Mi Especial Tesoro or the English translation “My Special Treasure” (MST) is an all girl’s orphanage in Chimaltenango, Guatemala which is about an hour and a half southwest of Guatemala City. This private Christian organization was founded by Carol and her late husband Cesar Alvarez to provide care for children abandoned after their orphanage in Guatemala City closed.
MST presently cares for 14 girls ranging in ages from 8 to 23 years. These girls have been removed from their homes of origin by the Guatemalan legal system and MST provides a safe, loving environment for them to live, learn, and grow. Located on a small gated compound, the girls share four to five person dormitory style bedrooms, take part in daily devotionals, and eat meals together in a common room. Each girl is responsible for washing their own clothes by hand as well as to helping prepare meals and performing daily chores around the compound.
Most of the MST girls attend school at the Education Center nearby. The Education Center is a Christian school ministry that Carol’s daughter Vanesa and Vanesa’s husband Luis launched to serve children from the nearby Chimaltenango Dump. Some of the girls attend a separate Saturday only high school program and work on their studies during the week.
Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (CPC) began a relationship with MST in 2010 through an intermediary American Christian organization. A sponsorship program for each of the MST girls was established and CPC started conducting annual mission’s trips to MST. Focusing on a Survive, Thrive, and Succeed development model, CPC embarked on a journey to develop genuine and real personal relationships with the girls and staff of MST while also providing for their physical needs. Additionally, Cornerstone began training mission’s team members to serve MST using a broad development model from the book When Helping Hurts by Steven Corbett and Brian Fikkert (2009). The When Helping Hurts model strives to suppress first world country domination patterns and emphasizes the importance of serving from a place of humility. Missionaries are taught to have an awareness of their individual brokenness, to understand the gift of reconciliation through Jesus Christ, and to share this gift with others in their own brokenness and suffering.
In 2016, a two-person CPC MST ministry team was created. The ministry team has grown over the years to nine active members plus a part-time missionary on the ground in Guatemala, Nestor Morales. CPC currently sends two, 8-10 person mission trips to MST per year - one in January and one in June. Periodic leadership trips to investigate new partnering opportunities are also conducted.
Two years ago, MST and CPC co-launched a Transition Home program on the MST property for girls aging-out of the orphan care system; but, still in need of more independent skills training. One year ago, CPC decided to work directly with MST without an intermediary organization and hence, the ministry team has completely taken over the relational, organizational, and financial responsibilities of working with MST.