Category Archives: Central America

Manuscript Sent to the Publisher and Other Updates

We send you our warm greetings from our ranch homestead in Honduras. I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are healthy and thriving despite the pandemic.

We send our sincere thanks to all those who continue financially supporting and praying for this small mission even in the midst of so much global uncertainty. We appreciate you and thank God for His provision through you. Several months ago one of our local missionary-teachers (Lawny) helped me write thank-you notes to all those who actively support us, but the Honduran post office has been closed since March so we’ve been unable to send them! If we’re lucky, maybe they’ll reach you by Christmas! : )

My husband Darwin and one of our foster daughters in a recent water balloon fight on our ranch

Our eldest daughter, age 19 and living outside our home for the past year, participated in her little brother’s 13th birthday party. We are amazed to see God’s work in her life and the way He is restoring our relationship with her. 

Here in Honduras we continue indefinitely under quarantine and general restrictions, although we have learned to make the best of it. Our small staff of missionary-teachers continues to diligently work and educate our students, but now they do so mainly out of their own homes. The majority of our teachers live in close geographical context to our students, so they have begun teaching and giving tutoring sessions in their own living rooms and on their own porches, receiving small groups of students at a time. One of our local missionary couples (Erick and Aracely) still directs an intensive discipleship group 1-2 times per week out of their home and continues to organize community service and evangelism projects on a regular basis.

We began our journey as foster parents with these three back in 2013. They’ve grown a little bit since then!
Here are a few of the calves that have been born on our ranch property recently.

We are currently digging a professional well on our ranch, as water issues have plagued us for these past several years. The NGO Primero Agua is helping us install this addition free of charge, and we’ve been hosting their men in our home for the past couple weeks.  They will most likely have to wait to finish the project until early next year as our property is plagued by many rocks and they need a more advanced drill to get past them all.

Today I officially sent in the manuscript of my first book to a self-publishing company, and these next few months will be dedicated to editing and marketing. The title is Hidden Treasures: An American Living in the Developing World Wrestles with Significance, Faith and Suffering. This has been my main project throughout these past few months of quarantine, and I hope the book will serve as a small flame to light the paths of many for God’s glory. In my book I use pseudonyms to protect our children’s identities, and I will begin doing so here on this blog as well. So, in the following posts don’t be surprised if I stop mentioning our kids’ real names!

In the summer months we have a lot of birthdays in our home! We take advantage of these small celebrations to pray individually for our kids and dedicate them once more to God’s care.

My husband, our five foster teens and I are doing exceedingly well.  We continue to run daily as a family and are currently on the cusp of reaching 30,000 pages read in quarantine! We have, however, been without internet for about three months now, which has both complicated and simplified our lives.

God bless and keep you. Sincerely in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

General Updates: Second Quarantine Edition

We send you our warm greetings from our rural ministry homestead on the northern coast of Honduras. This post will be fairly brief as there have not been many new developments here since our last post.

Today is my eighth anniversary since moving to Honduras as a recent college graduate, and I thank God for His provision, guidance and strength since. Later this month my husband and I will be celebrating seven years of marriage, which is a milestone we are grateful to reach.

We continue to operate our ministry/school long-distance as best we are able, as the Honduran government has not yet allowed schools to resume their normal daily activities. It is still unclear when the restrictions will be lifted, but we are at peace and have used the extensive quarantine time to develop many new, productive routines as a family.

In our family composed of my husband and me alongside our five foster children (ages 12-17), we are on the cusp of reaching our goal of reading 20,000 pages together. Our original goal was to read 10,000 pages as a family, and once that goal was met roughly a month ago we decided to do it again. We have enjoyed a lot of edifying Christian literature, both fiction and non-fiction, and we’ve formed several informal “book clubs” at home as we enthusiastically discuss what we’ve learned from the books we’re reading.After slowly overcoming our prolonged battle with Typhoid fever, we’ve begun running/walking 2+ miles as a family every morning after doing our morning devotions and prayer. Running as a family is a habit we had developed years ago with our kids, but we were unable to continue due to so many ongoing health problems (mainly mine). So, we thank God for renewed health and the ability to complete this daily run.

In the past several weeks we have experienced increased difficulties with the electricity, running water and internet on our rural property. We went four weeks without internet access, and the running water and electricity intermittently have gone out for several hours (and sometimes up to a day) at a time. This has been trying (especially the lack of water), but we have learned new levels of patience, flexibility and trust in the Lord.My husband Darwin (who grew up on a farm with his family in rural Honduras) has been working extensively in agriculture and maintenance on our ranch where we live and serve. The quarantine has provided him additional time to dedicate to these projects, as his schedule is normally tied up with academic and administrative commitments when school is in full-swing. Our foster kids have been ’employed’ in many of these projects, and as a result of the increased production of our small herd of milking cows we’ve begun producing a few different kinds of cheese in addition to having fresh, organic milk to drink each day.

In regards to our musical pursuits, my husband trains our foster children two hours every day in own in-home orchestra, and I am currently composing my second original piece on the piano after having finished my first about a month ago.  I am also waist-deep in the process of writing my first book, which I dedicate 1-2 hours to each day as our children work independently on school assignments.

Additional updates: About a week ago we rescued a little baby owl who had fallen out of a tree on our property, and I continue to teach our kids typing/computer skills daily (something they had not had access to in previous years). We try to make ourselves available to serve our neighbors as the Lord leads, and in general we are learning to live contentedly with a more simple lifestyle. My husband and I are also being individually mentored/discipled each week (by phone) by two people whom we highly respect and who have generously made themselves available to us.

We sincerely hope you and your loved ones are safe and well during this time and that you are able to take full advantage of the opportunities given to you, whether in quarantine or back to ‘normal’ life. God bless and keep you, and we send our sincere thanks to those who continue to support this mission even in the midst of much global economic instability.

Sincerely in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

1,140 Packets of Seasoning and 360 Servings of Baby Food: Government Dysfunction in Honduras

Back in mid-March of this year, at the beginning of the quarantine here in Honduras, my little black cell phone rang (think one of those old-school phones with an itty bitty screen and no internet access). It’s not that I haven’t had the opportunity to advance with the times and acquire a more modern cell phone; rather, I intentionally make a stand and dare to be content with less constant access to technology and ‘connection’.

But my cell phone and its lack of bells and whistles is not the subject of this post.

I reached to answer the call, seeing on the caller ID (yes, my phone does have that ‘app’) that it was the local child protective services. Although we enjoy a positive, civil relationship with the team of lawyers and social workers at the agency, every time they call 1,000 thoughts parade through my mind:

Is there some kind of problem with one of our kids’ cases? Will they inform me of some new legal requirement that we must jump through dozens of hoops to fulfill just to keep our kids under our care? Are they calling to ask us to take in a new child?

My husband and I have fostered 12 Honduran youth in the last six years, seven of which have now moved on, grown up and/or returned to their biological families. After suffering too many changes, upheavals and losses in our household, we decided several months ago not to receive any new people into our family for the next few years. We are currently waist-deep in the delicate, sacred task of parenting the five under our care, and we want to do so well, without a constant flow of people coming and going from our intimate family life.

So, I readied myself emotionally to say “no” should the voice on the other end of the line ask me to open up our home to take in a new youth. I breathed deeply, sent up a silent prayer, and answered.

The voice that greeted me belonged to an upbeat female lawyer in her late twenties whom I have worked closely with in times past, specifically throughout 4+ frustrating years of trying unsuccessfully to adopt several of our foster children. Since then, we have had little to no regular communication with the agency.

I silently kept a wave of emotions at bay and braced myself for whatever might come next.

“Hi Jennifer! We just want to check in to see how you all are doing in the midst of the virus scare. We will be dropping food off to all the homes, and you all are on our list. Do you have enough provisions currently? How are the children?”

She caught me entirely off guard with this unexpected conversation topic, as we have never received financial or material assistance from the local child protective agency nor from any branch of the Honduran government. They were really going to bring us a food donation? It was almost too good to be true.

