Category Archives: Current World Events

The Cow is Returned: God’s Power in Action

As I wrote in my previous post four days ago, local cattle thieves stole another one of our young dairy cows for the second time in 10 months, and the entire ordeal left us feeling discouraged, on high alert, and at a loss as to what our next move should be (or as to who the thief could have been).

Well, today I will write about the events that ensued after the initial shock we experienced on Sunday morning upon realizing that our foster daughter’s cow was no longer among our small herd. This is definitely a story worth telling, and I hope it encourages you to believe in God’s power if only we would cry out to Him.

My husband Darwin and our daughter Jackeline left home Sunday morning and spent the entire day out looking for our lost cow, asking our neighbors if they had seen her and reporting the robbery at the local police station. Monday was spent in similar fashion – Darwin made many phone calls, returned to the police station, consulted with more neighbors and took several trips out to the far end of our rural property to see the extent of the damage done to our fence and take pictures for evidence.

All our efforts seemed futile, especially in Honduras where police investigations are few to none and we had no real lead onto who might have taken our daughter’s cow. 14-year-old Jackeline, who had saved her money for a long time in order to buy the cow two years ago and hoped it would help get her through college, spent great amounts of time sprawled out on the couch in our living room, her eyes puffy from crying. On more than one occasion I sat down to listen to her as she anguished over the lost cow, which represented both a financial investment and a pet to her. Jackeline reminisced about her cow – hoping against hope that it might still be alive – and all the other kids told her to get over her loss. But she couldn’t.

One day passed, then another. By this time everyone knew rationally that the cow must have already been butchered and sold on the black market, because cattle thieves almost always act quickly so as not to get caught. Our other two cows that were stolen last November were butchered immediately upon being stolen. At dawn we found their bloody hides and severed heads thrown out in the field by our front gate. To think that this cow could still be alive several days after being stolen would have been naïve.

Monday night rolled around, and the details cannot be shared of the encounters but I will say that two key eye-witnesses came forth with fear and trembling (both of which are Christians). They saw who cut our fence and they knew who had our cow. Darwin shared with me in a hushed voice late at night in our bathroom as a huge spotlight was then suddenly illuminating the entire case before our very eyes. Adrenaline ran through our veins and we prayed together after discussing everything at length. What to do? Our eye-witnesses were too scared to come forth in public, and there would be no way to confront the thief on our own.

Then Tuesday came. That is generally my day to leave our rural homestead and spend 8-10 hours doing management, computer work and errands in town, so I left without a second thought. In my mind, it was all a closed case: the cow was already dead and we had to figure out what proactive steps we would be taking to assure the safety of the rest of our herd while we would wait in vain for the police to act upon our suspect.

About 3:00pm on Tuesday Darwin called me, informing me in an unnerving tone that he had gone with the local police again – hoping to bother them enough that they would act on the case just to get him off their backs – and they actually came out to our property and picked him up in an effort to go chase down the thief, who an informant had told Darwin was stationed in the pineapple fields right behind our property with the cow still alive. Darwin asked me for immediate prayer and as my heart raced faster I pleaded him not to get out of the police car or get directly involved in any kind of armed confrontation that might occur between the police and the thieves.

I hung up the phone, my heart now racing even more than before – in part from the adrenaline of knowing that against all odds the cow was still alive three days after being stolen and that there was a real chance that the police might capture those who had her, but even more for the danger that my husband would be diving into upon confronting the thief directly.

My car sped down the highway, the windows rolled down to let fresh air in because the A/C stopped working several months ago. Light droplets of rain landed on my arm as I prayed harder than I have in a long time. I prayed for protection for Darwin and all involved; I prayed that the thief would repent; I prayed for God’s favor and His justice in our hour of need. I felt God undeniably close, and I sensed that we were on the verge of some colossal battle, much of which would be fought in the heavenly realm. I continued to pray as I zipped down the highway that parallels the Caribbean Ocean and neared our rural property with my heart and head ablaze. Let Darwin live; may there be no blood shed today; may You utilize these police officers as true agents of justice; may the thief admit his deed and seek forgiveness and new life in Christ. If Darwin should die as a result (as his brother did two years ago when he spoke out against local cattle thieves), please give me the grace, perseverance and faith to continue onward in his absence, however hard it may be…

In Honduras, many such encounters with thieves result in someone’s death – either that of the thieves or those who try to confront them, so my emotions were rightly understood to be on edge. Our old pickup truck jostled up the long gravel road to our property as I found all of our kids to be doing just fine. Darwin had left them alone as he had to leave unexpectedly with the police officers, so I checked on our local tutors with their six after-school students and our seven foster kids to make sure everyone was on task as I then unpacked the car and waited anxiously for a call from Darwin.

After exchanging several phone calls with him to ask what progress had been made and to see if he was okay he finally arrived at home several hours later. The police had done the stake-out and had identified the area where they had been holding the cow but came up empty-handed. It was a bit of progress (or at least a scare for the thieves), but it wasn’t enough. Darwin and I felt frustrated, as we knew that was probably the only real attempt the police would be making to try to catch the culprit.

That night several additional phone calls were made in the stillness of our little bathroom as we sought to communicate once more with our eye-witnesses to see if they would have the courage to come forth and make another police report with us, but all were frozen with fear. We ended up talking to a local community leader who is a friend of ours and happens to be feared by many (and has recently become a Christian and attends the same church where Darwin is involved with a men’s group). We hesitantly shared with him our situation, certain that if anyone could do vigilante justice it would be him but at the same time unsure that he would believe us. The thief, after all, is a family member of his and he could very easily turn on us for having accused his kin.

The whole ordeal – holed up in our bathroom late at night, door shut and floor-fan turned on high speed to cover up our voices so that our 7 foster kids wouldn’t be able to hear our conversations – seemed like something straight out of a movie. Darwin and I sat on the little grey rug on our tile floor, alternating between making phone calls, praying, and discussing the matter between the two of us.

What had initially seemed like a lost case in which we would simply have to throw up our hands and try to turn lemons into lemonade had suddenly turned into a hot chase in which we might fall into grave danger if we made one wrong move.

While communicating with the local community leader whom we get along very well with as neighbors, Darwin shared with him who the thief in the matter was, and our neighbor fell silent. He wasn’t sure whether to believe us or defend his family member, whom he thought to be innocent. His reaction: he went to his relative’s house (the accused), and eventually put him on the phone with us. Darwin put the conversation on speakerphone, and chills ran through my body as the thief talked smoothly and casually, assuring us that he was a man of great morals and values and that he would never steal from anyone. He called us both by very respectful titles and assured us that we were local leaders in our community and that it would be a disgrace for anyone to steal from us. His flattering and reassuring words came rolling of his tongue so smoothly and so confidently that I glanced over at Darwin and wondered in my heart of hearts if we had gotten it all wrong. After all, I wanted desperately to believe him. It had all been a big mistake.

But the two eye-witnesses? The two people who know first-hand that this is the thief?

This man is an expert liar with years of experience. My body turned semi-cold as I contemplated this fact and the spiritual ramifications: does not Satan approach humanity this way – smooth, reassuring tongue, saying beautiful, promising things, but it is all a lie? Oh, he promises happiness, pleasure, eternal youth and more, but it all turns out to be nothing more than a breathtakingly beautiful mirage, not reality. He is persuasive and attractive, but in the end leads only to death.

We essentially got nowhere with our phone conversation, as the thief did not allow Darwin to get many words in. He even offered to come up to our property the next morning to peacefully smooth everything out in person, to which Darwin responded: “Better yet, let’s meet tomorrow morning at 7:00am at the police station to smooth everything out.” That definitely tripped up his previously-seamless speech as Darwin continued, “Look, I have an eye-witness who saw you cut through our fence. What I want is my cow. Tomorrow morning at the first hour I will be going to the police station again. What I want is my cow.”

The phone was passed back to our friend, who was more perplexed than before as to who might be telling the truth, and he assured us that he and his family would be praying.

The conversation soon came to a close, and Darwin expressed the fact that he was not blind to the fact that all of this might get him killed and that he truly had nothing against the thief and wanted what was best for him (an honest life lived in God’s light, not a lying life of thieves.) We hung up, both our hearts racing, and prayed. It would be a long night, and whatever would unfold in the next 12 hours would likely decide the fate of our cow, this case and possibly even our lives.

Wednesday morning (yesterday) we got up at 5:00am as is our custom, and I entered the three bedrooms where our kids sleep and jostled them awake, informing them that we would be having a family prayer meeting in our living room before beginning the day’s chores.

Everyone came shuffling out into our living room, from our eldest who is less than a week away from turning 18 to our youngest, a 10-year-old boy with special needs. We sat around our wooden table – everyone wishing they were still asleep – as Darwin and I tried to begin explaining as best we could (and without instilling fear or directly implying who the thief was) the progress of the case and the imminent danger that might be facing us if the thief tries to silence us or take revenge. It was a very heavy conversation, and in a very real sense I feared that it might be our last family meeting. Jackeline was overjoyed to hear that her cow was still alive, and she thanked God repeatedly for having heard her cries. Each person prayed, and among the many words I shared with my Lord, I said: “If it pleases You that we parent these children and youth and continue along in this work, then please protect our lives…” Our children gave thanks to God and prayed that the thief might repent, that he might return the cow voluntarily, and that God would protect Darwin and me.

After about twenty minutes or so around our wooden dining room table, we all stood up, enveloped in a very real heaviness, and began moving about our house doing our daily morning chores. We opened our front door to go out on the porch (where our kitchen is), and we immediately heard the call of our night watchman’s wife who was standing out by our front gate.

“The cow is back!” She called out in the still, dark morning.

We all froze.

The moon still hanging in the sky above our large, grassy property, we all began to glance at one another, some with incredulity in their eyes and others with raw joy.

Our neighbor continued, “She’s loose right next to our back fence!”

Darwin quickly got into action, sending two of our night watchman’s teenage sons to shuttle her onto our property quietly. I was still frozen as all of our kids began staring at me. God had answered our prayers, and rather immediately. The thieves had untied her and sent her back home. Justice had won out. No blood had been shed. God had won this victory – not with guns, hatred and violence but rather with prayer and unity among Christians.

I felt as though I was walking on holy ground as I made my way silently toward our cow pen. I was still dressed in my old baggy pajamas the light of day was barely creeping over the horizon. Was this all too good to believe? I looked on as our precious Jackeline rushed out to meet her cow and began checking her over from head to foot. Her snout and neck had deep marks on it were she had been roped up too tightly, and her body had scratches all over it. Jackeline stroked her large white cow who quite literally had come back to the land of the living by the mighty hand of God. She should have been slaughtered three days ago.

One of our night watchman’s young adult sons came up the path rather quickly on his bike. By Darwin’s instruction, he had gone out in the wee hours of the morning to keep a lookout on who might be coming or going along the road. He informed, “She didn’t come back on her own. They drug her across the pineapple field. There are tracks to prove it. The thieves brought her back.”

Darwin and I smiled and nodded. We had already figured that out – God had led the thieves to return what was never rightly theirs. This was something that only God could do, and He did.

This all seemed very surreal, and I stood for a long while under a tree in our front yard looking out over our grassy property and contemplating this mighty work of God. I felt that I didn’t even have words for my Lord – only admiration.

Darwin made several phone calls to inform our witnesses that the cows had come back, and they all rejoiced with us and commented that they had been praying fervently that God would act and return the cow to us (something that is unheard of in Honduran cattle culture). Our high-profile friend who had facilitated our phone conversation the night prior with the thief confessed that he finally believed us, and he apologized for his family member’s hostility toward us.

The morning moved quicker than I would have liked, and suddenly all of our 40+ local students and teachers were arriving for what (to them) would be a normal day of classes and Christian discipleship. I still felt like I was recovering from the intensity of the last several days and the fact that God made everything work out just as it should. I vowed that later that morning upon getting out of math class I would write a long, reconciliatory letter to the thief, assuring him that we don’t want ongoing wars with him and that we earnestly hope that he will seek God’s forgiveness and the new life offered to all through Christ.

It ended up being a 4-page handwritten letter written in Jesus’ name, and later that same day (yesterday) as I was running through our neighborhood for exercise I left the letter with a family member who promised to give it to him. I even saw the thief on my way back home as I jogged past his house, baseball cap on my head and tennis shoes on my feet, sweaty from head to toe under the hot mid-day sun. I glanced over as I saw him working on his front porch. I raised my hand hesitantly to wave, and he greeted me by name for the first time in the five years that we’ve been neighbors.

That was yesterday. Today has been a normal day, albeit somewhat sticky with the divine residue of all that God orchestrated in these last few days. We are still getting over all this, processing the implications, and giving thanks to God for His mighty hand. Our daughter Jackeline commented to me yesterday afternoon as we were preparing dinner that she would like to write a letter to the thief (although she still doesn’t know who it is) to let him know that she forgives him and hopes he will seek God’s will for his life. I smiled as I informed her that I had already done the same and that I could deliver her letter if and when she writes it. She seemed content with my reply, and we kept cutting broccoli and onions for the spaghetti sauce.

Please thank God with us for this mighty turn of events in these last few days, and I encourage you to recognize that this was, in fact, God’s justice entering into our fall world. Thank you to all of you who prayed for us in these last few days. We continue to hope for the thief’s salvation and transformation and would appreciate your prayers for him. God bless you.

Glory to God!

Cattle Thieves Return

Early this morning our watchman’s wife came up to our gate to inform us that cattle thieves had broken into our property last night and stolen again for the second time in ten months.

Last year they took our two adult milking cows and butchered them silently outside of our front gate, leaving us without milk and with an orphaned calf on our hands. Last night the victim was a young adult female whom our 14-year-old foster daughter Jackeline had saved for and purchased with the hope of the cow providing her a legacy of calves and milk, which could potentially pay for her college education or set her up to make at least a partial living off of cattle-raising within the next ten or twenty years.

We had taken several proactive steps since the first cattle robbery to secure our cows in a well-lit pen between our fence and our watchman’s home, but just the same the thieves arrived so quietly that no one heard them and we suspect they drugged our watchdogs (a common act down here) because they didn’t even bark. To leave with the cow, they just cut through several sections of our barbed-wire fence, which now must be repaired.

The cow they chose last night had been severely malnourished when our daughter bought it from a neighbor at a reasonable price about two years ago, and we’ve seen the cow gain strength and beauty as she had just recently reached maturity and would be ready to become a mom (and thus finally produce milk) at some point over the coming year. Many of our other kids did not understand our daughter’s entrepreneurial spirit: Why would a teenage girl buy a cow with her money instead of something more immediately useful and interesting? Several adults who know her (including my husband and I) had marveled at Jackeline’s maturity and eye for long-term gain as she had invested in the cow and had placed great hopes on her to provide (at least in part) for her future.

