"While we celebrated with each graduate waiting to receive their diploma and launch into the future, the bittersweet moment for me was thinking of youth outside the school walls who perhaps saw no hope for their future."
“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”—Dr. John Trainer
You might be surprised to hear me use the word “bittersweet” to describe ERDO’s work with children. On one hand, there is profound joy in seeing a child on a path to their greatest potential involving spiritual formation, health, education, and better choices for their future. The sadness comes when I see injustice in the lives of children—when they lack the basics of life that are needed to live out their God-given potential. Taking the thoughts of Dr. Trainer further, spiritually investing in the lives of children is our most important work.
One of the privileges of my role at ERDO is to see, up close and personal, the investment in children that we have made as a national Fellowship. What I’ve seen again and again is the crushing effects of poverty, and how together we can be God’s catalysts in responding to injustice. We work together through our core programs in crisis response, child sponsorship, and community development to raise their level of life. To understand how our global workers and our partners have supported children and their families for over 100 years is deeply humbling.
A recent experience in Guatemala highlighted for me the importance of investing in young people. I had the privilege of attending the convocation of students graduating from the William Cornelius Vocational Training Centre (WCVTC) in Guatemala City. This centre is one of the most outstanding facilities in Latin America providing courses in dentistry, health science, graphic design, electrical engineering and more. The vision statement of the centre captures how coming alongside young people changes destinies and has the potential to transform communities: “Our vision is to be an efficient and effective vocational training centre, a leader in the formation of generations that will be committed to the Christian faith. We are dedicated to meeting and surpassing its high standards in order to be socially effective in our community, and therefore, in our country.”
While we celebrated with each graduate waiting to receive their diploma and launch into the future, the bittersweet moment for me was thinking of youth outside the school walls who perhaps saw no hope for their future. I thought of the caravans of Guatemalan and Honduran refugees eager to leave their impoverished communities for a “better” life in a foreign country.
The investment made in these 90 graduates drew an audience of about 1,000 family members to honour this moment. To be present as the families smiled, cheered and wiped away tears of joy made me so grateful for each person in Canada who either sponsored one of these graduates or who financially supported the WCVTC program.
Christian education and teaching kingdom core values is an integral part of the WCVTC experience and is clearly as important as technical skills as students move into adulthood.
In ERDO’s ChildCARE Plus (CCP) program, we work in different country or community contexts. Yet, no matter which level of Christian education we’re able to offer, what I do know is that access to both meaningful education and to a culturally appropriate gospel message is life transforming. In Haiti I met Lukeman, a former ChildCARE Plus sponsored child. Throughout his time in the ChildCARE Plus program, he was educated, prayed for, and received the benefit of a caring Canadian sponsor who invested in his life. Years later, Lukeman is investing in the spiritual development of other children as a pastor. Pastor Lukeman introduced me to some of the Grade 7 to 10 children in his care who were also current ChildCARE Plus students. Students told me their sponsors’ names and knew that there were Christian Canadians who were not only financially supporting them, but who were also praying for them.
The investments we make in children through ChildCARE Plus open them up to a Christian worldview and equip them to do good in the world. In our CCP programs, faith isn’t an additive; it is woven into all that they study, and that’s why it’s impactful.
Intentional faith development as a child also showed up in a Zambian woman I recently met during an event celebrating the work of Villages of Hope with vulnerable children. During her childhood, Fatuma was orphaned and abandoned, finding her way into extended family who treated her like a servant. Without intervention, her childhood offered very little hope and happiness. Thankfully Fatuma was rescued and found a home and hope at the Villages of Hope in Kitwe. Fatuma was cared for and prayed for, and she is now the wife of a pastor and mother to two beautiful children. Connecting a child in need with education, faith and care results in good things. It’s the most important work we can do. As a pastor’s wife and partner in ministry, Fatuma is now positively impacting future generations of children and is a living example of God’s grace.
It is in obedience to Christ’s command, “As you go into the world, make disciples,” that ERDO finds its purpose and mandate. What better age to make disciples than with young people who are forming the core values that will shape their lives? We need to teach and model the kingdom values that are represented in the gospel.
Often we have too small an expectation of young people as disciples. Recently I read about Line, a 12-year-old CCP student who is leading a Bible study under a wooden stilt house. Line is demonstrating that God still works in and through children.
As the PAOC’s humanitarian ministry, ERDO seeks to have a role as the hands and feet of Christ through the work we do in helping to provide for educational and basic needs in lives ravaged by poverty, and by offering the hope of the gospel message. We can’t do this critical work without you, so on behalf of the children, God bless you for your support.
ChildCARE Plus is ERDO’s child sponsorship program. To help a child in need, visit: erdo.ca/sponsor-now. David Adcock is ERDO’s chief executive officer.
This article appeared in the April/May/June 2019 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.