|   Posted: January 09, 2017

A group of tutors and staff from the Compassion center helped Carlos understand that his life did have meaning.

Carlos Garcia

A group of tutors and staff from the Compassion center helped Carlos understand that his life did have meaning.

Carlos Garcia holds a photo of his sponsor family

Home Country: Guatemala

Occupation: Internal auditor for Xelac Dairy — applying for manager position in the company. Also teaches Finance 101 at San Carlos Public University.

Life Goal: “I want to be a full-time business professor at the university in my community. I would also like to be a leader in my church and provide for my mother.”

What was your first job? Did you babysit for your neighbors? Wait tables at a restaurant? What if you had to start working when you were just 5 years old? That was the reality for Carlos. He began shining shoes on the streets of Guatemala before he could even read or write.

This wasn’t a boy trying to earn money for a toy. He was trying to earn enough money to buy food for his entire family. How could one little boy hold up under that kind of pressure?

One of Carlos’ earliest memories is eating an egg for lunch. Or rather, half of an egg.

“There were 18 people living in my home when I was growing up,” says Carlos. “There was never enough to eat. My mother would try to make sure we got protein. So I would have half an egg for lunch. And the other half would be my dinner.”

Even though Carlos was the youngest in the family, he felt the pressure of trying to help his mother. His father was an alcoholic and was rarely able to provide for the family. When his father died, Carlos did the only thing he knew to do.

“I worked many jobs as a child, starting when I was just 5,” says Carlos. “I shined shoes. I gathered bundles of sticks to sell in the market. All so I could buy some food to bring home.”

Carlos was just 8 when he was hired by a neighbor to dye thread. The chemicals he worked with were dangerous, eating through the metal cans he dipped the thread into. But Carlos was glad for the work, for the income.

Carlos begged his mother to let him drop out of school. Just think of all the money he could bring home if he worked a full eight hours a day! But she kept telling him no. That education was more important. Even when her older sons told her it was a waste of time to send little Carlos to school, she held fast.

It was that same perseverance that led Carlos’ mother to the Compassion center in their community. She had heard it was a place that could provide the one thing she had never been able to — a childhood.

When Carlos first arrived at the church, he thought it was another job. He looked around, wondering if there was something he could clean or repair. When his mother explained that this was a place he would come to after school, Carlos was frustrated. How would he be able to work? Who would help his mother now?

But then, Carlos started getting hugs. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a hug. His mother was too busy. His brothers were preoccupied. But at the Compassion center, he couldn’t get enough of them!

“The project director, Francisco, would always give me a big hug and say, ‘I believe in you, Carlos,’” he remembers. “That’s what I looked forward to the most.”

Carlos experienced a lot of firsts at the center. He got his first pair of new socks. His first Christmas present, a toy robot. His first seconds at mealtime.

Imagine Carlos’ shock when he found out something else he would receive from the Compassion center — a sponsor!

“Neil Jensen was my sponsor, and I was so surprised that he chose me,” says Carlos. “Nobody had ever chosen me before.”

Each time Neil wrote a letter to Carlos, he spoke truth into the boy’s life. Over and over he told him, “Someday you will fulfill God’s plan.” And for the first time, Carlos began to wonder what God had planned for him. Could it be something more than working and surviving?

Carlos keeps his sponsor letters as cherished memories
Carlos and his mother when he graduated

A group of tutors and staff from the center would be the ones to help Carlos understand that his life did have meaning. That it was worth celebrating.

In Guatemala, a girls’ 15th birthday party is called a quinceanera. It is a huge celebration with cake and gowns and gifts. But for boys, especially poor ones like Carlos, birthdays pass with little fanfare. That’s why Carlos was so surprised when the staff from the Compassion center came to his home to throw him a party.

It was a simple affair — a few snacks and a gift of a new white shirt — but for Carlos, it was life-changing. He looked around at the smiling faces of these women who cared about him. He thought about the sponsor who helped support him. And Carlos realized a vital truth.

He was not alone.

Carlos says that night was the beginning of a new journey for him. He accepted Christ surrounded by those kind people from the center — the very ones who hugged him and prayed with him. He took to heart the words of his sponsor as he studied hard and got into college.

Today, that boy who shined shoes on the streets of Guatemala is working on his master’s degree in accounting. He works as an internal auditor at a large factory and teaches at a local university.

And when he’s not working, Carlos finds the time to volunteer at the student center where he says his life was changed. He works with the youths, providing a real-life example of how God has a plan for each of His children. One of transformation, not mere survival.

Just ask Carlos. He is a life transformed.