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Seeking the Lost

God calls couple to long-term volunteering in Guatemala

When his teenage daughter asked him to join her on a mission trip to Guatemala, Kevin Holmes didn't want to go. "I had trouble ordering at Taco Bell because I knew so little Spanish," he jokes.

Reluctantly, he agreed, and the trip changed his life. "When we were sitting on the plane coming back to the States, we suddenly felt we were going the wrong way," Holmes remembers.

At the same time, neither Kevin nor his wife, Ginny, thought that doing more in Guatemala was really practical. But they soon realized they felt a calling.

"It seemed that every Scripture, song and sermon we heard challenged us to honestly answer the question: 'If I called you, would you go?'" Ginny Holmes explains. "Our prayers were to know for certain that we weren't just longing to have that warm, fuzzy mission trip experience again, but that God really was calling us to be long-term volunteers in Guatemala. To have the courage to follow Him wherever, whenever, and for however long He wanted us to serve there."

They put their South Florida house on the market, selling it in nine days. They bought a new home in Arizona, which was more convenient for flying to Guatemala, to use as a base for operations and sold or donated most of their belongings. In 2007 they moved to Guatemala to serve as volunteers with another ministry.

When that ministry closed its doors two years later, though, they didn't return home; they felt that God was calling them to continue their service. "We knew of other organizations that focused on building homes or schools, medical or dental ministries, or orphanages, but we felt that our specific call was caring for the poor and needy," says Ginny.

In 2009, they created Groundwork Guatemala (Link opens in new window). The group works with native Guatemalan missionaries who visit poor villages to provide health care, education, worship services, school supplies, simple public works (such as water filtration systems) and more. Groundwork Guatemala's daily programs reach between 100 and 300 people – both children and adults – depending on the day and location of the missionaries' efforts.

The couple worried about whether they'd be able to raise the money needed to support the ministry, but they soon felt God's blessing of their work. Donations came from the numerous fellow Lutherans they'd met through Ginny's career as a teacher in Lutheran schools, Kevin's years with Thrivent Financial and their church connections.

"If we can help with food, clothes, housing, we will do that. God put us here to help each other," Holmes says. "But what's more important is that people know who their Savior is. Our mission statement is to 'seek the lost and equip the found.'"

After five years living and volunteering in Guatemala (Holmes and his wife receive no salary from the organization), life still remains very difficult. "I don't really love living in a Third World country where it's dangerous," he admits. "I can't vote. It's dirty and polluted, and there's trash everywhere, and you can't drink the water. But it's beautiful. The people are wonderful. And, there's something to be said about the peace when God calls you to do something. We've found God gives us exactly what we need. Not always what we want, but exactly what we need."

He hopes that others also keep their hearts open to such messages, whether they come from India, Guatemala, the U.S. or elsewhere. "God didn't set up the boundaries," Holmes points out. "There are great ministries around the world and around the corner. Find out what is close to your heart and go with it. Go where God is working and jump in."

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