Follow-Up to ‘The Two Available Fears’

Yesterday as I ran around our home cleaning, writing instructions for different people, preparing little surprises for our kids and generally getting ready for my first trip to the United States in two-and-half years, I had our two eldest daughters (Dayana, 14, and Jackeline, 11) at the wooden table in our living room working on their homeschool assignments.

One of the assignments was to write one page front and back of organized thoughts about something that has happened in the last few weeks. That may seem like an extremely simple assignment, but in this culture there are teenagers in sixth grade who don’t even know how to write a complete sentence or read a simple paragraph in a children’s book. The idea was to write (and not forget capital letters, periods, comas, etc), and I left it completely open as to what they would write about.

There were numerous topics each young woman could choose to expound upon, including the music concert we held in our home about a week and a half ago in which they both sang and played at least one instrument, some funny occurrence among themselves or with one of the adults in our home, an adventurous trip to the river or mountain with Darwin, etc, so later that afternoon as I sat down with Jackeline to read her thoughts scribbled lightly in pencil on a ripped-out piece of notebook paper from one of her school notebooks, what I found surprised me.

I called her over to help me de-code her writing, as I could barely understand her run-on sentences, complete lack of capital letters, words that were frightfully misspelled or left out, etc. She came over and we went, with almost painstaking slowness, correcting the longest document she had probably ever written in her life. After squinting and guessing through the first several words, everything looking like jibberish to me, I was tempted to just trash the paper or throw up my hands in exasperation, declaring her writing assignment a job poorly done. But as she clarified each point of confusion (and as the Lord granted me patience to persevere), adding accent marks, question marks, and so on, the heart of what came forth was stunningly beautiful. It was as if her writing was a shapeless piece of stone (to me), and as she clarified each gray area, we slowly, word by word, chiseled away all that hid the true message of her words, revealing a raw yet breathtaking statue of Truth.

She wrote:

Saturday Christian [our 13-year-old neighbor who is in second grade in our homeschool program with three of his siblings] came and told my mom that people were killing kids and women just because they have blonde hair and that really scared me because my brother Josue has brown-colored hair. I told my mom that I wanted to talk with her, and she looked at me sadly but she told me that you don’t have to be scared and she showed me a painting that says “In anguish I cried to the Lord and He responded and liberated me. He is with me; I will not fear. What could a simple mortal do to me?” And that shocked me — what could a simple mortal do to me? For me it was a blessing, and in reality I know that I was scared but God calmed me and I asked myself: Why is my mom not scared, and she has blonde hair? Then Christian’s sisters came and they dyed my mom’s hair and we talked about God and she encouraged them, and I know that they were sad about what is happening in our world. What God is doing in my life is that He made me not just to play but also to worship His name. Glory and thanks to God.

As we came to the end of her one mammoth paragraph, I looked at her, stunned, thanked her for taking the time to help clarify and correct her grammar, and then sat back in my chair, only able to repeat the last line of her reflection as my own heart rejoiced at what the Lord is doing in our goofy, precious daughter who has been with us not even four full months: Glory and thanks to God.

The Two Available Fears

(Written Sunday): Last night I dyed my hair for the first time in my life, and it wasn’t because I wanted to. Our thirteen-year-old neighbor who is in homeschool with us came to our home unexpectedly last evening to warn me that a gang in the nearby city of La Ceiba had begun killing people with blonde or red hair.

After investigating further, I learned that the killings started in the two other major cities in Honduras — Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula — due to a rivalry between two gangs, and in the past week or so they have brought the chaos to our corner of the country.

So last night I sat at the wooden table in our living room, everything illuminated by a few flickering candles because the electricity and water had been out all day, while a $7.50 cream was massaged into my scalp to turn my hair black. My beauticians were the 22-year-old eldest sister of our homeschool student, already a mother of four, and a 16-year-old young woman who is already ‘married,’ although neither her nor her ‘husband’ are employed and she only completed the first grade. Both young women, who are pale-skinned compared to most Hondurans, had arrived at our gate with freshly-died black hair kindly offering me their help. Seeing as we didn’t have any gloves, the elder of the two wore plastic bags on her hands, secured in place with masking tape, so as not to stain herself with the potent dye. It was a strange feeling knowing I was the only one present who could read the directions on the hair-color box in Spanish.

So while I sat with a grocery bag on my head and dye creeping down my sideburns, I opened up Psalms 12, which we had read as a family earlier that day. I spoke of the injustice in our world that lies in stark contrast to the perfect justice that so wonderfully characterizes our God.

