2018 Year End President’s Report

I realize that we are already finishing out the first quarter of 2019, and it is quite late to be publishing this, but due to illness and busyness of life I am just now getting this report into a blog format for our followers, supporters, and interested parties to be able to read. I do hope that it is an encouragement for you, as it has been for me and for the Board of Directors of Abogar International Ministries! Thank you to those who support us with you prayers and with your generous donations! If others would like to join in financial support, please visit abogarim.org/support to sign up today! Blessings to you all!
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2018 PRESIDENT’S YEAR END REPORT

2018 was another year of God’s faithfulness and presence to carry Abogar International Ministries forward. The Lord has blessed the activities, work, and ministry of Abogar greatly this year; as we work on behalf of children who are orphaned and/or homeless, and youth at risk throughout Latin America. It is with great praise and adoration to God that I, Jesse Rivers, serving as President of the Board of Directors for Abogar International Ministries, submit this 2018 President’s Year End Report.

Since Abogar’s beginning on March 1st, 2012 there have been many trials and triumphs, valleys and victories, opposition and opportunities. 2018 was no exception to this truth. We choose to praise God through them all, knowing that He is faithful to bring to completion that which He has begun in us, and in Abogar.

I have resided in Guatemala for the majority of 2018, working to raise up leadership and a board of directors for Abogar’s Guatemalan branch; Asociación Abogar Guatemala (AboGua). While I have continued to be surprised and disappointed by some cultural challenges of commitment and calling to God’s heart for these precious children by many Guatemalans, I remain hopeful and prayerful that 2019 will be the year that we legally formalize Asociación Abogar Guatemala.

Throughout 2018 I also have been focused on fostering and developing our relationships and commitments with our established partnerships, as well as with new ones. Noteworthy is our longstanding relationship with Yesenia Gonzalez, who serves voluntarily as the Supervisor of our Vidas Nuevas En Villa Nueva ministry. On June 1st we signed a 6 month contract for Yesenia to also fill the role of Assistant to the Director (ADD – Asistente Del Director), as we were blessed with a donation for her first year of service. In January, 2019 we will sign a second 6 month contract for Yesenia to continue in the position of the ADD, and we look forward to seeing how God will use her to help us move AboGua forward in 2019

Through also networking and reaching out to some new communities and new individuals, it has become starkly apparent that Abogar is in need of acquiring a location that is specifically solely for the use of Abogar, for the continuation of our ministry outreach, for growth and advancement of community development, family strengthening, and advocacy for the children of need; as well as to be able to have a visible and tangible location and presence for Asociación Abogar Guatemala. We have been doing research to develop a specific Capital Campaign challenge to raise funding for such a property, and look forward to truly launching the campaign in 2019.

Our two main ministry outputs, our Vidas Nuevas En Villa Nueva and our partnership with Special Kids School, have been maintained throughout 2018, and we are very pleased with the growth and developments we have witnessed in each. God has been using Abogar to be a blessing in the lives of ~100 children this year, and we look forward to impacting even more lives of precious children in 2019. It is exciting that we shall be able to use the same location, Iglesia Ministerios Nueva Creacion, to continue our Vidas Nuevas ministry for all of 2019.

One of my roles as President of the board, and as CEO/Founder of the organization, is to ensure that fundraising is successfully happening. 2018 was a phenomenal year in this specific aspect, as we received both our largest monthly donor, and our largest single gift donor! Between the two alone we received $22,000. We also were able to break six-digit figures for the first time ever, raising $104,117.48. This amount included the amount that we have raised in our Help For Brenda Campaign, and was sufficient for us to also be able to raise our 2018 annual budget, which was a first for the organization. It also allowed me to be paid in full in my role as CEO of the organization, provide funding for our Assistant to the Director in Guatemala, Yesenia, and provide funding for three salaries for three teachers at the Special Kids School. The funding also provided for all administrative, logistical, and ministry expenses that we encountered in 2018. For this great success I am incredibly pleased, and praising God for His provision and guidance.

In 2018 we have had the opportunity to share food, bibles, gifts, love, and truth with many children. We have encouraged community development and family strengthening, while also advocating for and blessing the children. We also were able to participate with, and even lead, some teams in the volcano relief efforts that were needed, after the very deadly and traumatic eruption of Volcano Fuego on June 3rd, 2018. Due to this tragic eruption, we also entered into an unplanned opportunity to fight on behalf of a newly widowed woman, Brenda, and her three now fatherless children. Through a concentrated campaign, we successfully raised funding to help Brenda to retain her property and have a space to provide home to herself and her children! Praise God!

2018 held many victories and advances for Abogar, and I praise God for that! As 2018 has come to an end, and 2019 is off to a great start, I am pleased with the growth and triumphs that Abogar has experienced this past year! I also am very aware of challenges that face our organization as we move forward. As we move into 2019, we must consider where and how we can grow and improve Abogar. It will be important to focus ourselves on strategic planning to achieve our goals, as well as to intentionally develop a team that can help to strengthen the organization, and keep the ministry moving forward.

2018 STATISTICS

  • 6th Annual Board of Directors Retreat (January, 2018 – San Diego, California)
  • 12 Board Meetings
  • ~ 4,879 views on abogarim.org (-828 views as last year)
  • 1,571 viewers on abogarim.org (-326 viewers from last year)
  • 47 Countries had viewers come to our site (-1 from last year)
  • 22 New Posts/Pages (-2 posts compared to last year)
  • 150+ Speaking opportunities (formal and informal)
  • 1 Assistant to the Director – Guatemala
  • 879 Likes on Abogar’s Facebook (+87 since last year)
  • 3,001 followers of Abogar’s Blog (+231 since last year)
  • ~80 children introduced to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord
  • ~28 (25-32) average attendance of kids at Vidas Nuevas
  • 5-8 volunteers (increased from last year which helps with dividing the
  • bible lesson into three groups of the smallest, middle and biggest kids)
  • 52 kids attended the last event of Vidas Nuevas
  • 34 meetings of the Vidas Nuevas Ministry
  • 8 visits to Special Kids School (less than last year)
  • Abogar lead 4 volcano relief teams to help children and hurting families after Volcano Fuego had a major eruption on June 3rd. The teams were organized through connections with the Assembly of God church in Antigua, volunteers from Jesse’s church… Ministerios Nuevo Creacion, and volunteers from AboGua’s Vidas Nuevas’ ministry.

For those who have read this whole blog/report, I hope that you find yourselves encouraged and excited for Abogar’s progress and forward movement. We still encounter many challenges, but knowing that God’s hand of favor and blessing is with us truly helps us to move in perseverance to fight for the precious children of Latin America! Thank you again to each of you who join us in our work with your prayers and financial support! Rich blessings to you all!

The Way God Works…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth,so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”         Isaiah 55: 8-9

He has shown you, oh man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you; to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.         Micah 6:8

This past Sunday, March 17th, was the 4-year marker of my time living here in Guatemala. As I reflect on my first four years of time here, I am certain of God’s calling, faithfulness, and presence as I serve Him by loving on the precious children. There have been many amazing impacts and accomplishments for God’s glory that I and Abogar have been able to be a part of. Here’s a short list of just a few of the accomplishments and victories that we’ve experienced here over the last four years:

  • Gospel shared with over 1,500 children
  • Visited and ministered in more than 10 children’s homes.
  • Visited and ministered in over 30 villages.
  • Provided 30 scholarships for education to 30 children.
  • Taught English to 135 students.
  • Served as youth pastor for two years to children from children’s home.
  • Partnered with local churches, businesses, and individuals to reach the children
  • Paid salaries for 3 teachers to ensure godly and high-quality education to children.
  • Started and maintaining Vidas Nuevas ministry program to a Red Zone neighborhood for 3 years now.
  • Saved a newly widowed woman and her three fatherless children from also losing their home.

