Much of the following is quoted (with permission) from Emily Gillham, EMI Civil Engineering Intern, who was a vital part of this project team. I find that her writing captures the experience better than I could.
Welcome to Zone 18 of Guatemala City. Known as "Paradise," most families live in small shacks on dirt floors surrounded by tin walls. Gunshots are heard nightly and everyone, including kids, has grown numb to the sight of dead bodies in the streets.
If you're a girl, chances are you'll be molested or raped by 15, have your first child by 18, and three more by 25. And there's no doubt that by that point, the men will be gone and you'll be alone to raise the family.
If you're a male, you'll likely be in a gang by 13. They make promises of a different life than the trash you live on, hunger and hopelessness; which are the only things you know at this point. So, you join; and your life expectancy is...24.
To give a little perspective, this is where they live.
And this is their front yard and playground.
Nathan Hardeman got a nickname in the neighborhood. They call him "grandpa" because he's lived to be 35.
Nathan has ministered to the people in "Paradise" as a pastor at Shalom Baptist Church. But, in his words, "there's always a few boys that fall through the cracks." It's been on Nathan and his wife Claudia's heart for the last eight years to start a home where boys who want a change, that just need a helping hand out of their situation, can actually find hope. This won't be a reformatory or jail, it's for those who want to come. It's not for orphans; there are lots of orphanages. It's for the ones with families, ones the orphanage cannot take. Though the boys are the ones that will come to live at the homes, Nathan will continue to partner with churches and others to minister to the boys' families.
There will be four homes on a hillside site near Antigua, Guatemala. Each home will house six to eight boys and house parents to model what a healthy family should be. Having the house father to demonstrate integrity and godliness will be something many will never have known. Throughout their stay they will have a professional mentor to encourage them emotionally and spiritually and help them reach their professional goals.
Nathan and Claudia's heart for these boys is based on 1 Samuel 22:2 where David is hiding from Saul. Instead of pitying himself and his situation David becomes a leader for the men around him, the discontented and distressed. Some of these same men are listed as David's "mighty men" in 1Chronicles 12. This is Nathan and Claudia's vision; to take the poor and outcast and give them the opportunity to become "mighty men." They have named their ministry "Geber Derek" which means "the way of the warrior."
Here's how we spent our week in Guatemala:
Each day we started with worship and devotions to remind us the reason we came is to glorify our God. Sunday we worshiped at the project site.
Every other day we worshiped at our guest house.
We gathered the information we needed from the site and presented our design to Nathan.
And some of us did work at the guest house.
Then we had the privilege of seeing Antigua, Guatemala.
We got to see a puff from Volcan Fuego from our guest house.
Some of the team even hiked Volcan Pacaya (5 days before it erupted).
Here's the team.
"Yes!" I love my job! Thank you Jesus!