In a matter of 35 minutes my hair turned from a beautiful, completely natural light brown with flecks of red and blonde to a tacky all-black with smudges of the stubborn hair color staining my ears, hairline and neck.

In the middle of the whole ordeal, our 11-year-old daughter Jackeline had an emotional breakdown, losing herself in the midst of many obvious fears, the biggest of which was for the life of her little special needs brother, Josue. He, too, has naturally light brownish-blonde hair, and we were unable to buzz it off due to the fact that there was no electricity and I thus couldn’t connect my hair-clipper.

She sat on one of the chairs in our living room, lost in despair, as tears poured down her cheeks. I found her, squatted down in front of her with my hand on her knee, and gently demanded that she stop drowning in fear and instead focus on God. She protested, “But my biggest fear is that they will come tonight and kill Josue.”

My response: “That could happen.”

Her eyes grew and she looked at me, stunned, probably expecting me to have said, “Shh. Shh. Now, now, you know that won’t happen. Everything will be okay.”

I continued: “That could happen tonight, Jackeline, but the thing is that that could happen any night. Any night gang members or evil people could come and demand our lives or rape us. There are so many things to fear in this world – real things, scary things – that we can continually focus on those things and feel perpetually paralyzed by fear, or we can maintain our gaze on God, knowing that Jesus has overcome the world and that this world was never meant to be our permanent home.”

I then looked around our wonderfully, beautifully humble living room with the collection of family photos Darwin and I had worked together that morning to hang on a previously vacant wall, and said: “This world is not our home, Jackeline. Yes, I am at home right now in the sense that I am in my own living room, and my children and husband live here with me, but my real home is in God’s Kingdom with Him. If tonight or tomorrow or in a few months or years someone kills me or I die of a disease, my real life is not over. I am merely called home sooner than perhaps I had planned. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to die tonight, and I’m not hoping or assuming that something tragic will happen, but the thing to understand is that we all will die someday. You will die someday, Jackeline — it’s just a question of when and how.”

I turned around to look at her only biological brother who sat naively behind me, swinging his short legs over the edge of his chair, and I said lovingly, “Josue will die someday.” Her eyes grew even bigger as if that had never occurred to her before. “Someday I will die. Someday Darwin will die. You can choose to live in constant fear – and that is what you are currently doing – or you can choose to trust God, knowing that in the future when His Kingdom comes, there will be no more death or mourning or pain or sorrow. All of those things belong to this world. If your trust and hope are in this world, you will constantly be disappointed, tricked and fearful. Our goal is to faithfully maintain the attitude that No matter what happens, God is just, is good. In Him is my hope, not in what may or may not happen here on earth.”

Oh, I said so many more things to my young, fearful friend whom the Lord has placed in our home as a daughter. In her I saw the face of my beloved grandfather, a dear man who loved to Lord but for some very confusing reason still lived in fear every day of his life. He was a man who lived and died in fear; his dying wish as he lay before me on his hospital bed a few years ago was that I didn’t go to Africa, because the people there would kill me. Sorrow filled my chest for the young woman in front of me and for my grandfather, people who confess faith in Christ but yet don’t understand that He has called us out of fear and into freedom.

So towards the end of our long conversation, after having had to call her out of that lost, bewildered look several times, I reminded her once more: “There are two options: we can fear only God, and thus nothing else, or we can choose to ignore God and fear everything else. God’s Word says that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and later on in the New Testament we learn that it is God’s will for us that we don’t fear anybody. So if I fear the murderers and thieves and liars instead of God, I’m a fool. If I fear only God and, rather than fear the evil people or hate them, pray for them, I’m wise. So tonight you and I can sit down together and pray for our own protection and the lives of those who are doing the killing – imagine how lost, how confused, they must be, having probably suffered great abuse of neglect when they themselves were young! — but we will not sit here in fear, crying and bathing in self-pity.”

These kinds of talks are common in our household and come at the most unexpected of moments. Yesterday early afternoon my husband and our 7-year-old son Jason left town to go on a campout with the boys/men from our faith community, and I had planned on having a quiet evening at home with the rest of the kids before they would return the next day. Little did we know all that would transpire in the one evening they were gone!

So last night I slept alone in our bed with my new stinky black hair listening to our three guard dogs, spooked by the fact that everything was unusually dark (no porch lights, no illuminated lampposts), bark non-stop. And this morning as I rolled groggily out of bed and tested the light switch, nothing happened. So all the food in our refrigerator has now gone bad and I am left wearing a ball-cap that doesn’t cover up all my hair nearly well enough, but God is good, and my understanding of His goodness is renewed and strengthened every time it is put to the test, every time I am forced to choose between the two available fears: fear of the Lord or fear of men.