Trying to quickly gain my footing after having been caught by total surprise at the agency’s generosity, I answered, “Thank you so much for thinking of us. We appreciate the offer and are  willing and grateful to receive anything that is within your power to give. However, if your supplies are limited, please donate to the homes that are in more desperate need.”

In an extremely perky tone, she assured me that there was enough food for all of the homes in our area and that they would gladly share with us a provision of food to help us make it through the quarantine. I thanked her again and asked when we should be expecting them, and she told me within 1-2 days’ time.

Several days passed, and that same caffeinated lawyer called me again. She asked me the specific ages and genders of our children, and I gave them to her (although she already has them on paper in her office and also via an online form I had already filled out): One male age 12; four females ages 15, 16, 16 and 17. She thanked me and hung up, assuring me that in a short time they would be bringing the donation of food and other items.

The following day she called me again and asked the exact same question about our children’s genders and ages. Again, I gave her the same information.

Yet again (I’m not kidding) the next day she called again. I glanced down at the caller ID on my cell phone’s tiny black screen, and wondered why on earth she deemed it necessary to speak to me again. I answered, hesitantly, and in her trademark perkiness she asked me to provide her with our children’s genders and ages (now for the third time in three days).

My manners getting momentarily put on the back-burner, I laughed out loud and asked with sincere confusion, “Again? Are you serious?I’ve already given that information to you twice…”

She laughed good-naturedly, spouted off some excuse that didn’t make any sense, and insisted on me telling her once more our children’s basic information that is already registered both in their office and online.

I took special time to annunciate over the phone as slow and clearly as possible, “One male…age 12…four females…ages 15, 16, 16 and 17…” I thought I would lose my mind if she called me again the next day asking for the same information.

Well, she did not call me again. A week or two passed, and a local friend of ours commented that she had seen on the news that the child protective agency announced that they had given food donations to all of the local children’s homes and foster families to support them in the midst of the Corona virus crisis. Our friend was pleased at this unexpected government gesture to help those in need and assumed that we, too, had received such a donation.

I bit my tongue. They never came to our property nor called to explain why.

A few more weeks passed, and finally that expensive government truck came plowing through our front gate and out popped that infamously perky lawyer in full face mask, gloves and full government uniform.

I stared on in disbelief, thinking:

Weeks ago they announced publicly that they had already given us food. If we had for some reason fallen on desperate need, we surely would have died of hunger by now (a full 5 weeks after her initial phone call)!

She and her assistant – a disheveled middle-aged man who wore absolutely no protective gear and didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned about possible contamination (or professional presentation) – efficiently shuttled six cardboard boxes and one large plastic bag into our kitchen.

They took a very official photo of the woman and me in front of the food donation as proof to the government that they had helped the needy, and the woman asked me to sign a document confirming the event. All of this in the name of feeding hungry children in foster families and children’s homes.

As they were headed out the door not five minutes later, I thanked them for their generosity (and opened the door for the fully-protected lawyer who was afraid to touch our door handle). She then laughed heartily and said, “Sorry it took us so long to come!” And, leaning closer to me and lowering her voice into a whisper, she said good-naturedly, “Be careful with the breakfast cereals in the bag we gave you; I think they’re expired.”

My head swirling, I walked them to the front gate and waved goodbye as their vehicle roared off our property. My husband would be teaching our kids music for the next hour, so I walked in the scorching heat across our front lawn and back into our bright-orange kitchen.

Although the government agency had taken an inordinate amount of time to fulfill their promise and had brought us expired goods, I decided to be thankful for the donation and was even excited to rummage through the boxes and see what they had brought us. This would surely help offset our grocery bills for the next couple weeks in this highly uncertain time. I thanked God in my heart for His provision through them, and cut through the plastic tape of the first box with a knife.

My heart sunk, and confusion set in. Dozens upon dozens of packets of seasoning.

Seasoning? This can’t be right. I dug deeper in that first box to see if under that sea of packets there was something more substantial – packets of rice or beans or canned goods.

There wasn’t. The only thing that first box held were crazy amounts of seasoning – 570 packets, that is. How on earth are we going to use all this, and is this really what someone needs to receive in times of global crisis? Can eating packets of seasoning keep anyone alive?

Consciously turning off the flow of very negative and bewildering thoughts, I cleared my mind and decided to give the second box a try.

I cut the tape loose and opened the box, my heart expectantly full before it crashed to the floor again.

More seasoning. They had given us not 570 packets of seasoning, but now 1,140.

I began calculating futilely. If we use even two packets per day (which is a stretch), we’ll have enough seasoning for almost two years. There’s only one problem: it expires in three months.

Pushing my growing disappointment aside, I decided to kindle my hope anew and try the next four boxes.

Baby food in all four.

 Our dining room table covered in open boxes, inordinate amounts of seasoning and now 360 packets of baby food (for a household that has no residents under age 12), I stepped back in the silence of our home and just stared.

Only one thing remained that might actually be of some use to us: the bag of expired cereals the lawyer had warned me about. Numbly, I removed the three cereals in their dented boxes and placed them in a bin where we keep our breakfast foods.

The obvious thought was for our own loss: these items, intended for our benefit, would be of virtually no use to us. The underlying tragedy (and that which was of greater weight on my conscience) was that of our Honduran government’s total inefficiency and stunning lack of organization.

My mind wandered, and I couldn’t help but wonder in disbelief: Why on earth did the lawyer give us baby food after having asked me on three separate occasions the ages of our children? Surely, there are other homes that do have babies that could have benefited from this donation. What did those other homes receive? Did they give us this donation and take the professional picture just to make themselves look good?

The Honduran government’s alarmingly high levels of dysfunction can knock a person off their feet. Having lived here nearly 8 years, my head still spins in reaction to such bizarre events. Is this random nonsense due to mere ignorance on their part? Do they not know how to do their job better; did it not occur to them to review the contents of the donations before handing them over? (Surely, it would have been more effective to divide 1,140 packets of seasoning between dozens of different homes instead of dumping them in one single place, not to mention the fact that baby food needs to go to a home that has babies!)

Oftentimes, the third world (at least in my experience) is perfectly upside-down, and those who insist upon using logic only end up with increasing psychological damage. This donation, after all, was simply unhelpful, and I ended up feeling like a pawn in some political game I know next to nothing about.

After several pensive moments standing in silence around our dining room table, our kids’ music lesson came to an abrupt end and they came bounding into our kitchen.

“Hey Mom! What’s that big pile on the table? Why did the child protective agency come? Is everything okay?”

At that point I was already about ¾ of the way into organizing and bagging the baby food and seasoning into manageable portions to share with our neighbors who might benefit from it (as in, those who have babies in their home). I wearily announced, a slightly fake smile on my face, “Oh, the agency dropped this food off for us, but they aren’t really items we can use so we are going to re-donate them to our neighbors in need.”

In my heart of hearts I was grateful to God for the chance to participate in this unique re-gifting of the goods, as I knew we would be working as loving conduits to His purposes. Even so, the utter ineffectiveness of the government’s ‘aid’ still laid heavy on my mind.

Within a couple days’ time we carried the gifts on foot to bless eight households in our rural neighborhood. It was not difficult to identify who might be able to best benefit from the goods, and we enjoyed acting as deliverers of unexpected blessing. Our foster kids participated with us, dedicating the necessary care and attention to make sure the government’s food provision truly reached those who could use it.

There’s no perfect way to wrap this post up with a neat little bow. The story I’ve shared here is one little stitch among a vast national tapestry of dysfunction and inefficacy.

I simply share this with you to shed a little bit of light on the brokenness of the system down here, always with the hope that reforms and international intervention might help establish a healthier, functioning government (including a justice system that actually responds to crime) on which the people here can depend and thus thrive.

Please pray with us for these changes to occur, and that in the meantime God’s purposes might take root in Honduras in spite of the many exacerbating factors.

God bless and keep you and your loved ones.

