Sunday, March 9, 2014

Visit to learn about our new Bridge to Life Sponsorship Program for high-risk youth, going well above and beyond regular sponsorship to provide:;
- Counseling/Psychological support for crisis, abuse and trauma
- One on one mentoring and discipleship
- Vocational and University scholarships
- After-school programming with organizations like YoungLife
- Competitive athletic programs
- Employment services

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

AMG Guatemala Working Closely with the Guatemalan Government

It's been a joy to begin working with the Guatemalan Government, specifically the Secretary of Social Services, Secretaria de Bienestar Social.  We have begun work together on a new foster program, our part being "church based foster care" and its promotion throughout Guatemala.  We are also trying to find better ways to keep youth out of the streets and moving forward to a positive future!  Many of these efforts are through our new At Risk no More program.  Visit our website at 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spiritual Scorecard

Overlooking Lake Atitlan

In 2011 Woord en Daad Holland, who is the main donor of AMG Guatemala, introduced us to a tool called a scorecard. This tool measured the quality of education and the participation of parents in the project. Initially, we were not all that excited about the tool, because we thought it was just another thing that needed to be done. However, once we started implementing the tool we soon realized that it was very useful. The way the tool works is that you meet with teachers, parents, students, and leaders of the church and go through the different themes that are presented. After a time of discussion the people involved have to give a score from 1-4: 1 being weak and 4 being strong. My job is to facilitate the discussion by asking questions and making sure that the score that is given is in accordance with what is stipulated. Afterwards each project has to come up with an action plan in the things they will do to ensure that the score will be higher the next time around.
This year, 2013 we are once again doing the scorecards in all of the AMG schools and education centers. In 2015 we will do it again. Although the scorecards were good, we felt that it was missing a component which is the spiritual. For us, the spiritual is the most important. It is the reason why we exist as an organization. We firmly believe that there is no true transformation or development apart from Christ.  We can educate, feed, clothe, and provide medical/dental care to kids, but if we have not shared with them the Gospel of Christ we fall short. Therefore, in 2012 with the help of others in AMG, I developed a spiritual scorecard. Although the spiritual is hard to measure and more subjective, we felt that there were enough things that we could measure. In the spiritual scorecard we are measuring how often the Bible is taught and whether it is taught in a chronological way. We look at the Bible knowledge of the students and staff, and whether the staff shares their faith and testimony with the students on a regular basis. We look at church attendance and testimony, the visiting of families and praying for students. We also look at the involvement of the church in the project and the lives of students and their families. 
Although I was not 100% satisfied with the scorecard and was not sure as to the best way to implement it, we decided to start using it and make changes as necessary. We have had to make a number of changes, but all in all it has been useful and well received. It has created discussion which in my opinion has been good. The purpose of the scorecard is not simply about giving a score and measuring where each project is at spiritually, but also about getting people to think and create discussion. 
In the near future I hope to develop a few more scorecards to measure other areas of AMG Guatemala like their camp program and their child protection department. I also hope to rework the spiritual scorecard and make the necessary changes and expand it to include more things. It is my hope that through the scorecards we can better our programs and most importantly help the students,  staff and church in their spiritual development.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

At Risk No More’s God-Story – Seeing His Church in Action

Throughout these last 5 years of living in Guatemala, we have been praying for God to continue “sending more workers into His harvest field,” Matthew 9:37-38.  He has continued showing us how He is answering by bringing 12 workers to AMG and forming the At Risk No More team in the last 2.5 years.  We want to share a specific story of how He is using this team, working together with other ministry partners to bring healing and hope to a family here in Guatemala City.

New Home from Gary de León on Vimeo.

Several months ago, our street team, Hector and Emma Perez, came into contact with a distraught mother, living in extreme poverty, with whom they had been working in the past.  She began to share that one her children had been terribly abused and she needed help.  Hector and Emma contacted several of us in order to come up with an appropriate intervention plan.

We arrived and found their little shack fairly quickly and our team, consisting of Hector and Emma (our street team) as well as Karla (our social worker) and Lucrecia (our psychologist) began to dialogue with the mother.  She had five children with two different fathers and lived in a shack the size of a shed (10' x12') behind a Guatemalan city market in a very dangerous slum area called “la terminal.”  Her current boyfriend is a 20-year-old drug addict that spends most of the time in the streets on solvents and drugs.  He is the father of her two youngest (ages 3 and 5).  It is through working with this young man that Hector and Emma came to know this family. 

The mother was ready for help this time.  Her older two daughters (12 and 14) had been raped in the last several years and she wouldn’t cooperate to take action against these perpetrators, but this incident occurred with her 10-year-old son.  He had already told his mother about being abused by a neighbor, but this time, she was ready to act and report the “unthinkable” that happened to her son the day before our team arrived. 

An awesome ‘God-story’ piece to this is that our newly hired psychologist, Lucrecia, had been working with the Paz family for the past several years and already had a history with this mother, further helping our chances of convincing her to get help for her son and report this case to the authorities. 