4 years ago, as I was moving here, the idea and plan was to stay for a year, raise up a team of local Guatemalans who would minister to the precious children here, and then I would move on to the next location, wherever God would direct me and Abogar. It was my plan. It was how I thought that things would, and should, work out. But God’s ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are much higher than mine. Some in the world might say that it is a failure to not reach or make my plan, in my timing, but I am certain that I and Abogar are moving in the center of God’s will, work, and timing for us. The way God works is very different than our own goals and plans, and to be obedient to God’s plans and way of working is always a success to Him.

Though I have suffered slander, scorpion stings, insect infestation, parasites, viruses, diarrhea and other health issues, opposition, accidents, and even death threats… I still continue forward. Some have said that they see God’s presence and plan in the obedience I am trying to live out daily. Though I am far from perfect, I won’t give up, in this fight for children to truly have forever homes and forever families, and am trying to raise up a leadership team here in Guatemala that also won’t give up. Whether God calls me to be here another 4 years, or 4 months, or any other amount of time, the challenges and struggles, pain and frustration, tears and turmoil, all fade in comparison to knowing that we are pursuing God’s heart and calling for us, seeing precious children’s lives changed.

As I think about how God works, though most of the time it is of great mystery, Micah 6:8 points us to the very core of what it means to be about the work of God. Not only is it His call for us, but we see that His love drove Him to come, in the form of Jesus, and to live among and suffer with those whom He loves, to redeem, rescue, and love them. He suffered in many ways; leaving heavenly glory to be in the flesh and pain of humanity, being slandered and falsely accused, encountering opposition and threats, exposed to health issues and the brokenness of fallen humanity,  If God is willing to suffer such things to reach out to those He loves, if that is how He works, should we not also be willing to suffer and surrender ourselves to wherever and however God would call us? YES! I believe so!

The way God works is of greater value and importance than however we would suggest that God should work. I don’t have all the answers, and am learning more and more every day just how little I actually know. But this one thing that I do know, that is of incredible value… obedience to where and how God calls and works is the greatest posture and place we can ever be in. Serving God is always worth it! Serving God is NOT always nor often easy, and definitely not about pursuing your own desires and goals. It is about obedience despite outcome. Pursuing justice and doing justly, loving and living out mercy, and walking in humility and gentleness as we serve God is where and how God calls us, and it is how God works!

7 Years Ago, 2 Years Ago, Today, and Beyond!

Love and Laughter

7 years ago today, I, Jesse Rivers, sat on the playground of a children’s home in Mexico, and spent time loving on precious little Angela. As you can see in the picture above, we laughed and played together. Many children and volunteers were all around, but I wanted to be sure to give each individual child some special time of love and laughter. I had, less than two weeks earlier, just officially started Abogar International Ministries, and God had placed on my life a great calling to fight for, and to love on, the precious children of His heart. It was such a sweet experience to be loving on, laughing with, and blessing the children of that specific children’s home in Mexico. However, it occurred to me, while I was there, that these children were getting temporal care, while being in need of forever homes and forever families.

2 years ago today, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I carried the casket of precious Luisa (16 years old), who had been killed in an avoidable, unnecessary, and neglectful fire in a huge, government-run, children’s home here in Guatemala. I bought Luisa the tomb cover for her casket, so that she’d not to be forgotten, and found myself again convicted by the short-comings of a centuries-long system of working with vulnerable children. This system was and is still failing to genuinely offer and provide forever homes and forever families.

Today, as I am less than a week away from having lived here in Guatemala for four years now, and have just completed the first seven years of ministry with Abogar International Ministries, I think back over the last two years, the last seven years, the last 40 years of my life, and I am still greatly convicted that we live with a centuries-long system of working with children who are vulnerable and/or orphaned that is continuing to greatly fail the vast majority of children. A video, World Without Orphans, speaks directly to this concept, and has a lot more important people, with greater credentials and experiences than I have, who share of the need to change this system! We need to be genuinely providing forever homes, forever families, and educational opportunities to the more than 150 million children who are orphaned, abandoned, abused, and/or living in the streets around the world!

As we look to tomorrow and beyond, we must become committed, or for some of us increase our commitment, to the cause of changing a centuries-long failing system, and redeem and embrace God’s original system and model! Forever families and forever homes are at God’s very heart, and are core to the success and proper functioning of any successful society, culture, government, country, or region. To retort to me that this is just my opinion would be absurd, because family is the building block and cornerstone of any genuine and successful community, and has been since the beginning of all of humanity. As many are allowing for the degradation and destruction of family and moral values, we are witnessing a drastic increase of neglect and need for precious children worldwide.

No matter how long the system has been skewed and off, today and beyond we must step up and make the necessary changes to improve the lives of these precious children. We need a permanent model, not a temporary solution. We need relational development and family structure to be implemented and embraced, instead of a reactive temporal process and system, in response to the needs of precious children. This is not a momentary, emotional, systematic response to the need. It is a life-long permanency, stability, and place of belonging that every individual, every human being, deserves as a basic human right.

I, on behalf of Abogar International Ministries, express our full commitment to working with all who would join us to see a world without children who are orphaned, living in foster care, abandoned, abused, and/or living in the streets. May we not tire, waiver, quit, or walk away from the multitude of children in need, but rather may we rise up in strength and commitment to help them to have the permanency and placement into the original model of God’s heart and design… forever homes and forever families.

40k For 40k At 40! A New Campaign for Abogar!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.                                           * Hebrews 12:1-3

Have you ever run a race? Was it a pleasant and easy experience? Races, though they can be fun, do require great perseverance and intentional focus. This life we have been granted is much like a race, as well. Some people are intentional about the end goal, whatever that may be, while others are merely in existence; living for the moment without concern or care about the future. While we should all be intentional in the present, we should also have an equilibrium of considering the end goal as well.

When I, Jesse Rivers, was 15 years old, I was in a very traumatic vehicle accident that caused for me to be pronounced dead 3 times and left me in a coma for 6 days! While recuperating in the hospital, doctors told me that I would never be able to run again, due to the head injury that I received. I immediately prayed to God and told Him that, if He would give me my legs back, one day I would run a complete marathon (26.2 miles/40 kilometers) with my hands raised high, as an act of gratitude, praise, and worship to Him. In 2009 I was blessed to run, head and hands high, the San Diego Rock ‘N Roll Marathon! Though I did not train for it, I was pleased to run the entire race and finish well! Praise God!

This past November I turned the big 4.0… Yep, 40! I have made it my plan to do lots of things in my 40th year to celebrate reaching the hilltop! One of the many things I want to do is to run a race, another marathon! I am trying to be creative in how I help Abogar raise funds for helping precious children. I am dreaming big, so I am planning to run a 40K run (marathon) with the goal of raising 40K ($40,000) for Abogar at the age of 40. Hence, 40k for 40k at 40! This week I officially registered for the June 2nd San Diego Rock ‘n Roll marathon!

If you would be interested in sponsoring or pledging support, whether per mile, kilometer, or just a one time pledge, please contact us at info@abogarim.org and let us know of your pledge and how you would like to pay for it. I do not believe that $40,000 is an unattainable goal! It is a huge goal, but I know that every cent that I can raise will be used to love on and help children who are orphaned, abandoned, abused, and/or living in the streets here in Guatemala! It is a great investment and a very worthy cause! Please prayerfully consider a generous pledge and donation for the 40k for 40k at 40 campaign!

Learning From The Young!

Today has for sure been quite a filled and adventuresome day. It has also been a good day for learning and lessons!

