot, of his own free will, be set free from the orphanage that holds him, neither can we, of our own free will, be set free of the sins which do so easily beset us. Something must happen, someone, some greater power must act, to liberate us from our current state of orphanhood and grant us permission to become a member of a family.

That brings us to the cross. We simply cannot consider the adoption scripture speaks of, as children of God, without turning to the cross. When Jesus is nailed to this Roman torture device, he bears the full weight of the curse of an orphaned creation. The apostle Paul is able to speak of us receiving adoption as sons only because Jesus took upon himself that curse, which was our separation from God. In removing it we can now find redemption, the door is opened for us to be adopted as sons of God and our inheritance is sealed by the Holy Spirit.  (Ephesians 1)

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).

When you truly understand adoption, you truly understand the cross, and when you truly understand the cross you truly understand adoption. Understanding of the one leads to better understanding of the other.

As we celebrate our Christs resurrection on this glorious day and our adoption into Gods family, let us also remember those here on this earth, so in need of both a spiritual and physical family and ask ourselves if we are not called to meet it in some way?

As our father has loved us, so let us love others.

Happy Easter from Tim, Sharie, Julia, Audrey, Vanessa, Jessica, Alex and Alison Martiny.

Fundaninos students serving

Teaching others to teach others.


The greatest gift any teacher can have is not just for his students to understand and learn what he is teaching, but for them to turn around and share that knowledge with others.

We were blessed to see that happen last month.

Over the eight years that we have served at the orphanage Fundañinos, a primary focus of our ministry has been to impart the truth, knowledge, and understanding of scripture to the children. Through Bible classes, devotionals, small groups, summer camps, and VBS’s we have done this time and time again. Christ tells us in Matthew 5:19 that if you want greatness in the Kingdom of God, it comes from both practicing and teaching His commandments.

In praying and looking for an opportunity for the teenagers at the home to serve others, we decided to open the door for them to not just be involved, but to lead a service project at our community center in Colonia Santa Fe.

Sharie took some time to plan the program and explained to them how the “VBS” would work and divide the responsibilities between the youth. Our theme this year has been Psalm 23, and knowing God as our good shepherd. After that it was completely up to them to learn the content, prepare the material, organize the activities and lead the program for 33 second and third graders that participate in our program in Colonia Santa Fe.

For kids living in an orphanage, life can often be somewhat isolated. Most of them live, play, go to school, and interact almost entirely with the other children at the orphanage. Merely engaging with kids from another environment is sometimes awkward. Asking them to step outside of their comfort zone to lead a class, hold a mic, explain verses, and organize games was a big, but much needed, step forward.

Needless to say, they did amazing! While many of them were a little shy at first, as the program moved on, their confidence built. Each of them had learned their part of the class correctly. No one got stage fright or refused to participate and many of them demonstrated assurance and boldness as they engaged with the children. In truth they did a wonderful job.

It is one thing to be taught God’s word, it is quite another to teach it. There is something about explaining something we have learned to others that helps to reinforce it in our own minds.

Surgical residency programs often utilize the philosophy of “See one, Do one, Teach one”, and we have found this to be an effective methodology in our work as well.

The part that I loved the most and what really touched me, was seeing the students help the little kids with their crafts. Assisting with cutting, coloring, the lending of their artistic talent, the willingness to get involved as the small children came up to them for help, and watching them make friends, smile and laugh with children they had only just met, filled me with joy.

Observing 2 Timothy 2:2, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” came to life before our eyes and gave me hope and faith that as long as the work we are doing is grounded in scripture, based on Godly  principles, and taught to faithful men, and women, it will carry on beyond the class or Bible study we are teaching today.

 

timothy martiny, julia martiny

Today Julia, my oldest daughter turned 18

timothy martiny, julia martinyThey say time files, and I guess it does, I can remember like yesterday the day she was born. I remember holding her in my arms for the first time, before she was rushed off to an incubator for 10 days due to complications.

I can remember the love I felt in my heart looking at her, so tiny, yet so perfectly made. I can remember thinking that I wanted to give her the best I could, that she would never lack for anything, that all her needs and wants would be met.

I was 17, newly married, and had spent a large portion of my childhood institutionalized. From a young age I was required to work to support my family. I knew how tough life could be. We were 11 siblings, plus several step-siblings with us on and off over the years, we had food and clothes, but not much more. I still remember buying my first pair of new shoes when I was 15, right before I left home. They were LA Gear and cost $9.99 at Kmart. I was so proud of them and wore them till the soles wore out. My education was sparse and I was ill equipped for life.

