Connections: Phil Schmidt
Changing Lives, One Child at a Time
Phil Schmidt, president/executive director of Latin America ChildCare, discusses the mission of LACC and offers insight into how lives are being changed through the ministry. He spoke recently with Pentecostal Evangel Editor Ken Horn.
evangel: For those who are unfamiliar with Latin America ChildCare, tell us about the primary purpose and mission of LACC.
SCHMIDT: Latin America ChildCare helps transform the lives of more than 100,000 impoverished children in 21 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. We’re not only a compassionate ministry to children, but also a transformational ministry through our education program and network of schools.
evangel: You mentioned impoverished children. Why the poor?
SCHMIDT: First of all, it is biblical. There are hundreds of verses in Scripture that instruct us to remember the poor and suffering.
Second, we follow the example of Christ, who told us in Luke 4 that one of His purposes for coming was to communicate the good news of salvation to the poor.
Third, we’re passionately moved to help the poor. When we see the lives of children who are caught in generational and systemic poverty, knowing that we can transform them, we must act. We are compelled to act.
evangel: How do you go about accomplishing those goals?
SCHMIDT: We have five decades of experience, with proven methods. There are times when we must respond quickly to meet physical needs; however, our strategy goes beyond that. Sometimes a cup of cold water is just not enough. Our conviction is that true compassion changes lives for eternity.
Experience has taught us to focus on providing a quality education, alongside a local Assemblies of God congregation that conveys the message of the Cross and biblical principles to effectively change the community. Our primary goal is to introduce the life-changing message of a personal relationship with Christ.
The other aspects of the ministry, such as hygiene and feeding programs, also prepare those we reach with the tools necessary to succeed and escape the poverty into which they were born.
evangel: The primary focus of Latin America ChildCare involves education and schools. Do you do other child-related ministry, such as orphanages, digging water wells, disaster relief and clothing distribution?
SCHMIDT: We are singularly focused upon establishing schools and providing education that integrates within the community to transform lives for long-term effectiveness. There are times when we will participate in other opportunities to provide relief or a better living environment, but those are secondary to our mission.
Many times, because of our strategic position within the community, we partner with other ministries that provide those needed services. We don’t have any orphanages; however, many of the children who attend our schools do come from orphanages that are in communities where our schools and churches are located. We’re much more effective when we remain focused on what God has called us to do.
evangel: You mentioned that you are currently reaching more than 100,000 children. Some readers may not know LACC’s lengthy and effective history. How many children have been reached by your efforts?
SCHMIDT: In 2013, we will celebrate 50 years since the first schools were opened in El Salvador — as well as the fact that well over 1 million children have had the opportunity to attend school and hear about Jesus because of LACC.
evangel: One million children reached is hard to grasp. Can you break that down and give us examples on a more personal level?
SCHMIDT: The testimonies are incredible. In this edition of the Pentecostal Evangel, readers will meet Juan Carlos, who attended our schools in El Salvador and today is a missionary in Japan. And Danny from Costa Rica, who had innumerable challenges but today is a medical doctor. And Cony, who graduated from our Los Cuadros school and is now a teacher in one of our schools.
evangel: With a task so large, a person could feel overwhelmed by the question “What could I possibly do?”
SCHMIDT: We can only do what we’re accomplishing because we connect the need of a child with the compassion of a sponsor. Although the mission is very large in scope, it becomes personal when a sponsor receives personal information on a child, his or her picture, and then letters from a very appreciative boy or girl. Our sponsors are wonderful people who give a small monthly gift that makes a huge investment in transforming a child’s future and giving hope.
evangel: How can our readers get involved today?
SCHMIDT: There are several ways for individuals to partner with us in changing the destiny of a child. They can sponsor a child. There are also opportunities to give to our feeding program, Extreme Poverty Fund, our school supply packets program, or even help with a construction project. Plus, LACC representatives are available to go to churches.
For more information visit www.lacc4hope.org.
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