Category Archives: Child/Youth Leadershp

Current Prayer and Financial Needs

Current Prayer Needs:

For those who are interested in praying with and for us in this season, I share with you that we need prayer in the area of protection/government favor in the midst of the prolonged pandemic and a new Honduran government.

Last year we were the only school in a very wide radius who remained open and taught “face-to-face” classes without interruption the entire school year. This possibility was almost unspeakable on a national level in 2021 in Honduras, but the Lord enabled us to fly under the radar and continue to teach, disciple and serve while other institutions and ministries unfortunately had to shut down due to COVID-19.

This year under a new Honduran government we’ve been under heavy scrutiny as we’ve been subjected to many (nearly impossible) COVID-19 requirements in order to stay open, but through prayer and persistence we have been able to continue serving even under extreme pressure. Slowly other schools in our area are beginning to teach 2-3 days per week on a very limited schedule, but much of the overall pandemic progress in Honduras seems to be one step forward and two steps backwards.

Current Financial Needs:

For those who are interested in partnering with us financially in this season, I share with you two current projects that we are seeking to finance. God bless you, and we send our sincere gratitude to those who already support this ministry on a regular basis.

  1. In February of this year we constructed a simple jungle-gym structure for our students’ pleasure and play. We would like to construct 2-3 more structures of similar caliber to encourage our students to exercise, work togetherand dare to reach new heights. Each structure requires a financial investment of roughly $150.

Especially in today’s “technological age,” we consider these barebones, traditional play structures to be of utmost importance for the next generation’s integral development, social skills and overall well-being.

2. We provide lunch three days a week to more than half of our student body plus our ministry staff (40+ people). This financial investment is substantial and ongoing, and we would like to be able to continue to provide this service throughout the year to our rural students who have greatest economic need. Please consider partnering with us $50 – $100 each month to help cover the cost of ingredients, kitchenware, and our cooking staff. Our hungry, growing students thank you!!!

Donation website: www.CTEN.org/JenniferZilly.

Learning to Pray With Eyes Wide Open

A couple weeks ago I embarked on a very special journey with our 18-year-old foster daughter who has been a beloved member of our family since she was an awkward and insecure 11-year-old. She has now graduated high school, runs her own small business with a friend, works part-time in our ministry teaching classes to a group of preteens with learning disabilities and is waist-deep in the admission process to enter a local university. 

Of all the 14 youth who have called our house “home” over the past 8+ years, my dad jokes that he does not ever worry about this particular daughter of ours. She’s got her head screwed on straight, is kind-hearted and often seems older than her years. After being tossed about by many devastating storms as a child, the Lord has miraculously given back to her the years that were lost and has granted her exceeding levels of wisdom, financial savvy, loyalty and faith. 

She and I stood in line a couple Fridays ago, large hiking backpacks strapped to our backs and tickets in hand, as we waited to board the ferry that would take us out to one of Honduras’ islands for the weekend. I would be accompanying her to meet her biological father for the first time in her life. (He lives on the island and works as a fisherman.) Emotions were high, and I secretly hoped that this elusive man who had been the epitome of an absentee father would not crush our beautiful daughter’s heart to pieces. I was afraid her expectations were too high, and my husband and I had carefully (and perhaps unsuccessfully) tried to prepare her for this wild-card weekend experience.

As we were in the large commercial ferry’s waiting area, dozens of other passengers from around the world were likewise awaiting the boat that would transport them to Caribbean island paradise. We saw people of all shapes, sizes and colors, and honestly it was as much enthralling as it was overwhelming. Mind you, I have not left Honduran soil in five years’ time, and throughout this time I have been largely confined to our remote ranch in a rural part of Honduras that receives little to no international traffic. We basically see our same rural, materially poor neighbors day in and day out, and this has been my daughter’s experience not for the past five years but for the majority of her short lifetime. (In short, we are moderately sheltered from many of the “modern” plagues that are ravishing wealthier and more developed nations.)