With joy in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Greetings and Updates from Rural Honduras: Quarantine Edition

We send you our warm greetings from our rural ministry homestead on the northern coast of Honduras. We sincerely hope that each of you and your loved ones are found safe and at peace during the uncertainty of the Coronavirus epidemic.As are many around the globe, we have currently been put ‘on-hold’ by all the unexpected changes that have come with the Coronavirus scare. We continue to diligently parent and guide our 5 foster teens at home but are confined to mainly long-distance school-related activities with our teachers and students. We had not wanted to suspend our service to the local community, but we were given no other choice.
We are currently seeking the Lord within the context of our own home and trying to consume as little as possible.  We have also decided to dedicate several hours weekly to musical practice and other in-home academic pursuits. My husband has been leading our foster teens in many agricultural/maintenance activities on our rural property, and a few of our daughters and I have begun composing music/song to some of the Psalms from the Bible. We’ve also been devouring many edifying books and currently have the goal of reading 10,000 pages as a family. After only a few weeks of quarantine, we’re already more than halfway there!

As for our family’s physical health, we are finally getting over a prolonged bout with Typhoid fever. The antibiotics proved ineffective, so we have turned to several natural remedies. They have begun producing positive results and our symptoms have largely faded, so we thank God for the renewed blessing of health in our household. I would, however, ask for prayer with my ongoing battle with insomnia, as I’ve only been able to sleep 2-3 hours per day over the past several months. Such levels of sleeplessness produce almost constant fatigue in my daily life and greatly affect the measure to which I am able to enjoy and likewise be useful in the life the Lord has given us.

If any who read this blog have personal prayer requests or worries/concerns during this time of global uncertainty, please do not hesitate to contact me personally (JenniferZillyCanales@gmail.com) and I will be more than glad to be in contact with you, encourage you and lift up your needs/concerns in prayer before the Lord. We choose to trust in God in the midst of what can potentially cause fear and unrest, and I would like to make myself available to encourage others in the same.

Sincerely,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Current Prayer Request: Health for our Family (Typhoid Fever)

I write to you from our rural ministry homestead on the northern coast of Honduras to ask for prayer for my husband, our 5 foster children/teens (ages 12-17) and me.

This is a photo of the Living Waters Ranch where we live and serve for God’s glory.

I had fallen very ill a little over two weeks ago, and after doing the necessary blood tests I realized I had Typhoid fever again, a tropical illness that has plagued me 1-2 times per year over the past several years (and the effects of which tend to last in my body 5-7 weeks each time). As I was largely bedridden and unable to fulfill many of my daily responsibilities, we began investigating further after a local medical professional suggested that everyone in our household do the Typhoid fever bloodwork to see if someone else is a carrier of the disease (without necessarily manifesting the symptoms).

So, several days ago my husband took all of our kids into town, and everyone’s blood results came back positive. (It’s no wonder why I had never truly ‘overcome’ Typhoid; everyone in my household is a carrier, so they kept passing it back to me once I would temporarily get better!)

This is the view of part of our cows’ grassy pasture out behind the little ‘casitas’ (houses/buildings) on our property. We are the last stop at the end of our gravel road!

I share all of this with you to ask for prayer for our family, as we are currently waist-deep in the process of undertaking a rigorous antibiotic treatment and trying to sterilize our home as much as possible (which is difficult living out on a ranch in the hot, humid Honduran climate without air-conditioning, with wire-mesh windows and many insects/other wild critters close by).

GENERAL UPDATES IN A NUTSHELL: We thank God that our daily school/discipleship outreach to roughly 45 youth in addition to our community service/evangelism continues onward with excellence (despite my poor health these last couple weeks) thanks to the dogged dedication of our team of Honduran missionary-teachers. We continually strive to be Jesus’ hands and feet to those around us, and I hope to share some recent photos/stories in an upcoming post. Additionally, my mom and step-dad will be visiting us in a couple days, and we await their visit anxiously.

This is a view from the inside of the fenced-in area where we do the majority of our daily teaching, Bible studies, music classes, etc.
This is our cozy little cinderblock home where my husband and I live happily with our 5 foster children/teens. In obedience to the call God has put on our lives we have parented 12 youth together in this home since 2013; 7 have moved on and returned to their biological families and/or are now living their lives as young adults.

God bless you, and we sincerely thank those who regularly lift us up in prayer before the Lord and/or financially support this mission. We could not serve in the way that we do without your generosity, sacrifice and commitment. Thank you!

Sincerely,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

First Update of the New Year (2020)

Greetings to all from our ministry homestead in rural Honduras! We send you our photo updates from these past couple months of life and service. To God be all the glory!

Over the December-January traditional Honduran school vacation, my husband Darwin put in a lot of agricultural work hours alongside our foster children to improve/take care of our 17-acre property.
Right near our front door, we’ve got quite the line-up of rubber boots for agricultural work days! What a blessing to have so many precious lives entrusted to us!
Over the Christmas holidays, some of our foster children had visits with biological siblings and other blood family members. (Here one of our daughters is enjoying a trip to the park with her two biological brothers who live a couple hours away.)

A couple days after Christmas my husband, several of our foster children/students and I were invited to sing, play music and share our faith in Christ on a local television station. There’s a first time for everything!
For two weeks over the Christmas holidays, all of our foster children went to stay with trusted family friends of ours in order to further expose them to new experiences in addition to granting my husband and I a much-needed respite!
Here we are at a local bus station a few days before New Years  ready to say our temporary good-byes as our kids were off to their various homestays!
This is our pit bull Thor, one of our trusty guard dogs! He is playful with our family but very aggressive towards outsiders. He has a very important job here in Honduras where there tend to be high crime rates!
This was a short nature hike around our rural ministry property during one of our family orientation days in January.

Here are more fun family bonding activities during one of our family orientation days. Participation in one of these events was a new prerequisite for all the local youth who aspired to enroll at the Living Waters Ranch school this year, and we thank God for experiencing great success in this endeavor. (It gave us a chance to get more hands-on contact with the parents and be able to involve the entire family unit.)
Here is my husband Darwin teaching a group of parents and future students how to sing in choir class at a family orientation day.
Here are more fun competitions during a family orientation day in January.
More silly competitions and teamwork activities as we get to know our new students and their families!

This is Reina, one of our local Honduran missionary-teachers who shared her testimony of faith in Christ to all those in attendance at family orientation.
Everyone loves pulling up weeds in the hot Honduran sun on family orientation day! (I’m the one bent over in the pink tennis shoes.) It’s important to give the parents and family members a taste of what our students do here in organic agriculture class on a weekly basis!
More of the same! Talk about character development for the parents!

In January we invested in the upkeep of the four little cinderblock buildings on our property by re-painting them bright, joyful colors and doing a few general repairs. This is Yeri (pronounced “Jerry”), one of our students who is currently in his fourth year of full-time involvement at the Living Waters Ranch. He is highly gifted artistically, and we hired him to help with a good portion of the painting, thus providing him with the financial means to purchase his school uniform and materials to begin school in early February.

Gleny, one of our foster daughters who has lived in our home over six years now, is also a passionate painter and volunteered her painting expertise for nearly two weeks of her school vacation time in order to help see the project through.
Here I am with Paola, one of our precious foster daughters who has been with us now for several years. I have lately begun spending more personal time training musically (something I didn’t begin until age 22), and several of our daughters have enjoyed practicing with me and learning new pieces together as we develop our talents for God’s glory.
This is our family’s cozy  living room in our cinderblock home on ministry property. During my Dad’s recent visit from Texas, he helped us paint the room bright purple! In Honduras we love to paint our homes bright colors, inside and out!
These are a few of the cows from our small herd that we maintain on our rural ministry property. The milking females provide fresh milk daily for our watchman’s family and ours, and the males are eventually sold for beef. This provides a small periodic income for the ministry and serves as our emergency fund.
One of our teenage foster daughters found these beautiful little flowers growing spontaneously in our front lawn.
Each year we create a lot of fond memories through our intensive P.E. classes with our staff and foster kids during our January school prep. We want to keep our bodies in good shape and our minds sharp in order to serve God with excellence this year!

