February Third is the Big Day! (January 2016 Ministry Updates)

Students Enrolled in Discipleship-Based Secondary School

After beginning with 40+ candidates for our new 7th-grade section of secondary school that we will begin teaching five days a week at the Living Waters Ranch, we now have 15 students ages 11-17 from our rural neighborhood along with our eldest daughter who have fulfilled all the enrollment requirements, attended the mandatory meetings with their parent(s), brought all their documents, signed the student contract, etc.

About half of the students already have a relationship with us through their participation in choir, Bible study, agriculture, etc, and the other half are completely new to us as they simply responded to our announcement in the local schools or heard about the program through a neighbor.

The parents of the students who have officially enrolled are thrilled at our rather simple, God-fearing program (which includes several weekly Bible studies, musical involvement, a family-like atmosphere, and very clear, Biblical norms), because the educational experience that many have had in the public institutions has been that of classrooms with 45+ students per teacher, students with 25+ absences who still ‘pass’ their grade, used condoms littering the playground, sixth grade classrooms in which a great percentage of the kids still don’t know how to read, zero art or music classes, absentee or uncommitted teachers, etc.

Please pray for us, the 7th-grade teacher (Miss Ligia), the students and their families during this time of newness, continued decision-making, etc, as we finish preparations of the new classroom, continue designing the extracurricular activities and training the teacher (who has never taught before because she is a lawyer), put into practice school norms, etc. Pray that each activity, effort, conversation, etc, may be centered on God’s will and pleasing to Him. May Christ continually be made known in and through us to the students, parents, and among those of us who are laboring at the Ranch.

All the teens will be arriving at our front gate in their uniforms for their first day of school on Wednesday, February 3rd!


Jackeline (12) and Gabriela (7) Accepted into New School

This past month has been filled with many surprises, one of which is that after an entrance exam/evaluation, both Jackeline (our 12-year-old daughter who just celebrated one year of living in our family along with her 7-year-old special needs brother) and Gabriela (our 7-year-old popcorn kernel who’s been buzzing around our home for six months now along with her 11-year-old sister) were accepted into the same private Christian elementary school that Jason (8) and Gleny (11) were in last year and will be entering again this upcoming week to start a new school year.

So, four of our seven kids will all be in the same school, which we are thrilled about. Jackeline and Gleny will be classmates in the school’s only fifth grade class with roughly 12-14 students, and Jason will be in third grade and Gabriela in first. It was a long shot for the school to accept Jackeline (and an even longer shot for them to accept Gabriela, who is behind developmentally due to severe abuse), so I gave a big hug to the school’s director when she gave me the good news! We earnestly give thanks to God for this wonderful opportunity for both of them to be in a truly loving, disciplined school environment everyday where they can learn and grow alongside of peers their age, seeing as the elementary school we have at the Living Waters Ranch is geared toward literacy in older students and, although it could work for them, may not be the most effective option.

Everything seems a bit hectic (in a good sense) as we are in the process of buying school uniforms, PE uniforms, sizing up school shoes, making several trips to local office supply stores for notebooks, compasses, rulers, etc, meeting teachers and school directors, and organizing transportation for each child. Everyone (including Josue, who will be returning to his special needs school in the nearby city of La Ceiba and Dayana and Josselyn, who will continue their education at the Living Waters Ranch) will be entering school on Wednesday, February 3!

Please pray for Jackeline and Gabriela’s adjustment to a new school environment, and that their behavior and attitudes would be honoring to God. Pray for their overall self-discipline and effort, that they would take this opportunity as the blessing that it is and use it to grow further into the Lord’s will for their life.


Community Lunch and Bible Study to be Held Twice Weekly

In September 2015, we began holding a once-weekly community lunch and Bible study in our dining room, and we’ve seen much fruit from this initiative to share God’s Word with our neighbors. After receiving confirmation from several people that we should begin holding it twice a week, we have decided to begin doing so on February 3rd along with the commencement of a new year of primary and secondary school, choir activities, etc.

We have several elderly neighbors who attend along with some middle-aged married couples and several children and youth from our neighborhood, plus all of the primary and secondary students who will participate as part of their school curriculum. We are excited and honored to be able to share God’s Word with our neighbors who attend because the majority of which don’t attend church or hear the Word of God in any other place. Please pray that the Lord would continue to provide inspiration and guide the discussions/teachings that we prepare, and that those who participate would truly be persuaded toward the Truth.


