Little did John and Judy Prim know, more than 25 years ago now, the impact adopting a 4-year-old girl from Guatemala would have on their lives -- and the lives of those they would serve.
The former Schaumburg couple, who now live in Guatemala and have turned their lives over to being missionaries, returned to Living Hope Church in Elk Grove Village recently -- with their daughter, Joy, who is now 30 -- where the congregation threw them a fifth successive fundraising dinner.
"When they come back here to visit their family, it's our opportunity to introduce them and what they do to more people," said Judi Sklarz of Medinah.
For the last five years, the Prims have run a residential program for adolescent girls in Guatemala. Their mission is to break the cycle of poverty by equipping them with a good education and an introduction to the Christian faith.
Currently, they have enough funds to support six girls, though they have supported as many as 12 last year, when they had more funding, the couple says.
"We work with girls who would otherwise not have an opportunity to continue their education past elementary school," Judy Prim says. "We provide them with a scholarship to begin junior high school and a residential program which offers life skills.
"The program is designed to meet their needs," she adds, "and prepare them for a bright future."
She points to these statistics: An educated girl in a Third World country will invest 90 percent of her future income in her family, compared to 35 percent for a boy.
Yet worldwide, 250 million adolescent girls live in poverty and are more likely than boys to be uneducated, married at a young age, and exposed to HIV/AIDS.
"We saw the plight of women in Guatemala," Judy Prim says. "They're the last ones to get an education; they're the last ones to be noticed."
Their devotion to Guatemala now spreads across their former church congregation.
"I have a heart for girls who are hungry to learn," Sklarz said, "and who want to get out of their home situation to be able to support themselves. They can end up getting the whole family out of the cycle of poverty."
The Prims started making mission trips to Guatemala after adopting their daughter, and eventually became orphanage directors for three years. At the time, they had five children in all, including two more adopted children from this country and two birth children, who all went to Guatemala with them.
In 1997, however, they were forced to return to home when one of their adopted children needed medical treatment.
Less than four years later, one of the young women who had lived in their orphanage, was found beaten to death by her boyfriend. Her violent death impacted the Prims greatly and riveted them once again to the plight of young women in Guatemala, especially when they learned there was no investigation into her death.
Consequently, in 2008, they left their extended family, sold their cars and home in Schaumburg and set off to provide hope for girls in Guatemala.
They haven't turned back and at the fundraiser, surrounded by nearly 150 church members, friends and supporters, they knew they made the right decision.
"It feels great," Judy Prim said. "It's always good to come back and see this kind of support. It gets bigger every year."
So do their hopes and dreams. At the dinner, they described their goal of purchasing property in Guatemala -- they currently are renting -- in order to build a school and residential facility.
The Rev. Mike Gates, lead pastor at Living Hope Church, said what many in the crowd were thinking: "It's one thing to give money, but it's another to pick up your entire life and give it to the lives of young people -- and work to make a difference."
To find out more about the Prims and their nonprofit, One Hope Ministries, visit: onehopeministries.org.