We are the Downing family; Benjamin, Charmari, Daniel (3) and Jonah (1).  Our journey began some months ago – in fact, Easter 2010 was when we first came across this opportunity – but our adventure has only just begun, arriving 11/01/11 into Guatemala…


Our motivation

When we took the first steps into enquiring about options of working overseas it was definitely a step of faith into the unknown.  However when we heard about the project in Guatemala it seemed an amazing opportunity which brought together many of our gifts and experiences.  It seemed like God had been preparing us for this next stage… even whilst we were unaware!

As we reflect on the last few years, there have been recurring themes that continue to reveal God’s call on our lives.  These include Christian discipleship, sharing life in community, leadership development, relationships and families.  We believe we can especially be used to add value and help God’s kingdom grow in communities with limited financial resources overseas. Because of who we are, how we have been shaped and the experiences we have had, we feel God has given us this incredible opportunity to live out our faith in Latin America at this time.



Guatemala is located in Central America just south of Mexico. The people of Guatemala are made up of Mayan, African and European ancestry.  It is the second poorest country in Latin America.  Alongside the economic poverty Guatemala suffers from high crime rates and political instability.

While the evangelical church has grown over the last 30 years in size, churches have focussed mainly on conversion rather than on discipleship.  This has resulted in a detachment of personal faith from daily living.


The need

Currently only 20% of Guatemalan pastors have access to any type of formalised theological education. Leaders often work in isolation and do not have access to training, personal development or support.  In addition, Guatemalan communities have acute social and economic needs and due to a lack of visionary leadership, the church has been slow to respond.


Centro Esdras (The Ezra Centre) – agents of change

Centro Esdras is based in Guatemala City.  It has a vision to transform the lives of families and communities by equipping and training Christian leaders for mission.  It is an inter-denominational project which works with leaders from across a broad spectrum of churches.  The focus is on three main areas: Biblical and theological training; leadership development, mentoring and discipleship training; community development by enabling the church to respond to local needs.


Our involvement

Latin Link, our UK sending agency has had a long-established relationship with the leaders of the Ezra Centre.  They are seeking, through our involvement, to help increase the impact of this unique and exciting project.  The focus of Benjamin’s work will be to develop the trainers by bringing additional skills and knowledge. Part of this contribution will be to help create practical and interactive theology training.  He will also be working directly with church leaders and helping them in their personal development as they discover and grow into their own leadership style.  Charmari’s role will be to support the family in this big move.  She will seek to build relationships with families in the community and project.  Our input into this crucial phase will help to strengthen the Ezra Centre.  We hope this will create a legacy of effective and well trained church leaders positively impacting Guatemala.


2 responses

27 01 2011
Julie McKinlay

Hello there family Downing! Wow… having just read your blog for the 1st time, I’m blown away by the positivity & excitment of your involvment with project Centro Esdras. I was delighted to receive an email from Lin & Peter Crumpler with your blog/web address, I couldn’t wait to log-on to catch up on all your news. Please do let me know how I can help with a financial contribution? After all that spider fighting you’ll need a relaxing massage at least!
Love & kisses for you all from The McKinlay clan XXx

3 06 2011

Oh sorry, i forgot to say: the book is:
Nouwen, Henri – “The Way of the Heart” – Darton, Longman & Todd – 1981 (reprinted 1999), ISBN: 0-232-52300-2

I would truly recommend this little book for ANYONE who longs for a deeper spirituality and is hungry for more of God! 🙂


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