Child/Youth Leadership Program and Basketball Team in Local School

This past month I returned to my part-time assignment in La Ceiba’s Episcopal School to continue training/guiding the children and youth there in God’s Word.

I have renamed the “Gifted and Talented Program” in two different sections: “Child Leadership” (4th-5th grade) and “Youth Leadership” (6th-7th grade), both of which meet weekly and are targeted at raising up leaders in the next generation who are founded on Christ. I have had basically the same group of students for three years now, so I am very excited and honored to see the work the Lord will continue to etch out among us. In addition, I am continuing to coach the (now co-ed) basketball team at the same school for the fourth year in a row, with students ages 8-15. Our eldest daughter (Dayana, age 15 in 7th grade) participates weekly in the Youth Leadership program, and five of our kids (Dayana, Gleny, Jason, Jackeline and Josselyn) participate in the co-ed basketball team.


Blossoming Relationship with Isis, our Primary Education Teacher

Our relationship with Miss Isis, our 22-year-old Honduran teacher who runs the elementary-section of our government-registered school program at the Living Waters Ranch (1st-6th grade for older students who are behind academically), has truly been one of the biggest surprises of these past six months.

She began working alongside of us in August as a temporary help when our sister Jenae Matikke felt called to move to the nearby city of La Ceiba, and it quickly became apparent that the Lord had great plans to accomplish both in and through her at the Living Waters Ranch. She worked three days per week the last five months of 2015, and for the duration of 2016 she has a contract to labor five days per week in teaching, discipleship, and general care-giving.

On Wednesday, February 3rd she will receive her 12 students (one of which is our daughter, Josselyn, and the other 11 of which are neighbors from our rural neighborhood ages 8-20) for their first day of classes after having spent the entire month of January in preparation, planning, design of her new classroom, meetings/interviews with potential students, etc.

The Lord has also guided her to design and begin leading a new weekly Bible study geared at small children, which is different from the other twice-weekly Bible study we will be teaching for older participants. This will also start on February 3. Let us give thanks for her life and for her willingness to serve the Lord’s purposes!

An Unorganized List of 64 Small Miracles: the Year 2015 in Review

[This is the same list that was published in our January 2016 printed newsletter.]

In similar fashion to the list made roughly a year ago as I looked back over the year 2014, I recently sat down to scribble what I could remember about the year 2015, taking time to give thanks for everything from anniversaries to unforeseen struggles, from growth to sickness, from new initiatives to new sons and daughters, and all that lies in between. Below is our little list that summarizes our walk with the Lord during this past calendar year.

  1. We celebrated our 2-year anniversary with Dayana (15), Gleny (11) and Jason (8), biological siblings who were the first of seven to begin moving into our home roughly four months after Darwin and I were married in 2013.


2. In January Darwin, the three aforementioned siblings, and I traveled to the southern extremity of Honduras (roughly 9+ hours away) on a water project to share the good news of Christ alongside of our faith community for a week in a rural town, fulfilling a goal of ours to serve as a family in a short-term mission.


  1. I returned for another water project/faith mission in November to continue visiting homes and sharing the good news of Christ in a different southern village.
  1. Jackeline (age 11) and her special-needs brother Josue (age 6) moved into our home in January for what was supposed to be 3-4 months, but due to their biological mother’s instability are still with us almost a year later and, amidst many trials, are thriving.

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  1. Darwin’s neighborhood youth choir grew and stabilized, averaging between 20-25 youth in its first full calendar year of existence, four of which have come to accept the Lord through their relationship with us. The choir held three public music concerts in our home/mission (the Living Waters Ranch) for our neighbors in addition to having travelled to a local mall, school and nursing home to give free concerts.

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  1. In September we began hosting a weekly community lunch and Bible study in our dining room, receiving 30-35 people each Wednesday ages 5-70+, including several married couples. We will begin holding this Bible study two days a week instead of one beginning in January 2016 due to the fruit we’ve seen in this effort to proclaim the Truth.
Mr. and Mrs. Santos, neighbors who attend Bible study and whose cows frequent our property to graze


  1. Josselyn (age 10) and her younger sister Gabriela (age 6) moved into our home in July after having been rescued out of two distinct situations of sexual abuse, and both have adapted exceptionally well to the rhythms of family life.

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  1. Jackeline (now 12) and Josselyn (10) came to profess faith in Jesus Christ.
  1. Josselyn entered homeschool in August on the kindergarten level (due to the fact that her biological family had never put her in school) and went from not knowing her ABCs to being able to read and write coherently on a basic level in 5 months.
  1. The eldest of the children the Lord has placed in our home to love and guide as sons and daughters, Dayana, turned 15 years old and graduated 6th grade, finishing her ‘elementary’ studies and transitioning into Honduran high school (7th grade), which is a big step that many Hondurans do not reach.

