Newspapers and a Dream
By Cathy Ketcher
Oct. 6, 2013
Sidewalks quickly grew crowded as people poured from hundreds of buses that converged outside Jorge el Magico Gonzalez Stadium on July 16 in San Salvador, El Salvador. Men, women and children — lots of children — representing all walks of life waited patiently in the sweltering heat for their turn to enter the 32,000-seat venue. Yet among those who gathered, anticipation far surpassed any discomfort.
The crowd had come together for one purpose: to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Liceo Cristiano “Reverendo Juan Bueno” (John Bueno Christian Schools) and honor its founders, former AGWM executive director John Bueno and his wife, Lois. And while the stadium was nearly filled, the crowd represented only a fraction of the more than 1 million children who have been educated through the nationwide school system since it began in 1963.
During the opening ceremony, student delegations from Liceo Cristiano campuses marched around the track surrounding the soccer field. By the time all the marchers had entered, the throng of students and alumni covered the perimeter of the field. In the stands, other Liceo Cristiano students held up brightly colored flags that blended together to display messages of praise to God and thanks to the Buenos for the blessing the schools have been to students’ lives and nation.
The vision for a Christian school began soon after John and Lois arrived in El Salvador as missionaries. While driving home late one night, John spotted a young boy standing at an intersection, trying to sell newspapers. Every day hundreds of children spent their days hawking trinkets, shining shoes, or asking for money to help support their families. What gripped John’s heart was the late hour and the boy’s desperation to sell papers that would be full of old news in only a couple of hours.
Almost without thinking, John stopped and bought the boy’s remaining inventory of newspapers. With a look of excitement and relief, the boy grabbed the money and scampered away.
As John continued his drive home, the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart. John had helped a child eat for a day, but what about the future? What hope did the boy — and so many like him — have of breaking poverty’s grip on their lives?
In obedience to God’s leading, John took a step of faith and made plans to open a school for needy children. Classes began in 1963 with 81 students enrolled. Three makeshift classrooms were outfitted with desks and chairs made of used lumber.
As more children sought to enroll, the need for satellite schools became evident. Today, 17,000 students from elementary through high school are enrolled at 37 campuses. Over the years the school system has weathered economic downturns and civil unrest as God has faithfully — and often miraculously — provided for every need.
Of the more than 1 million students who have attended Liceo Cristiano, many have become doctors, attorneys, pastors and missionaries. Several officials in the El Salvador government are graduates. The majority of current teachers at Liceo Cristiano schools are former students who want to give back to the ministry.
Of the new students who enroll in Liceo Cristiano each year, approximately 40 percent are spiritually lost. However, by the end of the school year, the majority of these children receive Christ as a result of regular chapel services and devotions coupled with the witness of the teachers and other students. Entire families have come to Christ because of the difference Liceo Cristiano has made in their homes and communities.
Students, both past and present, were the main feature of the 50th anniversary celebration. Other participants included Norman Quijano, mayor of San Salvador, and Jeremias Bolaños Anaya, general superintendent of the El Salvador AG. A delegation from the United States also attended.
“It was an honor to attend the celebration and witness the impact John and Lois have made in the lives of children through Liceo Cristiano,” says Charlene Perryman, who worked with John during his years as a regional director and executive director of AGWM. “The sacrifices they made and their passion for the children have reaped great rewards.”
At one point during the celebration, a young boy carrying an Olympic-style torch entered the stadium and lit a flame on the platform. As the celebration ended, one of the first Liceo Cristiano teachers took the torch and handed it to the oldest living alumnus. As the torch made its way around the track, it was handed to a high school student who passed it off to John. John ran with the flame a short distance and gave it to a middle school student. The torch was then passed to progressively younger students, and an early elementary child carried it from the stadium. The scene depicted what God has done through the Buenos’ obedience.
“The little seeds that were sown 50 years ago in the heart of that newspaper boy and the first children who came to the school have germinated and grown,” John Bueno says. “Looking to the future of the school, I am believing the promise of Job 8:7: ‘Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.’”
When the Holy Spirit spoke to John’s heart to do something to change the course of children’s lives, John ran with the dream. As a result, more than a million children have been touched by the gospel. Now these children are running with the same dream — to live up to their full potential and fulfill God’s call on their lives. As a result, an entire nation has been blessed.
Cathy Ketcher is editorial coordinator for AGWM.
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