This morning I went into her room and jostled her awake on her bottom bunk. As she rolled over, my hand patting her leg gently to greet her, I informed her of the news as her face froze for several moments, her eyes trained on mine. My words came out dryly, “They stole your cow last night.” When she didn’t seem to register what I was saying, I added, “The thieves. They returned and took your cow.”

For those of you who are not familiar with Honduran law and justice, it is largely myth (as in, it doesn’t exist). Two years ago my husband’s brother was shot dead point-blank in a nearby town, there were several eye-witnesses and people knew the name and address of the killer, and after many trips to both the local and regional police station nothing was done in attempt to find the killer or do justice. Ten months ago when they stole our first two cows I walked off under misting rain down the long gravel road that meets the highway as I found a police officer on foot watching traffic. I informed him of the tragic robbery and slaughter that had occurred only hours before (as in, “Please help us hunt these people down”), and the police officer only shrugged and told me that he wasn’t surprised because that kind of thing happens all the time. He and his comrades arrived in their brand new, decked-out police truck two weeks later to our property (which lies about 1.5 miles from the police station), and gave us our condolences for our loss. I looked at them in shock and thought, “Condolences? You came here — two weeks after the fact! — to simply give us your condolences?! My grandmother could give me her condolences! You are the POLICE — do your job and fight for justice!”

In Honduran culture it is very common that when somebody has something that others don’t (for example, a cow or a nice cellphone, etc), someone will come and steal it from them to assure that no one gets ahead or experiences much success at all. Extortion here is high — many small businesses or people who are experiencing some humble level of prosperity are forced to pay the gang lords a monthly “war tax” or they will be killed. Cattle thieves are also common: why go through the long and difficult process of buying cattle when it is much easier to simply steal? (This is the general thought among those who are given over to a life of crime here, especially because the police provide virtually no threat to those who break the law.)

Many people leave Honduras and flock to the United States for this same reason — endemic injustice that refuses to allow people to prosper in the quietness of their own endeavors and hard work. If you prosper too much, you become the next target.

So, we ask for prayer. It is very easy to fall into cynicism or a fatalistic attitude of “Why try?” We are on a very tight budget as a ministry, and our small herd of cows — two of which provide milk — help alleviate our grocery bills of buying milk and represent a humble emergency-type fund in case at some point we are desperately low on money. My husband is now thinking about selling off our four younger cows and maintaining only our two momma cows that give milk plus a male for future mating, but even so the thieves could return at any point at take our remaining cows or that of our watchman’s family. Please pray for discernment in regard to how we should most efficiently use our rural property without becoming a magnet for thieves.

We desire to live a quiet, honest life here in rural Honduras reaching out the the poor and lost with the good news of Christ and practical education and discipleship to equip people as instruments of God’s hope, love and justice right here — without people leaving Honduras in search of a better life elsewhere. Please pray with us that the seeds in which we are sowing in the lives of the nearly-50 young people in our school will provide a good fruit that will glorify God and that we would not be easily discouraged as we know that our final prize and rest will be with God for all eternity.

God bless each of you, and please pray with and for us at this time, for protection over our property and for some semblance of real justice here on earth (even as we know that God will bring about real, perfect justice at the end of the times). Thank you.

The Narrow Path

Our 24-year-old Christian psychologist (red shirt) didn’t know what she was getting into when she decided to join the ‘narrow path’ group! Next to her (white shirt) is one of our teen foster daughters who likewise chose the difficult journey. Many of the girls in their knee-length uniform skirt finished the challenge with scuffed and even bloody knees. Several cried out of desperation as the journey of shame extended close to an hour and they wondered when it would end. Our teachers finished completely bathed in sweat and with dirt all over their clothes. It definitely was the more difficult path!

Twice weekly at the Living Waters Ranch all of our staff (a small, dedicated team of local Honduran missionaries/teachers plus my husband and me) and about 30 or so of our more mature students gather together in our large, cement-floored dining room for Bible study. We sit on wooden benches in a large, imperfect circle as we worship God together through song and then seek to grow together in knowledge of the truth and obedience as we study His Word.

We have gone through many different and very edifying topics this year: the existence of evil in the world, existential questions (and their Biblical answers), God’s desire that we connect with him and with other human beings (and that we not connect exclusively with technology/machines), several of Jesus’ parables and teachings, archeological evidence that backs the Bible’s veracity, our sexual identity as men and women made in God’s image, etc.

As has happened to me on many occasions, while I am reading the Bible or simply going about my daily business it is as though out of nowhere God deposits an idea or a direction into my mind that I am then to go share with everyone else during our group Bible study time. The following story is one such case.

A few weeks ago in my free time I was reading the book Jesus Calling, a wonderful devotional book. The certain page I was on mentioned something about the fact that we humans tend to pick the path of least resistance. I remember that the devotion itself was about an entirely different theme, but my eyes studied that one phrase about a dozen times as an idea was suddenly deposited very abruptly and undeniably into my mind, and my hand burned to write it down. I grabbed my little teal-colored spiral notebook where I do my planning for the twice-weekly Bible studies, and my hand furiously began tracing out a long, intricate plan. I felt that I had to write it down as quickly as possible so that the precious idea would not get lost among the many other thoughts that are always bouncing around my mind. Once all written down (including little drawings that gave more life to the overall idea), I became extremely surprised and excited. I couldn’t believe I had to wait two or three more days until the chance would arrive to put into action the idea that God had just given me! It would be a powerful illustration for all: presented the option to choose the easier way or that which promises immense difficulty, which will you choose? (And how can we then use this ‘game’ to better understand – and choose! – the narrow path of Christ which leads to eternal life?)

Crawling backwards several hundred yards on rocky terrain with his shoes on his hands, blindfold secured and a pencil gripped between his teeth as over a dozen teenagers mocked him and did all they could to obstruct his path: This is 29-year-old Erick, one of our extremely dedicated local Honduran missionaries who serves alongside of us in the classroom, relational discipleship and organic agriculture with the teenagers in our Christ-centered homeschool program for disadvantaged youth.

The challenge would be simple: we would exit our concrete-floored dining room (our normal setting for Bible study) en masse in order to go out onto our front lawn to engage in a hands-on demonstration of what it means to choose between the narrow (hard) and the wide (easy) path. Many of our teens have heard this teaching of Jesus’ many times, but to live it in a condensed period in order to grant greater reflection? This would be the first time.

One of our teachers helped me to film the majority of the event (also a first, as we typically don’t film our Bible studies) as I began explaining to everyone that they would each be given to options:

Wide, Easy Path:

  • You can walk, run, give a friend a piggy-back ride, etc. (You may travel any way you choose.)
  • You can talk, joke, make fun of others, etc.
  • Your goal: reach the large fruit tree (beyond the Living Waters Ranch’s front gate) a few hundred meters from our starting spot.
  • (Oh, and please do everything you can to discourage and make fun of those on the narrow path. You can put obstacles in their path, try to confuse or distract them, etc, but please don’t physically harm them.) Have fun as much fun as possible!

Narrow, Hard Path:

  • You cannot travel as you choose. You must crawl backwards with a blindfold in place, effectively destroying your ability to see where you are going. You must also grip a pencil between your teeth, impeding your speech.
  • You may not talk with anyone. If you are lost and need help, the only thing you can say is, “Help! Help! Where am I going?” and if at any point your shoes come off your hands or your pencil falls out of your mouth, you must immediately say, “Forgive me.” You may not say anything else at any point.
  • You must not listen to or heed anyone’s voice but Jennifer’s.
  • Your end goal is the same as the other group’s (the large fruit tree a good distance off).
  • You are free to give up at any point and join the easier group.

As I explained the rather simple instructions to the large group in front of me, each person was completely free to join the “wide path” – the group that promised total ease, or the “narrow path” – that which physically would prove more challenging (not to mention the potential embarrassment at having to crawl backwards such a long distance in the manner I had proposed).

The plaid shirt belongs to 34-year-old Geraldina, the local Christian woman who serves with us in cooking and cleaning and is in one-on-one literacy classes as she learns to read and write for the first time in her life. She exhibited incredible bravery as she crossed the pile of tires without being able to see where she was going! (And they kept moving the tires as she tried to pass in order to make it more difficult.)

I thought that surely only two or three of our more outgoing teen boys would dare to join the “narrow path,” but much to my surprise 12 students and 3 teachers chose it by their own free will! They were very brave indeed.

A couple teens were indecisive and eventually chose the easier group with the rest of the roughly twenty participants. Let the games begin! (I had never orchestrated this type of large-group challenge before, so in my planning I thought we would take 15-20 minutes tops, but the whole ordeal extended beyond an hour.)

Those who had chosen the narrow path grabbed their blindfolds and submitted themselves to the embarrassing position on all fours as I egged the “wide path” participants on to make the lives of the “narrow path” participants as unbearable as possible.

Our 14-year-old foster daughter, Jackeline, on the hard path…

My 15 brave souls lined up, all totally blindfolded and unable to see, and they each had to crawl backwards through a hula-hoop that represented the moment of salvation. (This is part of the idea of “a door and a path” that I understand from God’s Word. We must first walk through the door of repentance and salvation – that first moment of trusting in Christ – and then there is a long path, oftentimes difficult, before us that extends until the end of our lives.)

The game got complicated quickly as some of my blindfolded participants sped off down the path, effectively beyond earshot, while I had to stay behind trying to guide those who dragged along slowly. I walked between blinded participants trying to guide and encourage them as best I could. More than one of them began scooting off in the wrong direction, heading for the middle of the cows’ pasture, and others bumped into the fence or couldn’t find the gate to pass through.

Those who were free to walk as they chose (those on the wide path, which represents the way of the world in which all is permitted) really did a phenomenal job making the crawlers’ lives impossible. At first they just tried to verbally discourage them, laugh at them and disorient them, but soon enough they got creative and began obstructing their path with tires and fallen branches. They even reached the point of picking up certain smaller students and completely relocating them in order to confuse them further and physically resisting the crawling people with their own weight and cunning. Crawling backwards blindfolded several hundred meters over rocks would have been a good enough lesson, but with the “evil” tactics of the other members they truly made the journey painful and nearly impossible. (And isn’t this a perfect illustration of the Christian life? Is it not true that those who are in the world try to discourage, disorient and make fun of those who are on the narrow path of Christ? Yes; this was panning out to be the perfect illustration of the spiritual walk with Christ – difficult; at times lonely; trusting a voice that you cannot see.)

The limited pages of this post do not allow me the space necessary to adequately explain the depths of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. What began as a let’s-see-how-this-goes teaching experiment turned out to be an epic battle between good and evil. It was the ultimate test of perseverance and faith, and as we meditated on the spiritual ramifications we felt like we were walking on sacred ground, discovering just what it takes to follow Christ until the end.

At one point after we crossed the threshold of the outer gate on our rural property and were then at-large in the outskirts of our town (a large, strange mass of people crawling around blindfolded while others shrieked and cackled as they threw tires in their path) a local young man and his friends stopped dead in their tracks, stunned and impressed by the strange game we were doing. This opened the door for one of our veteran teachers to talk to him about the way of Christ, and he stood with her, listening, for several minutes as he observed with awe the spectacle before him.

Every time he tried to go beneath the branch, they would lower it. When he would try to go over it, they would raise it up. They tormented him with this for several minutes before finally letting him pass!

The entire experience lasted much longer than any of us had imagined, and we went far beyond the time allotted for our bi-weekly Bible study. We had already passed the time for prayer groups and were willing to use up our recess time in order to finish what we had started. The only thing that mattered was the goal of reaching the fruit tree beyond the gate.

In Honduran culture, perseverance is not always a very strong point in our area as many people give up on their education, their families, etc, when confronted with difficulties, so the very fact that 15 people dared to participate in this daunting task (and 14 completed it; only 1 decided to give up) was reason to give thanks to God for the gritty character He is forming in those under our guidance. Wow!

Well, the biggest surprise was reserved for last. Once everyone reached their goal of arriving at the distant fruit tree, those on the narrow path soaked with sweat and dirty from head to toe (and many with very raw emotions after having been effectively bullied to their breaking point), everyone trudged back up the long, gravel path to our starting point: our large, concrete-floored dining room where our traditional wooden benches awaited us. Everyone thought the activity had finished, but I knew that the best was reserved for last: each person’s recompense for the path they had chosen.

Everyone trudged back into our dining room as their faces displayed that they were more than ready for this whole experiment to be over with. I sat them all down and then asked for those who were on the wide, easy path to stand in the middle of the circle. They all whooped and hollered and stood proudly in the middle of the wooden benches as I explained that they had definitely chosen what was easier and that they had been very astute to take care of their appearance so that no one would bully them. They had, after all, chosen what any intelligent person would choose: the path of least resistance. I congratulated them for their participation and then handed each of them a piece of candy, encouraging them to go ahead and eat their reward. They whooped and hollered again and then fell into sudden silence when they began opening their candy wrappers and popping into their mouths…balls of gooey flour! I had created “trick candy” the day before during a slot of free time I had – the candy wasn’t candy at all! Their reward was pure deceit…

They laughed and returned to their seats, effectively without any reward at all. I then asked the weary, bullied members of the narrow, difficult path to stand up in the middle of the circle of wooden benches. They studied me carefully, wondering what their prize would be. Was their going to be any prize at all, or just a simple pat-on-the-back of congratulation? I could barely contain my excitement, for I knew just what was in store for this brave, faithful group.

I began handing out an envelope for each one and then instructed them to open them all at once. What was inside? The Honduran equivalent of $10, which is a lot of money here, and a handmade coupon stating that they had also won a soda and a big bag of chips (a really popular snack in Honduran culture) and that two of their detentions would be erased at the end of the grading period (a big plus for any student in academic trouble).

They began squealing with delight and reveling in their extravagant reward – it was much greater than anything they had every imagined. In that moment our young psychologist, who is in her first year of service with us, unexpectedly broke out in tears and came over to me to receive a long hug.

Amidst the great celebration for those who had persevered in the difficult path, all of their trouble suddenly seemed forgotten as the prize greatly outweighed any difficulty they confronted along the grueling path.

There are so many parallels between this moring-hour challenge and the ongoing path for each one of us as we choose between the wide, easy path of the world (where any belief, action or attitude is permitted with great tolerance) and the narrow, difficult path of Christ that, in the end, provides a greater recompense than any of us could have ever imagined.

