Chile special needs center provides love, acceptance
Lorena Noe and her husband, René, arrived at the Valparaiso, Chile, Church of the Nazarene 11 years ago. From the time they accepted the pastorate, they saw a need to serve children with disabilities.
“My husband felt the need to start this ministry because of my work as a special needs teacher,” Lorena said.
The congregation shared this vision, but it wasn’t until 2011 that a group of 10 people expressed interest in receiving training in skills to care for the special needs community.
After two years of training, the ministry officially launched under the name Look of Love in 2013. The ministry began offering art, cooking, and sports workshops every Saturday. They also held a devotional time for parents who had kids attending the program.
“Our goal was to support not only the children but also their families.” Lorena said. “[Special needs] families go through loneliness, desperation, depression because of their kid’s diagnosis. Many were angry at God because of the suffering they were going through, therefore we could not be direct when sharing the gospel.”
When Joseph*, a student with autism, began attending Look of Love, Pastor René gave him a Bible. He told Joseph he could bring it to church if his family decided to attend.
Every day as his family left the house, Joseph filled his backpack with things he might need. For weeks Joseph would try to put his Bible in his backpack.
His mother would not let him take it because she knew if he put the Bible in his backpack, that meant they had to go to church. Joseph’s mother felt so much pressure that after two months, she finally yielded.
She decided to take him to church, and that day she accepted Christ as her savior.
“He enjoys the worship songs, and he enjoys to be in the presence of the Lord,” Lorena said. “He notices when someone doesn’t attend church, and when he sees them again, he asked why they didn’t come to church.”
Joseph’s mother now evangelizes and minister to other mothers with special needs children.
Igor and Carolina, a young married couple started volunteering at Look of Love in 2013. Later, their son Lewis* was diagnosed with autism. Because of the experience they acquired by working at the center, they had the tools to care for him.
Lewis comes to church, and though sometimes he wears earmuffs because he is sensitive to loud noises, the congregation has learned to embrace children like Lewis who require a different form of care. They even let him be in charge of singing the happy birthday song during service.
“He knows a lot about the Bible, biology, history,” Lorena said. “We believe the ministry has helped in his formation. [Because of his diagnosis] he would be more lonely, but because he attends church and the program, he can interact, talk, and greet others.”
Angel* was diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder. He was expelled from six schools without ever completing a school level successfully. At the center, he finally experienced acceptance. For the first time, he was able to complete a school level. His mother doesn’t attend church, but she was very thankful for Look of Love’s support.
“The reason he made academic advancements is because he felt loved,” Lorena said. “We can have the best teaching strategies, but the best strategy is to love on them. When a child feels loved and respected he or she learns better.”
*Names changed to protect privacy