In Naranjo, Guatemala, a jungle town on the Río San Pedro, taverns outnumber churches five to one, truckers keep the prostitutes in business, and traffickers in Salvadorian refugees and wildlife keep the river guides employed. It is Guatemala’s last military outpost before the Mexican border, and no Sunday picnic. “This is a town of loggers and oil companies,” said one resident who preferred not to be named. “They are here to exploit, not build a community.”

Enter Vincent Pescatore, 28, a young man from New Jersey who cut his teeth in ministry helping Manhattan drug addicts and prostitutes as a volunteer with Father Bruce Ritter’s Covenant House. Over two years ago, after a stint at Covenant House’s orphanage in Antigua, Guatemala, Vincent and his 24-year-old Guatemalan bride, Zulena, launched Finca del Niño (Farm of the Child) across the river from Naranjo’s bars. Through the help of a Guatemalan businessman, the farm now provides a home and occupation for 24 abandoned boys and girls, holds school for more than 70 local children, is 70 percent funded by local contributions, and is run, apart from the Pescatores, by nationals. A “missions strategy” as the Pescatores would envision it includes loving needy neighbors abroad in a way that breeds self-respect and independence, that encourages those helped to love themselves and believe, in turn, that God could love them, too.

A Godly, Contagious Vision

Pescatore sits in a local cantina, decorated with posters of rock idol Madonna clad in leopard skin, and Nastassja Kinski in nothing but a boa constrictor. About 5′11″, with delicate features nearly hidden behind a bushy brown beard, Pescatore is looking anything but religious in jeans and an orange T-shirt. He begins to paint a ...

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