A worship band is just one of the activities Fuente de Vida Church offers through its partnership with Compassion International.
Leaders at Fuente de Vida Church know that serving children is a priority. But the church was poverty-stricken, and funding programs and ministries had proved impossible. After years of floundering, they saw little to no change in the lives of the desperately poor children living in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Children still slept on filthy dirt floors. Families were malnourished. And the church remained nearly empty each week.
In 2003, Fuente de Vida learned that Compassion International was looking for a church partner in Cochabamba. When church leaders learned about Compassion's holistic approach to child development and the ministry's focus on spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty they knew they had found the ideal partner. "For so long, we didn't have the resources to focus on every aspect," says David Limachi, a deacon at the church. "But we know and we believe that evangelism is not only saying we are going to pray for you, but it is also giving what we have."
In 2004, Fuente de Vida Church opened the CDI Fuente de Vida student center (BO-587). Through this student center, the congregation and staff have embraced each area of Compassion's model, and they have seen growth in the spiritual, economic, social and physical health of each child registered.
Basics Improve Life
When center staff members visited the homes of registered children they found crowded, unsanitary living conditions. Families living on less than U.S.$2 a day could afford neither food nor medical care. Children suffered from malnutrition, colds and dehydration preventable illnesses that were taking their lives at an alarming rate. Most homes had no soap or running water. The center's first steps were to provide hot meals and hygiene lessons. Health teachers brought in toothbrushes, buckets of hot water and soap, and children began coming home freshly scrubbed. Through Compassion's support, the church installed bathrooms and running water, and the health of entire families improved.
"We know that each time the children come to the project, they are receiving fresh, clean water and that they are able to apply many of their health lessons at home," says Miriam Panozo, center staff member. "Sick children could go to the doctor, and the health of the children improved greatly."
Education Paying Off
With a high school dropout rate of 70 percent in Cochabamba, church leaders felt it was very important to provide educational opportunities for registered children.
Through sponsorship, each child is able to attend school, as well as free tutoring sessions at the center. These children, primarily from immigrant families who moved to the city from tiny farming villages, are learning to read and write skills many of their parents do not possess.
In addition to providing skills for children's futures, the church also provides economic opportunities for many parents.
"Everything is starting to grow," says Miriam. "The mothers are learning to bake, to weave and to make things to sell in the market. Their husbands are very happy, and many of the families are coming to church now."
The Sound of Worship
Children at CDI Fuente de Vida are learning to give back to both the church and the community. The church formed a band, composed entirely of Compassion-assisted children, who lead worship throughout the community.
"Many families want their children in the band," says Miriam. "It is very exciting for them, especially when they are leading worship for the other children."
In just five years, the CDI Fuente de Vida has tripled in size, from 80 registered children in 2003, to nearly 250 today. The church has also grown to more than 100 members, from just a dozen. Both children and parents are involved in Bible studies, and dozens of families have accepted Christ.
"God has given us the tools, through Compassion, to serve," says Miriam. "He prepared the harvest. We are happy to work in His fields."
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