This is my husband Darwin during a hilarious round of blindfolded tag with our staff and foster kids during one of our riotous P.E. classes.

In rural Honduras there are always many weeds to be pulled up! In January after P.E. class one day we dedicated time as a team with our staff to tidy up our ministry grounds’ front lawn. Our foster kids were there to help too! 
Last week classes began as we undertake a new year of Christian discipleship, academic pursuits and integral development! This is one of our local teenage tutors who has been faithfully involved under our tutelage for five years teaching our small group of fifth graders on one of our porches.

This is Erick, one of our local missionary-teachers, with a local young man who is entering his second year of full-time involvement at the Living Waters Ranch. Last year his involvement as a student here allowed him to be mentored and discipled beyond the traditional classroom walls. He came to put his faith in Christ and was baptized several months ago, and this year he has returned to continue his integral education and Christian formation under our tutelage. Praise God!

 

I want to send our sincere thanks to all who responded to my last blog post in early December about our tight financial situation. I am relieved to inform you that we are now back on track financially thanks to God’s provision through all those who responded and donated. Thank you!

Sincerely in Christ, Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Communication Sabbatical + Year-End Request

I send you our warm greetings from the Living Waters Ranch, our rural ministry homestead in Honduras.

I write to inform you of two things:

  1. I will be taking a communication sabbatical from this blog during the next four weeks. I hope to spend more focused time with my husband and our 6 foster children as all of us will have our annual  month-long break from our normal school, work and ministry activities.
  2. Our ministry income has unexpectedly come up short these last three months and our funds are currently much lower than they should be. If you desire to support this mission through a year-end tax-deductible donation, you can do so electronically through the following link: DONATE LIVING WATERS RANCH.

Please pray for us during this upcoming month as my husband Darwin and I seek to slow down and rediscover how to live a quiet, private life before the Lord while cultivating our foster children/teens in Christ.

We will be working on several agricultural and maintenance projects with our foster children around our rural property in addition to blessing our neighbors through small evangelistic/service-oriented activities in our rural neighborhood. We recently invested in a small herd of sheep for our farm, and we are in the process of teaching our four teenage daughters to drive. As a family we will be doing a lot of cooking and domestic labors as we slow down this month, and my parents will also be visiting us soon.

Thank you to all who pray for us and support this mission financially. We could not serve in the way that we do without you. God bless you, and may your holiday season abound in rest, joy and the Lord’s perfect peace. I look forward to being in touch in mid-January.

With peace and gratitude in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Last Photo Update of the Year 2019

We send you our warm greetings from the Living Waters Ranch, our rural ministry homestead in Honduras. Below is quite an extensive album of photos displaying our daily life and ministry in our hidden corner of the world. To God be all the glory, and we sincerely thank those who pray for and financially support this ongoing mission to teach, parent and disciple Honduran youth in Jesus’ name.

This is Erick, one of our highly dedicated local missionary-teachers posing with one of our students in a recent boys’ retreat/campout on a local beach. These extracurricular events are organized several times a year as a way of further deepening our investment in our students’ lives as we guide them in the way of Christ.
Here is a group of 5 of our local students, all 7th-graders, at a late-night get-together on someone’s front lawn to do homework together. (Many families in our neighborhood do not have very spacious homes, so they’ll move a plastic table and chairs on the front lawn in order to do homework or entertain guests.) Two of these young men were baptized by us this year.
Here is my husband Darwin’s little orchestra in one of their twice-weekly practices. (In our area of Honduras there are little to no orchestras and/or musical training, so the ongoing discipline and passion it takes to organize such a group is a big achievement here.)

This is one of our older teen students in a recent community service project in our local community. A big part of what we do is serve our students/youth, but from there we train them to humbly serve others as Christ taught (so that the blessing does not stop with them but rather multiplies and blesses others).
This is my husband Darwin in a recent choir performance in a local mall. He trains our more mature/disciplined students and foster children to sing Christian and classical songs in several different languages, and they oftentimes get invited to sing in public venues.

This is Fernando, another one of our local missionary-teachers who works alongside of Darwin to teach guitar and choir to a group of our students. He is also an agricultural engineer and has many years of experience teaching at the university level here in Honduras.
This is Jessica (far left), another one of our local missionary-teachers, at a road race with the family of one of our students. We as a ministry strive to be involved in the local community and connect with our students and their families not only in the classroom but also in their daily lives for God’s glory.
This is a group choir practice in which Lawny, one of our very high-energy local missionary-teachers is teaching our students fun hand-movements to go with each song.

More trash pick-up! As you might have seen in some of our previous posts, we as a ministry are periodically involved in local trash pick-up, as the culture here does not typically reflect much discipline/order as far as trash collection goes. Many people throw their trash alongside public walkways, and we have taken it upon ourselves to begin setting a good example and serving where/when we can.

This is Aracely, one of our beloved local missionary-teachers on her 30th birthday. We surprised her by celebrating alongside of our entire team in our little office building.
My husband Darwin, who is our tiny school’s 6th-grade teacher, did a  fundraiser with his students throughout several months in order to earn enough money to help them buy part of their school uniforms/supplies for next school year (which here starts in February). This is a big deal here, as many students’ families struggle to purchase their kids’ school materials each year.
These are the butter cookies my husband and his students baked and sold during months in order to raise money to buy their school supplies. Talk about hands-on training in microenterprise and perseverance!
This is Brayan, one of our foster children who lived with us on-and-off for several years before eventually leaving home last year. He has since entered the Honduran military and recently completed his basic training, which is an honorable achievement for him. He even came to stay with us recently on his 10-day leave, and we were able to pray with/for him and continue investing in him in this new stage of his life.
Kyshia, a Christian missionary who has served in Honduras nearly 40 years, has become a close friend and mentor for my husband and me. Recently, she came out to our ministry property to do a hands-on workshop with our entire staff on the topic of sexual abuse and what our response should be as Christians.

My husband Darwin is a talented swimmer (self-taught) and now leads several weekly swimming classes for our students in a local river a short walk from our ministry property. This photo shows his group of older teen boys enjoying flexing their muscles.

This is the coast of La Ceiba, the nearest local city to our ministry property and a site where we oftentimes organize school field trips.
Here is Darwin’s group of younger teen boys toying with the idea of jumping off the ledge into the river to begin class…

This is our foster daughter Paola “studying” for one of her final exams a few weeks ago in our living room. I caught her sleeping on the job and couldn’t resist snapping this shot!
The visual quality of this photo is not great, but it sure does provide a good laugh! This is Josue, our special-needs foster son who is back living with us for a few months doing his “cool” pose with my sunglasses.
Here is my husband Darwin with three of our teenage foster daughters in our recent year-end school event. (The traditional school calendar in Honduras ends in late November.)
This is a recent dinner I served in our home with our foster children. Most meals include some combination of beans and/or rice with eggs, cheese, etc.
Here is one of our local students in organic agriculture class on our rural ministry homestead. All of our students are involved in agricultural training as a means of character/spiritual development under the faithful tutelage of one of our local missionary-teachers.

This is one of our foster daughters with her biological nephew. Several of our foster children are in monthly contact with their biological family members and we enjoy cultivating a healthy relationship with them.
This is our staff of missionary-teachers and tutors  who serve at the Living Waters Ranch. (My husband Darwin was on the mike and for that reason cannot be seen in the photo.)
Here is my husband Darwin on a recent field trip with some of his 6th-grade students.
Darwin also teaches swimming with our female students and foster daughters. Several of them have lost their fear of water through this class and have learned to swim various strokes for the first time in their lives.

God bless you! Thank you for allowing us to share!

 

 

Hand-Washing Your Clothes in a Mosquito-Infested Yard: A Honduran Perspective

The following experience that I will share with you has become entirely normal to me in 7+ years of living full-time in rural Honduras (and to millions of others around the world), but this morning as I was hand-washing 3 loads of laundry in our mosquito-infested  outdoor ‘pila’ it occurred to me that our family’s modest washing method might present an intriguing perspective to those who have daily access to an indoor washing machine and dryer.

