The call came in during a wholistic care training seminar in Guatemala. As church leaders and World Orphans staff sat gathered together, discussing the care of vulnerable families, the dreams about the future and logistical plans came to a screeching halt, interrupted by a desperate plea.

A small team from the training seminar piled into a vehicle to meet a family in the urban area of Zone 7. They arrived at a simple, corrugated metal house positioned directly behind an ancient Mayan burial ground.

Delmy*, the grandmother, and her daughter, Evelin*, greeted the team with tear-stained faces. Grief hung over the home like a dark cloud. The three men that Delmy and Evelin care for—all severely mentally disabled—were deeply shaken by the events that had transpired, and without the ability to verbalize the trauma, one man repeatedly moaned and yelled.

Though half the home stood standing, the other portion of the house was badly burned, smoldering from a fire that most likely ignited due to faulty wiring. What humble remains the family had were now ashes and charred pieces of material. Clothing. Kitchen supplies. Beds. The handful of items the women had worked hard to afford were reduced to nothing. 

Wholistic Care Director Kathy Davis’ eyes met Delmy’s, and Delmy collapsed into her arms, weeping the loss of all she once had. The smell of tears, sweat, and smoke clung to Kathy’s clothes as she wrapped her arms around this woman whose grief was hard to fathom. Kathy pulled her face far enough away to look into Delmy’s eyes once more, as she said, “You must wonder—when you look at me—what in the world I would have to offer you in terms of hope in a situation like this. I just want you to know that we’re here, we want to pray with you, and we’re grieving with you. We’re saddened by the fact that this has happened. And we’re trusting God with you as someone who is partnered with you through the church.”

In the midst of putting out the fire that day, Delmy and Evelin had called Pastor Hugo’s church, the church currently partnering with them to offer assistance. And upon their arrival, the team wept with and prayed for the family. They circled up with tear-stained faces and heavy hearts to cry out to God.

We often think about the local church as the vehicle for assistance through finances, food, education, or medical care, but that’s selling the church short, isn’t it? 

Honestly, if it all burns to the ground—everything you have—who will you call? Who will come and grieve with you? For many vulnerable families, they’re faced not only with a poverty that makes food, medical care, housing, and education seemingly impossible to attain, but they’re often faced with a poverty of community as well. But this family knew they could call their local church. They knew that church leaders would show up to cry, to pray, and to listen. 

And, don’t we all need that? Before anyone tries to fix it for us or create a solution or problem solve, don’t we just need someone to weep with us? When it all goes up in flames, don’t we need someone to just look at the situation and say, “This is horrifying. I’m grieving this loss with you.” 

Shortly after the wholistic care training team returned from Guatemala, Pastor Hugo’s church partner family, the Younts and Towers, traveled to Guatemala.  The family was able to provide Pastor Hugo’s church with the financial assistance necessary to help Delmy, Evelin, and the men in their care to get back on their feet. Additionally, while they visited, the Younts and Towers were able to meet with and pray for Delmy and Evelin.

This is the local church in action. This is Church Partnership coming alive. This is what it means to wholistically care for the vulnerable and the hurting.