Abogar’s 2015 (President’s) Year End Report

At the end of each year it falls upon me, as part of my responsibility in leading Abogar International Ministries forward, to compose a President’s Year End Report. This report shares with the Board of Directors, and supporters, of the activities, successes, and challenges that we have faced and come through in the previous year! Though I am quite late to get this posted on our website, here it finally is!! It is long, but gives some good insight into the work that we are doing!

2015 PRESIDENT’S YEAR END REPORT

2015 was an incredible year of God’s faithfulness and presence to continue carrying Abogar International Ministries along; as we have been working on behalf of children who are orphaned and/or homeless, and youth at risk throughout Latin America. The Lord has blessed the activities, work, and ministry of Abogar greatly this year. It is with great praise, appreciation, and adoration to God that I, Jesse Rivers, serving as President and CEO for Abogar International Ministries, submit this 2015 Abogar International Ministries’ Year End Report.

Since Abogar’s beginning on March 1st, 2012 there have been many trials and triumphs. 2015 was no exception to this truth. 2015 started with me residing in Riverside, California to further connections and relationships within the BIC denomination, in which I possess a ministerial license as an evangelist. From a Discernment Team to my Spiritual Director to Pastoral oversight and guidance, the time in Riverside, CA has proved to be very beneficial; not just for Abogar but for me personally as well.

In January Abogar held its 3rd consecutive annual Board of Directors’ Retreat! This year it took place in Houston, Texas. Karen Wilson, Abogar’s Secretary and Executive Assistant, most graciously hosted Abogar’s board members in her family’s home! We once again found this retreat to be a very important time for bonding, unity building, and mission/vision casting.

During our Board of Directors’ Retreat we also got to meet up with the leaders of a newly formulating ministry; De Corazon. De Corazon focuses on children who are orphaned, living in border cities in Mexico, seeking to help them know Jesus Christ and a better future. From our meeting, I was invited by the board of De Corazon to sit as a member of their Board of Directors. The meeting with leaders of De Corazon was a mutually beneficial blessing.

In January Abogar also had the opportunity to solidify a couple of great financial and prayer partner relationships in Michigan. I shared briefly in a church there, to thank them for their continued support. We have strengthened our relationship with that church as well as a business in Michigan; both from which several individuals and families are also becoming part of our support team. The visit to Michigan was profitable in many ways, and has been of such encouragement for us as we move forward!

In February, I was able to represent Abogar in Pennsylvania; deepening established relationships and seeking to develop new prayer and financial supporters for Abogar. I also was privileged to lead a retreat on identity for a young adult group from Franconia, PA. The opportunities afforded to both me and Abogar have proved fruitful, as we have been able to grow our prayer support and donor base from contacts made on this trip!

In mid-March I moved to Guatemala City, Guatemala to live. This move was made so that I can improve my Spanish, learn the laws of Guatemala, establish Abogar Guatemala, and to serve at God Bless The Children Home. Learning the language has been helpful and progressive. Learning the laws concerning helping children has been slow, as they are all in Spanish and I still have lots to learn. Establishing Abogar Guatemala is and will be a slow process, as we need to find several local people with the call and heart for the children to join us in establishing the presence officially of Abogar Guatemala.

I served for 2&1/2 months as a representative of Abogar in God Bless The Children’s Home; furthering our vison and mission to be present with and fighting for the children of Latin America. From driving the van full of kids to school, appointments with doctors, judges, court, haircuts, church, etc. to cleaning and repairing things around the home, there were many blessings and things I learned from my time there that I believe are and will be beneficial to Abogar’s growth and future. The model of the home and governance given there were well structured, and offer insight to Abogar for how we may develop our Homes of Hope model.

At the end of April through the middle of May, Abogar was represented in Tenessee, Texas, and San Diego, CA. April 29th through May 1st, I was privileged to attend Christian Alliance For Orphans’ (CAFO) annual International Summit 2015 in Nashville, TN. Abogar invited leaders of De Corazon, Nick and Blanca Davis, to attend the CAFO Summit as well, and we paid their registration at the conference to bless them. The relationships between Nick, Blanca, Abogar, and I have been greatly strengthened through the CAFO Summit 2015! Praise God!

While at CAFO Summit 2015, I also was able to strengthen my relationship with Jedd and Rachel Medefind. Jedd serves as CAFO’s President. Jedd and Rachel extended an invitation to me to visit them in Fresno, CA during the summer. In the meantime, Jedd committed to join me/Abogar in prayerful discernment of how our relationship can best be mutually edifying.

