Today we spent the day at Vision Celestial reconnecting and getting a first-hand view of what has been happening with our ministry partner here.  We started by meeting with Pastor Ernesto and Alta Gracia to meet and greet the team members, an update of the projects at Vision Celestial, and later an update from Hillside about what we are doing at home.

Currently Vision Celestial is providing services to 520 children through their partnership with Compassion International.  As we always find here, there is more demand than they can meet.  At the end of last-year they added 25 more sponsored children to the program.  For those who are not familiar with the ministry of Compassion International, sponsored children receive assistance with education, clothing, food, and spiritual nurturing.

Vision Celestial has a maternity care program, providing counseling and support to pregnant women through the first three years of the child’s life.  Once the child reaches age 3, the child enters into the Compassion program.  Each counselor provides services to 20 women, and once a woman gives birth, a new pregnant mother replaces that mother.

Vision Celestial has been able to take advantage of a government program to provide training to the counselors.  INAIPE – National Institute for Infancy and Early Childhood provides training in early childhood development and care, education, and health; all things related to child welfare.  The program also provides legal support for children who are not properly documented because of home births and other issues.  Without the proper documentation children are unable to receive health care, education and other benefits.

Vision Celestial is carefully considering a proposal to provide a day care for birth through 3 years of age to be funded by INAIPE.  The leadership is also considering how to integrate this possible venture into the Compassion program.  As with any government program there are complexities that need to be considered and your prayers for this are appreciated.

Children’s church is a church service that is for kids, by kids.  Music, message and all are prepared and done by the children.  One of the original kids in the formation of this ministry has taken over leadership responsibility.  As with all programs at Vision Celestial, there is a focus on preparing those involved in ministry to take over leadership.    

As with the Children’s Church ministry, original members of the Dance Team have taken over leadership. 

The tutors for the Compassion International program have continued to change, and this is according to design.  These are often young women who have come up through the Compassion International program and it is a part of their growth.  They leave for various reasons; for marriage, further education, for work opportunities, or other personal reasons.  Although we are saddened when we don’t get to see people we have met in prior years, we are always excited to see women continue to grow and progress through the program.

Women of Vision is a ministry that provides workshops, seminars and conferences for single moms and moms of sponsored children.  The ministry is designed for the women of the community who need support, work, and in general to provide for empowerment of women.  These women are often disadvantaged, come from poor homes, and is especially a passion of Alta Gracia who grew up in a home with a single mother and in poverty.

The Sewing Center was introduced to us last year and is designed to provide government certified seamstress training to women in the community.  The certification provides the graduates with the ability to get jobs or start their own home business.  Many at Hillside helped provide funding for sewing machines that were needed for the program.  At the end of 2018 Vision Celestial funded a 2-month introductory class to introduce the new center to the community.  The participants made decorating items such as curtains and table cloths, and all of the items made were sold at Christmas time.  

Last Tuesday was the start of the first official certification program.  The government agency INFOTEP provides the instructors and curriculum for a one-year curriculum, which has six, two-month modules on different types of sewing, such as curtains, table cloths, clothing, etc. The church is responsible for providing the facilities, which is an air-conditioned room, sewing machines, cutting tables, etc. Classes are five days a week, three hours per day.  There are eighteen women in the course.

The sewing class is located behind the bakery, that we assisted with setting up in prior years.  The bakery itself has not been able to perform financially as had been hoped.  However, it has provided the venue for the sewing class, and now Vision Celestial is considering how the sewing class can be used to supplement and improve the revenues of the bakery.  With that in mind, the church plans to add catering services, which can sell products made at the sewing center, and it will also provide a market for additional sweet bakery products, such as cakes.  Chairs, tables and other capital items will be acquired to provide for rental revenues.

Additionally, the Church has a vision to add a second floor above the sewing center for a cosmetology school.  This as well as the development of a catering business are designed to provide additional revenues to support the operations on the property, as well as to help fund all the services designed to empower women.

In these training and equipping ministries, there is a blend of apprenticeship and discipleship to build the physical, emotional, financial and spiritual health of the participants.

Throughout all that is being done in this ministry, the focus is always on equipping, providing energy, hope, self-worth, opening doors for potential, preparing new leadership in the ministry and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His law to love your neighbor as yourself, by sharing God’s love in the community.  And not only do we see this demonstrated by providing programs, we see Pastor Ernesto continuously connecting with people on the street, saying hi, introducing himself, and caring about the people of the community in a direct, personal way.

To paraphrase St. Francis, in all you do preach the Gospel; when necessary, use words.

John 13:34-35
"A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."