Carlos Vargas of Hope of Life in Guatemala rescues a malnourished child

A Missionary’s Reflection on Tragedy in Guatemala

I recently received a letter from Carlos Vargas, a devoted missionary and one of our longtime partners in Guatemala.

As the founder of Hope of Life International, Carlos operates an emergency nutrition and rescue center for severely malnourished children. Over the years he has witnessed many testimonies of miraculous healing and victory — but he has also opened himself to agonizing heartbreak.

Sadly, the story in his letter was one of tragedy, and it has weighed on my heart so heavily that I felt compelled to share it. Carlos wrote:

Dear Jim,

I’m writing with some extremely sad news.

We lost a child this morning.

Little Hauner was just 6 months old. We did all we could to save him, but we just were not able to… Now, he’s left us and gone to be with God. We are heartbroken and in tears, feeling the deep pain of losing a precious life…

I wanted to ask you and all who help you at Cross Catholic Outreach to remember Hauner in your prayers. And I wanted to share his photo so you would have an image of him as you pray…

The photo was taken at our Hope of Life emergency nutrition rescue center. Our rescue team had rushed him here from the remote village of Romeo Centro, where his family lives in poverty. He was suffering from severe malnutrition and heart disease.

Hauner’s parents, Jose and Dina, and all of us here at the rescue center hoped and prayed for a miracle, but it was not to be… Hauner died after experiencing two cardiac arrests.

Jim, my heart is full of sorrow today, but I know our work together in Christ has allowed us to save many, many more children than we lose.

So even on a heartbreaking day like today, I trust in the goodness of our Lord, and I pray that you and the compassionate supporters of Cross Catholic Outreach will keep helping us.

I ask for your support, but also for your prayers. We really need them!

Losing a child takes a heavy toll on our staff and volunteers who give their hearts and time so freely and completely. They understand that their efforts are the only hope for these children in need, many of whom arrive here barely clinging to life.

Jim, the emergency rescue center here is doing so much, saving severely malnourished children and nursing them back to health. But, as you know, we operate with very few resources.

Every night, I worry how we will keep up this work — the only real hope for starving children in this area. My only comfort is the strong belief that our heavenly Father will bless this work if we are faithful.

At its heart, our ministry is a labor of love. But we need material help to carry on, and that is why I am so, so grateful for Cross Catholic Outreach and your caring supporters.

You all are the only reason we’re able to save any child. Please remember little Hauner in your prayers. And please support the work we carry out in faith, even when we fail.

Working together I know we can do great things in God. May he bless our efforts.

Yours in Christ,

Carlos Vargas

P.S. I know you won’t abandon us. Pray with us as we remember little Hauner and pray that the Lord will sustain us in this difficult work. With faith, hope and love — and with your help — I believe we’ll save many more precious children.

Rescued Guatemalan child Hauner
Pray for Hauner. We shed many tears when we lose a precious child, but we mustn’t lose heart — these children have no one else but you and me.

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The Scourge of Malnutrition in Guatemala

I’ve worked in poverty alleviation for many years, and I’ve visited suffering communities all over the world, but stories like Hauner’s never become any less painful. Sadly, his is not an isolated incident, and hunger-related tragedies are not uncommon in Guatemala.

In fact, nearly two-thirds of Guatemalan children live in poverty, and in rural areas, about 70% suffer from malnutrition.

The situation is particularly difficult in remote, indigenous communities, which have extremely limited access to education and health care and typically rely on subsistence farming for survival. Consecutive years of inadequate rainfall have devastated harvests, and a widening economic gap has made it increasingly difficult for poor families to secure even the most basic necessities. Too often, impoverished mothers must choose which of their children to feed on a given day, and gaunt babies with distended stomachs and thin, rust-colored hair cry out for food that does not come.

Related: Hunger in Guatemala: Causes, Effects & Solutions

High up in the mountains, a rescuer from Hope of Life International attends to a Guatemalan mother and her child.

Help Relieve the Suffering of Hungry Children

In answer to this devastating issue, Cross Catholic Outreach works with Hope of Life to rescue suffering children on the brink of starvation and nurse them back to health. Hope of Life’s rescue team travels deep into the hills and jungles, expending every effort to reach those families that are most remote and most vulnerable. At-risk children and their mothers are immediately taken to the ministry’s nutrition center, where they receive lifesaving nutritional therapy. Once the child’s condition is stabilized, families receive the training and resources they need to maintain their child’s progress and keep them on the path to healing.

Carlos’ faith has driven his efforts to save tens of thousands of starving children, but the work is grueling, and he could really use your prayers and support. I know the COVID-19 pandemic is causing uncertainty for all, but even modest gifts can provide a profound blessing to a child in need. In times of crisis, the poorest of the poor suffer most, and we must not forget them in this hour. Please — join us to relieve the suffering of hungry children, bring them healing and share the love of Christ!

Related: Learn more about our plan to reduce material and spiritual poverty in Guatemala — and how you can help!

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