Nearly 20 at-risk elementary and preschool children in Coban, Guatemala, began studying this year thanks to a local Church of the Nazarene mission — From the Community Mission.
Eight years ago, the church began a ministry called the LAZARUS cafeteria, a program the mission developed to offer food to local homeless people Monday through Saturday. The ministry is designed to give everyone in the church a chance to participate. Families donate the food and cook and serve it one day a week.
“A personal relationship in Christian love is the best and most special gift we want to give to the people we serve,” said Guillermo Giron, the mission pastor.
Last year the church began another outreach initiative for children and youth in at-risk conditions that followed the same structure as the LAZARUS cafeteria. The church families began serving food to children in poverty, children with single mothers, and children in other vulnerable conditions.
The ministry began with 23 children and adolescents between the ages of 1 and 17, but very quickly church members realized another need: none of the children attended school. The church members wanted to respond to this need, so they vowed to get the kids in school as soon as possible.
The church signed up 19 preschool and elementary school children, and the church families bought the kids’ school supplies. Every child received a backpack and the supplies required by their particular school. Now, the church is working to provide the necessary school uniforms.
From the Community plans to expand the ministry to better serve at-risk children and their families. They want to open a daycare for children not yet in school, to offer reading classes to the mothers, and to offer occupational training so the families have more opportunities to generate income.
“The whole congregation has offered their talents, knowledge, time, and best efforts in Christian love,” Giron said. “Our good Shepherd has been confirming each step to make this vision possible. What a pleasure it is to work with and for the Lord!”