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  1. Gleny (age 11) and Jason (age 8), Dayana’s two younger biological siblings, entered a private Christian elementary school for the first time after having been homeschooled during their first year with us, and both passed their grade with an average of 78% after many, many trials. They will be entering 5th and 3rd grade, respectively, in February 2016.
  1. We received 10 illiterate youth from our rural neighborhood into our 3-day-per-week school program, and we finished the year with 3 of them still standing after the other 7 dropped out due to extreme irresponsibility and bad choices.


  1. On a chance encounter in a local high school, we met Miss Martha, a middle-aged Honduran Christian who since June has been laboring alongside of us 5 days per week as our nurse, cook, and general caretaker of the littlest kids.
  1. Miss Martha’s daughter, Isis, who is in her early twenties, began laboring alongside of us three days per week in August as our elementary school teacher, and our relationship with her has blossomed such that she has begun to work with us five days per week as of January 2016.
Miss Martha, our nurse and cook, along with her husband, daughter (Isis, our elementary school teacher) and Isis’ daughter, Isabella. All three adults have been of tremendous support, friendship and encouragement as brothers and sisters in Christ.


  1. We received two married couples from the States in our home for a week to share testimonies and support the Lord’s work among us.
Sharing testimonies on the porch with Kim and Jim Liffick from Texas


  1. Our eldest daughter, Dayana, began teaching music lessons with Darwin in a local high school one day per week and directing the beginner-level recorder class at the Living Waters Ranch for a small group of young neighbors.
  1. We hired part-time help with cleaning and maintenance due to necessity.


  1. We have lost contact with Brayan (the young man who lived in our home for 8 months in 2014 and who continued to be like a son to us after having moved out) since August. [After writing this list in early January he actually came to visit us unexpectedly and is doing very well.]
  1. We have continued weekly participation in our faith community’s Discipleship Group every Sunday, and the 7 kids/youth the Lord has placed in our family have been present and participated each time we go.
  1. Darwin and I celebrated two years of marriage in June.


  1. After almost three years of being processed by lawyers and government officials, more steps were taken toward the (hopefully close) reality of receiving my Honduran residency status.
  1. Currently several years into my battle with insomnia, sleeping on average 2-4 nights per week, all treatments (including weekly acupuncture, IVs, injections, and prescription and natural sleeping aids) were discontinued in June. No change – whether positive or negative – has been noted since then, seeing as I still spend the majority of nights wide awake, which leads to exhaustion, irritability, migraines and physical weakness almost every day.
  1. Our eldest daughter, Dayana, began taking violin lessons, and continues in piano, recorder, and voice.

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  1. Our two young cows gave birth to healthy calves, one male and one female, and Darwin milked both mommas every morning so that we didn’t have to buy milk and certain cheese products at the grocery store. We have also been able to bless several neighbors and our faith community with raw, organic milk on many occasions.


  1. A relationship was established with a local supermarket to receive surplus goods for free 1-4 times per month, depending on availability.
  1. I had extended bouts with Dengue Fever, two strains of Typhoid Fever, several undiagnosed tropical fevers, two ear infections, and strep throat.
  1. Many, many (many) mistakes were made and learned from.

28. I celebrated three years of living in Honduras in June.

  1. I travelled to the States in June for the first time in two-and-a-half years to visit with many individuals and churches to share the testimony of the Lord’s work in and through us.
  1. A local family moved to a small house on our property in September in order for their four school-aged children to attend our school. The father works as the night-watchman, and the mother is involved in our weekly Bible study and helps out as a volunteer in our kitchen.
Miss Carminda (center) along with 6 of her children, 4 of which are students in our school and all of which are involved in various capacities in the mission. This is the family that lives on our property with us and whose father (who is not present in the photo) is the night watchman.
  1. Another year was joyfully spent without air-conditioning, hot water, television, a washing machine, dishwasher or internet in our home.
  1. Many parenting books were read and put into practice, at times with surprising efficacy and at others with quite a few stumbles along the way.
  1. I held a Biblically-based sex education class for 16 women in our rural community ages 10-32, two of which are single moms.
  1. The vision was received and concrete steps taken to add a ‘secondary’ section onto our ‘elementary’ school in the Living Waters Ranch’s education building. Announcements were made in two local elementary schools, candidates were interviewed, a meeting with the parents was held, and the 7th-grade teacher’s contract was written and signed. Orientations and classes will begin in February 2016.
  1. Four neighbors of ours (the children of the night watchman, ages 15, 14, 11 and 8) learned how to read, write and do basic math for the first time in their lives in our school program along with attending weekly Bible study, agriculture classes, and participating in Darwin’s choir and recorder lessons.

