On my recent visit to the Working Boys’ Center in Ecuador’s capital city of Quito, I heard an incredible story about a spiritual encounter that happened 50 years ago. It forever changed a life and continues to impact the ministry to this day.
The story begins with a poor shoeshine boy named Carlos Gomez. On a God-blessed day in the 1960s, Carlos encountered Fr. John Halligan, the co-founder of the Working Boys’ Center, and a new and miraculous journey began for the child.
“One day, I saw a group of kids with a tall white man,” Carlos recalled. “I went right up to him and asked, ‘Shoeshine, Mister?’ It was Fr. John, and he let me shine his shoes. While I was shining them, he told me, ‘I have a center where you can come and get a meal for free and play.’ And then when I was finished, he gave me $1. A whole dollar! Back then, that was enough to get food for the entire week!
“When I got to the church, I recognized other kids who worked on the streets. I went up the dark stairs of the church to the attic. When I got to the top, I saw Fr. John. He said to me, ‘Carlos, you are welcome here!’”
That day, the course of Carlos’ life changed. He began to receive daily meals, support to finish school, life skills training, and most importantly, he discovered the eternal importance of the Catholic faith.
Today, Carlos’ life is a testament to the importance the Working Boys’ Center. In 1990, he was selected for a Kellogg’s Leadership Fellowship, and he now serves as a director at the center, overseeing community projects and giving back to the organization that changed his life.
Like most good stories, Carlos’ has a romantic subplot. As a young student, he met a beautiful girl named Rosa at the center—and now they have been married for over three decades!
I love stories about how God is working through our partners to break the cycle of poverty and share his love with people desperate for hope. Working Boys’ Center helped Carlos rise above his impoverished circumstances, now he’s helping today’s participants become Ecuador’s future leaders. That’s what I call full circle change!