Needless to say, I didn’t have much in my childhood. So, as a young father, I wanted her to have everything that I hadn’t had, and was willing to do whatever it took to give it to her. I worked long hours to provide for my wife and daughter. Getting up at 5 am to work 12 hours and then rushing home to spend the with my baby was worth it. No job was beneath me, not even digging ditches in the sewer. While I gave her love, played with her often and read her Bible stories every night. I was practically a kid myself, and trying to figure it all out.

I remember her first birthday party, it was a windy day at Lafreniere Park in Louisiana. We had a barbecue, invited all our friends, and spent way too much money on Fisher Price “Little People” toys. Thankfully they ended up being used by her 5 siblings that were to come.

We went all out. Looking back, I don’t think that there was anything wrong that, but it was more that I didn’t know myself what it was that really mattered in my child’s life.

Things did not turn out the way I had planned it. I went from installing doors for home depot, to a job in tech support, to taking my family to live in Guatemala for, what I thought, was going to be three months of volunteer work.

She was three years and seven months old when we boarded the flight to Guatemala that would change our lives forever. Going to help some missionaries we knew for short time, turned into a life of service to orphaned, vulnerable and disabled children.

There is something about seeing others in dire need that can fundamentally rewire the way we prioritize our life. I still wanted the best for my daughter, but as time went on, I was no longer convinced that what I thought was the best for her, was really the best for her.

Now that I have spent over half my live raising kids, I’ve come to the conclusion that parents have four fundamental obligations to their children:

  1. Keep them safe
  2. Provide for their needs
  3. Make them feel loved
  4. Prepare them for life.

I believe most parents intuitively understand and work towards meeting them. Yet how things play out, based on our culture, beliefs, resources, and how we were raised, varies.

The more time I spent working with children in orphanages, who were lacking in many of these things, the more time I spent thinking and praying about what it actually took to meet those needs. As I reflected on how to provide these things to those I served, it changed the ways I thought about meeting them for my own children.

I knew that I didn’t want her to be raised how I was raised. Besides having left home at such a young age, I hadn’t had a solid education, and didn’t know what a healthy relationship with ones parents looked like.

As time went on, my philosophy of how to meet the fundamental obligations to my children evolved.

Keeping them safe looked different in a less developed country like Guatemala, than it did in the U.S. She didn’t grow up in a perfect suburban neighborhood, she grew up spending time with me visiting the places I worked, driving across Mexico to the U.S. and back every few years, and often times, just being in my company. The safety came from being with a dad who was always alert and looking out for her, yet at the same time exposing her to new and wonderful places as she served alongside me.

Providing for her needs changed as well. There is something about seeing others with so so much less than us that can impact what we think we need. Many of the things we classify as needs, are actually just wants. Instead of mountains of new toys  every birthday, I started making presents for my children, from wooden flower planters with their name carved into it, to refurbishing and rebuilding old bicycles, we met their needs and many of their wants, in, yet tried to demonstrate a clear difference between the two.

Making them feel loved. My efforts turned from loving them with things, to loving them with time. For most of their childhood, I would come home from work and take them to park every single day. We played in forests and fields and spent time together. I can’t say that I have always succeeded in loving them perfectly in every way, God knows I have my failings, yet I believe that our focus on spending time and resources on experiences with my children, rather than on things, has paid off.

Preparing them for life. This is where some people might disagree with me. How could I throw away the “lottery of birth” my children had been given by being American citizens. The opportunity to grow up, live, attend college and find a career in what is probably one of the safest, richest countries in the world, with limitless options at their disposal. In exchange for a life in a largely impoverished country, where crime and violence are a daily companion, where they don’t have the same fast track educational prospects, live away from their relatives, and possibly suffer from the innate challenges that come from their parents being missionaries?

It’s something that I have given a lot of thought to and grappled with, and I don’t know that I have a perfect answer for it. I may not have given her the typical things that are so highly valued by most people. But I have given her something more.

I have exposed her to the world, not just to her country. I am proudly American, yet the world is bigger than my home country. By raising her in Guatemala, I have shown her the greater scope of humanity, beyond one race or culture. She speaks a second language, and easily engages people from different walks of life. Her education, while a mix of home school and local schools, has been so much more than book learning. It has been the places we have worked where she has served alongside us and developed heart of compassion. From time spent volunteering at church, to willingly helping with projects in our ministry, to assisting her younger siblings, I believe that service has become part of her DNA. She may not have had access to AP classes and been able to get college credits while in high school, but she has constantly been faced with learning opportunities and real world problem solving challenges that have constantly pushed her outside her comfort zone, and, of utmost importance, she has learned to learn.

