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.

Victor Trautwein,
Country Co-Director
Kids Alive Dominican Republic

An interview with Kerry Dougan, director of spiritual Life, ANIJA School.

Kerry Dougan is the Director of Spiritual Life at the ANIJA School. He and his wife Milagros have served with Kids Alive for 25 years.

How are you promoting the spiritual growth of students and staff at this time?

We are holding devotionals each week with all our staff, and Bible classes for our students. The most important thing, however, is that we are striving toward visiting as many students as possible in their homes to address and meet both spiritual and material needs. We are demonstrating Christ's love by providing food and meeting other needs. We are also providing counseling for some children and their families.

How are our children and their families experiencing God's protection, provision, and love?

Eliata, a Haitian girl who studies at ANIJA School, had some serious health problems. A lump on her back prevents her from straightening her neck and she suffers from vomiting blood. Her mother is a single mom who doesn’t have a job. We followed up on their situation and during the visit saw that she has shown really impressive faith with joy. She has almost no income, but she encouraged me that the Lord always provides. I don't know how much she has learned about God, but I was encouraged from seeing her joy and her faith under these difficult circumstances and we count it as a privilege to be able to help.

In what ways have you seen God at work during this pandemic?

One of our students, David,  has had significant behavioral problems. But he had a wish to own a Bible. I made an arrangement with him to get the Bible and bought him a nice one which he received in November 2019. From then on, I noticed that he rarely was apart from his Bible. When I visited him recently, he told me that he had read his Bible cover to cover twice and was in 1 Corinthians on his third round! I have never met anyone who has read the Bible cover to cover three times in a single year! David comes from a poor family, lives in inadequate housing, and in a neighborhood where drugs are traded. He lives with his parents and a younger brother, but his parents know very little about how to properly discipline or encourage their children. We are providing counseling to both David and his family to help them overcome their challenges. We hope and believe that David’s thirst for God’s word will reap spiritual blessings from God in some beautiful way.

How have you personally experienced God during the pandemic?

have learned a greater dependence on God. Every day it becomes clearer how little control we even have over our own lives. It has been a good time for me to reflect on God and meditate on him in the midst of personal difficulties.

Is there anything else you would like to add or say to our supporters?

Thank you very much for your commitment to us. May God bless you abundantly.