The story of Agua Viva (Living Waters)
Since our arrival to Ecuador, our passion has been to love God and serve the people of this precious land. For the first five years we trained ministers at the seminary, held workshops in local churches, and hosted children and benevolent outreach around Ecuador. For several years, God began to birth a desire within our heart to lead a local community development initiative where we could minister “with” the people as opposed to just “to” and “for” the people.
Early in 2012, we learned that a local orphanage was closed and the property was for sale. We climbed a high hill that overlooked the campus to get a “lay of the land.” Immediately, God gave us the vision of starting a holistic child development center, planting a church in the community, training ministers and college interns about holistic mission, and hosting short-term mission teams within this impoverished community.
In May of 2012, we experienced a miracle as we were able to purchase this 2 1/2 acre campus for 1/3 of its appraised value! The campus holds 6 cabins, a kitchen and dinning hall, a chapel and lots of grassy play area.
Since making the purchase, we have learned that
- 80% of the inhabitants are below the poverty level
- 31% of children suffer from malnutrition
- Due to the below-standard education system, many are unable to read nor do they possess the skills needed in order to find gainful employment
- There are many simple health problems that go untreated because the people cannot afford services and the government health centers are unable to sufficiently care for those in need.
- 20% of parents are single mothers
- Large families (5 children or more) are predominant, leaving an overwhelming cost for a family to care for its children.
- 16% never attended high school
- 10% of parents admit to leaving their pre-school aged children home alone or with other young siblings
- 68% earn only $350 per month
The Agua Viva campus has daily programs that benefit the children of this community. An after-school educational program is offered to the children to help fill deficiencies due to the sub par local school system. We also provide nutritional assistance, medical assistance, case management services and family counseling.
As a holistic ministry, we intentionally serve both the child and his or her family. We envision that the child’s family and our ministry provide the nurturing and enriching environment necessary for the child to grow and thrive. Therefore, several times a year we have “parent meetings” which include teachings and workshops about important issues. As a result of the comprehensive approach, the children and families touched by our programs have benefited in several ways.
We have watched the at-risk children who participate in our programs flourish. Parents boast about their children performing better in school. School principals talk about the children being better behaved. The kids proudly practice their English when we have visiting teams from the US. Children who were once shy and sad now beam with confidence and joy. Lives have truly been transformed by the love and grace of God through this ministry
A major area of concern is that our children receive safe and nutritious meals. Many studies have noted the relationship between proper nutrition and development. Therefore, we offer nutritious protein enriched snacks and meals at all of our events. In addition to this, we continually emphasize to the children and their parents that the child needs to eat healthy and receive proper nutrition at home. This includes workshops detailing the benefits of only drinking clean safe water and disinfecting fruits and vegetables before consumption. These efforts have resulted in increasing the learning capacity of our children and less preventable sickness among their families.
Other areas of concern include personal hygiene, abuse and child labor. For example, several of our children had dental problems. It was evident that they either didn’t know how or didn’t see the importance of taking care of their teeth. So we hosted several dental workshops and provided the children with toothbrushes and toothpaste. We trained the children on how to use the toothbrushes and toothpaste and now most of our children exercise proper dental care in the home.
Conversations with the children and parents revealed that physical and sexual abuse often occurred in the home. Also many of the moms were victims of domestic abuse. Therefore, we dedicated several months to teach the children about their bodies and their rights. We also talked about these issues during the parent meetings and explained the laws that protect women and children from suffering abuse. This effort led to the empowerment of many women and children to stand up for their rights to be treated with dignity and respect.
Another issue that plagues Ecuador is child labor. The benefits of education to a person’s overall quality of life are well documented. Therefore, we continually stress the importance of keeping the child in school as opposed to forcing him or her to work to both the children and parents
In addition to serving children, we seek to serve our entire community. We host special events and training workshops for the parents of the children who participate in our after-school enrichment program. We also offer enrichment classes and other assistance to the widows, single moms and other women of our community. Several adults in the community have come to know Christ and are now attending weekly Bible studies held at Agua Viva.
Agua Viva also offers ministry throughout the region. Quito is a major city with about 2 million inhabitants. Families often migrate to Quito in hopes of finding better income and social services. Unfortunately, the brutal realities of the city usually crushes their dreams in short order and the families make the decision to send their young children to work on the streets and help provide income for the family. Nine percent of all children are child laborers working in construction, street vending, providing various services or in the sex trade. Agua Viva works with with various social ministries who give daily services to the at-risk children of Quito. Throughout the year, these children attend retreats and/or special events held at the Agua Viva campground. These retreats provide a much-needed rest from the risks in their lives as well as nutrition, clothing, health services and physical aid.
Since its beginning, approximately 1000 children have participated in the ministry events at the Agua Viva campus including: our after-school enrichment program, nutrition services, medical clinics, clothing distribution, Christmas celebrations, back-to-school donations, and overnight camps.
The Story in Photos…
The purchase of this property would not have been possible without the generosity and God-formed partnership we have with Living Waters Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California. This church has provided financially, spiritually and physically for the Agua Viva campus. They continually send teams of people to help with construction or hands-on ministry.
With the help of MANY churches, ministry teams and individual sponsors, we have made many repairs and upgrades to the facilities of Agua Viva including a major kitchen renovation, erection of a security wall and construction of a beautiful children’s playground. We continue to host visiting groups who help us with maintenance projects and future expansions.
A team of ministers including Bobby and Tamitha Lynch, Rick and Jan Waldrop, Jimmy and Elba Arguello oversees the functions of Agua Viva.
Rick & Jan
Rick holds a DMiss in Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is a seminary professor at various seminaries throughout the world. Jan is a retired teacher with many years of experience in the field of education. Together they have served as missionaries for 36 years, during which they founded the Casa Shalom Home for Children in Guatemala and lived there with their children for 8 years. Rick and Jan live on-site at the Agua Viva campus and have been part of the formation of this ministry center from its beginning. They are an integral part of the hands-on daily ministry events.
Jimmy & Elba
Jimmy is an Ordained Bishop within the Church of God Ecuador and is currently serving as the overseer of Region 2 for the Church of God in Ecuador. Elba is a professor of Theology at SEMISUD (South American Seminary) and is also the director of FUNSEC, a foundation that provides daycare services to at-risk children in another area of Quito.
This is a presentation of slide about Agua Viva’s ministry center and the vision for its future.