Is That All It Takes?

by Bobby Marko
NASHVILLE, TN

I had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Got to sleep in a little bit, hang out with my wife and daughter, more this weekend than I have in the last few months! Got to see some family, be together and have some great food, got stuffed! I even did a little yard work, wow, where did I get the time??? And as the weekend started to come to a close, I reflected a little more on what it means to be thankful.

My wife, Susan, myself and Emily only were able to stay in Guatemala a week so we were able to spend Thanksgiving here at home with family and friends. But I found myself spending allot of time reflecting back on the week before while we were in Guatemala. One of the last days we were there, Amelia, Matt and myself were able to go into Guatemala City and have a chance to visit some ex-gang members who escaped the gangs in order to have a better life for them and their family. Our friends Joel and Ignacio picked us up that Friday afternoon and we went on our way.

While in the car, on our way to the first stop, Ignacio explained some of the challenges of getting these guys and their families on the right track. One of them being the discrimination from employers against people who have tattoos. Since tattoos are significant amongst gang members, employers do not hire people with them, fearing this would bring an unwanted presence into their company. But in most cases, that fear is unwarranted. For example, the first guy we met was gracious, humbled and you could tell he just had a desire to provide for his family. We sat down and spoke to him about what he does to make money. We’ll call him Jose (since these guys are still sought after by current gang members, we don’t want to publish his real name), Jose sells shoes. But because he doesn’t have a store, he has to sell them on the streets. Jose sets up his work area in a small hallway between his one bedroom apartment (which is about a 10×10 foot room where he and his wife, 2 year old little girl and 4 month old newborn all sleep) and the bathroom. He makes 60 pairs of shoes, on average, a day! Jose was gracious enough to allow us to watch some of his processes that go into making a shoe. He has very little tools, applies glue to the shoes with his fingers and works very fast! We were amazed by his speed and quality.

The next visit we made was a small inside shop where we saw 8 sewing desks with consumer grade sewing machines on top. In the room that was about 12X8 foot sat about 5 workers, all ex-gang members. The man in charge, we’ll call him Freddy, again, not his real name, him and his wife ran the shop. The shop had no windows and also served as his home residence for him and his wife. They lived and slept in a back room not much larger than a typical walk-in closet! However, as we spoke about their work and what their desires were, they lit up! They were so eager to just make quality clothing they could sell and be able to provide for themselves and the other people that were working with them. The problem was they spent so much time and money getting the machines, getting the materials, they didn’t know how to calibrate the sewing machines for the different types of material. I asked Freddy, how much would it cost to the machines calibrated. He told me it would be about $100 to have someone come out, calibrate the machines and show the workers how to do the calibration so they could do it themselves. I thought… $100… is that all it takes? Who do I make the check out to???

I was amazed that $100 is the only thing holding these people back from getting their feet off the ground. It also made me stop and think that in most situations, just a little nudge is all these people need. They are eager, willing to learn, wanting to work but they just need that extra little help to make it happen. Listening to these stories moved me, it got me thinking how easily $100 is easy to come by in the U.S. How most of us could sell something we own and get $100 easily. But for many people in Guatemala, who are trying to overcome their past, it’ so much! These are the stories that need to be heard.

I’m so thankful that we live in a country where opportunity is abundant, that I have the ability to travel to places like Guatemala and hear these stories, to have the freedom and the opportunities to do what I love for a living. I’m also thankful we can do so much for so many people if all we do is listen.

Our Guate Family

By Amelia Moore
Nashville, TN (written in Guatemala City)

A little back story if you are new to our blog: This trip is exciting for me because we are premiering our documentary film project, “Reparando.” My husband, Scott, and I have lead a team of volunteers for two and half years to produce a 70-minute feature film which highlights the vast needs in Guatemala and how Guatemalans are responding to the needs in their communities. It’s a broad story of restoration and hope through specific people. I’ve now seen the film over 50 times and it still moves me. This week we have shown it in huge theaters in Guatemala City & Antigua, a High School and a church. The viewers’ responses have overwhelmed me: young people wanting to make difference; people who are already giving want to do more; individuals that want to invest in the least, the last and the lost of society; a high school student who wants to rally her peers; a grandmother crying; missionaries that desire to show the film to their churches; and more…

Five years ago we came to Guatemala to start our family… and God has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams in this regard. We have adopted two beautiful boys (Micah & Elliot) that were born in Guatemala and beyond that God has given us many friends that we consider family as well! I have been overwhelmed by the team of people God has placed in our lives to accomplish this task in the US and in Guatemala. In the US, God brought specific people to the project every step of the way: graphic designers, financial guys, admin folks, translators, artists, cinematographers, marketing folks and more! We have been unified by a common passion. Here’s a photo of the amazing people that have joined the team for this trip which include many of our best friends from Nashville and my fun mom from Virginia. And for a few, it was their first visit to Guatemala.

