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!

Working Alongside the Poor

December 20, 2018 by Cross Catholic Team

Workers in the Dominican Republic

Father Christian doesn’t look, talk or act like a priest — by which I mean he doesn’t fit the mold popular culture perpetuates.

When we joined the Dominican parish priest en route to a remote farming community in need of a water system, Fr. Christian arrived in jeans and a white t-shirt. If a colleague hadn’t let me in on the secret, I would’ve assumed he was a local farmer or maybe a water engineer.

On the bumpy mountain road to our destination, Fr. Christian waved hello to every person we passed, and he pointed out every coffee bean farm with the exuberance of a child spotting cows. He grew up in this world, close to the earth, with dirt under his fingernails and manure on the soles of his shoes. He doesn’t pity the poor — he’s proud of the poor and the work they do each day — and he carries himself as if saying prayers were no less natural than rising at daybreak to feed the chickens.

Pipes being installed in the Dominican Republic

Along the way, we stopped to pick up a delivery that had been stranded the day before when Fr. Christian’s truck couldn’t clear a muddy incline. The stack of PVC pipes was significantly longer than the bed of our pickup truck, but Fr. Christian went to work. We secured the load, cleared the hill, got stuck in another muddy patch, and ultimately reach our destination, where families suffering from insufficient water access waited to greet us.

This is what it looks like to work alongside the poor.


August 1, 2018 by Cross Catholic Team

Cross Catholic Outreach just received this photo from our ministry partner FUNDASEP in the Dominican Republic. Thanks to gifts from our generous supporters, Bishop Jose Grullón Estrella recently dedicated this water system in the village of Catanamatias. Before the system was installed, poor villagers walked miles in mountainous terrain to collect contaminated water. Because of our compassionate donors, clean water is now pumped to a spigot in front of their homes. Praise the Lord!

One Priest. One Faith. 31 Congregations.

May 8, 2018 by Cross Catholic Team

Once a month, Father Juan Reyes celebrates Mass at this makeshift chapel in Batey #2.  The Batey is one of many communities formed by poor Haitian immigrants who have migrated to the Dominican Republic in search of gainful employment in the sugar cane fields. Fr. Juan travels to an astonishing 30 remote locations like this – in addition to serving his home parish. What keeps him going? Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Cross Catholic Outreach ships supplies of medicine and food to Fr. Juan to serve the poor in the region. We love to work with such dedicated men of God in our efforts to improve the lives of the needy!


September 9, 2015 by Cross Catholic Team

Fr. Juan and Hector
Fr. Juan is now training a young seminarian, Hector, to take over the parish.

It was one of those images you never forget – a lone priest riding a donkey, traveling from house to house to carry out the Lord’s work.

I was in the Dominican Republic, helping our Goods-In-Kind partner, Fundación Ciento Por Uno, deliver food to the poor in the remote Azua province – a long 3-hour drive from Santo Domingo way up in the mountains along winding dirt roads. That’s when I met this simple parish priest, Father Juan Cardenas, who felt the presence of God from the moment he started serving the poor.

“I never imagined myself working in the mountains; riding a donkey,” said Fr. Juan. “I was a scholar, studying in Rome, Portugal and Brazil. But God decided he needed me to serve the poor here in the remotest of places in the DR. That is what I do now and I know God is with me.”

He leaned forward, put his hand on my arm and his face erupted into a huge smile. He said, “You know how I know? Because God was with me even when I was robbed by bandits. They kidnapped me and tied me up. And even though I was frightened and weak, I somehow convinced the bandits to let me go. That wasn’t me,” he said. “That was God!”

Fr. Juan is such a humble man. I didn’t find it at all surprising that his favorite scripture was the Gospel of John. “It touches my heart,” he said. “He seems to be writing about his personal relationship with Jesus.” And as he spoke, I couldn’t help recalling the personal accounts that Fr. Juan was speaking of – how Mary anoints Jesus with her perfume, how Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, among others.

In the months to come, when the poor parishioners of the Azua province see this humble priest approach on the back of his donkey, they will notice he is training a young seminarian, Hector, to take over the parish. My heart is filled with hope that the same spirit of simple generosity will be passed on to a new generation.

-Chris M.

Water that Saves

December 18, 2012 by Cross Catholic Team

A young woman in Rinconcito, Dominican Republic using a water gathering method involving leaves and jugs
Before Cross Catholic Outreach and our ministry partner FUNDASEP began construction on a new water tank, the people of Rinconcito used to use leaves to guide a small trickle of water into jugs.

