Tribal People of Paraguay 'Embrace the Future'

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ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay -- Thousands of tribal people in Paraguay are living in deep poverty after being driven from their traditional homelands.

And for most of them, the situation is even more difficult because they don't speak the national language or culturally blend in.

So when Korean missionary and pastor Diego Yang decided to give these tribal children a better future, their leaders welcomed him with open arms.

"Embrace the Future" is a project to build 10 Christian schools for the indigenous people of Paraguay during 2011. Through the effort, Yang and others hope to build more than 90 more schools in the next 10 years.

The plan all began with a conversation between Yang and an indigenous chief.

"Chief Francisco said to me as I was leaving the community, 'Pastor Diego, I'm asking you to please come back here and preach the gospel to our community. If you come and preach the gospel, then our childrens' future will change,'" Yang recalled.

Yang and his congregation in Asuncion have more than 20 years of experience in the education field. They have a school with more than 300 students. Many of them learn of the Christian faith for the first time at the school.

The school's Christian teachings have transformed the lives of hundreds of families so far. Now, thanks to donations from a Presbyterian church in Korea, and the help of other churches and organizations, they are responding to the need of the indigenous tribes in Paraguay.

"I'm also looking for several Christian programs, not just building a classroom," Yang explained. "That's only a part of the project. Because infrastructure does not change the person. So we are looking for teams rather than bricks."

According to the latest census, there are 108,000 indigenous people in Paraguay. So far, the Ministry of Education has 310 rural schools for the indigenous people, but they are very small and have few resources. Only 50 percent of all indigenous children attend primary school, and only 1 percent go on to college.

Chief Dionisio Gomez is part of that 1 percent, but because of the Christian education he received through Yang's ministry, he's now an "agent of change" in his community.

"After you convert, or are born again and become a Christian, you change so much," Gomez said. "We got to know God. We studied the Bible. My family, my community, after knowing God -- we completely changed."

The ministry also has the permanent support of dozens of young volunteers who come from different parts of the world.

"When you come to Paraguay and begin working with children, young people and you do all this social work that you never imagined you'd do in your life, you can really feel that blessing and that sense that God is at work," said short-term missionary Manuel Kim.

The Embrace the Future project will not only build schools and provide education to children, it will also work hand-in -hand with another project of Yang's -- a training and evangelism school for the indigenous chiefs across the country.

At the school, the chiefs will learn agriculture and beekeeping. They will receive work tools, and also learn the word of God -- in their own language.

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Carolina Martínez

Carolina Martínez

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