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  • Writer's picturetimothy martiny

Then and Now!

At the end of this school year, we attended the school graduation ceremony at the orphanage Fundaninos. In Guatemala, there are certain years that tradition mandates are celebrated with a graduation ceremony when students complete “Prepa” (the grade before 1st grade), 6th grade, and 9th grade.

Standing there watching the students receive their diplomas, I couldn’t help but be struck by how far some of them had come.

We have been serving at Fundaninos for eight years. Yet I remember the first day I drove out there to set up our simple computer lab, like yesterday. I remember the first English classes and computer classes when some of these students were too shy to even speak up and didn’t know how to place their hands on the keyboards as they had never touched a computer before.

I remember the look of awe on their faces as the letters they punched on the keys translated into words on the screen and how happy they were when they finished their typing class and got to play an educational computer game.

I remember the first day Evelyn, Joselyn, and Stacy came into the English class and the smiles on their faces when I invited them to have a seat and participate in language-learning games.

I remember how much all the kids enjoyed it when I divided the classroom into two groups, often boys vs. girls, and had them compete to see who could get the most correct answers, as that group would get to go in for computer classes first.

I remember when Chupete told me he was bored in English class because he knew all the answers. He loved it when I asked him to work on the computer instead.

I remember when I appointed Fatima as my assistant. She would help me when I got stuck with Spanish words and oversee the students in the computer classroom.

I remember when I told them that if they memorized enough verses, they would get their own Bible and that each of them did just that.

I also remember how the kids loved showing up to classes, whether because they liked me or the bananas and nuts I would bring for a snack at the end of the class. I don’t know, but it didn’t matter; they were there.

A friend of mine reminds me how, on his first mission so long ago, I went out and played soccer in cowboy boots with the kids; it was probably more because they were the only pair of shoes I had at the time and not a desire to be a “cool” cowboy soccer player.

I remember the first time we had all the girls over to our house for youth group. Though I didn’t really know what we would do, I knew that inviting them over, bringing them into our house, and giving them community was important.

All these memories and more came to mind as I saw student after student, whom I had poured my life, heart, and soul into, getting up, standing tall, and receiving their diploma. I want to see how far they have come and that I have been blessed to walk alongside them through the ups and downs, joys and sorrows. I celebrated birthdays and Christmases, and, well…life with them has been a wonderful experience.

A fellow missionary told me recently how he was jealous that I was blessed to see my students grow up, make their way in the world, and lead fruitful lives. I thought about it for a minute and then thought back on the 14 years we have been in Guatemala, being faithful to the scriptural calling to serve the orphaned, fatherless, and vulnerable. I told him that we were blessed to see fruit in our ministry. Still, that blessing required obedience, years of diligently serving those that God led us to, often in places where no one could see.

Being true to our mission to love every life that God put in front of us, to serve them and help them get to the next step, whatever that was. If we were faithful to plant a seed in someone’s heart and water and tend to a soul, we would trust that someone someday would see the fruit. Confident that the conviction God had given us to serve was more important than the passion we might or might not feel in the moment, which somehow enabled us to carry on long enough in ministry. So, at long last, seeing the fruits of our labors is a fantastic gift; while we don’t deserve it, we feel so blessed.

As I saw the students file away off stage with their diplomas and looked at all those sitting in the audience, I couldn’t help but feel excited about how I might look back 14 years from now and think back on all the new memories I will have.


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