Psalm 12:

Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;
    those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
     Everyone lies to their neighbor;
    they flatter with their lips
    but harbor deception in their hearts.

May the Lord silence all flattering lips
    and every boastful tongue—
      those who say,
    “By our tongues we will prevail;
     our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”

“Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
    I will now arise,” says the Lord.
    “I will protect them from those who malign them.”
And the words of the Lord are flawless,
    like silver purified in a crucible,
    like gold[c] refined seven times.

You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
    and will protect us forever from the wicked,
      who freely strut about
    when what is vile is honored by the human race.

Photos of Girls’ Basketball Team

Last week we had our last girls’ basketball practice until the school year resumes in September. The three young women the Lord has placed in our home as daughters (Dayana, 14; Jackeline, 11; and Gleny, 10) participate in the team in addition to several girls from the local Episcopal School where I teach and coach. We enjoyed the last few minutes of practice to take some photos…

Basketball27 Basketball28

Basketball29 Basketball30


Basketball1 Basketball3

Basketball7 Basketball26

The three precious crazies the Lord has given us as daughters…

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Basketball33 Basketball36

Basketball41 Basketball42 Basketball43

Basketball40 Basketball39 Basketball44

Soapy Buns on a Dirty Floor: a Holy Distraction

A couple days ago it was early afternoon and I had just finished teaching homeschool to the group of local youth who come to our home each day plus four of our own kids who are in the program. I had shooed everyone outside and shut the door, wanting to sweep, mop and disinfect every corner of the school building to leave it squeaky clean for the next day. The kids have a knack for scuffing up the walls, leaving papers and tidbits of trash thrown about, and, living in the countryside, everything gets dusty and insect-y and muddy in general quite quickly.

Armed with Raid, I was spraying for cockroaches beneath the piano where Darwin gives lessons, lost in a blissful moment of ‘alone time’ in the midst of our life here in which it seems like everyone needs me all the time. The youth played outside or swung on swings right outside the schoolroom window on the building’s front porch. It had been a wonderful morning, but at the same time I was emotionally exhausted after managing four distinct groups of students all in the same small room: three teenagers in fifth grade, two teenagers who just learned how to read sound-it-out style within the last few weeks, and a new batch of three students ages 7-12 who don’t even know the letters of the alphabet. Not to mention our six-year-old, Josue, who is his own group due to his special needs.

I then began pouring Clorox bleach and disinfectant everywhere, ready to cleanse the building entirely, when Dayana, our eldest daughter, called for me from the other side of the locked front door.

I hollered over my shoulder, “Nope. Sorry – I told everyone to take everything they needed for the schoolroom because I am cleaning. You’re going to have to wait!”

She persisted. “No, Ma. We need to talk to you.”

Oh. “Can it wait?” I silently scold myself for asking that. Obviously it’s something urgent or she wouldn’t have interrupted me. “No, it’s fine. Just a sec. Come on in.”

I slid across the slippery, soapy floor and opened the front door to see three young women looking a bit like sad puppies or lost sheep: Dayana, our 14-year-old daughter, Jackeline, our 11-year-old, and their new 12-year-old friend whom I wrote about previously who now comes to our home five days a week for homeschool, agriculture, music, love and Truth.

In these types of moments you just have to breathe deeply, re-adjust your inner gaze so that it is firmly fixed on your Father, and basically brace yourself for anything.

I ushered the three of them across the half-clean floor to sit on the couch in the building’s small living room. I sat on the floor in front of them, soaping up my buns a bit, but it didn’t matter. I looked at them expectantly and, as if knowing her role as leader among the young women who live in or pass through our home, Dayana began to talk.

“[Our new friend’s] dad tried to rape her a couple nights ago, and the next day when she told her mom, she confronted him and he left in a rage, saying he doesn’t care if she and the four kids starve to death. Now the mom is all alone with the four kids, and they don’t have anything to eat.”

The three girls looked at me with open, innocent faces, all three having known this type of suffering too well in their short years. They were waiting for me to say something.

I didn’t.

My mind raced but at the same time it was brought to a dull, peaceful crawl. This young teen’s dad, whom I have met on several occasions and who I detected as a good man and loving, albeit very poor and uneducated, father, tried to rape her and now is gone from the picture… Now the mom, who only last week broke a glass bottle over the father’s head and who has previously left her children for long periods of time to be involved in romantic affairs with different men, is the one left with the kids as the sole provider and care-taker… Mom is illiterate, plus she has a two-year-old, so she can’t work… No welfare program for down-and-out single mothers in Honduras… Will the mom try to give us the four kids so she, too, can be free of them? That would make ten –

Dayana interrupted my mental processing with a sincerity that warmed my heart, “Can we help? Can we send food home with them?”

