Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Juan's Story

Picture taken during our interview with Juan
“There is something different about him,” I told my wife after interviewing one ten year old boy. We had been interviewing 24 students at HOREB who were receiving scholarships, but this one stood out.  His eyes were full of light as he shared deeper things about himself, demonstrating a maturity different from the other children his age.  He was small in stature but talked with confidence and conviction, sharing how he had changed from an angry boy to one who had become more at peace.  We decided to dig deeper, visiting his family in their home and talking with his teachers.  This is the story of how God changed his life and used HOREB and WIND to facilitate that change.

As in every story, this one begins long before Juan was born.

Tabita Juana Toma de la Cruz is the daughter of a Pastor who was shot dead on his way to a nearby village.  She doesn’t know who killed her father, whether it was the army or the guerillas, but it doesn’t matter.  Her father was dead, but he left an imprint on her life; a seed that would grow and one that would carry her to start the first Christian school in her town of San Juan Cotzal.  She worked hard to receive her education, receiving a four year degree from a university in Guatemala City, a very rare feat for an Ixil woman.  Then she did something even rarer, she came back to her town.  A missionary heart had been formed inside her, and the children of her home were on her mind.  The town was in the midst of much gang-related violence, and teenagers were killing each other.  Her concern for her town led her to begin a school where the Word of God would be taught in the classrooms in an environment of love and care.  After a couple years of prayer, Colegio HOREB was founded.

Four years later as Juan entered the first grade, the school was in trouble.  Tabita didn’t have money to pay the teachers and felt a lot of pressure.  She confided in a close friend that she was thinking of closing the school.  Her friend, a missionary from El Salvador asked her, “Whose school is it?  You can’t shut down a project of God.”  It was in this period of great need that God provided for the school in profound ways.  The founders of WIND were on a vision trip when they found themselves in Tabita’s home listening to her story.  After returning home, they sent an email offering a little support to help pay the teachers for that next school year which was the year Juan entered the second grade.  The project of God moved on.

Juan with his third grade teacher, Joel
At that time, Juan was a very angry child.  He explains, “I would throw my books on the floor and yell in the middle of class.  I could not control myself.”  At home his father was battling with alcoholism, a problem that runs rampant in the Ixil.  His family was poor and didn’t have much to eat.  His mom would ask him to help in the home and he would only scream back, “NO!  I don’t want to!”  He was on a path to destruction, but everything changed his third grade year.

One catalyst for this change was a teacher at the school, Joel, who spent a lot of time mentoring Juan.  In particular, he led Juan to Proverbs 14:17 which is a verse he continues to recite to this day.  It reads, “A man of quick temper acts foolishly.”  Juan learned about the Bible and Jesus through his teachers at HOREB.

That same year, his father died from alcoholism.  Juan was sad, but his mom shared with him a dream she had when her mom had died from anemia.  “Don’t be sad that your father died, because that happened to me when my mom died.  I was so sad, but the people in the church prayed in my room and that night when I was sleeping, my mom appeared to me in a beautiful house with a lake that shines like gold and she was fat and better and she said to me, ‘Don’t be sad because I’m better, I am a singer here, you need to accept God in your heart.’  After I woke up, I was not sad for my mom anymore.”

Enma working with a student
A woman named Enma, the acting Principal of the school, saw his change throughout the year.  One day she called him out of class.  Undoubtedly, Juan walked with a little apprehension as he approached his school principal wondering what he had done wrong.  She had a simple question for him.  “Juan, I know how you love God.  Do you want to accept him?”  This question probably took him by surprise as he remembered the dream that his mother had shared with him.  He said yes, and the two prayed together.  Afterward she said, “Since the moment you were born, the name of God has been in your heart.” 

Since that day, he is a changed young man.  He reads a borrowed Bible alone in his room and goes alone to the church every Saturday and Sunday.  His new stepfather is good to him but only makes $4 per day working in the fields.  His uncle buys shoes and clothes for him or gives him a corn drink called atol.  Sometimes that is all he has to eat, but Juan accepts it and doesn’t complain since he has received God.  He also works more in the home, is more obedient to his mom, and doesn’t get angry like he used to.

Juan shows off the family's new stove (with his mom and sister)
His mom is very thankful to HOREB for all they have done for her child as well as to WIND for giving him a scholarship to study there as she can’t afford the $3 per month it costs to attend.  She is also thankful for the stove that was installed this year in their home by Westminster Chapel.  It has helped bring in a small income for the family as the mom is able to cook tamales and sell them. 

During our interview with Juan, we asked him a question we asked all the scholarship students: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Without hesitating Juan responded, “A lawyer.”  That seemed like a typical answer.  “Why?” we asked.  He replied, “Because I want to help people.  One day somebody tried to accuse my mom of something she didn’t do, and I stepped in to defend her.  That’s what I want to do, to defend those who are being unfairly accused.”  That is a young heart set on the Kingdom of God and a great hope for the upcoming generation.  But there is still a lot of work to do and a lot of children who are on the wrong path, like Juan was.

It is Tabita’s vision to grow HOREB to include a middle and high school.  There are currently no such Christian schools in San Juan Cotzal.  HOREB also desperately needs a new elementary school building as the rented space they meet in is dilapidated and unsafe, making for a very difficult learning environment for the children.  Tabita is currently trusting God and waiting on His provision of the land for building.  I hope you join us in prayer for the children of the Ixil, praise God for stories like Juan’s, and think about how you can support this ministry.  This is indeed a project of God, and God will provide according to His will.  

Juan with his family and a new Bible provided to him by WIND
Juan enjoys art, here he shows off one of his paintings

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