José Mario was 12 years old when we met him. He shows up at our house every Saturday to shine Michael’s shoes, turning the worn leather into a glossy sheen. We often gave him a snack and something to drink and Michael would sit and talk with him. Sometimes, José Mario works with Michael on some project in the yard.
As we got to know him, we found out that José Mario is the brother of 10 siblings and that his father was a drunk. He lives about 20 minutes out of town (by car). Sadly, his father died in a drinking-related accident in September 2013.
When José Mario graduated from sixth grade shortly after his father died, he invited us to come sit with his family at the graduation. For this young man, graduating from sixth grade is a big accomplishment — especially since he didn’t have the money to continue on to 7th grade. At the graduation, school officials invited parents to come and speak to the students and parents. Knowing that José Mario’s dad wasn’t there to speak for him, Michael stepped up and spoke to this young man and the gathered crowd about the importance of having priorities that put Christ at the forefront of their lives. (Here in Guatemala the public schools are much more open to the Gospel than those in the US.) Afterward the graduation, Jose´Mario led us to his family’s home for a visit.
Living here in Guatemala, we see a lot of different home environments that are pretty poor, but what we found after trekking up a steep slope and walking through a corn field was a surprise.
José Mario showed us what looked like a small chicken house. This was where he and his mother and eight other siblings lived. It was a small tin-roofed shack. The cornstalk walls gave scant shelter to a dirty, dark room about 10 feet by 10 feet wide. In the house they had strategically placed boards where they could sleep off of the moist dirt floor, but hanging from sticks were clothes that gave the shack the look of confusion.
That visit started us on the search for a way to help with the great need for a house for this large family.
Michael met with a trusted friend who lives in the same neighborhood to check out the back story. True to what we’d been told, this family was in great need.
After confirming the family’s situation, Michael presented the situation to the project manager at ASELSI (the ministry we work with). He planned a home visit with a team that took some much needed food supplies to the family and gave us an opportunity to evaluate their needs better. After the home visit plans were made to build a home for this family.
In May a team from Oral Roberts University started the project. They installed posts and a roof over what would later become the family’s home.
When we arrived in July with a team to finish the project we found a relieved mother who thought that the roof was all we were going to do!
Quickly, a team from Faith Christian Center in Kansas had walls, a door and window installed and a cement floor was being poured.
As we built, José Mario did what he could to help and seemed to enjoy helping pickup supplies or run errands for the team members to get nails, boards or whatever was needed to build the new home for his family to stay dry and warm during the rainy season that was already well underway.
After two days of work, the team finished the project with a final cement floor on the porch. We presented the family with a key to the front door and prayed God’s blessing over their home. As we always do when finishing a project we try to explain to the family the reason a team will come all the way from the United States across thousands of miles to build them a home or help with a need — because of the love of Christ in us.
A few days later (after the cement was dry) José Mario and his family moved in. José Mario told us that his family is very happy with the new home that was built by two different teams who wanted this family to know that they were not alone and that their Father God was caring for them.