How it all began…
Al Sanchez couldn’t get the word “Guatemala” out of his mind! He didn’t know what it meant, or even where it was. But as he and his wife Marie prayed and began missionary training, the Lord sent Al to Guatemala to explore what it might mean. It didn’t take long to find out.
His heart broke as he saw so many children living on the streets—dirty, hungry, some in cardboard boxes, some trying to earn money, some begging. He knew he had to do something to change that. But what? It all seemed so impossible.
It eventually became clear to them that they should provide a home for girls in desperate need. Al and Marie were part of Immanuel’s Church, then still a small and young but very mission-minded church in Silver Spring, Maryland. Immanuel’s ordained them as missionaries and in August, 1985, sent them to Guatemala to establish the Home they had dreamed of starting.
With a van and trailer full of supplies to start the ministry, they drove through Mexico, facing many challenges, but finally arriving in Guatemala. As they descended the steep mountain, however, the hitch on the trailer broke, propelling the van and heavy trailer down the treacherous road. Al fought to maintain control of the van. When they were just about a mile from their destination in the town of Antigua, where they had arranged to rent a house, the van suddenly hit the side of the mountain. It overturned, and Marie was killed instantly! The date was September 6, 1985. Al, in a state of shock, sobbed, “Why, Lord? Why?”
When we heard the news back at Immanuel’s Church, we sobbed the same thing. The best answer we could find was: “…unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24, NKJV).
Marie was gone, and Al felt that their dream had died with her. When he returned home to the States, he felt he would never go back to Guatemala again. But God had other plans. While Al was recuperating with family, friends, and Immanuel’s Church after his tragic loss, the Lord reminded him that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29, NKJV) and that he had to go back to fulfill his calling. He was willing, but knew that he would need help. He couldn’t do it alone.
After receiving assurance from the Lord that the necessary help would be provided, Al prepared again to return to Guatemala, leaving in February, 1986, just five months after Marie’s death. With faith similar to Noah’s, one of the first things he did after arriving in Guatemala was to begin building bunk beds for the girls who were to come.
In July, 1986, Al received the first girl through the Guatemalan Courts. He had some Guatemalan staff, but still not the promised long-term help. It never occurred to me, Cindy Miller, that I might be one answer to God’s promise. But after a long struggle and confirmation from the Lord, I went to Guatemala in September, 1986. As a concerned member of Immanuel’s Missions Council, I hoped to help in whatever meager way I could for three months, and to try to find some long-term help for the Home.
God’s timing, however, was different from mine! Instead of three months, I stayed for 17 years, serving as co-founder and Assistant Director! In 2003, an experienced couple was found to help the Guatemalans we had trained by then to run the Home, and we were able to return to the States—Al to Colorado and I to Florida--to get urgently-needed medical attention for major health issues.
Eventually, for several years we were able to attend the Home’s annual Foundation meetings in Guatemala. For health reasons, Al moved to a warmer climate. During his final years, he lived in the beautiful continuing-care community of Advent Christian Village in Dowling Park, Florida, surrounded by loving Christian friends, pastors, and missionaries. With the girls always on his mind and in his heart, he went to be with his Lord on June 30, 2009, shortly before his 80th birthday. Al was a faithful, humble, and simple servant of his Heavenly Father. Like Abraham, he simply “believed God.” Some of the legacy he left can be seen on the rest of this website.
I continue living in the wonderful residential community adjacent to Christian Retreat in Bradenton, Florida. If you would like more information about the history and growth of the Home, it can be found in the book I wrote, entitled The Home That God Built. It is available in both paperback and Kindle versions and can be ordered online at www.outskirtspress.com or www.Amazon.com.
With gratitude to God and to all who have made Prince of Peace Home for Girls a reality,