It is a sunny Sunday morning in San Salvador. It is dry season.
Just as any other Sunday, there are people in the streets coming and going. Housewives with shopping bags going to the local outdoor market to buy the ingredients for lunch, families with their best garments coming from church, and kids going with balls to the park.
The air is filled with freshness and calm, and somehow the future seems brighter for many people going to the local church in the Majucla community.
In a neighborhood named Cuscatancingo, in a poor area of San Salvador, walls full of graffiti, stray dogs, and police and military forces are part of the normal landscape. There are also groups of teenagers with baggy pants and big shirts, some of them with tattoos. They are gang members just ‘chilling.’
In this neighborhood, there is a church named “Tabernaculo Biblico Bautista Majucla” or Baptist Biblical Tabernacle of Majucla. And on this day, at a little bit past 10 in the morning, there are over 100 people in the church.
There is a line outside of the church, and it is growing. The church is almost full. For anybody just passing by, this seems like the second service at the church, but it’s not. The message is a bit different because it is a monthly meeting that the center has with the parents of the children enrolled.
Brother Rodolfo, the pastor, isn’t sharing the message, but his wife Wendy, a respected woman in the community with vast experience in pedagogy, is.
The people attending these monthly meetings come from low-income families. Most of them do not have formal jobs. They survive making tortillas or selling vegetables at the local street market.
These meetings are an initiative in El Salvador called “school for parents,” and the initiative is being financed through a Complementary Interventions Fund (CIV).
CIV is a tool used to provide additional assistance to the families of the children registered in the Compassion programs.
“We come here to learn,” says Ana Luz, mother of Rosibel. “It is a blessing too, because my husband is not Christian, but he likes to come to the meeting.”
The purpose of a school for parents is to inform the parents what their children are learning, but also to have an opportunity to provide parents knowledge and tools that will help them in their role.
The Compassion centers have adopted this model and meet with the parents at least once every two months. In the case of Tabernaculo Biblico Bautista Majucla, they meet once a month.
The school for parents has been active since the beginning of the center, a little more than three years ago.
Just as in a school meeting, the parents get acquainted with the upcoming events at the center, they know when the next sponsor letter is due, and which children have received letters from their sponsors. There is also participation by either the pastor or a special guest, such as a medical doctor, a police officer, a firefighter, or a psychologist, who talks about a subject of interest for the parents.
The talks at the meetings touch issues from marital problems to good health practices for the family.
“We do not take our children with us for these meetings because they are a distraction, and some of the subjects are not appropriate for them,” says Ana Luz.
In fact, some of the subjects studied at these meetings teach the parents about the well-being, the trust, and the intimacy of couples.
“I believe that if the couple is ok, the children will also be ok,” says Sister Wendy, explaining that if the couple lives in an atmosphere of love and understanding, the children will also receive love.
There is also the spiritual component. The parents read the Bible, pray and sing hymns, and those seeds are starting to bear fruit.
“I was not Christian, and I did not want to know anything about church, but I liked to come to these meetings” says Dinora, mother of Laura.
Finally, the Bible studies given by the pastor at the school for parents penetrated Dinora’s heart, and she became a Christian.
“Since last December, I started attending church,” she adds.
The success of this program does not happen just because of the training and knowledge of the staff, but because of their love for the children and their families, and the commitment of the pastors and the church.
“We have spiritual help and material help,” says Sonia, mother of Edwin. “My children are learning about computers … [But also] I know that if one of them gets sick, I can come looking for the pastor and he will help me.”
This morning, Sister Wendy is talking about the psychological implications of a divorce in the lives of the children. After about 20 minutes she ends her talk with the words: “The best solution to face a divorce: to hold hard in the hands of the Lord.”
The staff plan the school for parents with love and enthusiasm, knowing that this will impact the lives of the children at a deep level.
Brother Nicolas, grandfather and caregiver of Brenda and Tatiana, shows his excitement for what he learned at the school for parents and for the efforts of the church to provide a good service, with integrity. “Whoever is not grateful with God for this blessing, and with the staff, is not being fair,” he says.