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In many countries more than 70 percent of the population is under 25 years of age. Because of realities such as broken families and secularism, many of these young people receive little moral or spiritual education in their homes, their values often being shaped by potentially negative influences such as the media, music, or their peers.

As part of a global strategy for reaching out to youth, Lutheran Hour Ministries offers Project JOEL in a growing number of countries. The name JOEL stands for Jóvenes con Espíritu Libre, or "youth with a free spirit," and the program is designed to provide biblically based guidance in making healthy lifestyle choices. First introduced by LHM-Panama in 1996, Project JOEL has been integrated into school curricula, and is part of our ministry in other countries in Latin America. It also supplements its educational content by incorporating opportunities for holding sporting and cultural events.

After participating in recent online trainings hosted by LHM-Panama, young volunteers made poster advertisements with messages of encouragement and hope, within the framework of International Youth Day. The posters were shared with other young people through digital media to encourage participation in future training.

LHM-Panama staff recognized children who participated in reading the book "A Garden of Biblical Stories," in addition to participating in devotionals, reading the Bible, painting the stories, and reciting Bible verses. During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic where many ministry center activities have been adapted, the Comprehensive Reading Strategy has been a support that has kept children interested in reading and learning. This program is meant to include the whole family in a teaching and learning process.

Through meetings via Zoom and workshops on WhatsApp and Facebook, teachers, parents, and volunteers follow up on the Comprehensive Reading Strategy and work on developing training for values in their communities. These meetings are held biweekly in various areas of the country for everyone to stay connected and updated on the program.

"This homework is a channel to give children the opportunity to make correct use of their free time and reinforce what they have learned in class. All of this is further enriched with the direct participation of parents, grandparents and uncles, who also train and put the values into practice," says Marta, a mother of a Project JOEL participant.

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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