SANTA ROSA, Argentina (Mennonite Mission Network) — Children from the poorest areas of Santa Rosa, Argentina are being taken by the vanload to Sunday school. In March, Santa Rosa Mennonite Church restarted their outreach ministry through their Sunday school program for children from Kindergarten to adolescence.
Going out in the streets to minister has brought in people who would not otherwise have the means to attend the church. There is a van that goes to certain barrios (neighborhoods) to pick up children.
By Linda Shelly
For seven months, the Argentina RAD (Reaching and Discipling) team is part of the ministry of Santa Rosa Mennonite Church.
During the Argentine summer the four RAD members served at retreats and conferences and helped with several mission projects. In Santa Rosa, they support the local church in Sunday school and youth ministries. They are also working with the congregation in preparing their new community center for neighborhood ministries and helped give the church a fresh coat of paint.
The team also seeks relationships with Argentines, hoping to learn from them as well as share their own experiences.
RAD participant Ellie Hampton said, “When I heard that my family had asked to host one of us because they are new in their faith and want to experience at home how a Christian lives, I realized the importance of how I relate. Living together is good for me as well as for the family.”
RAD participants besides Ellie Hampton include: Hannah Kauffman from Riverside Mennonite Church in Au Gres, Va., Cory Yost from Eureka Church of the Nazarene in Eureka, Ill., and Justin Steiner from Dayspring Christian Fellowship in Orrville, Ohio.
Pastor Omar Onischuk is the local coordinator for the team.
“The children are from poorer sections of the city and have a variety of needs,” said Starla Moyer, working in Argentina with her husband, David, through Mennonite Mission Network.
According to Moyer the children vary in their emotional and physical needs -- from breakfast to role models and love.
Santa Rosa Mennonite Church is building a community center in one of these poorer neighborhoods. Members plan to hold Sunday school classes there, in addition to the programs at the main church building.
The Santa Rosa congregation has ministered to children in the neighborhood through Sunday school for many years and anticipates that the community center will open space for holistic ministries with families.
In a congregation of 80 adult members, around 60 children and youth attend Sunday school each week. Most of the children who attend the Sunday school do not have family involved with the congregation. The youth invite friends and the program continues to grow.
After gathering in the sanctuary, the children move upstairs for a meal of bread, pastries, tea with milk or hot chocolate. They meet for a time of singing before they separate by grades for a lesson, story and crafts.
The RAD (Reaching and Disciplining) team in Argentina is helping with the Sunday school by serving the breakfast meal and aiding teachers with crafts and classroom control.
“The parents of the community send their children because it is a good environment for their children and they get fed a good breakfast," said RAD participant Ellie Hampton of Harrisonburg, Va. "It also gives them positive role models, direction on how to live their lives, and hope for their futures.”
Hampton and Moyer help the first- and second-grade teacher, Giselle Onischuk, with lessons and to engage between 20 and 25 students. Hampton said children step off the van and enter a warm loving place where they eat a meal that some would not have otherwise. Their physical and emotional needs are met and they can enjoy the singing and teaching moments.
Hampton said, “By helping in this program I’ve realized once again that children have an amazing capacity to love. Sunday mornings they run up and give me big hugs and huge smiles.”
The Sunday school ministry takes place on Sunday mornings but the main church service is not until the evenings so the teachers do not miss the messages and guest speakers.
Though Moyer feels that the children are coming from a background that includes little biblical knowledge, the children are spreading the ministry of God to their parents. They are reaching dozens of individual homes who would otherwise not be reached.
In the four months Moyer has been with Santa Rosa Mennonite Church, she has seen the children ministry thrive and positively affect the ministry of the church family. Three families have become members of the church and their children attend the Sunday school classes. The church views this ministry as a way to evangelize to people through their children.
By building the community center, church members hope to provide this area with a place to connect with others and to promote physical, emotional, and spiritual health. The building soon will be ready for programs to begin in the new location. Community members anticipate having a place to go in their own community where families can fellowship and learn about God.
Starla and David Moyer are members of Akron Mennonite Church in Penn. In Argentina they are working with the Santa Rosa Mennonite Church’s community programs teaching English, guiding recreational activities for children, and supporting work with mothers. Ellie Hampton is from Weyers Cave, VI. She is a member of Harrisonburg (Va.)Mennonite Church and a graduate of Eastern Mennonite High School.