Confession here, I like to go fast.
When it comes to getting things done, I like to move quickly. Identify the problem, think through the options, decide on a course of action, and execute.
In many ways, it has served me well in life. I’ve been able to get things done when others were still talking. I’ve started programs that had a high impact in a short amount of time because I’ve been able to spearhead efforts and mobilize resources to help those who urgently need it when others couldn’t even see the need.
Moving fast is my nature. It is how God made me, and I am grateful that I have been able to use this ability for God.
I have found that when you move fast, and things go well, you eventually reach a point where you get to a place where speed will simply not sustain you and at that point what you need is a team to help sustain you.
That has been my journey.
In most of the work I did in my first years in Guatemala serving in orphanages, I moved fast.
An orphanage needed food; we found regular donors from the market to supply it. Orphans needed Bible studies; we started a youth group in our home. Teenagers aging out of orphanages required life skills, we opened a carpentry workshop, taught English, and started computer training programs. A Pregnant 13-year-old girl gets placed in an orphanage, we raised the money and found a private doctor and hospital. Volcano destroys a town in Guatemala and wipes out crops in the area, we host an online fundraiser, prepare care packs, and deliver them to those who need them. A student got kicked out of an orphanage and needed a place to stay; we found someone to take her in and help her to finish her studies.
We moved fast, often we moved alone and generally had a significant impact on what we were doing.
Yet as the years passed and I began to truly wrap my head around the scope and magnitude of the problem, I realized that just reacting to challenges by moving fast wasn’t go to be enough. If we wanted to truly make a dent in the cycle of vulnerable at-risk kids ending up in orphanages, something had to change. We needed to go upstream and serve the families in a way that strengthened and supported them in their communities. To find solutions that kept kids at home in their communities instead of in institutions.
Doing that would take much more than just moving fast. We needed partners to go the distance with us.
When the reality began to sink in that 80% of the children in orphanages were not truly orphans, but had families and had been placed there because of abuse, negligence, or poverty, we began to pray and discuss what it meant to serve vulnerable children well.
We ended up in the slums of Colonia Santa Fe where I started volunteering at a school teaching Bible classes. Instead of moving fast and starting a program to fix all the problems and meet all the needs, I spent two years helping out in small ways, getting to know the kids, learning about the community and building relationships.
An important friendship grew during that time. I got to know Eduardo, a teacher who was incredibly committed to his students and passionate about teaching.
Together, after talking to the parents about their needs, we rented a small garage and started an afterschool program teaching Bible and computer classes.
It was my first experience having someone alongside me who was willing to go the distance. Though Eduardo had limited computer knowledge, and I had to teach him, his connection with the students, their families, and fantastic teaching skills enabled us to start a program that would go the distance.
I allowed him to take the lead in teaching our program. As a result, sometimes things went slower than if I was doing it myself, but we went farther and were able to get more done because of it as I was still running several other programs.
Two years later, we expanded to a bigger location, increased our program to a full afternoon, hired a Bible teacher, then another schoolteacher. We also expanded to a second location, and by 2019 we had a team of six teachers serving 150 students through afternoon programs that provided Bible study, computer training, and educational reinforcement.
We were going far, but we weren’t going alone.
Slowly but surely, we were taking the time to build a team that could go the distance required to meet the needs of the children we were serving in the long run, and it has borne fruit.
The children in our programs and the families we serve can see our commitment is long-term, and that helps build the trust needed to speak into their lives. So when we tell them that the program we are offering will make a lasting difference, they believe us.
Alongside with building an internal team to execute the programs in our community centers, we created a board of directors in Guatemala for the Cadaniño foundation. They have the skills, abilities, expertise, and passion for assisting us in creating an organization that will go the distance.
We have a great team of businessmen, entrepreneurs, a pastor, a missionary, church leaders and a non-profit director, all of whom are united with us in a common cause.
Beyond that, God has given us a fantastic partnership with Orphan Outreach, a US Foundation with years of experience serving orphans and at-risk children. The knowledge, resources, and assistance they have brought to our ministry are helping us to go deep in ways that will sustain the work we are doing.
As this incredible team has grown, one thing has been vital, we have worked to truly partner with those who are coming alongside us in ways that give everyone ownership in the work being done.
I no longer see this as “my” project, but as “our” project. Though it’s hard, I no longer try to run far ahead fixing things and solving problems, I try to work with the team and partners God has given us and build solutions that work in the long run.
Does it take longer? Yes! Am I frustrated by it at times? Absolutely! But do I see that we are building a structure to sustain the ministry so that it can have an impact, in the long run, serving the orphaned vulnerable and disabled far into the future? Most Certainly.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
If you, like us, want the privilege and joy of being a part of the work that He is doing here in Guatemala in this time and place in a way that will make a lasting impact for eternity, then click below to partner with us.