By Terri Spilman
In 2007, volunteers from the Outreach Program at Carmel Lutheran Church traveled to Guatemala intending to build housing and host Bible school for the poorest of the poor in the tiny village of El Maguey.
Through frequent visits and forged relationships, the church has adopted the village and literally is sustaining local children through better nutrition and enabling residents to take the initiative in the preservation of their own.
El Maguey is located in the state of Zacapa in Guatemala and has a population of about 300 people. Over the past several years, mission volunteers have taken about three trips per year and built 13 houses. They also provide health services such as clinics for eye glasses and blood-sugar testing, and they provide school supplies and books.
According to Dave Reed, who is a member of the Central American Lutheran Mission Society – a large group of 40 Lutheran churches that band together doing mission work primarily in Guatemala, Panama and Belize – the outreach team’s mission shifted from making better buildings to improving the actual physical well-being of the children.
“The elementary school principal said the thing we need more than a new building is help taking care of nutrition for the children since many of them are malnourished.”
That led the group to Incaparina, which according to the packaging is a mixture of corn and soy flour that provides a high-quality protein and is enhanced with vitamins and minerals that promote growth, development and maintenance of the body.
They purchased a supply for each student ($40 per student per year) with enough for them to have one serving each day.
“We’ve been able to see a physical change, and it’s really neat,” said Amy Bultemeier about the effect the protein drink is having on the students.
Bultemeier organized the most recent mission trip along with her husband Shelby.
“It may be the only meal they get all day. It’s been huge for their learning,” she said.
“Our role on the mission trips began with house construction along with organizing and running the vacation Bible school. Over the years, it has changed a little bit. We’ve helped them grow and gotten to see them take charge of a lot of elements. Their community now is starting to reach out and rebuild homes for each other. Just a little encouragement can go a long way in helping them succeed in doing it on their own,” Bultemeier said.
Carmel Lutheran’s Outreach Team raises funds for the mission trips through a Cookie Walk during Christmas with funds matched by Thrivent Financial. The church has also formed Wiffle por Casas to organize a whiffle ball tournament to raise money to build houses.
For more information on volunteering or supporting the cause visit carmellutheran.org.