Ministry, at its heart, is about people!
While it is true that often, out of necessity, we get bogged down with the particulars of administrating our ministry, at the end of the day, serving people is the whole reason ministries exist.
The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 “So we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” Through this we see that true ministry is more than just being willing to share the good news of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection on the cross as payment for our sins, it is the sharing of our souls with others in a work that is encouraging, comforting and which urges us to live lives worthy of a God who calls us into His Kingdom for His glory. (1 Thess. 2:12)
When people come to visit the community center we run in the slums of Colonia Santa Fe, one of the first things I always tell them is not to look at the condition of our space, its size, the age of our equipment or our limited resources, but to look at the 125 children who come day in and day out to learn about God’s word, memorize scripture, learn computer skills, get assistance with their education and essentially learn to learn.
The ministry is the children and parents we serve, and probably more importantly, the staff we hire to serve them.
Having served as a missionary in Guatemala for over 15 years, I have seen many missionaries and volunteers come and go. I have seen ministries start up, run for a while, and then shut down when the missionaries or founders left. We came to the conclusion some time ago that we didn’t want that to happen to Cadanino as well.
Pastor Andy Stanley, in his book, Seven Practices of Effective Ministry, lists “Replace Yourself” as a requirement for those who want to energize their ministry. He says “One day someone else will be doing what you are doing. Embrace the inevitable and prepare now for the future.” So that is what we are doing.
When we started our work in Colonia Santa Fe, one of the infamous “Red Zones” of Guatemala City, I didn’t really know what the plan was or how things would turn out. What we did know, after years of working in orphanages, is that most of the children who ended up in children’s homes, actually had families. They were social orphans placed in an orphanage because of abuse, negligence or their family being unable to care for them.
Our hope is that if we could work with the children and their parents in the communities where they live, perhaps we could keep them at home with their families instead of having them end up living in an institution.
As our program grew, and I saw the impact that our work was having, I came to the realization that if we were going to be effective in this endeavor, I would need help to do so.
I prayed for God to send me someone, and he raised up Eduardo Lux.
Eduardo was a teacher at the school where we started our programs. He has a great heart for kids, a desire to help them succeed, and has dedicated his life to serving and teaching students that come from difficult backgrounds like he did.
He was always stepping up to volunteer and serve alongside us, so when we decided to hire someone part time to take over the computer and Bible classes, he was an obvious fit.
As someone with great initiative and a desire to serve, training him has been easy. While we have provided guidance and training in how to run the program, we have tried to be intentional at every step of the way to involve him in the process, drawing on his experience and knowledge, listening to the advice he gives and respecting the understanding he has of his own culture. This has resulted in him taking ownership of the ministry and reinforced the idea that we are partners and brothers in Christ working towards a common goal.
Providing him with the opportunity to continue his university studies, inviting him to attend our church and participate in activities, and offering to pay for seminary classes, are all a part of our goal to invest in him as a person that will, God willing, take on the mantle of running this ministry for years to come.
We recently hired Lucy Portales is our second teacher. She attends our church and has volunteered consistently in our ministry over the years. Helping with VBS programs, serving with mission teams, aiding with running the summer camp, teaching cooking classes, and, most recently, taking in a girl who left an orphanage whose only options were to live with her boyfriend or a relative in a dangerous situation.
She is a person who has limed means but a limitless heart and we have seen time and time again the heart she has for ministry. Though our funds are limited, and we don’t have enough to cover the salary of a second teacher at the expanded facility we rented for our growing community center, we hired her.
We are investing in her, because we have seen that she is committed to investing in her own people, in the children of Guatemala, who are important to the heart of God and are the future of The Church.
In 2 Peter 2:4-5 we are told “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
People are those living stones that God uses to build his Kingdom and if we are going to be successful in ministry it’s because we are investing in others who are willing to invest in others. I believe that this is key to being a successful part of God’s ministry which He so graciously allows us to be a part of.
Whether these employees are with us for a few months or a few years, we see hiring them not just as an investment in our ministry, but as an investment in the Kingdom of God. Our prayer is that God gives us the ability to be a Spirit-filled servant that seeks to invest in people above all else, for the glory of God.