“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
When asked the classic question of what they want to be when they grow up, nine-year-olds Noé and Daniel are puzzled. After thinking it over, Noé eventually settles on chef. Daniel is less certain. “I just don’t know yet,” he says.
His response is not surprising. Elsewhere, often as soon as they start speaking children make plans for the future. In many parts of Peru, however, the rarity of success in family and community life in adulthood deprives many children of hope. The sin and destruction they see in their homes and communities is generational. It seems they have little to look forward to.
These chronic problems have led the members of Christ the Restorer Presbyterian Church in Manuel Arévalo to pursue a permanent solution. This (Peruvian) winter, many teams from the U.S. are working alongside the congregation to build a school which, Lord willing, will open its doors in March of 2013, when the Peruvian school year begins. At first, the school will accept children from three to five years old. Then, as the Lord provides, the school will add other grades.
The school in Manuel Arévalo is not the church’s first foray into education. For the past six years, young leaders in the church have provided an excellent summer school program at minimal cost to the community’s children, guiding them to success in several subjects, including art, math, and reading comprehension. Each year, the six-week program culminates in a vacation Bible school. Through this program, the church has already earned the trust of the children’s parents, prompting Pablo Quiróz, who has led the program at Christ the Restorer since its inception, to remark that “putting a school here isn’t going to be seen as something strange by the families.”
Carmen is one of many university students who have volunteered to teach in the summer program. In her classroom on the church’s second floor, students conquer multiplication tables and long division. “Their economic situation is low,” she explains. “The church is not for profit. We are here to help them learn.”
They need the help. Education in many parts of Peru is in dire straits, with the country ranking near or at the bottom in global evaluations in many subjects. Much more problematic is the absence of quality Christian education in the country. Home schooling is not only virtually unknown, it is also illegal. Protestant Christian schools, which are rare, are not much better equipped than their Roman Catholic and secular counterparts to deliver a quality education.
The Church in Peru has an incredible opportunity and responsibility to change all of this. “I believe that God cares about education,” says Quiróz. He says that only the Church can provide a truly holistic education, one that will prepare young people for a dual citizenship, both in Peru and, much more importantly, in Christ’s kingdom. “The (state schools) are never going to give you an education that orients you toward what is really necessary to the human being—God,” he argues. “I believe that the Church should take this fundamental role. We are going to educate, but at the same time, as Christians we believe that education isn’t everything. It’s worthless if we don’t have God.”
“We are going to educate, but at the same time, as Christians we believe that education isn’t everything. It’s worthless if we don’t have God.”
Wes Baker, one Peru Mission’s founding missionaries, agrees with Quiróz and argues that education is part of the ministry of the Church in much the same way that mercy ministry is. “Jesus is our pattern for ministry,” he explains, “and Jesus came teaching, imparting wisdom to the simple. Our conviction is that that is exactly what we should be doing, too. That means teaching in the church, teaching in Sunday school classes, teaching catechism classes, but it also means preparing disciples for a lifelong witness in a much more comprehensive way that can only be done in Peru with Christian schools.”
Ricardo Hernández, pastor of Christ the Restorer, says there is another reason the church can be prayerfully optimistic about the future of the school. Hernández believes that many parents are eager for their children to receive an education based on Biblical principles and the gospel, even if they themselves are not yet willing to bring their own lives under submission to Christ. “There are people who respect faith, the gospel, religion,” says Hernández. “They are not very excited about being very religious, but they would like for their children to be walking in good morals, good ethics.” This, suggests Hernández, gives the church an opportunity to teach God’s statutes to local children who would otherwise never hear them.
What is truly exciting about the plans at Christ the Restorer is that, from the pulpit to the pews, the whole church is committed to Christian education. School teacher Nora Ramírez is a church member who is eager to begin the work of training up local children to follow God and delight in His law. “God has charged His Church with evangelism, but also instruction,” offers Ramírez, “and this is what makes it so important that the Church have schools. This way, we can pursue the Lord’s calling and minister to the world.”
“God has charged His Church with evangelism, but also instruction, and this is what makes it so important that the Church have schools.”
For Ramírez and the rest of the community at Christ the Restorer, this work begins in Manuel Arévalo with children like Noé and Daniel. With the Lord’s provision, these children and countless others will learn to look forward to the future with true hope and joy grounded in Christ, a worthy lesson indeed.
Tue, June 26, 2012
by Caleb Sutton filed under