This is our ‘pila’, the local Spanish word that describes this type of outdoor washing station used for cleaning clothes and even for bathing. (Some people prefer to bathe standing next to the ‘pila’ using bowls of water instead of bathing in a shower.)

 

This morning I rolled out of bed at 7:08am — very late for us as we are normally in action by 5:15am on school/work days — and I began the process of preparing to wash. My husband had already been up almost an hour and was quietly at work in our little office building on the same property where we live and serve. Today was an unusual day in that our local missionary-teachers and students were on vacation and would not be coming to our rural ministry homestead for a normal day of classes and Christian discipleship.

This morning I would be washing not only mine and my husband’s clothes but also several of our foster kids’ bed sheets, a couple towels and our bathroom rug. (Generally speaking, the hardest things to wash are bed comforters and towels due to their bulk size and thickness). It had only been three days since I last washed, but our laundry basket was overflowing already. 

I sighed. The process itself of hand-washing is relaxing, enjoyable and rewarding as I can spend the time praying or simply reflecting as I overlook our large grassy fields where our cattle graze, but the hoards of mosquitos that have been around for several weeks rob any sense of peace in the humble task.

It is currently the rainy season in Honduras, which on the whole brings tremendous blessing. The rains water the fields and fill the rivers (although not entirely, due to frightening levels of deforestation, but at the least the previously-dry rivers gain a slight, shallow current). The downside to the rainy season, however, is that the clothes hanging on the line don’t dry as quickly as they should (when they are almost ready to be brought in, many times it rains again and everything gets soaked, leading us to start again from ground zero with the drying process) plus there are droves of mosquitos everywhere, some of which port dangerous tropical diseases. 

Knowing this, I sprayed my entire body down with the last of my mosquito repellent before putting my clothes on. Standing in my bedroom in nothing but my bra and underwear, I sprayed every inch of my body, knowing that as soon as I stepped outside dozens of mosquitos would come swarming around me, even trying to get to me through my clothing. Even my ears, forehead, cheeks and chin were lathered in bug spray. After finishing off my mosquito spray, I put on an old (thick) pair of sweat pants and an XXL t-shirt that many years ago was my dad’s. I had already brushed my teeth and my hair was up in a messy bun.  If I stepped outside in sandals or barefoot, the mosquitos’ first target would be my feet and bare ankles, so I put on my husband’s tall black rain-boots (here used as agricultural work-boots). 

I was as prepared as I could be, so I began the process of hauling all our dirty laundry outside in various large plastic washing bins, gathering the bag of detergent, the bleach, etc. As I stepped outside into our little side yard where our ‘pila’ (outdoor washing station) is situated, sure enough I was greeted my countless buzzing mosquitos (and our three guard dogs, seeking attention). I froze, standing next to our pila in all my washing attire, as my gaze carefully studied three or four mosquitos who were trying to land on my right arm. After a couple moments of trying to draw near, they finally gave up and flew off. My potential over-use of bug spray was paying off!

From there, I spent the next two hours happily hand-washing the contents of the large plastic laundry buckets. 

This is a photo I took of some of the bedsheets and towels I washed this morning.

 

My husband was single until he married me at age 30, so he had many years of experience hand-washing his own clothes. While in this culture many ‘macho’ men think that washing is strictly a woman’s job, my husband has a humble heart and does help from time to time if I am sick or overburdened with other tasks. (And I’m pretty sure he washes a whole lot better than I do.) He even gave our four teenage foster daughters an effective series of ‘how-to-wash’ lectures and hands-on demonstrations after we realized some of them had not been taking the appropriate amount of time to wash their clothes thoroughly. 

We’ve tried many different systems with our household laundry over the years. Five or six years ago, when our foster children were younger, we hired a local woman to come out once or twice a week and help us wash their clothes, but that did nothing to foment responsibility in our children, so after a couple years we abandoned that method in favor of them washing their own clothes. (Our younger boys receive help from their older sisters to wash). 

Asking our kids to wash their own clothes, however, has presented its own difficulties, as our kids are very active and their clothes oftentimes end up marked with dirt, grass stains, paint and other mystery substances that prove very tricky to get out of their clothes with our cold-water hand-washing method. For this reason, about 90% of the clothing we purchase for our household come from local thrift stores, because down here clothes and linens are oftentimes the first things to get destroyed (if not by stains, then by our pit bull ‘Thor’ who pulls down and then eats clothes off the line). Due to exorbitant humidity here, many of our clothes — if not washed immediately but rather left a few days in the laundry basket — acquire a stubborn type of local mold/fungus that appears as a series of small black dots all over the clothes, and it is nearly impossible to remove. 

As you can see, hand-washing in Honduras is an art in and of itself and requires much strategy (and mosquito spray)!

With all that being said, this morning as I finished up the last of the clothes —  our three guard dogs faithfully following me to and fro as I walked from the ‘pila’ to the clothesline and back again — I felt a very real sense of contentment bubble up within me upon completing such a simple but gratifying task.

And so I re-entered our home at about 9:00am, then soaked from the waist-down and my rain-boots squeaking across our tile floor as I quietly greeted our 6 foster children/teens who were still in the process of shaking off their slumber. Some laid out quietly on our living room couch reading while one of our older daughters contentedly practiced music. One went about  sweeping each room in our house; another came up alongside of me to give me a warm hug and a good-morning smile.

I thanked God in my heart for this new day and for His blessing of peace over our family.

Here are the rest of the clothes, towels and bedsheets I washed this morning. They are now hung up  behind our cinderblock home where I hope they will dry in the next several hours before it rains again.

 

God bless you where you are, and let each of us live with joy in our hearts and thanksgiving towards Him for the life He’s given us.  We trust that God has opened a way for us to live with and for Him through Christ, and that whatever hardship or trial we face in this world will soon pass away.

Sincerely,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Grassroots Honduran Education: A Cultural Tour

I write this post mainly for those living outside of Honduras who wish to gain a deeper understanding of a few of the key cultural factors that characterize grassroots Honduran education. Below I humbly share with you a series of photos taken on our rural ministry homestead over the past few weeks along with their respective explanations about different aspects of traditional Honduran culture (as I understand them in my 7 years of living here).

If you find this post informative and would like me to exhibit another facet of our life here (possibly the day-to-day realities of fostering in our Honduran context, etc), you may leave a comment at the end or contact me personally with your request.

God bless you, and thank you for your interest in and support of this work. To God be all the glory.

