When you love someone, you will do anything for them. Jesus Christ puts that in our hearts. That belief is very much a part of the spiritual DNA that drives Patricia Bunk.
“I have always loved children who don’t have anything,” says Patti, who became a missionary with Missions Door in 2011 and three years ago started Door of Love, a children’s sponsorship program in Nicaragua. “God told me, I’m going to give you all of these children to take care of. It’s one more way I can share my love with children.”
When she was younger and raising her own children, Patti says she read “every missions book I could put my hands on. I wanted to be sure God was really calling me to do this.”
No book in the world could have prepared her for the stark reality that awaited in one of the world’s most impoverished countries.
‘How Can They Learn When They’re Starving?’
When Patti and her team walk up to a house in a remote village — sometimes after traversing the side of a mountain to get there — more often than not this is what they find: a child that is literally dressed in rags. No shoes on their feet. There’s no fire for warmth and they have no bed to sleep on.
“The schools are in horrible shape, too,” Patti says. Some are nothing more than sticks holding up pieces of metal. Inside, the problem only worsens. “One book for 30 kids. No pencils. No paper. How can anybody learn like this? And how can they learn when they’re starving?” Patti says.
It’s not uncommon for the children to be surviving on a single tortilla a day. Let that sink in as your car idles in the local fast-food drive-thru.
“I want to put food on their plates. They have to eat!” Patti says. “I also want to make sure they have a backpack, pencils, paper, a uniform, shoes and socks. Without those, you’re not allowed to attend school in Nicaragua.”
Forging Personal Relationships
This is what the Door of Love program is really about —a $36 a month sponsorship provides a child with food, education and opportunities to learn about and embrace the love of Jesus Christ. For those who may think this is just another in a long line of children’s charities often highlighted on a late-night infomercial, Patti responds with great passion.
“The difference between those organizations and Door of Love is that we know each and every one of these kids. I am sharing the Gospel with them and their families. I am not running a social ministry. We reach out to the unreachable. This is real evangelism.”
Patti works alongside of Pastor Rigo Reyes, the Director of Central America for Missions Door, in driving the program forward. They go to remote villages. They go to dilapidated dwellings where they sit on dirt floors and sing songs and do crafts while getting to know the children. The parents are interviewed to determine their needs and level of commitment to the Door of Love program.
“There really are only two rules. First, they must send their child to school every day. Second, they must agree to be a part of the church,” Patti says. If they fail to live up to either of those conditions, the child must leave the program.
Once a child has been sponsored, the family receives a 30-day supply of food each month, which they must personally pick up. The child also receives everything needed for school, from clothing to shoes to supplies.
The program is growing, from 30 children sponsored during the first year to 65 the next and 120 this year. Last year, Patti ran a backpack program in which nearly every sponsor donated $50 to purchase the contents that filled a backpack for each sponsored child with uniforms, shoes, socks, and school supplies. Now, Patti is launching Project Pencil Box, a similar program to fill 90 pencil boxes with pencils, sharpeners, paper, puzzles and more. She already has several groups contributing to this project.
For all the progress, growth and success, there are thousands more children at high risk. Children such as Kay.
Kay (not her real name) is an 8-year-old girl whose mother had abandoned her, leaving Kay in the care of elderly grandparents. Even though Kay was sponsored through the program, she was nowhere to be found during an Open Door celebration that took place during Patti’s visit in August. It turns out Kay’s grandparents had sold her into slavery. “Rigo is looking for her; we’re holding out hope to find her,” Patti said, her voice trembling.
‘Let God’s Love Shine’
Patti presses on because the poverty affecting children in Nicaragua is relentless. She speaks about her missions program somewhere almost every two months, mostly to churches, Bible studies, and civic groups. That she can do that at all is a testimony of God’s strength and glory.
You see, just over a decade ago Patti was a prisoner of sorts in her New Jersey home. A lifelong sufferer of agoraphobia, she was afraid to go outside. “Fear controlled my life. Back then, I walked in fear. Now, I walk with God.”
How is it then, that now she travels throughout the United States and Central America, embracing the opportunities to talk about her program and the children she helps?
“It’s simple, really,” Patti says. “Let your heart tell your story. Let your love shine. Let God’s love shine.
“I just want to help change the next generation of Nicaragua,” Patti continued. “That change includes educating and leading young minds to embrace discipleship and loving Jesus so much that they want to serve Him. … I want children to be learning more about Jesus every day.”