The Gunny Sack Race had begun! Six teams with 75 kids of all ages. Little Andrea didn’t stand a chance—except that she did! For a 3-foot-tall girl, the bag reached up past her shoulders, causing her to fall time after time. Even before tears of frustration could form, 12-year-old Daniela was right there hopping happily alongside Andrea, showing her how to make it to the orange cone and back. Andrea´s initial look of fear and insecurity turned into great joy and a sense of accomplishment!
As I observed this small but significant show of kindness, I realized it tells the story of the big picture in Carmen de Areco. Whether it´s the Gunny Sack Race, the Hoola Hoop Sprint, or life itself, in this beautiful program, everybody counts.
In the course of three days, Dr. Linda Adams and I witnessed and experienced a tremendous outpouring of genuine love, acceptance, helpfulness, and generosity, not just among the pastors and leaders, but among the teens and children themselves.
The reality of Carmen de Areco is not starvation or abject material poverty, but rather an utterly devastating social and spiritual poverty that is desperately waiting to be addressed. Drug addiction among boys and alcoholism among girls begins as early as ages 8-10. Abuse and abandonment are rampant. Fear, insecurity, and hopelessness abound.
Enter Pastors Ricardo Guerrero and María Elena Salas. Twenty years’ worth of tangible, radical, healthy love have transformed one generation and is now transforming the next.
Coming alongside children, teens and their families, “Tata” and “Mama” (as Ricardo and María Elena are affectionately called) are helping individuals and in turn their whole community move from darkness to light. Over the years, they have welcomed many at-risk teens into their home to live. Some of these sponsored kids are now grown, married, and raising healthy families of their own.
The weekend program teaches kids practical skills like how to make empanadas and bread. Every year or two, the group takes a trip far outside the city limits for the first time in kids’ lives, fostering bigger dreams in these young hearts and minds. The program provides healthy activities, celebrations, instruction and practice in the performing arts, sports, and homework help. It encourages children and teens to develop and use their talents and abilities. This holistic approach is being used by God to rescue, heal and empower these young people. It’s beautiful to see!
ICCM sponsors provide financial resources for this authentic, contagious love that is transforming one child at a time, one generation after another. Thank you!