By Daniel Gómez
Pastor de Las Naciones and Trustee of The Foundation for Evangelism
This past July members of our combined youth group attended YOUTH 2011 in Sacramento, CA. Our church is University United Methodist Church in Las Vegas, NV and we are also known as a “church of congregations”. We have the original (English speaking) congregation, First Filipino UMF, Las Naciones UMF (Spanish speaking) and Shalom Swahili – an African congregation (Swahili, French & English). One church which consists of various congregations.
Our youth group that attended YOUTH 2011 was represented by members of each congregation. Their experience was phenomenal for the entire group. They came back with a heightened awareness about social justice and a motivation to serve in their local community. On the last day of the YOUTH 2011 schedule, some members of our youth group entered a contest which required singing an impromptu song that contained the words love and/or acceptance. To the group’s amazement, Juan Arias Jr. (also known as Junior) was one of the three finalists of over 35 participants. You see, “Junior” is a very quiet and shy 16 year old young man. It was also announced that there was going to be a grand prize of $500 given to the winner. At the end of the contest, “Junior” was the winner.
One week later, Junior and Ezekiel Gómez (son of Daniel Gómez) met with the local church’s youth council and proposed that the $500 be shared within the community. It was unanimously approved and “Junior & Eze” proceeded to interview the three local elementary schools in the area. They identified the greatest need to be at Gene Ward Elementary School. They both met with the school’s principal & vice principal. Phyllis Morgan (principal) shared with them that the school’s population is very diverse (American, Hispanic, African, Indian, Pakistani & Afghani) and the average income is at the poverty line. Dr. Hall (Vice principal) shared with the boys how she grew up in the state of Louisiana and likewise was very much involved in the United Methodist youth group. The immediate need at this school was for clothing and funding a “reward program” for those students that excelled scholastically and/or for their participation in community service projects.
Both Junior & Eze decided to award the money to this elementary school in the following manner:
- $300 to be used for purchasing school uniforms for students that can’t afford it.
- $100 for purchasing boys & girls underwear for those little accidents 4 to 7 yr olds might have. School policy states that children must be sent home if they experience an accident in their under clothes. Here lies a great challenge and a problem. More often than not, there is no one home to come pick up the children and/or the families do not have a home phone. With the school purchasing children’s underwear, the school nurse and a teacher’s aide will be able to provide clean & dry clothing for the children to change into, without needing to be removed from the classroom and/or the school.
- $100 to fund the reward & recognition program. The school decided to name this award with the name of the youth group – Young Ignited Flames.