Now, I must confess that this reflection is not in essence about our weekend spent getting to know our foster daughter’s biological father. It is rather about a spiritual discipline I’m learning to develop that is highly applicable and urgently necessary across the globe in today’s worldwhere too often what is wrong is considered right, and what is right is considered wrong.

So, I literally felt like we had been transported to another country (or perhaps another planet!) as we sat quietly waiting to board the ferry when a certain man caught my eye.

He was stocky and broad-shouldered as any man is, but he was dressed extravagantly as a woman and had long, womanly hair that was perfectly styled. He wore makeup and employed explicitly feminine gestures. I found myself subtly studying him and felt genuinely sad for him in my heart. 

Throughout this past decade that I’ve lived in Honduras with very little “worldly” exposure I knew the world had changed much, and I oftentimes find myself reading up on these things online in order to remain well-informed and to know how to pray accordingly.

But this time I was not reading an article online about the transgender tidal wave or the far-reaching effects of the “sexual revolution”; I was witnessing it in person a few yards away, a real man – a real soul – who has been so deceived and swept up by this cultural phenomenon that he has tried to shed his very masculine identity (as God created him) in favor of a pseudo personality that he believes fits him better.

I glanced over at my daughter as she sat quietly, her hands in her lap and her gaze contentedly far off in some distant place in front of her, no doubt lost in her own thoughts as she considered the pending ramifications of meeting her biological father within a few hours’ time. 

Heart heavy, I began to pray in silence for the transgendered man. And I mean, really pray.

A short time later, then aboard the ferry, a woman who appeared to be lesbian or transgendered was seated a few arms’ lengths from us as the boat bobbed up and down on the ocean waves. My daughter pulled the hood of her sweater down over her eyes and tried to uncomfortably curl up in a ball on the ferry’s seat near me as she fought seasickness. Seeing as I generally cannot sleep (or even let down my guard) in public spaces, I sat there wide awake and glanced again at the woman seated near us, and I began to pray silently for her with my eyes wide open. 

At one point I got up during the hour-and-forty-five-minute ferry ride and went nearly sliding across the aisle in order to go buy snacks. I was not sea-sick at all; I was hungry! As I clung to a rung on the ferry’s wall, I came across the transgendered man that I had seen and prayed for in the waiting area. With a heavy heart, I returned to my seat several minutes later (snacks in hand) and resumed my silent prayer for both of these people, eyes wide open.

How often do we lose time waiting mindlessly in the doctor’s office, standing in line at the bank, sitting idly on airplanes or waiting impatiently for meetings to commence? How often has the Lord put people in our midst who need Him – who desperately need prayer – but we haven’t had the self-discipline or the faithful presence of mind to truly pray for these people?

What if we as Christians made the commitment to pray – truly pray – for these people whom we come across in our workplaces, neighborhoods and in daily newsreels? What if we as God’s people learned to pray with our eyes wide open?

Upon arriving on the island – within moments of meeting our precious girl’s biological father with all the roller coaster of emotions in tow – I saw yet another transgendered man exiting the ferry, this one with a sparkling crown in his hands. 

Another earnest prayer, eyes wide open.

Over the weekend, my precious daughter and I not only met her biological father and spent many memorable moments with him in Caribbean paradise, but we also witnessed many extravagant, shameless displays of humanity’s descent into depravity. Everything that I had been reading on reputable internet sources over the past several years came alive before our very eyes all around us. My heart broke in a million pieces for these people, but I didn’t let that keep me from turning to the Lord in prayer – right there on the beach, in local restaurants, in the midst of so much human brokenness.

Pray with me. Let us learn to pray with our eyes wide open. 

First Updates of 2022: Foster Family Diary

Dear friends and family,

Happy New Year to each of you! May we all be intent on seeking God’s perfect will for our lives, families and workplaces in this new season. I hope each of you enjoyed a restful and fruitful holiday season alongside your loved ones and that the new year of 2022 brings with it new heights and depths of wisdom, conviction, revival and God-given purpose in each of our lives. 