After a long morning and early afternoon, working with some official people in a process for helping AboGua forward, I, Jesse Rivers, was driving with my assistant, Yesenia, and her assistant, Estefany (16 years old), in Abogar’s Honda CRV; Big Red. As we came upon a corner, a bus to my right was coming way too close and I knew, because it is very common here in Guatemala, that he was not worried about hitting me, because his vehicle was bigger and he just figured he could have both lanes. I laid on my horn to warn him that he was too close, and then… BANG!!

Yes, that’s right, Big Red was, yet again, hit by another vehicle! It happened right in front of the transit police, and the bus pulled over and I pulled over in front of him. Praise God that the impact was not too severe, and nobody was hurt! Seeing a look of accusation on the face of the bus driver, I quickly jumped out of Big Red, approached the police officer, and explained that just because the bus is bigger does not give the driver the right to hit a vehicle already in the other lane. The officer was in full agreement. Praise God! (Sometimes police here are very corrupt and expect a bribe to be ‘just and fair’.) I then spoke with the driver and demanded that he pay for the damage to my bumper and front end, before returning to Big Red to sit with and comfort Yesenia and Estefany, as we waited for the police to develop the case.

As I sat in my seat, young Estefany asked if she could give me a piece of advice. I am one who likes to learn, and I know that it’s her culture here, so I said, “Sure!” Estefany then told me that, though I had a right to be reimbursed for damages and for the driver to have to pay the consequences, it would be certain that he would be fired. There is very little opportunity for good employment here in Guatemala, and my demanding, though justly, for him to pay for the damages would require a report to be filled with his employer and the transit police, which could surely hurt him (and any family he might have) way more than the slight damage and scratches on Big Red.

I was immediately humbled, and I rushed from the vehicle back to the officer. I asked for my license and registration back, and told him that I was removing my complaint/case. The officer was with another officer, and they looked at me in disbelief, because the evidence was completely on my side, but then each smiled and nodded, knowingly. I then asked the bus driver to please be more careful and drive with respect for others on the road. He was relieved as I walked away.

As I walked back toward Big Red I found myself incredibly impressed with the maturity that Estefany showed. First, respectfully, she asked if she could give me advice. Then, after I had confirmed that she could, she spoke on behalf of the person who was at fault to help me understand his situation. Thirdly, she was very humble and simple in her advice, without any air of arrogance or of knowing-it-all. Though I am here in Guatemala to help teach and grow ministry to and for the young, I also find myself often learning from the young! While today’s accident brought about a great example, this is not the only time I have been learning from the young. However, I do want to share with you today’s events, because I hope it helps humble me and others to remember that God even uses the young to teach us. While I will keep teaching and ministering to the young here, I hope that I will always be a posture of willingness to learn from the young as well!

What Is Good?

He has shown you, oh man, what is good and what the LORD requires of you; to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God!      — Micah 6:8

As a young boy, I was greatly impacted when I learned the verse above in song form, word for word. I have heard many people ask, “Well, what does God want from me?” Many times I have just wanted to quickly retort, “Micah 6:8!” You see, this verse has become a breastplate and shield for me.

The world today is full of hurting, hopeless, and heart-broken people. There is a great need for people who do not fall into that category (and those who do as well) to step up and seek justice for those who have no voice. At the same time as we fight for justice though, we also must love mercy for those who don’t deserve it, because God surely knows that neither you nor I deserve His mercy either. This great, and yet raw, recognition should drive us to our knees in humble reverence and adoration of God Almighty… You see, as we obey and do justly and pursue justice we become very aware of how we ourselves are so far away from being truly, perfectly just. This leads us to recognize God’s great mercy upon us and then compels us to also share mercy with the undeserving! Furthermore, the great recognition of God’s unfathomable and awesome mercy toward you and me can do nothing less than destroy our pride and arrogance, and initiate a path of humble journeying with the most gracious, merciful, and loving Lord and King!

As I work in a field of experience that exposes me to some very raw and devastating circumstances, with children who are orphaned and/or vulnerable to a variety of very traumatic and unbelievable realities, I am prone to be hardened toward the perpetrators of the drastic evils I encounter. Recently, as I did a Skype call into a high school class in the United States, while working on the ground in Guatemala, I had a great opportunity to share with the students of some of the blessings and challenges I have been encountering in my work and ministry. At the very end of the class, as the professor (a good friend of mine) was thanking me and preparing to end the call, one student asked if he could pose one more question. I assured the professor that I was available for the question, without knowing exactly what the student would ask.

As the professor repeated the question to me, I burst into uncontrollable tears. The student had asked me, “What is the hardest situation you have encountered there on the ground in Guatemala?” My immediate response was, “You don’t want to know!” However, after I regained some composure, I shared a difficult, but not the worst, situation with the class. I was surprised by my own response, and had to take some time after the call to be in prayer and meditation.

The reality is that my tears were provoked because I understand man’s heart to judge, accuse, and condemn. Some of the most horrific things I have encountered in life have been perpetuated on others by very hurt and broken people. We want to immediately make them the enemy, but God does not. What would happen if our wise and thoughtful response would become guided not only by a self-righteous desire for justice, but rather a God-guided justice, that includes great humility and mercy? Maybe, just maybe, we have offered Satan such a large place in our lives that we allow ourselves to be controlled by a false self-righteousness that causes us to think that we are just to condemn others. A wise Man once said, “Let him who is without sin to be the first to cast a stone.”

Maybe our pursuit for justice needs to be more informed by God’s eyes, heart, and love. How much greater would love triumph as we forgive, as we love the unlovable and extend unmerited mercy, and as we humble ourselves to truly recognize our own depravity and desperation apart from God’s own justice, mercy, and humility? May we today reflect honestly upon the majestic mercy we have received, not neglecting deep and beautiful justice for those who have not received it, while humbly recognizing that the perpetrators are not truly the enemy, but that Satan and godlessness are at war with God’s plan for peace and prosperity for His children. May we truly learn to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God! Help me, Lord Jesus! Help us, Lord Jesus! Amen!

Tears at Night… Inconsolable Grief!

Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.
Psalm 126: 5-6

There are approximately 153 million orphans recorded around the world. According to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund), if orphans were a country of their own, they would be ranked as the 9th largest country in the world!

I usually sleep like a bear. I sleep very well. In fact, it has been amazing to me the intense noise and ruckus that I can sleep through! However, recently I have not been able to sleep at all. Actually, in the last 5 nights I have slept less than 10 hours in total! It’s a new experience for me, to have problems sleeping, and let me tell you how it began!

This past Wednesday, January 2nd, I made my way back here to Guatemala, after getting a few nice days of rest. That night I laid down to sleep, as I regularly do, but this night’s experience was far from regular! As I lay in my bed, waiting for sleep to lead me into a restful night, I began to hear babies crying, and not just crying to get attention, but crying as if they were in great need. It was not just one or two babies, but a multitude of babies! I stepped outside my apartment to look around to see where the crying was coming from, but there was no one around and all was silent. As I slid back into my bed though, the cries began again. I slept not even one second that night. My heart was pierced for what seemed like a multitude of babies, and I was a little confused by the experience.

When I become confused, one of my first responses is to call out to God. As I called out to Him this night, I also heard His cries. He imparted to me by the Holy Spirit that it is the inconsolable grief of God, that there are an estimated 153 millions children orphaned (not including the unbelievable number of the unrecorded ones) in this world, that the greatest cause of death is abortion, that many adults do not care about children, and that our importance of self, self-preservation, and selfishness enables us to live in ignorance to this great need. His tears led me to cry, and cry out for the precious children of this earth (and they ALL are precious!)!