She has had wonderful opportunities to see God to amazing things. While stuck at the border a few years ago facing a problem with immigration’s, she told my wife “I wasn’t worried, because Daddy always gets us through”. While I was encouraged and touched that she had such confidence in me, I could only point her to God as I knew it was Him who had saved us time and time again in our travels. From our car breaking down in the middle of nowhere in Mexico to dealing with corrupt cops and seemingly impossible situations in foreign countries. She had seen God do miracles us and for her and it had grown her faith.

Most importantly however, I have seen her develop her own personal relationship with God, from making the decision to be baptized, to aligning her activities, friendships and lifestyle with what has become, not just ours, but her belief system and her own personal convictions. I could not be more proud of her. Her faith is her own, and I think that is her true preparation for life.

More than anything I could have done to prepare, I gave her a path to God, where she could develop her own faith, and she did. Could I have done that back home? Certainly! Yet seeing God’s word come to life, when you desperately need it and there is no other solution, is an incredibly valuable gift to give to your children.

Did I do a perfect job raising my children? No. Would l do things differently if I was 17 and starting out again? Perhaps! The only thing I know I did right in raising my children is that in my desire to do it “right” led me to God, His word and His principals.

In truth, when I look at her, at the amazing woman she has become, despite all my faults and failings as a father, I don’t know that I would change a thing.

As she finishes school this year and begins to make her own way in the world. I know that while her life may not always be easy, she has the tools, character and connection with God to make to make the most of the life she has been given.

She is more than I could have hoped for, but everything I prayed for.

Julia Taylor Martiny, I love you and am so proud of you.

Serving with Casa de Libertad on Dia por Guatemala

Imagine a Church that Serves

Imagine a Church that reads the Bible, prays, and finally, imagine a church that serves!

This has been the theme at our local church in Guatemala recently. What would the church look like if the people who attended it, not only accepted the teachings of Christ, but were actually intentional about living them out? What could this city, this country, and the world look like?

We have been blessed to be a part of “Casa de Libertad” or, the House of Freedom church in Guatemala for the past six years. It is a young church,  planted 10 years ago, and its vision is to be a church that plants churches as well as a body of believers that gives glory to God through lives transformed by Jesus into lives transformed for Jesus.

New backpacks and school supplies for the students

New backpacks and school supplies for the students

For the past several years the church has held a “Dia por Guatemala” where all or most of the members would serve at a rural school or orphanage, do physical repairs and bring needed supplies. It has been wonderful to see the united effort of everyone working together. However, at the end of the day, many people left having only had a relationship with the wall they painted.

The focus this year, was to work as smaller groups that would serve at multiple locations, orphanages, schools in the slums, drug rehab centers, hospitals, churches in rural towns, etc, meeting physical needs, but most importantly, building relationships with the people they served. The hope was that this day would be a catalyst for regular, long term service that would encourage people to see missions, not just as a one day a year outreach, but as a lifestyle.

We were blessed to have two Bible study homegroups from our church choose to serve at our community center in the slums where we have worked for the past five years. Over 100 children are enrolled in our afternoon program that includes; Bible classes, prayer, typing and computer classes, tutoring and a safe place where they can come and learn in the afternoons.

We provided the outline for the VBS, and they took the lead, not just in the planning and preparation, but in the execution and running of the

Volunteer from Casa De Libertad serving at our community center in Colonia Santa Fe

Volunteer from Casa De Libertad serving at our community center in Colonia Santa Fe

program.

On March 4th, over 20 volunteers showed up and served 110 children 50 parents.

The day consisted of worship and praise songs, a Bible lesson on God as the good shepherd, activates and crafts related to the class, and finally, school supplies and backpacks, donated, through a miracle, by the First Lady of Guatemala.

The worship was wonderful, the classes were excellent, and the volunteers did an amazing job engaging with the children. But for me, the best part of it was the prayer room we setup next door. We invited the parents to come in, have coffee, and talk with us about their lives, members of our church shared messages from God’s word, and prayed for them.

In one of the groups I worked with were three women, while all the ladies needed prayer for a job, mostly they just wanted to thank God for the opportunity we had given their children to learn in our afternoon program. The thanks and appreciation from each and every parent was so very touching. Our pastor came in and lead worship. It was so beautiful to see the body of Christ, worshiping and praising God together in unity. One man came up to my wife and said he had thought it was just going to be an activity for the children, but he was so grateful for we

Pastor Francisco Bendfeldt, leading worship and prayer with the parents.

