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North Carolina Church Befriends Guatemalan Community

For Corinth Reformed Church in Hickory, North Carolina, their global mission is about developing a relationship, not a one-way ministry. According to associate pastor Paul Cummings, the church’s relationship with Villa Hortencia, Guatemala has transformed both communities—the Guatemalan village and their church community.

Corinth Reformed Church has partnered with Food for the Hungry in Guatemala for the past seven years. They have discovered that their relational approach has actually helped to alleviate poverty. 

Church members have discovered that the relationships built with a Guatemalan community have been the most rewarding part of their missions experience.

Church members have discovered that the relationships built with a Guatemalan community have been the most rewarding part of their missions experience.

Tangible Changes in Health

A short-term team from Corinth Reformed Church visits Villa Hortencia every year. The goal of these exchanges is to foster community between the American church and the Guatemalan community. One of the unique characteristics of Corinth Reformed Church’s teams has been that they include medical staff to provide health attention during their time in the community.

Cummings said, “We have been blessed to bring along doctors and nurses over the years, and our own Dr. Bill Parker would say that he has noticed an appreciable uptick in the growth rate of babies over the years and also general health of moms and kids as well.”

In Villa Hortencia, a primary concern is that children’s growth has been stunted due to inadequate nutrition and other factors in the first five years of life.  Stunting causes children to have health problems later in life, and it can keep them from adequate brain development, which causes problems in school and can reinforce the cycle of poverty.

The problem of stunting has occurred over several generations, which sometimes makes it seem like an insurmountable problem. But Corinth Reformed Church and Food for the Hungry knew that God’s desire was for the people of Villa Hortencia to live abundant, healthy lives. With the help of medical professionals and Food for the Hungry’s year-round health education program, the entire community is now healthier.

Ministry All Year Long

Corinth Reformed Church’s relationship with Food for the Hungry has been a multi-year commitment to partnering in Guatemala. The church began coming alongside Food for the Hungry’s work seven years ago.

In addition to annual short-term teams, the church partners year-round through child sponsorship. Church members individually sponsor children in the community. The sponsorship program provides the ongoing presence of Food for the Hungry staff in Villa Hortencia, who provide training and support in health and nutrition, education, income development and disaster risk reduction.

Child sponsorship also allows all church members to develop relationships with children and their families in Villa Hortencia, even if they cannot go on a mission trip, through prayer and letter writing. Cummings noted that for those church members who do participate in teams, their experience is especially rich. “Most of our church families who have gone have been able to spend time with their sponsored children and in particular kept up relations with them over the years,” he said.

Looking Toward the Future

“I think one of the most unique parts of the partnership over the years is simply to watch the melting away of barriers within the Guatemalan community,” said Cummings. “We have gone from skeptical villagers who wouldn’t come out to see us, to now (after seven years) the kids are running down the hillsides to come see us the minute we get into the village.”

"The kids run down the hillsides to come see us the minute we get into the village," said Paul Cummings, Associate Pastor.

“The kids run down the hillsides to come see us the minute we get into the village,” said Paul Cummings, Associate Pastor.

When it comes to future plans, Cummings is waiting to see what is needed and where God leads. “We are basically always open to whatever the need is,” he said. “We don’t assume to have the answers and have learned over the years that it’s much better to listen and walk alongside than to be presumptuous.”

Is your church ready to take the next step to walk alongside a community? Check out the four steps for getting started or fill out an interest form. If you’re not quite there yet, you can also consider praying for and making a financial donation that makes work like this possible.