SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia (Mennonite Mission Network) – Hands came together in excited applause on March 13 when members of Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Boliviana (Bolivian Mennonite Church) inaugurated the new Samuelito day care building. Many of these hands had helped to craft this new building alongside the IEMB and volunteers from many countries.
For three years, the Samuelito center, which provides childcare focusing on health, nutrition, education and faith for children from the surrounding neighborhood, has been housed within the Esmirna Mennonite Church. Although construction on parts of the building continues, the inauguration celebrated the opening of four classrooms, bathrooms and a large kitchen.
“For three years, we had been functioning in the installations of the Esmirna church, where space was really a problem,” wrote Margrit Kipfer Barrón, Mennonite Mission Network and Swiss Mennonite Conference worker in Bolivia who helps to coordinate Christian education ministries for the Bolivian Mennonite Church. “That’s why we had been praying and planning that the new daycare could have its own facilities. Thanks to the Lord who has permitted that work!”
The inauguration ceremony brought out educators, parents and church members to celebrate the opening. Attendees sang and worshipped together, toured the building, shared food and fellowship, and listened to a meditation by Leónidas (Ona) Saucedo, Bolivian Mennonite Church president.
Currently, 74 children spend their days at the Samuelito center. The daycare is one outreach of the church to working parents and their children. Over the three-and-a-half-year building process, several Mennonite Mission Network Youth Venture service teams and volunteers helped with its construction.
Sheri Saner, children’s pastor at South Hutchinson (Kan.) Mennonite Church, spent one month in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, building relationships with churches and leaders and volunteering at the day care, and was able to attend the inauguration. South Hutchinson is exploring joining a global mission partnership among several churches in Kansas and the Bolivian Mennonite Church.
“It was such a privilege to worship with the people during church services and witness God’s presence in that place. It was an amazing experience of Christian unity and love,” wrote Saner. “I am excited about what God is doing through the Mennonite Church in Santa Cruz.”