I cried. I cry. And I shall continue to cry.. for there are millions and millions of children who need help, love, food, family, Jesus Christ, home, education, and opportunity! But as I cried that night, just a few nights ago, God reminded me that sowing in tears can lead to reaping in joy! As 2019 is off to a quick start, I am crying and crying out to God to raise up an army of warriors and champions for precious children! I am not perfect, and I have very little influence or impact, but I pray that my tears may lay a path of watered and fertile ground for the lives of a multitude of children to be rescued and loved upon! My tears will not be counted by humans, as before God alone I let them freely roll, but the joy that shall be reaped for the work that I get to join Abogar in doing will be (and has been) amazing! I am sowing in tears! Will you join me?

Happy New Year… 2019! A Letter from Abogar’s President and Founder!

Dear Abogar Prayer Supporters, Financial Supporters, and Followers,

While I know that this is a blog post website, I am taking a little liberty today to use it as a platform to wish you all a very blessed, prosperous, Christ-filled, and happy New Year!!

A little less than 7 years ago, God directed me clearly to start a nonprofit organization, that would be intentionally focused on ministering to precious children of Latin America, who find themselves orphaned, abandoned, abused, and/or living in the streets! While it has been quite the adventure and journey, it has been so encouraging and empowering along the way to receive your investments of finances, prayer, and encouragement to Abogar, to me, and to the Abogar team! Thank you for the ways you have enabled us to advocate for and minister to the needy children in Latin America! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

As 2019 is ready to spring upon us in less than 40 hours, I want to wish each and every one of you the most blessed and beautiful New Years celebration ever! I believe this can be accomplished only when God is kept at the center of it, so I pray that you will be able to enjoy the time with Him, as well as with family, friends, and other loved ones! May our hope, passion, and love be filled with and guided by God, and may 2019 bring about marvelous, amazing, and empowering moments, gifts, and experiences for which we shall be eternally grateful to God for!

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019!! God bless you!

Sincerely and with God’s blessing,
Jesse Rivers

Christ Has Come! Merry Christmas 2018!

Tomorrow is my favorite day of the year. Most may assume that this is somehow connected with the habitual practice of receiving gifts on Christmas, but actually that has not been a big part of the celebration of Christmas for me. The reason that tomorrow, Christmas, is my favorite day of the year is because it symbolizes and reminds us of some of the true nature and heart of God Almighty… that He would come to rescue His beloved children. Christ has come!

Whether or not Jesus Christ was born specifically on December 25th, He was born. He, the God-child, entered into human form as a baby. In a humbled state of babe born in a manger, He set aside His throne, glory, and divine destination to enter into the human experience and story. Christ has come!

The greatest gift of Christmas is this, that God, the Powerful Creator, loving His creation so much as to not scorn an immaculate conception and a humble sojourn to be present with them, would enter into the challenges, pain, trials, and triumphs of flesh bearing beings to be with us (Immanuel)! Christ has come!

Though many may feel more inclined to focus on a cross, albeit the empty tomb really is where our power and hope reside, let us not miss the gift and message of Christmas! Christ has come to not only save us, but to also call us to leave our comfort and ‘kingdoms’, to enter in and be present with those in need. Christmas calls us to action! It is a time of great peace and joy, yes, but it is also a call to be like Christ, leaving our comfort and established place of security to go to those in need… just as we were in great need, and Christ has come!

May our eyes and hearts be opened and illuminated this Christmas, as we remember that Christ has come. May we not take for granted the sacrifice, surrender, humility, and vulnerability that Christ endured, to be present with us and a present for us! If we are truly Christ followers, may we too this Christmas give our presence to those in need, and love on the unlovely, the least of these, the imprisoned, the hospitalized, the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the fatherless, the hurting, the orphaned, the widowed, and the fallen. Christmas is a time for great joy as Christ has come, but it is also a time of great calling for those who will follow. May we love and appreciate the gift of Christ coming this year, and be His hands, feet, and heart to those who have not yet met or encountered the babe in a manger who would and has changed all of eternity with His power, presence, and love! Merry Christmas 2018! Christ has come!!

Warmth at Christmas…

Christmas for many is a great time of family, celebration, and festivities. However, for many in the world, Christmas is a time of great challenge. While in the north it is literally cold during Christmas, the emotional state for many around the world in the holiday season is also very cold! It is hard to not have family, or to not feel a place of belonging. The warmth of home and family that many do enjoy, is not the reality for many others.

In college I encountered a story that always helps me to have warmth in the Christmas Season. It puts the focus back on Jesus, and His desire to bless us as we seek to bless Him as well. Though the author is not known, the story resonates with many! Please read below, and be blessed. I love little Misha’s heart and story, and know many who can relate to his sentiments.  I hope it is a blessing for you to read as well!

Keeping Jesus Warm

In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They relate the following story in their own words:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, they went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word. Completing the story, we gave the children many things to build their own manger. The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately – until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said,

And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?’ And Jesus told me, ‘If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.’ So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him—for always.

As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him – ALWAYS. I’ve learned that it’s not WHAT you have in your life, but WHO you have in your life that counts.

 

$40 For 40! Happy Birthday Jesse!

Birthdays, for many, are a joyous occasion of celebration! It’s a time to celebrate the completion of another year of life! There are some specific birthdays that have added significance for us as well… a first birthday, a sweet sixteen, turning 18, the first quarter of a century (25th), over the hill (40th), half a century (50th), the 75th, and some even live to the very special 100 year mark!

I am not 100 years old, but I shall soon be going over the hill… That’s right! I will be turning 40 on November 27th! WOW! That guy is getting up there in age! Hehehee!

As I think of birthday wishes and what I hope for this year, I really have one longing for my birthday! I want my birthday to be a day when I can celebrate the victory of helping a newly widowed Guatemalan woman, Brenda, and her three precious children, to be able to have a home and property that will truly be theirs!

We have a Help for Brenda Campaign to raise support to enable Brenda and her children to have a home and place of safety to live. As I do not, myself, have a family, I generally do not receive much in way of gifts for my birthday. But, as this will be my 40th birthday, I am asking any and all, who would find the kindness in their heart to do so, to give a special birthday gift to me by donating $40 to Abogar and noting that it is a birthday gift that will be directly applied to the Help For Brenda Campaign! You will receive a tax receipt for your donation, and if we can raise the ~$8,800 that we need to by the end of the year, and then ~$2,500 before the end of April, 2019, we each will have actively participated in helping the widow and the fatherless (James 1:27)! This is my greatest desire for my 40th birthday!! Maybe someone would even donate generously, above and beyond, to enable to give a birthday party for the whole family too!!

Would you be willing to say ‘Happy Birthday Jesse!’ by donating $40 to help me help Brenda and her precious children? Please visit abogarim.org/support today to make your donation! Please specify that it’s a birthday gift for Jesse and we will be sure that it gets directly applied to our Help For Brenda Campaign! (You are not limited to $40, as any amount will be greatly appreciated!)

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Love Wins!

A smelly, dirty, obnoxious little boy would show up at church each Sunday morning. He was fortunate that a caring Christian couple would rescue him from his hellish living circumstances, at least for a few hours every Sunday. People did not want to be near him, as his smell and his behavior were very off putting. One Sunday morning, in the church kitchen, in the basement, that little boy encountered love, true love, for the very first time… as the Creator and Lord of all declared to that little boy of his value. Though smelly, dirty, and obnoxious, that little boy, at 7 years old, understood for the very first time of the value he has and of God’s genuine and faithful love to him! I am that little boy! —Jesse Rivers

Having grown up with some rather significant challenges, experiencing the sting of human rejection, neglect, and abuse, I struggled in my early years to understand my value. For obvious reasons, others around me did not place a whole lot of value in me. However, when I was 7 years old I encountered Jesus’ love and accepted Him as my Savior. When I was 15 years old I encountered Jesus in another supernatural moment, in which He declared over me His great love and the value that He has for me. In this moment I surrendered my life to Him as my Lord. To know that you are loved and valued is something so empowering that it can impact and direct your future!

