On December 31, just hours before 2021 ended, the Schuitema family from Michigan landed in Guatemala to start not only a new year, but a new chapter in the life of their family. Andrea Schuitema works at Orphan Helpers as Director of Programs, developing and coordinating youth programs and services across Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
A few months ago, Andrea and her husband Mike decided to serve full-time on the ground in Central America. They began preparing themselves and their two young children for the big move. Mike left his job as an assistant prosecuting attorney. The family sold their house. They found someone to adopt their dog. All four said their farewells to family and friends.
Here is Andrea’s personal story of stepping out in faith on this new journey:
In 2018, Mike and I went on a trip to El Salvador and Honduras on behalf of our church, Genesis in Petoskey, Michigan. The church had been involved with Orphan Helpers’ previous work in orphanages, but wanted to learn more about the current work in the juvenile detention centers.
In one Salvadoran prison we visited on that trip, we saw a group of about ten young men, many covered in tattoos, walking around proudly with their Bibles. We learned these guys had decided to leave their old ways behind and make their new identity in Christ. Carrying a Bible was a way they chose to display they were on a new life path.
Years later, I still reflect on the simultaneous courage and humility it took for these youth to make a life-changing decision and step forward in front of their peers. This is not a decision that comes lightly, but these youth knew they had hope for a better future because of the support and teaching they received from Orphan Helpers’ teachers.
The Orphan Helpers teachers and staff are some of the most passionate, dedicated and fearless people I have ever met. Every team member gives their all to show unconditional love to hurting youth in very tough places. They show up for work because they believe each youth has a future worth fighting for.
It’s been an honor to work as part of the Orphan Helpers team for the past two years from home in Michigan. Mike and I both have been inspired by the work taking place, and we wanted to become more involved. It was actually Mike’s idea to pick up our lives and move to Central America. I think God has been working in both of our lives for the past couple of years, leading us to this decision.
Several people have asked why we would move to Guatemala, a place that many are fleeing from right now. The truth is, that’s exactly why we wanted to go. Young people in the Northern Triangle of Central America face significant challenges in their communities. They leave to find a better future. Our team is dedicated to bringing hope and developing opportunities for the youth so they can work and build a life at home. We see God moving through Orphan Helpers and we want to participate fully in His work.
While the nature of our work with juveniles in detention exposes us to the darkest places with extreme suffering, there is much beauty in Central America that is not seen regularly in the news. Our family has been in Guatemala for just a few weeks, but God already has provided us with a great community. Guatemalans and American missionaries have welcomed us with kindness and hospitality. We are honored to be in this beautiful place, serving with the Orphan Helpers team to transform the lives of hundreds of youth across the Northern Triangle.