If only it were that simple.

Everything slowed down as I reached out to touch the young woman’s knee and ask many specific, careful clarifying questions.

I then studied each one’s face, looking into their eyes, not sure what words to choose. I must have stayed in silence for several minutes, ravaging through available vocabulary to find the words that the Lord would have me use. The whole conversation had the strange lightness of a dream, as if at any moment we would wake up and our dear friend would skip off towards her home where her mom waited eagerly for her with freshly baked cookies, her dad playing catch with his two sons in their small, rocky front yard.

Many times in our life here I feel as though I am placed in situations in which I am called upon to put in 1,000 words what the Lord has been teaching me for years. Where to start? How to communicate eternal hope to this young woman in front of me? How can I accurately convey the transformative work the Lord has been doing in my own life over the last decade in an unexpected conversation with a young person who has no concept of a loving, just God?

Oh, I did say so much to my young friend that day as I sat before her on the sudsy tile floor, my hand on her knee, coaxing her time and again to look me in the eyes.

“I cannot tell you that everything will be okay. We can pray for you and support you and help as we are able – and we will – but I cannot tell you that everything will be okay with your family. Maybe it won’t be, and that’s why our hope is not in this world. I don’t even know what will happen in my own life tomorrow. We can send food home with you – and we will – but that won’t solve the immense struggles you and your family are experiencing. Our hope is in Christ alone, in a just, compassionate God who in the end will right all wrongs, will erase death and suffering. That’s our hope. Our hope is not in the here and now, because as all three of you know, this world is unstable, people abuse, people lie, suffering is rampant. I cannot tell you that everything will be okay, but I can tell you that God is faithful, and that in the midst of our suffering we can find Him, or He finds us. He can be followed and loved and glorified here and now, even in the midst of suffering and injustice, and His provision, joy and presence can be experienced. Do not blame God for your suffering. God never intentionally designed a place like our neighborhood, clasping his hands together giddily, content with the hungry children and abusive mothers and absentee fathers, trash on the streets and rampant confusion and sadness, declaring, “Perfect! This is where my image-bearers will live and thrive.” No. He created the perfect environment for us, a wonderful garden with more than enough to eat, everything clean and beautiful, His own presence there richly among us, and presented us with a choice. So what you three have suffered is not God’s fault, but rather it’s the product of your parent’s sin, great-grandparents’, maybe neighbors’, and our own, yours and mine.”

Oh, there is so much more to say, to understand, to experience of God’s perfect love. On conversation did not end there, but rather it continues onward, day after day, as we carefully search out God’s will for us in the life of this young woman. A few weeks ago she arrived at our home for the first time dressed like a prostitute, high heels and a skin-tight, way-too-short, way-too-low-cut black dress. She wobbled about awkwardly, unable to even bend over or sit down properly, much less chase a ball or participate in a rowdy jumprope competition. We’ve talked with her lovingly about her body, the need to cover it and honor it because it belongs to God, and now she wears tennis shoes and feminine but loose-fitting t-shirts with not-skin-tight capris and pants. She has accepted Christ as her Savior and now runs and plays. Smiles.

We don’t know what will happen tomorrow or this afternoon, if in a few days or months her mom will appear at our gate with all or some of her four kids, wanting to leave them permanently with us. Please pray with us for her and her parents and siblings, that He may be glorified even in the midst of intense suffering, and that Darwin, Jenae, our kids and I may serve effectively as lights of Truth in the lives of the people the Lord brings to us.

This Was Never God’s Plan

A couple years ago while taking a Spanish course in the nearby city of La Ceiba my teacher asked, utterly puzzled, if I had moved to Honduras because I didn’t like the food in the United States.

When I laughed out loud and answered “No,” her expression did not change as she then guessed, “So… then you did not like the weather?”

The question of why it is I live in Honduras – a country with world-famous beaches to match its world-famous murder rate – is presented several times weekly, most of the time by curious taxi drivers who become inappropriately interested when I mention that I’ve married a Honduran. Their next question, always with a twinkle in their eyes: “Do you have any single friends?”

My answer to the first question (and not the second) is this: “I am here because I am certain God has brought me here. Yes, Honduras is beautiful and, yes, it has its share of problems, but I’m not here because this is my ideal place to live nor because I want to ‘fix’ the country, but rather because God has me here.”

