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  • Writer's picturetimothy martiny

Finding Wonder and Hope: A Special Trip to the Zoo for Children in Guatemala's Red Zones

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Just going to the zoo was an amazing experience for our students in Guatemala.

Sometimes I’m amazed by the things that amaze children.

Last week we took a trip to the zoo. We brought the children who attend classes at our Community Center in Colonia Santa Fe, one of the dangerous “red zones” of Guatemala City. These children have been faithfully coming all year, many of them not missing a single class, to receive tutoring, learn computer skills, typing, computer programming, and most importantly to receive instruction of God’s Word.

Professor Eduardo, or “Profe” as he is affectionately known, is a 5th and 6th grade teacher from a local school and he does an amazing job running the program in the afternoons and on Saturdays.

As we are getting to the end of the Guatemalan school year, we wanted to do something special to celebrate not just what they have learned, but their desire to learn. One of the greatest things I think we can do for them is to ignite in them a spark of desire to learn.

George Washington Carver said, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” This applies in both an intellectual and spiritual way. Knowledge of one’s personal rights, educational options, and career possibilities is the first step in moving towards breaking a cycle of poverty. If you don’t know that you can have a better life, how do you strive for it?

It also applies to our spiritual lives as well. Jesus told his disciples in John 8:32 “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” For without knowledge of the truth of the Gospel, we cannot be saved by it.

Seeing these children learn and grow, both spiritually and intellectually, has been a wonderful experience.

So when a dear friend told us he has some money for a project, and we asked him if he would like to sponsor a special day for these children at the zoo. We were delighted when he said yes.

Most of these children come from very difficult backgrounds. They are surrounded by alcoholism, drugs, gangs, violence, and death. If you have seen it on the news, they have probably lived it. Many live in extreme poverty and for some, three meals a day is a luxury. So we knew that for them to have a field trip to the zoo and lunch out was an exceptional treat.

The extent of just how special it was wasn’t made clear to me until we got there and I saw the looks of amazement in their eyes as they viewed the wonders of God’s creation. Getting within 10 feet of a growling tiger, watching the giraffes eat out of their hands, hearing howler monkeys screeching in the treetops, petting horses and cows brought wide eyed and opened mouthed looks of amazement to their faces.

Seeing every fiber of their being filled with excitement, I couldn’t help but feel blessed that God had given me the opportunity to be with them as they received this special outpouring of His love for them.

For millions of other children a trip to the zoo is a trip to the zoo, but for these children, this was God’s way of showing that He cared for them, in the way that mattered most. The looks of wonder in their eyes affirmed to me once again that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be, reaching exactly who God has called me to reach


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