Child at Hope of Life Rescue Center in Guatemala

Field Updates: Guatemala 2010 - 2013

Praying for a Miracle

June 25, 2013 by Tony M.

Two weeks ago, our Guatemala ministry partner Esperanza de Vida rescued a starving teenage girl named Mirza Lopez, who weighed in at a vanishingly small 19 pounds. That’s less than the size of my 7-month-old son! Mirza also suffers from paralysis as a result of contracting polio at a young age. She lost her mother three years ago to an unknown illness, and her father is a poor field worker who has nothing to feed his children when the crops fail.

I struggle to believe that Mirza is really 14 years old – or maybe I just don’t want to believe it. Where do you compartmentalize this kind of horror in your brain so you can eat your lunch, finish your workday and return to your comfortable home with a refrigerator full of food? How do you ask God to fulfill your dreams when there is a nightmare next door – a nightmare of skin and bones and atrophe and chronic, wasting hunger?

At least I know that for Mirza, the story doesn’t end there. The staff at Esperanza de Vida’s emergency nutrition center cleaned her up, gave her new clothes and began the long process of bringing her out of severe malnutrition. I know she is surrounded by love and prayers; I know she is receiving the best possible care; and I know she won’t just be fed and discarded. They’ll make sure her family is equipped with the knowledge and resources to maintain Mirza’s health. Or if necessary, they’ll keep her at the ministry’s own orphanage.

Please keep Mirza in your prayers. Her condition is extremely delicate and she really needs a miracle right now.

Mirza Lopez in the arms of Esperanza de Vida founder Carlos Vargas.

Hope of Life

June 18, 2013 by Annie W.

Cross Catholic Outreach’s ministry partner, Esperanza de Vida in rural Guatemala, rescues starving children and nourishes them back to health—and one of the precious children saved by their outreach is little Jairo Garcia.

Jairo’s 18-year-old mother passed away just two weeks after his birth. Though he was taken in by his grandmother, she was unable to buy him milk because of her extreme poverty. Worried her grandson may not survive another day, she rushed him to the emergency nutrition center at Esperanza de Vida. He arrived weighing a mere 4 pounds and 4 ounces.

But thankfully, once provided with life-saving nutrition and immediate medical attention by the staff at Esperanza de Vida, Jairo was nursed back to complete health. Today he is a happy and healthy baby boy who is full of life.


Rescuing the Forgotten

April 30, 2013 by Catherine M.

We recently received an extraordinary success story from Guatemala! Our ministry partner Esperanza de Vida sends rescue teams into rural villages to save children dying of malnutrition. When they are found, children are rushed to the center to be nourished back to complete health. Here is an excerpt from volunteer Sean Grogan’s rescue experience:

There are so many different stories and experiences I could share with you, but the one that comes to mind is my first rescue. We traveled for hours to reach a boy and all we knew was he was in extremely bad condition. Once we arrived, we walked up the hill to his house, and there, in a dark, dirty, mud shack, laid 16-year-old Eulises.

His body was ravaged by disease, infection and malnutrition. We carried him down the mountain and carefully placed him in the truck and made the long trip home. Eulises was crying in pain at every bump in the rocky road but he was a champ.

When we got to the rescue center and checked him, we saw that he was worse than we thought.
The doctors told us his chances of survival were small because of the infections, but they would do their best to save him. I was able to keep myself together until I called home and then I lost my composure. My first rescue and he probably wouldn’t make it to the next day.

The great thing about what we do here is, we don’t work for man; we work for the Creator.
He uses us to do his will and he knows that everything will work out according to his plan.
Eulises has recovered far better than I ever thought he would and I have the privilege to see him and check his progress each day. Eulises is why we do what we do. We save the lives of the ones everyone else has forgotten.

Before: Before being rescued, Eulises was on the brink of starvation.
After: Now Eulises is growing stronger by the day!

A Small Gesture with a Big Impact

March 5, 2017 by Tony M.

Father Rene Sal celebrating the Mass at his parish in Cerro Alto, Guatemala.

