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LACC

Latin America Resource
and Training Center
 

Panama’s Christian Schools: Commitment with Results
By Rod and Sherry Boyd

First graders Eugenio and Edilcia, brother and sister, leave their home at 4:00 AM each school day to begin the three hour walk to school. When they arrive they receive loving care, a quality Christian education and a hot meal at the end of the school day before they begin their journey back home. Eugenio and Edilcia are two of 98 children, kindergarten to third grade, who attend the Good Shepherd School in the remote mountainous Guaymi Indian village of Soloy in northwest Panama.

Why would their parents send Eugenio and Edilcia so far to school? Would you believe it’s the closest one to where they live! These parents know how important education is to their kid’s future. And we know that effective education must be transformational! God renews the mind through the heart.

Soloy Good Shepherd SchoolThe Christian school effectively builds three of the four pillars of missions: reaching, teaching and touching. Would we have had the opportunity to minister to Eugenio and Edilcia if we didn’t have the school? Probably not. We’ve discovered that the Christian school ministry opens new doors of ministry in Panama.

We are convinced that the Christian school ministry offers the highest possible level of commitment to evangelism and discipleship.  Imagine the more than 30 hours each week dedicated to children and youth, where teachers consider themselves "pastors" of the children and youth in their classrooms. Most of the kids that attend come from a non-Christian home.

Guaymi Indian boyHundreds of hours of ministry from church members and teachers impact not only the lives of these students, but also mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles and aunts, and countless others. Our churches and school offer practical workshops to parents and family members to assist them with real problems and concerns. There they hear the gospel and a message of hope. We have seen the impact that the Christian school has on the individual child, family and even community! Panama’s Christian schools represent true transformation and require commitment for the long haul. That’s commitment!

Guaymi Indian girlPanama’s Christian schools continue to experience explosive growth! When we returned to the States for itineration in 2004 we reported that there 3,531 children and youth in 16 elementary schools, 9 junior high schools and 4 high schools. Today that number has increased to 6,443 children and youth in 30 elementary schools, 13 junior high schools and 5 high schools, with strong prospects for continued growth for years to come.

Guaymi Indian studentsMost of the growth has been in the elementary level. Eleven new elementary schools have opened in the last three years alone. These new schools usually begin by offering kindergarten through first or second grade; then add a new grade each year. More and more churches and pastors are discovering that the Christian school is an effective evangelistic and discipleship ministry. Most of Panama schools have the name “El Buen Pastor” or the Good Shepherd Schools, a “brand” recognized for quality and strong Christian values.

4-story Jireh school buildingJireh Good Shepherd School. The new schools and continued growth of existing schools demands ongoing construction of classrooms and other school facilities. MAPS construction teams are needed and always welcome. Our greatest challenge now is to complete construction of the Jireh Good Shepherd School. Thanks to seven teams in 2007-2008, the entire superstructure of the four story building was completed! But so much work still needs to be done. The beginning of the year school was able to continue work on the inside thanks to a miracle matching offering received at the Jireh church. Our last building team left $1,000. We challenged the congregation to give a sacrificial offering and said we would match their offering. The offering was more than $2,000! With $4,500 they were able to complete four classrooms on the second floor. Just last month they completed two more.

Pedregal, Don Bosco and Juan DiazBut there are three more floors! There is roof and façade work to do. And the whole building still needs stucco and paint, not to mention electrical and plumbing work, doors and windows. We need your help! We are dedicating our itineration to this worthy project. Can you help? If so, please send your offerings to:

Jireh Project 7795
Assemblies of God World Missions
1445 Boonville Ave.
Springfield, MO 65802

We wish we could take you up to the fourth floor to look out over the communities of Pedregal, Don Bosco and Juan Diaz. From this small auditorium that will also serve as a prayer room, those present will be able to see thousands of homes within 10 minutes of the church and school, reachable by the Tocumen highway that runs in front of the church and school.

JosiasThere are currently 532 children and youth crowded into the existing Jireh facilities and six apartments rented next door to the school. When completed the school will have a capacity for 750 students! Remember, each one of these kids has a name and a face and a story! We are privileged to sponsor Josias through Latin America Childcare. Josias is a 4th grader at the Jireh School. How incredibly fulfilling it is to know we are making a difference in Josias’ life, helping him go to school and to know the Lord. That’s what Latin America ChildCare is all about!

LATIN AMERICA CHILDCARE. The partnership of Latin America ChildCare (LACC) with our schools helps to maintain a compassionate touch, making it possible for hundreds to receive a quality Christian education that otherwise would not be able to attend. LACC provides assistance to over 1,000 of the more than 6,000 children in Panama's Christian schools. LACC of Panama partners with the Good Shepherd Schools of the General Council of the Assemblies of God of Panama to offer assistance to those in greatest need. LACC assists nearly 100,000 children in 20 different countries in 300 different schools in the Latin America and Caribbean region. In addition to a quality Christian education, LACC also assists with feeding and medical needs.

The heart of LACC is the team of individual sponsors who give $32 each month to assist their child with school costs. Panama currently has more than 350 children and youth who desperately need a sponsor. Can you help? If so, you can now sponsor a Panama child online on the Panama page of the LACC4Hope.org website (panama.LACC4Hope.org) or call our toll free number 1-800-289-7071. God bless you for your prayers and support of the children of Panama!

Sherry presenting a gift to a Guaymi boySEEING IS BELIEVING!  We were privileged to have my sister, brother-in-law, and niece with us in Panama recently. They have been LACC sponsors for many years and wanted to visit the children and schools they are helping. We visited several schools in Panama City and my niece was able to meet the four students that she and her husband sponsor. It was such a special time for her and the students. The next day we drove to the interior of Panama to visit the two remote Guaymi Indian schools.

The Duima Good Shepherd School was our first stop. My sister and brother-in-law have supported this school for 12 years, from the very beginning. It was a special time of visiting children in their classrooms, presenting each of the 160 children with a special treat, and each teacher with a bag of supplies. We also delivered gifts that sponsors had sent for their children. My niece Simone became acquainted with the English and computer teacher. At one point we realized Simone was missing and found her team teaching a class with her new friend!

Duima schoolThe next day we went on to the Soloy Good Shepherd School. It was wonderful to see how God is blessing this new school and using it to minister to 97 children from kindergarten to third grade. Once again our hearts were touched as we saw the difference this school is making in the lives of these children and their families.

One family wanted their children in this school so bad that they have moved onto the property of the school so their kids could attend. They are living under a blue tarp! When we went to visit the family our hearts were touched to see an infant in a tiny, make-shift hammock and hear that 12 members of the family live in this humble tent. We also met children who walk over 3 hours to school each morning. The director of the school reported that when some of the children started school this year their bodies showed of malnutrition, but now after a few months of school and consistent feeding program that includes rice and beans they look healthy and are enjoying learning.

SimoneTo sum up the visit this is what my niece wrote: “There is nothing quite like the smile on a child’s face from the schools we visited in Panama. Though they have nothing and are faced with poverty every day they remain grateful for what they have and for the people who have decided to sponsor them so that they may have a future. God is doing some amazing things in the LACC schools and as you will see in the photos taken, they have captured my heart and have left me with an impression that drives me to do more for these children. Please keep these children in your prayers that God will continue to provide them with love and that hearts will be changed for Him.”