We spent the next two Bible studies reviewing the videos taken and discussing in-depth the many parallels between our game and the spiritual reality in each of our lives. Praise be to God for this wacky yet extremely effective idea He planted in me several weeks ago, and please continue to pray with us that each of the youth under our guidance would joyfully choose the narrow path of Christ and live for Him as they eagerly await the reward of an eternity with God.

Thank you to all who pray for and financially support this mission. Please know that we could not operate the way we do as we touch lives with God’s Word and His love if it were not for your generosity in partnering with us. Thank you for trusting us, and God bless each of you. Please be encouraged by this story of the narrow path.

With gratitude and joy in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Jesus Christ in the book of Matthew

Mid-Year Update 2018

In June my husband Darwin and I celebrated 5 years of faithful marriage, and later this year in November we will celebrate our 5-year anniversary of parenting fatherless children together for God’s glory. The Lord has used our marriage to parent 11 children and teens thus far, 7 of which continue under our full-time care, and close to 100 have passed through the discipleship-based homeschool program we operate out of our home for local youth who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Thank you to all who have supported us along the way, and please know that we are committed to continue onward in this lifestyle of service to the poor, Christian hospitality and relational discipleship as long as the Lord allows.

One of the local Honduran missionaries who serves alongside of us in our school took the following photos a couple weeks ago during a mid-year celebration day at the Living Waters Ranch where we live and serve. Darwin, our 7 foster children and I practiced several nights in a row to put together a surprise dance that we would perform in front of our all of our students and teachers! As you can tell by the very happy faces behind us (below), they loved it!

In a country where many families have been broken apart and the majority of our students’ parents are largely absent from their lives, we treasure these moments where Darwin and I can put on display the love and joy of the Lord knit together in family unity.

We work very hard teaching Bible studies, doing one-on-one and group counseling/prayer sessions, and leading by example so that the youth in our home and school may live for Christ instead of falling prey to the many wrong attitudes and behaviors that abound in Honduran society. After many long days (and nights) doing the trench work of digging deep in souls and teaching the youth both in and out of the classroom, we really enjoyed this light-hearted mid-year break as we simply danced and made a lot of people laugh! (I don’t think we’ll be going on tour any time soon!)

Below are more photos taken during our mid-year fun activity day at the Living Waters Ranch. In addition to our family dance, we all enjoyed a Christian rap performance by three of our teen boys, several soccer matches, traditional Honduran yard games and a motivational workshop by our Christian psychologist (below, yellow shirt).

We are now in the second half of our 2018 efforts to disciple and teach, as the Honduran school calendar runs from February-November. There are currently 48 youth enrolled full-time in our program who visit our home each day from 6:45am-3:00/4:00pm for Christian discipleship, academic classes, extracurricular and service-oriented activities, etc. Over a dozen have dropped out since January due to family instability, poor decision-making, etc, and we continue onward with a highly committed group of young people who are taking full advantage of the life-giving opportunity God has granted them to be part of a loving Christian community dedicated to their integral growth in Christ.


 As for our family status apart from our general ministry to our local community, the purpose the Lord has given us is to welcome children and teens who were unwanted or uncared for by their biological relatives into our patchwork family so that they might come to know the redemptive love of God. Some come and others go as many eventually go live with a stable biological family member; others will stay forever as this is the only home they know.

Please pray for us in the ongoing adoption process for those who have chosen us to be their forever family, and pray with us for our sons’ and daughters’ complete healing and transformation in Christ after having come from very traumatic childhoods. On many days our home seems like a warzone between good and evil, light and darkness, as there are many generational chains from our children’s biological families that must be broken so that they may be free to live for Christ. Pray that we may be granted the grace of loving one another well and that our fellowship with the Lord would increase daily.

Thank you to those who pray for and support this mission. Without you we would not be able to touch the lives the Lord brings our way.

With peace and gratitude in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family 

 

The Living Waters Ranch: Christian family to the orphaned and integral discipleship/education to the lost

Personal Reflection and Family Update

Yesterday evening we sat around the wooden table in our living room to eat dinner together as a family. Two of our teen foster daughters had prepared a delicious chicken soup with rice. In our household our diet oftentimes consists of rice and beans, so this soup was a special treat. The plates and silverware were all laid out on our floral-print tablecloth that I had purchased at a local thrift store a couple months ago. A candle was placed in the middle of the setup, although on this occasion it remained unlit.

Eating dinner together as a family each night has not been one of our strong points during these first few years together as a foster family and ministry homestead. Oftentimes it has seemed like a triumph just to get to the finish line at the end of each day still standing, and to make any additional effort to prepare an evening banquet for close to a dozen people just seems overwhelming. Thus, on many occasions each person just warms up rice and beans that were leftover from lunch or whips up something light due to everyone’s distinct schedule (and Mom’s exhaustion).

Some of our kids go into town two evenings per week for their ballet class; one night a week we’re out at a neighbor’s house for a Bible study; some evenings Darwin is out counseling people in our neighborhood or organizing choir practices. Oftentimes our teens have group homework projects or are practicing their musical instruments in the evenings, thus it has not been easy to pin down all the highly active members of our household for a daily routine of eating together. I imagine that in any family if a daily dinner is going to be achieved, it must be carefully scheduled and protected.

So, that is what we’ve decided to do. At Darwin’s suggestion, on Sunday I designed a fairly simple daily dinner schedule (indicating whose turn it is to cook, as we already have a nightly cleaning schedule), and we’re committed to protect and enforce this even if fatigue or busyness threaten to put this priority on the back-burner.

Yesterday morning all seven of our foster kids had been in classes and Christian discipleship in our homeschool program that we operate out of our rural homestead from 7:00am — 3:00pm. I had taught group Bible study that morning; Darwin had taught classes all morning with his small group of wily second- and third-graders and directed the girls’ choir practice after lunch. Our eldest foster daughter had a one-on-one meeting with our Christian psychologist to continue navigating the waters of healing and restoration while also looking to the future to discern the vocation/purpose that the Lord has for her in these coming years. A couple of our girls had been in cooking class; I taught my math class with 16 teens earlier that morning before heading into town to attend a three-hour meeting with local government officials.

And so, we ate dinner as a family. Last night was our first attempt to follow this new dinner schedule, and it was successful. It was nothing spectacular, but we were together. At the beginning of the meal we all joined hands and bowed our heads as Darwin gave God thanks for the food, and then our 17-year-old daughter, the eldest, graciously served everyone’s food. Surprisingly she started with my plate, which was doubtlessly a gesture of friendship as we are both making the effort to improve our relationship after having gone through many rocky patches over these past few months. (This afternoon she and I have a ‘date’ planned as I’ve invited her on a bike ride around our neighborhood as an opportunity to spend more time together and connect.)

This new season has brought small but important changes such as our new family dinner routine that we will carefully put into practice.

Each night as our kids all head into their rooms for homework and rest, I put on a sermon or two on my laptop (connected to two little speakers) in the living room so that our household is flooded with Biblical teaching. This specifically has been a very pivotal change in our home, as over these past several months I have downloaded dozens of sermons from respected pastors from different parts of the world to come directly into our home and teach us each evening. Our kids are resting in their rooms or taking a shower in the quiet of the night and everyone is receiving Scriptural encouragement. This has been very fruitful, and we will continue to do this each evening as we sow seeds into their young lives (and our own lives) for God’s glory.

Another small change we’ve made is that our 10-year-old foster son Jason, who is in the process of being legally adopted by us along with his two older sisters, now accompanies Darwin each night to go walk down our long gravel entryway to lock the two gates on our rural property. This gives him ‘man time’ with Dad and teaches him that it will one day be his job to protect and care for his own family.

Yesterday evening as our dinner was coming to a close, one of our new foster teens who moved in with us late last year expressed a question she had after having read the book of Galatians in the Bible for a homework assignment I had given her. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that she had actually read it and with enough attention to want to ask me a question about what she had read. I asked her to bring her Bible to the dinner table to show me the verse she had a question about, so she darted off into her room and quickly reappeared at the table, Bible in hand. As she opened the Bible, she said to herself as she flipped through the pages, “Galatians. After Corinthians.”

It was so seemingly insignificant what she was saying, but it hit me like a train. It’s working! Many of our foster kids and local students are very used to hearing others teach them about God’s Word, but they had yet to develop the habit of reading it for themselves. To change that, several months ago we started a routine that each person in our family now individually reads the Bible as we all spread out in our living room on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and in the two classes that I teach in our community homeschool (advanced math and reading/writing) I now make all the students sit individually and read the Bible 15 minutes before starting each class and then they discuss in partners what they read for about 5 minutes afterward (to get them used to openly talking about God’s Word). In these last couple months they’ve read the whole book of John and of Romans; they are now in Acts and Luke. (This specific daughter of ours is in both my classes, so she receives a double-dose of Bible-reading!) This has thus far produced marvelous results, as many of the teens have commented in awe, “I always hear so-and-so saying that we should love one another, and now I get that it actually comes from the Bible! I just read it!”

Our foster daughter who had been well-versed in Christianity throughout her childhood in various foster homes and orphanages, several months ago had very little first-hand knowledge of the actual Bible. When asked to flip to a certain book, she had to go to the table of contents and spend several moments searching for it. For her to say, “Galatians. After Corinthians.” and find that tiny book in the midst of 65 others is of great encouragement to me as she is now getting to know God’s Word not based on what others tell her but based on her own time reading and exploring its depths. Praise God!

There is much more I could write, but for now I will leave it at that. Thank you so much to those who support this mission and pray for us regularly. I continue to sleep much better in recent months after having battled insomnia for so many years, and after being bedridden with Typhoid Fever a few weeks ago my health is currently fairly strong. My husband Darwin and I will be celebrating 5 years of marriage this Sunday, and all of the local Honduran missionaries and teachers who serve alongside of us at the Living Waters Ranch are doing very well.

Please continue to pray for the restoration and transformation of our foster children/teens and local students into the image of Christ, and also pray that the Lord would continue to protect us physically as we live in a very violent part of the world.

God bless you.

 

Music Concert Adventure

Last week Darwin loaded up five of our foster children and over a dozen of his local choir youth onto a rented bus along with a few adult chaperones and made the 3-hour drive to San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second-largest city to participate in their biggest concert yet. An internationally-trained director conducted one of Honduras’ largest orchestras and led approximately 200 children and teenagers from around the country as they sang classical masterpieces they had been practicing for months for this specific event.

Darwin’s group from our rural town of El Pino plus several of his students whom he teaches in the nearby city of La Ceiba on Saturdays. They had never sung in (or stepped foot in) a building so fancy!
Before going out to sing on stage, Darwin always rounds everyone up to make a massage train so that everyone relaxes!

I can see some familiar faces in that big choir!
Our boys are the ones without ties!
This is Aracely, one of our beloved teachers/missionaries who serves alongside of us at the Living Waters Ranch, with our son Jason (left) and his best friend Francisco who spends about 8 hours in our home each day for Christian discipleship, academics and extracurricular classes alongside of our other students.
Here’s Darwin (teal shirt) with a group of our older teen boys, several of which we’ve been closely involved with over four years for God’s glory. 16-year-old Cristian (far right) arrived at our front gate in 2014 malnourished and illiterate as he and his little brother were simply seeking out friendship and a snack. He and four of his siblings have now all been in school with us during these last four years, and both of his parents are employed with us and actually live on our property in the watchman’s house.

Here is a video taken of one of the songs our kids sang:

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God bless you!

Personal Reflection: Our Current Season of Life and Ministry

I write to you from our rural homestead in Honduras, Central America where the Lord has planted us firmly with the purpose of parenting the orphaned, proclaiming His Word, teaching the ignorant, reaching out to the destitute in our area with tangible help and living a simple, honest life with and for Christ.

Next month my husband, who is a native Honduran whom I met here in Honduras while I was already walking the path the Lord had placed before me, and I will celebrate five years of marriage, and a few months after that we will celebrate five years of parenting the orphaned and ministering to the lost together for God’s glory. Four months after we married in 2013 our first three children arrived – the eldest of whom was 13 years old when she moved in, only 10 years younger than me.

The current season of life, of marriage, of ministry and parenting that we are in is definitely new. Our house used to be filled with childhood relics – baby dolls and stuffed animals, sound-it-out books for those learning to read for the first time, pint-sized clothes that fit malnourished frames, and the like.

Now – especially since two of our younger foster daughters left our home in January of this year to begin living with a stable Christian aunt – our home is full not of clingy, eyes-wide-because-everything-is-new-and-exciting children, but rather seasoned teenagers who have seen and heard just about everything, and now all that’s left is really believing it with all their heart and putting it into practice. Our two youngest will turn 10 and 11 within the next two months, and our older teens already have their eyes fixed on university goals and desires for marriage someday.

Our eldest daughter has learned to drive our old pickup and now routinely shuttles over a dozen of our teachers and local students to and from our home each day. She turns 18 in just a few months. One of our other teen daughters is now enrolled in a beauty class in our discipleship-based homeschool program and cut my hair not four days ago with the helpful oversight of her instructor. This upcoming week five of our kids will be traveling with my husband Darwin to one of Honduras’ largest cities to participate in a music concert by an internationally-renowned director. They have been preparing for weeks.

I, like our children, used to feel like everything was new and exciting – every new or meaningful encounter, every inquisitive question they asked me about God or His Word, every heart-warming interaction that occurred in our non-traditional family – I wrote it down and felt compelled to share it with the world. I was a heart-on-fire idealist for Christ; I wanted to change the world; I found deep meaning in everything; every day was an adventure.

This current season is not like that. This season is not bad or boring or disappointing; I simply think I’m entering new depths, new understanding that is necessary for this marathon race that I had originally misunderstood to be a sprint (and I definitely did get tired a few hundred meters into the wild dash).

We’re now more organized; our days are largely more predictable than they once were; our kids have less emotional meltdowns; we’ve grown in knowledge of His Word; and we’re now better equipped to handle the many situations thrown at us daily, whereas before most things used to catch us blindsided or throw us off balance.

We’ve invested what the Lord has given us – His Word and His love, material provision, relational availability, counsel, our very lives — in certain people here only to see them eventually turn their back on the Lord and on us. This has been heartbreaking, but after having occurred numerous times it is no longer surprising. We’ve seen people come to the Lord and others stray from their commitment to Him. We’ve seen people we love make God-honoring decisions, and we’ve seen others we love make the worst decision possible even after receiving great amounts of godly counsel. Sometimes our foster teens surprise us with Spirit-led revelation or genuine spiritual hunger in their lives, and at other times I am left frustrated at their selfishness and spiritual coldness (and mine).

