It was late April and the volcanic slopes of Guatemala were dusty green as warm breezes gradually made way for the coming rainy season. Clouds growing in the sky signaled that it wouldn’t be long until fresh rains would water the dry volcanic slopes until they burst into colorful bloom.
For 13 years missionaries John and Sharon Harvey have experienced this cycle of dry and rainy seasons as they’ve shared the Gospel in the Central American nation of Guatemala. Each season they watch more than just flowers bloom as thousands of lives have been saved, pastors trained and children fed through the Asociacion Equipando a Los Santos Internacional (Association for Equipping the Saints International (ASELSI)). This ministry provides physical care and spiritual training to villagers across the remote mountains of northwest Guatemala.
Based in the department (state) of El Quiché, ASELSI includes both medical and Bible training branches.
Sharon Harvey, a registered nurse, organizes medical care for the villagers and trains Guatemalans to provide a much needed milk distribution program to battle the six-percent or higher mortality rate for children below the age of five. In 2004, ASELSI provided medical care for 5,700 people including milk for 250 children each month.
“I’ve always wanted to make a difference in their lives,” Sharon said. “By reaching them at the point of their need, it opens the door for me to also pray with them and to minister to them on the spiritual side.”
While the clinic helps care for physical needs, many of the local pastors had few educational opportunities until John Harvey started a comprehensive Bible training institute. ASELSI is providing Bible training in a region where many of the pastors and church leaders have less than a third grade education.
Through the training classes at ASELSI and in 12 extension centers scattered across the mountains, pastors and church leaders expand their basic knowledge of the Bible and actually earn diplomas and degrees in two or three year programs. Currently, ASELSI is looking for ways to expand training to other countries in Latin America.
ASELSI’s courses provide excellent Bible training that is practical and something that pastors and church leaders can understand and teach to others. Not only are students learning, they’re sharing that knowledge with others.
“About all the students…are doing discipleship,” John said. “Communities are being transformed.”
The combination of medical clinics and outreaches also provide positive opportunities for ministry in new communities where medical teams along with Bible students work together to provide for physical and spiritual needs.