The story, of course, if much longer than that, but at least that answer dispels any misunderstandings that I am here for the canopy zip-lining and white-water rafting.

Recently someone here asked if El Pino (our little rural town on the outskirts of Honduras’ third largest city, La Ceiba) is a nice place to live. Always hesitant with these types of questions and not eager to offend, I respectfully asked Darwin, my husband, “Is El Pino a nice place to live?”

He laughed and said, “No.”

I almost expected him to declare an emphatic, “Yes!,” being the beautifully proud Honduran that he is, because I know that my own inner judge is very skewed as the definition that was instilled in me of ‘a nice place to live’ includes paved sidewalks, trimmed lawns, and respectful neighbors. Not to mention one or two cars in each driveway (What’s a driveway?) or in the garage (What’s a garage?), bright yellow school buses that do their rounds each day and not so much as an empty candy wrapper strewn about the streets.

In our neighborhood someone just constructed a walk-in drinking joint shanty in the middle of the small dirt soccer field where neighborhood boys used to play all day, every day. Now I suppose the boys will fall into gangs at an even earlier age now that they have been robbed the distraction of kicking around an old ball between two twig goal posts.

Now that we have lived in our rural town of El Pino (meaning ‘The Pine’) almost two years after having previously lived about 35 minutes away in downtown La Ceiba, perhaps for the first time I am allowing myself to understand that admitting this is not a nice place to live does not mean that I am unfairly passing judgment on a struggling neighborhood in a third world country. In the beginning, especially being a foreigner who many expected would criticize and judge, I think I tip-toed around certain realities, explaining them away as mere cultural differences or just basic poverty (and some of them are), taking my place among the women who wash clothes by hand and learning to make a good tortilla so as not to call attention to myself or offend those around me.

Gravel roads, lean-to houses, emaciated dogs that have been inbred more times than anyone can count, poisonous snakes slithering around overgrown yards, hard-working parents who toil long hours just to put rice and beans on the table, families without refrigerators – all of these things are, in fact, mere cultural nuances and should not be judged, but rather accepted.

But a few days ago as I drove down a narrow back alley on the outskirts of our little town with our two eldest daughters (Dayana, 14, and Jackeline, 11) I think God opened my eyes in a new way to my bleak surroundings and enabled my lips to say for the first time (and not with an air of superiority but simply as a sober observation): This is not a nice place to live.

We had stopped in front of a collection of shanties to drop off our neighbor and new friend, a 12-year-old girl who comes from a violent homelife wrought with confusion who is learning the alphabet for the first time (along with how to wear modest clothing) now that she is enrolled in our homeschool program and spends five days a week at our home.

In the car I had been gently probing her about her family, trying to better understand yet another puzzle whose pieces have all been ripped apart, when she told me from the back seat of our truck, “Last night my mom smashed a glass bottle over my dad’s head and he started bleeding from the large gash.”

I breathed deep as a new realization settled over me: It is difficult, if not entirely impossible, to understand Jesus Christ apart from suffering. Living in this place riddled with suffering actually brings me closer to the heart of God, to an undeniable understanding of my need — our need — for a Savior, rather than showering my heart with doubt or distancing me from Him.

Peace enveloped my heart as I turned around in my seat to look at her full-on, and, without knowing what else to say, I simply said both with my eyes and my words, “I’m sorry.”

She looked surprised, as if no one had ever expressed sympathies for the tragic environment in which she is growing up and asked, “Excuse me?”

I said again, “I’m sorry. This was never God’s plan.”

I think this time she understood that I wasn’t making fun of her or sugar-coating her suffering, but rather expressing my deepest sympathies.

After winding down a narrow, walled road, almost scraping the car along either side, jossling up and down as we bumped in and out of pot-holes, we pulled to a stop. Her mother, a woman who looks capable and ready for any work of manipulation, greeted me in a frenzy, sharing with wide eyes about a neighbor of hers whose three kids don’t have any food to eat and wanting to know what I could do for them.

I breathed a silent request for God’s guidance and looked down at our new friend’s little sister, greeting her by name with a little poke to the tummy to accompany a silly sound, and she just stared at me blankly. Her two little brothers were in the house, I imagined. We met the littlest one yesterday, a two-year-old with one eye swollen half-shut. His 12-year-old sister told us a drunk had hit him with a beer bottle.

After I finished talking with the mother and sorting out a few details regarding our relationship with her kids, I somewhat wearily slid into the front seat of our car, now alone with Dayana and Jackeline. My heart heavy in more ways than one, and sensing that I had the girls’ full attention, I began to put words to what God had been teaching me: “Girls, this was never God’s plan. Abusive marriages, kids without food, violence, prostitution, trash littering the streets – everything we see on a daily basis here in our neighborhood –”  I let out an exhausted sigh, knowing what I had to add, but Jackeline did before I could –

“Not to mention our world!”