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  1. Our two eldest daughters participated in weekly art classes the majority of the calendar year, culminating in a public art exposition in the nearby city of La Ceiba in December.
  1. Many limits and norms were created and put into practice among our family and our many neighbors who frequent the Living Waters Ranch for school, Bible study, work projects, play, counsel or prayer, choir and music lessons, etc, so as to achieve greater focus, efficiency and respect.


  1. Close to a dozen youth were employed each Monday morning (the majority of whom also participate in Darwin’s choir, Bible study, our school, etc) in supervised agricultural work projects.


  1. A leadership-focused class I teach for 4th-6th graders a the local Episcopal School was given weekly from January-May with an event for my students and their families held in our home/mission at the culmination of the school year.


40. Darwin turned 32 years old; I turned 25.

  1. Several messages were taught during the high-schoolers’ ‘church’ time in the local Episcopal School from January-May.
  1. We acquired a new lawyer, with whom we have advanced considerably in a rather sticky legal situation we are in with government taxes, reports, property declarations, etc, that have not been processed since before the passing of the Living Waters Ranch’s founder, Teresa Devlin, in 2012.
  1. Our office/storage room has been moved from the school building to the hospitality house and considerably organized in order to make room for the new 7th grade classroom.


  1. We took a trip to Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital and biggest metropolitan city with over a million inhabitants that lies 7+ hours from our home, with the three siblings (Dayana, Gleny and Jason) to visit the big national university, go to a zoo, explore a mountaintop, and celebrate our 2-year anniversary together as family.
  1. Josue (currently age 7) entered a special needs school in June and, even amidst many, many difficulties with transportation to get him to and from his school that lies 30+ minutes from our home, he attended classes from June until classes ended in late November, improving his overall conduct, sociability, and basic lifeskills.
  1. Many, many parent-teacher meetings were attended between Gabriela and Josue’s special needs school and Jason and Gleny’s Christian elementary school.

47. Gabriela entered into Josue’s same pre-school level class due to developmental delays that she incurred through severe abuse. She attended five days per week from September onward, quickly becoming the teacher’s ‘assistant.’ She’s learned the colors and has put into practice many common manners that she didn’t have before!

  1. Healthy relationships have been intentionally cultivated with several local families.
Miss Alma (center), who labors alongside us and who actively participates in Bible study, with her husband, 4 of her children and grandson. Her three boys are being discipled by Darwin, participate in the youth choir, and will be entering our school in February 2016


  1. Our three beloved guard dogs died in a tragic accident, and a few months later were replaced with a Rottweiler, German Shepherd mix, and a Hound mix.
  1. The last of our laying chickens and ducks were given away to neighbors after several devastating robberies, and our large chicken shed was converted into a stable for Darwin’s cows.
  1. The small vegetable gardens that Darwin and the local youth cultivate in agriculture classes gave small harvests of radishes and cucumbers after several difficulties, including bad soil or bad seeds, droughts, etc.

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  1. Our dear sister Jenae Matikke moved out of our home/mission in August after having labored alongside of us almost two years. She has begun working alongside of a couple pastors in the nearby city of La Ceiba.

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  1. Darwin, four of our seven children, and myself were granted the grace of fasting as a family in obedience to God towards the end of the calendar year.
  1. Monthly budgets, plans, and goals were written, altered, expanded, and re-written several times.
  1. Many, many conflicts, explosive situations, and emotional encounters among our 7 kids were confronted, prayed and talked through, and dealt with for God’s glory. I can honestly say that we are currently experiencing a season of peace in our household!


  1. 86 blog posts were written on our site www.HiddenTreasuresinHonduras.wordpress.com with the purpose of encouraging others with the proclamation of the Lord’s Truth in and through us.
  1. 34 blog posts were written on our Spanish blog site to encourage Spanish speakers in the same way.
  1. Our 7 kids have enjoyed thoroughly good health, save several bouts with lice, numerous fungus infections that are common in our tropical climate, and Gabriela’s broken collarbone.
Fighting lice the fun way… with mayonnaise!

