Last fall, Mission Guatemala, an organization supported by many Indiana United Methodist congregations, celebrated 10 years of service in the community of San Andrés Semetabaj. 

The staff at Mission Guatemala remain dedicated to their mission: We exist to help meet the basic needs and improve the quality of life of under-served Guatemalan people through health, education, and nutrition initiatives and meaningful missionary service. 

The organization was founded by Reverend Tom Heaton, former Associate Director of Mission and Justice with the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church. Heaton felt called towards missions in Guatemala after adopting two sons from the country. He hoped to elevate the stories of native Guatemalans, rather than those who came to overtake the land. 

Heaton remembers, “When God puts a call on your heart, you know it, and it gets really hard to say no to it.”

After moving to Guatemala with his family and with support from former Bishop Mike Coyner, Heaton met a missionary, Dave Burns, with a similar heart for sharing the love of Jesus. The two teamed up to create Mission Guatemala based on the teaching of John Wesley, “Do all the good you can.” 

The generous support of Indiana United Methodist congregations has allowed the team to start strong programs such as a medical clinic, pharmacy, dental clinic, eye clinic, feeding centers for chronically-malnourished children, and vocational training programs. Over 3,700 people have visited on mission trips to help with community development projects such as building water filters and fuel-efficient, wood-burning stoves. 

The medical clinic has been an invaluable resource to the community, operating five days a week at a small fee to patients. In the last 10 years, the clinic has helped over 36,000 patients get the medical care they need. The organization was recently able to buy the property that the clinic operates on, which they rented for the first 10 years. They are looking forward to the ways that this will allow them to continue to build trust and rapport with the community. 

Staff packing meal supply kits for families in the “Niños Chispudos” program

In addition to the clinic, Mission Guatemala is passionate about helping young children thrive physically. The “Niños Chispudos” (Kids With A Spark) program is designed to help children ages six months to six years as they are in the critical years of development. In addition to consistent nutritious meals, the program provides free medical care for the children, along with regular physicals. 

With the limitations on traveling due to the pandemic, families weren’t able to get to the Mission Guatemala clinic for their normal check ups. The staff responded by shifting the way the program operates and setting up regular site visits to six different communities. This has allowed the program to expand and serve around 200 children. 

Medical clinic site visit to Tocache

Mission Guatemala has grown and evolved over the last 10 years in response to the needs of the community. With the purchase of the clinic property and the growing nutrition program, the staff is excited to see what God will do in the next 10 years! 

Visit Mission Guatemala’s website to read more, learn about bringing a team from your church, or donate.