In many of the places where the church is growing the fastest, church leaders are discovering a hidden problem: illiteracy is preventing members from being able to read their Bibles, and it limits their ability to function in society. More than 3 million Adventists worldwide cannot read or write; nearly 1 billion people are functionally illiterate. But now church organizations are working together to bring the gift of literacy to our own members—and to the communities served by our churches.
North American Division churches and conferences have joined with Hope for Humanity and the world divisions to address the specific problem of reducing illiteracy. The project is known as Partners in Mission, and because of it thousands of Adventists and community members will learn to read and write. In El Salvador the Partners in Mission program is enabling literacy projects in dozens of churches to flourish.
While old and young alike are able to participate, the majority of students are mothers who have not had the opportunity to learn to read for economic and social reasons. The literacy projects are conducted in churches, in member's homes, in schools, and in community centers. Teachers are volunteers recruited from the churches and communities where the projects are held. Hope for Humanity funds are used to help provide the training, resources, and management of the overall program.
Illiteracy means that you can't read the headlines in a newspaper or the instructions on a bottle of medicine. It means you can't read stories to your children or a train schedule. It means you can't write a letter or an e-mail, or write out a recipe or list of things to do.
Many of our fellow believers are not able to read the Bible or study their Sabbath School lessons, read the writings of Ellen White or sing from the hymnal. There are many of our own brothers and sisters who cannot read this sentence— in any language. Literacy programs are a highly effective way of planting churches in areas where illiteracy is high. Faith-based training materials introduce church members as well as community members to Christian values and teachings.
Government reports say that 80.2% of the El Salvador's total population over age 10 can read and write. The official literacy rate is 82.8% for men and 77.7% for women. But the reality is different in many poor communities, both in urban and rural areas. Local authorities in many cantones—similar to our counties—admit that the actual literacy rate in their communities is as low as 50%, and even less among women.
Since 2004 ADRA El Salvador has promoted adult literacy in different municipalities of San Salvador, including Mejicanos, Ayutuxtepeque, Apopa, and Santo Tomás. The project is divided into 60 circles or learning groups of approximately 20 affiliates or beneficiaries per group to reach an average of 1,200 people benefited per project.
This project aims to provide the people of these communities with better tools, through adult literacy, to allow them to gain access to better life opportunities, both social and economic.
The goal of this project is to train adults to read and write, leading students to an optimal level of learning with permanent results, and encouraging them to pursue their formal education. At the end of the process, students also have basic knowledge in the areas of mathematics, health and environment, and social and human rights.
The project has been developed thanks to the participation of institutions such as Hope for Humanity, which funds the activities of the project; the Ministry of Education, which donates materials designed for the literacy programs; and ADRA Inter-American Division and the El Salvador Conference.
This project could not achieve the objectives drawn up were it not for the network of volunteer facilitators who with great effort and dedication give their time to lead the different circles.
The Partners in Mission Program brings our churches and conferences in North America into ministry partnership with our brothers and sisters in these countries.