The Stuff of Dreams
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
It began with a dream in the mind of a man.
Thirty-six years ago, Hector Zetino felt the burden on his heart for the children of Guatemala. Having grown up in the Red Zones—the most dangerous quarters of Guatemala City—he knew first-hand the life and death issues they faced. And he wanted to change it. As in all things, however, God’s timing did not support his dream. At least not then.
Pastor Hector spent the intervening years raising a son, Mark, and twin daughters, Debbie and Jeannie. He moved to the United States, pastored a church, and continued to travel to Guatemala and to worldwide locations to minister. The dream did not die, get taken over by someone else, or see the problems resolved. It continued to pulsate in his heart with relentless energy.
Two years ago, the Lord awakened the burden in his heart once again. Pastor Hector and his daughter, Debbie, reached out to the community, partnering with local churches in feeding programs and street evangelism. They donated musical instruments for a small music school, computers to teach computer proficiency, office equipment, and sewing machines to instruct mothers on how to provide an income for their families.
They developed relationships with local pastors, who had personal knowledge of individual youth—and any possible ties to gangs—in their sphere. Due to the inherent risks in the Red Zones, it became necessary to recruit only kids who would not put others in danger. Twenty prayer walks happened. Ministry in the streets grew.
Everything has a definitive starting point. That’s the status of this ministry today. On April 27, 2019, the dream became a reality. The House of Hope opened its doors in Guatemala City. God’s power drew together volunteers and broke down social, economic, educational, and denominational barriers. The unity of believers from all walks of life became a reality, working together as one body in Christ.
Twenty-five children ages 12 to 18 meet in this haven every Saturday. They come from all over the city, picked up by a nondescript van. Their day consists of breakfast and lunch, brown sack dinner, worship, discipleship, and the pouring of Jesus into each individual in attendance. The goal is to impress upon them this bedrock fact: their identity is in being a child of the King.
Simple, right? Easy sell. And yet, it’s much more complex in Guatemala City. These kids are living in the poorest neighborhoods, rife with violence, crime, drugs, and fear. Often fathers have been murdered, mothers deal drugs just to feed their families, and the kids themselves are threatened if they don’t join a gang. Gunshots pepper the night; stray bullets take random lives, even the lives of children.
For some, this would scare away the dream. It has only intensified the goals of the House of Hope. Debbie Zetino has slipped into her father’s vision and is now Director of the project. Together with hand-selected volunteers, they are moving forward with plans to add more days, bigger spaces, and education for mothers.
Next month, the House will become two houses. Stepping out in financial faith, a larger facility for the kids will open. The smaller building will be utilized to teach moms sewing, cooking, and other marketable, legal endeavors. Moving forward, the dream includes more days of discipleship during the week, finding land to buy and to build a structure to house the children, and making a permanent home for them. This will be a true house of hope, prayer, family, companionship, safety—and Jesus. A 24/7 place for them to live, grow, and prosper.
The children who frequent the House of Hope see it as a refuge where they not only eat well, but also have loving adults to talk to about life issues. And these issues are big ones. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, violence, threats, drugs, guns, poverty, hunger, low self-esteem—the list goes on and on. It is a challenge to help each child to reevaluate negative self-images and to embrace positive, King-centered ones. This will only be accomplished through prayer, time, and God’s hand as faith leaders and believers from around the world support this ministry.
A typical day at the House begins with morning worship. A young adult from a local church plays the guitar while other volunteers lead the singing. There are closed eyes, tears, smiles, clapping, and joy. The presence of the Holy Spirit is real.
Since April, twenty-one children have given their lives to the Lord. This comes at a cost. During the week they live in the Red Zones. They are unable to communicate with volunteers, as they or their families would be open to harassment and violence should certain criminal factions become aware of their connection to the House of Hope. Volunteers are carefully screened and must also be careful.
Hector and Debbie Zetino saw a concurrent need arise after a volcano eruption wiped out entire villages and left hundreds displaced. They worked with several teams and saw God’s amazing provision of hot meals, water, clothes, prayer, and hope provided to families. The love of Jesus was shared with the most needy and vulnerable.
Into this tragedy of loss, the Zetinos created Houses of Hope, a partner ministry to House of Hope. They built a new house, completed in February 2019, for the Perez family who had lost everything. The family is giving God the glory for His provision. It is hoped to continue to build homes for the homeless as funds and willing hands become available.
Pastor Hector and Debbie long to see the multiplication of their efforts through everyone who is the hands and feet of Jesus in Guatemala. Despite the continuing gang wars, cultural violence, poverty, and death they are faced with, they pray for a breakthrough, a cultural key for the penetration of the Gospel that will bring transformation to this nation.
Even though the center is in its infancy, something unexpected has happened. The youth who have come to receive are already giving back, as they are changed through discipleship and self-identification as children of God. They are going into the streets in their communities and reaching out to other youth. In one church, they have become the backbone of service. Since their active participation, there has been a significant increase in hunger and passion for the Lord. The number of youth attending worship has doubled. Lives are being changed through prayer and the Word of God.
When Debbie and Hector look out over the city, they are reminded of Abraham’s arrival in Canaan, the land the Lord had promised to him. He saw that land occupied by evil people. Abraham chose not to retreat but to go to the highest overlook. There, he set up his tent, built an altar, worshipped, and invoked the name of the Lord (Genesis 12:6-7). The promises of God became a reality to Abraham and his family. The promises of God are becoming a reality in Guatemala as well.
Right now, in Guatemala City’s worst neighborhoods, evil is losing. The name of the Lord God is being invoked. Worship is happening. Church altars are platforms of prayer. The hope is that someday, in the fullness of God’s timing, the Red Zones will be known as havens of peace and hope, the bright red designation standing for the blood of Jesus’ love instead of the blood of hate and violence.
Guatemala has been claimed for Jesus. The plan might have begun in the mind of a man, but the purpose of the Lord is standing firm.