Dear Friends of Agua Viva,
I’m writing to share with you an important shift in focus for the ministry at Agua Viva intended to provide more opportunity for lasting, transformative change in the lives of the children we serve. As always, our goal is to help vulnerable, at-risk Guatemalan children become successful Christian adults with the desire and ability to help their own people.
After considerable study, consultation, deliberation, and prayer, the GCM Board of Directors approved a plan to better utilize our financial resources by redirecting funds away from the residential home and to the highly successful Agua Viva School plus other new initiatives. This shift in focus means that we will discontinue funding the Agua Viva Home by the end of the year. Please take time to read the rest of this letter to understand why we believe this change is necessary and in the best interests of the vulnerable children we serve.
As a Christian ministry, Agua Viva began after the 1976 earthquake to provide full-time residential care for truly orphaned children. Over the years, the home expanded to care for other at-risk children from abusive family situations or from families with a single parent (almost always the mother) unable to care for her children due to drug/alcohol addiction, prostitution, etc.
Responding to the tragic fire in 2017 that left over 40 Guatemalan girls dead in a government owned and operated home, the Guatemalan authorities imposed tighter restrictions on all children’s homes, including highly regarded ones like Agua Viva. These new guidelines included increased reporting and supervision, limits on the number of children in each home and a significant reduction in the time a child is allowed to spend at the home. The authorities also renewed a focus on placing at-risk children in foster care and permanent adoptive families, rather than in children’s homes. The government now requires children’s homes to locate and vet prospective foster parents, and to absorb the added costs this work requires (e.g. hiring and paying social workers, covering transportation expenses, etc.).
While a commitment to placing at-risk children in foster care and permanent adoptive families is commendable, realities in Guatemala pose a significant threat to the success of the Government plan. Hurdles include a severe lack of infrastructure to accommodate the change, the prohibition of international adoptions since 2008 severely limiting the pool of potential adoptive parents, and deep-seated cultural and economic barriers to adoption among Guatemalans.
Here are some examples of how the Guatemalan government plan has impacted the Agua Viva residential ministry:
- Agua Viva had to discontinue serving children other than those sent through the court system.
- Agua Viva is now limited to 50 children, much lower than in the past (e.g. 80+).
- Agua Viva now has the added burden of finding suitable foster/placement homes for the children, a responsibility that is vitally important, yet time consuming and costly.
- The opportunity to influence children for Christ at the Home has been significantly reduced given the relatively short amount of time they are allowed to spend there.
- The reduced time children spend at the home makes it difficult to nurture a personal relationship between child sponsors and the children. An unfortunate consequence has been a decline in child sponsorships.
Home operating costs have multiplied, and are expected to continue to escalate, driving a significant net loss that is no longer sustainable.
A Difficult Decision but a Bright Future for Agua Viva
In light of the impacts identified above, those of us serving on the GCM Board of Directors decided to step back and ask some fundamental questions related to the Agua Viva ministry:
With eternity in mind, how might we best make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children in Guatemala?
In what future direction do we believe God is leading GCM and Agua Viva?
We spent considerable time in prayer and deliberation to answer these questions, and in the end concluded that we should redirect resources away from the residential home and to the school and other new initiatives where we believe we can have a greater impact for the Kingdom. Input from our Guatemalan General Director, Evy, also played a significant role in the board’s unanimous decision.
Our first priority now is to make the transition for children currently living at the home as smooth as possible, recommending to the courts relocation to other Christian children’s homes, and if possible, with biological parents or extended families.
We plan to expand the Agua Viva School in 2020 to include high school, and are especially interested in developing after-school discipleship, tutoring, and other special classes in areas such as computer programming, music, and drama.
With regard to the buildings currently used to support the residential home ministry, we will be evaluating a number of potential new uses for them in 2020 and beyond. Some possibilities may be linked to the expanding school, but other options will be considered as well to fulfill GCM’s mission and purpose.
Based on the experiences of other countries like Costa Rica, the Church can and should play an important role in reshaping negative perceptions and attitudes toward foster care and adoption among Guatemalans. We will want to explore possible ways to support local churches in this effort.
Agua Viva’s move toward education and other new programs is in line with a growing understanding that in most cases resources intended to help lift vulnerable children out of poverty are best directed toward education and programs to place them as soon as possible with healthy Christian families. You might be interested to read an article in the August, 2019 edition of Christianity Today entitled: “The Christian Case Against the Orphanage”.
Child Sponsorship Program
Agua Viva child sponsorships will continue to play a vital role in the ministry. Current sponsorships for children at the home will be reassigned to support under-resourced local families who could not afford a private Christian education without this financial support.
The Agua Viva School offers extraordinary educational opportunities not found in public schools in the area. Linking the sponsorship program to the school will be beneficial to both sponsors and students. Importantly, the new sponsorship program will provide greater continuity for our sponsors over time, enabling them to follow their children through their school years.
Sponsors will soon receive information about the students they have been assigned. Of course, sponsors may opt out of the program at any time, but now more than ever, these children need our support.
All of us serving on the GCM Board of Directors have either led or been part of a mission team sent to Agua Viva. We know firsthand how these groups can be a huge blessing to the children and staff as well as to our visitors. Please know that mission teams will continue!
For 2020, we will direct the efforts of mission teams to the school and local community. Countless opportunities exist to minister to students and staff through after school activities and special events. In addition, teams can make significant contributions to the local community working alongside local churches.
Please consider leading a group or joining one already committed to ministering at Agua Viva. For more information, please contact Misi Schlax at email@example.com.
We Need Your Continued Support
In order to accomplish what we believe the Lord has led us to pursue, we need to finish the year well and adequately fund the expansion of the Agua Viva School. The school was started in 2006 and has consistently served 300+ students per year in grades K-8. These students have benefited from a quality education, well above normal standards, in a distinctly Christian environment. In 2020, we expect to add another 25-50 high school students.
Importantly, we need your help.
Would you consider making a special donation now to help us fulfill what we believe are the plans God has for Agua Viva? If so, please send your check today to:
Guatemala Children’s Mission
P.O. Box 414
Apex, NC 27502
For online donations, please go to www.aguavivaschool.org/donate.
If you have comments or questions for the GCM Board of Directors, please contact us at
With gratitude for what the Lord is doing at Agua Viva and throughout Guatemala,
President, Guatemala Children’s Mission