By Melissa Dohms
Mountain villages perched amidst the corn crops and jungle covered peaks of central Guatemala towered over us as we bumped up and down dusty dirt roads to meet the people of the Pokomchi, descendants of the Mayans.
Climbing out of the cab and from the open back of the pick-up truck we were warmly welcomed by villagers who were honored we had taken time from our lives to come and meet them.
Three couples from the Clearwater Christian Church had met up with Clearwater residents Bill and Linda Brierly on March 17th in central Guatemala.
The founders, Bill and Linda Brierly, had spent several years in different Central American countries before settling in Guatemala and establishing the Hope of the Pokomchi ministry.
READ MORE: Chu Chua welcomes Guatemalan visitors (Dec. 12, 2011)
Our church is the Canadian sending church for this multifaceted ministry.
Pastor Wayne and Tracy Richardson, Gary Goodie, Kim Thomas and Gordon and Melissa Dohms arrived to take part in a Vision Tour from March 17 – 24, 2018.
It was Gordon’s second trip to the mission, having been on a work team with several from Clearwater and other Canadian towns in March 2013. They had built rainwater cisterns, pouring a cement floor for community hall and built latrines.
“What a wonderful trip! Can’t wait to do it again!” Kim Thomas .
Hope of the Pokomchi ministry is the Canadian name of a Guatemalan non-profit organization under the auspices of Clearwater Christian Church. It is known in Guatemala as ASOSAP “Asociación Sakombal Pokon”, which in local Pokomchi language means “light of the Pokomchi .”
ASOSAP became a registered non-profit in Guatemala in 2004. Today the ministry is led by entirely indigenous staffs that reach out to many interior villages. Through a lengthy process involving the village leaders, needs are discussed and if the leaders are in agreement plans set in place to help the villagers become part of the solution. The mission office is based in San Cristobal Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.
This modest center is where the hands and feet of the local indigenous staff assist their own people become empowered in improving the quality of their health, family relationships, safe water and cooking practices and spiritual relationship with Christ.
“Had an amazing journey, so glad I went!” Tracy Richardson.
The Clearwater team found themselves immersed in an overwhelming journey of hearing how the ministry had changed lives. From village to village we traveled and heard firsthand accounts of how lives had improved when efficient wood cook stoves with piped out smoke had eliminated respiratory problems and reduced the need for so much firewood.
Rainwater cisterns built by visiting teams meant no more back breaking weary trips to far off water sources by the women. Chronic patient care programs identify health problems and patients are treated and monitored by health outpost nurses employed by ASOSAP. Individuals who show aptitude and potential as nurses are sponsored in the medical training and employed as rural nurses.
A young woman, Estella, used to experience six epileptic seizures a day. By entering the chronic care program she has free medicines that have dropped her seizures to five a month. This has allowed her to have a normal fulfilling life.
ASOSAP staff conduct family education programs in villages that discuss relationships and healthy home practices based on Biblical values. Separate sleeping areas for family members to reduce likelihood of incest, proper latrines are placed beside homes reducing sicknesses and family planning and prenatal care are discussed.
“Now I see individual faces and villages when I read of the work ASOSAP is doing.” Melissa Dohms
“The ASOSAP programs and staff that run them are providing opportunities and medical services that are changing the lives of the Pokomchi people. I look forward to the next opportunity to contribute.” Gary Goodie
The Shekinah center, a newly built multi-use facility in the town of San Cristobal, is utilized for outreach programs that target artisans and train seamstresses to become part of the PokoMaya artisan program.
Seamstresses who complete the program have the opportunity to pay a percentage of the cost of a sewing machine. This empowers them to become a contributing member of the family’s finances.
In the village of Panhux a young woman named Rosa owns the only sewing machine in the town. She traveled to the Shekinah centre each week for six weeks to complete the program. Seminars for local church leaders are invited to the center for training and encouragement. Children’s ministry programs are popular with the local youth. The team came alongside the leader of the children’s program one afternoon.
After the children had shown us their memory recitation of scripture and sung several songs we took part in playing soccer with the boys and the girls had their hair braided and fingernails painted for fun.
“I really like the well balanced approach the ministry demonstrates in the spiritual and physical areas. They do a really good job.” Gordon Dohms
As relationships were formed and lives shared in rural Guatemala, the ministry of ASOSAP became tangible and clear. Each of us on the Vision Tour team came away inwardly changed and blessed.
“The ASOSAP team are awe inspiring and are a tremendous blessing to everyone around them.” Wayne Richardson
A presentation of the trip taken March 17-24 will be held at the Star Lake Ministry Center (Clearwater Christian Church) in Blackpool on April 22, at 6:30 pm starting with desserts and a fund raiser. The raised funds will go to provide a percentage of the total cost of a sewing machine for a graduate of the sewing program. This will give her the ability to provide income for her family. There are other graduates of the sewing program that may appreciate help in the purchase of sewing machines to jumpstart their new vocations.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about Hope of the Pokomchi ministry and to hear about the recent team trip is encouraged to come. For more information call Wayne Richardson at 250-674-7073.