In celebrating 10 years, we’ve been looking at our top 10 highlights from each year of ministry. This gets harder to do with the more that is going on each year!
1. We purchased curriculum for the first time ever (Adventure Bay by KidzBlitz) for our large group worship service and start to implement it. It needs translating (both for language and for culture), but it gives us a huge leg up on writing kid-friendly Bible lessons and skits for each week. It also allows some of the older children to be involved in the service—something we still do today! (January)
2. We met with the Nicaraguan government’s Department of Human Services (Mi Familia) for final approval to start housing children in the Refuge House.. They inform us that no new refuge-type houses will be approved in the near future but that our after-school program (Segundo Paso) meets the more pressing need of children needing somewhere safe and constructive to be in the daytime. We tearfully put the Refuge Project to rest and develop our after-school program even more, starting . It doesn’t sound like a high point, but over time we realized how this was one way that God allowed us to have greater impact in a more sustainable way. (February)
3. Wildwood Church sends their first college team, and the tradition of large youth soccer tournaments is born. Through these tournaments, we meet a lot of new youth, some of whom start attending worship services and later trust in Christ. (March).
4. We start classes for children’s ministry leadership for local church leaders who are developing their own children’s ministry. (May)
5. Donors give enough for us to buy 500 Bibles in an easy-to-read Spanish translation. This provides us with enough to give them to kids and families who will read them for the next three years. (May)
6. We replace the rusting roof to our facility over the course of the whole year with the help of several teams and some generous donations. (all year)
7. We receive several summer teams (from Wildwood, Woodcreek, City Church, Summit Church, Kingsland, and Origins) that help boost the kids’ programs with our partner Nicaraguan churches, help do large events, build us some storage spots, keep the facility looking great, teach kids art, show kids love, and encourage us all. We also have our first intern since we started outreach: Alexis from Oklahoma, who helps with teams, special events, and instantly makes lots of friends. (June through September)
8. We add a sponsorship element to our after-school program. As people start sponsoring children, it allows us grow from 25 kids to over 100! Also, Kidderleng Sotelo (married to Emelina Araúz) joins our staff as a crucial element to our local church outreach program Unidos. (September)
9. Yeril Lozano becomes children’s director, and we implement church “bucks” and the quarterly kids store into our children’s outreach program.
10. We have our first team from Vessels of Mercy—a ministry with far more experience than us that has done a half dozen weeks of VBS for our kids since this time and has taught us a lot along the way.
We also receive a grant from Wildwood Church to send two of our staff (Chase and Julie Russell) to the Urbana ministry conference, where we get connected with several future interns and child sponsors! (November, December)