Knowing that I am loved and valued by God, it is impossible for me to not also value and love others. In our world, too often people strive to be near other people of importance, wealth, and influence. Many, using love as a cover, seek self-preservation and self-promotion. While wanting to protect and provide for oneself is not inherently sinful, love calls us to look beyond ourselves, love the unlovable, value the unvalued, and to care for the hurting and/or oppressed. Jesus is the greatest example of such genuine love.

Jesus gets down in the trenches, streets, bars, brothels, and hard, unsafe, and dirty places. He doesn’t surround Himself with the affluent, powerful, and prominent people (though He does love and want to save them as well). While Jesus walked this Earth in human form, we have historical record that He spent a significant amount of time with the tax collectors, lowest class, poor, oppressed, abandoned, unfaithful, sick, and weak! He did so without disparaging them, but rather loved on and valued them beyond their physical, visible, and/or economic situations.

When Jesus went to the cross, conquered our sins and damnation, and won the victory over hell, death, and sin, how did He do so? Was it power and violence? No! Was it wealth and possessions? No! Was it vanity and arrogance? No! Then what was it? It was sacrifice and love! It was the giving of Himself as a sacrifice, in your stead and mine, and a hopeful, endearing, and conquering love that brought about the final victory! Love wins!

So a quick question for us to ponder… If Jesus, Son of God, chose sacrifice and love as His weapons and tools of choice, how can we choose anything else? If He saw, loved on, and valued those whom society seemed to disparage, how can we not as well? If He, God Incarnate, called unto Himself precious children, how can we not as well? His love should motivate us to also love. If we truly want to win in this life, let’s use the best gift and tools at our disposal… sacrifice and love! Love wins! May we love well for the glory of God!

In Urgent Times… Trust, Pray, and Obey!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart! Lean not on your own understanding! In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path!      – – – Proverbs 3:5-6

The title really says it all! It also reminds me of a great old hymn that I learned as a young boy… Trust and Obey!

  1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
    What a glory He sheds on our way!
    While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
    And with all who will trust and obey.

    • Refrain:
      Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
      To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
  2. Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
    But His smile quickly drives it away;
    Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
    Can abide while we trust and obey.
  3. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
    But our toil He doth richly repay;
    Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
    But is blessed if we trust and obey.
  4. But we never can prove the delights of His love
    Until all on the altar we lay;
    For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
    Are for them who will trust and obey.
  5. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
    Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
    What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
    Never fear, only trust and obey.

As we trust in God, pray to Him regularly, and hear of His will for us, we then must obey His guidance and direction. Then we are led in the path that He would have for us. This must be a daily discipline for us, as followers and servants of God; in the good times and in the hard, challenging, and/or urgent times as well!

Have you ever found yourself in urgent times? Have you been in times when there are significant changes and/or needs that seem like the directly depend on you? I find myself there right now, as God has directed my path to be one of journeying to fight for the orphaned and widowed in Latin America!

What is so urgent? Well, thanks for asking! In two weeks, Saturday, October 13th, Abogar Guatemala’s Vidas Nuevas (New Lives) ministry will have the final regular meeting time of the year! After that date, Abogar will no longer have a space available to us for our Vidas Nuevas ministry; as the church that has donated space will be relocating, and the landlord of the current property is not trustworthy nor safe for us to rent from. Our Vidas Nuevas ministry will resume in February, 2019, as Guatemala’s school year is from February through October. Between now and February, 2019, Abogar is needing to find a new location nearby the church and neighborhood where we started our first Vidas Nuevas ministry.

As we have been praying and seeking God for an answer of how and where to continue our ministry, it has been evident that it would be a better option to purchase a property where we can have main offices and a multi-purpose center for Abogar Guatemala; as well as space to continue our Vidas Nuevas ministry, and to grow our impact and outreach within the community. The property would also allow us, in the future, to implement Abogar’s Homes of Hope model, to provide orphaned children with permanent, forever homes and forever families! (The pictures below show a visual concept of our model and plan. For cost-effectiveness we are considering even using shipping containers for the buildings on the property! These visual representations of the model are to express the concept, and are not exact replications of what we hope to create.)

We are sensing that God may be inviting us to dream big and to love and provide for these children in this way! As He directs our path, we desire to obey and be faithful. We would love others to dream with and invest in this great call of God! The cost for a property, with the capacity to provide for this model, ranges between $300,000 and $400,000! We have set our Capital Campaign with a phase 1 goal of $350,000.

Over the last year and a half we have had the privilege and blessing, in our Vidas Nuevas ministry, to distribute ~60 Bibles to children who have never had one, share the Gospel with them all, and watch more than 35 of them come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord! We have weekly fed them, shared Bible lessons with them, and been able to minister to them and their very broken and hurting families and communities. The growth and blessing that we have been able to witness in the lives of these children and communities are great, and we have been so blessed to watch God’s faithfulness in using this ministry!

As we now are at a very urgent juncture, in which we need God’s intervention and provision, we are again reminded of Proverbs 3:5&6. We are trusting God for provision and direction in how to best provide for and bless these precious children. We are acknowledging God’s sovereignty in this process, and we are praying for God to direct our path. Will you join us in trusting, praying, and obeying God? Will you pray for us to receive great clarity and guidance, as we seek to move forward? May God get all the glory, and children’s lives be changed as we trust, pray, and obey together!

***If you would like to make a donation, please visit http://www.abogarim.org/support and be sure to indicate that your donation is for Capital Campaign.

 

Helping Brenda!

In June Abogar began a Help For Brenda campaign. We were struck by the genuine need and urgency of her situation! Brenda lost her husband in the eruption of Volcano Fuego on June 3rd, 2018, as he heroically was trying to rescue two children from the eruption. Brenda’s three children also now find themselves fatherless.

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Brenda’s husband was found, burnt alive and covered from ash, near two children that he had been trying to rescue, from the Volcano Fuego eruption on June 3rd, 2018.

Brenda’s husband was the sole bread winner for the family, and, in a country amidst struggles of poverty, corruption, and machismo/machista mentality (Men are usually BUT not always dominant and considered more highly than females.), Brenda truly has no access to resources or the needed funds to provide in her family! On top of that, the very small property on which Brenda and her children live is controlled by a loan debt to a rich woman, whom we will call Cat.

Upon meeting Brenda in June, the loan debt that she owed was Q70,000 (~$10,000). We set out to raise $12,000; to help Brenda and her kids to be able to keep their home and property and to help provide for basic needs. Over the past couple of weeks, Cat has been very upset with Brenda not being able to pay any on the loans, and decided to increase the debt from Q70,000 (~$10,000) to Q100,000 (~$14,000). Things are not handled the same in Guatemala as they are in the US, and with the help of a lawyer, Cat has the right to increase the loans.

Through negotiations with Abogar, and because we paid Q8,000 toward Brenda’s loan debt, Cat this past week agreed to some new terms for the loans! Praise God! She agreed to reduce the loan debt from Q100,000 to Q87,000 (~$12,000); based on the following terms…
*** The first Q70,000 (now Q62,000 – ~$8,800) must be paid off by December 31st, 2018.
*** The outstanding Q17,000 (~$2,400) must be paid off by April 30, 2019.
So, after our first payment to Cat, Brenda still has over $11,000 to pay to fulfill the loan debt on her property.

Dear friends… I believe we now have a special circumstance that truly aligns with our mission to help fatherless children and widows! James 1:27 calls us to be about such work, and I would invite people to sincerely pray about and give a generous donation for the Help For Brenda campaign! This newly widowed woman is overwhelmed, grieving, and in a horrible situation; of no fault of her own! Please give and give generously! Visit http://www.abogarim.org/support and be sure to note that your tax-deductible gift is specifically for Help For Brenda campaign! Let’s help Brenda and her children to be able to have a home, as we also seek to help comfort them in this time of tragedy and loss! Your donation, of any amount, will be greatly appreciated! Thank you!!

