Over 165 children are provided with meals at Buena Vista Wesleyan Christian Center's dining hall.
It was 1990. Pastor Julio Rodriquez stood in the living room of his home and looked at his new congregation. There were six people. Not an auspicious beginning for a man determined to work miracles in this hilly community in the country's capital city.
Pastor Rodriguez, like many pastors in the developing world, faced an issue that stood in the way of his church's growth - lack of money and people. Though Pastor Rodriguez would eventually build a new church, it wasn't until his congregation partnered with Compassion that this pastor's dreams of addressing his hurting community's spiritual, physical, economical and emotional needs were realized.
A Miracle's First Steps
After three years of preaching in his home, Pastor Rodriguez decided it was time for a new building. But he had no money. One day, he walked over to a place for sale in his community to talk to the owner.
"How much for this land?" he asked.
"Three million pesos," the owner said. About $1,200.
"Okay," Pastor Rodriguez said. "It's a deal."
The pastor didn't have one peso in his pocket. And he had five days to get the money. And even in this community, where 50 percent of the people are unemployed and the average family earns just less than $2 a day, an offering was taken up. The money was raised. Pastor Rodriguez got a place to build his church and he did.
"This place was a hole, brother," Pastor Rodriguez says now, thinking back on Buena Vista Wesleyan Christian Center's humble beginnings. The church now runs the Compassion-assisted Mandios Unidos (CO-329) project. "We didn't have anything here. There was very limited space, limited infrastructure."
Not Enough to Speak God's Word
After establishing the church facility, the pastor started visiting families in the neighborhood. What he discovered was devastating. There were children abandoned, shut up alone in houses. Many children were on the streets unsupervised while their parents were out working. Children were going an entire day without eating.
"This situation was like a big stone in my heart," Pastor Rodriguez says. "I thought it was not enough to preach God's Word to these people. I thought we must do something for the needs of these people, especially for the children."
A Divine Partnership
Pastor Rodriguez at first went to the Colombian government for help. A social services agency offered Buena Vista enough resources to help feed 50 children. Good management allowed the church to grow to serve 100 children. Still, his staff of six worked with no payment and this created turnover problems. In addition, Pastor Rodriguez wanted to do much more than serve food. He wanted a way to give hurting children hope.
About four years ago, Pastor Rodriguez heard about a meeting sponsored by a Christian ministry that supported churches working with children. After attending the informational meeting, Pastor Rodriguez was convinced - partnering with Compassion would be a good way to realize his vision for children in need.
The day Pastor Rodriguez and his staff heard the partnership was approved "was a party day here in the project," he says. "That was amazing. That was God's miracle."
Today the church and the project provide 165 children with meals, health care and educational opportunities. More importantly, children now have hope for a better future.
"Some time ago, they only wanted play and eat, and to live like their parents," Pastor Rodriguez says of the children in Buena Vista. "Today, children dream to have a career, to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers - many things. They want to be good parents. They want to progress and (get) ahead."
As the 150-member church continues to grow, Pastor Rodriguez can only marvel at the transforming miracle - from a six-member, living-room church to an institution of hope and faith for an entire community.
"I thank God for His miracle through Compassion," he says, "and its support of the Church."
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