Pastor Francisco Bendfeldt, leading worship and prayer with the parents.

did for him, talking the time to pray for them, talk with them and let them know that we cared. It truly was an example of Psalms 133:1 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

The outreach had an impact, not just on the people we served, but on those who served. There is something about getting out of your comfort zone, and serving others, that gives perspective on your own life. One of the volunteers commented to me on how much he needed this, how serving, praying and worshiping, helped him realign his perspective with what really mattered. Another told me that he couldn’t wait until next month to visit again.

1 Peter 4:10-11. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

 

Death-toll-from-fire-at-Guatemalan-girls-shelter-rises-to-40

Why the world still needs Christian orphanages.

Death-toll-from-fire-at-Guatemalan-girls-shelter-rises-to-40

A few days ago, on March 7th 2017, a riot broke out at Virgen de Asuncion, a government run children’s home in San Jose Pinula, Guatemala. The underage residents were protesting poor living conditions, malnutrition and, reportedly, physical and sexual abuse, claims which had been substantiated by judges over the years. There had been calls for the homes closure after an investigation by UNICEF. However it was still receiving, by some reports, as many as 15 children a day.

So far 40 children, all girls, lost their lives due to a fire that was started after the riot when they were locked overnight in a small room. Many more have been admitted to hospitals with second and third degree burns and are not expected to make it.

This was a facility built for 400 children, but ended up with, by some reports, as many as 800 children at times. It was serving, not just as a home for abandoned, abused and orphaned children, but was a place where judges would send juvenile delinquents, some of whom had committed murder. About 150 residents were disabled, most of them profoundly, with conditions ranging from microencephalitis to down syndrome. It had become a catch all home for children the government didn’t have a place to put anywhere else.

I had visited the home several times over the years, and was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenges the government must face in trying to make it work. It seems at some point, things got beyond their control, and, as a result, many precious children lost their lives.

Besides the four government run homes in Guatemala, there are, according to CNA (the Guatemalan organization which oversees adoptions and children’s homes) over 100 privately run orphanages in Guatemala, almost all of them run by Christian organizations, foundations and missionaries and funded largely by Christians.

While orphanages originally existed to house children who had lost their parents, they have, over the years, come to serve as the de facto foster care system for less developed countries. When governments have limited resources, they often turned to privately run Christian orphanages to help meet the need.

Would children with no parents or relatives, be better served by being adopted? Yes. Would children removed from their families because of physical or sexual abuse, receive more personalized attention by being placed with a foster family? Without a doubt. Would children feel more secure after the loss of their parents if they had the option of community based care in surroundings where they have grown up, surrounded by people who they have known all their lives, who take a vested interest in keeping them connected to the only life they have ever known and who keep them connected to their culture? Certainly.

Would I rather see any of these options over a child being placed in an orphanage? Yes! Even a good orphanage that operates on a family based model cannot compare with the personalized care a child receives when they are cared for by a loving family.

Yet, when I see the lives lost because of this horrible and preventable tragedy, I can’t help but think, that an orphanage, even one that instutionalizes the care of its children, is a better option than one where children burn to death.

When we look at the alternatives to placing a child in an orphanage, we find that there are valid reasons why orphanages, especially Christian run orphanages still exist, a few of them being:

Adoption. While it would be great for every child without parents to be adopted. The reality, in many cultures, is that people don’t adopt. In 2016, Guatemala saw 100 adoptions, compare that to the 4000 children it saw adopted through international adoptions in 2006 – the last year it was allowed before it was shut down for a variety of, very valid reasons. And when you start to understand that there is a difference between how different cultures view taking someone into your home who is not your own flesh and blood.

Resources play another factor. Guatemala for instance, is in some ways “a third world country with first world laws”. A decade ago, after investigations into the way adoptions were being done in Guatemala, the government, under international pressure, closed down international adoptions and adopted some very good, comprehensive regulations for handling them. they created the CNA to manage the adoption process and properly investigate children in the system (children living in government and private homes) to ensure that, based on a long list of requirements, they were truly eligible to be adopted. However, trying to implement a US based system, with Guatemalan resources, is like trying to put out a forest fire with a garden hose.

Foster Care. Another great option, either for long term care, or as a temporary place for children who have been removed from their environment for their own protection. The challenges here are the same, limited resources and lack of willingness on the parts of families to consider this an option. Even in the US, with many times the resources available to Guatemala, the foster care system struggles. Thankfully many churches and Christians are taking the lead in accepting that The Church (those who call themselves followers of Christ) have a God given responsibility to care for the orphaned and fatherless. Families all across the country are opening their homes and lives to take in foster kids, with many eventually adopting. Sadly, Christians in other countries still have lots of room for growth in this respect.

