When you give to BGR, your gifts travel thousands of miles and land in the hands of trusted national partners. They live and work side by side with their neighbors in need. They’re passionate about serving their people. They’re invested in their communities. And you give them what they need to make a real difference.
In this three-part series, you’ll meet a few of the local heroes who give their time, talents, and lives to raising strong, independent communities.
A pastor’s job isn’t easy. He has to lead and teach week after week. He’s responsible for the spiritual maturity of his entire church. It’s no wonder that God calls people to a life of pastoring.
But when Pastor Rene looked outside his church at his community, he saw brokenness everywhere. Families steeped in poverty. Far too many people without jobs. Entire communities hungry and needing clean water.
But when others might have been paralyzed by fear, Rene saw opportunities to do better. He saw a way for the church to make a difference in people’s lives.
In 2006, Rene met David and Jo Brown, who currently serve as BGR Area Directors for the Americas, and the trio began serving on human needs projects together.
“The local church has begun to develop ministry strategies based on community needs and not just what needs we think in the church,” he said. “Also, it is a great way to include church members in these projects. They go out of the church and into the community leaving to minister in the streets.”
When David and Jo officially became Area Directors in 2009, Rene knew he was serving in something much bigger than himself.
“I liked what they were doing, and I wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “It isn’t typical to see [people] interested in what goes on outside the church building.”
And Rene found himself spending a lot of time outside the church building.
A local school desperately needed renovations. Rene coordinated repairs to the roof, floors, bathrooms, and even erected a tin shelter over the play area to reflect the hot midday sun.
One community had a soaring unemployment rate. Rene helped start a cooking school to teach people a valuable skill that could lead to new jobs.
Most of the local police force had never had any formal first aid training and felt helpless in medical emergencies. Rene opened his church to host a first aid training for 500 officers.
Rene started to feel like the church was living out his vision of serving the people. He had no idea just how much that vision would be tested.
RUNNING TOWARD THE FIRE
On June 3, 2018, Volcano Fuego erupted unexpectedly, shooting ash nearly four miles into the air and hurtling rocks as large as cars into the valley. The pyroclastic flow completely buried an entire community. Hot ash covered the surface for miles, killing crops and wiping out farmers’ only source of income. The whole region plunged into chaos.
Pastor Rene’s church was only miles away. He could have fled along with thousands of others evacuating the area. Instead, he stood and faced the disaster, even ran toward it. He opened his church to shelter people in the path of the eruption. He organized an emergency feeding response out of the church, even preparing meals for other shelters in more dangerous areas. He helped deliver them himself.
“During the volcano eruption response efforts, I was putting my life at risk crossing rivers and being surrounded by volcanic ash,” he said. “Many times, I was close to the lava flow. I was so excited to be helping that although I realized the risk, I didn’t let that affect my reaction.”
When it became too dangerous to stay, Pastor Rene ensured everyone staying in his church was safely loaded into trucks first. After they were finally allowed to return, he immediately re-established the shelter and feeding program. At one point, over 100 people were sleeping in the church, and they were feeding 500 people three times a day.
In spite of the confusion and suffering, Rene said the eruption gave him the opportunity to help the people most at risk.
“I was able to confront the needs of the ones overlooked—the orphans, widows, single mothers, and seniors,” Rene said. “I was able to help the vulnerable people groups that others weren’t helping, and that allowed me to focus on them.”
GROWTH IN GUATEMALA
While Rene would never claim personal responsibility, he said he’s starting to see more churches stepping up to meet physical needs in the community.
“There is a contagious spirit in these communities because pastors from other uninvolved churches see the members being involved and the pastors become excited and become involved also,” he said.
But as proud as he is of the growing church involvement, Pastor Rene said the stories of families and communities finding hope for their lives keep him inspired. He cited three (out of many) BGR-supported projects that made a difference:
- “Alvaro and Roxana (names changed) have a chicken project that now allows their children to attend school. They are more financially independent, more active in church and have taken leadership roles, have become empowered, are serving in the community, and they provide bread for all the funeral services in their community (which is a big deal in Guatemala).”
- “With a sewing project, 22 people had small businesses in their homes making clothes. Rigoberta* was one of the individuals that took the course. Shortly after, she became a widow, and because of this project, it helped her support her family.”
- “With a fish project, I am able to sell the fish at cost to financially poor families. Because of this, three families have become financially independent by selling the fish and feeding their families. And they are now moving out of financial poverty.”
Pastor Rene has no plans to slow down anytime soon. And even though the projects he leads are so different, he said the beauty is that the people he serves are all the same. Everyone deserves a life of dignity and hope.
“BGR unites people through projects because they don’t discriminate in any way.”
You support the efforts of people like Pastor Rene all over the world when you give to BGR. With your help, they can make the dreams they have for their communities a reality. We need them to keep dreaming. Please give so they can.