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  1. Our 8-year-old Jason discovered a passion for reading, which is extremely uncommon in this culture and especially for someone his age. Many of the teenage youth who frequent our home cannot even read a complete sentence, while Jason devours books on science, the Bible, and general kids’ literature in his free time.

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  1. About halfway through the year Darwin began discipling a group of 4-8 teen and pre-teen boys every Wednesday morning, training them physically in activities like long-distance running, soccer, and swimming, along with reading God’s Word with them and discussing themes like sexual purity, God’s will for their lives, etc.
  1. I died my hair black in May, as did many light-haired women in our area, in response to a conflict between two rivalry gangs that led to the killing of some women with light-colored hair.
  1. The situation with our absentee trashman was finally fixed after roughly 2-3 months of not getting our trash picked up by anyone, and we now currently have a good relationship with another local man who comes to our home weekly to empty our big trash bin.
  1. Many, many hours were dedicated to the reading of God’s Word with our 7 children plus those from our local community.
Our sister Kailin Craft reading the Word with our son Jason when she and her husband came to visit in Spring 2015


64. Our 2001 Toyota Tacoma cab-and-a-half pickup truck survived its first full year with us after monthly visits to the ‘doctor’ (the mechanics), and transported many kids to and from school, art classes, music concerts, meetings, etc.

This is a light load — sometimes we travel with 20-25 people!


What I Want to do When I Grow Up

Seeing as our 7 kids/teens are currently on their school vacation, each day they have about 4-6 ‘homework’ assignments from me to keep them occupied and growing. The tasks to be completed typically include a few chapters from the Bible, 1-4 hours of musical practice, several pages in their math/Spanish workbooks, physical exercises, creative writing prompts, etc. A few days ago I assigned 2 pages of free-writing to our older kids, instructing them to write whatever they wanted as long as they blessed me with good grammar.

Without working together, two of our preteen girls (Jackeline, 12 and Gleny, 11), both of which will be entering 5th grade at the beginning of a new Honduran school year next month, wrote on the same subject: “What I Want to do when I Grow Up.” Although their lists were much longer that what is included on this post, here are some of their independent thoughts on what they want for their futures…


Jackeline (age 12):

  1. I want to marry Derbin [a young teen in choir and Bible study with her whom she’s had a crush on for the last several months]. I’m being realistic.
  2. I want to have children and be a good mom.
  3. I want to know God more.
  4. I want to meet my biological dad.
  5. I want my children to sleep in bunk beds.
  6. I want my husband to work on a boat.
  7. I want to wash my clothes by hand.
  8. I want to adopt two children.
  9. I want a blue house.
  10. I want my husband to wear elegant clothes except when he’s going to play because I know it’s my job to wash out all those stains.
  11. I want my husband to have hair.
  12. I want to work in a hospital.
  13. I want to teach my children about God, and I want them to pray with me.
  14. I want to help a school.
  15. I want to go to a museum.
  16. I want to be able to spend alone time with Derbin, or whoever my husband is if it’s not him.


Gleny (age 11):

  1. I want to be a stay-at-home mom.
  2. I want to go to Russia or Italy.
  3. I want to marry the man the Lord would have for me.
  4. I want to go to church.
  5. I want my house to be in total silence at night.
  6. I want for there to be no telephones, computers, etc, at dinnertime.
  7. I want those in my household to watch only one hour of television per day.
  8. I want my husband to be Christian and to be a child of God.
  9. I want to have a job like artist, restaurant worker, beautician, lawyer, or PE teacher.
  10. I want that by 5:00pm all work must be done and put away for the day. [This is a new rule that Darwin and I have for ourselves in our household.]
  11. I want my sons/daughters to go to the same school that I go to (Children of the Light elementary school) if it  still exists.
  12. I want my children to get married when they are 21 years old.
  13. I want my husband and I to have time together to talk, watch movies, and go on dates. [This is something that Darwin and I strive to do at least a couple time per week.]
  14. I want my children to have respect for other people and among themselves.
  15. I don’t want my husband to have any vices.
  16. I want my family to be strengthened by the right hand of God.
  17. I want there to be complete peace in my household.
  18. I want there to be sincerity among us if God permits it.


At the end of Gleny’s rather long list, she included a spontaneous written prayer:

Father, you are the King, the All-Powerful, the Worthy, the Faithful. You have never told me that you do not want me in your Kingdom with you. Forgive all of my sins and all the many things that I have done with someone or something. Thank you for forgiving me, Father. Amen.

