"I couldn't protect him."

Estiven Josal graduated from our academy in November.
On June 27th, he was waiting outside the National Hospital in nearby Chimaltenango. His younger brother had broken his arm, and Estiven was waiting for his dad so they could take his brother home.
I know the area well. I've waited countless times for widows and single moms who needed a ride home.
I once waited 8 hours for a single mom who was in surgery. There were complications, so my son Gabe and I sat outside in the "waiting area."
The waiting area is a large covered patio with 5-6 concrete picnic tables. There's a 3ft. cement wall that circles the patio, giving more places to sit. There had to be 100 people waiting that night. The only lights came from two streetlights on either side.
The waiting visitors share the covered patio with homeless people. I remember that night, a homeless woman lifted her dress and squatted in the corner to urinate. I only mention it to shatter any pictures you might have in your head of what it might be like in the United States.
Waiting at the National Hospital at night is scary and dangerous.
Estiven was waiting alone when he felt something sharp at his side. A man had a knife against his ribs and whispered, "Give me your phone and all your cash, or I will stab you."
Without looking, Estiven raised both his arms, the phone in his hand, and said, "I don't have any money."
The man took his phone and ran into the dark.
Estiven just stood there and started to cry. He didn't know what to do. He just waited for his dad.
I met with each of the 9th graders a few days before graduation. I asked them what their plans were and told each of them how proud I was.
Every kid worked hard this year. They all have a strong grasp of the Bible. The seeds had been planted.
That's what the Holy Spirit asks.

Share the gospel.
Plant seeds.
The Holy Spirit saves.
Estiven was one of the last two boys I talked to. Estiven and one of his classmates had excelled over the last three years. They loved studying the Bible, and they had a strong grasp of English after just one year.
For the first time in three years, we would be awarding two full ride scholarships to High School.

In Guatemala, students pick a career path they want to pursue. If they want to be a teacher, an accountant, or a mechanic, they take classes that prepare them for those careers.
"Estiven, what are your plans next year?"
"I'm going to work."

I was shocked. He's incredibly smart and dedicated. I hadn't even considered that he wouldn't keep studying.
"I thought you might want to keep studying?"
"I do. I want to study to become an electrician."
"Why are you going to work?"

He stared down at the table. I waited.
When he looked up, he was holding back tears that were desperate to fall.

"My dad's a janitor. He doesn't make much money. We have enough to eat... but he can't send me to school."
There was a long pause, and not a single tear dropped.
He gathered himself and said he was working to save for school. He hoped to go next year.
Then he told me that first, he was saving for a cell phone so he could do his homework.

Students in Guatemalan villages rarely have their own computers. All of their online work is done by cell phone. Their research and papers are done on Google Docs, all by cell phone.
That's when I first learned that he got robbed at the hospital. His dad had just purchased that phone for him a few months before in hopes they could scrape enough money together for one semester of school.
"My dad bought me another phone last week. He told me we both need to work hard and trust that God would provide."
And then the dam broke. Every tear he'd been holding back fell.
"I got robbed again yesterday."

"I was working, delivering snacks to tiendas (small convenience stores on every corner) in Chimaltenango. The man I was working for was talking to someone at another tienda, and I stayed with the truck. A man came up to me and lifted up his shirt to show me his gun."

He said, "Give me your money."

"I gave him Q20 ($2.75)."
"Give me your phone."
"I didn't want to give him my phone... but I took it out of my front pocket and handed it over to him."
"My headphones were around my neck..."

"Your headphones!"
"Estiven. I'm so sorry. I'm glad you're ok."

"I was scared... but I was sad."
"Why were you sad?"
I asked.
"Because my dad worked hard to buy me that phone. He bought it out of love."
I decided not to offer the scholarship to Estiven.
"When you go home, tell your dad I want to talk with him. Here's my number. Have him text me a time that works."
I met with Estiven and his dad the next afternoon.
"Estiven told me what happened. He was robbed twice?"
"That's true."

Estiven's dad looked broken. He was having trouble breathing. Like, in a concerning way.
His dad explained that he was hurt by what had happened to his sons. His youngest son had broken his arm and was crying in pain when it happened, "And there was nothing I could do about it."
"Estiven was robbed twice..." he couldn't get another word out. He started crying... weeping... "I couldn't protect him."
Estiven was now crying...
And I was crying, "I'm sorry that happened."
He shook his head in agreement, "They're ok." He forced a smile.
"Estiven has been one of our best students at the academy. Ever. And we want to offer him a scholarship to study to be an electrician. Everything will be paid for. We'll buy him a new cell phone... a new computer. All his books. Everything. Will. Be. Covered."
He had no words.

It's been three months since that conversation, and I'm still crying as I write this.
When I lived in the United States, I had no idea of the privileges we had.

I've been here for almost 12 years, and I'm still not sure of the depth of our privilege. But I can tell you this. It's deep.
Estiven and his dad humbly accepted the scholarship.
"I will never be able to thank you enough or pay you back for this. My son will work hard to make you proud. And I will pray that you and your wife and this academy and this ministry will be doubly blessed."
We were able to get counseling for Estiven's dad. He was diagnosed with mild depression and PTSD. He's doing much better.

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