Childcare worker Catarina Jaminez cradles the baby. Her smile grows wide as other workers and friends move close to get a glimpse of Enma Carolina – the first child admitted to the Guatemala orphange.
Enma’s arrival on October 17, 2014 marked the beginning of the Good Shepherd Children’s Home, Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) new affiliate orphanage in Xela, Guatemala.
“Looking back on the past year, there is no doubt that God had a plan as He prepared the right people and the right place for the orphanage,” says BCH Chief Operating Officer Keith Henry who oversees the ministry. “The Good Shepherd Children’s Home has literally saved the lives of more than a dozen children.”
Since its opening, the Good Shepherd Children’s Home has served a total of 25 children, most of them infants like Enma. And like the home’s first child, the majority of the babies were abandoned.
“The conditions where they were found are not survivable,” Henry continues. “It’s only by God’s grace that they have come to us.”
Roger and Vicki Grossman, the husband and wife team who have served as missionaries in Guatemala for the past 30 years, see the reality of the children’s circumstances firsthand. They are the on-site directors for the orphanage and nearby Good Shepherd Center, a medical clinic and training facility.
“Children have been abandoned in pilas (outdoor wash stations), trash dumps and next to the river,” Vicki says. “Gabriel was found a short time after his birth in a cardboard box by a river in the city of Olintepeque. He was about 16 days old when he was discovered.”
While the majority of those admitted to the home are babies, Good Shepherd has also received older children who have come from circumstances as dire.
In October, the orphanage brought in four children ages one to ten who had been living on the streets. They were found in a sand pit in the town of La Esperanza.
“They came to the home wearing tattered rags and infested with lice,” Vicki says. “Nine-year-old Maria and one-year-old Jesus were severely bruised because of abuse by a family member.”
Vicki explains that the boys and girls had fended for themselves for so long that they had forgotten what it was like to be normal children.
“We ask for people to pray with us that God will transform them into children again – children who will begin to know their true Heavenly Father.”
With the help of six childcare workers, Good Shepherd Children’s Home currently cares for 17 children with ages ranging from only a few weeks to thirteen years old.
Help has come in the form of dozens of volunteers. As many as 64 Guatemalans volunteered with Good Shepherd this past year. The majority of mission groups from the states have come through North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM). In 2015, the group organized a total of 24 teams comprised of 238 volunteers.
NCBM first became involved with the construction of the medical clinic, known as the Good Shepherd Center, in 2011 before the idea for the orphanage had surfaced.
Last year, there were 3,943 patient visits at the clinic. The clinic provides low-cost visits and medications to the villagers. It also offers medical care to the children at the orphanage.
“The children’s home was unexpected. It came along after we had already begun work on the clinic,” NCBM Consultant Mark Abernathy says. Abernathy organizes the volunteer team efforts. “The two ministries work hand in hand. It’s been exciting to see how God pulled all of it together.”
Mission teams for 2016 are being organized, some are repeat volunteers while others are traveling to Xela for the first time.
“The needs have been so great that we have experienced a large amount of growth at Good Shepherd Children’s Home in a short span of time,” Henry explains. “The needs will only become greater in 2016 meaning it will take more resources to serve the orphans we care for now plus the new ones that will come. We ask our friends to prayerfully consider supporting the ministry and help us rescue these children that are counting on us.”
It is only through generous, ongoing support that Baptist Children's Homes can provide care to huring children in Guatemala. If you would like to help, contact Keith Henry at 336-474-1215 or Brenda Gray at 336-474-1230.