In some small corner of my heart I rejoiced that she followed my train of thought, that my daughters understood. “Yes, thank you, Jackeline. All of this suffering and violence and confusion that we see and experience in our daily lives here – not to mention in other parts of Honduras or in the world as a whole – was never God’s plan.”

The car finally stopped its violent dance as we accelerated onto the smooth, paved highway, heading to Gleny and Jason’s Christian school about 20 minutes away in order to take all four of them to their weekly art class in the city. I tried to drive slowly, treasuring every moment I have alone with these two young women, sensing that our Father would do something special in the conversation that we were entering.

“As you two know, God created the perfect environment for humans to live in – He even named it the Garden of Eden, which means ‘Pleasure,’ but we were the ones who chose to turn away from that full, perfect relationship with God and enter into a twisted relationship with sin. Everything that we now see – homes and lives destroyed, rampant confusion, a religion of lies, unspeakable suffering – is the result of sin.” I say again, “It was never God’s intention, but rather we chose it. He gave us the freedom to decide, and we did.”

If it was said that Christ as a man was well-acquainted with sorrow, I believe I am coming to understand why more and more each day. How could He not be? Knowing the fullness, the beauty, of the Father, having been in the Garden of Pleasure from the beginning, and seeing to what catastrophic extent Man had fallen, destroying both himself and his children, constantly at war with others and with God, what was once a beautiful world dripping with God’s glory now wrought with suffering caused by sin begetting more suffering and sin, how could the living incarnation of the Compassionate Creator not be heart-broken?

“So when people shake an angry fist at God, blaming Him for the suffering in the world, they are confused. It is not God who wills our suffering, but rather it all started with one sin, and as we know sin has its way of growing and infecting others, thus what we see in today’s world – large billboards with half-naked women just to sell a product, mothers who abandon their own children, bored, empty people, war – is the product, or the result, of years and years and years of sin, one generation passing the baton on to the next.”

Oh, what a complicated theme, and there is so much the Lord teaches me daily! There is so much more to be said, more to be learned, experienced, but for now I’ll leave it at this: “But we know there is a way out, a way to ‘pay’ for all of the sin found both in our world and raging within ourselves.”

The girls listen. They already know, but we all need to hear it constantly, for we so quickly forget: “That’s why Jesus Christ came, to make right all of the filthy confusion that we have made of God’s perfect Garden of Pleasure, to give us a way out of this steaming death pot. And even though right now we’re still in the midst of it all, we are being used by Him to pick up the pieces of lives destroyed by sin, glorifying God in the process – And how difficult and holy a task it is! It is a job that never ends, and may, in fact, be growing larger each day! – we know that – “

I look to my right at 14-year-old Dayana, sitting in the front seat with me, and pat her knee, hoping in my heart that she would say with me what we both know to be true, and she does, her eyes suddenly studying mine and her lips silently, slowly reciting the words with me: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away [Revelation 21:4].”

Speech Therapy, Tyfoid Fever and Illiterate Youth, Oh My! (Nine Updates: May 2015)

For those of you who support us or are interested in knowing more of the nuts-and-bolts of our daily life, these updates will provide you with a deeper understanding of certain day-to-day activities we are currently involved in along with personal updates about Darwin and I and the kids under our full-time care. I have also included prayer requests for those of you who want to know how to pray for us in this season.

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Homeschool Program Open to Illiterate Youth from our Neighborhood

Six illiterate youth from our neighborhood (ages 7-14) are enrolled in the nationally-accredited program we use in our homeschool three days per week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7:00am-12:00pm) along with Brayan, the local 14-year-old who lived with us for eight months and continues to be like a son and two of our daughters (Dayana, 14, and Jackeline, 11). Please pray for Jenae, Darwin and I as we guide the nine children/teenagers and that above all else their knowledge of and obedience to Christ may strengthen through spending time under our care.

Who wants to work on homework when you can dogpile on Dayana instead?
Our 14-year-old son, Brayan, with two young women the Lord has placed in his life to love and serve as sisters. All three are currently in fifth grade in our homeschool program, and we are so proud of them!

