Rays of Hope Shining From Dark Places: Reflections From the Next Generation (Part 1)

Over the past several days I’ve spent close to a dozen hours reading our students’ ‘books’ — long handwritten reflections that they’ve carefully torn out of their school notebooks and stapled together. During the three weeks of intensive preparation that finished last Friday, every evening our students were given one or more reflection themes as homework to get them thinking and engage their hearts and minds. Reading their sincere reflections has allowed us to enter the inner world of each student, to know them better and witness close-hand the transformative work the Lord has begun in them.

Some of the reflection themes had to do with their current or future family while others were about their relationship with God, how they spent their school vacations, a situation they had to face with bravery or their personal opinion regarding whether or not cell phones are a healthy tool for teenagers to have. The writing prompts were all very open-ended, and the responses were intriguing.

Although our precious students have many grammatical errors, the heart of their message — the Truth shining forth from their small pencil-written letters and unorganized paragraphs — caught me off guard. It is for this reason that I’ve translated several excerpts from their writings to include them on this blog to encourage those around the world with the good work the Lord has begun in many young lives in Honduras. Seeing as I’ve only got about halfway through the enormous stack of reflections (each ‘book’ is 15+ pages), there will probably be another blog with additional excerpts in the upcoming days.

The following excerpts were written by Honduran youth ages 12-17 who are all currently in poverty, many of which do not live with their biological parents due to situations of abuse and neglect, and some of whom spent the first 10-12 years of their life without entering school. Some have been raised in devout Christian families while others found Christ through their relationship with us at the Living Waters Ranch.

 

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Last Friday the 40+ youth in our homeschool-style discipleship program (both elementary and secondary combined) celebrated the end of the very demanding three-week process of Intensive Preparation as my husband Darwin and the rest of our faithful team planned a fun day of outdoor games for those who had persevered and not given up. Our official school year started this past week.

 

I believe that God is the only one who can liberate us of all evil. We humans are very difficult because we tend to resist our divine Eternal Father and don’t want to be guided by Him, and that is why there are so many problems in life. – New female student, age 15 (8th grade)

My first week at the Living Waters Ranch high school was very special. God has been changing my life ever since I entered this new school. He has changed my whole life because now I read the Bible, which I never did before. I now pray every night. I am learning more about Jesus Christ, and God has changed my life, and I am so happy about that. Another thing that makes me happy is that God has cured me of the evil I did last year. I believe He has forgiven me. –New male student, age 14 (7th grade)

 

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Ariel and Alejandro, two teen boys who are new to our school. Alejandro (blue shirt) graduated 6th grade from a local public school without ever having learned the basics of reading, writing and math, so he has entered our school on the second-grade level. This is not uncommon, as the public school system is notorious for passing students even though they have learned nothing.

 

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Miss Isis, one of our beloved local teachers who has now been with us a year and a half, enjoying a riotous participation in the field day games

 

I suffered a lot with my biological mom because we did not have a stable home…We were vagabonds; we did not know how to read. In order to provide food for my siblings and I, my mom prostituted herself. My dad had other women. I do not want to suffer like my mom did…That is basically what happened with my biological family, but by the grace of God my siblings and I stayed alive and together. — One of our daughters, age 12 (6th grade)

I was lost, and God, through the Christian brethren at the Living Waters Ranch, opened my eyes…He sent His son to pay for us. Thanks to God, my life has changed for the better. God loves me. God is the answer to all problems. We must repent with all our heart, and He will understand. He is my father. He is like a lifesaver; in the middle of the ocean we must cling to Him. I was so far from God – a lot of television, just wandering around without purpose, dirty language, very irresponsible. Everything bad that happened to me I blamed God. I used to say, “If God is good, why did He let this happen to me?” I was so wrong, but God – through the Christians at the Ranch – opened my eyes. – Returning male student, age 14 (8th grade)

 