After CAFO Summit 2015, I traveled to Houston, TX to spend time with Karen Wilson and her family, as well as to visit her church, Houston Vineyard Church. We were blessed with an opportunity to meet with A 2nd Cup ministry to hear about their ministry to women/girls who are being sex-trafficked in Houston! It was an informative and blessed time together.

The following day, Monday, May 04th, Karen and I represented Abogar together; meeting with a youth and missions pastor from Houston Vineyard Church; Pastor Wes Edmondson. Our time together was tremendous, as Pastor Wes has experience creating, serving with, and leading nonprofits. He spoke important words of wisdom, encouragement, and direction into my leadership, and I was very encouraged and refreshed by our meeting!

From Texas I then flew on to San Diego, California; as Abogar is based there and really needs to develop a support and connection base there in its own hometown! I was able to meet with a couple, leaders in the Navigators ministry to share about the vision and mission of Abogar. It was a great meeting and this couple has contributed encouragement, prayer support, and financial support since our meeting!

On Saturday, May 9th, Abogar hosted a Beach BBQ Fundraiser in La Jolla, CA. We had a great turnout of ~35 people and were able to raise $730 from the event, as well as prayer support and interest in our ministry! I am really pleased with connections and supporters that we were able to start raising up in San Diego. Praise God!

From California I returned to Guatemala, and was given an invitation by Casa Bernabe to share my testimony with some of their older youth. As I visited the ministry of Casa Bernabe, I saw that their model is very similar to that of Abogar’s, and I was interested in seeing how Abogar might learn from and bless their ministry to the children. So I waited on God to reveal if there was a way for Abogar to walk in partnership with Casa Bernabe.

In the first four months of my time living in Guatemala, I sensed strongly that God was calling me to be open and willing to being present living in Guatemala for anywhere from three to five years, to further the presence and work of Abogar Guatemala! So at the end of May I moved into a room in a lady’s home, to gain some privacy, but yet to remain close to God Bless The Children Home. However, at the end of May, a transition from working at God Bless The Children Home came about. While it is a good ministry, some very important issues that need to be addressed are being intentionally swept under the rug, and until they can address these issues it is neither wise nor beneficial for Abogar to continue volunteering with them.

June started a transition time for Abogar. I met with the board of directors for Casa Bernabe, shared the heart and vision of Abogar, as well as my desire to volunteer with their ministry. The board took time to discuss and pray about how we might bless each other, and then they invited me to fill out an application and background check. After filling out the required information, I then had to wait two months before getting a response/decision from Casa Bernabe.

In the meantime, in June I was able to represent Abogar and visit La Puerta Mission in San Lucas, Sacatepéquez. I went to observe their Special Kids’ preschool ministry. I was really blessed to speak with Sonia, one of the two Founders, and to hear of their faithfulness and dedication to serve Jesus over several years together. It was such a blessing to visit the ministry and to talk directly with Sonia.

On July 1st I met with a lawyer in Guatemala City to learn a bit more about how to formulate Abogar International Ministries in Guatemala (Abogar Guatemala). The meeting was very informative, and it became evident that Abogar’s best option in Guatemala is to formulate as an NGO, rather than a Foundation or Association. I have had several meetings (informal and formal) with people in Guatemala about their interest in Abogar, but this was the first meeting that helped me understand more about how we can move forward to create Abogar Guatemala.

In mid-July I flew to Pennsylvania to represent Abogar, as well as to serve as Camp Pastor for a week at Spruce Lake Wilderness Camp. The week of ministry to the kids at the camp was incredible, and many lives were changed for the glory of God. There were several decisions made to accept Jesus as Savior AND Lord! I also conducted my first ever baptism! After leading Leah, one of the young campers, to know Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord, she immediately said, “I need to be baptized! Can you please baptize me?!” After clearing things with the camp and Leah’s parents, I baptized Leah in front of 150 campers and staff! It was an amazing experience! As camp finished, I was also given an opportunity to share with all the counselors and staff about Abogar, and felt like the week was profitable and filled with blessings on many different levels!

