Tuesday, January 8, 2013

First Fruits of the Learning Center

In a recent trip to Cubulco at the end of November I had the privilege of being at the closing of the education center in Cubulco. The teachers had organized a special day to end the year and end VBS that ran during the month of November. There where a variety of activities from races and games to Bible memory contests. At the end the winners received a variety of small prizes. There were also some awards for those who excelled during the year in different areas. There were some 45-50 children present of which most of them attending the learning center during the year. 
In closing Pastor Edgar shared from the Bible and the children were asked if any where interested in going to church. More than 20 children showed interest some of whom already attend church, but there were a number that do not. This was neat to see and we can see fruit from the work that the education center is doing, which is not only to help students better their grades, but also direct them to the Saviour.
This brings me to the purpose of this post which is to share with you the story of a brother and sister (whom I will call Juan and Juanita) who shared their desire in coming to church at the end of the 2011 school year. "Juan" is around 12 years old while "Juanita" is around 8 years old. Both started attending the center a couple of years ago, as they needed help with their homework and also were looking for other things that they do not receive at home. Their situation like many children in Guatemala is not the easiest. The home is in many ways dysfunctional. They have different fathers one of whom does not want to recognize one of them as his child and therefore does not provide any support to the family. The other father, whom they are "living" with, is often out of work and struggles with his health. The mother works most days to provide for the family although it is often not enough to get by. As a result Juan and Juanita live with their grandmother in another "house" next to their parents house. The grandmother works long hours in order to provide for herself and her grandchildren. Her desire is to be able to put these children through school in order that they might have a better life. Juan also works with his grandmother in a "comedor" (small "restaurant") and gets paid a little for his work. Often on the weekends he works till 10-11:00 at night. 
When Juan and Juanita expressed their desire to come to church Vilma (center director) and Pastor Edgar and his wife took a special interest in them and started inviting them to church and "discipling" them. It was not long after, that Juan and Juanita expressed that they would like to be baptized. Although they were both still young, pastor Edgar and the church agreed and started formal classes with them to prepare them for their baptism. The baptism service was scheduled for December 22 in order that I could be there to witness this event.
I had the privilege not only to witness the baptism of these children, but also to assist in the administration of the sacrament. It was a joyous event and my prayer is that these children continue to grow in the love and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour. The only disappointing thing for me was that none of the family members where there to witness it. The father is a believer but did not show up. The mother and grandmother are not believers and went to work instead. Having said that Juan and Juanita were surrounded by a family of believers who could witness this step in their walk with Christ. 
After the service Juan had to leave to help at home, but Juanita went with Pastor Edgar and his wife and Vilma to their home. Since Pastor Edgar and his wife live on the compound our children spent the afternoon playing with Juanita. The following day our children told us how much they enjoyed playing with Juanita and found her very nice. Jesse asked "was she this nice before she was baptized"? At this moment were able to share the story of Juan and Juanita. Our kids were impressed and said they wanted to do some thing for them. We talked with Vilma about what to get them and Vilma shared how both Juan and Juanita had wanted to buy a nice outfit for their baptism but that they did not have enough money to do so. As a result, Ellen went with Lia to a local "paca" (new and used clothing "store" which are a dime a dozen in Guatemala) to buy a dress for Juanita with her own money. Little Nico gave money to Juan and Vilma later on went with Juan to buy a new shirt for him at a local store. 
Juan and Juanita do not have an easy life, but their life is easier with the Saviour at their side. Please pray for them that they will "increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52). Also pray for the center and the teachers that they will be a beacon of light to the community of Cubulco and that through their witness more children and their families will come to know the Saviour. The main reason why the center exists is to reach children like Juan and Juanita who live in difficult situations. It is not only to help them with their homework, but also provide them with a safe and caring Christian environment where they can grow and develop not only into "successful" academic children, but into children who know the Lord.