In this episode of Inspiring Stewards, Nathan Jones talks to Gladys Güitz from Guatemala. She talks about moving from being merely religious to truly living a life that seeks to glorify God. This led her to co-founding Potter's House Association, which ministers to the poor in Guatemala City. She reminds us to remember our identity in Christ and to follow God’s timing and pace for our lives.
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The music is Concerto a’ 4 Violini No 2 by Telemann played on classical guitar by Jon Sayles. Published by Exzel Music Publishing.
Today, I head south to Guatemala to introduce you to Gladys Güitz. Gladys is co-founder of the Potter's House Association, an outreach to those living in extreme poverty in Guatemala City's trash dump. A tremendous story of stewardship that I'm thrilled for you to hear.
My name is Nathan Jones and I'll be serving as your host on today's episode of the Inspiring Stewards podcast.
Glady, thank you for taking time to be with me today. I'm really looking forward to this time together. Let's just jump into it. Give us a sense of who you are, where you're from, maybe a little bit of your story of growing up
Thank you, Nathan, for this opportunity. I was born in Guatemala, a place in Central America. It’s not part of Mexico. Sometimes people think that Guatemala is part of Mexico.
I have been married for 25 years to the love of my life, Edgar Güitz. Serving together, we fell in love. I’m a third generation Christian. My parents dedicated my life to God, putting me in His hands, trusting His plans, and showing me with their lives how to follow and serve Jesus.
My name is Gladys, in honor of a missionary in Guatemala. My mom wanted me to be like her, a servant of God. I studied psychology and the Lord called me to serve the poor people in my country.
In 1986, the Lord lead me to cofound the Potter’s House Association with my friend, Lisbeth Piedrasanta.
That’s wonderful. You know, Guatemala is a beautiful country. I’ve been there and I can picture Guatemala City and going out and visiting the ruins. What a beautiful, beautiful place. Share with us, Gladys, a little bit about the story of how you came to a personal faith in Christ.
Well, as I said, I grew up in a Christian home. I thought I was a believer. I attended the church. I was a Sunday Bible school teacher. I thought I was a believer, but losing my mom when I was a girl of 15 was extremely painful. That pain led me to start questioning God. But instead of having a mom, I became a mom, helping my dad raise my sister and 4 brothers.
When I finished high school, I went as a counselor to a camp for children. The preacher said that even though you are a camp counselor, you may not have received Jesus Christ. That day, the Lord revealed to me that I was just a religious person. I was a sinner too. So I was 18 years old when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.
Wow. What impact did that decision have in your life then following that?
First of all, I understood that what is important is a personal relationship with Jesus. I understood I needed to make any effort to please God. Then, I understood the Holy Spirit advising, and He’s the one who gave me the power to live the Christian life. No more religiosity. I read the Bible as a way to talk with Him and to hear from Him, not just information for my soul.
And [I] also understood that He was the true vine. I am a branch and I can do nothing without Him. He has a purpose for my life, and He gave me an identity as a child of God. And I live to glorify Him.
That’s beautiful because it brings us to this next topic I want to jump into with you. It’s 2021 now. How does the Lord have you involved in His Kingdom? And what I’m excited about is the way that, as we were preparing for this, you framed the importance of who we are over what we do and how that has impacted your journey. So give us a little bit of an overview of what role God has you in His Kingdom and how that fits into, kind of, the bigger question of calling in your life.
Maybe I would like to explain that I say that God called me to serve the poor people in Guatemala. When I celebrated [the] 25th anniversary serving the Lord, I asked to the Lord, “God, you know I don’t have the same energy that I had in the past. What do you want for me to do?” Because I think don’t have… I don’t know. I was in the transition of my ministry delegating to the next generation.
And after working hard as a pioneer breaking new ground and co-founder, I talked to the Lord and He, the Lord told me this verse from the Bible in Psalm 71:18: tell the next generation about His mighty acts to all who are to come.
At that moment, I did not completely understand how He wanted me to do that, but at least I knew He had a plan. After that confirmation, the Lord provided all the resources and all the tools and I needed to give the story. I did that through writing a book. The name of the book is “Hidden Treasures: Finding God in Unexpected Places.”
It’s during this time I think the Lord confirmed [to] me that He’s more interested in what I am in Christ and not in what I do. Of course, He called us to do something in His purpose in the Kingdom. But in this transition time, I think God just brought to my mind that what was important was that He was transforming my life.
Because when you are in a ministry, you can lose your sight. You can do many things. Especially working with poor people, you see a lot of suffering and you work very hard. You work very hard. But after that transition, the Lord told me He was more interested in who I am.
