Monday landed our team at Rey Salomon and their Agape program for students with special needs. Some of us spent time in the vocational area. Here students with disabilities learn functional academics, work skills and life skills through cooking and a class business with the goal that they will be prepared for life after high school in Managua. We had the pleasure of learning how to make churros – a fried pastry coated in sugar. The vocational students, ages 15-20, prepared the kitchen while wearing white aprons and chef hats over their school uniforms. Their teacher, Elizabeth, guided them as needed through the process of making the dough, forming it, frying it, rolling it in sugar, and graciously sharing their treats with us. Que sabroso! (How tasty!)
In our preparation for this trip we studied the John 6 passage on the five loaves and two fish multiplied for many by Jesus power and his blessing on what was offered up to meet the needs of the people. In many ways our work with the Agape program is piece-meal loaves and fish as teams go two or three times per year. Little by little we see the handi-work of God as he enables the students with special needs and their teachers to do more than they thought was possible. Several teachers commented on how recently the students in the vocational program are more willing to try things on their own, they are more determined and have been expressing dreams for their futures. This growth comes from their introduction of a class business and selling their churritos and other pastries they make at school. In addition, they have sold greeting cards and crafts at a local fair where they are seen as being productive, valued members of society – something that is sorely lacking there. Their presence in the community is being noticed and people are impressed, especially when they take trips to the local supermarket to buy ingredients. We were more than thrilled to see the progress that is already happening with the minimal support we can offer them. In this developing country, the Agape program is really the only one of its kind. God is using them to break ground in new ways, allowing his love to flow through these students with special needs into a society that needs His redeeming love. It also gives these students hope for their future where there aren’t government stipends to purchase work and living supports after high school. There are not even laws ensuring students with disabilities will even get an education. Truly we were encouraged by hearing of their progress. We will continue to meet with several of the Agape staff to share information they want to hear about. Walking in step with them, we have faith that God will continue to provide all of their needs into uncharted territory.