As she asked these questions, God revealed to her that she had to move away from the "normal" duties of a doctor. "In this region, doctors are dedicated to cure sicknesses, and my call is far from the traditional model," Dr. Agila de Penos explains. "I am convinced that almost 70% or more of the sicknesses in this region are due to a lack of education in the health area."
Realizing this fact has completely changed Dr. Yeny’s vision of health care. "The people with whom we work are not conscious that when the trash is handled adequately, they are doing health. When a person hugs her child, she is doing health. When she forgives an offense, she is doing health. When she is liberated from slavery of sin through Jesus Christ, she is doing health. When she takes a walk with her family, that is health."
To cover so many areas of "health" as Dr. Yeny describes it, there are many programs implemented by San Lucas Quininde, reaching many different groups of people.
Dr. Yeny Agila de Penos was first drawn to the plight of women in the rural areas. "The situation of the women in the rural and urban area of Quininde is very precarious not only in the physical poverty, but also they have spiritual and emotional poverty," she explains. "The absence of God in their families has left them in a situation of paralyzation, leaving them feeling devoid of qualities."
The strategy to empower these women has been two-fold: Bible studies and community banks.
The Bible studies have been a spiritual empowerment for women in several communities. Every month, the ministry supports over twenty Bibles studies for women. "The methodology of the Bible study is simple. Each woman makes a commitment to talk about what they learn in their Bible study with their family," Dr. Yeny explains. "As a result, we have women that have learned how to use the Bible, to read and reflect on the message of God, and doing the will of God."
The community banks have been an emotional empowerment for women in seven communities. Dr. Agila de Penos explains that each woman receives a $50 loan after presenting an acceptable idea for a development project. Once the project is underway and making money, the woman has to repay the loan to the group and is then eligible for a $100 loan.
It was not long before the women began to feel the sense of empowerment. They had resources, they had a challenge and they had a new way to support their family. Many bought chickens in order to sell eggs. Some started small stores in their homes. One woman started a shoe store. Their previous role in the family was to care for the children and the home. They now added the role of helping provide for the family.
In the unfortunate situation where the development project fails and the money is lost, it is the responsibility of the other women to help pay back the loan. In this way, the women have a personal interest in the projects of every other woman in the group.
"Before in these communities, the community women were called in to cook for the meetings," Dr. Agila de Penos says. "Today they call the women to not only cook, but now they take into account their opinions and they see them as an organized group."
For those women who live miles from each other, the Bible studies and community bank meetings have been therapeutic. "The meetings allow them to socialize and to interchange personal situations that before was not done," Dr. Agila de Penos says. "When difficulties arise, the leader lets us know about the problem and we look for the opportunity to make them reflect and put into practice the values learned in the Word."
As Dr. Yeny’s relationship with the women in Quininde developed, she repeatedly heard concerns about the quality of education for children. She could not help but respond to the need. God led Dr. Yeny to Isaias Ledesma, a Christian young man interested in teaching children. Dr. Yeny spent months training Isaias in community health. Their main goals were to teach every child about Jesus and to educate the children in practical subjects of hygiene, AIDS and health. When they approached the schools’ administration with their plans, they were surprised at the positive response. They have gained entrance into many schools within Quininde and several schools in the town’s surrounding communities, altogether reaching hundreds of children!
Isaias has found his passion. When teaching a group of students, he is focused and engaging. Teaching children about health and Jesus has taught Isaias things about himself as well. "I find that I have this gift from God," he says. "I am surprised by my gift, but it has helped me reinforce what I should dedicate my life to."
Since the ministry’s beginning in 2002, Dr. Yeny Agila de Penos has been amazed at the progress. "We take God’s news to children that have received different types of abuse, to women that can by means of small credits turn dreams into realities and grow in their knowledge of God, to families desperate that can see Jesus as an option to a different life, to adolescents who can avoid the fall into the claws of AIDS and to live their sexuality in a worthy, holy way, to churches that can be effective in His ministries," she says. "But that is nothing like the joy that I see in the mercy, the grace and the love of God day to day in my own life and in my family, which allows us to enjoy that which God does in spite of having servants of defects and deficiencies like us, which helps us know that it is in the absolute dependency of which we must walk."