This testimony from Keely Taylor shows about Iglesias Belen, our partnered care point through our new global partner, Children’s Hope Chest Guatemala.  We hope you’ll join us this Sunday, Sept. 18th for a 5-7 p.m. dinner at Pam Prag’s home as we learn more about Hope Chest, Iglesias Belen, and begin to explore with us what God has for our community through this relationship. Special activities will be available for children; please bring blankets & chairs for seating. Please email Pam to RSVP.

We walked into the sanctuary of Iglesia Belen on a Monday afternoon in May. The 75 year old church was clean, well cared for, and filled with a presence of peace. We were welcomed by several kind faces, men and women, moms and dads, pastors and elders, dentists and teachers. We sat in wooden pews and listened to a few different people share the vision for their program. It seemed clear that community drives their church, not just one strong personality. It felt familiar because of the way the All Souls community shares in the leadership of our church. After the presentation, we had the opportunity to spend time with some of the kids in the afterschool program. We played kickball, made bracelets, learned names, and exchanged smiles. Before we left, we prayed together and shed tears over the brokenness that Belen is surrounded by and also the hope that is so clearly evident. We were drawn to and inspired by these everyday people that seemed much like us in many ways, desiring to love their city in the midst of busy lives, full time jobs, and raising families. We feel honored to be invited to come alongside them as they creatively love people, seek justice, offer mercy in their city.

Iglesia Belen is a protestant church in Guatemala City, located just a mile outside La Limonada, the largest slum in Guatemala. La Limonada houses 100,000 people, roughly the population of the city of Boulder. This slum used to be a beautiful ravine in the middle of Guatemala City where lemon trees grew, which is how it got it’s name. During the 36 year civil war from1960-1996, many people fled the violence of their villages and came to the city looking for safety and work, but found neither. Slums formed and to this day are filled with gang violence, hunger, and extreme poverty. Many children live without adequate or safe shelter, proper nutrition, and medical care. Malnutrition among children is a devastating problem in Guatemala city. Often times, families are merely fighting to stay alive. Public education is available but supplies, uniforms, transportation, and after school care are often difficult for parents to provide, so in many cases children go without education.

The people of Iglesia Belen know their community well and are keenly aware of its needs. The church has been a place of hope and light to their neighborhood and has a heart to more specifically love and support the children of La Limonada. Their vision includes providing an afterschool program for kids to have a safe place to be in the afternoons. A place where they are fed, tutored, and loved. A place where they can be free to be kids.  

The vision also includes improving their existing facility in order to offer more services to their neighborhood. They want to remodel a bathroom, washroom, and kitchen. They need to repair their roof. They dream about transforming an existing space in the church building into a library/multimedia room. They want to develop a special education classroom, and purchase a piano to offer music lessons. They’d love to create a grocery store that sells fresh produce and dairy in order to offer good food for the neighborhood, provide jobs, generate income, and promote sustainability.

We believe in Iglesia Belen’s vision. We are hopeful that a beautiful partnership between All Souls and Belen will develop. As individuals, couples, and families, we will have the opportunity to visit the people of Belen. We are excited to build friendships with people in a different part of the world who have a different experience of life and God. They have much to offer us. We have much to offer them. The people at Iglesia Belen are passionate about joining God in His work of mercy and justice in their community. We have been invited to witness and participate in this work. We are desiring to be awake to this invitation and respond in action.