Below Grace Taylor, a visitor from the UK, shares some of her initial thoughts and reflections from her time with SKD Guatemala . . .
So far this beautiful country has shown us it's wealth but also it's vast undeniable poverty. I have never seen a helpless need so obvious as I have out here. Walking the streets and meeting the families that live in the poorest parts has been so humbling. Amongst a life where having nothing but their families and a small tin roof over their heads, these are some of the most beautiful people I have ever met. One of the most astonishing yet wonderful experiences so far has been the fact that whilst walking in the most dangerous areas of the city, a sense of spiritual and virtual protection is all around us. The work Street Kids Direct Guatemala do is so well respected here, even by the gangs that walk and terrorise the streets. They see the work SKD do and respect the name of Jesus, above their own guns and power. I cannot find the words for the experiences I have had so far, other than praise God for the sacrifices Christian people have made to turn other people's misery and helplessness into a life not only worth living but flourishing. For more information look at streetkidsdirect.org.uk.
Grace giving helpful insights into people's lives and different aspects of what SKD Guatemala do . . .
-Meet 'super 24', a street group that live in zone 7 of the city. They were so friendly, constantly smiling and welcoming us into their group to play games and ask them about their lives. Behind the smiles, they have lived some terrible lives and most of them are addicted to solvents, which are so cheap and sold easily on the streets. Years of drug abuse, sexual and physical abuse have led them to live where they are now. We loved these people and Adam told them his story, spending time praying with them and answering questions. SKD continue to work and build relationships, supporting them to leave the streets and go to rehab, some of which have already.
-Meet Alice, a beautiful young girl, younger than me who has 1 baby. Alice lives in a place called 'La Terminal', the biggest market in central America yet a place many will visit and want to leave straight away. Behind the market La Terminal is built up of tiny shack like homes which families rent, often one room for a full family, up to 8-9 people. Behind the market is a rubbish dump, and no public toilets (unless you pay) means faeces on the floor, often rubbish including broken glass everywhere, children walking barefoot often getting cut, bruised and infected. Alice was born into a family in La Terminal, an alcoholic and drug addict mother, no father to be seen. She wants to change her life and become a hair dresser. SKD are looking for courses for her to enrol as we speak.
-The rubbish dump; was so hard to see children, mothers, babies and men filtering through the rubbish. We asked Alisha what they were looking for, they wanted to find a) food to feed their own families or sell in La Terminal b) reusable plastics to sell on to other traders. Having collected a huge bag (larger than the size of me and Adam put together), people would receive as little as £2 for a full days back breaking work. SKD regularly visit the rubbish dump and rescue children, providing a nursery for them to go to in order to get off the streets during the day. We visited the nursery and saw one of the lovely ladies Diana enrol her babies.
-Meet Juan Carlos, an incredible man that works for SKD. He was a previous gang member, still carries a bullet in his leg to this day. Got shot in the neck by a rival gang and managed to survive. From a life of drug addiction, fighting and violence on the streets, Juan now works for SKD supporting children to get off the streets and into rehab.
-Meet some of the children from La Terminal. Weslyn and Rosibell. Some of the worst living conditions I have ever seen, yet these children are so beautiful, smiley and happy to see us. They know the staff at SKD so well, love and trust them, which is testament to how often they see them walking the streets, loving and praying for the families. Many of these children's mothers are sex workers in order to make enough money to live.
-Meet Manny, a 39-year-old man who has been on the streets in La Terminal since he was 7 years old. Duncan (founder of SKD) has known him since he was a boy. SKD have managed to place him in a rehab centre outside of the city, where we visited him. We prayed with him and asked him to stay in rehab for longer.
After what I've seen this week, I'd like to honour SKD and the selfless and servant hearted nature these individuals have. I can't express the emotional strain their jobs must cost them daily, to deal with what they deal with and see what they see. But they do it any way. They are the hands and feet of Jesus in this community. All the gangs know of them and leave them alone, there is no violence towards them when they are on the streets.
I have been so humbled by this trip and pray that I can return again soon.