After introducing you to our eight mission team volunteers in the previous blog, I thought it would be only fitting to tell you about eight of our in-country team members as well. They are the day in/day out, boots-on-the-ground, seldom-take-a-day-off faces of Vidas Plenas, the local faculty and staff that keep the Christian academies running smoothly and efficiently.

First and foremost is Tita, the founder of Vidas Plenas. Twenty-two years ago she started walking the streets of La Limonada, praying for the families and asking God to show her a way to reach the people, and transform the community. She started her first school soon after. It would eventually be known as La Limon. Since then, she has added three more schools: La Lima, La Mandarina, and La Toronja. By the way, Tita still does those prayer walks every week. We joined her on one this week!

The first person we actually met on the day we landed in Guatemala was Lizza. She is the local representative of Lemonade International, the stateside entity that works with Vidas Plenas. She helps host the teams that come in to assist the academies and is the one face that every person will be sure to see when they come to visit. Lizza met Tita in her church ten years ago. Tita first asked her to be a psychologist for one of the academies, but since 2013 Lizza has been involved with the coordination of teams through Lemonade International.

Her sister, Sofi, is currently a psychologist in one of the academies. Because of the violence and insecurity that all the families of La Limonada experience, Tita thought it was important to have a full time psychologist in every academy. Sofi and the other three psychologists do special training once a week for the teachers, so that they can in turn minister to the students. The psychologists also meet with the students individually as needed. In addition, they educate the families in monthly parenting meetings.

Next is Pablo. While he is not officially a member of the staff of Vidas Plenas, he is the brother of Lizza and Sofi, so he often finds himself “volunteering” as everything from team host to van driver to dental screening assistant. Pablo has been helping our team this week and has fulfilled all three of those roles already. Volunteers are a big part of the success of Vidas Plenas. They come from both inside and outside of the country. Of course, Pablo is one volunteer who is near and dear to our heart.

Another young man who began as a volunteer is Gadiel. He started helping Tita and Vidas Plenas reach out to the local gang members. What began as a one-week-at-a-time ministry, however, eventually became a full time gig about three years ago. Gadiel is one of two young men dedicated to reaching what Vidas Plenas calls “Los Muchachos.” They have two objectives: to make sure that every muchacho has an opportunity to know Christ, and to help them finish their education.

Another key role in the ministry of Vidas Plenas is the chaplain. We met the new chaplain this week. He is a local pastor named Julio whose task is to visit every academy at least once a week and to help meet the spiritual needs of the students and the teachers. Julio has only been on the job for ten months, but he obviously has a heart for the families and children of La Limonada.

In every academy, another key position is the directora. This person oversees everything from curriculum to supplies, from the designated donations for the students to the hot meals served every day. Mairita is one of the four directors we met this week. She allowed us to take over her office to do our dental prescreening. When we went to the second academy, the director did the same. These four directors are selfless, hardworking, servant leaders who willing to do just about anything for the sake of their students.

Of course, one of the most important jobs at Vidas Plenas is that of teacher. There are around 16 teachers who, despite limited resources and sometimes overcrowded rooms, dedicate their time and talents to the education of the kids who attend the academies. Every academy has four or five teachers who work two shifts, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Marina is just one of the teachers we met this week, who happens to work in the La Lima Academy. She and others like her are touching kids’ lives every day. If I tried to name all the rest, I might miss one, so I will refrain.

These are the faces and names of the people who make up the team of Vidas Plenas. It is such a pleasure to work with people who are so wholeheartedly dedicated to the completion of their mission.

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