Loving Our Neighbors Near and Far: Gio from Casa Hogar
As an orphan, Gio has no memory of his parents. He was admitted to the Casa Hogar orphanage at 7 years old, and there, God changed his life. Now, Gio is an inspiring young adult dedicated to changing the lives of many young people.
I met Gio at Casa Hogar in 2017. This past summer, our paths crossed again; only this time, we were 1,300 miles away from the orphanage. Gio and I were serving together in Honduras on Orangewood’s medical mission team. I witnessed his love of Christ and service in action. I got to see him share his story with us, help the people who came to us, and play with the kids in the villages, all while getting to know our team.
At Orangewood, one of our values is “Neighbors near and far.” This value is pivotal to our relationships with others, whether that’s our next-door neighbor or someone who lives across the globe. It means that we cultivate deep, meaningful relationships with all people from all different walks of life, to further God’s kingdom.
Gio’s story is an inspiration. He took advantage of the opportunity to transform his life at Casa Hogar, with faith and trust in the Lord. He finished high school, studied electro-mechanical engineering, and now studies to be a pastor while working at Casa Hogar to mentor young people. His life is proof of God’s presence, His lovingkindness, and caring hand over us.
A Closer Walk With God
When asked about his relationship with the Lord, Gio said that at 18 years old, he felt his life was empty, and that everything to do with God was just a religion, not a relationship.
For many, religion can be seen as a daunting task. But there is a difference between religion and having a relationship with God. Jesus’ mission was to deliver us from sin and open the door for us to have a personal relationship and story with our heavenly father. Here at Orangewood, we long to open our doors and invite every single person into that life-changing story of Jesus.
Like many of us, Gio felt lost, lonely, and like he had not found a forever family that would welcome him.
“Without purpose, I tried to fill that void with different things, but nothing worked,” Gio said.
In 2015, Gio realized that there is a savior who knows him, who knows his heart, and who loves him more than anybody else ever could. He knew that God had a plan and purpose for him.He found comfort in scripture, especially Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“He touched my life and told me that I am His son and that I am loved, He gave me His word, and I know that I am saved, that God is my father, and in Him, there is eternal life,” Gio said.
Gio said that he found his identity in that verse. His faith and the new relationship with God gave him peace even with the unanswered questions about his past.
Called To Serve
God’s plan can be a scary thing: often, it’s unknown, or could be something we don’t think we want, but ultimately, it is a beautiful and perfect plan. Gio realized that God’s plan had called him to devote his life to ministry and serve others. He also shared his hope to take a course for planting churches outside of Acapulco.
“I love sharing the love of God, and that is why I am currently studying at seminary to become a pastor,” Gio said. “I have also been working with young people in my local church for more than five years, and it has been a great place to share and teach the good news of Jesus and what he has done in my life.”
Gio wants to lead others in ministry and help them discover their gifts and talents, as his own gifts and talents from God have led him to a fruitful place in his life. He studies hard, and has mentors, teachers, and ministers that invest in him and help guide him the way he hopes to guide others.
A Family in Orangewood
It is our honor to be able to send people from Orangewood to places all over the world, where we cultivate new relationships and experience different cultures, all while sharing the love of God. Gio said that his experience with Orangewood Church was unlike anything he had ever experienced before.
“My first interaction with Orangewood was very special,” Gio said. “The love they have given us is impressive; even during the pandemic, I thank them because we can find a family in them.”
The kindness and compassion that Pastor Joe Creech, and Orangewood members, Rita Creech, Dawn Bradley, Janet Yoast, Paul Yoast, and Al Pascale showed him nearly brings him to tears when he remembers it. Gio said that these families taught him that nothing’s impossible when you serve God.
He is also very grateful for his sponsor, who has supported and encouraged him. Gio said he prays for each person at Orangewood, and is confident that God will bless them even more.
Here at Orangewood, we are truly blessed to have a community all around the world. We are blessed to get to know people like Gio, people who show us what the Kingdom of God looks like here on Earth.
Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: “You must love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). What an honor it is to have relationships with our neighbors, no matter if they’re one mile away or hundreds and thousands of miles away. This is the power of God.
God has richly blessed us. Our response to this generosity is to take care of our neighbors, near and far. To truly walk alongside them, learn from them, and cultivate relationships for the Kingdom.
— Johannah Huber, Communications Coordinator