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This is Genesis (red shirt), the new addition to our household, competing in a carry-the-egg-on-a-spoon competition with our daughter Jackeline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here in our neighborhood there was a man who liked the easy life. He was a drunkard and liked to play cards. He was also involved in drugs. One day he began reflecting over his life, and he began to seek God. He is now a pastor; he has two children and they follow him everywhere. He is so thankful to God for the change He made in him. This story has helped me because I feel that God is doing the same thing in me. — Returning male student, age 15 (7th grade)

God gave Himself up for all of us on the cross of Calvary so that we would have life in abundance. The Bible specifically tells us about the love that God has for us and what God is capable of as He transforms men. God makes no exception of people – we are poor, rich, small and big, and He takes no note of race or language. We are all important to Him, and God acts in various ways to liberate us from the error of sin that the whole world finds itself in. Many are in gangs or are drunkards; others have different errors but God sends people that He has already liberated so that they can talk to us, to those whom God wants to save. God’s Word says that even in our mother’s womb God chose us to be saved. – New male student, age 14 (7th grade)

 

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Who knew that a potato sack race would be so much fun? Jump, boys, jump!

 

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This is 13-year-old Donaris who is in 4th grade with us. He has severe behavioral problems and struggles with basic social norms. Although he presents many classroom difficulties for several of our teachers, we all thank God that he is with us and not roaming the streets, where he would very quickly fall into a life of crime and sexual perversion.

 

In my life I want God to make me into one of His instruments. I want to counsel other youth and speak to them of the love God has for them. I also want to help street children, those without responsible parents. I would like to guide them on the right path. One day [last year] when I was in Bible study and my mom was talking about drug addicts and street children, I felt that God touched my heart and I sensed in my heart that God wants me to be the person to help those people, to share with them the good news that God has for them. I would also like to start a mission base just like the Living Waters Ranch in order to raise children and be the mom that they never had, to be a blessing to their lives..One of our daughters, age 16 (8th grade)

One verse that I read in the Bible this past week that impacted me is Proverbs 11:4. It says: “When you stand before the Great Judge, your riches will not be able to save you; only doing what is just will liberate you from death.” This means that not even the richest person can buy their own life in God’s presence. It makes me think that being rich would not help me because salvation is not bought with money. — Returning male student, age 15 (7th grade) 

 

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Our beloved student Stanley (left), whom I’ve written about on numerous occasions, and Cristian, one of our night watchman’s sons. Cristian (red shirt, right) is 15 years old and in 5th grade with us because he entered school for the first time in his life two-and-a-half years ago when he arrived at our front gate. He was one of our first local students along with his siblings, and he has been enthusiastically completing two grades per year in our accelerated program for older students.

 

Nowadays all the youth stop studying in order to spend time on their cellphone. I spent three years [they were actually only two, but he always says three] in fifth grade because I was distracted with my cellphone. If I were you, I would put my cellphone away so that you don’t lose points. Plus, the teacher will take the cellphone away from you. I am very proud of myself because I no longer have a cellphone, and now I am more focused than I could have ever imagined, and I thank God for that. This is my opinion. — One of our sons, age 15 (6th grade)

To me, a problem in our neighborhood is that there is a lot of trash on the ground. We should not throw it on the ground because is takes a million years to renew itself, and that’s a long time. — One of our daughters, age 12 (6th grade)

 

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Our 15-year-old son Brayan hauling one of the little 10-year-old boys in our program toward the finish line!

 

When I began writing the Proverbs [for homework during the Intensive Preparation], at first I did not want to copy them, but then all of a sudden I felt that I wanted to do it because I found a lot of great advice that would prove helpful in my life. I now feel that every time I sit down to write the Proverbs, God is telling me, “I am waiting for you. Sit down and write, and you will be blessed by my teachings.” Also, if one hopes to correct himself, he’s got to read Proverbs. In that way we will not join up with the foolish. – Returning male student, age 15 (5th grade)

One day Brayan and I were in a verbal spat on the porch, so Pa Darwin came and sent us both out to the yard to pull up weeds for a good while. I have a phrase that I invented: “Sometimes hard things happen, but it’s better to shut your mouth.” — One of our daughters, age 12 (4th grade)

 

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During our first few weeks of the new 2017 school year, we’ve worked hard to put into practice positive behavioral norms among our students such as teamwork, mutual encouragement and utilizing one’s energy toward the good (serving God) rather than for evil. It is a very special privilege (and a lot of fun) to organize high-energy team-building events for these kids as God continued to mold their character and tame their heart with His love.
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Ariel, one of our big teen boys, plopped pint-sized Ever (one of our first grade students) into one of the sacks. Carrying him would definitely make the race a lot faster!

