Wednesday, February 18, 2015

About Paradise

Community soccer field in Paradise neighborhood of Guatemala City, Guatemala
Last month, James and I had the opportunity to venture to Paradise together while a team from Texas was working with Engadi Ministries.  Usually James will go to Paradise while I stay at home to watch Riley (because of the dangerous area of the city, mixed with the uncleanliness of the environment there, we have been cautioned against, and chosen not to, bring Riley into Paradise until she is older).  It always seems difficult for me to put into words the emotions that accompany a trip to Paradise, but I owe it to those of you who have never been here, to try to paint a picture of this neighborhood and its people that have stolen our hearts in the slums of Guatemala City.

In order to understand a little bit about the children in Paradise, you must first understand the history of the neighborhood.  Until 1995, Guatemala was involved in a Civil War in which people from all over the nation migrated to Guatemala's capital, Guatemala City seeking shelter from the warfare that destroyed villages nationwide.  People flocked to the city with just the clothes on their backs in search of a place where they could begin a new life.  During the night, people would move in and construct shacks made of wood, tin, and other debris on empty areas of land in the city.  The communities that would often appear "overnight" are known as squatter communities.  Paradise is one of these squatter communities.

Part of the neighborhood of Paradise
Paradise, however, is unique in the area of the city in which it was built.  It stands today as one of the poorest squatter communities in the city, and was built on one of the cities landfills.  Shacks cascade down the valleys of the landfill which end in open streams of sewage at the bottom.  Trash can easily be seen erupting through the ground as you weave your way through the narrow alleys between homes.  There is little motivation to keep streets and alleyways clean when the streets and alleyways continually produce layer after layer of trash themselves.

Houses like the one pictured are built upon decades of trash.
Paradise is also unique in that it is located in one of the most dangerous zones (or district) of Guatemala City which is Zone 18.  Internationally known, "Barrio 18" is the gang that has taken this neighborhood to be their territory.  Murders, extortion, rape, theft, and vandalism occur daily in Paradise, and the majority of crimes go unsolved.  I have yet to meet a family in Paradise not affected by gang activity.  Families are desperate for justice and safety, but often left hopeless in their own brokenness and poverty.

As a rule, children are bound to grow up in a broken household.  Boys are likely to join gangs before they are teenagers in search of love and acceptance that they never received from their absent fathers.  Over half of these boys will die before their twenty-fourth birthday.  Girls are likely to have their first child before their sixteenth birthday, forcing them to drop out of school.  I'm certain that you can see now why the average family in Paradise is made up of one mother, six children (from several different men), and no father.  It is a toxic cycle.

I have only described to you the tip of the iceberg.  I can not even begin to touch on how the faults in the education system, government, and lack of healthcare further affect the lives of people there.  Perhaps I will little by little in future posts.  More importantly, however, is the solution.  Is there one?

I feel strongly that there is a solution, but it must be a holistic approach that addresses and meets each of these issues where they are.  We have joined Engadi Ministries Intl. because they seek to minister to the community as a whole, partnering with the local schools, churches, healthcare facilities, and families that make up Paradise, and strengthening them where they are.  More importantly, however, is the intensive focus that Engadi Ministries places on the boys growing up in Paradise.  Engadi seeks to mentor these boys to be true disciples of Christ, while giving them opportunities to live, study and grow apart from the influences of gangs and poverty in which they are surrounded.

Only with Godly men will the community of Paradise be able to turn itself around.  Children will be able to grow up in homes with BOTH loving parents teaching them right from wrong.  Godly men will demonstrate how to love their WIVES putting an end to rape and teenage pregnancies.  Women will have a Godly leader who they can respect, and who will LOVE them as Christ loves the church.  Gangs will decrease in size, strength and appeal as boys receive love and ACCEPTANCE from their fathers.

With help, Paradise can become a thriving community.  They don't need a handout, they need a STEP UP.  They don't need empty promises, they need GOD'S FULFILLING, REFRESHING AND LIVING WORD.  Most of all they need CHRIST'S ABOUNDING AND UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

Fathers who are present in their children's lives are few and far between in Paradise
If you feel led to partner with us in this goal, you can click the link at the upper-right side of this page.  You can also partner by praying for us in these specific ways:
- Pray for us as we continue to acquire the language and learn the culture here.
- Pray for us as we continue to meet and build relationships with boys living in Paradise.
- Pray for us as we consider moving to a more secure location better suited for our needs.
- Pray for us as we continue learning how to parent Riley; that beyond cultural differences, we could parent her in a way that glorifies God.
- Pray for Engadi Ministries as it prepares to enter a whole new season of growth this year.

Thank you again for all of your love and support so far.  Please feel free to email us with any questions or updates in your life.  We can't tell you how much it means to stay connected to those we miss in the States.

James, Ellie, and Riley

Romans 15:13
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

JamesandEllie / Author & Editor

James and Ellie Carr have been missionaries in Gautemala since 2014 and write to share their feelings and how they have experienced God's goodness and mercy on the mission field.


  1. Thank you for painting that picture for us, and for serving our Lord the way you do. Praying. (Jeni and Jim)


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