Hmm, that is powerful. You know, it reminds me of something a friend said recently about: in ministry, sometimes it’s like we’re the friend carrying the sick on a mat to the feet of Jesus. And sometimes we switch roles and we’re the one on the mat. And when we don’t have that right perspective of the importance of who we are in light of Jesus, we can burnout. This is such a great reminder to keep that ordered correctly in our life.
Share with us maybe a little bit about Potter’s House. What work does Potter’s House do?
Potter’s House is a ministry, a Christ-centered organization, that believes in the Bible and its values and promises. We work with people who are in poverty in Guatemala. We begin working with the people who live in the garbage dump and work in the garbage dump.
And after 20 years, the Lord has moved us to replicate the same model to other parts of our country. 67% of our country is in poverty and after the pandemic, it has been growing, the amount. When we approach poverty, we approach poverty in a holistic way, in not just working in an economical poverty. We talk about 8 forms of poverty.
When we start serving the poor people, we start thinking, “Oh, they are just poor in the economic area.” But we believe that change can start from inside to outside. And also we work through 5 programs, as I said, it’s a holistic way. Family development, education, health and nutrition, micro-enterprise, and community development.
We empower the poor people. We call them “treasures” because people were calling in the past “scavengers” because they were working in the garbage dump. We call them “treasures” because they have God’s image. Our tendency is to think that they have no value. But we recognize that even though they are in those circumstances, they are human beings created by God. So this is what we do.
A powerful tie, obviously, to the title of your book “Hidden Treasures: Finding God in Unexpected Places” and we think about the work of ministering alongside those who are living in the dump – I mean, that image for someone that lives in Denver, Colorado is just… it’s so powerful every time I think about it. But what a powerful Kingdom work you are doing. Thank you for sharing a bit more.
So this is the Inspiring Stewards podcast, Gladys. How does the concept of stewardship inform your life today? I can think about many ways, but share with us what comes to mind for you.
Well, maybe first of all I need to recognize that everything that I have comes from God. I belong to God. One of the lessons that I learned working through Potter’s House was that ministry is not mine. It’s His ministry it belongs to Him. It doesn’t belong to me. So, that’s very important to understand.
I believe also that even when the times change, the situations can vary, but God’s truth doesn’t change. Many life is found in Jesus and I find when I surrendered my life to Him. My life belongs to Him and He is the Lord. I am just a steward of everything God has placed on this earth. We honor Him when we optimize the resources He has placed in our hands.
That’s such a good perspective. You know, we could go to so many different areas of your life and your story. But let me just kind of zoom back a little bit next. How are you seeing God at work in your local context and maybe more broadly around the world?
I think everybody believes that this pandemic has changed our lives forever. Wherever you are in the third world or in a developed country, all of us are facing different challenges. Our world is not the same after a pandemic.
You see more people in poverty, malnutrition, homelessness, unemployment, and despair. As we face the present, it is crucial to spend time with God. I believe that God is testing our faith. We need to decide: will we trust Him or not?
Even though there are things that I don’t understand – for example, Guatemala has 17 million inhabitants, 67% live in poverty, 29% in extreme poverty, 71% work in informal economy. So, what do I see in this situation that has increased after the pandemic?
I really feel overwhelmed and it’s a lot of suffering. I have been getting tired and I’m emotional and my spiritual life, maybe drained. But one of the verses the Lord has brought to me, to my life, is what Jesus said. Jesus said, “If you are tired, carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest.”
So I think in these times, I need to come to Jesus and just hear what He wants me to do and rest because it’s a lot of suffering that I can see around. A lot of challenges. But I think I need to trust God and spend more time hearing what He wants me to do.
That is such a good reminder for those listening who are laboring in the Kingdom all over the world to remember that we are yoked up with Jesus and we can rely on His strength. What a good word. As we wrap up, Gladys, any final thoughts you’d leave us with today?
Well, I just wanted to repeat what I said before that God is more interested in shaping our character rather than in what we do. And all the experiences that God brings into our lives to make us more like Jesus, we need to focus on that. Not to be a people pleaser but to please God.
In the middle of many changes in this world, we need to understand who we are in Jesus, trust in Him. He has plans for us and He is our Emmanuel, God with us. And let Him set the pace. I [am] reading Roman 3:28, “Our lives get in step with God by letting him set the pace.”
I think we want to, maybe we want to do many things. We see a lot of needs. But what is more important is to follow God’s pace in this life.
What a great word to finish! Gladys, thank you so much for your time today.