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From Heartbreak, A Call for Lasting Change in Guatemala (Part Two)
by Ronne Rock
Posted on Tuesday, March 14, 2017
(In part one of this interview with Orphan Outreach President Mike Douris, insight is provided on what led to the tragedy at a Guatemalan government orphanage and what is needed now for lasting change to take place in caring for orphans and vulnerable children. Both parts of the interview are also being broadcast by Mission Network News on Christian radio stations around the world. We are thankful to them for their commitment to sharing this important story).

As memorial services begin for the 40 girls who have so far died after fire raged in a Guatemala government orphanage, President Jimmy Morales has called for a complete revamping of the country’s child welfare system. “This is a rigid system that has become insensitive,” he said, in regards to the care of orphans and vulnerable children.

Questions remain as to what will happen to the more than 700 children who were housed at Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción. Some have been returned to families, and more are on their way to a number of public and private children’s homes around the country. And as the country continues to grieve, Guatemalan government leaders have reached out to a group of community leaders for advice and collaborative discussion.


Mike Douris is not only the president of Orphan Outreach, but he is also a founding board member of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. He and other orphan care leaders were instrumental in the development of the Alianza Cristiana para los Huérfanos (ACH) in Guatemala, an alliance of nonprofits and churches focused on providing quality care for orphans and vulnerable children. “It’s been encouraging in this situation – with what happened at the government orphanage – that ACH is playing a central role,” he shared in an interview on Friday. “Representatives of ACH met with the First Lady and had discussions, and then today they’re meeting with members of congress and representatives from the president. That’s very encouraging that the Church is having a significant voice, given the severe nature of this tragedy, to be able to look forward at what can happen for the kids in Guatemala. It’s really great to see how the Church can have a real impact on kids. Many times when we look at the enormity of the problems, you think, ‘There’s just no way I can make a difference, and I can’t make an impact.’ The reality is that God can make a significant impact, even just through one individual. But then when the Church works as it’s designed to work, where you have multiple Christians who are working together in unison to care for these kids, you can make a huge impact on a whole country.”


Mike believes that the church in the United States can also play a significant role in Guatemalan orphan care. He says it’s now time for the church in Guatemala to rise to the call of James 1:27 – of caring for widows and orphans. He believes that their involvement in all areas of orphan care is the key – from support of children in residential care to fully embracing adoption and foster care, including providing wraparound support for families who make the commitment for a season or a lifetime. But in order for the Guatemalan church to serve well, “they’re going to need partners in the U.S.” he says. “You know, part of the philosophy of missions is not going down and just doing it yourself, but empowering the people in that country to address issues so that, if you ever leave, that work continues to go on. We need to help the Guatemalan church really tackle this issue.

There are several ways for both individuals and churches to get involved, according to Mike, and he encourages that involvement to be with quality organizations that are already “boots on the ground” in Guatemala. “Many times people from the U.S. who want to get involved have the passion but they don’t develop the skills and understand the best way to go about making an impact. My encouragement is for those who do not have that experience is to walk alongside people who do. Orphan Outreach and other organizations that are working in Guatemala have the passion to do that and also the expertise to be able to provide the skill sets needed to address those issues. It’s also important to pray – pray for the organizations that are working there, for the children, for the government.”

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And Mike says involvement doesn’t stop there. He encourages engagement through mission trips and child sponsorship. “Orphan Outreach does mission trips in Guatemala, and we work with several different children’s homes and also in communities and schools with children at-risk,” he adds. Mike says one of the primary ways Orphan Outreach helps to impact change is by connecting churches in the U.S. with ministries in-country. Programs range from family preservation to rescue and restoration, and all glorify Jesus Christ by helping to meet the physical, spiritual, emotional, and educational needs of the children they serve. We'd love to have churches make a commitment to a program we have in Chimaltenango, where we're working with kids who are at high risk for going into orphanages. We're giving them after-school services, and we're with their families to provide stability for them and really try to improve that community so that kids don't end up in an orphanage. Or Hope & Future, where we have girls through abuse and trafficking have become sexually abused or pregnant and have babies at a young age. Churches can make a commitment to that home, to develop relationships with those kids and provide real hope for them."

As Guatemala now looks for ways to better care for orphans and vulnerable children, Douris says prayer is essential. “Pray for the church leaders and ACH, that God would give them courage to speak out. But also to give them a voice of hope for these kids and advocate on all the tough issues in order to have a better way forward than what’s been happening in Guatemala in the past.”

You can work alongside Orphan Outreach and our Guatemalan ministry partners right now to help provide for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of children who were witnesses to the tragedy at the government home. If you are interested in talking about a church partnership in Guatemala, contact Orphan Outreach Executive Director Rey Diaz at rdiaz@orphanoutreach.org. 


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