AMG International’s TAVA project emerged from the ashes of a disaster: the 2018 eruption of Fuego, a Guatemalan volcano, killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless. AMG responded immediately by mounting a countrywide campaign to provide families with necessary supplies like food, water and clothing by converting our schools and centers into collection points and sharing our progress and immediate needs through social media. Our faithful supporters were quick to respond. We provided urgent supplies for firefighters and relief workers who were desperately trying to locate survivors in the rubble of volcanic material and remnants of homes. The heat of the crusted lava melted their boots, and your faithful support purchased new boots for these first responders. Shelters were full of grieving families trying to fathom all that had been lost: their loved ones, their land and all of their possessions. Children were overcome with sadness, many hoping and praying to find their parents. Devastatingly, many were grieving the loss of their family with seemingly no hope to go on. AMG’s dedicated child protection team traveled to the shelters, providing counseling and attempted to bring along some cheer by organizing children’s activities and pointing people to our only real Hope in life, Jesus.
As the days passed, our national leaders built temporary homes, and AMG missionaries Gary and Rachel De León started relief ministries ministering to hundreds of displaced families. As Gary and Rachel started to establish relationships with the families, the Lord spoke to their hearts and began calling them into full-time disaster relief ministry. They chose the name TAVA, or “Noah’s Ark” in Hebrew. The name seemed to perfectly reflect the heart the Lord had given them to serve those affected by the disaster.
Those serving with the TAVA project began regular food and supply distribution throughout the community, organized the collection and distribution of clothing and shared the love of Christ with everyone they met. They began meeting with local pastors, encouraged them to start services and ultimately provided the resources to build a church on the shelter property. Several of the congregations lost their senior they also offered training for pastors by equipping them to begin meeting their neighbors’ many needs.
One tremendous challenge was to think through how to engage and occupy the many children and youth roaming the shelters with little to do. To provide something meaningful, useful and portable for movement to a more permanent setting, Gary and Rachel started a program that repurposed shipping containers into computer labs. They created a curriculum to focus on a vocational opportunity with Bible classes taught in the afternoons. Last year, the program offered educational reinforcement to 110 children and opportunities to learn guitar, soccer and other activities where mentoring and discipleship were the focus. The program also included a meal, which was a big help to the community no longer able to depend on the many farms lost under ash and lava rock. This center was given a name: Tikva Child Development Center. In Hebrew, tikvah means “hope”, and we are humbled to watch how God has brought this tragedy full circle. Many of the children in the program lost family members in the eruption, and Tikva gives them a second chance at a better life.
AMG Guatemala started 44 years ago in response to another natural disaster: a massive earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people. Over the years, it has grown into a ministry supporting thousands of children and their families in 37 communities through Christian schools, medical projects, nutrition programs, a year-round camp and many other projects. In every project, Christ is proclaimed, and the Good News of the gospel is shared at every possible opportunity. TAVA arrived in Guatemala just two years ago and has already grown into a beautiful long-term ministry of AMG. We are now operating a school in the new permanent community and investing in these families’ lives for many years to come. It is incredible to see the beauty the Lord can bring from ashes.
Through TAVA’s creation, AMG was also able to develop a more robust model plan to be better ready to offer aid and relief when future disasters happen. That was most recently put into action, following Hurricane Eta and Iota, when our national leaders quickly mobilized efforts to feed and provide supplies to thousands of victims. This urgent response was met because our supporters’ faithful partnership has provided the financial support in these desperate times. Thank you for standing in the gap for those in need.
This past year has been one of great challenges and trials for all of us. It has also been a year of tremendous blessing in sharing hope and meeting the most profound needs, at quite possibly the most hopeless time that many have experienced in life. Because of our supporters and national leaders’ steadfastness, AMG has worked diligently throughout the shutdowns and quarantines to provide necessities in the moment, serving thousands all over the world and stewarding the resources that the Lord has provided in the most careful and strategic ways.
As the 6th most predisposed country in the world to natural disasters, Guatemala needs much prayer! Please pray that the Lord will transform many lives through this new center and that those affected by natural disasters can find hope and refuge in the Lord. Pray for Gary and Rachel’s safety as they continue to serve the Lord in challenging situations while ministering to those who are lost and broken.
If you would like to be a part of this new community or sponsor a child at this new center, visit us at amginternational.org to learn more about the Tikva Child Development Center.