The Ax is at the Root of the Trees

In the past year we have welcomed 10 illiterate children and teens from our rural neighborhood into our free 3-day-per-week ‘homeschool’ program, and thus far 5 (exactly half) have voluntarily walked out not only on the only education they had ever received, but likely on their very future.

One struggle that often leaves me (and my husband, who himself is Honduran) scratching my head, perplexed, is the utter foolishness of many people here. We are not up against a community of people who steal, lie, and roam the streets aimlessly because no one has ever come to lend them a hand, to lovingly show them the Way, but rather many are in the condition they’re in because they foolishly rejected the love, the opportunities, the Truth presented to them in favor of their own misery, their own destruction.

Just yesterday my husband Darwin and I stood on the porch of our Education Building, a small cinderblock structure painted in a melon-like color where Darwin gives his music lessons and where three mornings a week we impart a government-approved elementary-level education to the children in our little school. Emotionally exhausted, we looked out across our large grassy property as our cows mixed and grazed with the herds of two of our neighbors.

“That’s…suicide,” I said as he finished telling me the sad news that the mother of a promising 8-year-old girl in first grade in our school just that morning informed Darwin that she would no longer be sending her daughter to school (…ever) because her daughter reported to her that our 6-year-old daughter Gabriela hit her on the hand during recess.

Previously, the mother had had her daughter in the local public school system, but due to extreme poverty was not able to pay the school fees or uniform costs, so for the last couple years her daughter had just stayed at home with her everyday, doing nothing (a too-common practice here). For the past six weeks or so we had been driving over 10 minutes from our home to theirs to pick her up at her front doorstep and take her up to our property every day to learn to read, write, do basic math, sing in Darwin’s choir, attend Bible study, and participate in agriculture, and every afternoon we did the 20+ minute round-trip drive to drop her back off at home. For free. To serve Jesus and love this little girl. And now, due to the mom’s (and possibly child’s) ignorance and/or blatant foolishness, she has withdrawn her daughter from the only educational opportunity available to her, and has condemned her to a life of illiteracy, idleness and probably teen pregnancy because her daughter complained to her that a little girl two years younger than herself hit her on the hand during recess, leaving no blood and no mark.

Possibly speaking out of ignorance myself, I asked my husband, “Do you think it’s like that in Africa?” He laughed. I continued: “I’ve heard and read of different people in Africa who open up a little school or mission, and like 100 children walk miles barefoot just to show up and learn, grateful for the opportunity. They study hard and become doctors and engineers, desiring to provide for their families and honor God.”

Here, on the contrary, 13-year-old Little Darwin, who several months ago was in second grade in our school, stormed out one morning never to return because he showed up late for the free breakfast before classes and was thus told he would have to wait two hours for recess in order to eat. He condemned himself to illiteracy, roaming the streets and stealing from us over his unwillingness to accept the (extremely small) consequence of his own tardiness.

Fool.

We currently have a 15-year-old girl in third grade in our school program who last week walked out in the middle of class, climbed a tree behind the school, and began yelling at our nurse/cook Miss Martha, saying that she wouldn’t come down until the teacher herself climbed the tree to get her. After another similar incident only two days ago, this young woman herself is on the verge of becoming Number Six to permanently walk out on the only education she’s ever been offered. And her family doesn’t even have enough food to feed her, yet it doesn’t occur to her to stay in school if only to receive the free breakfast and lunch several days a week.

Jackeline, one of the young women the Lord has placed in our lives to love and care for as a daughter and who has been living under our guidance roughly 7 months, recently failed 5th grade in our homeschool program after a very poor effort. Weeks later, upon beginning the 5th grade school year a second time, she refused to do her homework and told the teacher: “It doesn’t matter if I fail again; I’m young enough that I can repeat without getting too behind.” We respond with prayer, long one-on-one talks, the taking-away of privileges and freedoms, written consequences, etc, and she continues onward in a sluggish ungratefulness that makes us want to pull our hair out and scream.

So I write all of this basically to ask for prayer. Darwin and I have jumped through many hoops trying to love and serve the children and youth the Lord has placed around us, and in the end it seems as though with many of them (even some of which live under our roof) we strangely enough end up begging them to care about their own futures or, possibly worse, I become jaded with all their foolishness, with all the long one-on-one- talks that never seem to produce any fruit, with the utter ungratefulness these children/youth display toward God for His favor, and my heart becomes discouraged and hardened. Please pray with and for us, that our labors may not be in vain, and that it may be revealed to us in whom we should invest our energies and resources so as to produce a harvest of good fruit for God’s Kingdom.

The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

— Matthew 3:10

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