|   Posted: November 23, 2022

Grateful for Cooks Like Natividad

Story and photos by Junieth Dinarte
Natividad smiles at the camera

Natividad has always liked to cook. When she puts on her white cap and apron, a smile lights up her face. The kitchen is where she feels at home — and it’s where the Lord is using her to help children in her community.

When she started serving as a cook at the local Compassion center, Natividad had just left a job at a restaurant. She was motivated by the opportunity to serve the ministry with her talents.

“The experience cooking at a restaurant compared to cooking here at the center is entirely different,” she shares. “Here, it’s something I’m doing with all my heart — something I pour my love into because it fills me with joy to see the children smiling after a good meal. I feel like I have a purpose here.”

For Natividad, being a cook at the center involves more than just feeding the children. She tries to connect with each child who walks through the door, treating them with warmth, kindness and respect to make them feel known and appreciated.

“I always say I have 198 children I must feed!” she says, laughing. “But feeding them consists of more than offering them food. It consists of saying hello to them when they come to the kitchen, hugging them when they offer me a hug and making them feel like I am there for them.”

Natividad serves food to a child

She sees cooking as a way of serving that comes with an added responsibility — protecting the children who are part of the program. While she pays close attention to fulfilling their nutritional needs, she also makes herself available to the children so they know there is someone looking out for them.

“Taking off my apron and leaving my kitchen doesn’t remove the responsibility I now have,” she says. “If I see a child in need, and I’m outside my work hours, it’s my responsibility to make sure that child receives the kind of support he needs because I am committed to their safety and protection.”

Natividad has made a pointed effort to make herself available. So the children know they are welcome in her kitchen.

“The moment they come in, I want them to feel that they are protected and that I am interested in their lives, their names, their families and their school progress,” she says.

“If they can’t find that at home, they can find it in my kitchen.”

As soon as Natividad walks into the center, children flock toward her, holding up their cups of arroz con leche (Spanish rice pudding) that she made earlier for them, speaking over one another to tell her about their day and how much they liked her food.

Behind the children, mothers make a beeline to greet Natividad and tell her how delicious the kids found the snack.

Natividad hugs Compassion children

“My mother used to say that when one’s belly is full, one is happy. A lot of the children come to me to ask if they can have more food for themselves or their family,” says Natividad. “If I can make a child happy by giving him an extra serving for his family, then I’ll do it because we’re here to serve these children and give them a proper, deserving meal.”

With that in mind, Natividad starts preparing the second round of arroz con leche, happy to hear the children’s footsteps as they run to the kitchen to ask for a second serving.

“The love for the ministry keeps me motivated,” she says, “and the love for serving these children keeps me wanting to come back here every day.”

Thank you, Natividad, for your commitment to children in Nicaragua and for all the ways you’re allowing God to use your gifts to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name!

See Who Else We're Grateful For!