Serving at-risk youth is one of our priorities at Cadaniño.
In many developing countries, at-risk teenagers face numerous challenges that make it difficult to succeed. Poverty, lack of education, family issues, and exposure to violence and crime often creates a stressful living environment.
One of the ways we help students enrolled in our after-school programs overcome these challenges is by hosting youth retreats that provide a safe and supportive environment where they can connect with other teens facing similar challenges helping them feel more supported and less alone.
Since we hosted our first youth retreat in 2021, we have seen the benefits of providing a space for students to relax in a fun environment. The games and activities we do accomplish more than just letting students have fun. They help them relax and calm down, a stark contrast to the stressful environments in which they live, enabling them to hear words of affirmation and encouragement and be appreciated in new ways.
It gives them a chance to develop new relationships, build bonds with other students, gain confidence, develop communication and problem-solving skills, and build confidence. All of which can help them succeed in school, work, and relationships.
Following are testimonies from our youth pastors about the impact these events have had in the lives of our teenagers.
By Luke Dove, Youth Pastor, Santa Fe
Last November, we had a chance to do something that we had never done before at Cadaniño. For the first time, we got all 75 of our youth together, along with 12 teachers and a few volunteers, to have an all-day retreat focused on hearing the Word of God and sharing in community with one another.
It was an incredible time, filled with laughter and smiles, meeting new people and making new friends, and most importantly, learning about our Lord, who loves us deeply and works in our lives and hearts.
We had times team games, relay races, challenges, as well as a massive soccer game where the student from San José Pinula Center narrowly defeated the Santa Fe students. Those things were all a blast, but what was really moving was watching our kids get into the Word.
We split up into groups, half Santa Fe and half San José Pinula, each led by teachers from our centers, and just to see our kids in this beautiful environment answer questions, participate, help each other out, and dive deep into the lesson was powerful. In the afternoon, we had a guest speaker come and share, and then we closed out with a time of worship.
Our regular daily worship with about 20 kids is cool, but to hear all 75 of our students, many of whom come from really difficult backgrounds, pouring their hearts out and proclaiming that Jesus is enough moved almost all of our staff to tears. Bringing our students out of their situations and daily lives in the city to a beautiful retreat center allowed them to just breathe and relax, to play and laugh and run and be kids, which so few of our students get to do in their daily lives.
We closed in a powerful time of worship, which reminded us why we do what we do and served as an incredible testament to youth ministry's power and the progress these students have made in the last 2 years.
By Luigi González, Youth Pastor, San Jose Pinula
At the end of 2022, we held a youth retreat called "The Promise," which focused on the promises made in the Bible about the coming of Jesus as the Messiah. Some of them hundreds of years before his birth.
We had students break up into small groups and look up the various passages that talked about the details of his birth so they could see with their own eyes how God fulfilled his promises.
It was beautiful to see them realize the way God orchestrated Christ's birth to align with the prophecies about it, how Jesus was born in Bethlehem despite being from Nazareth. He came to be called out of Egypt.
The special guest speaker preached about God's faithfulness and the need to wait and seek His will. Explaining how even though it seems like God is delayed in fulfilling His promises, He is working in ways we cannot see to prepare our hearts to receive them.
The timing of this event was crucial, as a number of the youth are graduating from the program as they finish school or need to work to support their families. This time to be together with their friends was beautiful.
At Cadanino we continuously work to find key ways to involve mission teams in serving our students. We were incredibly blessed when team leaders from an Orphan Outreach trip reached out to us to ask what we needed help with, and were thrilled when they offered to host another youth retreat day.
By Luke Dove, Youth Pastor, Santa Fe
This February it was beautiful to have a mission team come in and host a youth retreat for our students where they got to spend the day laughing and playing in groups games, challenges, and team-building activities.
Some of our students got to meet their sponsors and get to know the people who have been investing in their lives. It was a huge moment for them.
Team members shared a great message, then we divided into boys and girls groups. Volunteers guided students through questions about what it means to be a young man or young woman of God and how we should treat people of the opposite sex.
A lot of the day was just spent in shared time together. Although most of the mission team members didn't speak much Spanish, their love and care crossed the language barrier and was tangibly felt by our kids.
The following week, one of the girls who attended the event asked to speak to me. She shared that it meant so much to her that one of the women on the trip hugged her strongly and told her in broken Spanish that she loved her.
It meant so much to her that this woman, someone who didn't speak much Spanish, wasn't able to communicate complex things, and might not even know her name, was willing to reach out and let her know that God loved her, it meant so much to her that it stuck with her enough that she was talking about it days later, was so powerful.
Ultimately, these youth retreats have proven to be a powerful tool in helping our young people overcome the challenges they face in their everyday lives. By giving them a place to relax and have fun, by making them feel loved, valued, and appreciated in a positive environment, by giving them a chance to work with others and collaborate with people they don't know, they can take important steps on their journey of embracing their God-given gifts and talents and using them to their greatest potential in a way that Glorifies Him.
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