Placing All Hope in Him - Spiritual Lessons from the Pandemic
Around five years ago the Dominican immigration patrols in our small town in Jarabacoa launched intensive raids on undocumented Haitian families to deport them to Haiti.
Concerned about its potential impact on our Haitian students and their families, I visited the family of one of our students from ANIJA School. She was a bright 13-year-old who had grown to be an excellent student. She had quickly adapted and had learned to read Spanish over and above her native Haitian-Creole.
Worried about her wellbeing, I asked her if she was concerned or scared, hoping to offer some words of comfort. Instead, she surprised me with her reassuring response, “God has protected us and provided for us here in the Dominican Republic and He will do the same if we need to go back to Haiti.”
This encounter left an indelible mark and made me deeply aware and thankful to be part of a ministry that introduces children to our loving and powerful God and places all hope in Him. This pandemic in a large scale way has given our workers and children more opportunity to demonstrate trust in God’s provision and protection.
In normal times, all classrooms start with daily devotions and additionally Bible studies for all our students to learn about God. In our residential programs, family devotions and worship times on campuses help youth develop and deepen their relationship with God. Additional discipleship programs and weekly discipleship clubs for teenagers further opportunity to strengthen learning, knowing, serving, and pleasing God.
Our children and youth also learn to apply teachings such as “loving your neighbor” and “honoring your father and mother” with each other, their families, and their communities. Over time the results of these efforts have been encouraging.
Recent studies from Kids Alive’s oldest schools indicate that youth from our sites are five to six times more likely to be a member of a church ten years after high school and also less likely to be a single parent. Additionally, most youths in our residential ministries profess their faith and choose to be baptized as teenagers.
One of the benefits of the pandemic has been the visible spiritual growth of our students and staff, manifested in their dependence on God which is more visible. The gratitude expressed for provisions and protection has been widespread and genuine, from among those quarantined within the residential campus walls to our school children’s families who at times wondered whether they would have another meal.
Our staff has worked tirelessly and has creatively kept teaching about God via smartphones, printed devotions, and home visits. With help from God’s extended family, we have been able to be His hands and voice, teaching about safety and patient trust along with providing sustaining provisions to literally thousands of youth and their families.
In the future when we look back on this time, I am confident that despite, or perhaps because of the hardship and uncertainty, we will clearly see how God used this time to trust Him more and place all our hope in Him.
Kids Alive Dominican Republic
An interview with Alexandra Ortiz psychologist, Park School, and Care Center
Alexandra is our first school psychologist at Park School. She has served with Kids Alive for two years and is a huge blessing to children and staff.
How do you promote spiritual growth with the children and youth?
Teachers and staff start the day with a devotion prior to the children’s arrival. This is followed by Bible reading in each classroom and we use the Bible as a guide for behavioral instruction. Then there is a time of worship and music videos after lunch along with short spiritual teaching each day. I personally discuss the importance of purity with youth and persuade them of the importance of having a relationship with God. Many students profess their faith in Christ while still in school. I have also met and spoken to youth who have graduated and left school, and they have become Christians because the seed of the Gospel was planted here.
How have children and families experienced God's protection, provision, and love during the pandemic?
Families have expressed gratitude for the food provided by the school during the pandemic as a blessing from God. One of our blind students also continues to express how happy and grateful she is with God and the Kids Alive program because we were the only ones who supported her.
In another instance, when the government ordered all schools shut and no child was allowed on the campus, one of our children came to the school fence and asked me to pray for his mother because she was ready to give birth. When his brother was born, he came back and shouted, “Thank you for praying for my mother. Everything went well.”
What have you personally learned about God during this time of COVID?
I have learned that God is the Lord of lords. There is no God but Him. We must trust Him because everything is under His control. And no matter how difficult the situation, our God is more powerful.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Once you are part of Kids Alive, you always will be. It is impossible to erase the marks that have been placed in your heart: experiencing the love of children – a love so sincere and pure, that makes all prejudices die; and seeing God work in the lives of children through you. All this is priceless and marks one forever.