A pastor at Northshore Christian Church in Everett told them about a church in the country they could serve through mission trips. The Bothell couple joined the church team in 1999 that visited Centro Cristiano de Alabanza in Alajuelita, a suburb of San Jose, Costa Rica.
"It was a step of faith," said Steve Gerhardt, 48. "We didn't have any idea what it was going to be like. They took us around and we toured everything."
The Centro Cristiano de Alabanza is led by Pastor Alberto Castro and his wife, Rocio Ujueta Balanos. The center offers a children's feeding center, church services, operates a private school and offers care for seniors. It has drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs for men and women.
"It's really a hub of the community," said Sherri Gerhardt, 55.
After that first trip the Gerhardts traveled 14 more times to Alajuelita. The couple led mission teams from Northshore Christian Church on those trips. The teams have visited people and volunteered at the center in several ways, said Sherri Gerhardt. Their work has included serving meals to the more than 300 children who visit the feeding center daily. Last summer, a team of 10 that included the Gerhardts and their daughter, Morgen, helped to demolish the aging building to make way for a new one.
The old center was at least 18 years old and wasn't safe, Sherri Gerhardt said. When completed, the new three-story children's feeding center also will be a place for people to receive medical care and job training, and offer daycare and education for kids.
For now, an effort to help fund construction of the center is ongoing. Northshore Christian Church and Love at Work Ministries, an international Christian ministry based in Indiana, have raised $200,000 toward a fundraising goal of $250,000. Northshore Christian Church in the past two years has raised more than $84,000.
The latest push to bring in money for the cause was a Race 4 More fun run and walk Sept. 22 at the church. The event included 26 runners and raised about $3,000. Donations for Race 4 More can be made until early December at http://tinyurl.com/Race4More.
All of the donations go directly to the cost of the building the new feeding center.
The Gerhardts plan to make the fun run and walk an annual event to help in Alajuelita and in other places where Northshore Christian Church mission teams serve. They hope to see a nearly completed project during a mission trip next summer.
"We've seen these kids grow up and one of the benefits of coming back year after year is we've seen the influence on the community and the gradual level of improvements that are being made," Sherri Gerhardt said. "I'd like to get down there and help with it."
The Centro Cristiano de Alabanza is an important part of their lives, added Steve Gerhardt.
"We really feel like God put it in front of us," he said.
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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