Here in Guatemala our friends from EdT and Freedom Guatemala have worked hard to organize, promote and manage the events: Joel, Jonathan, Hubert, Liz, Sylvia, Gary and a team of over 20 volunteers! I have been amazed at how humbly they have all worked together. They have encountered many obstacles this week and continually they praise God for His provision. It was an extreme blessing to be served by them and to watch them all work together to make each premiere event a huge success. God has also brought into our lives a very dear friend, Cesar, who has served our team as a translator and team coordinator (on all of our Athentikos trips). Cesar also joined us in the states in September to help us with the US premiers this fall. So we have also had the honor of living with Cesar the last two months. We have been so blessed by his calming presence and fun spirit. And our boys fell in love with Cesar. He has become part of our family and we are so thankful for the time we have gotten to spend with him. It will be really, really difficult going back home without him. Here’s a photo of him with Elliot & Micah right before we left the states for our trip here (the boys stayed home).

On the second Sunday of our trip, we had honor of visiting Cesar’s home and spending a little time with HIS family. We had a fun time jumping on his brother’s po-go stick (yes, that’s correct), playing the keyboard & guitar (thanks Tyler & Scott!), drinking coffee and listening to Cesar’s father play the guitar. They are a beautiful, warm family. We had a great visit and can’t wait to visit them again.

We’ve had great time hanging out and getting to know others from the Guate team in their homes, praying, playing cards, over dinners, at church and more. We are definitely thankful that we’d had time to connect with, encourage and get to know our friends here. It’s been such a tremendous blessing to share the joy of the journey with them. Here are just a few more faces of the Guate Reparando team:

I am so thankful that we get to continue our relationships with Cesar and all our Guatemalan friends. And that our boys will grow up knowing them and their examples of passion for this beautiful country. Thank you to everyone who has worked to make this week successful and for your hearts for God and passion for Guatemala. We are blessed by your friendships and that you have become like family to us.

Hope IS Rising

By Emily Sutherland
Nashville, TN

This is my first trip to Guatemala, and I have been overwhelmed. This country is beautiful, the people are beautiful, the scenery is beautiful and the stories that we are hearing are beautiful. I am still processing what we experienced Thursday (the 6th day of our trip). It began with showing Reparando to a Christian Missionary school in Guatemala City, and the response was amazing. The main characters in the film shared a little afterward and Shorty was overcome by emotion. Dozens of high school juniors and seniors waited for their turn to meet and speak with Tita and Shorty. Since I have seen the film several times, I was surprised at how emotional I was;  I now realize it is not only the film itself that brings the tears, it is physically meeting the real people of the film. Tita and Shorty are authentic and humble. Our hope and prayer is that the high school kids will want to react to the film and collectively make a difference in their own community. I am confident that God will make that happen.

Scott greeting Shorty; Herbert and Matt preparing for the pre show at the High School.

Sharing with the students after the film; Shorty started to get emotional.

The students were really overwhelmed and inspired by the message of the film.

A few hours later we had the opportunity to join in a visit with Hector and Italo who minister to some of the young people that live on the streets. I was a little scared because we had been warned to take off all of our jewelry and anything else that we didn’t want to give away. Hector told us that they are not afraid to ask for anything. They are accustomed to begging and stealing for their daily needs, and they are always using drugs. We walked about three blocks to their “home” and along the way picked up about five of them on the streets – all of which were inhaling solvent in order to stay high. Their home, aptly named the Tank, was in a vacant lot in Zone 3 of Guatemala City, surrounded by a cinder block wall. The roof was a blue tarp and some mattresses and a few torn and broken chairs were all they had for comfort. I couldn’t focus on one thing because I was trying to take it all in. I found it amazing that they were so welcoming to all of us and that they were truly a family. Each one of them has a story and slowly we were able to sit down and hear them. I scanned the room at one point and there were four or five different conversations taking place, most of them ending in prayer, and in some cases, tears streaming down their faces.

Italto hanging with one of the young people. He is teaching this young man professional clown skills in order to make some income.

