Mateo* was just a child when he saw something in the streets of Guatemala City that would change the trajectory of his life. He remembers it vividly. Standing on the corner of 18th Street and 9th Avenue, he stared in disbelief at another child just like him asleep on the sidewalk.
“I could not believe [it]; that impacted me,” Mateo said.
This was the moment that set him on his journey to IJM. He became a school teacher—knowing he wanted to work with children in the very same streets he walked as a boy—but God had a different career path in mind. He later joined a local organization in Guatemala City as a casework manager helping these children for 16 years. His last year there, he started investigating trafficking cases. Then, his career as an investigator at IJM Guatemala began.
Mateo investigated cases of sexual violence against children and rescued children for more than 10 years. Now, he mentors local law enforcement, sharing with them all that he’s learned over the years: how to search for hard-to-find child victims of sexual violence and put their abusers behind bars.
“I […] began to work for IJM because I felt I had to do something different for the children. I have always been passionate since childhood about serving children because of [the] experience I had in Guatemala City,” Mateo said.
Most of the time he never gets to know them—or even see them. His job is tracking down their abusers, making sure they’re safely locked behind bars and powerless to hurt them again. So, many of the children never get to know their rescuer.
He usually doesn’t get to experience the full the fruit of his work—listening to them share their new hopes for their future, seeing them let go of their fears and trauma with each giggle and laugh, or watching them become the men and women God created them to be—but then, there are cases that give him glimpses from afar. Cases like Melita’s*, a young girl sexually abused by her father for years with no one to stop him. Until Mateo came along.
“When she arrived for her therapeutic appointments, she never knew that I worked for IJM. However, when I saw her, I saw a different child. I saw a relieved child. Her face reflected the relief and tranquility that she certainly did not enjoy for years,” Mateo said.
“As an investigator, I achieved success in 96% of my cases and supported the police in arresting perpetrators. Bringing relief through this was wonderful, but above all, seeing those boys and girls as they overcame adversity without losing their hope transformed my life.”
Mateo will never forget the little child he encountered in the streets when he was just a boy. Back then, he was disheartened in the fight for justice for the poor. But now, he’s beyond hopeful. He knows we can win this fight. He’s seen that justice for the poor is possible through Melita and the many other children who have been rescued and restored because of churches like yours.
When you support us, you climb into the trenches with us. You’re searching for children alongside Mateo and tracking down their abusers to help put them behind bars. Without you, these children couldn’t be found.
As we fight together to protect the poor from violence, will you be a source of encouragement to our staff like Mateo? Write uplifting letters and commit to pray for our staff while they make justice for the poor unstoppable.
Email churches@IJM.org to start writing your letters today. They can’t wait to hear from you!