Moved by the faith he witnessed in Pastor Emilio and his wife Ester in the construction of a Christian school in San Pedro La Laguna, Sololá, Joe LoMonaco, the founder of Proyecto Fe International brought its first short-term mission trip to Guatemala in December of 1996. Over the course of the following twenty-four years God has allowed Proyecto Fe to send nearly 150 teams to serve in San Pedro as well as in its surrounding mountain villages. There is no doubt that God has used Proyecto Fe and its short-term mission teams to positively affect the lives of the people in the communities it has served.
Students, parents, teachers and directors along with the administration of Colegio Bethel gather at the dock anxiously awaiting the arrival of the boat transporting, for them, a special group of people. As they welcome and guide these people through the streets of the village to the school, their blue shirts distinguish them, and word quickly spreads throughout the village that a Proyecto Fe team has arrived. Much of the emotion is due to the strong relationships that have been built over the years.
The children of Colegio Bethel along with their family members await the moment that they get chosen for a Sunday afternoon home visit by members of Proyecto Fe teams. Often the children don’t outwardly express their excitement but hidden in their heart is tremendous joy that these people would want to come into their homes to talk and pray and get to know them a little bit. Most often that joy is demonstrated during worship time on Monday morning when they spot the team members that visited them. Many can’t wait for worship to end so that they have a chance to greet them with a kiss and a hug or the recess bell to ring so they can search them out and play with them for the next half hour.
Team members take advantage of the opportunities to show God’s love to the people He puts in their path, whether it be a street vender, project worker, hotel or restaurant owner; more often than not there is a great language barrier but there is always a heartfelt greeting. The day is filled with hours of silent communication, lots of smiles and hand gestures that make one feel like playing charades as a kid was worthwhile; all of this for one reason: to let people know they care. At the end of the workday God allows both groups to feel His love for the interactions they had.
Teachers, as well, silently but anxiously wait for their special time with team members. Though both parties are a bit nervous spending two to three hours one on one with such a great language barrier, they always return from their time together laughing, very relaxed and amazed at how much they were able to communicate. God is so good.
As the week progresses, team members want to spend more and more time with the children and the children very happily oblige. Often, they sneak out of class with the excuse of having to use the bathroom but really in search of a “new friend”. They feel safe and “sure” that they won’t be in trouble because they are with a team member. Other classmates wish they had the courage to do the same. Both the students and the team members would love to spend the day playing together!
All to quickly the ten days comes to an end; the teachers, staff and administration gather together, offering a special meal and a time of thanksgiving for what the team has done in the life of the school, the lives of the children, their families and the community. The children also have an opportunity to say thanks and pray for their return home. With their hearts filled with joy they belt out silly songs and songs of worship in thanksgiving to God for how the team has loved them. Often there are lots of tears and emotions for how God worked throughout the week. In all of it God is orchestrating His plan for each of us!
With all this emotion students, parents, teachers and directors along with the administration of Colegio Bethel, tearfully stand at the dock saying good-bye to those who have played with, loved on, accepted, given value to and even challenged during this very short time. In the minds of a few is the question: Will I ever see so and so again?
In the early years that question was real for many more that gathered to say good-bye. However, God’s faithfulness to Proyecto Fe and Proyecto Fe’s faithfulness to Colegio has allowed strong relationships to be built. Instead of wondering “if” the question has become “when?”. When is the next team coming? When is my sponsor coming? When is Tio Jose coming? Again, I say, there is no doubt that God has used Proyecto Fe and its short-term mission teams to positively affect the lives of the people in the communities it has served.