Portuguese Orphanage Creates Safe Refuge for Troubled Youth

Missionaries' dream to provide care for abandoned children comes true

Bill Sundstrom

Why would Portuguese judges send problem children to live in the Dawn Refuge -- an orphanage run by Cru? Simply put, they know that the Dawn Refuge helps children from abusive or neglected backgrounds begin a new life. And they do it in a highly professional way.

The Refuge began as an impossible dream. Eduardo and Isabel Souto, then with Athletes in Action Spain, wanted to some day work with disadvantaged children. So did Ruben and Loida Rivera and Ruth Rapaz, university students involved with Agape, Cru in Europe, in Sevilla.

Ruben came from a troubled home-his mother died when he was 14, and his father had problems with alcohol-and he wanted to help others coming from similar backgrounds.

One night the small band drew a picture on a blackboard of what their dream center would look like, and named it "Refugio de la Alba (Dawn Refuge)"

Four months later Javier Garcia, director of Agape Spain, asked if they would be interested in taking over a farm in Portugal owned by Agape Portugal. When Ruben and Eduardo visited, it looked exactly like the dream they had drawn on the blackboard. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Douro River, it consisted of acres of vineyards and fields with buildings well suited to be dormitories.

Within 6 months Eduardo (known as Eddie) and Isabel had moved to Portugal, where they began the paperwork necessary to operate the Refuge. As the others graduated, most with degrees in social work, they joined Agape and moved to Portugal.

Currently 12 children live in the Refuge, and they have space for 20. About 150 families give on a monthly basis to pay their living expenses.

"We want to be a bridge through which God can meet the physical, emotional and social needs of children in need," says Ruben. "And we want to help them have a relationship with God."

Staff members at the Refuge are committed to these children until they turn 18, and even through the university, should they want to go. They want to help the children succeed in life, and to know God.

"People ask us why are you giving your lives to come to a foreign country for these kids?" says Ruben. "We say because of love. They ask where does this love come from? And we've explained the gospel to many. I'm proud to be a part of Agape."

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