A New Tactic With Groceries

Now that we are feeding between 10-15 kids breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday, our grocery bills have shot up! Thanks to the advice of several people here, we have changed grocery stores (the small grocery store in our town has very high prices, and although it was more convenient to shop there because of geographical closeness, it was quickly becoming unreasonable to do so!), thus we now shop once a week at a warehouse-type grocery store about a 35-minute drive away in downtown La Ceiba where prices are considerably lower and we can buy in bulk. I am also in communication with a large grocery chain in La Ceiba about receiving the products they are unable to sell. Please pray that we would trust in God to provide, and let us rejoice that several of our malnourished neighbors who are in the homeschool program are able to eat with us in our home several times per week.

Our six-year-old son Josue learning to draw!

Darwin’s Music Lessons and Youth Choir with Neighborhood Kids

Darwin has opened our home to give choir, piano, and recorder lessons to kids in our local community as a way of reaching out to them with God’s love. Every Monday afternoon from 2:00-7:30pm we have about a couple dozen kids and teenagers in our home playing and singing music, and we are developing holistic relationships with them and their families in order to plant seeds for God’s Kingdom. We are currently preparing for a community concert we’re going to hold in our home on May 17th.

Four precious (and rowdy!) neighborhood boys who frecuent our home each week for music classes, meals, homeschool and other activities.

Young Agriculturalists

Every Monday morning from 7:00am-11:00am Darwin works in agriculture and maintenance with 10-15 youth who come to our property to work and learn. Teenage boys, all of whom are also in our homeschool program and/or music lessons, work together in the grassy field with their machetes while our eldest daughter leads the other young women in extensive cleaning projects in the Education House and garden maintenance. This weekly experience has been a blessing both for us and for those who come to work, because unemployment in our little rural town is rampant, and many of the children and youth wander around or sit about without anything to do.

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Prayer for Darwin and I

Please pray for my husband and I during this season, as we both feel exhausted and possibly stretched too thin. Every child and youth the Lord has placed in our path (the five under our full-time care, the 20+ that are involved in activities in our home plus our students in a local school where we teach/coach/guide every Friday) are a blessing and we know the Lord is utilizing us in their lives for His glory, but as of late we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, especially because more and more children and youth are arriving at our front gate wanting to be in our homeschool program or in music classes, in need of some form of help, etc. Please pray that the Lord may guide us and that we may learn to truly rest in Him at all times, whether we are in a busy schoolroom surrounded by a swarm of students who need us or if we are driving down the highway to take our kids to art class. Also, please pray with us regarding the future and direction of the Living Waters Ranch, as we are continually discerning God’s will for us, those under our care/guidance, and those who may arrive in the future.

Afternoon educational fun in our dining room with homeschool students and a couple neighborhood boys!


My Health

After about seven weeks of battling Tyfoid Fever, my health has finally taken a turn for the better although I still get fatigued very quickly. I got so many shots in my butt cheeks that they turned speckled with bruises! Thank you to those of you who lifted me up in prayer during those difficult weeks, and pray that my body may be strengthened even now as I am recovering physical strength and endurance.

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Josue to Enter Speech Therapy

Josue, the six-year-old little boy who has been placed under our full-time care whom I wrote about in the previous blog entry, will enter an intensive speech therapy schedule for two months before hopefully entering his private special needs school’s pre-school class with other kids. Please pray for his integral recovery from the abuse he suffered when he was little and that Christ may be glorified in and through his life and the way that we love and care for him.

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Educational Progress Report: Jason and Gleny in Their New Christian School

Gleny (age 10, fourth grade) and Jason (age 7, second grade) have been in a small Christian elementary school since early February of this year, and although there have been certain academic and behavioral issues as they have had to become accustomed to a new and somewhat demanding daily routine (4:45am get-ups every morning, school uniforms and homework every afternoon!), they have finally settled in, are making new friends, etc. After the first grading period they passed all of their classes, and they seem genuinely happy in their new school environment. Please pray for our continued discernment regarding what they and the other kids under our full-time care need from us in regards to academic, emotional and spiritual support/guidance.

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Strengthening Forces: A New Laborer Comes Alongside of Us

Martha, a local Honduran woman in her 50s who is a strong Christian and has a gentle yet very active spirit, has come to labor alongside of us after a long, God-inspired series of events. She is a registered nurse and secretary (and excellent cook!), and starting in mid-June will begin coming to our home/mission Monday-Friday to help love on all the kids who come to our home along with take control of the kitchen/community dining room. We give thanks to God for bringing such a dynamic, loving woman into our lives to help fulfill the great purpose the Lord has set before us. Please pray for our developing relationship with her and that Darwin, Jenae, her and I may form a wonderful team.


