59 Years Preparing Young People for Christian Service and Leadership
59 Years Preparing Young People for Christian Service and Leadership

Our History

HOW ICTHUS STARTED - by John Shackelford

John Shackelford & Don Weisbrod standing in front of a painting showing Mount Zion

You may be interested in my adding my bit to the history as I remember it. God really is the author, and we were only tools in His hands. I am grateful for Don Weisbrod and how beautifully and enthusiastically he responded that summer of 1964 at Mont Zion in Guatemala. I marvel at the wonderful way God has blessed and prospered the ideas and concerns for the youth of Latin America. I marvel at the way Don picked up on the ideas, looked for leaders in the Spanish world and developed a program that has been responsible for winning so many youth in Latin America to Christ and the Christian life.  The spiritual growth in so many youth in Latin America is a great blessing from God..


When Don spent the summer at Mont Zion, he was not happy with busy work we gave him and asked us to give him a job that he would be fulfilling and he could give himself to that summer. As we discussed his background and experience, we found that he was a veteran Boy Scout with could serve as a background for a new program for the junior youth in the Church.


There was a crying need to have a program that would be interesting, fulfilling, evangelistic, and serve others. The idea of a step by step manual Similar the Boy Scout Manual that would guide the members in making a personal decision to become a Christian and guide in the spiritual growth through the years was on his mind. That way one could then graduate to Christian Endeavor and other more “grown up” activities that would meet the needs and interests of the maturing youth in the church. In our discussions, the Lord gave us the concept of the Christian Soldiers Equipment and the idea of “I’m Third”.


All of these Don developed into a program that today we know as Icthus. I loaned Don the electric typewriter in my office at the camp and some of Mount Zion’s stationary to put down his these ideas a now he could make it work. The office files may still have that statement purpose of what Icthus should be.


I thank God for your vision and response to the urging of the Holy Spirit in a program that was for the junior age children in Latin America.


Note: On March 29, 2014 John went to be with the Lord.  Click Here to learn about his life and legacy.  

The Spark that Ignited a Ministry - by Don Weisbrod

John Shackelford and Don Weisbrod (left to right). Picture taken on July 20, 2013 - the 49th anniversary of Icthus.

This is a special month for Icthus and for me personally. Forty-nine years ago a spark ignited this ministry and it has reached well over 100,000 young people. I recall that day, July 20, 1964, vividly. 


The setting:  I was 21 and serving as a summer short-term missionary from San Diego First Presbyterian at Mount Zion Christian Camp in Guatemala, under the direction of missionary John Shackelford.


The spark:  One day I asked John what I might do to better help during the summer.  The next day,  July 20th, he said,


“Don, why don’t you use your Scouting and Sunday school experience to start a Christian, club-type program for kids.”


How many times have you received suggestions from people … things they think you should do?  If you are like me, countless!!!   The problem though is that no matter how good the suggestions are, you can’t do everything others recommend.

A painting of the beautiful Mount Zion Christian Camp in Guatemala showing the dining hall with Volcano Agua in the background. John Shackelford, the founder of this camp, gave me the challenge of my life in front of the dining hall on July 20, 1964.

But John’s recommendation was different.  You see, I had a vivid image in my mind of the need of Guatemalan children for better Christian education. 


The Image:  The image in my mind came from a short excursion that John took us on (a small group of short-term missionaries who were helping at the camp).  We went to a humble church in the pueblo of Amatitlan, a short distance away. 


 When we arrived I was shocked by the dismal Sunday school for children.  Thirty or so children, adolescents, and youth were all packed together sitting on the floor of a small, dark room looking up at the teacher who was trying his best to make a boring sermon interesting.  He wasn’t succeeding.  Kids were yawning, looking at the ceiling, and poking each other.  They were cautious with their distractions … you see, there was a foreboding man off to the side with a long stick, which he used not so cautiously, to remind the kids to pay attention. 


 This experience made me want to do something.  Certainly church could be made more fun and relevant than this for the children.   But what could I do about it?  What could an inexperienced college student, who spoke no Spanish, do? 


 The result:  When John gave me the challenge it became very clear that I could do something and I felt that this was why the Lord had sent me to Guatemala.  I immediately told John, “Yes.”   Since then John’s challenge and the image of the children in that Sunday school have been a constant motivation.   


 More exciting than this though, John’s suggestion didn’t stop there.  The Lord has brought people like you in many countries to make the Icthus Family.  You are a member of this family carrying on this important challenge to use our experience, ability, and resources to provide ministry to young people. 

Summer of 1965: Leaders of the first Icthus group in El Progreso, Guatemala. I am the young guy in the upper right. Gilo Mendez, the very first Icthus guide, is in the lower right. Next to him is Samuel Mejia. Both Gilo and Samuel were significant in

I hope this story and website will encourage you to help more children have this ministry. 

Lord bless you,




PS:  To make a gift so more children can have Icthus click here:  Make a donation


Also, you can learn more on our Facebook page -  Icthus Kids:       https://www.facebook.com/Icthus.Kids


(L to R) Samuel, Gilo, Don, and Leonel. Gilo and Leonel wrote the Icthus song in the 1970's..

Back in the 1970’s Gilo Mendez was inspired to write lyrics about the Armor of God for an Icthus anthem.  Gilo asked me (Leonel) for help with the music.  I had inherited some musical ability from my dad who was a professional musician and had been creating songs for Icthus. 


I spent several days and nights thinking about and humming possible melodies and then recorded it on a cassette.  I didn’t know how to write music, so Gilo asked Alma Recinos to write out the arrangement.  That’s how we got the Icthus anthem.  (Leonel says he gives the credit to the Lord for all this.)

More History...

What Icthus Amigos say:


"Icthus makes a difference in the lives of kids."   

                                - Marion


"When children's behavior and outlook on life changes for good, parents are drawn to find out the reason.   Countless families have committed their lives to Christ through Icthus in many different countries.   Now it is starting in Africa and soon we may see it spread all over the world.

Truly a vision of God."   

                                - Baukien

"Icthus is changing kids' lives and their families all over the world! God is using this ministry in amazing ways. Join in and help with your donations to touch even more lives!!!" 

                               - Charlotte

"Icthus is a complete discipleship program  for Kids. Many have grown into leadership in Icthus and their community . It is truly God inspired and continues to be blessed by Him." 

                                   - Pep

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