Many profound, even tear-jerking things do still occur – and perhaps even more frequently so than before – in our household, and I do still receive revelations from the Lord, but I have not felt as compelled to write. Or perhaps I have not even known where to start.

From age 17 on I filled up one hand-written journal after another – in addition to several hundred pages of written logs on my laptop – as I fervently sought the Lord, asked Him my questions, searched high and low for my life’s calling and reflected on just about every event that unfolded in my daily life. It was through this incessant search – desperate even – that the Lord revealed to me at age 20 that my role in His Kingdom here on earth would be to be a mother to those who have none. With time He has expanded, deepened that call to now include the relational discipleship and integral teaching we dedicate ourselves to in our home for dozens of local youth in addition to the 8 who live in our home.

I had to learn Spanish, and I have learned it. I did not know if I was ever going to get married, but the Lord provided a faithful, loving husband for me (and permanent father for our children who all come from fatherless backgrounds). I had to be willing to give my own life away – give up on my own plans, relinquish my own ‘freedom’ and personal space – and the Lord has given not only me but also my husband the grace to live this lifestyle of radical hospitality in Christ, of Biblical parenthood for the orphaned and abandoned. Our lives are not our own; we are truly walking in our call.

Six or seven years ago there were so many unknowns in my life, so many questions I pleaded God to answer. I was like a little, impatient child tugging on their Father’s pants-leg and staring up at Him, waiting for the answers.

And He’s given them, and by some miracle I have believed – and not only in my heart but also with my life, with actions, with a daily walk. He’s been so generous, so gracious in our errors and mishaps; He has been such a good teacher, a patient Father to us in these first five years in the trenches!

So, my question – however absurd or naïve it may sound – is: now what? Not ‘now what?’ in the sense of we’re-going-to-now-move-to-another-place-and-do-something-entirely-different-with-our-lives, but in the sense of, really, what does the Lord now have for us? Right here, with these same kids who are now teens and in these same little multi-colored buildings where He’s taught us so much already – what is in store for this new season? Is it just more of the same, but a deepening of it, a downward plunge into greater depths of excellence, of wisdom, of divine communion? In many ways I am in need of a new word from Him.

This season has brought and continues to bring many blessings, two of which are the new teen girls who moved in with us late last year and have become integral parts of our family. This has been a new trek – becoming mom all over again, this time to girls well into adolescence who have already had many ‘moms.’ This journey has been beautiful and has proved to bring unexpected joy to our household in addition to the expected trials the girls present and the sacrifice required of my husband Darwin and I to parent them with grace, according to God’s Word.

This year – this season – I teach an advanced math class for 16 teen students in the Christian school we operate out of our home, and I share God’s Word three times weekly in our large group Bible study where we gather in our dining room with about 40 people or so. I teach a dynamic (and pretty funny) karate class on Wednesday afternoons, and I serve in a much less hands-on role administratively in our office this year, making sure all runs smoothly alongside of our dedicated Honduran staff. I handwash our clothes. I water the plants. I share the cooking load with our teenage girls (and our 10-year-old son Jason who loves to work in the kitchen). I listen to Christian sermons and teaching series online in my free time to continue growing. On weekends Darwin and I do maintenance and physical labor chores with our kids around our extensive rural property. We read the Word together as a family. I oversee our kids in their daily chores and academic activities. My husband and I play chauffer for our teens on their way to music and dance classes. I lend a listening ear and a prayerful heart to our local students who oftentimes seek me out to help them in conflict resolution or if they simply want to vent. On an ongoing basis I seek to discern, to listen, to whatever it is that God wants to teach us on this narrow, beautiful path with Him.

So, I’m not sure if this not-so-organized post will prove interesting or noteworthy to anyone who reads it, but I do thank all of you who pray for us and support this work on an ongoing basis. Please know that we continue onward with great faithfulness, and daily ask God to make grow these many seeds we are planting all around us. My writing patterns over the coming months may prove more sporadic as I have not been as led to write all our daily reflections as I have in years past, but this does not indicate that the work in Honduras is faltering or stagnant. We love Christ and daily seek to draw nearer to Him as our very lives are permanently marked with the good news of His salvation. His eternal Kingdom is our goal, and we desperately ask Him to bring to completion the good work He has begun in us.

God bless you.

Friday Spy: My Undercover Photo Shoot of Marimba Players, Pig Pits and More

Several hours after our group Bible study this morning, I grabbed our old-fashioned digital camera and headed undercover (well, not quite) to each of our intensive classes that we hold every Friday for our more mature students. Most of our teens tried to run away or hide their faces when they realized I was taking pictures, but even so I got a few shots that are worth sharing.

The following are photos taken of the following intensive 3-hour classes: Music/Orchestra (piano, violin, recorder, marimba and guitar), English as a second language, and organic agriculture/discipleship. Normally during this early afternoon time-slot there is also a group in community evangelism, but this week that class was cancelled because the local pastor who directs the group is in surgery. Thank you to all of you who support this redemptive work and/or pray for God’s continued guidance and protection over us.

This is Ariel, one of our older local teen boys who comes from a very chaotic, undisciplined home life learning to play the marimba.
These are two of our daughters whom we are in the process of adopting. Musical training – paired with ongoing relational Christian discipleship – is one of our techniques to redeem broken teens and heal them through healthy, dynamic activities for God’s glory.
Paola (left), one of our new foster daughters who moved in with us about six months ago, with a local teen as they learn to play the recorder.
The builders are making great progress on the dining room annex! (For the last couple weeks our community kitchen with its fridge, stove, pantry, etc  has been moved to our front porch! Thank goodness we’ve got a big porch!)

The classes imparted at the Living Waters Ranch are not confined to normal classroom walls: we oftentimes teach outdoors, go on prayer walks with our students, and interact with the beautiful Honduran habitat around our buildings as part of the youth’s integral learning experience.
This is Miss Ligia’s English as a second language class. Everyone got the giggles and tried to hide their faces when I entered with the camera!
Nobody wanted to show their face!
When I got close to her with the camera, she got the giggles! What a beautiful smile!
Now back outside with the beginners’ recorder class on the porch!
This is our new Christian psychologist who is multi-talented! In addition to helping greatly in the integral psychological/spiritual healing of our youth in Christ, she has also been instrumental teaching in the classroom, leading a group of teen girls in twice-weekly prayer time and freely sharing her God-given talents through various outlets.
One of our local Honduran missionaries has a great passion to pair organic agriculture with small-group Christian discipleship, so several of these agriculture/discipleship classes are given throughout the week to the 60 youth in our program who desire to participate. In these photos our 16-year-old foster son Brayan is working with a local teen to dig a 12-foot-deep hole to receive the waste from the pig pen we are building. These activities cultivate work ethic, perseverance and strength of character in our teens in addition to a deepened love of God’s Word.

They’ve been working on this pit for weeks — one rock at a time!
Two of our local teachers/missionaries work alongside of our students to cultivate the land organically as they learn more about their Creator and how to care for His creation.
This is the little plot our kids have been working so hard on. They’ve planted plantains and banana trees here.

After my escapade out in the pasture, I passed back through our front gate and found one of our musicians hard at work in his song notebook.
My last stop: a posed photo with three of our beloved recorder players (our foster daughter Jackeline, far left, and two local teens who have been in our program full-time over two years). Lookin’ good!
Who knew that teenagers could be this cute?
This is our foster daughter Jackeline. She is a talented mathematician, an avid cow-farmer and a great big sister to special-needs Josue. The Lord has done great things to transform her since she first moved in with us over three years ago, and we love her dearly.

 

Nobody else was willing to participate in an impromptu photo shoot, so I headed back across our front lawn to our cinderblock home to finish up my admin duties for the day! God bless you!

A Refuge for Misfits

Yesterday as I was taking four of our foster children to the dentist in the city that lies about a half hour from our rural homestead, my phone rang.

It was my husband: “Three more kids just arrived wanting to enroll in our homeschool program this year.”

I breathed deep, knowing that the number of local children and teens who had already enrolled in these past few weeks had greatly surpassed any established limit we would have liked to set. A few days prior I had shuffled through all the enrollment papers in our office, assuming the sum total would be up around 50, about 10 or 15 more than last year.

But my eyes grew wide as I saw that the count was 63. Considering our limited resources and experience, we decided to close the enrollment period. 63 students — almost all of whom come from devastating backgrounds — would be more than enough, seeing as we were facing almost double the amount of students we finished last year with in November.

And then the next day three more local students arrived at our front gate and I felt God lead me to accept them (despite my own personal preferences). 66!

Now Darwin is calling me about three more! We’re getting close to 70, and we don’t have the tables, chairs or really the classroom space to comfortably have so many people running around our home! Help!

Darwin gave me more details about the prospective new students: “It’s a single dad who is raising his three kids because his wife left him when he had a stroke several years ago. He’s unable to work and lives in a room in a little church where a local pastor is economically supporting him and his three children.”

Then there was a moment of silence over the phone as we both considered what this meant.

God has placed us in our rural neighborhood stricken by deep poverty and suffering for this exact purpose: to shine as Christ’s lights in the darkness and extend the love and mercy of God to this hurting corner of the world. If this disabled single father does not fit within the parameters of the mission the Lord has given us, then I’m not sure who does. Surely we must accept them.

Darwin continued: “…And there’s one more as well. It’s a teen boy who’s on his way to ninth grade and last year was unable to study at the local high school because he didn’t have the money to do so. He’s very eager to learn but hasn’t had the opportunity to do so.”

Even in the midst of my own fears and desire for control (and love of small numbers), I breathed deeply – a streak of excitement passing through my chest as I contemplated all the lost and broken people the Lord is entrusting us for healing, “Of course; bring them all in,” I answered over the phone as I zipped down the highway. That was the answer God had placed on both of our hearts.

Teenagers – always more teenagers! The group of young people the Lord has sent us this year is turning out to be quite a ragtag bunch (and that’s just the way we want it). There are many private schools in our area who look for the best, most well-behaved students with good credentials and decent family backgrounds. Our search is just about the opposite: we look for and receive those on the farthest margins, those who are likely within a short distance of falling into gangs or becoming local vagabonds (if they aren’t already).

This year we’re receiving a young man who is already in his early twenties who will be entering third grade with us and another third-grade student who is a teen on the cusp of 15 or 16 years old who is a notorious vagabond in our area with bright purple-died hair who has tried school several times but has thus far always dropped out. We have hope that this time God will give him the perseverance and grace to finish the year, and maybe even several more after that.

Another teen is entering who finished primary school five years ago and dropped out of school since then. He’s now 16 and will be entering 7th grade with us. What made him want to enroll in a God-fearing community homeschool program that is heavy on discipline, love and truth when all that he’s been accustomed to is probably the opposite? Why not continue roaming our neighborhood aimlessly or simply enroll in the local public high school, where everything is easier and cheating/corruption are easily overlooked? We have no idea, but we thank God that this young man and roughly 70 others will be willingly exposed to God’s Word and the truth of His love day after day under our guidance.

There are many other similar stories – many fatherless children and teens who will be entering our school where they will finally have loving, Christian adult males to lead them; many coming from malnutrition and deep poverty who physically look several years younger than they actually are; others who come from the public school system discouraged and rejected after years of trying to learn and failing. The Lord is creating a small, beautiful haven for misfits, and He will be the one to fortify this work, for He is the one who brought so many young people to us.

I contemplated all this as I drove up the long gravel road to our home the other day. Crossing through our rural neighborhood I saw one of our new male students – a 15-year-old who will be entering 6th grade after having been a local vagabond for the past several years – meandering around the streets on his bike. I gave him a double-honk from inside our car to greet him, and then all of a sudden he changed course and began darting up the path in front of my old pickup truck as fast as he could.

This particular young man has had quite a bit of contact with us this month, even coming up to our home to participate in our riotous P.E. classes with our teachers (as in, our teachers are the students). Darwin had met him several months ago when he took our kids to a local field to play soccer, and he’s been developing a relationship with him ever since.

I smiled and continued driving onward, me now following him as he began pedaling as fast as he could up the slighting inclined path to our home. The car continued to rumble along as he passed as quickly as he could over uneven terrain, rocks and puddles so as to keep his lead on me. Were we in a race? I didn’t think so. I had no idea what was happening, but I enjoyed the game and he seemed really intent on beating me to our gate.

Making the last turn up to our property, our home and the majestic mountains just beyond now in full eyesight, the young man finally reached his destination, threw his bike to one side in one fluid motion and pulled open our front gate, panting and smiling big.

I rolled down my window as I directed the car to pass through the opening. Leaning over to greet the young victor, I thanked him for opening the gate for me. Had he really gone out of his way and beat me up the path just for that? Just to show me an act of kindness? Surely he must have had other business up here…

Still panting, he informed me through my open window: “I wanted to come open the gate for you!” An enormous smile flooded the precious, soon-to-be ex-vagabond’s face.

Chills ran through my body as I suddenly realized I was the recipient of a very extravagant display of friendship and favor. I immediately thanked God in my heart, feeling that the good work in this young man’s life had already begun, and that He used this simple boy to even touch my own heart with His love.

I pulled all the way through the gate; he closed it behind me; and he was off. Mission accomplished!

Many young boys in disadvantaged Honduran neighborhoods such as ours begin working with local gangs from about age 10 on, participating in horrible crimes and Satanic worship perhaps for lack of a better place to belong. Our 16-year-old foster son Brayan (whom we are in the process of legally adopting), has commented to us several times that if God had not placed us in his path when he was 12 years old, he would probably belong to a gang by now or be dead. So, we thank God that he is bringing in the vagabonds and lost young men and women who very well may be within a yard of Hell, and we praise Him that He’s brining them home, bringing them to a knowledge and experience of God’s love for them through Christ.

Please pray with us for this increasing group of children and teens whom the Lord has entrusted us as we are finishing off our preparations for the new year of discipleship and integral education that will begin Monday, February 5th.

God bless you!

Hot Tea With a Special Guest: January 2018 Updates and Prayer Requests

Thank you to all of those who have been lifting us up in prayer. We have seen several marked differences in our household and an overall calming down of the rough waves we had passed through. Thank you for asking our Father that His peace might reign and rule in our hearts. Please continue to pray for my ongoing battle with insomnia, as these last six weeks or so have been incredibly difficult and I’ve spent the majority of each night wide awake and unable to sleep more than a couple hours. (During the ensuing daytime hours I struggle with dizziness, discouragement and extreme fatigue.) This greatly affects my focus, energy, mood, etc (and not to mention the way I interact with and invest in all those around me), so I humbly ask for prayer and healing on this account. Thank you.

