Friday, December 14, 2012

More Than Shoes

Earlier this year I introduced you to Otto, a shoe maker working and living in La Limonada in Guatemala City.  After years of talking about the effects of shipping and bringing things like shoes from the U.S. to Guatemala and other countries and advocating for small local business owners in Guatemala, I was finally able to tell you about just one of the real people that I long to see succeed.  A couple of weeks after that post, I walked through La Limonada and into Otto's home which is also his shop.  I walked up the steep, wobbly stairs to the area where he makes his shoes.  I stood on a floor that shakes and moves with every step, praying that this wouldn't be the moment of collapse and looked over each tiny pair of shoes that he had created for children living in an orphanage in Guatemala City.  The look on his face was priceless as I told him how happy and impressed I was with his work and then I asked him if he could also make a pair of shoes for me and a friend.  Our visit was short.  He measured my foot, made sure he knew exactly what I wanted, introduced me to his paralysed son and his precious daughter and wife and I was on my way quickly, knowing that I would see him only briefly the next day when I would pick up my new pair of shoes.

Almost every day after that I slid my feet into those gray and white leather shoes knowing that they are not the result of a long assembly line or multiple machines.  They are the result of one man living in La Limonada, just trying to make a living so that he can care for his family.  I knew only of his son's story and nothing of his until recently.  Now, when I slip on what have become treasures to me, I pray for Otto and his family and thank God for the man that he has become.  His story really is one that proves beauty can come from ashes.

In October, I was able to spend a little more time with him.  It's a given now that any time I am in Guatemala, I must have a new pair or two of Otto originals, so once again I made my way up those stairs and tried not to move too much while picking out my designs and fabrics. 

This time I got to hear Otto's story and while I won't share all of the details here simply because his story is not mine to tell, I will tell you that he gives all glory to the Lord for transforming his life in unbelievable ways.  His past is one of violence and heartache and despair, but the saving grace of Christ can change even the most hardened heart and he now lives a life surrendered only to the Lord, a life of love and joy despite the hardships of living in La Limonada.

As he shared his heart that day, he talked about something he had dreamed of for a long time.  He longed to be able to help children and men from the streets.  He wanted to be able to train them and mentor them and to tell them about how Jesus saves despite your past.  As two young men worked hard on making shoes behind me, I realized that their stories, though I did not learn them that day, were probably ones like Otto's and that this man that sat before me, one that years ago I would never have considered being near because it would not have been considered "safe" was living his dream and what I believe must be one of God's calls on his life.  He hired them to train them when they had nothing to offer.  He spends his days with them, making shoes and pouring love and hope into their lives.  And he will not stop there.  From my two pairs of shoes and my friend's orders and other orders he filled the day before, he told us that he would be able to purchase more supplies, but what really brought me to a place of incredible happiness was when he told me that from the shoes he will create for the school children this month, he will be able to hire another person from the streets.  He will be able to train and mentor them the same as he does the ones that already work with him.

When we ask you to donate to supply a pair of shoes for a child in La Limonada and you generously do, you should know that it goes far beyond just one pair of shoes for one child.  That pair of shoes is made by Otto or one of his helpers.  Otto's family receives income from that.  He is able to provide for them because of it.  He is able to provide a job for someone that before knew only hopelessness.  He is able to help them understand, maybe for the first time, what Christmas really is.  And then they are able to take that message to their families and friends.  It is more than just one pair of shoes and one child.  That one pair of shoes (and imagine if we made it to the goal of 290 pairs!) makes an impact on an entire family and even on this community.  It is hard to wrap your mind around just how much of an impact comes from this and I wish everyone could just visit and see it personally.  You can't help but be transformed yourself.

If you would like to donate a pair of shoes to a child in La Limonada this Christmas which will also bring much good to many others in the community, click on the GIVE SHOES button on the side bar here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Difference a Child Can Make

While walking through the narrow alleys of La Limonada in Guatemala City I can feel the darkness, the evil that exists there, but unlike any other place I have ever been on this Earth, I feel light pushing it back and overcoming it.  In all the other places I have ever been, I know that He is there and I know that He is stronger than the evil one that has a grip on the lives of people all over the world and I know that He will win.  In fact, He already has.  But just like everyone else, sometimes, even though you know He is there and He is in control, you can't always feel Him in the situation.  In La Limonada, more than crippling darkness, I feel Him there.  So as I sat in church a couple of weeks ago at the beginning of a new sermon series and listened as our pastor spoke about Christ as a child and as we read in Isaiah 9, my thoughts were instantly taken to the children of La Limonada and scripture that I have read so many times was seen that morning with fresh eyes.

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.  You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.  For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.  Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.  For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forver.  The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."  Isaiah 9:2-7 (NIV)
He came as a child.  Not a man.  Not as someone that appeared to have a great deal of power.  A baby.  And He was not born in that day's 5 star inn or a mansion of the times.  He was born into poverty.  There will never be another Christ, but I can't help but think of how God sent His son here in the form of a child and how often He mentions children in His Word.  Apparently, He thinks they are pretty important and that they can grow up to accomplish great things.
It makes me think about the children of La Limonada.  Crushing darkness covered the land in Isaiah 9:2.  It is no different in the lives of people in Guatemala.  They have two choices, as we all do.  Grow up to do what is right or what is wrong.  Grow up to be good influences and impact those around them and even the world or grow up to do what children do there when they have no other choice and darkness is all they have ever known...steal, become alcoholics and drug addicts, kill.
There is much darkness in La Limonada, but "the people walking in darkness" are beginning to "see a great light" and "...light has dawned."  Children are being given the chance to become adults that can change lives for the better.  They are learning about Jesus, about how much He loves them, even if no one else does.  They are beginning to understand that they have great value because they are His.  They are being given education, healthy meals and many of their other needs are being met.  Adults that once lived in darkness have seen the light and they are pouring that back into the lives of children there.  Adults that had no skills and could not provide for their families are being given training so they can.  Light has certainly dawned and it is overcoming the darkness.  Lemonade International is working hard to reach as many children in La Limonada as possible so that more children will have the chance to grow into productive, loving adults.  Children will grow up to make a difference in this world.  How they grow depends on us.  We can help them grow into the people God wants us all to be or we can stand by and allow them to fall into the trap of darkness.  They are worth fighting for. 
At this time of year as we celebrate the birth of our Prince of Peace, we have the opportunity to support the children and families of La Limonada through Lemonade International's Give Christmas campaign.  You can give a child shoes and school supplies which will allow them to attend school in January.  You can give to help pay a teacher's salary so that she can continue to not only teach a child math, science, etc., but so she can continue introducing the children of La Limonada to Jesus and helping them grow in Him.  Or you can give the gift of education in the form of scholarships to older children so that they can continue their educations beyond 6th grade.  Our goal is high and it may seem overwhelming, but every donation counts and makes a difference in the life of a real person in Guatemala.
Join us in fighting for their lives at