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Left to Pick Up the Pieces

If you have ever heard the terrible stories of fetuses growing inside of alcoholic mothers or infants who are traumatized by abuse or are not cuddled or are tied up with rope or dropped on their heads who are thus turned retarded or socially reclusive, violent even, due to such experiences, entire sections of their brain being chemically altered, I am here to remind you that they don’t stay traumatized, broken babies or somehow fade into the shadows of reality as their life continues onward day after day.

They grow up into traumatized, broken almost-seven-year-olds who have the mental capacity of a toddler.

Josue has been under our care since January 29 of this year, and we recently got done with the battery of medical and psychological tests to try to put together the pieces of such a puzzling puzzle: a normal-sized six-year-old who has to wear diapers because he poops and pees in his pants, falls down without any apparent reason, has only a couple teeth in his mouth that aren’t completely rotted out, can only say about four or five words along with a handful of strange sounds, appears to have never been disciplined, screamed in terror the first time I tried to affectionately pat him on the back.

This week as I sat across the table from the director of the special needs school where we are hoping to matriculate Josue, reviewing the long, detailed report the psychologist wrote after evaluating him, I learned something that becomes more shocking the longer I dwell on it: Josue is not special needs at all. He does not have autism or Down’s syndrome or any number of other diagnosable issues: he is who he is due to abuse, whether it was while he was in the womb or shortly after leaving it.

So we are left to pick up the pieces of a life robbed of its fullness, to daily change the diapers and brush the hollowed-out teeth and velcro the shoes of an awkward little boy who can’t kick a soccer ball properly who could otherwise already be in first grade, learning to read and write, making his own bed and telling us how he feels, who he is.

Oh, so many times I have become so frustrated with him — with all the unanswerable questions about him! — wanting to pull my hair out and ask, never expecting a response: “Why on earth did you put paint all over your hands and then streak them up and down the curtains?” or “Why can’t you just tell us when you need to use the bathroom? Will you ever learn to say your own name?”

Now I just want to cup his slobber-streaked face in my hands and whisper, “I’m so sorry.”

The other day I sat perched in a tree with Gleny, our 10-year-old daughter and her little biological brother Jason during an intimate conversation between the three of us. Gleny said through tears, “I oftentimes wonder why our parents had us if they wouldn’t be able to take care of us.”

I broke eye contact with her, sweeping my eyes to the ground below in response to a powerful feeling of sorrow that surged up through my chest. Rather than suppress whatever was roaring up within me, in that moment I allowed myself to share in her unanswerable pain, not only when I am alone behind closed doors or praying for her as I drive alone down the highway, but sitting right across from her, with her. My voice cracked as I whispered at the ground, “I don’t know,” then, looking up at her, as my own tears ran unashamed down my cheeks, I said again, barely audible, “I don’t know.”

It was one of the first times the kids have seen me cry openly, and I think it was a healing experience for all of us. I then said, “Gleny, sometimes people make babies without thinking at all. Other times they really do want their kids and they love them dearly, but then something happens and they’re no longer able to take care of them. I don’t know.”

Our life is filled with enough I-don’t-knows to fill up an entire stadium. I don’t know what our 14-year-old daughter looked like on her first birthday. Or her tenth. I don’t know how our 7-year-old son Jason was treated when he was a toddler. I don’t know the full story of why Jackeline and Josue are with us or how long they will stay. I don’t know what 6-year-old Josue suffered when he was little that has so handicapped him now.

So we have been left to pick up the pieces, or rather it is the sacred task that our Father has entrusted to us. To take lives broken by sin, abuse and abandonment and allow God to use us as restorative channels, healing what was broken, loving what was neglected, saying what was left unsaid, allowing Truth to wash away the lies.

The various accounts of Jesus’ life found in the Gospels are filled with Him finding and healing broken people, and He does the same in today’s world. The Living God of compassion and justice seeks out lost business men, confused teenagers, desperately poor farmers, guilty murderers, 6-year-old boys whose teeth tell the story of their past: blackened and empty.

We can hopelessly drive ourselves crazy with all our I-don’t-knows, with the frequently overwhelming injustices of this world, with the whirlwind of darkness that roars within us, or we can throw it all in a basket at the feet of the cross, trusting that He makes all things new, that He heals the broken, liberates the captive, holds all the answers.

So when our honest tears fall during a conversation among the tree branches or when we lament the horrific unknowns of Josue’s infancy, we don’t get stuck on despair, as if it were the final bus stop along the long, perilous road to understanding Reality. We cry, yes, and sometimes we even scream or feel momentarily lost, angry, exhausted, but we don’t stay there. God sweeps us up into Hope, into a blessed assuredness that one day “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away [Revelation 21:4].”