Through this post I extend our sincere gratitude to those who prayed for and financially supported this grassroots ministry in 2021. We thank God for your partnership and friendship, and we want you to know that the scope and effectiveness of this humble work is able to increase and multiply due to your faithful generosity. Thank you!

In this post I will share with you several edifying anecdotes from our annual December break as a family in which we were able to take a small sabbatical from our ongoing service in our school and local community (without ever leaving Honduras!). I hope that some of the ideas presented herein might prove insightful and maybe even be applied to your own families as you see fit.

Sincerely, Jennifer (for Darwin and family/ministry)

Foster Family Diary

December 9, 2021: My husband and I sat down with our 6 foster teenagers to prayerfully write down our short- and long-term goals. Our 13-year-old special needs son (who cannot read or write) happily got to work “writing down his goals” right alongside everyone else. At the end of the activity when each person shared, he “read” his goals confidently: go jogging every day, learn more Bible verses, give thanks each day and take the dog for a walk(all things he already does on a daily basis). Hurrah for Josue’s admirable goals!

December 13, 2021: This Christmas season my husband and I are making a concerted effort to do more “mini-adventures” as a family. My chronic insomnia has oftentimes kept us from being more active with our foster kids, but we have decided to make more of an intentional effort to spend quality time together lately in spite of the circumstances or difficulties. Eight years into the parenting journey, all of our foster kids are now teenagers who will soon grow up and have lives of their own. We thank God for these precious treasures He has blessed us with, and we’re determined to create loving memories with them for God’s glory.

December 21, 2021: With the support and encouragement of our daughters and a dear friend, I have recently begun the arduous task of translating my book into Spanish. At first my (breakneck!) speed was one page per hour, but now I’ve hit a stride and am up to two pages per hour! I hope to be able to share with the Latin American community our testimony of life, faith and lessons learned in the Lord that are presented through my book. Pray that the Lord would grant me perseverance and diligence in this monumental task!

December 22, 2021: During these few weeks of family vacation from work and school, my husband set a goal for himself to paint more. (He’s never been enrolled in art classes – it’s a new talent he’s wanting to develop!) The other day a couple of our kids were busy happily painting and drawing around our dining room table with a local friend of theirs, and Darwin got right into the mix with them for several hours! Way to go, Pa!

December 26, 2021: All of our foster teenagers (except our special needs son) are getting their toes wet out in the “real world” engaging in various work-related learning experiences this holiday season. (They earn a dailypay of 4-8 dollars for 8+ hours of work. Such is the typical minimum wage in the developing world.) One of our girls is working as a babysitter and assistant bread-maker; another is working in sales at a local clothing store. Two of our teens are working voluntarily with a local family that butchers and sells chickens for a living. We are so proud of their consistency and integrity in the workplace! 1 Thessalonians 4:11 “…Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands…” and Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…”

December31, 2021: Our “family challenge” this month was for each person to read five books that they had never read before. Surprisingly, five of our teenage sons and daughters accepted the challenge and read an incredible variety of edifying books throughout December! Way to go, readers! We’ve also begun reading through the entire Bible as a family each morning, beginning in Genesis. We invite you to join the challenge! 

My book that was published in 2021 is available on Amazon. If you are interested in acquiring several copies to sell in your church’s bookstore, in your workplace or among your loved ones, you can contact me directly to arrange a bulk shipment:

December 2021 Greetings

Dear friends and family,

I send you our warm greetings from our rural ministry homestead (the Living Waters Ranch) in Honduras. Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! I hope this blog post finds each of you well and thriving in the Lord and that you are able to maintain hope, peace and high moral standards during these uncertain, yet promising times. Please know that we pray for you regularly and likewise thank God for your prayers, support and friendship.

