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How Taekwondo and chickens are changing lives in Guatemala


Luke Rhyee grew up in South Korea and dreamed of becoming a physician. He loved God and wanted to help others. After earning his medical degree and practicing for several years, Luke decided to attend Duke Divinity School in North Carolina where he earned a Master of Divinity degree.

Luke became a pastor and served a church in South Carolina before feeling called to cross-cultural ministry. After participating in multiple short-term mission trips to Guatemala and witnessing the devastating poverty and lack of medical care residents faced, Luke made the decision to serve in Guatemala full time.

He joined TMS Global and founded Healing Guatemala, which was designed to combine his passions for physical and spiritual wholeness. The organization provides medical care, a feeding program, and shares the gospel with the people of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

In recent years, Luke’s team has reached out to other areas of Guatemala. Many of the children in Chuisajcaba Uno and Dos, two small villages in Guatemala, suffer from extreme poverty.

“When we started working in these villages, we were primarily concerned with feeding as many hungry children as possible,” said Luke. “After serving there for a year, we realized that hopelessness was also something we needed to address. These children did not have dreams, hope, or confidence. They were oppressed by the power of the extreme poverty in which they lived.”

Three years ago, Luke’s team began teaching Taekwondo classes to any students who attended public schools in these two villages. “We wanted to build their confidence” said Luke. This year, some of the children from Chuisajcaba Uno and Dos competed at Guatemalan National Championship, and two of the children earned medals!

As the children grew in confidence, Luke also wanted to address the effects of malnutrition in the villages. A generous sponsor donated 400 chickens to families in Chuisajcaba Uno and Dos. Each family received several chickens, which are able to provide each family member with one egg every day. Having sufficient nutrition is especially important for brain development, which occurs primarily in childhood. Luke’s team also provides two meals a week for children in these villages.

In addition to addressing the issues of hunger and self-esteem, Luke’s team wanted to encourage the children to receive an education. “Before we started serving in these villages, the attendance rate at the schools was less than 50 percent, and less than five percent of graduates went on to middle school. Many children were sent to pick coffee beans at nearby plantations to help support the family. Currently, the attendance rate is nearly 100 percent!” said Luke. “Also, 14 students who graduated from Chuisajcaba Uno and 10 students from Chuisajcaba Dos will attend middle school!” Luke is looking for sponsors to help some of these children attend school.

Luke and his team took the 24 elementary students who had recently graduated to visit the zoo in Guatemala City. “We wanted the children to see more of the world than the village they have rarely left,” said Luke. “We want them to be able to expand their horizons and dream big dreams! With God’s help, these children will be able to rise above the poverty that marks their young lives, receive an education, and serve the Lord.”