Opportunities are what people need, and we have been serving God for years providing opportunities for those living in challenging circumstances. God asked us to design and build a school system to provide opportunities for the children and youth of Alajuelita, the most dangerous and undeveloped community in our nation.
We did . . . we built Love At Work International Christian School. But God was clearly calling again, "Love At Work International Christian School is a safe place, but there are hundreds of my children who will not be able to be in the school. Build a place of hope for them." And so we designed and built the first LifeCenter . . . right in the middle of the slum!
A Place of Hope
A smart kid without breakfast and lunch cannot build on his potential. We need to feed souls and minds of these children. But with a hungry stomach we cannot do it. A mother once asked us for our advice, “What should I tell my children when I lay them down at night, and they cry, and they say ‘Mommy, I’m hungry’?”
Food & clean water, and arms to hold them, and a roof that doesn’t leak . . . every child deserves that. But, unfortunately, 19,000 will die somewhere in the world today, and the saddest part is these deaths didn’t have to happen. It doesn’t take that much money to save a life.
In any story, there comes a time when the hero or heroine faces an enemy, whether it's standing up for those he or she loves or saving a nation. How do you prepare yourself to do battle with the Enemy and win?
Not to be dramatic, but so you will know that danger is daily where we are working, and the Enemy is challenging what Love At Work is doing.
When we began construction of the LifeCenter, I started to see a flow of young men I wasn’t used to seeing. They gathered in the place where we park our cars. I noticed that they were showing their guns, at their waists and backs, tucked in their pants, wearing no shirts. Their clear intention was to tell us they were armed.
The slum is located in a perfectly isolated place. There’s only one access by car and several others on foot, but all are guarded by small kids that alert the bad guys when the police or enemies are close.
We are in an area where nobody wants to be. There is no other organization serving on site in this slum . . . no church, no NGO, not even the government. We are fighting against drugs, smuggling, violence, sexual abuse, abuse in every area of life . . . and loneliness and a deep sense of being forgotten.
But we have to be here. This is a place for changing futures. Kids who live in shacks, kids who are left alone all day taking care of baby siblings . . . they will now have a place to go, a place of hope!
The Life Center offers a variety of crucial benefits for kids and their families, all supporting Love At Work's goal of breaking their cycle of poverty and helping them reach their God-given potential. Most kids in the slums of Tejarcillos don’t have safe, clean places to spend time. Our LifeCenter provides that! It's a place of hope where families are treated with dignity and kids escape negative influences of gangs, violence and drugs.
The Alajuelita public school system is considered “a school of risk” and is failing. To meet the needs of a high number of students, the schools schedule classes in three shifts, with students averaging only 3 hours of education a day. Not surprisingly, of 100 children entering the public system, less than 30 will graduate.
The LifeCenter is helping these kids who otherwise would be wandering the neighborhood while waiting for classes. At the LifeCenter, they are able to learn and grow in their knowledge in English, in technologies which will give them tools to break the cycle of poverty. The LifeCenter is a place for kids to study, for kids to discover their strengths, for kids to fight and build their future with the help of our team and school.
They can do it if someone will just believe in them and see their potential. A good education is a big part of it! But what about character? How do you build up broken children? The only way is by sharing God's plan for each one. Jesus' love is the only source or cure for rape, abuse, violence, forgotteness, punches and pain. You can't imagine how it is to see a big bunch of kids doing homework, learning English, practicing mathematics and eating a hot healthy, meal . . . its just amazing!
I approached the oldest (probably a 22-year old kid) and introduced myself, shook his hand. He responded by shaking mine, but he spoke not a word. The others (maybe 8 guys) got really close when I approached the dude. That afternoon we made sandwiches and coffee, and I sent the group a nice snack. I was troubled because we have been serving here for over a decade, but I had never seen these particular kids.
That afternoon one of the drug dealers came to speak to me. "I’m sorry pastor. We thought someone was building a ‘bunker’ (A bunker is a crack house where drugs are sold and where crack ‘prostitutes’ live and provide sex for the daily dose). "I did not know it was you guys", said this guy I can’t name. “The men you saw earlier today were hitmen. We thought we had to shoot some bullets to scare any attempt of competition. Now we are happy our kids will have this place. Take care pastor.”
I don't know how much you think about it, because we take food for granted. A simple breakfast is normal for us. But that's not the reality in the slums of Tejarcillos. Already sick from dirty drinking water, children become malnourished and their bodies can't fight off disease.
We are focused on attending to this need of our students. Our plan was not to open a feeding center by itself. We want to provide opportunities that will create a breakthrough in the lives of these kids. But a hungry child has no chance!
We are teaching, tutoring and caring for 350+ students. Most of them don't have access to a nutritious meal during the day. For $25 per month, you can help kids LEARN and EAT. If you world like to help, please click on the Donate Today button at the top of this page. And please continue to pray for the safety of Arturo and his team!