During this month of January we’ve been engaging in a variety of activities as we’re gearing up for a new year of community discipleship and integral education that will officially commence on February fifth. This month we’ve been offering daily intensive math and reading tutoring for our new high school students, one-on-one literacy classes to Geraldina (Sandra’s mom), various small-scale construction and property maintenance projects, general administration, house visits and evangelism in our rural neighborhood, many prayer meetings and times of fine-tuning our vision with our local missionaries, P.E. classes with our teachers (this has been hilarious!), etc.

Below are photos taken during the recent visit of Kyshia, a beloved missionary and blossoming friend of ours who has served the Lord in Honduras over 30 years and raised 17 abandoned/orphaned Honduran children as part of her life’s work. She lives in the capital city of Tegucigalpa and made the 7-hour drive up to our home to listen to, counsel and pray with all of our kids and local missionaries individually. She had a ‘tea party’ with each one and was able to reach down deep into each one’s heart and touch them with God’s love. She has an extremely special sense of humor and had us all rolling with laughter almost non-stop as she stayed in our guest house for a few days with her 30-year-old special-needs foster son who she is still taking care of. This is an ongoing relationship we are hoping to cultivate on a regular basis over the coming years as the Lord begins to use her as an integral member in His ministry in this little corner of the world. (She even took care of our 10 kids one evening so that Darwin and I could get away for a date! Not many people are capable of adequately handling our rowdy bunch, but she definitely could because she has the experience!) I hope you enjoy the photos.

God bless you in this new year, and thank you again for praying for and supporting the Lord’s work in and through us.

Our 9-year-old special needs son Josue looking for extra sugar at the bottom of his cup in his ‘tea party’ with Kyshia

Carminda, our night watchman’s wife, in her counseling and prayer time with Kyshia
Erick, who serves alongside of his wife not only at the Living Waters Ranch but also during his nights and weekends out of his own home in our rural neighborhood as they relationally disciple many rogue youth who are looking for guidance and hope in Christ
Aracely, Erick’s wife who is now serving alongside of us part-time and who has been a powerful instrument of blessing in our kids’ lives over the past several years as their ‘aunt’
Reina, one of our local teachers who is entering her second year of service with us, in her time of rest and renewal with Kyshia
Geraldina, a local woman who has an extremely powerful testimony in the Lord. Her teenage daughter (Sandra) found refuge in our home two years ago as Geraldina knew her daughter was in danger due to an out-of-control step-father. Geraldina, who due to circumstances and extreme poverty never went to school and has lived under the yoke of abusive relationships since childhood, has since left the abusive man (which in this culture is extremely difficult if not impossible for an illiterate woman with four kids), has begun working with us first part-time and now full-time, has recovered her teenage daughter, and has since purchased a small plot of land and constructed a decent home for her and her four children to live in. The abusive ex-husband has sought her out non-stop over the past two years and even threatened her on numerous occasions, but her faith in the Lord has been her shield against him. She is a very humble, strong woman with a sincere faith in Christ who is coming out of her shell as she’s been included in our community where God’s love is manifested daily. She is now in intensive tutoring sessions with one of our teachers in order to learn to read and write for the first time in her life, and it has literally been amazing to see her transformation over the past two years since we met her. Please give thanks to God with us for all that He’s done in her life.
Our kids in an art activity with Kyshia while Darwin and I were away on our date


Glory to God!

A Story From the Frontlines: Urgent Prayer Request for Peace in Honduras

Today we walked over the black, burnt ground where the flaming tires and trees had burnt to ashes. Dozens of armed Honduran military agents lined the bridge, stone-faced like statues as rioters and political protesters gathered close by, screaming and waving flags. A large crowd had even formed a circle as one man beat a drum and began screaming out his hatred for a certain politician and his love for another. We walked carefully over the burnt ground, our shoes acquiring the sticky black tar from burnt tires as we asked God silently where our entry point would be. After all, at this same bridge there had been a dangerous riot the day prior, and a 9-year-old boy had been shot and killed.

This photo along with all the others on this post were taken by a local onlooker and later found on Facebook. The woman in this photo is Isis, one of our teachers, as we were crossing the bridge.

We had awoken this morning at 2:30am with great enthusiasm, for we would be heading with 7 of our teens to a beautiful campground several hours away where many Christian retreats are held year-round. We had packed our bags with great joy in our hearts — the event promised to be fun, organized, and well-suited to the spiritual growth of our teens. We had attended the same event last year with two of our faithful teachers, and the conference had been full of dynamic teamwork activities, times of praise and worship, group activities designed around God’s Word, and a late-night bonfire complete with skits. Thus, yesterday was a day of packing suitcases, planning logistics and getting hyped-up emotionally, as we had been anticipating the event for weeks.

Well, we never got there. Any and all plans we had carefully sketched out for this day were completed wiped off our schedule, and God put before us an entirely different course of events.

There is currently much political unrest in Honduras, as the announcing of the new president after the recent elections has taken longer than expected in addition to there being suspected fraud in the counting of votes. The news stream is full of devastating counts of protests, break-ins at local businesses, the burning of tires and blockades at many of the major bridges along the highway. Many people are mad and have taken to the streets, and it doesn’t seem like they’re going to be leaving any time soon.

So yesterday with much prayer (and hopeful spirits) we decided to go ahead and try to attend the conference, fully knowing that many of the bridges we would need to pass might possibly be blockades. Our plan: get up super early and try to beat the protesters (hoping they would sleep late and we would thus be able to slip past them in the wee hours of the morning on our merry way as we would drive past their empty protest stands).

All was going as planned for the first hour-and-a-half of our journey, as we zipped quietly down the only highway that parallels the northern coast of Honduras as it seemed that the rioters were still sleeping. We passed nine blockage points where the day prior people had cut down large trees and laid them out in the middle of the road as obstacles, but with a careful eye (and a strong brake on the car), they were avoided easily enough as we maneuvered around the lifeless obstacles in our path. At the couple roadblocks where there were a few lone policemen and tired on-lookers, we simply asked permission to pass and they let us through. Our car was packed to the brim with backpacks, props for our skit, snacks for the journey, and worship music playing on the inside of our pickup’s cabin. It looked like our plan just might work: we just might be able to slip by all the drama unnoticed, arriving at our destination before the day’s promised chaos commenced anew.

Around 5:00am or so we came upon a standstill on the highway. There were dozens of 18-wheelers completely stopped. With optimism still brimming in our hearts, I left our car with its emergency blinkers on and bounded out of the vehicle, jogging up ahead to try to see what the situation looked like and what we needed to do to pass our tenth obstacle.

As I reached a couple blocks ahead, there was an 18-wheeler parked completely perpendicular across the bridge, forming a rather formidable blockade that could not be passed by any vehicle. I approached the rather large group of men stationed at the roadblock with confidence and sincerity, greeting them and informing them that I had come in peace and simply desired to pass in order to attend a Christian conference with 7 of my kids and two of our teachers. The men — several of whom had their faces covered with rags or wore Satanic-looking masks — began asking for money and other gifts and started to form a semi-circle around me, affirming that they wouldn’t be letting anyone pass anytime soon. I suddenly realized that this roadblock would not be like those which we had crossed thus far. This had to be one of those violence-hungry gangs that wreak so much havoc in this country but that (in my world) seem to float about as ghosts, committing their crimes in darkness and disguise, as I had never really seen them face-to-face. Sensing danger in my spirit — but no fear of man — I politely thanked them for listening to my request and promptly began jogging away and back toward our vehicle.

After about an hour-and-a-half of waiting and praying (and uniting with other people like us who were on journeys home or out-of-town for business, with family, etc), we decided it most wise to try to return home before the previous 9 roadblocks were taken anew, lest we get stranded somewhere in between all the chaos and thus unable to arrive at the conference or back home. During this standstill process of discernment, the Lord led us to pray with one of the gang members who had previously denied our passage, as he approached us alone and began conversing. After doing so — and offering him food and drink after having spent the entire night “protecting the bridge,” we decided carefully along with another fellow traveller to try to brave the roads and return home. Other drivers had informed us that they had already been waiting at that same bridge 2-3 days without any budge, and they were forced to get hotels and go buy clothes and food for the prolonged wait. Once two gunshots went off close to where our vehicles sat, we took that as our cue and began zipping back down the road we had just braved in order to return home.

In all of this (and however crazy it all sounds), we had perfect peace and not once felt fear. That is the Lord’s work. (Alas, how many times recently has the Lord led us to the Scriptures about not fearing man; we are to fear the Lord alone. To read it and not put it into practice would be complete hypocrisy! Yes; we do not fear the gang members, but dare to recognize that Christ died for them as much as He died for us, and He longs for them to be saved and transformed with His love.)

And so we returned, this time not in the darkness of the wee hours of the morning but in the ever-increasing light of day. It was about 7:00am when we safely arrived home, encountering only a slight problem in one of the last of the 10 barriers, as rioters had taken up their post (all with their faces covered), and had lit many tires on fire and had completely blocked the passageway. With a little bit of polite convincing, they let us pass, but it was in no way a peaceful roadblock. As the sun was gaining strength in the sky above, so the anger of the rioters was gaining force as the day was only just beginning.

We arrived safely home, thanking God for his protection along the way and honestly not at all disappointed that we couldn’t attend the conference (I believe the Lord consoled us in this and provided us with His constant joy despite the circumstances, as we really had been very excited about attending).

Upon arrival, we gathered — my husband Darwin, our kids and our two teachers — in our barebones dining room at the base of the mountain and decided to pray. To pray for peace, for the rioters to stop and for a president to be declared (and for that president to be filled with the fear of the Lord and God’s perfect justice, that he might govern this suffering country with honor). We bowed our heads and prayed earnest prayers, asking for God’s mercy over Honduras and thanking Him for conserving our lives in what could have potentially been a devastating situation.

As we finished praying, we began singing many hymns and songs of praise, worshipping He who already is our president and King, He who need not be elected by men and who will be overthrown by no mortal. We declared our love for God around that rustic wooden table even as many rioters all around the country were continuing onward in their scandals, fires and protests.

During a song, eyes closed, I felt the Lord spoke to me and told me that our day wasn’t through yet. Even after getting up at 2:30am and having spent the last five hours dodging obstacles and trying to complete our road trip in vain, there was real work God had for us (beyond prayer). Prayer is good and appropriate, but we are also to be the hands and feet of Christ to a broken world, to take the good news of peace to those who still live in darkness. He placed a very clear command upon my heart: “Go to the rioters. Share My Word and My love with them.”

On a day when all sane, peace-seeking people stayed home, holed up in their homes in order to avoid any stray bullets or unneeded confrontations with unhappy political patrons, God sent us out. I immediately communicated this to those around me, and four of our more mature teens and our two teachers agreed to go with me. After arriving safely home (and having every reason to stay there), God was immediately sending us back out into the storm. Today was, after all, perhaps a day when the message of peace and salvation was most needed. We emptied out our car of all our backpacks and headed out with virtually nothing other than our Bibles. We would see where the Lord would lead us, as surely we wouldn’t have to go far to find people desperately in need of a message of peace.

As we passed the mile-long gravel road from our home leading back out to the main highway (where we had just come from), we decided to return to the last blockade we had passed on our way home, where there had been over a dozen masked, angry men lighting fires across the highway. We headed out in silence, driving about 10 minutes or so before seeing them on the horizon and slowing down, our hearts contemplative and yearning for God to give us the right words to say (and, for the men, ears to hear).

We parked our car carefully about 50 yards away, slowly got out of our vehicle, hands raised in signs of peace, and began walking carefully toward the flames and the masked men. The police had already arrived and were standing idly nearby, serving virtually zero purpose and they neither intervened nor supported the protesters. They were more like well-dressed onlookers in a very official vehicle.

We greeted the policemen warmly, as a couple of them we had seen before on prior occasions, and we asked if we could draw closer to the rioters in order to share God’s Word with them. They agreed, and we shouted friendly, careful greetings from a distance to the angry men, who by now were all watching us and on-guard for any foul play they thought we might pull.

I shouted to them that we came in peace, belonged to no political party, and simply wanted to share with them God’s Word. I asked if they would let us get closer to them.

Their defensive posture immediately changed as the leader agreed and invited us to draw nearer to the blockade, thus being able to converse freely with those whom most fear.

We approached as the masked men, several women and children, and other participants suddenly formed a great circle around us, curious as to what we would say to them.

We affirmed that we came in peace and were sent by God, and they said that they remembered when we had passed (and were undoubtedly surprised that we had returned). We introduced ourselves by name, asking the names of each present, and that broke the ice pretty well. Some of the masked men even began taking their masks off, while a couple others lost interest and continued adding more tires to the fire and shouting every time a car would approach. We were standing close to the blockade — the flames warmed our faces — off to the side of the highway with those who were interested in learning the truth, while the ruckus of the world’s lies for power and control continued onward not ten feet away.

The Lord gave us many words for those precious people as we shared the gospel of truth, the gospel of a good, forgiving God with them during this time of such political unrest. We read aloud great portions of the book of Romans and shared openly with them of our faith in Christ, that He — and no human president — is all humanity’s true hope at justice. Three of our kids (Dayana, Brayan and Jackeline) even shared wisdom and godly perspective with them, and one of our teachers also encouraged them in the way of Christ.

Some came and went, but two men — one of whom was middle-aged and had been the closed-off leader of the group at the beginning — stayed with us the entire time, eyes wide and hearts seemingly open. No one was forcing them to listen; we were simply sharing with them the good news that every human heart longs to hear. At the end we asked if we could pray for them, and several agreed. We even put our hands on them, assuring them that we carried no weapon other than that which is the most powerful of all — God’s love. At the end of our time together we shook hands and bid our farewells as we reminded them once more that God loves them and that there is a more excellent way than that of political aspirations and highway violence.

As we turned and left, we felt full of God’s joy albeit with a heavy heart. We got back in the car and continued to drive in silence, wondering where God would lead us next. It was definitely the first adventure of its kind for us, and at the most delicate of times. Yet we were at total peace and not once felt fear of the rioters.

Next we found the newly constructed blockade in our own neighborhood as we travelled those 10 minutes back down the highway. Masked protesters were everywhere, and several neighbors of ours were present, either as on-lookers or participants. There was a great cloud of black smoke rising up from the burning tires, and rocks and wood blockades had been put in place. Everyone was chanting about a certain politician, and — like in any other place — the situation was increasingly delicate.

