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By Gaspar Ajtzalam 

At the end of my 9th grade school year, I was studying in the Institute Cooperativa in the village of Paquila, Guatemala.  I knew that I would not be able to continue on to high school because my family didn’t have sufficient economic resources to support me.  So after receiving my ninth grade diploma I started working to support my family.

By January, 2010 I figured that I was going to be a farmer for the rest of my life. I was very sad because I really wanted to be a professional someday and support my mother and siblings better. My mom was doing the best she could for us, but it wasn’t enough.  My dad left the family when I was young.

My grandfather had the idea that I should become a pastor of the Methodist Church of Paquila village. He went to Santa Cruz del Quiché and met with John Wesley School director Amilcar Solórzano during the annual assembly of the Methodist Church.  My grandfather asked him about the possibility of a scholarship for me since I didn’t have the financial resources to continue my education.

Amilcar Solórzano and Fausto Natareno, the principals of the school, decided to give me an application for a scholarship so I could study Business Administration at the John Wesley School.  The idea was that the degree would one day allow me to support my family while I took on the job of pastor. [Editor’s note: rural Guatemalan Methodist pastors are not paid a salary, but serve on a volunteer basis]  On January 16, 2010 my grandfather told my mom that I had been granted scholarship so I could continue my studies at the John Wesley School. I was sad and happy at the same time; sad because I had to leave my family and my village, but happy because I knew that I could finish high school and become a professional someday.

Everything happened so fast.  Amilcar found a place for me to stay in Santa Cruz. It was very hard for me in the beginning — I was homesick and I missed my family. Amilcar told me to be strong, because I have the opportunity to be in school and someday will have a better job and be able to support my family. His words encouraged me to continue.  I saw that this was too good of an opportunity to let get away.

My grandfather gave me some money to buy my meals and for some other necessities. I made some friends, but it was a very hard adjustment.  Since my favorite sport is soccer, I was able make friends when students got together and play during our free time. This helped me feel less homesick.

John Wesley School soccer team (Gaspar is in red)

John Wesley School soccer team. Gaspar (in red) is the team captain.

I want to thank the John Wesley School, because they try to find help for students like me by working with our brothers and sisters from the United Methodist Church that support the school. I have the privilege of attending an excellent school that has very good teachers.  I am learning a lot.  I also have very good friends that have become my new family.

I also blessed because a United Methodist Church from the United States is supporting me to continue my education.  I am very grateful to Pastor Kim James and members of the Wesley UMC for their support. I know that there are a lot of young men like me that have very few resources and cannot continue with their education and have to work.

Gaspar is an 11th grader studying Business Administration at the John Wesley School in Santa Cruz del Quiché, Guatemala.

With JWS buddies

With JWS buddies (Gaspar is horizontal)