Update on Jackeline (12) and Josue (7)

In October I wrote of our current period of discernment with Jackeline (age 12) and her special-needs brother Josue (age 7) who have been living with us since January 29th of last year. We will celebrate our 1-year anniversary with them next Friday as we continue to discern the Lord’s plans for their lives – whether we are to be their long-term family or whether they are to return to a blood relative.

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Several weeks ago I had a long meeting with their biological mother and a psychologist from Honduras’ child protective agency to try to hash through the details of whether the mom is (or will be any time soon) ready to receive her children again. To make a long story short, she’s not. We do, however, maintain a very positive and mutually supportive relationship with her, and last month on the kids’ once-a-month visit day with their biological family members, we invited her to a local beach with all 9 of us (Darwin, the 7 kids, and I). It was such a blessing that we can have a ‘family outing’ of such a mixed sort but still with so much joy, love, and encouragement.

Jackeline and Josue days after moving in with us in January 2015:

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And more recently:

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Jackeline has had a genuine turn-around in her general attitude and work ethic, although she failed to pass fifth grade again when she earned a grade of 18% on her final exam in December. She is currently preparing to take the entrance exam into Gleny and Jason’s private Christian school where, if she is accepted, would be one of 11-year-old Gleny’s classmates in her fifth-grade class.

Overall, we are incredibly content with the situation with Jackeline and Josue even though on paper it all looks pretty messy and uncertain. Jackeline has been spending a lot of time each day reading the Scriptures during these weeks of school vacation, and she’s been spending 2-4 hours per day practicing piano, recorder, and voice with our eldest, Dayana. She’s participating weekly on the girls’ basketball team I coach in the nearby city of La Ceiba, and she’s taken on the role of ‘tutor’ for little Gabriela two afternoons a week, coaching her in guided activities like Play-Doh, building blocks, physical exercises, and coloring books.

Just yesterday Jackeline found me behind our house as I was washing our clothes in a big bucket and began sharing her heart with me for over an hour, which is not typical of her. She told me that she is extremely content living with us, but at the same time she feels a responsibility to return to her biological family someday to be able to teach them all that she is currently learning. She also mentioned with serenity that, after having suffered child obesity due to her mother’s compulsive feeding of her two children, she has now learned that “food is not [her] god,” and that, although years ago she felt urges to kill either her brother or herself, she now knows that God has a purpose for both of them as His children.

Josue is as joyful as ever, and his behavior has improved to such a degree that living with him is (generally) a privilege and blessing. He still wears diapers and can only pronounce a handful of one- or two-syllable words, but he continues five mornings per week in his special needs school, where he receives very individualized attention in a class of 3-5 students.

Please pray that we may focus on living one day at a time with them, loving and guiding them moment-to-moment for God’s glory, for that is all we can do with any of them.

A Million Pinpricks of Light: The Hand of God in a Dark World

We thought he was dead. Or had surely gotten a girl or two pregnant. Or possibly in prison or roaming the streets after a series of foolish decisions had finally led him to a very real destruction.

But he was standing there at our front gate.

I had been folding laundry in our bedroom when one of our wild hooligans out on the porch called, “Brayan’s here.” The brown shirt I was folding fell out of my suddenly numb hands as my legs turned on autopilot and began to take me in the least amount of steps possible out our front door, across our porch and large front lawn to that still, red-shirted figure waiting motionless on the other side of our chainlink gate.

Three or four well-intentioned huggers tried to greet and derail me in route to that gate, but I saw them as nothing more than a blur as tears began to choke out all else. There’s no way.

Just about 10 minutes prior my husband had mentioned as casually as someone mentions that the garbage man swung by: “Oh, Brayan came by the front gate this afternoon while you were in the office.”

All the blood had drained from my face while my mind frantically tried to make sense of Darwin’s words so confused by his monotony. “Wha–?” He’s not dead. Why would he come? How is he? My words tried to catch up with my brain: “What time? Why didn’t you come get me?” My mouth literally laid agape as words escaped me and a great sorrow overtook me for having missed his visit.

My sweet husband who knows all the trials that boy has put us through in the last two years – him living with us as our constantly wayward and rebellious yet precious and dearly loved son for 8 months then moving out, coming back part-time as our student and live-in-a-different-house-son-who-is-still-highly-involved-in-our-family-life, then disappearing altogether in August 2015 – just stared at me blankly, probably as taken aback at my emotional reaction as I was to his laissez-faire approach.

Unable to form his words, Darwin’s eyes read: “I’m so sorry. I was trying to protect your heart. Surely you get that, don’t you?” while my heart pled: “How is he? Why didn’t you come get me? I was only in the office and had no idea…How could you possibly think that I wouldn’t want to see him?”

