Rudi is a man of great vision and perseverance!

Rudi is a man of great vision and perseverance!

Principal Rudi Pineda and the Founding of Saber y Gracia

The youngest of 8 siblings, Rudi had a difficult upbringing. Alcoholism was rampant in his family and two of his brothers died because of it. Their father was a hard man and they practiced a very strict, idolatrous form of Catholicism. Because of his father’s drinking, Rudi also began to drink at the age of 9.

Thankfully, Rudi came under the influence of a godly local pastor. Through this man’s teaching and love, Rudi left alcohol and gave his life to Christ in 1986. As he looked for a way to get involved with his new church, Rudi found himself drawn to the church’s small elementary school. He joined their board of directors as the secretary.

In 1993, however, the school began facing financial difficulties and the church decided to shut it down. This was unacceptable to Rudi, who had discovered a deep love for educating children and believed them capable of following Christ even at a young age. So, against the wishes of the church, Rudi struck out on his own and kept the school alive as an independent organization.

Principal Rudi Pineda (right) walks through Antigua’s central market with teacher Lauren Pupchik

Principal Rudi Pineda (right) walks through Antigua’s central market with teacher Lauren Pupchik

There was only one problem: they had nothing. No land, no money, no books… Nada.

But that didn’t stop Rudi. He found a piece of abandoned land and got the owner to sell it to him with a $10,000 IOU. Now deep in debt, he pushed forward, convincing some acquaintances in construction to give him a further advance on wood and cement blocks. Looking for money to pay his debt, Rudi had almost every door slammed in his face (often literally!).

Yet despite the long odds, the doors of Saber y Gracia opened for classes in January 1994 and they have stayed open for 20 years. Despite starting with only two teachers, the school now has twenty, the vast majority of whom are former students of the school. And despite a never-ending financial struggle, Saber y Gracia has continued to expand its sponsorship program, reaching struggling families with the hope of a better future.

To this day, Rudi has never taken a paycheck from the school. He has survived by working on his farm and selling produce to make ends meet. It’s never been easy, and he is the first to admit that he’s had many doubts about the school’s future over the years.

But God continues to provide what they need, and the school continues to grow, so Rudi Pineda continues to press forward in faith, believing God has a bright future in mind for Saber y Gracia.