Jay Westmoreland sits in the nursery gently rocking the baby. Nestled in the bend of his arm, the child rests contently as childcare workers and volunteers tend to the other babies at the Good Shepherd Children’s Home, Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) affiliate orphanage in Xela, Guatemala.
Westmoreland and fellow BCH trustee Bobby Boyd just finished painting one of the many rooms at the orphanage when he took a quick peek into the nursery. He planned to spend time on the playground with the home’s older residents after tackling his work projects, but that was before he saw Pedro.
“I was just captivated by him,” Westmoreland recounts of the orphanage’s tiny resident who he continued to hold and later fed – the next work project would have to wait. “After Pedro said what sounded like ‘dada’ a couple of times, I was hooked.”
The trip to Guatemala from March 26-30 was an opportunity for Westmoreland and other members of the Board of Trustees to see the orphanage up close. The group of 11 travelers included trustees, spouses and BCH’s Brenda Gray, Executive Vice President, Development and Communications and Keith Henry, Chief Operating Officer, who oversees BCH’s affiliation with Good Shepherd Ministries.
Good Shepherd Ministries encompasses both the orphanage and the nearby medical clinic. The clinic provides medical care to the orphans as well as services to people in the surrounding community.
“Our trustees have heard so much about the Guatemala ministry,” Henry explains. “This trip allowed them to see it, and the needs, firsthand.”
The orphanage provides a home for indigenous children who have been neglected or abandoned. Children who come to Good Shepherd Children’s Home may only be a few days old.
The children’s needs in Guatemala were very evident to Bobby Boyd. Boyd has seen children come from a variety of difficult circumstances during a long tenure as the director for the Department of Social Services in Catawba County.
“I didn’t know much about Guatemala before going,” he shares. “I’ve learned that about half of the 16 million people there live below their poverty level. It feeds into the depression and alcoholism that are such challenges.”
Westmoreland agrees. “The poverty, alcoholism and malnutrition. . .it’s why we have so many children at Good Shepherd Children’s Home.”
“The purpose of BCH in Guatemala is the same as it is with BCH in North Carolina,” Westmoreland explains. “It’s to share hope and change lives.”
Trustee Roy Howell had participated in a volunteer trip to the orphanage with his home church, Green Level Baptist in Cary. During the trustee trip, Roy says he saw the needs from another perspective.
“On this trip, I saw the disparity in the religious teachings,” Howell says. “The Guatemalan people are taught many different things by different people. It makes it hard to teach them about Jesus.”
The challenge hasn’t kept all those involved from sharing Jesus. Trustees met 13-year-old Santos, the oldest boy at the orphanage and one of the first children admitted into care.
He asked Jesus into his heart soon after arriving at the home. And 13-year-old Esmeralda made a decision for Christ only a short time after the group returned home.
“It’s not hard to imagine Santos becoming a Christian leader or even a pastor,” Westmoreland asserts.
While the visiting trustees and BCH staff members had ample opportunity to spend time with the children, they also stayed busy completing a number of work projects and volunteering at the medical clinic.
BCH’s Brenda Gray worked in the clinic’s pharmacy and taught children who came with their families basic oral hygiene skills.
“I had the joy of giving these precious boys and girls lollipops. . .then I showed them the proper way to brush their teeth,” Gray laughs.
Henry says the venture was a success and is tentatively making plans for another trustee trip for later this year.
“The trip was everything we hoped for,” he says. “It allowed the trustees to share in the Guatemala ministry firsthand and even begin to envision how it may move forward as we step into the future.”
Reach out a hand of hope. It is only through generous, ongoing support that Baptist Children's Homes can carry out the mission of Good Sheperd Ministries and provide care to hurting children in Guatemla. You can support the children at www.bchnc.org/gmissions by making an online gift.