Abogar’s Capital Campaign – Multi-Purpose Center and Beyond!

Abogar International Ministries recently has begun intentionally looking for property on the ground in Guatemala, to enable Abogar Guatemala to grow and thrive! As of next month, Abogar Guatemala will no longer have a facility to use for it’s Vidas Nuevas en Villa Nueva (New Lives in the New Village) ministry! After much prayer, discussion, and evaluation it has become apparent that the wisest move for the organization would be to purchase a large property, on which we can build the model that God has given to our Founder and Executive Director, Jesse Rivers.

Below you will see three imaginative portrayals of what the property set-up could look like. We have worked with some professionals on the ground in Guatemala, so the first picture contains Spanish words…

* Casas para tias y abuelas = Houses for aunts and grandmothers (These would be places of housing for widows; enabling them to have employment on the property, as well as to be a part of an extended family for the children.)
* Casa familiares = Family houses (These would be Abogar’s Homes of Hope, where a married Christian couple, male and female, would take in 6-10 children to be a part of the forever family and forever home; never to age out and to always have the stability and security of truly belonging to a family and home.)
* Aulas de capacitacion y oficinas administrativas = Classes/rooms for teaching and administrative offices (This building would specifically be the Multi-Purpose Center, and would contain within it the main offices for Abogar Guatemala, a space for our Vidas Nuevas ministry to continue, offer space for events, community development, economic development, education, health and counseling, as well as spiritual development and formation. This will be the first building that we will construct on the property, once we have purchased the location.)
* Piscina = Pool
*Cancha = Sports field(s)
*Huerto = Garden(s)
Parqueo = Parking
* Egreso = Exit
* Ingreso = Entrance

 

planta abogar rotulado_v02

casa familiar

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While it may be a more lavished portrayal than what the actual final result will look like, these photos greatly portray our vision for moving forward with helping the children in Guatemala. We want to love on them well, and provide safety and stability for them as well. Who does not want to bless and love their child? God is calling us to love on and bless these children!

Jesse Rivers has been on the ground in Guatemala and, with the help of some locals who truly believe in and are committed to Abogar and God’s call to fight for the children, has been able to evaluate several properties. For a fair sized property that would enable the space to build this model, we would need to raise ~$350,000 to just be able to purchase the property! We then would like to get some missions teams together from the US, specifically geared and oriented to construction, to help us do the building projects to make this model a reality in Guatemala! Phase 1 of our Capital Campaign focuses on raising the funds to enable us to purchase the property. So, currently our Phase 1 goal for our Capital Campaign is $350,000.

We seek donors who would like to make an investment in the work of Abogar moving forward, and would even be open to donors who want to do matching amounts, to challenge the people of Guatemala to raise some of the funds on the ground in Guatemala. As this is an urgent need for Abogar Guatemala, the sooner we can raise these funds, the sooner we can ensure the continued ministry and effectiveness of Abogar International Ministries and Abogar Guatemala! Please prayerfully consider today if God is inviting you to invest funds in an eternal purpose of reaching the precious and needy children of Guatemala, providing forever homes, forever families, and educational opportunities! Contact us at info@abogarim.org if you or someone you know might be interested in considering an investment in this great cause and work!

 

Being About Greatness… And Being Misunderstood!

“Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”     —Jesus – Matthew 5:11

Who do you think of when you hear the word, greatness? I like the list above, composed by Ralph Waldo Emerson. While each is famous for their contributions to humanity, they each were quite misunderstood! There are several other names I would put on the list of great people, though not all of them would immediately be considered great by many…

I think of Sharon, a Sunday School teacher who was the first person to introduce me to Jesus, and who showed me a great love that most humans would not (and chose not to) extend me. Her husband, as well, was a man that showed me much of humility and simple sacrifice and service to God. I also think of Kent, a youth pastor who saw God’s wisdom and work in my life, and invested time and encouragement in me. I think of Mike, a spiritual father and dear beloved brother, friend, and co-laborer for the Lord who has walked with me for over 15 years through thick and thin. I think of Karen, a fully committed sister and friend, who has walked with me through some dark challenges of ministry, but who keeps encouraging me and fighting by my side. I think of Jedd, a mentor and adviser who speaks of the beauty and truth that God has nurtured in my heart, character, and life. I think of Yesenia, who, though from humble and challenging circumstances, has demonstrated great initiative and commitment to fighting for precious children, and a tenacity to fight the challenges of this world to maintain a heart and life wholly dedicated to God! I think of Laura, who works to hard to help me in many areas, and does so with a quiet reserve and humble servant’s heart before God. These are just a very few random names from my long list of people who provoke the word ‘greatness’ to come to my mind when I think of them… and I pray that all the others who reside on my list of greatness know just how greatly I think of them as well!

When I think of greatness I do not think of what the world esteems as great, nor does God. I am not interested in bank account balances, possessions, power, position, or the self-preservation and promotion that are so greatly valued in much of the world (including much of the ‘church’). In fact, I often feel that some of those who are most misunderstood, falsely accused, and mistreated have the greatest potential for causing greatest change.

While, maybe, many on my list have not felt misunderstood, falsely accused, or underappreciated, I know that I belong on a list of those who have truly been misunderstood. The rumors, false accusations, and misunderstandings from others often carry an effect and weight with them. Yet, somehow, God says that I am blessed for this. I know that I am not perfect, and have never made pretend to be so, but the accusations, misunderstandings, and negative perceptions of some have been used by Satan to try to steal, kill, and destroy in several ways. Praise God that He is bigger and greater.

Several of the kids I get to work with have also shared with me of false accusations and evil that have been said against them. I share with them about some of the greatest people that have existed, including Jesus, and how they too had been falsely accused, misunderstood, and had many evil things said about (and done to) them. There is great hope for those of us who fall in the camp of the misunderstood, falsely accused, and disregarded by others. We have an amazing potential for greatness!

One of the little boys in one of our ministries (I will refer to him as John.) is often misunderstood by his peers and others. John loves to have the right answer, loves to complete tasks given to him, and wants to help others. He is the first to complete what we ask of him, and often, of his own accord, will help others as well. He, however, is very energetic, passionate, and very vocal. This often causes for adults to view him as a problem. John is misunderstood. If I have ever seen a ‘little Jesse’ in my time of ministry, John is it! John encounters domestic violence in his home, poverty, and a lack of education and opportunity. Yet he loves well! He often thinks of others and their needs, though they be the very people who neglect and hurt him. He also looks to help and provide for his siblings.

As Abogar moves forward and grows, we will be misunderstood. Some may believe that we are trying to be a big organization, famous and powerful. But that is where the misunderstanding lies. I don’t care about size, but I do care about faithfulness to God’s calling for us, His children, to go and make disciples of all nations! He has called Abogar International Ministries to fight for children of Latin America, and we will continue growing and moving forward, making disciples of precious children; while fighting for them to have forever families, forever homes, and educational opportunities!

The greatness that we have and offer, at Abogar International Ministries, is not in our name or size, but is in the love and ministry of God that we carry out with these precious children! To those of you who do NOT misunderstand this, we thank you immensely! Your continued prayer and financial support are crucial to our success and forward movement for the glory of God! Thank you again!

Vidas Nuevas Ministry

3 answer to prayer

Dear Friend(s),

Thank you to those of you who have joined us so far this year in raising funds for the mission and vision of Abogar! In June, the Board of Directors approved a $990 increase to the budget after its mid-year review. The increase was due to some adjustments in personnel, which brings the new total for the 2018 Budget to $86,090. The monthly need for us to reach our budget is $7,174.

