The true measure of our beliefs is how we live them out.
Sometimes it can be hard to judge the impact of what we teach.
Many of the youth enrolled in after-school programs at the Cadanino Community Center in San Jose Pinula participated in Bible classes for several years.
During that time, they studied Scripture, learned about God, came to understand salvation, and continue to discover what it means to live a Godly life.
While it's easy to judge their academic progress in our educational programs, it can be harder to assess what impact our Bible classes are having in their day-to-day lives.
Over our 18 years of ministry in Guatemala, we have seen that service to others is one of the critical indicators of just how much God's word is taking root in someone's life. It's the way people connect Scripture to their daily lives.
As such, we have made service to others one of our core values.
When we truly come to understand that the Gospel is the Good News of God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves, that our salvation is a gift of God, beyond something we could ever achieve or deserve, we will want to extend that same love that God has for us to others.
And we have seen that in the lives of our students.
When the government's Covid-19 lockdown went into place last year and we decided to do monthly food deliveries to the elderly, infirm, single mothers, widows, and disabled in the communities where we work, we looked to the youth in our discipleship program for help.
Not only did they assist with the packing and preparation of the food, but they also took time to minister spiritually to the families they were serving, something that has continued even though the emergency relief food deliveries ended.
Hear From a Teacher
This is what Lili, the coordinator of the San Jose Pinula Center, had to say.
“When the pandemic began, a group of young people took on the challenge of sharing a bag of food with people in need. They sought out those in their community who were elderly, disabled, or families where parents had lost their jobs. But they went beyond just sharing a bag of groceries, they shared the word of God to give hope to people.”
As we began to wind down food deliveries last year, the youth told us they didn't want to stop visiting the families they had been helping.
They wanted to continue their ministry, bringing words of life and truth to the children, sharing the Gospel, and making disciples.
So now, I take time with them every month to plan their classes. The message they are bringing to their students is one of finding joy in Jesus. The children learn to understand that even amid the confinement, loneliness, fear, and sadness that so many have experienced this past year because of Covid, they can still find joy in Jesus.
So far, more than 60 children from 31 families are benefitting from this program. The youth have gone to great lengths to make it unique for each student, going so far as to use their limited resources to bring snacks, gifts, crafts, and a meal to those they continue to serve.
It has been beautiful to hear the youth comment on how their whole families, mothers, fathers, and siblings, have gotten involved in helping with their outreach. It has inspired others to get involved in serving.
It amazes me how God uses these young people's lives to bring life and hope to others as they share their faith.
They are busy, active workers in God's Kingdom and are so excited about each project and eager to take on new challenges.
I have seen them grow so much throughout this experience as many of them had fears and insecurities to overcome, but through God's grace and working together as a team, they have had a tremendous impact.
Each young person left a mark on the hearts of the children they serve, and it was incredible how their faith grew as they stepped out to help others in need.
As we serve others, it not only helps them, but it has the power to change us.
I have heard it said that service to others and missions is the lifeblood of the church. It's not enough for us to study and take in the word of God for ourselves; we have to live it out in service to others. Any Gospel that doesn't motivate you to go out of your way to share it with others is an incomplete Gospel.
Mayra Rancho, one of our teachers, shares the story of Rosita, a student, and how she is taking the truth that she is learning and pouring it out onto others.
“It fills me with joy and gratitude to have the students back in our center for classes and to be able to sow the word of God to each one of them personally.”
Rosita is one of our most mature and dedicated students. She is delightful, loves to participate, and always has a great attitude in class.
She told me that the youth classes are a blessing in her life. They help her to build a personal relationship with God and also enable her to serve others better.
In the church that she attends with her family, she volunteers to serve in the children's ministry and has been taking the material and concepts learned during classes in our center and using it in the Bible classes she teaches to the children on Sunday.
It is incredibly satisfying to see the word of God that we have been planting into students' lives bear fruit, not just in their lives but in the lives of those they are now ministering to.
They don't just take it in; they give it out and live it out. To see that happening is the true fruit of the Gospel at work.
As we move forward with our youth classes this year, we continue to give them a strong foundation in the core elements of what it means to be a disciple and follower of Christ.
The time will come when they graduate from our program, and we know that it is essential for them to understand the role that service to others plays in building relationships with others.
Ultimately, God wants us to love, serve and care for others, absolutely and completely, just as He did for us. When we serve others, parents, teachers, neighbors, spouses, children, and strangers, we fulfill God's plan for relationship.
Ephesians 5:1-2 tells us to "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God". And 1 John 3:18 says, "Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
At the end of the day, our actions do speak louder than our words. From an earthly perspective, you may not receive back as much as you give — but loving, serving, and caring for others in Christ's name and His sake is God's plan for relationships.