This year, Cross Catholic Outreach partnered with Fr. Rene to spread Christ’s love in word and deed by building 40 sturdy new houses for these desperately poor Guatemalan families. This project has been a great blessing and a Gospel witness to families who previously lived in flimsy shacks built of dried corn stalks, plastic tarp, mud and tin.

Praise Letter From Guatemala

July 31, 2012 by Esperanza de Vida Staff

I still believe in the value of a handwritten letter. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, or maybe it’s because I love the thought and care that goes into putting pen to paper.

When I read the following letter we received from one of our ministry partners in Guatemala, Esperanza de Vida (“Hope of Life”), I was moved to share it with you. Yes, it’s been word-processed for the blog—but I pray you’ll feel the heartfelt emotion it conveys.

Praise God for bringing physical and spiritual healing for this family!

Dear friends,

We want to share with you the story of Carmelino. Carmelino, his wife and their six children moved from the mountains to Pueblo Modelo because of the severe landslides and flooding. Their humble home was destroyed by the rains and they were living in a hut made of ripped nylon sheeting, tin roofing walls that made the hut stifling hut.

The fumes caused Carmelino to suffer from a lung infection and because of this he could not work for a long time. His children had to go to the streets begging for food. They later found their father almost dead. Esperanza de Vida’s team prayed for him, talked to him about God’s grace and healing, provided medical care and built a new home for his family.

Today he has recuperated and they have new hope, living one day at a time.

God bless,

Esperanza de Vida Staff

A Dream Turned Into Reality

May 9, 2012 by Stephanie J.

We all have dreams for our lives – things we want to someday accomplish or create. We might dream of having children, building up a business or traveling the world. Dreams are dear to us. They give us hope for our future and goals to work toward.

What if your dream was to just have a solid roof over your head for the first time?

Maria and her four children

That was Maria Zacarias’ dream for her family. Maria lived with her husband and their four children in a rural, mountainside community in Guatemala. Extremely poor, the family stayed in a tiny hut cobbled together from cardboard, plastic sheeting, old boards and other scraps they had found.

Life was difficult, but the family had hope. It was always Maria and her husband’s dream to have a sturdy home they could call their own, a place where their children would be safe from wild animals and the rain didn’t fall on them when they slept. They saved what they could, but it was never enough…

When Maria’s husband died three years ago, that dream for a safe home died with him. The family’s hope for a better future died as well.

It became a daily struggle just to buy food for her children. But by God’s grace, our ministry partner in Guatemala, Esperanza de Vida, learned of Maria’s situation and felt compassion for her. With the help of Cross Catholic Outreach and its benefactors, Esperanza de Vida made
Maria’s long-forgotten dream a reality by building a sturdy, cement-block home for her and her children!

When Maria received the keys to her new home, her first words were, “Thanks to God” for the miracle he had given them. Her dream for a sturdy home had become a reality!

May God also transform your dreams into reality and lead you to be a blessing for the dreams of others.

We all have dreams for our lives – things we want to someday accomplish or create. We might dream of having children, building up a business or traveling the world. Dreams are dear to us. They give us hope for our future and goals to work toward.

What if your dream was to just have a solid roof over your head for the first time?


A Cardboard Crib

December 8, 2011 by Annie W.

Christmas tree was lit. The angels were dressed in white and gold. And the nervous laughter of my students filled the air as they waited for their parents and friends to find their seats.

As the lights dimmed, I quickly placed the hay in the cardboard manger and prompted the kids to take their places—it was time to start. Helping my students with their parts in the annual Christmas play was one of my favorite memories from my time spent as a teacher in Malawi. A very talkative Joseph, an over-zealous wise man, and a crying baby Jesus in a makeshift manger still make me smile today.

I was recently reminded of that special scene as I read a report from Cross Catholic’s ministry partner Esperanza de Vida in Guatemala. But sadly, the context was quite different.

Little Diego was abandoned and left in a trash heap in a cardboard box.
But thanks to Cross Catholic, Esperanza de Vida was able to rescue Diego and he is now a happy, healthy infant—a true Christmas miracle!