In our little corner of the world, earlier this month we wrapped up our official school and ministry activities for 2021 as the Honduran academic calendar comes to a close in early December. Ever since taking over the position of fifth-grade homeroom teacher in July in our small grassroots mission school, my schedule had taken on additional weight and responsibility (not to mention untold joys). Our small, dedicated staff of Honduran professionals called to serve as Christian missionaries on their own soil have prospered greatly this year as they labored alongside us week after week for God’s glory. We are blessed to serve alongside of them again in 2022 (all will be returning). Over the years they’ve come to be a precious extended family to us and much-needed support network in this deeply personal, spiritual work that we’ve been called to. On a personal level, my involvement with our 40+ students this calendar year through teaching, discipleship and mentorship was perhaps more intense and at the same time more rewarding than ever. 

We are grateful that the pandemic and all its restrictions and inconveniences did not hinder our face-to-face ministry this year. It was, in fact, perhaps our most productive and organized year since our inception in 2013 (although not without a great share of difficulties and trials along the way). We ask for your prayers for this month of December, as we are currently dedicating more time to our marriage, patchwork family and individual walk with the Lord as we take a much-needed annual break from ministry activities to our local community. Our special-needs foster son (now age 13) is back in our home for three months while his grandma is away working during the Christmas season, so we are thus taking extra care to tend to his needs in addition to our other 5 foster teens in our home 24/7 ages 13-18. We are still overcoming the fact that our relationship of over four years with one of our beloved foster daughters disintegrated last month as we had to ask her to leave our home due to many dangerous behaviors that she was unwilling to change. Two of our other daughters graduated high school in early December, so we likewise solicit your prayers for wisdom and the Lord’s direction over their future.

We are a non-profit ministry supported by individuals, families, small businesses and churches both here in Honduras and around the world. If you would like to make a yearend tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to live out the gospel on Honduran soil and impact many lives with biblical employment, Christian education and an opportunity at living in a stable, God-fearing family, you can go to the following website to make a one-time or recurring monthly donation to partner with us in this work: www.CTEN.org/JenniferZilly

Sincerely in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Belated Fall Greetings and Updates from Rural Honduras

I send you our warm greetings from our rural ministry homestead in Honduras. I hope this post finds each of you well and thriving in the Lord. Before continuing, I would like to apologize for my prolonged silence on this blog.

Recently I was largely bedridden for 2-3 weeks with Dengue and Typhoid fever, and in general due to our rural third world context and busy schedule I’ve had less than 2 hours of computer/internet access weekly over the last few months. Ever since taking over the position of fifth-grade homeroom teacher in July, my schedule and responsibilities have increased drastically, and in general my personal involvement with our students this calendar year through teaching, discipleship and mentorship has been perhaps more intense and at the same time more rewarding than ever.

I oftentimes feel that I have three precious, very important balls that I’m juggling in the air: our home/family (where I long to be emotionally available and attentive to our six foster teens and my husband); our grassroots school/ministry to our local community (where I am very involved as the co-director alongside my husband and teach several academic and extracurricular classes); and my “international” duties in which I keep tabs on the finances and maintain contact with those who pray for and support us (such as the maintenance of this blog, which oftentimes seems to be the last thing I get around to doing).

I oftentimes feel that when I am excelling in one area (example: at home or in our school), the other two areas suffer neglect. I suppose that is currently the case in a very unbalanced way, and once again I apologize for my prolonged “cyber” silence.

So, yes, we are alive and well, and we continue to serve the Lord and our neighbors with diligence and love. Just this morning we got up at 4:30am (as per our daily family schedule) and had our devotional and prayer time in our tiny living room alongside our six foster teens before cleaning the house together and getting ready for the day. From 6:00-8:00am I directed my women’s athletic club in a local park, where we laughed too much and played volleyball after studying the book of Psalms together. Back at home on our ranch, I spent an hour or so in our office making and copying quizzes for my fifth graders and organizing my materials for class tomorrow. I have two individual piano classes pending today for two teen girls, and I’m trying to catch up on administration/international ministry relations at a local internet spot in our town over the next hour or so. My husband Darwin spends every Thursday teaching individual and group music classes to 3-4 dozen children and teenagers, all of whom come up the long gravel path to our ranch for a day of learning, love and oftentimes lunch. He’ll be teaching until almost 6:00pm tonight, and we’ll probably collapse in bed around 10:30 or 11:00pm only to get up at 4:30am again tomorrow.

