The culture in Uruguay is different from other places in Latin America. In other countries, you see communities taking care of each other, celebrating birthdays together, and working together for the good of the community. This sense of community was also true of Uruguay in the past, but today many people in the cities are more reserved. Due to increased crime and drugs, people have begun to live separated from their neighborhood, putting bars on windows and staying inside. This change creates a tense environment.
The church Jesús es Dios in Durazno, Uruguay, began a children’s ministry in the neighborhood of Tadey in August 2021. Vanessa Hernandez and her team visited the neighborhood and began meeting people. Since “Children’s Day” is celebrated in Uruguay every August, they felt it was the perfect day to start meeting. The group began gathering on a soccer field in the neighborhood. Each week the team offers a snack, games, a Bible story, and time to play together and build friendships. After six months of ministry, they now have 35-40 children coming to hear about Jesus each week! This work alone would be enough to say hallelujah, but the transformation doesn’t stop there.
The ministry of the Durazno church has caught the attention of families and other community members. Parents have begun helping on different occasions, donating cakes or other materials. A neighbor was inspired and gave a monetary donation, and the owner of the neighborhood bakery has started donating baked goods for the events. Vanessa created a group message on WhatsApp, allowing parents to communicate with each other. What began as a weekly children’s program has become a vehicle for holistic transformation. There is a contagious excitement for reencountering neighbors and becoming a community again. This renewed formation of a strong community is the foundation from which more holistic transformation can take place.
Sebastian Carballo is the pastor of the Jesús es Dios church in Durazno, Uruguay, and missions district leader. Tanya Rosado is a missionary to Latin America and coordinator of transformational churches.