The past few days have been less about photo moments and more about planning for the August trip and the future of the church. Kendys, Sairy and I spent less hours sleeping and more hours thinking and praying for the adolescents in Cuesta Arena. Our heart breaks for them and we are unsure about what exactly to do. The graduates from our preschool have experienced Gods love and have learned the values of a life lived in true love in the Center. More importantly, the work has penetrated into the homes and families have learned what it means to provide a home full of love and security. The preschoolers are different. They have such a joy about them and they are free from the chains of the poverty and uneducated decisions that are found in the community which they were born. They see a future for themselves free of abuse and full of knowledge about the possibilities the world has to offer. Each year, the graduation celebration rejoices in these changes. However, the celebration this year was overshadowed by the look in the faces of the adolescents. Many of them were present and even helped build the Center, in hopes of a better future. I can’t help but remember the look on their faces when we told them it would be a preschool and they were too old to attend. Their joy turned to sadness which is why we started the tutoring program. We did not want to miss the opportunity to help them succeed in public school. But the tutoring program is different. The kids are older and the parents are less involved. Through much prayer and heartache, we made the decision to allow the adolescents to come to the tutoring program without their parents involvement and earn their own space in the program (their parents had no desire to work for them). The adolescents get a glimpse of God’s love and security 3 times a week but then have to return to their homes, which often times contradicts the messages modeled and taught in the school. This year, the adolescents seemed to reflect faces of jealousy, not out of anger but motivation to achieve what the preschoolers are freely give, a life lived in love and security. They a thirsty for a change, even if it means they have to go against their families’ values and tainted history.
We are making hard decisions for the Center and ask for prayers. We made the decision to lock the gates and only allow the children to be present when properly supervised by someone from the church to ensure their safety. Though we love the idea of the children having a place to play (as there is no other in the community), we must fight to protect the property and keep it as a safe place for all to come. We cannot risk a child, adolescent, or adult being hurt emotionally, physically, or sexually in the Center, loosing all stability we have fought to obtain in the community.
We also have plans to put more energy into the adolescents. Through the Thursday bible study in Cuesta Arena, we will begin to create church leaders and educate members of the community on the values we hold dear. We will also pursue a volleyball team with the adolescents as a way to bring them onto the Center property and begin to empower them to lead their own life, away from any harmful values of their families.
In the future we hope to have a Leadership Development Center, which will allow the church to develop leadership and a place to bring the adolescents for retreats to a place they feel safe and secure, away from the community. We have raised $18,000 out of the $35,000 we need to purchase the land. Mission teams, alongside the church, will construct the buildings necessary to grow our leaders.
Lastly, in August we will use the team to work side by side with the adolescents to understand “Soy Alguien” (I am Someone). Understanding their identity and learning to make their own decisions, based on their love for God, others, and themselves. We cannot miss this opportunity to share God’s love with this group of adolescents. They need to experience something different than the love they experience in their community and their homes which may have caused them harm or showed them their future lies only in the opportunities directly in front of them. They need the chance to believe “Soy Alguien” of worth, forgiven for their past, and with a future to be who they are called to be.