Healing Guatemala

Columbia District sponsors effort to help indigenous people with food, medicine, Taekwondo

By Jessica Brodie

One United Methodist-founded ministry is working to help bring holistic healing to the people of Guatemala, and it’s gotten a much-needed boost thanks to an official nod by the Columbia District of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Healing Guatemala is a nonprofit organization established by the Rev. Luke Rhyee. Rhyee, who graduated from CNU Medical School in Korea and worked as a medical doctor, also graduated from Duke Divinity School and is in full connection with the South Carolina Conference as an elder. Rhyee is now an official missionary on the district’s list of mission projects/ missionaries.

Columbia District Superintendent Cathy Jamieson said the Outreach Committee of the District Connectional Ministries is going to send him $3,000 after the first of the year, and she will also release some funds before the end of this year from the District Mission Fund to help.

Rhyee spoke to a gathering of Columbia District clergy Nov. 7 thanking them for their support and lifting up the work of his ministry, which is threefold: a meal-serving ministry, a Taekwondo ministry and a medical ministry.

Rhyee and his wife and three sons live in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, a city in the northwest area of Guatemala, a central American nation next to Mexico that has much poverty and violence. Healing Guatemala serves a million people who live scattered around the city, mainly in the mountains. The majority are Mayan indigenous people who speak one of 23 languages and not the country’s official language, Spanish. Because of that, they have little power and access to assistance. Rhyee said the infant mortality rate is 25.16, more than four times what it is in the United States. In Chuisajcaba I and II, 20 percent of children get only one meal a day to eat, and 50 percent of children miss one meal a day.

Healing Guatemala’s meal-serving ministry today provides hundreds of thousands of meals to people in need. In the beginning, Rhyee said, they fed 200 children one meal a week—for him, a pitifully small dent in the problem.

“At first I said what’s the use,” Rhyee told the clergy. “So many are starving; we need daily meals, but we just do one a week.”

But God pointed him to the miracle of five loaves and two fish, and Rhyee soon realized it’s up to him to help, not make the miracle.

“We are offering a small meal to the world, and He will make the miracle,” Rhyee said. “The miracle not done by me; it is done by the Lord.”

The ministry is growing ever-larger, and they hope to add another meal each week.

The Taekwondo ministry is a twice-weekly class for 300 children in Chuisajcaba I and II. This year, the students went to the National Championship Competition. Next year they are hoping to participate in the opening ceremony.

“It gives hope and dreams beyond food,” Rhyee explained—something important for the people if they are to have a future.

The medical ministry involves two efforts: the Bethesda Medical Clinic (with a full-time doctor and dentist) and mobile clinics to remote areas with a volunteer doctor and dentists. They also offer scholarships for medical students.

In July, South Carolina Bishop Jonathan Holston is planning to go dedicate the center.

Jamieson said Healing Guatemala is an important ministry that truly makes a difference.

“Especially in South Carolina, where we have so much obesity we have to do a hula hoop challenge, it’s hard for us to imagine (food scarcity),” Jamieson said.

But it exists in a big way there, and Rhyee and his organization are doing their best to address the problem.

Rhyee asked all to be sure to pray for their mission. Other needs include mission teams, medicine, medical equipment, scholarships, constriction teams and funds.

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