Tita Evertsz shared her heart with the John Brown University student body as she spoke in chapel about her ministry in La Limonada, the largest urban slum of Central America on Thursday, Feb. 20.
Nearly 20 years ago, Evertsz began serving and feeding the poor in La Limonada against the discretion of her church leaders and friends in Guatemala City who were concerned for her safety. However, Evertsz felt a deep passion for the people of La Limonada, causing her to remain there and even begin an academy for the children of the community 13 years ago.
Evertsz and her team have had the opportunity to teach and care for nearly 430 children in three academies throughout the community since then, providing the students with meals, education, health and hygiene training, sexual education, spiritual refuge and protection from the violence in the surrounding area.
“It’s not about being poor. It’s about injustice. They have no opportunity; they are marginalized. If we Christians are not present, they have no hope,” said Evertsz in chapel on Thursday.
The three academies in La Limonada not only provide the children with protection, education, and food, but they also provide a source of income for the families of the surrounding community. Over 40 out of the 47 members of Evertsz’s team are from La Limonada and earn salaries for their work in the academies.
“It’s about relationships,” said Evertsz. “I think we are very relational, and when we know there is a need for a job, we also know the people and we know their needs, too. That’s how we are together.”
Evertsz is grateful for the passion that the Lord has given her for the people of La Limonada and refers to her desire to help them as a precious gift from God. Evertsz is not only grateful to be able to work with the suffering innocent of the community, but also those who cause suffering within the community.
“I started looking at the other side of the ‘social monsters,’ and they are human beings,” said Evertsz. “God’s heart is so broken for the ones that are suffering, and God is so broken for the ones that are making others suffer.”
Evertsz and her team not only work in the academies of La Limonada, but they also work to build relationships with those involved in gang activity, thievery and addiction within the community.
“One of the biggest things I have learned is to not judge unless I have walked with the people at least three months, and then all you want to do it shut up yourself and help,” said Evertsz. “To be fully present in solidarity with them, it’s beautiful. Sometimes we just judge, but don’t help.”
University students have been eager to find ways to help with the efforts being made in La Limonada since Evertsz’s visit to the University last Thursday. Joe Walenciak, associate dean of the College of Business, mentioned that prayer and communication are imperative to helping Evertsz and her team in La Limonada.
“Staying in touch, praying and encouraging is something that everybody can do. And if we do what Tita has been telling us–‘Make yourself available’– then that doesn’t mean go to La Limonada. It means go where God wants us to be. It means to be about the work of the world,” said Walenciak.
Evertsz explained that there are many places that need help and that need the hope of Jesus. She knows that God has chosen La Limonada for her, and she has never struggled with that calling. She hopes that the students of this University will also go wherever the Lord leads them, as well.
“Look at your hands,” said Evertsz. “Your hands are Jesus’ hands. You are His body. Your feet are Jesus’ feet. If you stay, He stays. If you go, He goes. How many people will be affected if you say yes to God? And there are so many who are longing for Him to reach them.”
In an effort to aid the development of an academy library in La Limonada, the University’s Department of Education has begun collecting Christian-themed children’s books written in Spanish to donate to Evertsz and her team.
“We wanted to come together and support her physically and also in prayer,” said Margo Turner, head of the undergraduate education department.
To make a donation to the academy libraries in La Limonada, please bring children’s books written in Spanish to the Department of Education offices in the Learning Resource Center.