We brought the mother and her son to the 'Ministerio Publico' where charges are formally filed in Guatemala City.  After 7 hours of lines, forms, exams, interviews, etc. our team walked out successful with proof of the assault as well as a warrant for his arrest!  It was just one day later that the police made the capture!  Both the warrant for his arrest as well as the capture are HUGE answers to prayers as the government typically doesn't find the proof very easily, not to mention acting on a warrant.  Both happened within 24 hours!  Only by God’s grace!

Another act of God – International Justice Mission – one of our network partners – agreed to take the case and will be prosecuting the rapist to make sure the family receives justice and this man never acts again. 

Gary and Rachel, ARNM team members,  helped to relocate the family to an apartment near our main school, also where the counseling offices are located (and still not far from their original home).  It is small but bigger and safer than their previous place and costs $53 a month.  It also has electricity and plumbing which the other did not.  

Being located near our school will allow us to enroll all five of them through our child sponsorship program.  The two youngest will be easy but the 10, 12, and 14 year old are all in first grade level.  This is difficult as AMG is not equipped to have them in our mainstream classrooms.  This is also where God’s sovereign grace has been shown because it has caused us to see some of our weaknesses and look for solutions.  

We are excited to report that during the last week of March, we received permission/certification from the Department of Education to formally begin teaching children with special needs and learning problems.  This will allow us to not only educate these children but also many more children in the days and months to come!  All 5 children are in our main school and we are in the interviewing process to hire the special education teacher.  Please pray for the right person.

We were also humbled by His provision through a local church near our school that has committed to pursue the family to get them involved in their church and minister to them through the local body of believers.  This is the most sustainable/long-term solution and one of our biggest answers to prayers - open hearts within the local church to go beyond their walls and meet the needs of those within the communities around them.   

Lucrecia, our psychologist, has been assigned this case and has begun the long process of restoration for this family.  She has the commitment of our entire team as well as the church in assisting her in this long road of recovery for the entire family. 

There is so much more to do, but God is allowing us to re-write these children’s stories by giving them hope and a vision for the future by working as a team to bring restoration!  Praise God with us in seeing His church in action and please pray for the wisdom, strength and the patience needed to continue bringing eternal hope and healing to this family!!!

By Chad Smith, Director of At Risk No More ~ AMG Guatemala

Saturday, April 13, 2013

AMG Guatemala signed a partnership agreement last week with Habitat Para La Humanidad Guatemala and are looking forward to wonderful work together serving those in need in Guatemala! 

The two organizations will collaborate on helping families to access clean water, efficient wood burning cook stoves, training on many different areas of life and also work together to reduce the great deficit in housing across Guatemala.

Brian Dennett and Noé Batres Sign on Behalf of AMG and Habitat

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Violence Hits Closer to Home!

Guatemala is a beautiful country filled with lovely and friendly people.  It is also considered one of the most Christian countries in Latin America boasting an evangelical population of around 30-50% who attend one of the almost 20,000 churches present here. At the same time it is also one of the most violent and unsafe countries in the world with anywhere from 17-20 murder per day. Gangs and drug cartels have overtaken large parts of the country and neighborhoods. There are parts of Guatemala City where even the police can not go into.  To make matters worse often the police and other government authorities can not be trusted and many have links to criminal organizations.  The slogan is more or less "if you can't fight them, join them".  The ones that can be trusted and want to make a difference often have their hands tied because of human rights laws protecting civilians and in a way criminals. To cap all of this off, the decades of civil war has created huge slums and settlements filled with people who are full of resentment. Resentment because of what happened to them during the civil war (being misplaced, losing their possessions and land, and seeing family members get killed or disappear) and resentment because of the lack of opportunities and services available to people living in slums. For many people their future appears bleak.  They do not have a vision for the future, because they can not see past their needs for today. This lack of vision and hopelessness become the arteries that feed the criminal organizations since they offer "opportunities" and short term solutions and hope to the desperate. Stories of extortion, gang violence, drug turf wars, murder, rape, femicide, etc are what fills the newspapers and airwaves each and every day. And while much of the violence is targeted innocent people often become victims. Missionaries also are not exempt because of the work we are doing here. It is not that God always spares us from the violence. Yesterday this became alarmingly clear as we heard of the shooting of a fellow missionary who lives in our neighborhood. While this missionary is in critical condition and we are praying that God will spare his life, we were all reminded again of the fact that this could happen to anyone of us. It hit very close to home and many of us felt a certain sense of fear. It is one of the realities of living in this country. Death constantly stares us in the face. All of us have seen more murders than we would care to recount. Some might ask, "why don't you leave?  Go back to North America where it is relatively safe"! The reason why we do not leave is because we feel we have the unique answer to many of the problems and that what we are doing is making a difference. Thankfully the answer and the making a difference is not from us since we are all failures in our own way. The answers lies in Christ and him crucified and risen from the dead. This means that we must willing to give our life so that others may live. For this reason the Apostle Paul referring to striving to reach the lost and broken writes......
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man (body) is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal" 
(2 Corinthian 4:16-18).

This is of course not an easy thing to do, and it is something we often struggle with. God created us to live and as human beings we cling to life. It is only by the grace of God that we are able to give our life so that others may live. Please pray for the safety of the missionaries in Guatemala and for them to be bold and courageous and not live in fear. Also pray for this missionary that God will not only spare his life, but heal him completely.