Darwin picked up his cellphone and quickly dialed Brayan’s stepbrother, Arlen, who is a very close friend of ours and with whom Brayan had come earlier that afternoon. After a short conversation, Darwin asked Arlen if Brayan would be available to come back to our home for a second time that day. He gave Brayan the message, and he apparently left immediately on his bike because he arrived not five minutes later.

So as I’m crossing the front lawn, tears welling up in my eyes and my face probably contorted into the terrible shape that any parent’s face would hold upon the return of their prodigal son, he called out in a soft voice, probably wondering how I would react: “Hola, Ma.”

The next few seconds I do not remember – if he opened the gate to let himself in or if I opened it for him – but suddenly he was in my embrace as I was in his and I no longer cared that I was crying. As my chest heaved and I held him, I said, “We love you so much, Brayan,” and suddenly Darwin was walking up behind me and we were hugging him sandwich-style, which is something we do with all of our kids.

He didn’t let go, didn’t pull away, and didn’t laugh nervously. All three of us just stood there, three small people embracing with a love that cannot be explained nor defended lest we recognize it is of God at the entrance to some remote property on the foothills of some mountain range in some forgotten country begotten with violence and poverty while the rest of the world spun on without us for those few moments.

He’s so tall; Darwin’s only got a couple inches on him now. He no longer fits comfortably under my chin. He’ll be 16 in July. Where is he living? Is he okay? How does he feel to be in our home again – did we end on a bad note? I can’t really remember. All I can remember is seeing him roaming aimlessly around the gravel roads of our town so many months ago, seeing him with that teenage girl in the miniskirt on the back of his bike back in July. Why did he come? Oh, I praise you, God, that he is alive. Thank you for bringing him home. Our son is home. Thank you, Lord.

My tears came and went during our visit as we quickly invited him into the hospitality house to sit down and receive him. We talked easily and dynamically with him for the next 45 minutes or so about anything and everything. He carried himself with a certain maturity that he had never before possessed, and on several occasions he belly-laughed with his big, childish grin, betraying an innocence and exuberant joy that I assumed had been long lost.

He is living with his biological mother and stepfather in the town next to ours and is working in a local mechanic shop washing cars and helping in whatever capacity he has been trained. His four younger half-siblings live in the home with him, and he shares a bedroom with his step-grandmother, “each one with their own bed.” He likes to go fishing on the sea in his freetime with his step-dad.

Hoping we had not lost all of our parent-child bond, I asked in a motherly way that has become surprisingly natural to me over these past two years if he has a girlfriend, and he laughed heartily and said, “No. I don’t get into things like that. I’m not ready to support a woman…” and my heart rejoiced. He goes to church with two teenage male friends of his, mentioning that he doesn’t have more friends because “the other guys who live near me are just into bad stuff, and I don’t want to participate in that because I’m walking with Christ.”

The thought that consumed all others in my little brain that was still recovering from this wonderful form of shock was this: The hand of God is upon him. The hand of God is upon him! The Lord has heard us; he hears us, and he hears Brayan. There is no other explanation for why this young man has not fallen into absolute tragedy and despair. The hand of God is so clearly, so tangibly upon him. This is one of God’s miracles. 

This sense of total awe at the goodness of God consumed me for the duration of our visit and long afterward. We encouraged Brayan in his walk with Christ and prayed with him, all three of us holding hands with heads bowed in our hospitality house’s humble living room while, once again, the rest of the world seemed to keep on spinning without us. He asked for prayer for his stepfather’s alcoholism, his mother’s chest pain, his step-grandfather’s neck tumor and his own walk with the Lord, that he would be guided into the light and not be separated from God’s will. As we prayed together, I felt the presence of the Lord in a way that I had not in some time.

At some point as he sat on our hand-me-down sofa he smiled mischeviously and said: “Recognize these boots?” I glanced down at his extremely worn-down black combat boots, let out a loud, genuine laugh and said, “Your boots! You still have them! Look at you – I’m so proud that you’ve taken care of them.” They were the same boots we had bought him about a year ago, and this was the same boy who used to lose or destroy any and all clothing, shoes, books, backpacks, etc, within a blink of an eye of receiving it.

After our long catch-up chat and then our time of prayer, it only seemed natural to invite Brayan to stay for dinner. With his sheepish grin he accepted, and we headed over to our open-air dining room that used to be his own. I put the rice and beans and leftover pasta on the stove and began pouring glasses of Darwin’s fresh cows’ milk for everyone. I even got out popsicles from the freezer that had been donated by a local grocery store; this was an extremely special day.

