Power in the People

By John Bueno
Sept. 23, 2012

We had so little, and the needs were so great. When my wife, Lois, and I served as missionaries in Latin America, we were surrounded by people in urgent spiritual and physical poverty. Our great desire was to bring hope to the children and families. But how? The story of our first schools, launched together with local churches, is the beginning of Latin America ChildCare’s history.

The development of this ministry taught us not to underestimate small things. We learned how to work with the little the Lord had placed in our hands and to wait for Him to multiply it — just as Christ did with the loaves and fishes.

Another one of those early lessons was this: Our efforts must be directed toward the needs of the people.

Christ’s heart was full of compassion for people. We see it again and again in the Gospels. Jesus was always willing to suspend the daily routine in order to meet a person’s need. On many occasions, Jesus chose one person among thousands to receive His blessing and power.

What an example He left for us! Since the beginning, the aim of this ministry has been to respond to human need.

Our human nature sometimes longs for a worldly monument to reflect our accomplishments tangibly, to build buildings and structures. But the Scriptures emphasize people instead. For Latin America ChildCare, the focus on people can be delineated through three main concerns:

1. The child

Our first concern is the child. We look for children who do not have the means to obtain a Christian education, nutrition, school uniforms or healthcare, and we try to respond to them within the limitations of our resources. A careful process is required to make sure that the children with the most urgent needs receive our help.

We want the children we serve to develop a sense of human dignity. They are not to be seen as inferior or second-class citizens just because they are receiving assistance.

We have no intention of generating an attitude of dependence. On the contrary, we expect them to develop a healthy perspective about who they are in Christ in relation to their family and friends. Children must be treated with respect and affection so that the ingredients of human dignity and self-respect may always be present.

2. Teachers and staff

Our second concern pertains to the teachers and staff who administer the aid. Our Christian teachers give more than those who work in the secular field. They invest long hours and give extraordinary effort in order to supply both the academic and spiritual needs of the children.

For their service, we endeavor to pay these dedicated men and women a salary that allows them to cover their basic expenses. If a choice must be made between improving a building or rewarding the personnel, the decision that must be made should be obvious.

3. Parents

Our third concern is the parents. A central component in the successful development of a child, spiritually and academically, is the parents. We endeavor to find ways to enable the parents to participate in our ministry. Working in the feeding program, helping to maintain or improve the school facilities, or other activities of a material nature produce a sense of satisfaction and solidarity.

We also seek to find other ways to reach the parents spiritually. A monthly meeting, for example, developed by their children as well as staff members at the school can be planned for parents to come and participate. The potential to win the parents for the Lord through these means is limitless.

Although we routinely build and renovate new schools so we can continue to serve more and more young people, we do not let such projects become distractions. Rather, we want to invest in people and allow them to replicate their interests and virtues in the lives of others.

We know that Jesus is the fundamental need of humanity, and our intention is that each boy and girl, each man and woman, may know that Jesus Christ is the answer. There is nothing more valuable for children than to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

DR. JOHN BUENO and his wife, Lois, served as missionaries in El Salvador from 1963 to 1989, and founded the Latin America ChildCare ministry to children. John Bueno served 14 years as Assemblies of God World Missions executive director.