I share this with you so that you might catch a glimpse into a normal Thursday for us. Each day is different and follows a specific established schedule due to the nature of the pandemic and the fact that we’ve developed a very creative hybrid model, although we still do 95% of our teaching and discipleship face-to-face. We are very content with the life and calling the Lord has given us, and next month we’ll celebrate our 8-year anniversary as foster parents.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, and thank you again for your patience and understanding in regards to my lack of communication lately. Thank you for keeping tabs on us and partnering with us in this ministry, either through prayer, financial support or other means. We truly appreciate you and thank God for your life, generosity and friendship.

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

Summer 2021 Updates

I send you our warm greetings from our rural ministry homestead in Honduras, Central America, and I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are well and thriving in the Lord.

Our ministry status continues on much the same as I detailed in our Spring 2021 update. We continue to be the only school in our area that we know of that is holding face-to-face classes on a weekly basis, and we continue to progress in the areas of organic agriculture, Christian discipleship, youth orchestra/choir, athletic training, hospitality, and integral character formation for God’s glory. In spite of the odds, this has without a doubt been our best year of holistic ministry thus far.

My husband Darwin posing with a group of our students that participated in a day of intensive work in order to earn a new backpack and school supplies. The event was a big success, and the students felt motivated doing honest work and likewise being able to acquire much-needed supplies in order to continue their education. We are hopeful to orchestrate another event such as this so that our students can earn a new pair of shoes or other necessary items. It is a privilege for us to help inculcate a healthy work ethic in our students while likewise providing for their material needs. Praise God!
Here two of our missionary-teachers, who are like family to us, are posing with their team of students after triumphing in first place during an intense, edifying afternoon of teamwork activities and academic competitions.

Due to my husband Darwin’s expanding youth choir and our record-low dropout rate so far this year among youth enrolled in our school, our influence in the local community is growing and we now have roughly 60 youth actively participating in and benefiting from our ministry. My husband and I also currently have 6 foster teens in our home, ages 13-18 (two young men and four young women) whom we are raising as beloved sons and daughters. Our dedicated team of Honduran missionary-teachers is likewise thriving as never before, as much in the classroom as in the sphere of mentorship and community evangelism/good deeds.

Cleaning is serious business down here where we coexist with many insects and other critters in the intense heat/humidity, and all of our buildings’ windows are made of wire mesh, so dust and grime easily get inside! I truly learned how to clean once I moved here, and now it has become an indispensable daily routine. 
Over the last few weeks we have done many small-scale maintenance and cleaning activities (washing walls, hanging hammocks, purging closets, doing yard work, etc.) on our rural ministry property in Honduras as part of an ongoing effort to be good stewards. We are thankful for this place that God has lent us to live and serve in His name!
These were my feet recently after enjoying several hours of tree trimming, raking and hauling rocks on our ranch property alongside some of our teenage daughters and female students. Praise God for the opportunity to do honest, physical work in God’s beautiful creation!
The children and teenagers from our neighborhood/school come in waves and fill this space with laughter and activity throughout any given week. In the early mornings and on weekends my husband, our 6 foster children and I have the space largely to ourselves and enjoy this peaceful refuge the Lord has granted us.

We send our sincere thanks to those who faithfully pray for and financially support this grassroots ministry. I continue to post photos, anecdotes and edifying material on Facebook on a regular basis if you want to follow us (Jennifer Zilly Canales), and I am likewise available via email for those who want to contact us directly (JenniferZillyCanales@gmail.com). God bless you, and may God receive all the glory for the work He’s invited us to do here in rural Honduras.

