Fito & Nanci Sandoval
InnerCHANGE Guatemala - Guatemala City
I received Christ as my Savior in October 1998, when I was the leader of one of the largest MS13 gangs in all of Guatemala City, in zone 3, right next to the garbage dump. Life circumstances brought our family to this place that I have always known as home, with the garbage dump at the center of our lives for many years. God made such a radical transformation in me that I decided I to serve Him and give myself - body and soul- to His service forever, which has been one of the best decisions of my life, ever since managing to leave the gang and the garbage dump work in which I was immersed for over 17 years.
I met my wife Nanci in 2001 at the church where I first began to serve. I had always been anti-religious, though my heart was now full of Christ. I wanted to do something bigger and I felt a strong call to missions. I wanted to go to another country, but God led me to serve in my home city. I became involved in different organizations, serving in community development and support of communities in extreme poverty. Although I was ostensibly helping those in need, I also experienced many negative ways of doing mission, which did not reflect the love and passion that I felt in my heart.
INNERCHANGE GUATEMALA CITY
Nanci and I were married in 2005, and after several years we had the opportunity to meet brothers and sisters in missions who taught us about incarnational mission. We learned how to walk with people, and show them Jesus, more than just preach. And that way of life and ministry has been at the center of all we have done ever since. In 2018, after over 15 years working with different NGOs in the Garbage Dump area, we heard about InnerCHANGE and we felt like we were coming home. In InnerChange, we observed a community of missionaries who love each other and love the poor, seeking to follow the example of Christ, who incarnated himself in this world in order to go to the Cross, not with a hyper-spiritualized gospel but rather a holistic one. We have been walking together since 2018, serving the community that for many years I had harmed through my actions. Now we serve that community in many ways, seeking to bring light and life instead of death and darkness.
WHAT WE DO
We seek to make Jesus known in everything we do, building deep relationships with each and every person God brings into our lives. We minister among:
We work with youth at risk of joining gangs and drugs. Many of them come from disintegrated families, and are marginalized not only by the community, but by society itself. They are rebellious young people with difficult lifestyles, but with great need for adults to enter into their lives and reveal the truths of the gospel free of religiosity. We form deep friendships to be able to make Jesus known in a direct and experiential way. We have different methods of outreach, but core to almost everything is engagement in fun activities and unconditional acceptance. We also organize three camps each year where we introduce young people to Jesus, help them grow in faith and in their God-given gifts, and prepare them for leadership through discipleship and biblical studies.
Core to our strategy in all that we do are life-giving mutual friendships and relationships. Many of the girls come from broken homes, and many of them have decided to leave and live with a partner, due to violence and/or abuse in their own families. They often decide to become mothers at an early age, sometimes as an act of rebelliousness. We take special care in these relationships to help them understand that even though they may not have made the best decisions, Jesus’ love is unchanging, and he desires the best for them, for their families, and their children. We work hard on their self-esteem and in helping them to be good mothers, always keeping the message of salvation at the center of all our various activities and camps.
Many ministries focus on mothers, fathers, couples, youth, or children. Rarely is the whole family involved. God has led us to develop a beautiful integrated family mentoring program over the last several years, focused on imbuing moral and Christian values to the entire family. We desire for Jesus to be the center of each and every activity we have with these families, sincerely deepening our relationships with them in order to bear a coherent incarnated message of salvation to their homes, and so that they might see how important families are to our God. Keeping it real and human, we always teach fun activities to help families find new ways to continue their fellowship with each other.
Handicraft artisans in the garbage dump area
This group was born out of the need of several families for whom (for many years), scavenging at the garbage dump was their only source of income. Eventually they learned how to make a variety of beautiful handicraft works of art from recycled materials. We are working on different ways of helping them find access to new markets to sell their products, but more than anything we want to encourage them that they can have a brighter future beyond working in the garbage.
Network of Organizations
It is ironic how so many organizations who claim to want to serve the same community can be so separated from each other. This was the motivation behind forming a network in 2017 to change just that. In our community, there are around 30 NGOs all serving the same compact neighborhood area near the garbage dump, yet each one seems to work in its own world. We have heard God’s call to promote unity, rather than division, and God has supported our efforts. Currently 12 organizations are collaborating with each other, sharing resources and engaging in common activities. Our goal is to optimize, and not duplicate, the good work being done in the community, so that each organization can provide a more holistic service to each family that lives in the area.