Enter Paradise | story No.1: “Juanes”

He goes by “Juanes.”

He’s now 15 years old, but until today he has never been to school. It’s a common story. For one thing, 72 percent of the slum’s population has no access to education. (Police don’t even enter here after dark. In this “fatherless” culture, gangs appear to many boys as their only “family” — their only viable path to “survival.” The average recruit joins a gang at 13 years old. From there, his life expectancy nosedives to just 24 years. Murders. Drugs. Disease.

Juanes never met his father. The man — one of several involved in his mother’s life — died from cirrhosis of the liver in this community plagued by sickness.

There is one school within reach of the tin shack where Juanes lives — where he lives packed in alongside his mother, seven brothers and sisters, and several young nephews. Two of Juanes’ younger sisters attend the school. However, Juanes never received a birth certificate; so he was never allowed to register. As far as the system was concerned, it’s as if he didn’t exist.

You would have loved seeing Juanes’ face light up when Nathan Hardeman, Engadi’s co-founder and director, finally located an official form that confirmed Juanes’ birth. Just one more step toward hope for his brighter future!

Please pray for the 32 boys now part of Engadi’s “Derek” group, where they experience hope and brotherhood going together in weekly Bible studies, “gang up” to improve their community through ongoing service projects, and benefit from academic guidance in the new Engadi Transformation Center. (More about this exciting development to come!)

The neediest boys in the Derek program are also candidates to enter the Benaiah House — Engadi’s boys home located in the hills outside Guatemala City, where they can enjoy a safe family life (under the care of house parents), guidance and counseling for traumas, and education catered to their special needs. Juanes just returned from a weekend retreat at Benaiah House, a transitional experience designed to help some boys adapt to the possibility of a new life here.

Thank you for supporting Engadi. Please watch for (and share!) more of these stories, as we introduce you to more real boys of Paradise soon…




**How can I share this story for the most impact possible? We’re answering that crucial question in our short video clip here. Watch it now…


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  1. […] around the USA, – Participating in the production of a new feature film, – Working with our partner non-profit in Guatemala – Humbling honors and awards, and – Our own 10th wedding […]

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