Meeting basic water needs was a near impossibility for families in Rinconcito, a poor community in a remote, rural region of the Dominican Republic. Villagers only had three options—and all of them were unpleasant. They could draw from a hand-pump well that delivered salty water; they could spend half a day walking to a distant, freshwater river; or they could stand in line at the bottom of a hill, where villages use leaves to guide a small trickle of water into jugs. But, this river water tastes and smells like animal waste, and people using it run the risk of developing waterborne illnesses like cholera and chronic diarrhea.

In such dire circumstances, the needy people from this poor community cried out to the Lord in their thirst. And thankfully, their prayers are being answered though Cross Catholic Outreach and our ministry partner FUNDASEP, the rural outreach arm of the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana. Together, we have almost finished building an aqueduct and clean water holding tank that will provide hundreds of people with the gift of water.

I remembered the people living in Rinconcito during this morning’s daily reading from Psalms 72:1, 12-13 and 18-19, which says:

God, endow the king with your own fair judgment, the son of the king with your own saving justice,

For he rescues the needy who call to him, and the poor who has no one to help.

He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the needy from death.

Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel, who alone works wonders;

Blessed for ever his glorious name. May the whole world be filled with his glory!

This responsorial psalm is an encouraging reminder that our God rescues the needy and cares about the welfare of the destitute. Even though he alone saves, he invites us to help extend his blessings to his people. Families in Rinconcito have received the blessing of water that saves and are living proof of the wonderful works accomplished by Christ our Lord.

Annie W.

Nothing is Impossible with God

August 7, 2012 by Cross Catholic Team

A Dominican woman washing hands with a new clean water system installed by Cross Catholic Outreach and supporters
Thanks to Cross Catholic Outreach and our supporters, nearly 250 poor residents in the Dominican Republic are now receiving safe, clean water.

Cross Catholic Outreach International Projects Officer Claudio Merisio recently returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic, where he shared in a joyful celebration with the residents of La Patilla.

Why were these people celebrating?

Thanks to Cross Catholic, through our ministry partner FUNDASEP, they recently received a new 15,000-gallon water tank that is bringing safe, accessible water to 250 poor residents, who were previously using polluted water from a distant river.

“This water has united people,” said beneficiary Epifanio Mateo. “The community was deteriorating and many people were migrating to other areas. But now that the community has water, people are starting to come back and new people are moving in.”

The new water source is not only saving lives; it’s changing lives.

“I used to go to the river to fetch water. This was a difficult chore for me. One time I slipped and fell and was in pain for a long time,” said 70-year-old Rosa Moreta. “But now I have water at my doorstep. It is easy and painless to get. I am very grateful.

Claudio reported that the entire community shared in this thanks for the new water source. During his visit, they celebrated with hymns, Bible readings and a drama depicting the lives of residents before and after the water project.

“We are grateful for the Catholic Church for laying the first stone of this tank,” said one community member.

The community views the new water tank as a tangible expression of God’s faithfulness—and this has greatly encouraged religious leader Msgr. Jose Grullon Estrella: “The best evangelization is the one that manages to change people’s culture by bringing them closer to God.”

And that’s exactly why Cross Catholic partners with FUNDASEP. According to Claudio, FUNDASEP is doing a wonderful job displaying the Gospel. This was evident on many occasions during his trip—but one moment stood out among the rest.

He said by funding this water tank, it was apparent that Cross Catholic was not only meeting a physical need, but a spiritual one as well when beneficiary Francisco Medina performed a song he wrote in gratitude for our support: “Nada es imposible para ti; con Dios todo podemos!”  Nothing is impossible for you; with God we can do anything!”

-Annie W.

An “Old Lady” Gets Her Miracle

June 30, 2011 by Cross Catholic Team

Victoria Victoriana smiling
Victoria Victoriana prayed for “the miracle of the bridge.”

I recently returned from the boondocks of the Dominican Republic, where we’re sponsoring construction of a remote bridge. We had to make sure my visit didn’t have rain in the forecast because once the river swelled I could have gotten stranded on the other side. The villagers have been stranded for weeks and months at a time. Farmers couldn’t take their harvest to the market, sick people couldn’t get to the hospital, teachers couldn’t come to the school, and villagers in town weren’t able make it back to their homes. Kids went without education, income-generating harvests rotted, supplies ran out, and things got pretty desperate. Some families even lost loved ones who tried to cross the river to get help, but died trying.

Victoria Victoriana came close to joining the mourners when her son almost drowned trying to cross the river. Villagers were able to rescue him, but Victoria never forgot that day’s trauma. She said, “Ever since my son was rescued, every day I asked God for the miracle of the bridge!”

Well, God answered her prayers. Today Puente de Milagros, the “Bridge of Miracles,” is being constructed and Victoria laid the first cornerstone.  She even contributed $5 of the $8 she owned toward the project. She told me, “I’m an old lady – I want to cross that bridge before I die!”

-Nola B.