Chris Marshall (DMin LGP '11) and Resurgam Coffee works for the uprising of hope in La Limonada
Every day, an average of 14.5 murders occur in Guatemala City. Most happen within the ghetto La Limonada. Lacking government, police, a medical system, and other components of infrastructure, this one-mile by half-mile patch of land inhabited by 60,000 is the most dangerous slum in all Central America. It is also the place that has a firm hold on the heart of DMin graduate Chris Marshall.
Chris and his wife, Nicki, are cofounders of Ordinary Community, a network of house churches based in Cincinnati. Through connections with friends working in Central America, Chris and Nicki learned of La Limonada, and the slum immediately captivated their church community and became the focus of their financial support.
Today, the Guatemalan-based NGO Vidas Plenas and the U.S.-based nonprofit Lemonade International (named for La Limonada, which means “the lemonade”) partner in guiding La Limonada out of poverty, violence and injustice. Currently, Lemonade International operates three academies, providing education up through the seventh-grade level for more than 500 sponsored children. Students, 80 percent of whom are sexually abused, also receive food, hygiene items, vitamins, medicine, access to a psychologist, and opportunities to hear the gospel.
Marshall has felt stirred in recent years to seek other means of generating support for Lemonade International to make it less donor-dependent. Because of Marshall’s entrepreneurial background, as well as his experience walking the slums of Africa and learning about sustainable community development as part of his DMin, the idea of building a Guatemalan small business gripped him.
Since coffee is Guatemala’s second-largest export, Marshall saw coffee as a prime prospect for a Guatemala-centric industry. “I don’t have a background in coffee,” Marshall says, “but … I prayed, ‘God, if you want a company that looks like this, it’s up to you.’”
With the business idea still new, Marshall returned to La Limonada in April 2016. There, he met with two young men, ages 15 and 16, who had gone through the academy. Since finishing, they reverted to the gang life, and as Marshall chatted with them they divulged they didn’t expect to live longer than a few more days because of barrio violence. One of the young men noticed a tattoo on Marshall’s arm and felt a sense of connection, as he had stories inked on his own body. Aware of his interest, Marshall rolled up his sleeve to reveal a tree and the Latin word “resurgam.” “Resurgam means ‘I shall rise again,’” Marshall told the young men. He shared that “in Christ, death is not an end, but an invitation to more life.” This truth brought Marshall’s translator to tears, and Marshall could see hope sinking into the young men.
Marshall claims that, as he then turned to leave, the Holy Spirit told him the name of his company would be Resurgam. “But I don’t have a company, only an idea,” Marshall responded. From that point forward, Marshall became keenly aware of God’s provision and favor, creating a way for Resurgam.
While building partnerships with Guatemalan coffee growers, a U.S. roaster, and an increasing base of customers, Marshall became inspired with a new hope: seeing the La Limonada academies and Guatemalan colleges offer a coffee-industry vocational track, to give students a real alternative to gang life and a means of moving out of depressed living conditions.
Marshall smiles and says he hopes a mug of Resurgam coffee will help people rise in the morning. But then he becomes serious and picks up where he left off with an earlier story. On the day of Resurgam’s official launch, Chris received word that one of the two young men deeply moved by the message of “I shall rise again” had been killed. Marshall pauses. “I’m definitely grieving,” he says quietly. Then, he affirms his commitment that this young man be remembered as part of the inspiration behind Resurgam, and a driving force in the prayer that La Limonada rise up as a place of opportunity, safety and hope.
- Sierra S. Neiman