Also, it takes an entire system of trained social workers and case managers to properly execute such an undertaking. Even in the US, with immense resources, and a multitude of trained, passionate, hardworking staff, there are immense challenges in foster care. How much more so would this be the case in less developed countries that lack even a fraction of the resources? Even if there were a cultural shift, and people were willing to foster in places like Guatemala, it takes time to setup the infrastructure to support it.

Community Care. How about keeping children in their environment instead of placing them in a home? For children who are in danger, or suffering from abuse or neglect, this is not an option. For children who are truly orphans, it is certainly preferable. Yet a multitude of factors come into play. In some cultures caring for those within your community is the norm, in others it is not. Some countries have adopted strict laws regarding how children are cared for, and have completely ignored this as an option, to do so without government permission would even be illegal in some places.

Which brings us to residential care facilities, or, as they are more commonly known, orphanages. Historically, orphanages were created to provide a home for children who had lost their parents. With time, in many countries, they came to house an increasing number of social orphans, children who needed protective custody, or those who had lost one parent and the other no longer had the means to care for them.

Would children placed in orphanages do better by being adopted, placed with foster families or given into community care? Certainly. Would social orphans be better served if greater resources were directed towards the reason that put them in orphanages in the first place? Yes. Do we need a greater emphasis placed on reunification programs that provide targeted resources to their families to care them? Yes again. What is comes down to, is that we need a continuum of care for orphaned and vulnerable children, and residential care facilities are part of that.

Many of the private orphanages I know of operating in Guatemala are faith based organizations, their work is made possible by true believers of the Christian faith, that accept, that they personally have a responsibility before God, to provide for and serve the orphaned and fatherless. They put their money where their mouth is, so that these children can receive the care they need.

Without the Christian orphanages that exist in Guatemala housing thousands of children, children who were placed there by the Guatemalan government because they had no other viable option, how many more lives might have been lost in this tragic fire? Even now the Guatemalan government is turning to these homes to place children displaced by the closing of their own orphanage where the fire took place.

Does this mean that we should go on an orphanage build spree? Absolutely not. There is a consensus amongst faith based orphan care organizations that family care is the ideal, yet there is an understanding that it will take time to get there.

Buckner International, one of the oldest orphan care organizations in the world, took 20 years to shut down its residential care facilities in the US, and it will take time to do so in other countries as well. Shutting down private institutions without first building up other options, will have tragic consequences.

For children who have been institutionalized for most of their lives, thrusting them into a different environment from the only one they have even known, can be traumatic as well.

Many of those who have lived and worked in less developed countries, and have been on the front lines of orphan care, have conceptually worked their way upstream to the root of the problem as to why so many of these children are in orphanages in the first place. If we want to reduce the flow of children into orphanages into orphanages, we have to better serve the families where they come from.

We need to better serve the families where these children come if we want to reduce the flow of children into orphanages.

Are orphanages the ideal place for these children? No. But at times they are the only viable option given the available resources. As Mike Douris, the President and Founder of Orphan Outreach explains, we need a “Continuum of Care”. What does that mean? “In basic terms, the continuum of care is different modalities of care along a spectrum of least restrictive to most restrictive. Each type of care has one single goal: to point towards the safest and most nurturing permanency plan for the child as is possible, given the resources available in any environment.”

Understanding that each form of care, has its place within the continuum of care, while at the same time developing programs and funneling resources that place more children into family care environments, working to change laws to make this possible, and encouraging change within cultures so that people see that THEY own the responsibility to property care for, foster or adopt the children of their own country, is necessary.

Why Christian orphanages? None of the Christians I know that work in orphan care have anything against private secular run orphanages, they just understand, based on their Christian faith, they when they see someone in need, they are called to personally help in some way. Since the early days of The Church when Christians were known to rescue unwanted children abandoned by the Romans to die, to this day and age when they open their homes to foster, adopt, and even head to foreign countries to serve orphans.

James 1:27 tells us that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

The Christian church has always been, and should always be on the front lines of orphan care.

True, simply wanting to help, and actually being a help, aren’t always in lockstep with one another. But as orphan care organizations, orphanages, churches, missionaries and volunteers work to serve with excellence, ensuring that their help is rooted in knowledge and best practices, children, at whatever point in the continuum of care they are at, will only be the better for it.

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