One specific way you can be involved in helping us reach our budget is to support our Vidas Nuevas en Villa Nueva Ministry, which serves children in the low-income community of Villa Nueva. Many of the children who attend each week experience abandonment of parents, abusive home situations, threats of gang violence against their families, etc. On Saturdays, these children enjoy a break from the harsh realities of their lives to participate in games, crafts, fun and a Bible lesson. They also experience much needed appropriate and positive attention, affection, guidance and love by the volunteers. One of the young boys thanked our Vidas Nuevas Supervisor, Yesenia, for her prayers for his parents who often physically fight each other. That little boy’s prayers are being heard and God is intervening in the lives of his father and mother.

Last year we learned that by the end of October 2018 the space that is being generously provided for the Vidas Nuevas ministry will no longer be available. To keep the ministry running consistently a new location will need to be located by December 2018. Abogar is currently seeking options for rent or purchase to provide a safe place where the Vidas Nuevas ministry can be held and may provide space for offices and future ministry programs.

2018 Second Quarter Fundraising Letter

Please prayerfully consider investing in the Vidas Nuevas ministry and the work of Abogar to impact the lives of a multitude of children in Latin America. See the enclosed pledge options for details on how you can donate and/or serve as a prayer partner.

May you and your family be blessed and prosperous in the Lord!

The Executive Team

Jesse Rivers (President)

Mike Holland (Vice President)

Karen Wilson (Secretary)

Laura Stoner (Treasurer)

 

Pledge Options for Abogar International Ministries

Option 1 – Special Kids School: Donate toward the salaries of three teachers who have made financial sacrifices to work and serve at a small village school. These teachers do wonderful work teaching academics and biblical truths to preschool children of the families of rival gangs. The school is a haven for the children and a respected institution in the community that is the war grounds for these rival gangs.
Option 2 – Vidas Nuevas en Villa Nueva: This ministry meets every Saturday to provide a meal, activities and Bible lesson to children of a low-income community in Villa Nueva. It also serves to promote forever families by strengthening the families of the children. Your donation will go toward supplies for the ministry and may go toward the expenses of a new location, as the current location will not be usable in the near future.
Option 3 – Advocacy and Administrative: Your donation will empower us to advocate to Guatemalans and others on the behalf of the children, to see their needs met and lives changed. Administration costs include many things; a vehicle, personnel expenses, travel expenses, materials and other resources.
Option 4 – Personnel Support: Without our full-time and part-time staff members there would be no Abogar International Ministries. Support the workers by making a donation toward the salaries of our CEO, Jesse Rivers, our new Guatemalan Assistant to the Director, Yesenia Gonzalez, and our Finance Manager, Laura Stoner.
Option 5 – Capital Campaign: Donate toward the first Abogar property to enable us to have a central location, greater presence in Guatemala and to provide home and family to precious children in need. We would like to start with a multi-purpose center, that would give us a base to grow our outreach and ministry throughout Guatemala. As we have evaluated space needed and location, it has become our Campaign goal to raise $350,000 as the initial stage. Your generous, tax-deductible gift towards this will help us further stabilize and strengthen our effectiveness in reaching these children for the glory of God.

 

Help For Brenda Campaign! James 1:27 In Action! JOIN US!! (EDITED!)

This past week has been one of the top ten hardest weeks of my entire life. I say that not for your pity or sympathy, but just as an honest introduction for this piece that I now write. I, Jesse Rivers, Founder and Executive Director of Abogar International Ministries, have seen much and experienced much, in challenges, trauma, and tragedy in life. However, I have seldom been impacted as profoundly as I have been this past week, and even now.

On Sunday, June 3rd, Volcano Fuego, one of Guatemala’s 37 volcanoes, had a massive eruption. While many communities were warned to leave their homes and villages earlier that very morning, many could not or did not heed the warning. Volcano Fuego proceeded to reek havoc over several cities and villages, killed more than 115 people, and has left more than two million people directly impacted and effected by its violent spewing. Many are left homeless, burnt and severely hurt, with loss of family, and without any belongings or provisions! Praise God for the generous and beautiful community of Guatemalans and foreigners, firefighters and police, military, doctors, psychologists, and volunteers, who have stepped up to fight on behalf of those in need!

This past Tuesday, June 5th, I joined with a team to bring donations, love, peace, and hugs to people in Escuintla, an area directly affected by the eruptions. While at an evacuation center for these people, before being able to distribute our donations, there was another eruption. This caused great panic and we were forced into evacuation mode; evacuating an evacuation center. Needless to say, as I carried an elderly woman from her bed on the second floor to a waiting pickup truck, my heart and mind were filled with many prayers for these hurting people. Fortunately, my team was able to return to our places of residence that night without injury or incident.

Today, however, I want to share a true and tragic story, and share some photos. (One photo is quite graphic, so please proceed with caution and preparation.) This past Saturday, June 9th, I, for Abogar, led a team of 10 volunteers to a town, Alotenango, to try again to distribute the donations, as well as to share the love, truth, and hope of Jesus Christ to a people so hurting and traumatized! We encountered so many families with need, and it was truly heart-breaking. I was not brought to tears though, until I met Brenda! She has granted me permission and authority to share her story, as well as the photos you will see below!

On the morning of the volcanic eruption, Brenda’s husband was at his work; which was construction; clearing land and preparing property for building. After the eruption, Brenda called her husband to see if he was aware and okay. He responded that he was fine, that he loved her and the children, and would be home after his work. Sadly, Brenda did not know that it would be the last time that she would hear her husband’s voice. As the volcanic eruption was continuing to spew lava, Brenda’s husband made a decision that would cost him his life. Instead of immediately getting out of danger’s way, Brenda’s husband rushed to try to save the lives of two precious children. Unfortunately, the volcano was quicker than he could be, and all three perished!

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As I hugged and tried to comfort Brenda, I could not hold back the torrent of tears, and even now, as I write and share with you all, they still are coming! Brenda is now left as a widow of a hero, with three precious children who are now fatherless! James 1:27 tells us that pure religion is to care for such as these, the widow and the fatherless! Brenda is now left with no husband, no father for her children, no income, many loans (~$12,000) for a very small property that now is in danger of being taken away, and is traumatized and overwhelmed! While she is in emergency housing with her children, there is little comfort and very little help for them! There are truly no job opportunities for Brenda, and she feels overwhelmed and desperate! We brought a few donations, and some stuffed animals, and also tried comforting and loving on them, but I truly felt so inadequate to bless and help Brenda and the children in a more substantial way.

With collaboration with the Board of Directors of Abogar International Ministries, we are now going to start a Help for Brenda Campaign! We would like to, with your help, provide to Brenda the help she needs as a widow, and to her three, now fatherless, children! We are setting a goal of $15,000 to raise to help Brenda with her home and children in this time of great need! We believe that this is a part of what it means to fight for the fatherless, for the widow!

I, personally, have donated the first $1,000 to launch this campaign, and would ask you to prayerfully, generously, and joyfully join me in fighting for those who are near and dear to God’s heart! I will put my money where my mouth is, and hope that you too will find this a worthy cause in which to invest! You can go to our website, http://www.abogarim.org/support, and make your generous, tax-deductible gift today. Please, PLEASE be sure to indicate that it is specifically for our Help for Brenda Campaign!

Your continued prayers and support for the Guatemalan people, in this very tragic time, are greatly needed! We, at Abogar International Ministries, are very grateful for your continued interest and help in all that God is calling us to; fighting for the child who is orphaned or fatherless and the widow as well! May God’s rich blessings be evident to you today, and may we not take life nor the many other blessings for granted!

Serving and loving Jesus by serving and loving others,
Jesse Rivers
President, Executive Director
Abogar International Ministries

Remain… Abide… Belong…

“Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
Words of Jesus found in John 15:4

The above passage has been a repetitive theme and word to me over the last few months! Actually the resounding word has been REMAIN!

