International (MNN) – It’s time to dust off your Spanish lessons.
Apacienta Mis Ovejas’ translates into ‘Feed My Sheep’. The phrase also creates an acronym ‘A.M.O.’-a verb that means ‘I love’.
Taking that idea, the AMO program was inspired by Jesus’ command in John 21:15, “Do you truly love Me?…Feed My Sheep.” Dr. Elizabeth Youmans, an educator and founder of Chrysalis International, developed a curriculum that teaches from a holistic view for nurturing children that goes far beyond providing physical food.
It was that approach that got Buckner International’s attention. The program was pioneered in Brazil with the at-risk street kids, translated into Portuguese and Spanish, then launched it in the Dominican Republic, where Buckner came across it in 2010.
Leslie Chace is the Director of International Ministries – Latin America for Buckner International. She explains that AMO was designed for the Church-to help create Christian culture in whatever nation it is used. It also teaches two generations at a time: the children and the teacher.
It was a perfect fit with Buckner’s mission. “2012 is when we realized that it was working really well with our children, and so we decided that we would introduce this program to the rest of our NGOs across Latin America and Africa.”
Chace goes on to say that AMO is about community transformation. “The most important transformation is that the kids will know Jesus, that they have Him in their hearts. So, no matter what they end up doing in their lives, or struggles they have, that they will have Him to comfort them, and they’ll know how to read the Bible, how to go to the Word for their answers so that they have the strength that they need to go through this journey of life.”
However, this program was required investment to work., she notes. “Before you can actually teach it, you have to go to five-day training. It teaches the teachers how to teach the kids. It has the basics, the foundation, of course: the bible. They go through the bible from the creation all the way to the end and each child receives a Bible.” Along with a Bible, kids also get an introduction to Christian literature (like books by CS Lewis ), and the program features crafts and games.
With the initial successes of the pilot programs, Buckner began thinking bigger. Chace shares, “We have a leadership summit where all our NGO directors come to Dallas to our corporate office. In April, we brought an AMO representative to come in and share the program with them because we wanted to make sure that they were comfortable to teach it and introduce it to their staff and kids.”
The directors loved the idea. They bought into it. Everyone wanted to incorporate the program at home. Buckner put a proposal together to get the funding in order and launched it. “Last month, 14 staff were trained in Mexico, Peru representatives where there, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.” Chace says the leaders took it from there. “They’re back in their countries and the program is now going across all five countries. We’re teaching them in our Family hope Centers and we are also using it for our foster care group homes, too, where we have our kids.”
Word of the success reached beyond Latin America. Chase explains that partners in Africa heard about AMO and, “In November, we’re hoping to have our staff in Kenya (teachers) get online training and get certified so that they can begin teaching it too, and they can implement it in our schools there.” Naturally, other partners in Africa began expressing interest, too. “We’re hoping eventually to do it in Ethiopia as well, although they do have a Christian curriculum already in our schools there. They have to call it ‘Ethics’ because they’re not allowed to use the word ‘Religion’ in the schools.”
There’s no telling where it’ll stop, and who says it has to? When the command goes out ‘Apacienta Mis Ovejas’, you just need to get to work. The Shepherd takes it from there. See our Featured Links section for more.