Sincerely in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

This is one of our local students doing his English homework. All across Honduras English is generally taught as the preferred second language, and there are numerous bilingual schools here that place a great emphasis on learning fluent English. In our rural context we’ve found it quite difficult to awaken within our students the desire to learn a foreign language, but in more urban settings it is very common. Many jobs in Honduras nowadays require workers to be bilingual.
Working the land is a very normal part of daily life in our rural town. Many of our students’ parents work in the local Standard Fruit pineapple field, and it is very common here for families and individuals to plant fruit trees and other crops (such as corn, beans, etc.) in their yard in order to help diminish food costs.
All of our students are in weekly organic agriculture classes under the tutelage of one of our very passionate local missionary-teachers. Most other local schools do not offer a hands-on agriculture class, but basic knowledge of different plants and farming techniques is common due to the local culture.
While schools in the United States generally have air-conditioning (especially in the South), only the more elite Honduran schools have this luxury for their students. It is not uncommon for our teachers to take their students out to our front lawn and teach class under a tree for this reason: our classrooms can get very hot and stuffy, especially in the dry season.
In Honduras old tires are recycled and used for many different purposes. Some people cut them in half and fill them with water and/or feed mix for their farm animals; others cut them up in different creative ways to transform them into flowerpots; others (like us) use them as sturdy outdoor chairs.
While this photo of our foster children was not taken on our ministry homestead but rather at a restaurant in our local town, it does show a very common typical Honduran food: baleadas. This dish  can be compared to Mexican tacos and includes a combination of beans, cheese and/or meat inside of a tortilla. This is one of the most famous foods in Honduras, and it  can be eaten at any time of the day.
The collection of firewood is a very common task in our area for males of all ages due to the fact that a good percentage of  local families use a wood-burning stove to prepare their meals. Other families (like ours) use a gas-powered stove, and very few use an electric stove.
This is one of our local students petting one of our young bulls. It is very common in our area to see cattle walking down the main roads of our town or simply grazing in an open field. Our cows roam our rural property freely  and oftentimes interact with us at different moments throughout the day. (They love to push our inner gate open and sneak in to eat the clothes hanging on our clothesline!)
It is common for schools to hold a ‘traditional games’ day at least once a year and participate in activities such as: potato sack races, balance-an-egg-on-a-spoon competitions, etc.
Most Hondurans have much more contact with their natural environment than Americans do. Many general assemblies and group activities are held outdoors (preferably under a leafy tree). For this reason, many activities are postponed and/or canceled when there are heavy rains.
Most families and even schools do not readily have many art supplies available. Those who have artistic giftings generally use recycled materials such as old CDs, empty Coke bottles, etc, to do various creative projects.
The traditional school uniform across the nation includes dark blue pants/skirt and a white shirt. Some private schools require  a specialized uniform for their students, but we adhere to the general school standards in regards to attire. Most of our students (including our foster children) have only one uniform, and they hand-wash it each day when they get home from school and hang it up to dry for the next day.
This is a photo taken from one of our recent co-ed P.E. classes. Most local schools do not have a very effective physical education program nor is there a very strong culture of  organized sports. While you can find  gymnasiums in Honduras’ larger cities, in a small town like ours there are typically no organized workout centers.
While most Americans have P.E. class inside a gym, on an asphalt court or on the track, most Honduran schools do not have an official sports building  and/or equipment to facilitate athletic training. We hold our P.E. classes on our front lawn, rain or shine, and we implement a series of exercises that don’t require any special equipment (such as sit-ups, push-ups, squat jumps, wind sprints, dynamic team-building exercises, etc.) Some of our students do not own tennis shoes, so they joyfully participate barefoot, in flip-flops  or in their more formal school shoes.
There is not much of an exercise/physical fitness culture in our town beyond pick-up soccer games among teenage boys, but most people do walk and/or ride bikes quite a bit due to the fact that very few people own cars.

Our school is swimming upstream against the local belief that girls can’t/shouldn’t do rigorous exercise. Most local parents are initially against our fairly dynamic P.E. program, but soon they come to appreciate it as they see their daughters happier and more physically healthy over time.

Fall 2019 in Rural Honduras: Photos, Updates and Prayer Requests

Greetings to all from the Living Waters Ranch, our rural ministry homestead on the northern coast of Honduras.

I’m relieved to inform you that the political crisis has calmed down a bit lately, and the roads have been open with no noticeable protests for the last several weeks. We continue to pray that peace and justice might prevail in Honduras and that God might grant our leaders true wisdom so as to effect God-honoring, long-term solutions for this hurting nation.

Below I share with you a diverse set of photos (and detailed explanations!)  from our daily life of service in this little corner of the world…

This was a campout that several of our local missionary-teachers and students went on during a recent school vacation. These types of events are organized in order to dedicate additional time to disciple our students, offer healthy recreational activities for them,  and pour into their lives beyond the classroom for God’s glory. We offer several campouts such as these throughout the year, and many of our teenage students participate.

Darwin and a select group of our students (including two of our foster kids) were recently invited to sing on television with our new guitar/choir teacher (the man in the vest on the far left). He is a very talented local musician who composes up-beat songs with Christian and ecological messages.

This is 11-year-old Josue, a special-needs young man who lived with us as one of our foster children for over 4 years before moving in with his maternal grandmother earlier this year. We still see him frequently (and invite him to all of our family birthday parties), and he will actually be coming back under our full-time care during the upcoming months as his grandma will be out of the country for work until roughly March 2020. (Grandma feeds him really well and doesn’t let him play much outdoors, but we already have a plan for how we are going to help him regain the active health he enjoyed before!)
Several weeks ago my husband and several of our local students’ moms got together to celebrate my 29th birthday alongside of all of our students, teachers and foster kids. We miraculously cut the cake into over 60 pieces in order to make sure everybody got a piece! (I dare you to count ’em!)
You gotta be good at math to cut this cake!

Waiting for their little piece of cake!
One of our local students, an 8th-grader, explains his recent science project to a group of onlookers.      
This is my husband Darwin with a group of his English class students on a special field trip into the city of La Ceiba to eat pizza. Some of our local students never get out of our little rural town, so experimenting a change of environment tends to be very exciting. (One of our local teens had never seen the ocean even though the nearest beach is only a few miles away from our town. That was remedied as Darwin organized a large group field trip out to the beach earlier this year.)
This is Jeffrey, a local 15-year-old youth who has been in our school for the last several years. Currently in 4th grade, he has several developmental delays  and comes from a severely disintegrated home, as his father and one of his brothers left earlier this year for the United States, leaving him, his mother and two of his brothers behind. Jeffrey requires a lot of individualized attention as he has dislexia and ADHD, and my husband Darwin has a very soft spot for him. We are very proud of Jeffrey for choosing to stay in school and be exposed to daily biblical teaching, as it is very popular for teenage boys in our neighborhood to simply roam the streets or get mixed up in trouble.
This is a photo taken in Darwin’s group piano class earlier this month. Music is a fundamental element we try to inculcate in all of our students as part of their integral development, healing from past traumas, and preparation for life and God’s service.
Whenever our foster children have a birthday, we like to take the opportunity to write them love letters and little notes of affirmation and encouragement. These specific index cards were part of 16-year-old Paola’s celebration, and a few of them read “You are strong in Christ,” “Your life is of great worth,” “God has been good to you,” and “You are beautiful!”
Birthday parties are so much more fun with disguises!

Prayer is an integral part of life in our home. On this specific occasion we were praying for God’s blessing, wisdom and salvation over one of our foster kids on their birthday.
Several weeks ago I began teaching an intensive World Geography class to all of our students, focusing on current world trends and how we should react to said trends from a God-honoring standpoint. A recent topic for the class was the ever-increasing LGBT influence around the globe and how we as Christians should stand firm on the Bible’s clear teachings concerning homosexuality and God’s design of man and woman, biblical marriage, etc. As part of the class curriculum I asked all of our students to look up Bible verses specifically addressing these gender- and identity- issues, and to write them on index cards, poster boards, etc, in a loving and clear way with the goal of communicating truth and edifying one another as God created them. We have since filled two of our school’s bulletin boards with this precious information, and we continue to influence our students and foster kids to live a God-honoring life, not giving in to what the world claims is normal but rather standing firm on the Rock of truth.

Here are two of our beloved local missionary-teachers participating in a recent game of blindfolded Chinese freeze tag alongside of our students. (One is a lawyer by profession and the other is a trained beautician, but both have been called by God to lay down their lives and traditional plans in order to love, teach and disciple the next generation of Hondurans for God’s glory.)

This is Darwin doing the father-daughter dance with one of our foster daughters (Gleny) who recently turned 15, which is a big birthday in this culture.
Here is Erick (purple shirt), one of our extremely influential local missionary-teachers leading up a Saturday effort to clean up the streets in our neighborhood — a never-ending job done with grace and dedication!
Who knew that picking up trash could be so much fun?

God bless you, and thank you for your continued prayers and support. Please pray that the Lord might increasingly shine His light through us and that many might come to repentance and saving faith in Christ through this hidden yet faithful work. 

Sincerely,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

 

PS — Please feel free to contact me directly at JenniferZillyCanales@yahoo.com if you would like to share any personal prayer requests with me and/or reach out with any questions, suggestions or concerns.