After camp I flew out to Fresno, California to spend a couple days with Jedd and Rachel Medefind, and their 5 children! While I did get the tremendous privilege to visit Yosemite with the Medefinds, the trip and time was to actually solidify what my working relationship with Jedd can/will look like. We concluded that he would best serve in an advisor role to me, as someone of wisdom and experience who can speak into my life and the life of Abogar from the outside looking in. Our friendship is strong, and I greatly respect his wisdom, insight, and gifting in logistical and administrative things! I feel that this relationship with be tremendously beneficial, not just for me but for Abogar as well.

After a few days in Fresno, CA I then went to East Berlin, PA to prepare things for Abogar’s first ever Abogar 1:27 Run (5K)! Due to the amazing help of Sharon Stoner, and the whole Stoner family, our 5k fundraising event was an amazing success, through which we raised $2,615! We have already scheduled Abogar 1:27 Run 2016 (July 31st, 2016), and have had several people express interest to run the 5K again! Praise God!

My remaining time in PA consisted of a couple connecting/speaking opportunities, an informational BBQ, and then some time at Roxbury Holiness Camp! I was able to represent Abogar a bit on Missions Day at Roxbury camp, before taking a short vacation. All in all, my time in PA was incredibly fruitful and productive for Abogar. Praise God!

Shortly after returning to Guatemala I was contacted by Casa Bernabe to visit them to hear their decision about my volunteering with their ministry. They accepted me as a volunteer and suggested for me to become their volunteer English professor. I accepted and stepped into the role! I found, surprisingly, that I really love to teach! I started immediately giving classes in English, and feel more blessed than the blessing I was for the kids! I gave classes from mid-August until mid-October, when the children then went on a 2&1/2 month vacation!

In mid-October Jamie Samples became our volunteer Social Media Specialist! She started taking on some responsibility to post on Abogar’s facebook page, and her work has been beautiful and incredible. She has consistently been an amazing encourager and blessing in my life since I met her on a plane in one of my many work trips! It’s awesome having her as part of our team! Praise God!

In mid-October I also flew to Michigan, as Sunday, October 18th, was Mission Sunday and the church in Michigan supporting Abogar had invited me to preach in both services and lead a young adult Sunday School class! My few days in Michigan were again fruitful and a blessing! I helped lead a youth group retreat for Friday night and all day Saturday, before preaching at the church on Sunday. I also received an invite from the business that supports Abogar, to share on Monday with all the employees about the vision, mission, and work of Abogar. It was a great time to get hearts and minds inspired and motivated to help Abogar move forward!

On November 1st I moved away from Guatemala City, into a house in Fraijanes that I am renting by myself. I made this move to be closer to Casa Bernabe, as well as a church and friends. However, I did not have much time in my new ‘home,’ as I spent almost the entire month of November traveling stateside to fundraise for Abogar to meet its budget.

November 1st was a very important day for another reason too though, both for me and for Abogar. For the second year in a row I received an invitation to celebrate a Guatemalan holiday, Fiambre, in the home of Jimmy Morales and his family. Jimmy Morales has been a comedian and actor who is very well known in Guatemala and throughout much of Latin America. The thing that made this November 1st so important was that Jimmy Morales had just won the national election of Guatemala to become President of the country on January 14th, 2016! As I entered his home, after penetrating a multitude of private guards and military personelle, Jimmy Morales greeted me jovially, recognized me from the previous year, and even noticed that I had cut off my long hair! We were able to chat several times on that day, and I was able to encourage him and discuss with him the importance of children becoming a central focus for running the country well! In December, near Christmas, I also was able to visit with Patty as she distributed Christmas gifts to poor and needy children in the city. The favor that God has granted between me, Jimmy Morales, and his wife, Patty, cannot be coincidence, and I am prayerfully discerning how best to use the influence there to better the lives of the children of Guatemala! Please pray with me about this!

On November 5th I flew to Pennsylvania and on November 7th Abogar held a dessert night fundraiser. Dwight and Pamela Bream hosted the event in their home. Praise God that we had a turnout of roughly 35 people and the night brought in $3,035 in support! On the 10th Abogar had another dessert night event and we raised $71, as well as got some hearts inspired by the call and vision of God for the children. On my last full day in November, the 11th, I got to share with Pathway Community Church’s youth group and challenge them to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, and also got to share a bit about my work with Abogar!

