In a white stone church in Cotzal, a remote village high in the hills of Guatemala, I gazed upon a work of art as powerful as any I have seen at the Vatican in Rome, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and the scores of other art museums I have toured over the years of my life.
Many days now, I find myself meditating on this work of art created by Mayans to express their pain, their pain caused by oppression from people in power. In the center, a bloody crucifix shows Jesus, his face hanging in shame and pain yet shining with compassion. Symmetrically surrounding the pain of Christ, small brown crosses – forming an artistic pattern – bear the names of Mayans. Under each name on each cross, the artist included the date and type of unjust suffering: disappeared, assassinated, kidnapped, murdered, massacred.
We are all guilty, I think. Jesus, surrounded by our suffering, chooses to be with us in it. He endured pain for us – and like us – at the hands and actions of sinful men and women. Our sin grieves Him. His forgiveness hangs in the center of our sin and pain.
Leo Tolstoy, in his nonfiction book What Is Art?, states: “The task of art is enormous. Through the influence of real art…peaceful cooperation of man which is now obtained by external means by our law courts, police…etc.…should cause violence to be set aside.” Hopefully, this powerful art will move many hearts to care for the Ixil people and to eschew violence of all kinds.
The mission of the Nicolas Fund for Education (NFE) is to provide a quality education for the children and grandchildren of the Ixil people, those who suffered and created this true art.
Just this January, NFE opened the Nicolas Christian School in Nebaj for middle and high school students from the nearby Ixil villages of La Bendicion and La Esperanza. The government of Guatemala provides education only to the sixth grade. Over the past four years, NFE paid for students from these two villages to attend private middle and high schools in Nebaj. These schools met for only half of each day – typical in Guatemala – and the schools continually asked our students for more money for projects, events, and so on.
The school we have now opened provides a full-day education for our students.
At this time, we are renovating a Sunday school building in return for weekday use for our academic school. We plan to create a science lab, upgrade the rooms into workable classrooms, and complete improvements to the facility as a whole. Our goal is to give these students an excellent education.
We are excited about the impact our school can have on these children’s lives and on the future of Guatemala! We invite you to join us.