As in the prior location, we carefully approached on foot and asked if we could share God’s Word with the people. They quickly agreed through their masks, and we decided to look for a stool of some kind to stand up on in order for the people to be able to hear us better, for there were many more people present here and much more dispersed. A local woman lent us a chair, and we took turns standing on it as we read Jesus’ teachings on loving our enemies as God loved us even when we were His enemies. We spoke loudly and lovingly of Honduras’ need for God’s love — that our hope must not be in any man (politician or otherwise) but rather in that of the living God, and we must obey His command to love our enemies. After all, so many look to a president or other type of leader to make a great change or heal the nation, but the change begins with each and every one of us as we drop to our knees before God in repentance. That is what will change this nation; the burning of tires and an excess of road blockages (not to mention other forms of violence experienced in these last few days all around the nation) will not bring about that change that so many citizens long for. Many people — most of whom were middle-aged men — listened attentively, as others passed by nonchalantly or cared little for the truth we were sharing. We concluded the sharing of God’s Word with a prayer for peace over our nation, and then we were on our way.

Our last stop would be that of the main bridge passageway into La Ceiba, about 30 minutes away (the trip made much longer due to the detour we had to take to avoid the road blockage along the main highway exiting our neighborhood). That was where the 9-year-old boy had been killed the day prior and where the majority of the violence was focused. We breathed deep, wondering if it was foolish to head straight-on into such a boiling pit of hatred and confusion but at the same time fully assured that those were the people who most desperately needing the message of peace.

A photo taken today by a Honduran citizen of the bridge we were approaching

We arrived and parked far away, walking carefully along the main road over fallen wires and much, much black ash. Some of our kids had acquired the sticky tar-like substance on their faces, and our noses burned with the unpleasant smell. People were everywhere, more so than in either of our previous two stops.

We stopped several times as we approached the bridge, consulting among ourselves as to where we should start. There was no way we would be able to talk with everyone at once, as there we factions of armed soldiers, police, and dozens of enthusiastic rioters. It looked like a war zone that at any point might break out in total chaos (as, in fact, had occurred the day prior). Everyone was on edge, and there were many onlookers.

As we stood on the side of the highway, unsure with whom to share the message (and how, without provoking the people’s anger), I asked God in my heart to show me who to talk to. During this short time, the screaming (and chanting) protesters invited us into their group and shuttled us across the highway, probably believing we had come to support them. They waved flags and chanted insults as we smiled politely and kept our mouths shut. We walked carefully among them, sensing that we would not be able to get a word in with their group, and in that moment I felt like God showed me a lone soldier at the end of the bridge who was unoccupied.

We crossed the highway again in the midst of many people and vehicles as I asked the solider if we could speak with him. Defensive and possibly scared, he asked what we wanted to talk about. We informed him that we wanted to share God’s Word with him and give a message of peace in turbulent times. His guard immediately dropped and he agreed.

At the time I believed it might have been only with this one soldier that we would have an open door, as everyone else was so dispersed and carefully supervising their respective group. I thanked God in my heart of hearts that this young soldier was open to hearing the truth, fully convinced that every life counts and that to even touch one person’s life is worth it. Maybe we had come to this busy bridge to share the gospel with this one young soldier.

The soldier quickly went to consult with the others lining the bridge, all fully armed and on guard, and he informed us, “I’ll call everyone over so that you can share the message with the whole group.”

They were going to abandon their post! My mouth dropped slightly open, as we had never arrived ‘prepared’ with a message but rather continuously asked God to put the right words in our mouths. Talk with the whole army? Oh, God, give us the words!

Within moments dozens of the fully armed, uniformed men left the bridge and walked down a small slope where they would be able to hear us. Others — some soldiers, some protesters and others uninvolved onlookers — began gathering above and behind us as we began to read aloud from the book of First John. God is love, and He showed us this love by sending Christ to die for us. If we say that we love God, we must also love people (even our enemies).

This is another photo an onlooker took that we later found posted on Facebook.

People kept coming — without anyone ever making an official announcement — as we read aloud nearly the whole book of First John, encouraging the people to receive God’s love and forgiveness through Christ and to begin showing it to one another. This is God’s perfect will; this is the path to peace. Many more continued to come, leaning to listen a message of peace in violent times. Alas, the opposing groups had come together — the soldiers and the rioters — but not in confrontation but rather as equal recipients of the truth of God, ears open as God’s love was being poured out.

As in the two prior cases, we will never know who truly listened to the message and what God will do with those seeds of truth that were sown today. On several occasions throughout the day I felt on the verge of weeping, and I’m still not entirely sure why — perhaps for joy or out of gratitude that God allowed us to enter the war zone as His messengers of peace or perhaps with fear and trembling, pleading that the words we spoke really were His words and that they will take deep root and give fruit for God’s glory. This we will never know, as the majority of the people we saw today we may never see again.

As we finished sharing the good news of peace near that tension-packed bride, our 16-year-old son Brayan (who himself aspires to be a soldier and/or a missionary) prayed over the soldiers and common folk with a simple, honest prayer asking for God’s will to be done and for the people to put their hope in Him rather than in a president who will never be able to live up to our expectations. He prayed for peace. And then we left, on foot as we crossed that bridge and went to drop one of our teachers off at her home. None of us were scheduled to return from the conference until Sunday evening, but this was the ‘conference’ that God had in mind all along. To be His peacemakers on the front lines of enemy territory.

As we crossed the bridge again, having left our teacher in her home, one local man who had heard us preach approached us and asked that we continue, as he affirmed that the gospel is for the people’s salvation and they must hear it. He was very sincere and encouraged us to continue sharing.

The man in the front was the one who told us to continue sharing God’s Word. (This photo, like all the others, was taken by a local onlooker at today’s events and later posted on Facebook. We personally took no photos during our trip.)

At that point another man, a rioter on the brink of taking control of the bridge with his angry crew, began shouting, “Get God’s Word out of here! We don’t want God’s Word here!” It sent chills down my spine, not because I feared that man but because that is, in fact, the attitude at large in the world today. We shake an angry fist at the eternally good God and scream in our own misery, “Get God’s Word out of here! We don’t want Him in our lives!” If only we truly believed that He came to give life in abundance and joyfully submitted our lives to His perfect will, we would finally experience that joy and peace that we so long for (and seek in all the wrong places).

So, politely disregarding the man who despised God’s Word, we took up a spot on the edge of the highway and continued onward preaching the message of repentance and God’s love as several ears received. Then we continued walking onward, largely in silence, as we approached our vehicle and began the long drive home. We had been up since 2:30am that morning, and it was then close to 2:00pm once we had finished the rounds the Lord had sent us on. We felt spent, exhausted, like soldiers after coming back from war. Joyful. Hopeful. Grateful. Fearless.

And so we share this with you as we ask for prayer right now for Honduras. There is great unrest, and we ask in Jesus’ name that you pray with us that God would illuminate the minds of those who are causing the violence and bring them to repentance so that there might be peace in this country. We pray against all political fraud and corruption, and that God might choose the right person for the presidency and fill that person with His wisdom and justice in order to govern with dignity. We pray also that God might send out other Christians to the streets during these times to preach the gospel as so many are in dire need of hearing the truth. Thank you for your prayers. God bless you.

A Need Powerfully Supplied: The Mysterious Ways of the Living God

Several days ago, God spoke powerfully through us in our community Bible study time about the passage in Matthew 25 regarding the coming of Christ and how He will judge the nations. Everyone will get split up in one of two groups: those who showed compassion to the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the sick, and the imprisoned; and those who didn’t. This passage might be well-known by most Christians and even potentially overlooked or minimized in its importance, but it provides striking clarity on the heart of Christ for the marginalized (and just where our heart should be as well). He says that those who took in the homeless (or orphaned or widowed); those who went to visit the sick and imprisoned; those who shared their food (and time, love) with the hungry and thirsty were not merely fulfilling some noble notion of ‘charity’ or even reaching some high moral standard. Christ said that as we’ve done unto the most vulnerable, we’ve done unto Him.

Now that’s huge.

To feed the hungry or to take in an abandoned teen or to visit and pray for those in prison is not to ‘be a good person’ or even live some moral ideal of compassion for the human race; Christ Himself (and this is a mystery that we cannot understand) is found in the needy, and He will judge us at the end of the world according to the times we’ve paid attention to Him and met His needs or by the ways we’ve ignored, overlooked and rejected Him, preferring to meet our own needs and live for the luxuries of this world rather than loving Him by loving those who suffer. To love the poor is to love Christ in disguise. Wow. This is how we can touch the heart of God.

So that (in very few words) is what we’ve been learning in our community Bible study time that we have every morning with our 10 foster kids, our local teachers/missionaries, our 30 local students, a few neighbors, my husband and me. We gather in a big circle (or more like an entirely imperfect rectangle) on wooden benches. No frills, no microphone, no stage, no professionally-made signs and banners. We simply come together as fellow human beings (of all ages) made in the image of God who desperately want to know the truth, to experience Christ and to live for Him rather than to live for the lies the world offers.

To be a Christian is to really follow Christ; to seek Him out in His many disguises; to live a life fully given over to the ways of justice and far removed from the lagoon of sin and selfishness. To live in such a way is eternally rich far beyond money; to trust in God in such a way (and to be used by Him to touch not only the heart of humanity but God’s very own heart!) is truly worth our very lives.

Warning: this post is going to be pretty long. (Go grab a cup of coffee, or stop reading and miss out on the best part!)

In these past few weeks God has been instructing us in just what it means to live for Christ. It is not (as many might believe) to live by a list of rules or to live listing off all that we don’t do; to avoid the bad (but also neglect the good). To live with and for Christ is to be led by the Living God to lose it all in this world in order to gain it all in the next; to die to ego and selfish desires in order to be filled with the richness of Christ, even now in our mortal bodies. Many people have a very low view of what it means to be ‘Christian,’ so God has been leading us deeper into the richness of what it means to truly follow Christ (and not simply attend church once or twice or six times per week and continue living like everyone else in the world).

As the hour-long Bible study time came to an end several days ago, our 14-year-old daughter Jackeline approached me, visibly shaken, and asked to speak with me in private. It was not really the right time, as everyone was supposed to go to their respective prayer groups, and that day I was going to take on about 10 teen girls to cover one of our teachers who was unable to be present that morning because she had to take her daughter to the hospital.

I eyed Jackeline wondering what potential catastrophic news she was going to share with me (alas, our kids — and especially our teenage girls — frequently ask to speak with me in private, and sometimes what they reveal can be downright troubling). I began to speak my objections, but in her eyes I saw a certain desperation and she reiterated, “I really need to talk with you in private. Now.

Did it have to do with a boy? What on earth could she have to share with me that couldn’t wait another minute?  I felt my blood pressure rise.

I sighed deeply and told the other girls who were waiting for me to go to another prayer group because I would be speaking in private with Jackeline. The girls looked confused (as probably did I), and I walked somberly with Jackeline from our large dining room where we had just studied God’s Word over to our little orange-colored cinderblock home not a stone’s throw away. I prayed silently that God would give me the strength to properly address whatever urgent news Jackeline was about to tell me even as I fought off the anxiousness that wanted to flood my veins.

We passed into the bedroom my husband and I share (the quiet, private place where most of our more intimate conversations with our kids occur), and she immediately sat down on the little purple couch-chair wedged in the corner and I sat on the tile floor in front of her, my heart beating fairly quickly and unsure what to expect. She looked deeply moved or on the verge of some kind of breakdown; it was hard to tell which.

I looked up at her and waited. She began gushing words, “I feel…like God spoke to me this morning in the Bible study. And…all the money I’ve been saving for the future…I feel like God wants me to take it all out and share it with the needy — to buy food for the hungry. God really touched my heart this morning, and I don’t want to live for myself. I want to seek out how to love Christ, visit the sick. I felt like God revealed to me how I can really love Him! I really want to do it, to go into downtown La Ceiba to find the homeless and the drug addicts — maybe we can make bags of food for them — and share with them who Christ is. We have to go!

All her words came rushing out like a river with a particularly strong current, and then she began crying.

I blinked a couple times, completely relieved that what she had to share with me wasn’t bad news at all (there was no confession of some secret boyfriend or any other bad deed done!), and at the same time I rejoiced in my heart of hearts for the beautiful work the Lord continues to etch out in our daughter. What a wonderful talk in private. Yes; let’s have more of these! Praise God!

I extended an arm towards her, and she came tumbling — or rather melting — off the couch and into my arms as I held her in a long hug.

Once she calmed down — alas, I believe it was for joy that she was crying — she reassumed her position on the couch and began sharing with me the rest of her conviction, “Today I have evangelism class. We’re gonna head out in like 20 minutes to go visit people’s houses and pray with people — ”

I nodded and smiled, still completely content (and more than pleasantly surprised) with her new God-designed attitude. It was true that she was in our new “Evangelism” class, and she would be heading out with four of our other foster children, a couple local students and two teachers to spend three hours sharing God’s Word in our destitute neighborhood. This was a new class (really not a class at all but rather a growth activity in the school of real life with Christ) that the Lord had led us to create at the end of our school year, and a group of our more spiritually mature teenagers had enlisted. Rather than dedicating their morning to one more academic pursuit, they wanted to go reach the lost in the same way that they had been reached.

Jackeline continued as I listened, “And, I feel like we’re not supposed to go visit people that we already know, but rather those who are completely lost — the sick, those with AIDS.”

She was speaking full of passion, and I was just trying to soak it all in, giving thanks in my heart once more for His active work in each of our lives.

Then, unexpectedly, “And, this morning when you were teaching about how we are to share our food with the hungry — there are so many people without food, and if we feed them we are feeding Christ Himself! — I feel like God wants us to take the food out of our pantry this morning and go share it with the poor people we’re going to visit.”

I felt like a somewhat unpleasant shock had been sent through my veins (or, perhaps more accurately, a train had blindsided me), and for some reason — probably out my ego’s desire to defend itself — I almost felt like throwing my head back and laughing out loud sarcastically. Go give our food away? Again?! Had we not just emptied our pantry not two weeks prior? After our miracle dinner, inevitably I had to go back to the grocery store in the ensuing days to replenish the lost rice, beans, eggs, etc. It was never in our budget to do so, especially with the pending adoption fees which we still were nowhere close to being able to pay! How could we possibly keep giving away all of our food when we have so many other legitimate financial needs? Could this really be from the Lord? If we keep having to go buy more food (because we keep giving it all away), how on earth will we pay the adoption lawyer? Oh, God, help us! (And please stop leading us toward such radical acts of obedience!)