 

In my life I already have experiences and I have seen how God manifests Himself through those who obey His Word. – New male student, age 14 (7th grade)

When I’m an adult, I want my children to be Christ-centered leaders, just like their parents. — Returning male student, age 15 (7th grade)

Me in the past, I was a cow-herder. I did not know anything; I was not a Christian until I met Darwin and Jennifer. I started to talk with them, and I became a child of God. I am now a follower of Jesus Christ. When I was little I suffered a lot. Now that I am a Christian I enjoy the love of God and I do not ignore people. When someone insults me, the only thing I do is say, “God bless you.” Now the moments of my life are better than they were before. — One of our sons, age 15 (6th grade)

 

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Hurry! Change out the sack and keep it moving!

 

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16-year-old Sandra, who has returned to live with us for a short period, on the left as she and her teammate Arlen (on the right) lend a helping hand to 11-year-old Yefri in the potato sack competition.

 

Proverbs 8:36 was very impactful in my life because it says “Those that offend Me put their life in danger; to hate Me is to love death.” This impacted me because the teaching is that he who hates God is a lover of death and of Satan. The people in this world don’t know what they do; they go to church but keep sinning against God. We people play with God, but we do not truly think that our body has a limit, and that limit is death. But even so we rebel against the goodness of God. — Returning male student, age 15 (7th grade)

When I’m grown up, I want my wife and I to be responsible parents. I will give thanks to God for the wife He gives me. Also, with my wife I want to help needy people — those who need help raising their children. I want to have 3 biological children and 5 adopted ones, and I want to be faithful to them. I want to form them into well-educated sons and daughters, receiving them from different places. I want to be a loving husband and a loving person. I also desire for God to guide my wife and I on the path of justice; may He give us the hope of really and truly helping others in the same way that God changed me. — One of our sons, age 15 (6th grade)

 

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Now it’s the teachers’ turn in the sacks! Everybody help Miss Isis out!
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Backup is coming!

 

[In regards to the 3 weeks of intensive preparation] …I learned that if I don’t turn in my homework, I have to go to detention and I lose a lot of points…I learned that if I put forth a good effort, good things happen. Returning male student, age 14 (8th grade)

I want to study at the Living Waters Ranch because I want to honor my parents. I am going to learn how to be a Christian leader. The teachers treasure and love me, and I them. Thanks to the teachers, I feel extremely encouraged because they say I’m off to a good start and that I should keep up the same pace until the end. I know that we students sometimes get really foolish and don’t do our homework, but thanks to God that now the Living Waters Ranch has detention. — Returning male student, age 15 (7th grade)

 

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Who’s winning? Who cares?! Everybody just start running, and grab somebody if possible!
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Everybody work together to haul Miss Isis over the finish line! Miss Isis, don’t wet your pants!

 

One of my dreams is to become a gynecologist, but if I don’t do that, then I’d like to be a pediatrician in order to help needy children. Another dream that I have is to be a prophet. Each day I ask God to grant me more and more wisdom… — Returning male student, age 14 (8th grade)

In the earlier years of my life, my relationship with Satan was perfect, but my relationship with God was terrible. I did not know God’s love. The Lord called me several times, but I never responded… Now, years later, I have the knowledge of God and I know Him personally. He is marvelous and powerful. Satan is a nobody. Satan promises to offer you things that he himself doesn’t even have. Now I love God with all my heart. I accepted Christ and am 100% submitted to His will. — New male student, age 17 (8th grade)

 

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Tug of war! Everybody PULL!

 

Amen! Glory to God!

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