St. Joseph School student James Meyer is pictured with Guatemalan farmer Pablo Nowell at Sunny Mead Guernsey Farm in Rice Lake. The two met at a Guernsey convention in Eau Claire and connected through their shared desire to introduce Guernsey cows to Guatemala as an answer to local needs. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

Writer’s note: This is the second of a two-part article on one couple’s experience of adoption as an answer to their prayers, and their experience watching their son be an answer to prayers of families needing homes in his native country.

Adoptive parents Arlaina and Damon Meyer were raised on family farms in the Rice Lake area. They were very involved with 4-H, Future Farmers of America and the Barron County Fair.

Both Meyers served as Wisconsin State FFA officers, and both earned degrees in agriculture education at UW-River Falls. Additionally, Arlaina earned a master’s degree in her field and has taught agriculture to middle and high school students in the Cumberland School District for 18 years.

Arlaina’s family, the Gonskes, owned a dairy farm and showed their Guernseys at the Barron County Fair every year dating back to the 1920s, with the exception of two years when the fair was closed due to World War II and the polio epidemic.

In fact, the seed fund for the Meyers’ adoption process came from the 2006 sale of Arlaina’s small herd of Guernseys established through her 4H and FFA projects.

Little did anyone know at that point the role Guernseys would play – not only to make adoption a reality for the Meyers – but also to potentially give life, nutritionally and economically, to the native country of their first adopted child.

Guernseys for Guatemala

While her parents also sold off the majority of their herd, the Meyers and their two children, who live near the Gonske farm, spend a lot of time there raising 4-H market hogs and working with Guernsey show heifers.

During the June 2019 National Guernseys Convention in Eau Claire, James Meyer competed in the prepared speaking contest with a speech titled, “Guernseys for Guatemala.”

Although Guernseys are extremely rare in Guatemala, James presented on why he felt they would be the perfect fit due to their high feed efficiency, ability to tolerate a variety of climates, and high levels of protein (especially the easy-to-digest A2 protein) and beta carotene in their milk, a milk which could be particularly valued in a place with malnourished children.

During post-speech questions where he was asked about how this could be accomplished, the 13-year-old presented ideas such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer, but admitted he did not have a lead on how to put these proposals into action.

Arlaina, a woman of frequent prayer experienced in seeing God’s active providence, was not surprised when a Guatemalan dairy farmer approached the registration table she and James were working at the convention.

Pablo Nowell introduced himself to the Meyers. He had also researched Guernseys and believed bringing the cows to Guatemala would be of benefit for many of the same reasons James had presented.

In his research, Pablo had stumbled across an advertisement for the Guernsey convention in Wisconsin.

The fellow Catholic shared with James and his mother the chills he had meeting them, because of the strong sense he’d had that God wanted him to come to Wisconsin. He was realizing why God sent him to the Meyers’ table.

They later realized Nowell’s farm is in the same town where three out of five of James’ fundraised homes were built.

James met Pablo’s 14-year-old daughter, Jenna, who also wanted to help build homes for needy families in her country but was unsure of the next steps. James shared his experience of working with Food for the Poor.

While in Wisconsin, the Meyers were able to connect Nowell with key people to help him obtain Guernsey semen and embryos for his farm in Guatemala.

“It gives God great glory when we trust in his goodness, especially when things are tough,” Arlaina shared in a written version of their story for a Food for the Poor promotion.

“May we be strengthened by the nourishment he provides in the Eucharist and hope in the beautiful home he has prepared for our forever family. May this simple story remind us of God’s extravagant love and his ability to use us right where we are at.”

Community connections

There is one more providential stamp on James’ full-circle story – a child adopted out of Guatemala into his forever family. That child who, stepping outside his comfort zone, has raised funds to provide forever homes for five families in his native country.

Another connection of the Meyers family has been instrumental in advancing James’ generous and convicted initiative.

Aaron and Danielle Hendricks and their four children met the Meyers through the Anchored in Christ group in their cluster. Aaron works as the business manager for St. Joseph’s Church and School in Rice Lake and was familiar with James’ efforts. Also a member of the Rice Lake Rotary Club, Hendricks presented James’ project to the group this summer.

In September, the Rotary Club announced their commitment to fund four additional homes for families in Guatemala, totaling $30,000, over the next five years. With the motto “Service Above Self,” the organization directs their fundraising and volunteering work to help those in need in the community and across the globe.

Coincidentally, in a conversation with Nowell, Arlaina learned he also has connections with his local Rotary Club in Guatemala City. The two are trying to find ways for the two clubs to work together on their common mission.

The Meyers are “very grateful for this amazing support” and excited to see where else God leads their family through their desire to be answers to the prayers of many in Guatemala and beyond.