The breath taken out of my lungs as those thoughts of self-protection hammered my mind, I stared at Jackeline, my face frozen in fear and hesitation. She leaned in toward me, eyes full of sincerity and faith, waiting for my permission. She even looked slightly perplexed at why it was taking me so long to respond. I was, after all, the one who had given the Bible study that morning, who had called the youth to live this radical lifestyle of faith in Christ, going beyond what is comfortable in order to live completely given over to God! To share your food and lose your life for Christ! Oh, what a hypocrite I would be now if I refused that which the Lord had prompted in our precious daughter. 

The objections came to my mind again — The adoption! Jennifer! Do you not remember that you need to find (and who knows from where!) that huge lump sum in order to make your beloved children forever yours! God has called you to this adoption; how dare you squander your money on these crazy food giveaways and forsake the adoption! The lawyer is doing a phenomenal job and very soon she will be asking for her first payment; and you have nothing! Don’t be a fool!

I swallowed and began answering carefully, encouraged by my daughter’s faith and praying that God would grant me the same, “Wonderful. Yes. I’m so grateful that God is speaking to you in so many ways and that you are being joyfully obedient. Go into our pantry and take what is most necessary. Eggs. Beans. Rice. Go bless the people for love of God. I’m so proud of you.”

She squealed with delight, gave me a big hug, and then she was off. Off to tell her two leaders of the news — that they would not only be visiting people to share God’s Word, but that they would also be able to bless each poverty-stricken household with a provision of food. They would be putting into immediate practice that which they had learned that morning.

I remained sitting on my bedroom floor for a few moments, heavy with material loss and at the same time fully thankful, trusting. But it wasn’t easy.

I then got up, praying to God that I had made the right decision (even as I knew I had), and headed wearily over to our kitchen. As I stood at our sink — staring out at the majestic mountains just beyond  — I could see Jackeline in my peripheral vision enthusiastically emptying out the huge sack of beans I had just gone to purchase and carefully shuttling out all the cartons of eggs. In my waning faith, I could see money being poured out, leaving our hands even as I knew that God would use it to bless others. But us? The adoption? I would once again need to go to the grocery store to buy food to replenish that which was so joyfully given away, and that would be money that we wouldn’t be able to put toward adopting our kids. I felt heavy, albeit joyful.

Seeing our beloved daughter so joyfully giving away all our food (for the second time in like two weeks), I turned away, literally feeling like I could not watch. May God bless our evangelism team in their obedience to give freely, because right now I certainly cannot do so.

For the last several weeks — ever since we had felt confirmation from God in regards to choosing a highly experienced adoption lawyer — our cry to God has been for the financial provision to complete the process. The lawyer is giving us an over 60% discount from what she normally charges, but even so the payment was way beyond our reach. We had gathered with our children to pray on more than one occasion, asking God for the funds. We had considered selling our milking cows in order to pay for part of the adoption, and then they were unexpectedly killed by cattle thieves. After weeks of prayer and hesitation, I even felt led to make a phone call to a wealthy family friend, taking up the courage to ask straight out for the funds for the adoption (something I’ve never done before), and much to my disappointment he agreed to help with a small part, but not all. That had been a very hard day, although I was thankful for the part he was willing to give. It felt like doors were closing; funds were already tight, and I couldn’t help but wonder where on earth we were going to get that money to pay the adoption lawyer, especially with all the recent extravagant giving the Lord had led us to do.

I had wept; Darwin and I had prayed; we had gathered with our children on numerous occasions, informing them of our financial impotency and telling them, too, to pray that God would make a way. Nevertheless, in the midst of many trials and unplanned giving, we felt even more confident in God’s perfect provision than ever before.

During this time, however, rather than God’s miraculous provision coming to us for the adoption, God had better yet been leading us to give away. In many ways — not only in those I’ve mentioned on this blog and the one prior — we had been led by the Living Lord to give away much, and to do so joyfully. Surely none of this made sense; we were waiting to receive, but God had instructed us rather to give, and to do so extravagantly, with everything we have. Even so — in the midst of loss and unmet expectations, our confidence in Christ and His provision remained constant, even though we had no idea when or how He would provide.

And then, a few days ago, I went to the bank in downtown La Ceiba, the third largest city in Honduras that lies about 30 minutes away from our rural neighborhood where we live and serve. I was in town to run a few errands, go to a doctors’ appointment, and check our financial status in the bank. It had been the first time in many weeks that I was going to be in the city doing these types of errands, as I’ve been trying to be a stay-at-home-mom as much as possible for our 10 kids. (One of our beloved local teachers has been helping me tremendously with our different errands so that I can be more present in the home.)

I headed into the small branch of the familiar bank that I’ve been going to for over five years now. When they passed me to one of the little customer service desks, I presented my Honduran residency card and the Living Waters Ranch account number, asking the bank worker to write down on a slip of paper the exact amounts we had in our savings and checking account. (In Honduras we cannot check our funds electronically without jumping through about 1,000 hoops, so I have to present myself in person at the bank in order to find out these numbers.)

Now, I am no accounting expert (nor is it our goal to become whizzes at managing numbers but rather to dedicate our lives to rescuing lost people), but neither am I haphazard with our finances or totally clueless as to how to manage money. My dad trained me from a very early age in the basics of wise money management, and during a period in my life I spent much free time reading money management books and learning from financial teacher Dave Ramsey.

As with any household or organization, its leaders know at any given point just about how much is coming in and how much is going out. We do live by faith, so — however many times I’ve been led to feel worried about our financial security — God has continuously called us back to radical faith in Him, our Provider, but just the same we do not neglect our financial responsibility in the least.

So there I was in the bank. In my mind I was well-informed that our savings account held almost zero funds, as we had transferred them to our checking account several weeks ago. I sat idly in that red cushioned bank chair in the unfamiliar air-conditioning — feeling out of place, my boots caked with mud in such a polished, sterile environment — and the emotionless bank worker slipped me the little paper with our numbers on it.

I glanced at the amount in our checking account — the equivalent of $15. I laughed to myself, as I knew it had to be low. But then my eyes took in the number in our savings account (that which should have been extremely low, so low as to not even take it into account), and it had not only the exact amount we needed for the adoption, but a little bit more.

My eyes grew and I looked up at the man behind the computer. I told him, “This number has to be incorrect. In our savings account we don’t have this amount of funds. Please check again.”

He scoffed and assured me that he had not made a mistake. I insisted, “Please check again. I really think this number is wrong.”

He reluctantly checked again, confirming that the written amount really was in our savings account. The money for the adoption. But how?

I probed further — “Who deposited this money, and when?” I felt like my head was spinning.

He crossed his arms and informed me that he couldn’t give me that information. I demanded (in an entirely unpolished manner), “I’m the one who manages our organization’s funds, and I’ve been doing so for over five years at this bank! Please give me the information if you are able to do so!”

Responding to that slight nudge, he glanced back at his computer screen. He then uttered my own name, mentioning that the money came in a transfer that I had facilitated on September first. When I was back in the States, sick for several weeks and recovering. It was the same money that I had transferred down to Honduras — that which is a collection of the donations from those who support this work.

But we had already spent that money.

Chills ran through my body.

Yes; the transfer I facilitated on September first. I remember well; I have the amount recorded in a log I keep on my computer. An accumulation of donations that I transferred down to Honduras all at once, as we do every month or so. But we had already transferred that specific money into our checking account and had spent it to pay our teachers, purchase food, buy shoes for our kids, do property repairs, etc. In short, those funds had already been invested into the daily maintenance of the mission over the past couple months. Hadn’t they?

(I realize that what I’m about to say oversteps the bounds of rational sanity and that many who read this will not believe what I’m about to write) — but I dare consider that God multiplied the money. (Either that or there was some huge flaw in our accounting of which I am the sole manager and could not possibly overlook.) Either way, I was absolutely convinced that we didn’t have the funds for the adoption, and all along — during each of the trials over the past several weeks and each time we were led to step out in abundant generosity — the funds for the adoption were already waiting in our account.

I had lived the last several weeks believing that our savings account should have been close to zero — for we had transferred the money into checking, and had already spent it in our daily ministry affairs of loving and serving! — but it had been there all along. God had led us to give, and to do so extravagantly and in a time that we believed we were in great economic need, but He had already supplied that need ever since that transfer was made (and doubled?) at the beginning of September. We had been led through a series of faith-stretching acts only to find at the end that He had already supplied our greatest need (that of the adoption funds) even before He led us to give it all away.

And — to me this is funny and shines with the mysteriousness of God’s ways — I used to visit the bank every week and micro-manage our funds, thanks to my own anxiousness and resulting in my own frustration. If funds were at a certain point, I left the bank feeling secure. If they were low, I left feeling worried. What small faith!

This time I hadn’t gone to the bank in over two months (although I had still been managing our daily accounting via our checkbook, etc), and I experienced one of the biggest surprises of my life.

And so I headed over to the head bank a few blocks away and confirmed with another source that those mystery funds (miracle funds) really were there, and then I transferred them to our checking account. That night we shared the astonishing news with our four kids/teens we are in the process of adopting, and their eyes were aglow with wonder. God really had provided, and it wasn’t necessarily through some rich benefactor or by us selling off our cattle and other earthly belongings: He had taken things into His own hands this time and multiplied (or at least kept hidden from our knowledge) that which we believed should no longer have been there.

This morning I am in the city of La Ceiba again, and I even went back to the bank to try to investigate further to see if this really was some miracle of divine provision or just an accounting slip-up (honestly we don’t care which; either way God has given us the funds to adopt our kids, and we were led through many stretching steps of faith all the while believing we were without funds). I went to one branch; they were unexpectedly closed due to a freak flooding incident within the bank. I went to another branch; they denied me further information regarding our account history (even though on prior occasions they’ve given it to me), telling me to go check our P.O. box to find our bank statements from the last few months. I walked several blocks on foot to our P.O. box, opened it up for the first time in quite a while, and found nothing. No bank statements! The bank was behind over three months on sending out their statements! I thus have no human way of knowing if this really was a miraculous multiplication of funds! 

As I walked out of the post office, I laughed out loud along the littered sidewalk of La Ceiba and thanked God in my heart of hearts, for I dare to believe that it is His good pleasure to hide these secrets from me so that I may continue onward in my state of wonder, humility and faith. I don’t need to know all the details; I must  only trust and obey!

After all, we read God’s Word and find the stories of the times Jesus multiplied the extremely small provision of fish and bread in order to feed thousands, and then we live our daily lives depending entirely upon our own resources and methods. My mind continues to spin as I search in vain for answers, and I feel as though I’m teetering on the edge of reason (or perhaps have lost sight of it altogether!), but the Lord has definitely increased my faith! I will now begin to pray over our food pantry with my husband and our kids, that God will multiply our food so that we may be able to continue sharing abundantly with all those whom He chooses to bless through us.

So — with fear and trembling and great joy — I share with you this bewildering story of God’s provision and His gentle leadings toward obedience, toward total commitment, knowing that He fully knows our needs and is fully capable of meeting them in His own way.

God is great! Amen!

The ‘Praise Parade’: Follow-Up to Friday’s Cow Massacre

Last Friday I wrote about the sudden, tragic deaths of our two adult milking cows at the hands of professional cattle thieves. It was a heavy, sullen morning (as I wrote about in the previous post), but today I’m going to write about the events that occurred later that afternoon.

That same day our car had broken down, so our 14-year-old daughter Jackeline approached us around noon, the air around all of us heavy due to the shock we were still experiencing from what had happened to our cows earlier that morning, and asked carefully, “…Are we still going to go to the park today?” She was one of the few in our discipleship-based community homeschool who had gone the entire month without a single detention, so she was fishing to see if the prize would get pushed back or forgotten altogether due to the heavy atmosphere plus the fact that we had no vehicle to reach our destination.

I confirmed to her that, yes, we would still be going to the park. On foot. After all, we had announced the end-of-the-month trip-to-the-park prize weeks earlier as an incentive to our students to be diligent with their responsibilities, and we earnestly try to fulfill our word.

So Friday afternoon at 3:00pm we rounded up our small group of local students plus our own kiddos who had gone the entire month without getting sent to detention (it was a small group indeed!) and we informed them that we would walk from our remote rural property down to a local park for the afternoon of fun we had promised them.

And so that is how we went. Emotionally heavy and on the brink of exhaustion we closed up our little houses and front gate and began walking down that long gravel path exiting our property.

As Darwin and I walked hand-in-hand to our outer front gate, we noticed that all the teens who had walked out of the gate ahead of us were waiting patiently in a big group right near the bloody hides we had discovered that same morning.

We thanked them for waiting for us, and I began walking alongside of 17-year-old Sandra — the local teen who lived with us for a season and who has been restored to her biological mom after the mom (who cannot read or write but has a beautiful relationship with God) valiantly left behind her abusive husband, established healthy boundaries and began serving with us part-time. I walked and giggled alongside of Sandra– to whom we serve as her ‘second family’ — extending my long legs to kick her in the butt when she walked in front of me.

Sandra’s mom (Geraldina) and several other students and children/teens of ours were accompanying us, some kicking around a soccer ball as they walked; others walking in pairs and small groups, laughing and chit-chatting. Sandra had a little portable speaker device blasting upbeat Christian music, and before we knew it we all literally began singing and dancing down that path, traipsing over the path of slaughter with light footsteps filled with laughter and joy.

The music blasted, proclaiming of the inner fount of joy in every believer as I began doing some silly dance moves. I looked over at Sandra’s mom — a very quiet and timid woman with fierce faith in Christ — and I laughed out loud and said, “Hey! This is like a parade for Jesus!” She laughed along with me as I hip-bumped Sandra and we were all consumed in laughter and praises in the most unlikely of places.

And so we passed — dancing/running on foot and with praise music blasting — those same neighboring properties I had visited earlier that day to share with them the weight of our tragedy. I felt eyes trained on our joyous parade as I could feel their unspoken question from where they stood or worked in their yards: How on earth are these people so joyous (and so childish!) — how dare they dance and sing?! — after what just happened to them this morning?

Thus our parade of praise continued onward for close to a mile as we dropped Sandra and her mom off near their home (after much effort and saving, they’ve constructed their own wood-planked home, a refuge where Geraldina can raise Sandra and her other three children free of the step-father’s abuse) and we continued onward toward the park, hand-in-hand with our children, all of our burdens literally laid at the foot of the cross.

So the miracle in the midst of the tragedy is that God has granted us increasing joy and freedom; we haven’t fallen into fear, anger or worry. Our 16-year-old son Brayan has been working diligently with our night watchman to make an enclosed corral for our cows each night (so that they are closer to our home and thus perhaps harder to reach by thieves), and we continue onward with great assurance in our Provider and Protector, no matter what happens in the coming months and years.

