by Annette Gulick

Annette, we just got the report from Compassion International evaluating the impact of last summer’s RAICES conference in Peru.

Since we were preparing for our *RAICES board meeting, I plowed through the pertinent parts of the 180-page report, sharing the most notable bits with Tim.

Can you believe that 44 percent of the Compassion Int'l partner churches who sent someone to the conference say they don’t have the materials. It’s not just that the manual and the CDs with the resources disappeared after the conference; it’s that in many cases the people who went to the conference are no longer working either with Compassion or with that local church. Only 13.5 percent of the people currently working directly with the sponsored kids as ‘tutors’ went to the training event.

If we ever need a good outline of the barriers that have to be overcome for a church to love and minister to teenagers well, we’ve got it in this report: leadership who doesn’t see the need for youth ministry; lack of people who care about youth, while the ones who do care lack time and resources, kids who can’t come to the programs because of homework or other responsibilities, disorganized, boring meetings. The list goes on and on. Not really an encouraging scenario.

Quote that made me laugh the hardest:

Yes, the youth pastor of our church went to the conference. He was going to come today for the interview but, um, I don’t see him.

Quote that most made me want to cry:

The kids from the church are mean to those of us who are sponsored by Compassion. They look us up and down to see how we’re dressed and when we answer a question they laugh at us. knew there had to be a but...there are a
few people who got it, like the person from Chimbote who said:

They told us to meet together once a week and work through the material in the manual, so we do that every Friday. I chose potential leaders, as they told us to. At first there were four of them but now there are seven, with me, eight.

My favorite quote comes from the same person (my hunch is that he or she is the one person interviewed who actually attended the conference):

Change doesn’t happen overnight, but now we’re in the process. We’ve recently restructured our programs, adding a ministry focused specifically on adolescents. We’re gradually implementing this new ministry in our entire denomination at the national level.

You know the verse that says God is able to do much more than we ask or imagine? Sometimes it feels like He does much less than we ask and imagine. I’ve been thinking lately about how that is where faith comes in: being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. By faith we trust that He is doing much more than we imagine.

So, like you I’m sure, we face realities that are both worse than we would like and better than we know. May God grant us all the endurance to continue moving ahead in the face of discouraging realities and the faith to trust that one day we will be overwhelmed by the reality of what God has done.

* RAICES: literally translates as "Roots", but since 1999 this organization has been spearheading in-depth training for youth leaders in Latin America.
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