This is the “house” (an abandoned lot)  where about 20 of the young people gather to live, hang out and sleep

I found myself wondering where the hope is in their situation. They are uneducated, addicted to drugs, and most of them cannot go back home. But in the spirit of Reparando, hope IS rising. There are men who are investing their time and money into these kids, and the more exposure the kids get to genuine love and acceptance, the more they can understand that God loves them, too. One young man has been restored. Cesar has moved back home and is now ministering to his own peers in the Tank. I’m struggling with how I can help because it is not good enough for me to say goodbye, cry a little, and then pray that it all works out. God showed me this and he wants me to respond. It might be that I need to help financially for a little while, but I know God will never let me forget them. I want to see them again. I want for them to be repaired and restored and in turn helping others that need it. This is already happening…because that is how God works. He is at work when we don’t even realize it.

The lot is surrounded by this white wall in which many of the young people have painted their own messages of hope.

THEN… Last night was our big premier at the theater in Mira Flores, one of the nicest shopping malls I have ever been to. I was almost uncomfortable being in such a nice place since only hours before we had been in the other extreme. The massive movie theater was packed, holding more than 390 people (our awesome volunteers had to sit on the floor)! The story that sticks out to me, is one that is completely behind the scenes. Earlier in the day, Joel Van Dyke received a panicked call from one of his staff members that the movie theater was going to cancel our showing unless we paid for the theater. Originally the theater was not making us pay because the manager was friends with one of our team members here in Guatemala City (and we weren’t charging a ticket fee). Apparently it was illegal to give us the theater for free and we had no other choice but to pay or cancel. Through God’s divine intervention, there was a man that was placed in Joel’s path and extended his heart and his wallet. He was in no way connected to Reparando, but he knew he has there for a reason. Why do we ever doubt that God will make it happen? I can dream the biggest dream possible, but God’s hand is infinitely bigger.

Packed theater! Sharing after the show.

We really missed the rest of the A-Team this week. We wished they could have ALL been here to experience this amazing evening (and week).

Some of our “Reparando” volunteers (We have nicknamed the RepaRAMBO team)! THANK YOU SO MUCH for all your work this week!!

Photos by Amelia Moore (www.ameliajmoore.com)

New Stories

By Susan Marko

I am sitting in a school auditorium in Guatemala City as middle and high school students view the Reparando film for the first time.  Shorty and Tita are sitting in the room with us and I am, once again, moved to tears. This trip is my first time in Guatemala, but I have watched Tita and Shorty’ s stories for the past two years as my husband has been working on footage from his two trips with the Athentikos team.  I couldn’t help but be captivated by their lives and ministries.  Now that Bobby and I are both here to participate in the premiers of the finished product, we feel overwhelmed and humbled that God has allowed us to be a part of what he is obviously doing through “Reparando.”

On Wednesday night the team met at Joel Van Dyke’s House in Guatemala City along with our Guatemalan friends who have given so much of their time, passion, and effort towards preparing for the premiers this week.  I was overwhelmed by the hope they have that this message could make a real difference for their country.  Everyone who has been a part of this film has such a sense that God crafted the story and the results are all to his glory.  Now we are all just standing back in awe as God takes his message to the people.  Again, all of our showings are full and frequent calls are still coming in of people who want to see the film.  But beyond the numbers, we are hearing stories of how hearts are truly being awakened and a passion is forming to serve God’s people like never before.  I include myself in these numbers.

So far this week we led an art camp for students near Antigua who have had little exposure to the idea of creative expression.  It was amazing to see their joy as they realized a talent that they never knew they had, or to see them express their thoughts about themselves, their family, and God, some for the very first time.   This idea that they can see God in the small things, that trash can be something beautiful, that they have the potential to dream and to “ask beautiful questions” is a brand new concept to so many of them.  The teachers, who participated in the classes along with their students, seemed equally inspired and wish to continue the art program in their school.

We have also visited some extremely poor communities and walked with people who are giving their lives away to bring hope to these families.  We interviewed a pastor (Mario, above) who was born and raised in the same hill town where he now serves.  God reached him through powerful visions and some missionaries who came to work and serve in the community years ago.  He then took us to meet some families who have been given a chance to provide for their families through a microfinance project, allowing them to borrow money in order to purchase chickens or other livestock so that they will have products to sell.  These families were so thankful for the little that they had, and they thanked us for coming to their village to share in their stories.  All we could do is hug them and smile and tell them in our broken Spanish how we were thankful too.  God truly does use the weak to shame the wise.  God’s heart is for the poor.  “Blessed are the poor” is not only those who are poor in spirit.  God truly dwells with those who are in need and as Tita says in the film, God is “tangible” in these places.

In trying to process all that we have encountered this week, I know I have to respond.  All I can do is tell God I am standing here with open hands and trust that he will tell me how.  It seems that our involvement in this film is just the first step.  To God be the glory.

