Fifteen months and more than 2,300 miles later, Marshall County natives Jason and Kelly Hart have made a positive impact on the lives of many families in the village of San Lorenzo, El Tejar, Guatemala.

For several years the Harts felt called into missionary work, they just didn’t know exactly where. In June 2019 after selling everything they owned, they made the move to Guatemala with their two daughters, Mia and Josie. Jason had been on a mission trip to Guatemala in 2004, and Kelly had spent two months in Kenya while attending school to become a physician assistant.

The couple founded the Servant Harts, which is now 501©(3) organization, before arriving in Guatemala. The organization and mission work focuses on three pillars — healing, building and educating.

Under healing, the Harts’ primary focus is on helping malnourished babies and their mothers. Jason says 80% of children under age five are malnourished in Guatemala and over 25% of registered deaths in the country are from infant mortality. There are currently 10 babies in their program.

“We visit them weekly where we do weight checks, visit with the family, give more formula if needed and Kelly answers any questions that they might have. And if needed, we will schedule a visit with a local pediatrician,” said Jason.

Prior to COVID, the Harts would hold a weekly class with all the mothers where Kelly taught nutrition and development, while leading a Bible study. They plan to increase the program to 20 babies in the coming year.

“We have slowly expanded our program to expecting mothers. We currently have four pregnant moms we are assisting with prenatal vitamins and access to proper OB care. The goal is to help prenatally so that we may not be needed down the road for malnutrition,” Jason said. “When we can resume classes, we plan on holding classes for these moms to discuss ways to prevent malnutrition such as more scheduled feedings with nursing to increase their milk supply and high water intake along with important developmental milestones to work towards.”

The primary focus of the building pillar is the replacement of stoves in homes and updating water filters. According to Jason, a National Geographic study shows the equivalent of 400 cigarettes of smoke are inhaled per hour by using a stove that does not have a proper vent to outside the home.

To date, the Servant Harts organization has installed nine new stoves in homes with proper ventilation to the outdoors. They have budgeted to give an additional 10 stoves in the next year.

They have provided 13 water filters to village residents this year and have budgeted to give 20 more in the next year.

“Ninety% of the water in Guatemala is contaminated with fecal matter which causes parasites. This is a huge deal when you have babies who are already malnourished,” said Jason. “The mother will have a parasite, and therefore not be well enough to provide the nutrition she needs to be able to give to the baby. This is why we always ensure that our families have access to a filter and if not, we provide one.”

A long-term goal for the Harts was the creation and building of a medical clinic in the village. Construction of the clinic began three weeks ago and is expected to be finished in 10-12 weeks. It is being constructed on land donated by one of the families of a baby in their program.

The clinic will house a meeting room for classes; an exam room for Kelly and a doctor to examine the babies; a storage room for formula, medications and other supplies; and a full bathroom. The total cost of the project is $15,000 and the Harts still need $9,000 to complete it. After the clinic is completed they plan to host Bible studies, community education classes, homework help and host medical mission teams and short term clinics.

The Harts have also worked with One Way Community ONG organization helping to package and distribute food and hygiene bags to indigenous communities often overlooked. One Way focuses on education, nutrition and

See Hart/page a5

helping to improve housing in Guatemala.

At the onset of COVID, the Guatemalan government shut down the borders of the country immediately and implemented strict curfews.

{div dir=”auto”}”Guatemala has a terrible hospital system therefore the effects of the virus have been much worse than they should have. This is the main reason the government took such a hard line on shutting the country down,” said Jason. “Nearly immediately people have had to stand on the side of the road with white flags signifying they need food. Through our gracious donors we have been able to provide around $10,000 worth of food to San Lorenzo and a couple of other communities.”{/div}

An online fundraiser is currently underway to secure funding for the Hart’s mission work. Donations can be made at www.servantharts.com. Custom amounts can be donated or a $40 donation will purchase a water filter, a $60 donation will sponsor a baby monthly and $180 will purchase a stove. Blocks for the clinic building can also be purchased and donated. Fifty blocks are $25 and 100 blocks are $50. Those can be purchased at www.donorbnox.org/servantharts.

The goal for the fundraiser is $30,000.

The Hart’s journey in Guatemala can be followed at www.facebook.com/servantharts/.