I glided around our muggy kitchen as he and Darwin sat at our large wooden dining room table, probably talking about guy stuff. Our 7-year-old Gabriela came in to help me serve the plates, we rang the little apple-shaped dinner bell, and everyone came barreling in from hand-washing their clothes and doing 57 other things. Brayan’s face radiated joy, and he looked like he felt at home. Well, he was.

Over dinner he talked more than I remember him talking before, and his posture and attitude gave off a sense of maturity, a precious gratefulness, and an undeniable respect that certainly were not with him before, or at least had not been as developed. He never broke eye contact; he talked easily, openly and coherently. He reminisced with our 7 kids, especially Dayana, our eldest who is his age and with whom he has the most memories, about funny happenings or lessons learned from the ‘early years’ (which was only two years ago) with us at the Living Waters Ranch.

So night fell, we did dinner clean-up, Brayan laughed as he witnessed an ‘attack-Dad’ tickle fight, and then we walked him back to the front gate and gave him another big hug to book-end the visit that profoundly encouraged us in a way that perhaps nothing before then had. He hopped on his bike, making plans with Darwin to go play soccer the next afternoon with our kids while he’s on ‘vacation’ from his job at the mechanic shop, but my heart neither leapt with expectation nor scoffed with doubt as he rode off into the night.

Our 11-year-old fireball, Gleny – who used to actively persecute Brayan during the first year or so that he was in our lives — jumped up into my arms and shouted off to Brayan in the night: “Goodnight, Brayan!” He answered back over his shoulder as I stood with Gleny in my arms under the dark night sky speckled with a million pinpricks of light in total awe: The hand of God is over Brayan.

To read previous posts about our journey with Brayan, you can go to: It All Started with a Cup of Water or “Hola Ma”


Nursing Homes, Block Empires, Tree Stunts and More: Photos from December 2015

We certainly have been spending several hours per day in dining-room tutoring with our 5 older kids as Gabi and Josue enjoy constructing block towers on the floor. All our kids will return to school in early February (the Honduran calendar has the extended vacation during the winter rather than summer months).


Only a few weeks ago Gabi didn’t have the focus or creativity to sit and put two blocks on top of each other, but with a little practice and encouragement, look at the small empire she and Josue have built!


Dayana (15), Gleny (11) and Jason (8) celebrated their 2-year anniversary in our household during a family vacation with Darwin and I to Honduras’ capital and largest city, Tegucigalpa.


8-year-old Jason, our beloved opera singer, our inquisitive young mind, our make-you-pee-in-your-pants stand-up comic, our consistent gentleman, our Energizer bunny, and our Godly-man-in-training


The kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy climbing trees!


“Ready, Jason?”  “Ready, Dad!”


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(From left to right): myself, Gleny, Darwin and Dayana at the zoo in Tegucigalpa with Jason as the photographer


At a national park above the capital of Tegucigalpa. I’m sure their schoolteachers are glad to have a break until February from these two rabble-rousers!


Back on the homefront at the Living Waters Ranch, Miss Carminda and Miss Alma had a flour fight in our kitchen!


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“Little Miss Claus” (the name I gave her because she looks like Santa Claus’ daughter) playing the recorder in our December music recital in our home/mission. About a year ago she bought that dress at a thrift store for the equivalent of about 50 cents!


Josselyn (age 11, member of our family since July 2015) and Jason (age 8), singing with Darwin’s youth choir in December. It was Josselyn’s first time to participate in the choir’s performances and play the recorder in front of an audience!


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Derbin, a 14-year-old neighbor of ours who participates in various activities at the Living Waters Ranch, playing piano in our front yard during his first public music recital.


One day I began trimming the large, leafy trees in front of our dining room when Goliath, our Rottweiler, began playing with the leaves and burying himself under them. That’s when the whole crew came to join in the fun!


If only he would stop walking! We’re trying to tame the beast!


Don’t worry — Miss Martha’s coming in to help!


Good job, Jason! You finally got him just where you wanted him!



Because it was so much fun with the dog, let’s try it with the kids!


Darwin leading the Living Waters Ranch’s youth choir in songs of joy in a local nursing home


Miss Martha, our dear sister and fellow laborer, accompanied the choir to the performance in the nursing home because she had worked there for several years and was excited to see the elderly that she used to take care of


Christian and Arlen, both choir members, handing out juice and homemade bread after the recital