Little Diego entered the world crying, hungry, and alone. Like the baby Jesus in the Christmas play, his bed was made of cardboard. The difference is, he did not return to the warm arms of his parents once the curtains fell. Instead, he was abandoned, loosely wrapped in threadbare cloth, and left in a trash heap in a cardboard box.

Diego’s first days of life are a stark contrast to the love and cheer most of us experience during the holidays. But thanks to compassionate Catholics through Cross Catholic, this is not where his story ends. Once Esperanza de Vida heard about Diego’s plight, they rescued him and provided him with Cross Catholic-supplied food and medical care. Because of the nutrition and kindness he is receiving, today Diego is a happy, healthy infant, who is growing up in the loving arms of a Catholic community.

Thank you to our wonderful supporters! Because of you, Diego is a true Christmas miracle!

Snatched From Deaths Door

April 22, 2010 by Cross Catholic Team

Marcos Ramirez had always supported his wife and four children with the money he made from working in the coffee fields near their rural village in Guatemala. But when there was no more work to be done, Marcos couldn’t find a new job, and his family began to go hungry, sometimes surviving on nothing more than tortillas with salt. At one point, his infant daughter Elvera weighed only two pounds, a dangerously low weight even for a newborn.

Cross shipments funded by compassionate American Catholics provide malnourished children like Elvera with the food they need to regain their health and grow into thriving toddlers.

Thankfully, Esperanza de Vida — a local Christian outreach supported by Cross International Catholic Outreach — learned about Marcos’ situation and intervened. The first thing they did was take Elvera to an emergency feeding center and nurse her back to health for a month, to save her from what would have been a certain and painful death from starvation. Then they built a new house for Elvera’s family and provided them with free daily meals.

With the help of generous American Catholics, Cross Catholic has shipped more than $7 million in food, medicine, clothes, and other supplies to Esperanza de Vida, to bring relief to desperately poor families and severely malnourished children such as Elvera in the garbage dumps and remote areas of Guatemala.

Shipping humanitarian goods sends a tangible message of God’s love to someone who may never have read the Bible or stepped inside a church. While your support helped feed the bodies of the hungry, their hearts were also edified by the knowledge that a Christian cared enough to step out and do something about their need.

Or as one of our ministry partners in Guatemala put it: “When people visit and see the terrible poverty of the people we help, they ask: ‘Why does this exist?’  My answer is that it’s an opportunity for us to love. God has left the job for us to do — to be his hands on earth, to be the good Samaritan.”

Keeping Up With The Urban Shift

April 27, 2010 by Cross Catholic Team

By 2050, a full 80 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. That’s four out of every five people!

The prediction comes from a recent Financial Times report called “The Future of Cities.” People often migrate from rural to urban settings because cities offer new jobs. But these growing cities are also producing vast slums.

Young boys in Quito, Ecuador shine shoes to support their families.

The Financial Times used Lagos, Nigeria as an example of the downside of urbanization. Lagos is “a city that forces us to confront our fears of what will happen if we do not sort out our cities,” because it “has become the cipher for the urban nightmare – a city without structure, infrastructure, social provision, amenities, or basic property rights for its citizens.” In short, “Citizens have to work to carve out their niche in a city that does not care.”

It’s interesting that in the Bible, Jesus’ disciples used a strategy of evangelism that focused on cities. By going into urban areas, they could reach large concentrations of people who could then spread the Good News into the countryside. Today, those cities are bigger than ever, and they are full of people hungry for the Gospel. They are places where extreme wealth exists side-by-side with overwhelming poverty, and where row upon row of tin and cardboard shanties extend for miles.

Cross International Catholic Outreach is continuing the mission of Jesus’ disciples by reaching out to slum communities in developing nations with food, shelter, education, medical care, and the message of salvation. We want poor families to know that, even if the city doesn’t notice them, God loves them and so do we. Their cries are not unheard.

Right now, we’re working with Fr. John Halligan in Ecuador’s capital city of Quito to help the large numbers of young boys who have been forced to work on the streets to support their families. Fr. John provides three nutritious meals a day for the boys and their families while inviting them to get involved in education programs and other services that will empower them to escape the cycle of poverty. Click here to learn more about this awesome opportunity to share God’s love with the poor!