On Friday, July 2nd we held our mid-year recital on our ranch property as a way of encouraging our local community and sharing with them some of the fruits of our students’ hard work so far this year. There were performances from my husband Darwin’s youth orchestra and choir along with dance routines and evangelistic activities.
Some of the members of our family during a recent outing to a local church for a special presentation.

BOOK NOW AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE

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Spring 2021 Updates From Honduras

I send you our warm greetings from the Living Waters Ranch, our home and ministry base in rural Honduras. I hope this post finds each of you well and thriving in the Lord, and I send our sincere thanks to all of those who continue to financially support and pray for this mission even in the midst of the prolonged pandemic and such global uncertainty.

As a school, foster family and ministry, in spite of the pandemic and ongoing restrictions in our area this year has surprisingly been one of our most productive and prosperous years since our inception in 2013. As a team with our dedicated staff of Honduran missionary-teachers and tutors, we have developed new, creative strategies to continue teaching, mentoring and discipling (in person, not ‘virtual’) the 40+ youth in our program while flying under the radar and not attracting unwanted attention from local government authorities. As far as we know, we are the only school in our area who has been teaching face-to-face “real” classes all year, including music, P.E., Christian discipleship, organic agriculture and other hands-on formation activities. This is a huge triumph, and we are thankful to see our students and faculty thriving in our unconventional new system of off-site and mixed classes.

My husband Darwin’s youth orchestra has been growing steadily over the last few months. He now has over 20 weekly participants in this extracurricular program, most of whom are also full-time students in our school. His youth orchestra began in 2014 with our first 4 foster children, 3 of whom still form part of the growing group of Honduran musicians.
This is a local young woman in her early 30s, a family member of one of our students. She is a dedicated Christian and had always dreamt of learning to play the violin but had never had the opportunity. She now forms part of Darwin’s orchestra every week and is learning basic hymns and classical pieces under the tutelage of one of our foster daughters.

Personally, my schedule has slowly become fuller over the past couple months as I have taken on additional responsibilities. I now teach a twice-weekly English class to several grades, lead our women’s athletic club on Tuesdays and Thursdays and have begun teaching a one-on-one piano class to one of our female students. In each of our classes, we incorporate the Bible and have a time of discipleship/prayer before commencing whatever activity is at hand. Taking on these commitments has been fun and challenging for me in addition to mothering our six foster teens at home and directing the mission/school alongside my husband.

The father of one of our local students recently took the time to give a motivational speech to our ninth-grade class and pray for them. We have enjoyed high levels of parental participation this year, which we consider to be one of our biggest triumphs. Some moms have begun participating in my women’s athletic club, and other parents join us on our weekly outings to a local park to receive a Bible lesson and engage in dynamic group activities.

Over the past couple months I have been in the grueling, yet promising final stretch of publishing my first book, titled “Hidden Treasures: Wrestling with Significance, Faith and Suffering While Serving in the Developing World.” From start to finish the process of writing and then publishing has taken a little over a year (there have been certain pandemic-related setbacks in this final stage), but the book is expected to go live shortly.

This is the image of my book’s dust jacket.

Although I have not updated this blog frequently thus far in 2021, I do post photos and regular updates on my Facebook account (Jennifer Zilly Canales) for those who are on Facebook. I am also available to communicate via email (JenniferZillyCanales@gmail.com) if anyone has questions for me to answer or would like to share a prayer request so that our family can be praying for you.

Our students who are in their last year of high school are providing year-round basic literacy courses to local youth and adults who are behind in their education as a way of blessing our local community and sharing with them some of what they’ve learned throughout their educational career.
This young man is a preteen who has grown up in the local public schools but never learned to read. Now age 12, after having been in one-on-one literacy courses with one of our foster daughters for the last couple months he can now sound out basic words and is learning to add and subtract for the first time.

We give God all the glory for each one of these achievements and extend our sincere thanks once more to all those who generously make this work possible. Thank you!

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

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!

 

 

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