It is not the natural practice or response of sinful humanity, to remain or abide in much other than our egotistical selves; creating our own little worlds of comfort and safety. For me, as many know, I was struggling much at the end of last year, and had plans to return to San Diego, to see what country of Latin America God would call me and Abogar to next. Contrary to popular belief, it is not from a personal desire to travel that I travel so much, but rather obedience to God, who so often directs me to be on the move for His glory and purposes. I would actually rather just have a quiet, simple, American-dream type of life. Give me the white picket fence, the 2.5 children (It’s the average but not truly a reality, and most know that I actually want 12! Heheheee!!), a nice comfortable home, a loving wife, and an eight to five job.

So, it has come as a great surprise to me how often and directly God has been telling me to “Remain!” over these past few months! First, He has reminded me that nothing good can come from me, the branch, if I am not connected to Him, The Vine. So I have been growing even more in remaining in Him, remaining in what He thinks of me, how He sees me, and what He says of my being and identity here on earth! It is such a relief that God, perfect Father God, though seeing my multitude of sins and shortcomings daily, smiles down up me and calls me His beloved! Here I shall remain! I can trust Him and His love and declarations over me, as His beloved child.

Secondly, I have been called to “Remain!” here in Guatemala! While some think I complain a lot about Guatemala, I actually love the people here and want to see God’s glory, presence, and love manifested in the lives of the precious children that He calls me and Abogar to fight for! I am very proud of improvements, God-movements, and several changes that Guatemalans have made, and are making. While I do have innumerable horror stories and heart-wrenching realities that I see and try to be God’s love and light into, the reality is that we live in a very broken and dark world, that needs for us to remain present with God’s love and light; offering the hope, love, joy, and peace immeasurable and incomparable that can only come from God!

Thirdly, several have suggested that I should change organizations… join with World Vision, Compassion, or some other organization. (This is not to confuse those who have suggested that God may invite me to partner in another organization while continuing to also lead Abogar forward.) Seeking counsel is wisdom, but you can also receive too much counsel, and then need greater discernment and wisdom to be able to determine what God is trying to speak to you in the midst of the ocean of voices that can unknowingly work to drown out His voice. Fortunately, He has spoken very clearly to me that I am called, for such a time as this, to remain in Abogar; being obedient and leading it forward for His glory. He keeps telling me, “It’s not your’s but I have asked you to lead it for Me… Will you remain and be obedient?” He wins! I choose to remain.

That actually causes me to remember a very powerful story that I once heard. I have no clue of who the author is, but will be honest that it is not my creation, though I am sure that I share it slightly edited from it’s original version…

A man who was deeply in love with the Lord was approached by God Himself one day. God showed the man a ginormous rock and told him that He wanted for the man to push the rock! So the man went to the rock and started pushing, and pushing hard, but the rock would not budge. He pushed for minutes, that turned into hours, that turned into months, that turned into years! Each day he faithfully got up and obediently pushed against the rock, tearfully, painfully, but obediently. After several years of pushing against the rock, one day the man cried out to God asking why he could not move the rock. God replied to the man, reminding him that never once had God asked for him to move the rock, but rather just push the rock. The man, very confused and a little hurt because he did not understand why God would call him to do something so useless, asked God why He had told him to push the rock. God said, “Look at your body.” The man looked down and realized that it had not been useless what God had called him to. The man’s body had rippling, bulging muscles, and was in the best shape it had ever been before. What he saw as useless, remaining each day at the side of a huge rock, pushing it, was actually God’s way of strengthening the man to prepare him for something even greater!

When life and ministry seem like pushing against a rock that will not budge, I remember this story and it helps me to remain faithful and obedient to His call. He is preparing me for something even greater, and I will trust whatever it is that He has for me!

Finally, the word REMAIN for me has signified that I need to learn to abide and belong more in friendships, community, and places of rest. Much of my life I have been the one to initiate relationships, as well as to maintain them. I have, over the last several years, become tired of this reality in my life, and have honestly felt very alone and abandoned by many. It has seldom truly felt like I was wanted, needed, or belonged, because I so often have been the one to initiate for things to happen in friendships. However, God has told me that I need to remain in the place of being an initiator, remain committed to seeking out genuine community, and to remain faithful to growing in my ability and commitment to rest!

I am remaining in the Vine, in Guatemala, in Abogar, in friendships, community, and rest. How about you? Are you remaining where God wants you, no matter where that may be? It could mean pushing a rock, remaining in a foreign country, remaining in hard situations that don’t seem to make much sense, or remaining committed to seeking God, even when He seems silent and distant! I remain, I abide, I belong… exactly where God calls me to be. How about you?!

Support Special Kids!

3 Sentence Bookmark & Trifold PictureLet’s Keep It Going!     

Donate Here

This year the Abogar Board of Directors set the 2018 Budget at $85,100. The monthly need for us to reach our budget is $7,091. We invite you to join us in serving the children of Latin America through gifts of monthly financial and prayer support.

One specific way you can be involved in helping us reach our budget is to support us in our increased commitment to the Special Kids School. This year we will be providing the salaries for three teachers, which means we need to raise a total of $12,000 for the Special Kids School ($1,000 commitment per month).

Last year we learned of the financial challenges that the school is experiencing, which presents a real threat to the school remaining open. Most of you have heard us mention the Special Kids School in other publications. It is an incredible school that serves 41 preschool age children in a community that is the war grounds for two rival gangs. The school serves children of families from both gangs and is a respected institution in the community because of the quality of care it provides to their children. They also receive academic training, biblical teaching, and the love of the Father through the staff and teachers. The teachers have made sacrifices in pay to serve these precious children and we want to see that they receive their full wages.

 

Please prayerfully consider investing in the Special Kids School and the work of Abogar to impact the lives of a multitude of children in Latin America. See the enclosed pledge options for details on how you can donate and/or serve as a prayer partner.

May you and your family find blessing and happiness in the Lord!

The Executive Team

Jesse Rivers        Mike Holland         Karen Wilson        Laura Stoner

President            Vice President       Secretary               Treasurer

 

Pledge Options for Abogar International Ministries

Donate Now

Option 1 – Special Kids School: Donate toward the salaries of three teachers who have made financial sacrifices to work and serve at a small village school. These teachers do wonderful work teaching academics and biblical truths to preschool children of the families of rival gangs. The school is a haven for the children and a respected institution in the community that is the war grounds for these rival gangs.

Option 2 – Vidas Nuevas en Villa Nueva: This ministry meets every Saturday to provide a meal, activities and Bible lesson to children of a low-income community in Villa Nueva. It also serves to promote forever families by strengthening the families of the children. Your donation will go toward supplies for the ministry and may go toward the expenses of a new location, as the current location will not be usable in the near future.

Option 3 – Advocacy and Administrative: Your donation will empower us to advocate to Guatemalans and others on the behalf of the children, to see their needs met and lives changed. Administration costs include many things; a vehicle, personnel expenses, travel expenses, materials, and other resources.

Option 4 – Jesse Rivers’ Personal Support: God’s grace is upon Jesse as he oversees Abogar International Ministries, as well as leads the development of the Guatemalan branch of Abogar, raises up volunteers and donors, shares his testimony, ministers to children, and advocates for the children to governmental officials and others. For those of you who have always had a heart to do missions but have not had the opportunity to do so, please consider supporting Jesse personally as he fulfills the challenging and important role as the CEO of Abogar.

Option 5 – Capital Campaign: Donate toward the first Abogar property, to enable us to have a central location, greater presence in Guatemala, and to provide home and family to precious children in need. We would like to start with a mulit-purpose center, that would give us a base to grow our outreach and ministry throughout Guatemala. Your generous, tax-deductible gift towards this will help us further stabilize and strengthen our effectiveness in reaching these children for the glory of God.