About a father who lost his son

This past February, I had the privilege of meeting Tom Heaton in Panajachel, Guatemala, where he lives and works as a United Methodist Pastor from the Indiana conference. I had known about Tom and his work for a few years through my membership in online adoption groups.

Tom is the adoptive father to two sons, Jose and Manuel, both born in Guatemala. Several years ago, Tom started “Mayan Traditions,”  featuring fair-trade crafts to benefit orphanages and child-related ministries in Guatemala. In 2008, he was appointed business administrator of Project Salud y Paz, a United Methodist-related ministry that operates clinics and a preschool in the Guatemalan highlands. Last year, Tom formed Mission Guatemala, a nonprofit organization founded to improve the quality of life for the country’s indigenous population. For the past decade, Tom has dedicated himself to Guatemala and its people.

Last night, I received the news that Tom had suffered a terrible tragedy: On Saturday, his oldest son, Jose, was shot and killed in Guatemala City. As of this morning, I have no further details. Like all who know Tom, I have mourned his loss since learning of it.

Just now, I went on the Mission Guatemala website. In a post dated May 17, Tom writes that he is often asked why he chooses to do his work in Guatemala. He says:

“My first response is because I have two sons adopted from Guatemala. It is their home country and a country with great need. Fundamental issues in Guatemala exist on a scale not seen in developed countries.”

Tom describes some of the challenges. He cites rates of infant mortality (55 per 1,000 live births), poverty (75% of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line), and literacy (average schooling of the indigenous population is 1.9 years). Tom notes, “People struggle to get by every single day here.”

Tom concludes his post with these statistics regarding human rights:

“Guatemala is one of the world’s most violent countries. There were 43 murders per 100,000 people last year, according to a government estimate. Charges are filed in only 2% of all murders.”

When Tom wrote these words, how could he ever have imagined his own son would one day fall victim to such violence? Please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers. May Jose rest in peace.



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6 Responses to “About a father who lost his son”

  1. Tia Cookie says:

    Our thoughts and prayers are with Tom, his family and the people of Guatemala.
    Love, Tia Cookie

  2. Jessica says:

    Thank you so much, Tia C. Love to you, too.

  3. cynthia rovero says:

    it is so sad that jose passed; our prayers will go out to this family who does so much for the guatemalan community.

  4. Jessica says:

    hoping that our sympathy and prayers give tom and his family some small measure of comfort. thank you, cynthia.

  5. Kelli Conlow says:

    Tom and Manuel, I am filled with lead this morning as I woke up and tried to believe the staggering news of Jose being brutally pulled out of this life. I have no words which will give you any true comfort, I know that. I will keep you both in my daily prayers and I am sending along a little donation in honor of your beautiful son and brother, so someone else may be helped. I can’t even imagine that there is any way to move beyond this grief and yet I will ask that, in time, you are somehow able to think of Jose will happiness, although it may always be wrapped in the sadness of his absence.

  6. Jessica says:

    Kelli, you have expressed beautifully how so many of us feel. Thank you.

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