Sunday morning — two days after the morning massacre and the afternoon praise parade — I sat in a small circle in Erick and Aracely’s home (a local couple whom the Lord has brought to labor alongside of us and who work very closely with the teens in our neighborhood in discipleship/hospitality) for a time of worship, Bible study and prayer. Geraldina, Sandra’s mom (one of the participants in the praise parade two days prior) sat right next to me.

Each person freely shared what the Lord was doing in their lives, and after a couple people had spoken I began to share with them what the Lord was doing in our own hearts through what had happened to our cows only two days prior. Everyone in our intimate circle knew exactly what had happened (news spreads fast here), and all had shared in our sorrow over the injustice of the matter. Erick, after all, had lived with and served alongside of us in 2014 and helped care for the two cows who were slaughtered and felt deeply enraged by the news.

However, the Lord opened my mouth to speak of the incident not as a story of woe, fear or self-pity but rather of power, joy and freedom in Christ. I spoke freely of the Lord’s abundant blessing in ‘lending’ us the cows for the four years we had them. They were, after all, given to us as a gift from Darwin’s family. We had not purchased them; we had paid virtually nothing in their daily care and had reaped great gains (milk and the selling of their calves) with little effort on our part. Their living on our property and birthing several calves had all been part of God’s grace. The Lord gives and He takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord. We can be upset that the cows were taken away, or we can rejoice over the season of grace that the Lord allowed us.

In that moment I began laughing and mentioned our completely impromptu “praise parade” the same day of the massacre. I glanced over at Geraldina, Sandra’s mom, as she smiled and agreed that the Lord truly had given us all joy in the midst of what could have potentially been a prolonged period of mourning and fear.

Once I finished sharing, Geraldina spoke up. She has been a desperately poor woman (materially) the majority of her life, but she has been closely walking with Christ for several years and has deep communion with Him. Rejected by most people and well-acquainted with suffering, but approved (and highly treasured by) the Most High. On many occasions she has talked with Darwin and I in private to share with us different dreams the Lord gives her, many of which have come true. We have oftentimes marveled at this gift; for it was the Lord — through a dream — that directed her to us for the first time in 2016 and told her that her daughter Sandra would find refuge in our home to escape the step-father’s abuse until the mom, too, could escape in the ensuing months.

She began, carefully. Oftentimes we have to lean in close to hear her, as she speaks very softly. She laughed a little and admitted, “Sandra tells me I’m crazy when I share with her the different dreams the Lord gives me…but this one I feel like I have to share.”

We all leaned in closer. We knew she wasn’t crazy. She continued. “The night the cows were killed, I was overcome with an intense fever and anguish in my spirit, although I didn’t know why. I felt extremely ill and like I could sense in my body that something terrible was going to happen, but at the time I didn’t know what it was. That night I dreamt that there was a great massacre; there was blood everywhere — but I couldn’t tell who or what was killed. Then, in the next part of the dream I was with several of you and we were all dancing and singing praises to God, like in a parade down a long path.”

I sat not 8 inches from her, eyes wide with wonder. She continued, now stating the obvious, “And then, the next morning — Friday — I went to work at the Ranch and heard the news of the cows and understood that was what God had revealed to me in the dream. And then, later that day, we all began dancing and singing praises to God in our ‘parade.'” She began giggling, as we all knew that we had never — literally never — before had any other kind of ‘praise parade’ (and much less after a tragic slaughter). After all, we would have taken our car (thus eliminating any opportunity for a ‘parade’) had it not been broken down. What were the chances? This dream had truly come from God. He had planned all along to turn our mourning into dancing. Beauty for ashes. Wow.

And so we continue onward with great faith as He is working out among us many such miracles of grace, moments of wonder, divine joy and communion with other believers. Be encouraged as we are!

Glory to God! Amen!

Urgent Prayer Request for Protection Over Our Property

Around 5:45am this morning as our 10 foster children/teens and I went about our daily business getting ready for a new day of classes and activities, my husband Darwin came walking through our front door in his grimy work clothes that he puts on every morning to go milk the cows.

Jackeline sat next to me on our little couch as others went about brushing hair and teeth, taking turns in the shower, etc. Each day the routine is more or less the same: we all get up at the same time in the wee hours of the morning; Darwin goes out to milk the cows (oftentimes taking our 16-year-old son Brayan with him), and I facilitate the domestic task of getting everyone in the home ready. Darwin brings in a large bucket of fresh, organic milk; we eat cornflakes and granola for breakfast; and thus the day commences.

Both of our adult female milking cows recently gave birth, so after months of being without milk in our household, the flow of milk had begun anew only a few weeks ago, thus greatly alleviating our heavy grocery bills and also providing an excellent source of calcium and vitamins to our kids, all of whom come from situations of malnutrition and extreme poverty. In short, the cows’ milk is a tremendous blessing, both economically and for our kids’ health and growth.

So, as Darwin came walking through our front door this morning — just like any other morning — he said dryly, “The cows are gone.”

I stared at him, not understanding what he was trying to say. After all, the cows have escaped several times and we’ve had to go out into our rural town searching for them. I asked dumbly, “What? Which ones?”

“The two adults. Someone stole them.”

A shock of panic shot through my veins. The two adults cows? The two who provide us with milk every morning? We had recently invested in the purchase of several younger calves, but it would be years before they would reach maturity and be able to reproduce, thus producing milk. The two adults had been our rock over the last four years, each giving birth to three calves along the way and providing our kids with milk each day. They were gone? For real? How could Darwin be sure that someone had stolen them and that they hadn’t just escaped as they had before on so many other occasions? 

Darwin continued, showing no emotion in his baggy, mis-matched old farm clothes, “They killed them. I found the black cow’s head thrown out by our front gate.”

Wh–? Dead? The only thing I could manage to ask in my numbed state was, “Aren’t they worth more alive than dead?” After all, they kill adult bulls for meat; not female milking cows in their prime. Every farmer knows this; female cows are of incredible worth alive, for they reproduce, thus giving off a legacy of both meat and milk. Someone really killed them? And how did they die, whacked to death by several blows from a machete? I could only stare at Darwin as my body seemed to shut down. By his appearance he was having a similar reaction.

Next, the only reasonable course of action was to pray. So we called together our 10 kids, all standing in a circle in our little living room, holding hands, and did what humanly doesn’t make sense — we gave thanks. Through tears we thanked God for the milk He had provided us through those cows over the last several years, and we thanked him even for the thieves’ lives, asking that He would bring them to repentance and renewal in Christ.

After all, just the day prior in our community Bible study the Lord had led me to teach Jesus’ radical call to love our enemies. Loving your family or those who treat you with kindness is easy; loving those who harm you or speak poorly of you is a mark of a true Christ follower. After all, God loved us and sent His Son to die for us even when we were His enemies. This is God’s radical style, and if we are to call ourselves His followers, we are to do the same. Give thanks in all situations; rejoice when we pass through various difficulties; love those who persecute us.

And so, by God’s grace, that is what we did. We prayed, giving thanks and longing in our heart of hearts for the coming of the God of justice, the God of light and truth.

We then put on our boots and rain jackets and headed outside, as I asked Darwin if I could go see the remains. It all seemed so surreal. We walked in silence out to our front gate and, just beyond, found the severed head of our strong, beautiful black milking cow that we had so adored and had hoped would be able to give birth to many more calves in the coming years. Her eyes were squinted shut and blood was everywhere. A few paces away in an open field we found the bloody hides of both cows — one black and the other orange-and-white. Our night watchman’s family came out to the scene — father and mother and six kids — as they, too, looked on in what any normal person may think to be terror or mortal fear. Whoever did this is a professional cattle theif because we heard nothing last night. Darwin had been up grading papers until 2:00am, and then I was awake from 3:00am on. We heard no ruckus, no screams from our innocent cows who deserved a peaceful death in old age. They had chopped them up, taking the meat and leaving what was of no use to them.

And so, we repeated what we had already done with our children; we gathered together with our night watchman’s family right there in the midst of bloody hides and prayed. We prayed that God would protect our lives; that we would not fall into the trap of living in fear of men; that His mercy would reach the lives of the thieves; that He would bring His perfect justice to this country dripping in corruption.

So now we are left with two orphaned newborn calves — and no milk to feed them. Not to mention that we will have to begin purchasing powdered milk for our kitchen again, seeing as the source of blessing was so violently killed. Oh, how many times over the past few years did our kids complain about having to drink the cows’ milk! We would serve up glasses for each one, explaining the abundant blessing that God had given to us through our cows (and how that milk would fortify our kids’ bodies), and they would complain that they didn’t like the taste. Now they will no longer have to worry about drinking it. There will be no more.

So now we are left prayerfully wondering what to do with the other cows we have, for the thieves will surely come back. (They tried to capture another one of our cows, but she escaped the attack and was found frantically running around outside of our fence where the remains of the others were found.) We had hoped to raise the cows up to maturity, thus selling the males for meat and keeping the females for milk, but that may not be possible now. Over the past four years of living here in rural Honduras we carefully considered how to best utilize the 17-acre property where we live and serve. We had given many honest attempts at agriculture — corn, vegetables, plantains, etc — only to experience similar results with thieves who would break in and steal the fruit right before the harvest or — I’m not sure if this is better or worse — the plants simply didn’t grow due to infertile, rocky soil. Many, many man hours were invested in agriculture with almost zero result. So, cattle seemed to be the answer the Lord had led us to. The honest and caring cultivation of cows for milk and meat; they graze on the property and enjoy a healthy existence and we could potentially support part of our ministry needs through them, thus relying less on the generosity of others to sustain this work. Now all of that is put into question.

About an hour ago I walked in boots and rain jacket down that long gravel road to the local police station to report the case, although our hope is not and never has been in the Honduran judicial system, which is generally unresponsive. I found one lone police officer standing idly along the highway, so I approached him and explained our tragedy. He listened half-heartedly and informed me that that’s how Honduras is. He pointed a finger toward the little bright yellow police station a block away, telling me to report the case there and leave an official written report (which then gets filed away and never dealt with). I walked under a constant drizzle to that little yellow building and knocked on the door several times. No one answered.

So then I began my mile-long walk back up through our rural neighborhood to our property, which lies at the end of a long gravel road. I walked in silence, contemplating the beauty of our Lord in the stillness of my own heart, and praying for His provision — not only for our kids’ breakfast but now also for our two newborn calves who will need to be bottle-fed each day. Oh, the promise of the Lord’s perfect and final justice is so precious in the face of such gross injustice! Along the path I found a very poor family whose property neighbors ours. I carefully informed them of what had happened and encouraged them to keep a close eye on their own cows, as the five or six skinny cows they have are their only livelihood. And then I prayed with them, once more putting the entire situation — our very lives, homes and food sources — into God’s hands, for He is good. After all, this world is not our home. We are eagerly awaiting our entrance in God’s Kingdom where all suffering and pain will be eliminated. Oh, this life with Christ is so rich and precious, and being so close to the darkness — to the violence — makes us appreciate all the more the love and freedom of our Lord.

And so I share this with you not to produce a shock-and-awe affect about the raging injustice in Honduras, but rather to remind us all that our hope is not in this world. This morning as we stood staring at the bloody hides thrown out in the field, Darwin made the interesting and yet daringly obvious observation: “Yesterday they were alive, and now…they’re dead.” Is this not the case for every one of us? Today we are alive — all is well, we expect a great and long future ahead of us, we act as if we’re going to live forever — and we may very well end up dead tomorrow or at any unexpected moment along the way. Life is so fragile, and in this world nothing is promised. Christ is our life and our salvation. Amen. Thank you for your prayers.

The “Living Waters Bridge” — Braving the Rainy Season

In Honduras when there are heavy rains, almost everything comes to a hault. Schools cancel classes; certain businesses close down for the day; people stay in their homes. We are currently in the midst of a pretty strong tropical storm, so via the radio we’ve heard over the past couple days that most schools are on “red alert” and thus have cancelled classes. The rains have been constant, and there has been pretty severe flooding.

At the Living Waters Ranch where we live and serve, we do not consider weather inconveniences to be sufficient reason to halt the work the Lord has entrusted us, and all of our students and teachers know this well. Rain or shine (literally) — even when all other local schools are closed down and their students remain cooped up at home all day — we continue onward with the lifestyle of discipleship, outreach and teaching with Christ as our guide.

So, as the rains pounded all last night and the radio announced that schools would be closed down, my husband and I awoke to our usual 5:00am alarm and got our 10 kids up and ready for school. We laughed and said, “Although certain students in other schools may not be able to receive their education today due to flooding, seeing as y’all are homeschooled, I’m pretty sure we can reach the classroom!”

Everyone in our household put on their uniform in the dim morning light and got ready for a “normal” school day, although we were pretty sure almost none of our local students would brave the heavy rains (everyone arrives on foot or bicycle). A few of our teachers even called saying that the roads were closed and that they wouldn’t be able to come in. Our kids hoped against hope that we would throw up our hands and give in, but we headed to our large cement-floored dining room to get ready for worship and Bible study as we would on any other Thursday, fully convinced that it might just be our family in there without our 30 local students and teachers joining us.

As we quietly served breakfast — the rains pounding down on our tin roof nonstop and our front yard converting itself into a large lagoon — our 14-year-old daughter Jackeline shouted, “One’s coming up the path!”

Sure enough, one of our faithful students — going completely against every cultural norm in this country — had decided to walk up muddy, flooded paths under heavy rain to attend classes even when all other schools in our area were on break today.

Then another came. Then another. Before we knew it, all but about three or four of our students had arrived.

We laughed as each student tried to figure out exactly how to enter through our front gate, seeing as the large lagoon-ocean of muddy water had created quite the obstacle to cross. Then our 13-year-old daughter Gleny said, “Why don’t we put down tires to make a path?” Perfect!

That was all it took for several soaking wet collaborators to begin seeking out and hauling over various old tires that we use for different P.E. activities. We were forming the “Living Waters Bridge” for our dedicated students and teachers to pass across without having to get ankle-to-knee-deep in water! Soon enough everyone was laughing wildly and helping one another across the slippery “bridge” as they crossed the threshold onto our property for classes.

And so we enjoyed an extended worship time with all who showed up, and just as we were about to break into our prayer groups, a car pulled up with three of our teachers who had been delayed due to the flooded roads. Everyone had made it!

Glory to God! Enjoy the photos…

The “Living Waters Bridge”!
(This is actually a reenactment of the real arrival of our students. The first time around we didn’t have the camera, so we sent everyone out again so we could take photos!)