New Promotional Video featuring Joel Van Dyke

Joel Van Dyke came to Nashville to host our Vision to Respond event and also took some time to do a promo piece for the film.

Joel lives in Guatemala City with his wife Marilyn and two children, Joeito and Sofia. After 16 years as a pastor in North Philadelphia, he currently serves in Central America as the Director of the “Estrategia de Transformacion” (Strategy of Transformation) which is a grassroots training initiative with a mission “to equip the church in Latin America to reach high-risk youth and their families in hard places.”

Joel has been a key member of the Athentikos team as one of primary contacts in Guatemala and has been a vocal advocate for the project. Special thanks to him and his family for dedicating time and effort in the vision for the film.

Athenti-Kast: Episode V

This episode shows J. Mac and Bobby leaving Guatemala to come back to the States while Bengy, Cesar and Scott have a day off in Antigua before going back to Guatemala City to wrap up filming at Casa Barnabe.

[podcast format=”video”]https://athentikos.com/wordpress/video/a-kast-ep5.mov[/podcast]

Athenti-Kast: Episode IV

This episode shows the crew visiting Ciudad Vieja as they capture the story of the Ortiz family and the Kyros School. They hit up a local bakery where Estuardo works and go back to his home to capture scenery and interviews. The team also grabs some scenery of both Vieja and Antigua with the Agua volcano in the background before returning back to Antigua for the day.

[podcast format=”video”]https://athentikos.com/wordpress/video/a-kast-ep4.mov[/podcast]

First Preview Event

Last night our team hosted a Preview Event, “A Vision To Inspire” to start getting the word out about our documentary project. Chris Wheeler emceed the evening and shared statistics about Guatemala, Amy Stroup and Mary Hooper sang a few songs, we played a team video highlighting our Jan trip, a Trailer for the project, a small but powerful interview from the project and then Scott & I shared our hearts and journey. Our room was decorated beautifully highlighting photos of the precious people we met (thanks Ericha, Kayla & Mary for the beautiful decorations!).  We had a variety of desserts including Tres Leches, Flan and Horchata.  60+ folks joined us to hear about the vision and purpose of this documentary. As a team we were energized and encouraged by the response. It’s been so hard to communicate to people the scope of our project, so it was fun to show and share more about it. People continually said, “We had no idea… about Guatemala… the scope of this project… your story.” We’ll be hosting a few other Vision Evenings this fall to continue to cast the vision and tell the story. Please join us if you were unable too last night!

Currently, we have a few needs to move forward with this project. First, a small crew is returning to Guatemala in August to capture some more footage. If you would like to make a financial contribution towards the trip, go to www.athentikos.com and click on “help us spread the word!” Second, we need help with financial, marketing and business items. If you are interested in joining our team, contact us at info@athentikos.com.

christableart

On the blog here, we’ll start to share our personal journey and the vision for the project. So I’ll start at the beginning… here’s a little of what I shared last night:

In 2005, after struggling with infertility for several years, Scott and I attended an adoption conference-  it was more out of desperation than desire. Soon after, we knew we were supposed to pursue adoption, but my heart was still raw. I wasn’t excited about the option and felt bitter that it felt forced upon us. But I trusted that God would change my heart. A year later on Mother’s Day 2006, we carried an eight-month-old baby boy home from Guatemala. In the course of that year, God HAD changed my heart – I had completely fallen in love with a child and a country. I can’t image my life without either. Soon after we adopted another boy from Guatemala. So – through our four visits with the adoptions, we committed to learning about the culture in Guatemala. Before I started the adoption process, I knew very little about the country. So in effort to see more than just the touristy stuff, we made contact with an acquaintance, an American Missionary who lived in Guatemala City – Joel van Dyke. Joel and his organization provide Biblical & Theological training to Latin American volunteers who are already doing significant ministry in their communities, they have very little.

Joel passionately shared their vision for the Least, the Last and the Lost – for reaching people in hard, desperate places like the slums, the prisons, the homeless – for asking beautiful questions of people that are forgotten to much of society – for hearing their personal stories and through that connecting and sharing Christ. So through our relationship with him we learned about the deep needs in the country and the amazing work God is doing through His people there. Every time we visited, we met new people. We heard their personal stories, their vision for their communities and their hearts of hope in God’s provision. We were inspired by a country we previously knew little about … our desire became to inspire others through these stories– not just so others might be interested in Guatemala, but so they would be inspired to use their personal skills to impact the communities around them.

God Bless,

Amelia Moore