Friday afternoon we celebrated the birthday of not one person but eight — one of our daughters, six of our students, and one of our teachers.
After a busy week that presented many unexpected demands (as they all tend to be), I hustled over to our community kitchen about an hour before all of our students would get out of class and began whipping up strawberry cake batter and decorating bright-colored poster boards to hang up in our dining room. I sprinted over and popped my head in our three classrooms to let all of our students know that they were invited to stay from 12:30-2:30pm for our community birthday celebration if they wanted to. (To my surprise, all but a couple enthusiastically accepted the dreadfully informal invitation and stuck around for the party.)
I then hustled back over to our kitchen as the clocked ticked down. The students would all pour out of their classrooms in like 16 minutes, and the cake wasn’t even ready, much less iced, and I still needed to finish the meager decorations and plan what on earth I would actually do with like 25 people for two hours of planned group activities that I hadn’t planned!
Well, with quite a bit of creative improvisation and rugged team-work with our beloved teachers, what seemed to me to be a pretty last-minute, poorly planned effort turned out to be a raging hoot and holler.
The gold medal goes to Miss Ligia (age 29, high school teacher) and Miss Isis (age 22, elementary school teacher) for putting themselves out there and participating with their students in all of the games and competitions I thrust upon them! Neither one is naturally very athletic, but they both got their hands (and heads, knees, and more!) dirty right alongside of their students.
In a country deeply wounded by murder, petty theft, betrayal, corruption and an almost tangible feeling of inadequacy and despair, it truly was beautiful to spend an afternoon enjoying godly friendship — helping one another up, cheering one another on, working as a team, whooping and roaring with side-splitting laughter, praying over those whose birthdays we were celebrating, and running until you can’t breathe anymore.
In this land deeply lacerated — tormented — by teen pregnancy and unbridled delinquency, what a blessing it is to see teens playing together — loving rather than hating, supporting rather than destroying, giggling rather than being overcome by desperation, participating in a raw innocence that comes from the Father rather than falling prey to Satan’s treacherousness.
Rouge teens on a forgotten corner of the earth who might otherwise be involved in gangs — many of whom are recognizing and confessing for the first time in their lives that they are addicted to pornography — learning the heart of the Father, asking earnest questions and seeking out the Truth. Young women emerging from devastating situations of abuse and abandonment clinging to the freedom offered them in Christ rather than remaining trapped in the oppressive environment of despair, single-motherhood and self-loathing the world around them offers. Desperately poor youth learning the riches of a just, redeeming God.
As we grow together as a community — as a patchwork family, a school, a discipleship center — in the knowledge and love of our Father, He concedes us an uncommon joy, a wild delight. So here’s to His uncommon ways, His active work among His people from every tribe, tongue and nation in today’s world.
Below are the photos I took of the unexpectedly joyous occasion we had on Friday as we delighted in a glimpse of heaven in the midst of a land that oftentimes seems trapped in hell. Praise God for the utterly liberating work He is unleashing among us!
Amen! Glory to our Father who establishes His Kingdom in the most unlikely of places!