The Heinlein Family
In 1976 a catastrophic earthquake struck Guatemala City killing more than 25,000 people. David Beam, a young missionary from Michigan, went to help. Upon returning to the U.S. he met Dr. Carl Heinlein of Indiana who assisted him financially in his work in Guatemala. In 1977 Dr. Heinlein, his wife Joyce, and their ten children traveled to Guatemala to establish a children’s home to care for babies orphaned by the earthquake and suffering from malnutrition.
Property was rented in Guatemala City at Kilometer 18 on the Pan American Highway. After a year of traveling between the States and Guatemala, Dr. Heinlein closed his practice and moved to Guatemala full-time. Agua Viva was incorporated in Guatemala in 1980. Dr. Heinlein raised funds for Agua Viva by returning to the States and driving from church to church telling congregations of the needs of the children of Guatemala.
John and Jeanie Kilpatrick
In 1984 John and Jeanie Kilpatrick of Miami, Florida, visited the home in order to meet the child they sponsored at Agua Viva and to do a short-term mission trip. Not long after, the Kilpatricks answered God’s call to return to Guatemala and begin full-time ministry in Guatemala. By that time the Heinleins had left Guatemala and the home was under the guidance of World Opportunities International. Shortly after they arrived, the Kilpatricks were named the new directors of Agua Viva.
When John and Jeanie arrived, there were 50 malnourished babies and 60 other children living at Agua Viva. The home was suffering from shortages of everything; there were no towels, soap or toilet paper. The Kilpatricks set to work, caring for the children and handling such emergencies as a collapsed water well and power outages, while learning Spanish at the same time.
Before long, a Christian school was established at Agua Viva to educate the children at the home. In 1987 it was opened to the poor children of the surrounding neighborhoods and grew to 320 children in grades K-6. The older children at Agua Viva were enrolled in a private Christian school off campus.
Guatemala Children’s Mission Inc.
In 1992, Guatemala Children’s Mission, Inc. (GCM) was formed as the sponsoring mission agency for Agua Viva. GCM is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization incorporated in Florida and under the direction of a U.S. Board of Directors. GCM is an independent, non-denominational, non-profit organization dedicated solely to funding and supporting the ministry of Agua Viva Children’s Home.
A Home of Their Own
The home had been located on rented property on the Pan American Highway since its origin. As the city grew, the property became more valuable and the owner wanted to sell it for commercial purposes. Agua Viva Children’s Home had to find a new home. A beautiful piece of property was chosen about 36 miles west of the original site in June, 1997. It is on a plateau and provides plenty of fresh air, sunshine and beautiful views. The funds to pay for the land were raised in less than a year, and then a “Home of Our Own” campaign was begun to raise money to construct the new buildings.
God provided in an amazing way through many individuals and churches. Near the end of construction with funds tight, Pro Missions of Memphis, Tennessee, provided a loan to GCM so they could finish the construction and move before the home’s lease expired. The children moved into their new home in November, 1999, with great excitement at having clean, roomy buildings that were a vast improvement over the old facility in Guatemala City.
After 15 years of pouring out their lives for the children of Agua Viva, John and Jeanie Kilpatrick retired as directors in December, 2000. After a series of short-term American missionaries had served at Agua Viva, Everilda Tzirin Bal stepped into the role of director of Agua Viva. Evy has a background in social work and law and has many years of administrative experience. Today, Agua Viva is running smoothly under the direction of a Guatemalan woman with the assistance of short-term American missionaries, and the oversight of the GCM board.
A School of Their Own
In January, 2001, Agua Viva established a primary school for the children using existing space in the home’s buildings. Older children continued to attend a private Christian school off campus. In June, 2004, GCM committed to building a school on-site for all the children of Agua Viva with the vision of also reaching out to the local community. In January, 2005, the new facilities of the Agua Viva School were dedicated to the glory of God, serving children through middle school. The school consistently has over 300 students enrolled.
The Next Chapter
Based on changing government regulations which significantly altered the dynamics of residential child care in favor of foster care and adoption, and after considerable study, consultation, deliberation, and prayer, the GCM Board of Directors approved a plan in August, 2019, to better utilize financial resources by redirecting funds away from the residential home and to the highly successful Agua Viva School plus other new initiatives. This will allow the ministry to explore ways to support foster care and adoption as well as expand the Agua Viva School to include a high school program focusing on computer technology.
Although the closing of the residential home was a major change, the goal of the Agua Viva ministry remains the same: to help vulnerable, at-risk Guatemalan children become successful Christian adults with the desire and ability to help their own people.