Eric Payton and David Nichols and their families met at church, when sitting in nearby pews, the families noticed they had something in common — children adopted from Guatemala.
“Our hearts are in Guatemala because our kids are from there,” Nichols said.
For 15 years, Nichols has completed short-term mission trips with Owensboro Christian Church to support Casa Bernabe, a Christian orphanage in Guatemala City that serves over 150 children who have endured difficult living situations.
When Payton and his family began attending Owensboro Christian Church, he noticed that the Nichols family, who was sitting in front of him, also had an adopted Guatemalan child. Through the connection, Payton began going on the mission trips six years ago, and in early 2019, the two started the endeavor to build their own nonprofit organization.
“We wanted the mission vision of short-term and how we could reach more people,” Nichols said.
And, Payton added, they also wanted to sustain their mission with the at-risk population at Casa Bernabe.
Both men hold full-time sales positions, and neither had experience in forming a nonprofit, but both felt called to a faith-based ministry at the Guatemalan orphanage.
In August, their nonprofit, 4them4him, became official.
“This enabled us to do a lot of outreach [prior to this year’s trip] — who we are, what we do — and fundraising activities,” Payton said.
Both men said that 80 percent of Guatemalans live in extended family housing. One of the places they focused their local outreach when the team went in November was a home the mission team before them renovated by adding a second room and concrete flooring.
Payton and Nichols said there were 12 people living in one room prior to the additional room. 4them4him was able to add concrete flooring to the main room and to donate bunk beds to the home.
“To understand the impact you have — getting 12 people out of one room, getting them out of the mud, elevating them — just basic needs,” Payton said.
The nonprofit’s goal this year is to help more families when they return in November 2020.
Casa Bernabe orphanage sits at 6,000 feet elevation on the side of a mountain. The 13-acre campus has a medical clinic that is also open to the local community, a school and nine houses with house parents. Fifteen to 20 same-aged children live in these homes and as a family, cook, eat and play together.
Within Casa Bernabe’s walls, the adults work to help children understand the idea of family. Some of the children are orphans, some were neglected, some were abused, and some are waiting to return to their biological homes.
There is also transitional housing for those who age out of Casa Bernabe. Prior to this, from ages 14-18, children take classes to be trained in an occupation or trade so they have skills when they leave, including beauty school, industrial arts, mechanics and culinary arts.
“The goal is they can move out, but they also have a connection with Casa Bernabe,” Payton said.
4themforhim’s project is still Casa Bernabe, but they are also interested in moving outside the walls of the orphanage as they did in November.
While on the trip, which is usually a week to 10 days, the team can do as much or as little work as they want. The leaders described people who have gone and “just rocked babies” to those that play soccer with the children at the orphanage. There is no physical requirement for missionaries who go with the nonprofit other than a nurturing heart to be with children.
“Everybody should go once, but it is not everybody’s calling,” Nichols said of those interested.
Payton said the nonprofit also has a goal of reducing the financial burden on those who are called to go. Currently the cost is around $1,500, but most of that is airfare and baggage, he said.
“We want the money [raised] to have a purpose,” Nichols said of all fundraising efforts.
Payton said that the saying, “It takes a village,” is true because every member of the team has a group of people who are supporting them in the background through fundraising efforts and a basic support network.
Using local business and individual contacts, 4them4him is hoping to grow the nonprofit to be self-sustaining and even add another trip to Casa Bernabe annually.
“Our goal is to make it as big as we pray about and as big as God wants it to be,” Payton said.