From PA I then flew to Kansas to meet and get to know some BIC pastors in Kansas, and to share in four services on Sunday as well. On my first full day in Salina, KS I got to meet pastors Kerry Coup, Jay Johnson, Ron Bowell, Jeff Piepho, and Stan Norman! I did lunch with Jay, Ron, and Stan and got the opportunity to share a lot of my heart, and the heart of Abogar as well. On Sunday I did indeed share in four different services about Abogar, and the financial and prayer support definitely started coming in from different people. Praise God!

I finalized my fundraising trip for Abogar in California. Unfortunately I feel that California is the least involved financially and in prayer for Abogar of all the places where Abogar has been represented! In California I flew up to Fresno for a weekend to share a bit about Abogar. I was scheduled to speak at a conference focused on foster care, but it got cancelled/rescheduled. However, on Sunday I did get to share in a Sunday School class for young couples, from which we have raised prayer and financial supporters! Praise God!

In early December I returned to my ‘home’ in Guatemala, and had the blessing and privilege of really getting moved into the space! In mid-December I received an email from Casa Bernabe informing me that they were being covered/partnered with by a large ministry, Verbo Ministries, from Guatemala City, and that this new relationship was requiring for them to hire all certified professors of every topic for their school. Therefore they wanted to inform me that I would not be able to return to the same position. I am currently waiting to hear back from them if there is another capacity in which I might be able to serve to further the relationship/connection with Casa Bernabe!

In December Abogar also hosted its second Christmas Challenge initiative to be able to financially impact and bless children. We proposed a Christmas Challenge; to raise $1,500 to give 15 children a full year’s education at Special Kid’s school; part of La Puerta Ministry in San Lucas, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala. We are very blessed to report that we have had two consecutive years of successful Christmas Challenges! Praise God!

REFLECTIONS:

2015 was a year on the move, and yet I find myself wondering how much we have actually moved forward. The millions of children, still without home, family, and education await the arrival of help. It is the passion of Abogar, of God Himself and His very heart, that these children not be forgotten, ignored, unnoticed, and unloved. What will it take for us to reach them? Who will join us and how will we make advances forward that we need to?

Reality is this: while we may not be able to reach all or even many, each one to whom we can reach is one more life valued, saved, and changed for the glory of God. I am reminded of the Starfish story! As we continue laying a good foundation in Guatemala for Abogar Guatemala to rise up for the children, we must walk, work, and wait patiently with God for His provision and timing. And let’s remember, to each one it matters!

While questions and challenges present themselves, it is important to remember that 2015 was a year of God providing for Abogar in a way that has not until 2015 come to pass… Abogar International Ministries met in full and beyond its goal for its budget of 2015! Woohoo! Praise God! We also were able to complete our Christmas Challenge successfully! We raised $1,500 for La Puerta Mission to put 15 students through schooling in the year of 2016! While we may have been able to have moved forward more, for these steps of growth and success that we have achieved we are extremely grateful to God!

2015 STATISTICS:

  • 3rd Annual Board of Directors Retreat (January, 2015 – Houston, Texas)
  • 12 Board Meetings
  • ~ 5100 views on abogarim.org (-1,000 views from last year)
  • 78 Countries had viewers come to our site (same as last year)
  • 20 New Posts (-9 posts compared to last year)
  • 28 Pictures Posted
  • 150+ Speaking opportunities (formal and informal)
    • 24 formal speaking engagements
  • 1 New Social Media Specialist
  • 520 Likes on Abogar’s Facebook
  • 2,183 followers of Abogar’s Blog
  • 15 children sponsored for schooling for 2016

 

CLOSING REMARKS

As 2015 has come to an end, and 2016 is off and running, I am pleased with the growth and triumphs Abogar has been able to experience this past year! I also am very aware of challenges that face our organization as we move forward. As we move into Abogar’s Board of Directors’ Retreat 2016 we must be focused on clarity in calling, specific steps of advancement, and we must marry the advocacy that God has called us to with the ministry He has set before us; to be amongst, with, and for the children of Latin America. While the young boy of the Starfish Story was doing a ministry, throwing starfish back into the water one by one, he also was advocating with his words and actions to the value of each individual starfish, as well as to small steps forward. He wouldn’t be able to save them all, nor much of a percentage of them all for that matter, but he would not be deterred from saving them one by one, even if a wise old man encouraged defeat! In light of setbacks and challenges, we choose to continue looking at the triumphs and success, and seek to serve God by increasing the impact and effectiveness of our ministry amongst children of Latin America who are in need of Jesus Christ, homes, family, and education, even if and when it is one by one!