Love of God and Humanity: A Photo Tour of Organic Christian Ministry

We send you our warm greetings from our rural ministry homestead (the Living Waters Ranch) in Honduras, Central America. Below I’d like to share with you a general update using photos taken in our daily life of hospitality, teaching and discipleship for God’s glory.

My husband Darwin and I continue to foster our five children/teens ages 12-17 with the hope of being able to legally adopt them if we are granted legal favor and efficacy with the local authorities. (We’ve been trying to adopt for over four years now with very little progress, but we continue to raise our children joyfully with the hope of becoming their legal, permanent family someday.)

Our small, dedicated team of local Honduran missionary-teachers is well and thriving, and we continue to work alongside of them to serve 40 youth from our local community daily through our school and concentrated evangelistic/service activities.

I pray all is well with you and that you are encouraged to plant deep roots in the truth God has revealed to humanity through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. God bless you.

This is Abigail, a 15-year-old local youth who participated in our small discipleship-based homeschool for two years as a student and this year is one of three tutors at the Living Waters Ranch. We’ve designed the “tutor” position as  a work-study program for a selected group of our older, mature teens so that they can gain leadership experience in the realm of Christian service while also earning a small monthly stipend. (This is a huge blessing for them, as our rural neighborhood has very high unemployment rates — especially among teens and young adults — and a large percentage of the population lives in stark poverty.)
This is a group of  teens in our school during one of my P.E. classes recently. We oftentimes design wacky, team-building exercises that leave everyone not only sweating but also laughing! (One of the main goals behind this is to break down barriers of distrust, pride, racism and bullying in order to fully live out Christ’s call to love our neighbor as ourselves.)
Great picture! Here are our four foster daughters (ages 15-17) accompanied by Sindy (in yellow), one of our local tutors in our work-study leadership program. The objective: do a quarter-mile run without letting go of their teammates!
Here are a few of our local students in our small 8th-grade homeroom class, which takes place in our  multi-purpose dining room on the property where my husband and I live and serve. Many of the students in our school are behind academically and/or come from very precarious backgrounds. We receive them onto our property each day with the hope of expressing God’s love to them in many tangible ways in addition to equipping them for the future as wholly faithful followers of Christ ready for any good work.
This is Gabriela, a preteen who is new to our school this year. She lives with her dad, who is now a born-again believer after having had a very rough past, and two brothers.
In addition to art classes, we also include music, organic agriculture, Christian dance, Bible studies, swimming, evangelistic opportunities and other dynamic learning experiences into our normal weekly schedule at the Living Waters Ranch as part of our students’ integral formation.

Many of our classes involve mixed age-groups, pairing older teens with preteens. We do this mainly because we want to cultivate a family-style environment (we continue to call our school “homeschool” even though we now have 40 students enrolled), and for that reason we do not have mass numbers of students  in each grade/age group. Individualized attention with each student is a priority, and much of the discipleship that goes on around here takes place in the context of one-on-one and/or small group mentoring relationships.
Happy birthday to you, Isaac! We do not celebrate all of our 40 students’ birthdays individually, but the Lord put it on our hearts to do a special celebration for Isaac, a precious young man who is new to our school this year and recently took the step to be baptized. His mom left the family for the United States several years ago, and he has been living alone with his dad ever since. We figure that a mom normally is the one in charge of making a birthday cake for their son and putting together the festivities, so we were privileged to step in and fill that role on Isaac’s special day. He was brought to tears at the surprise and told us it was the first time anyone had celebrated his birthday.

We recently celebrated Indian Day, which is an important holiday to remember Honduran heritage. (My husband Darwin on the far left always dresses up and covers himself in clay/mud for Indian Day in addition to playing tunes on his wooden flute…) The kids love it!
This is Ivania, a local 10-year-old who is one of the younger students in our school. (We generally accept children from 10 years up through 19 years of age, with most of our students being teenagers). She was decked out in the full costume for Indian Day!
Here is a group of our preteen boys participating in a reflection/discipleship activity on our front lawn. (Our foster son Jason, age 12, is included here.)
This photo is not especially dazzling, but it does go to show that our students are responsible for doing the after-school cleanup everyday. We’ve established a system of rotating clean-up  groups to inculcate increased responsibility and general hygiene awareness in all of our youth as diligent disciples of Christ. This is particularly important because many people in this culture throw  trash on the ground and let it accumulate in public areas (causing environmental contamination, increased risk of diseases, etc.), which is a general woe we are actively fighting.
On many occasions throughout the year we organize service trips into our rural neighborhood to do trash pick-up, which is a colossal job. As mentioned above, there is not much cultural appreciation for clean streets and green areas (creation care) in our town, but we are content to try to make a humble dent in the overall problem and — hopefully — set a good example for our neighbors to follow. (This is also great character-development for our students!)
In several sectors of our rural town there is no organized system of trash pick-up, so most people simply dump their trash out on the street in front of their home. It is not uncommon to see dirty diapers, empty Coke bottles and all sorts of trash strewn about on or near public walkways. One of our local missionary-teachers is working with the local mayor and governing authorities to see what can be done about this potentially easily-solved problem, but progress is very slow.
Sharon Washburn, veteran missionary in Honduras and founder of a well-known Christian high school several hours away, has come out several times recently to do educational expositions for our students. This greatly enriches their understanding of the world and allows them to learn from a new perspective.

As part of her presentation, she taught the world cultures material to a group of our older students first, who then were in charge of teaching the material to the younger students.
All of our students are in weekly organic agriculture classes with Erick, one of our local missionary-teachers who has truly extensive knowledge and inspiring passion for creation care. In addition to cultivating an honest work ethic in our youth, Erick also uses the class as an outlet for additional discipleship and Christian reflection.
Here are a few of our preteens working in the pineapple patch.

This is Sindy, one of our enthusiastic tutors who has been involved full-time at the Living Waters Ranch for the last four years, enjoying a rambutan fruit on an educational hike.

 

God bless you with peace and salvation in Christ Jesus, and please continue to remember us in your prayers. I have more photos to share, but I will save them for next time!

If you are not on our mailing list and would like to be in order to receive our bi-monthly printed newsletter with testimonies and prayer requests, you may contact me directly at: JenniferZillyCanales@yahoo.com to send me your full name and mailing address.

Sincerely,

Jennifer, for Darwin and mission/family

An Ongoing Challenge We Face Serving in Rural Honduras

I write to you from the little bright-blue office building on our rural ministry homestead in northern Honduras as I ask for prayer regarding an ever-present difficulty we face in our daily efforts to guide, love and disciple the many youth in our home and school for God’s glory.

Time and again we see our youth make very hasty decisions regarding their future, oftentimes abruptly moving far away without forewarning or impatiently making life-altering decisions that they will likely regret in the future. Oftentimes they seek and then reject our counsel; other times they simply make impulsive, life-changing choices in the blink of an eye without consulting anyone.

This deeply saddens and frustrates us, as my husband, our team of local missionary-teachers and I fully understand that the labor the Lord has called us to is long-term. We are convinced that lives are not generally changed in a matter of weeks or months, nor do most learn to walk with the Lord in a short time-span. Our longing has always been to walk alongside of — form friendships with, disciple, provide for, teach, suffer with, give hospitality to, etc. — the youth in our lives for a period of at least five years or more in order to equip them with the knowledge, inner healing, practical skills, fear of the Lord, etc. to face the future as true sons and daughters of the living God ready for any good work.

While our commitment first to God and then to the youth is long-term, the youth’s commitment to us (and oftentimes to the Lord) is short-term at best.

Just a few days ago one of our very responsible older teen students who entered a few months ago into our family-style school unexpectedly dropped out without notifying us. We saw him for the last time on Monday; he came to school as per usual, said nothing to us, and then — poof! — that afternoon left town and moved several hours away to join the military in the middle of our school year. Even his parents were aghast, as they had no idea of his plans. He was one of our best students, has a sincere walk with the Lord and seemed extremely content in all of his activities with us. Just three weeks ago he started taking guitar lessons with us and enthusiastically told us of his plans to buy a guitar so that he could practice more at home. He lived on our rural property with his parents and even served as one of our night watchmen.  His younger brothers, who continue in school with us, are obviously very negatively affected by their older brother’s rash decision-making to abandon their family, his job and his schooling. He still had several years to go to finish high school, which he now will probably never finish. The night he left, my husband Darwin tried to call him several times in order to ask him what had happened, but the young man didn’t answer his phone and has yet to call Darwin back.

These kinds of reckless turns of events leave us on edge, as we never know who the next victim might be to such hasty decision-making. So many of our youth flip-flop constantly and seem incapable of making any kind of decision beyond today. We know that this is in large part due to the fact that many of our young people come from dysfunctional homes and have suffered many traumas in early childhood, stunting their brain development and inhibiting their capacity for sound decision-making. Even so, it never fails to surprise us when those who so enthusiastically proclaim their commitment to the Lord and to our school are some of the first to dive head-long into the caos and begin living pointless lives on the streets of our local town far from God’s blessing. Others have made the unhealthy, impulsive decision to move to Mexico or the United States even though there was nothing pushing them away.

A comparable  set of events have also taken place within the confines of our foster/adoptive family where we raise our kids on the same rural ministry property where we run our school. Last week two of our teen girls began spiraling downward very rapidly and made the abrupt decision to leave our home because they no longer wanted to submit to our authority or hear our opinion (or the Lord’s) on the matter. The sudden turn of events caught us all by surprise, and they are now gone in the blink of an eye and on a path we never dreamed for them to take. A month ago I would not have been able to even fathom that these devastating losses would occur in such a short time-frame, but now without warning this is our new reality and we are left now with 5 children as we cope together, pray for our lost girls and try to carefully establish a new “normal” for our family. Although it has been very painful, we do feel at peace.

I share all of this with you with two motives: (1) so that you might better understand the overseas context in which we live and serve on a daily basis and (2) so that you might come alongside us in prayer for these beloved but highly impetuous youth who lack stability in their lives and decisions.

This morning as I spent time in the stillness of our living room lifting up each of our lost youth individually before the Lord, I sensed He reminded me that we are simply sowers of seeds. In some lives we may be granted the privilege of faithfully sowing during many years; in other lives we may only be given a few days or weeks. Whichever the case may be for each of our precious youth, we desire to sow the Word into their lives daily and then leave the results — their growth and the future harvest — in God’s hands and timing. This can be hard for us to accept, for as we come to love and shepherd these youth we earnestly desire to keep them under our care long-term not for our benefit but for theirs, and it is always a devastating blow when they make a spur of the moment decision to leave our care and turn their backs on God’s will for their lives.

I would ask that you might also pray for my husband and I in this matter, as our hearts are currently hurting and our nerves are on end as we’ve undergone the loss of several loved ones lately and fear for their physical and spiritual safety. And, sadly, we are currently trying to prayerfully and strategically intervene in the lives of a couple more of our dear youth who are on the verge of making similar overhasty decisions.

Thank you for your prayers and support. God bless you, and may the Lord grant us all firmness in our decision to live for Him and serve as His hands and feet to a lost and hurting world.

With peace in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Photo Update and Prayer Request

We send you our warm greetings from our rural ministry homestead in Honduras. Below is a variety of photos we’ve taken in our daily academic and discipleship activities in the family-oriented community homeschool we operate out of our home, the Living Waters Ranch.

At the end of the photos there is a brief prayer request for those who might lift us up before the Lord in prayer during this time. God bless you all, and we give our sincere thanks to those who financially support and/or pray for us and those whom we care for. To God be the glory in all.

My husband Darwin’s P.E. class with the older teen boys in our school
A couple of our students on a 2-mile jog down to the main highway and back to our rural property
Group Bible study on a creative outfit day in which all of our students were invited to come to school dressed with attire from biblical times
One of our beloved local missionary-teachers and two of our foster kids on biblical-attire day
This local student of ours surely had to cross some Arabian desert in order to get to school on biblical-attire day! (Too precious!)
A couple months ago my husband, our foster children and I planted several flowers around our rural property, and they are beginning to bloom.
A photo my husband took of his sixth-grade class on a Saturday educational outing into the city of La Ceiba
The same sixth-grade group visiting the beach
Our boys on silly hat day
Our girls on silly hat day
The following are photos taken in math class on silly hat day…

Book report presentation

A group of our students rehearsing in a local church before their big choir presentation in San Pedro Sula, the second-largest city in Honduras which is about a 3-hour drive from our town

Official rehearsal with the choir director and several other national choir groups
Final presentation
My husband, who serves as the choir director at the Living Waters Ranch, congratulating the man who directed the overall event in San Pedro Sula
One of our highly dedicated local missionary-teachers with a group of our students at the choir event
My husband Darwin posing with the local woman who donated lunch for the event
Playing in the rain: one of the precious local youth in our discipleship-based community homeschool who was recently baptized and is now walking with the Lord
A group of our teens (two of our foster daughters and a handful of local students) in our front lawn after classes let out for the day
Three of our local boys playing soccer in front of our home during recess
A favorite pasttime of Honduran youth: picking mangos during mango season
A group of our students beneath one of our mango trees looking for fruit
Somebody found a ripe mango!
Exam time for a group of our high school students
Outdoor music lessons with my husband
God’s creation right next to our front porch


Prayer Request:

Without going into too many details, I will share that our home with our 7 foster children/teens ages 12-18 is currently going through a couple very painful upheavals/trials, and there are likely to be some big changes around the corner for our family in the coming weeks. Fostering/adopting young people who come from very dysfunctional backgrounds is not easy, and our relationship with a couple of our older girls is reaching a very precarious state as they are making very poor/dangerous decisions and refuse to submit to our authority, seek the Lord on the matter, or take our advice. Please pray that the Lord might grant all of us (my husband, myself and our children) peace during this volatile time, and that the Lord would take control of any and all changes that need to take place in order to assure the safety, wellbeing and spiritual growth of those in our household for God’s glory. Thank you for praying for us.

 

With peace and gratitude in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Bed of Flowers: A Spontaneous Photo Shoot on the Front Lawn

Yesterday in the early morning hours as I walked out onto our quiet front porch — our 7 foster kids sleepily getting showered and ready for another day of school — I stared at the raw, wild beauty that God had blessed us with right there on our front lawn. Little red flowers had fallen from two of our trees and laid scattered on the ground in a stunning array.

I thanked God in my heart for such beauty, and I considered that the entire scene would make for a one-of-a-kind photo shoot. After all, we have another kind of tree on our property that sheds yellow flowers in springtime every year, but we had not moved fast enough this year and sadly missed our opportunity to take pictures.

Well, just a couple hours after I stood prayerfully mesmerized on our front porch all of our missionary-teachers and local students came buzzing through our front gate for a new day of classes and discipleship. With minimal interruptions to our daily schedule we seized the day and organized a spontaneous photo shoot to capture behind the lens a measure of the love, joy and fellowship in the Lord that we enjoy here on a daily basis.

God bless you, and I hope these photos make you smile…

A partial view of the Living Waters Ranch, our rural ministry homestead where we love, disciple and educate over 40 youth in a homeschool-style setting for God’s glory
Our group of eighth-graders, including one of our foster daughters and eight local youth alongside of their homeroom teacher, one of our local missionary-teachers
Our ninth-grade homeroom teacher with her tiny group of faithful students: all three are foster daughters of ours!
Me having too much fun directing the photo shoot on our front lawn
My husband Darwin (blue shirt at the bottom of the photo) with his group of sixth-graders, including our foster son and seven local youth
One of our beloved adolescent tutors with her small group of basic primary students, all of which live in our local community with their parents
One of our highly dedicated  missionary-teachers (floral shirt) with two of our adolescent tutors who serve alongside of us in integral Christian discipleship and education
Our seventh-grade homeroom missionary-teacher with her group of students, including one of our foster daughters and eleven local youth
Last but not least: one of our missionary-teachers took a photo of my husband and me!
“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9