Category Archives: Farm Life

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 Unusual Tribe of Three: Quality Time on Our Rural Homestead

Yesterday my husband Darwin went into the city with 6 of our foster children for a day of dentist visits, music classes and errands, leaving me on our rural ministry homestead with two of our foster children. From time to time we like to divide our eight foster kids up into smaller groups so that they get more individualized attention, so this turned out to be one such occasion. A couple weeks ago Darwin took our three boys on a ‘man date’ to pray for the sick and then eat ice cream together, and he took one of our girls on a one-on-one afternoon date in the city not too long ago, which made her feel very special. This time my little group was composed of quite an interesting combination of people: one of our new teen girls who moved in with us about six months ago, and our 9-year-old special needs son who has lived with us over three years.

Thanks to the addition of a new Honduran teacher/missionary a couple months ago who now helps with the teaching, administrative and discipleship load my husband and I share with our small team at the Living Waters Ranch, I’ve been relieved of many of the administrative tasks that used to dominate my time. It has always been a fine line of being an available stay-at-home mom for our kids while also balancing the responsibilities entrusted to me to direct, evangelize and teach in our little mission and the surrounding community. Thus, with the addition of our new team member the balance of service-in-the-home and service-to-the-community has been made easier for me and has allowed me more stress-free time with our kids for God’s glory.

So, we enjoyed a completely spontaneous day of agricultural activities and physical work, something I don’t normally participate in (because in recent years I’ve been ‘too busy’). We each slapped on a pair of black rubber boots (the cultural sign of a Honduran who’s ready to work in the field), we grabbed three rusty machetes and began traipsing around our rural property under the blistering sun engaging in untold adventures. There were no schedules and no rush. We were simply enjoying being together (our strange tribe of three) while simultaneously rejoicing in the breathtakingly beautiful creation our Father has placed so close to us. We ended up investigating native plants, exploring the creek behind our property (and I nearly fell into a rather deep part when I precariously tried to cross the waters via a broken tree limb that looked a lot stronger than it was), cooking from scratch in our temporarily-outdoor kitchen on our porch, taking care of our bunnies, planting a few plants, watering them, and doing various physical-labor chores around our property.

It was a sweaty, peaceful day as we truly loved one another and reveled in the beauty of the Creator, much as I imagine Adam and Eve did in the garden so many years ago — blessed, uninterrupted enjoyment of Father God, His creation, and one another.

Near the end of our day together, it occurred to me to take out our little digital camera and take a few photos together. At first they were very shy and unenthused, but after a few shots they really got into it. We even taught Josue how to hold the camera and take (somewhat off-kilter) shots!

Enjoy our rather simple yet joyful photos of a momma called by God and her precious little ones (who aren’t so little). God bless you!

Josue and I posing in front of the little plants we planted near our fence. We’ve both got our working boots on!
Carolina (15) and Josue (9)
Josue learning to take photos…his finger managed to make it in several of them!

They are such hard workers! (We enjoyed about a half hour together shoveling dirt/rocks in our front yard.)

Time to help momma bunny give milk to her five babies in our living room!
The little guy was so enthusiastically drinking milk that his feet were up in the air!

   

Josue sure is a lot of fun!
Tickle time!
Gotta love this photo of Josue’s buttcheeks! We laughed hard when we saw this photo — he was intent on tickling me and didn’t realize that he probably should have been wearing a belt!

Now Josue’s taking the photos!

After balancing Carolina up with my legs, we had a wipe out!
Now let’s head over to the mango tree!

This is one of my favorite photos! Absolutely beautiful!
Time to jump down! Be careful!



Here come the buttcheeks again! You really do need a belt, Josue!
One of the last chores of the day — washing the clothes in our outdoor washing station!

Josue learned how to rake the leaves! Good boy!
At the end of the day, I sent Josue to go take a shower to get all the dirt and grime off. As he finished showering and changed into his pijamas, I asked (without seeing him), “Josue, did you shower with soap?” because sometimes he tries to only bathe with water. Carolina, seeing Josue come around the corner, began laughing and assured me, “Oh, he certainly did bathe with soap.” Perplexed, I began to ask how she could possibly know that when I saw the same evidence — Josue had big globs of soap in his hair and ears! He sure did shower with soap!

Amen! Glory to God!

Multiplying Responsibility Like Bunnies

The latest greatest on our rural homestead in Honduras is the arrival of our five bunnies! Many local friends of ours had recommended that we get involved in bunny care as a way of producing small quantities of meat for our family’s consumption, so we finally did so when a local woman was looking to sell her adult bunnies at a good price.

A couple weeks ago we started off with four females and a male…and we’ve already got babies! The care-taking of our precious bunnies has been a huge hit for our kids, as they’ve been given the task of feeding them several times a day, which includes going out to the pasture to cut grass with a machete for them and chopping up fruit and veggies for their consumption. The bunnies were very skittish when they first arrived and we were told that they couldn’t be held, but our kids have been working hard to domesticate them, and one of our teen daughters in particular has become quite a delightful bunny tamer. She helps ‘milk’ momma bunny so that each of the babies gets enough to eat, and she’s constantly checking to make sure they’re okay. (Our kids consider themselves too old and mature to play with stuffed animals, but cuddling the bunnies is fair game! We love it!)

Here are a few photos!

Our 10-year-old son Jason whom we are in the process of legally adopting squeezed into the bunny hutch! My husband Darwin and I are enjoying having the bunnies on our homestead because their presence is teaching our kids more responsibility, how to gently care for God’s creation, and they are healthy entertainment! (We’ve chosen not to have a television in our home, and our kids don’t have internet access.)
Our 14-year-old foster daughter Jackeline LOVES the bunnies! She’s offered to feed them three times per day, and every morning and evening she helps ‘milk’ momma bunny so that her babies get enough sustenance! Jackeline is also very involved in the care and upkeep of our small herd of milking cows and is excited about the pig pen we are in the process of constructing. We are very proud of the new, very mature character the Lord is forming in her as He transforms her with His love.

Here is our eldest, 17-year-old Dayana, whom we are also in the process of adopting. She’s not too fond of the animals, but — fear not! — Jackeline is close by to make sure everyone’s okay.
This is 15-year-old Carolina, another one of our beloved foster teens. She moved in with us late last year and is doing extremely well in our household.
Jackeline took several portraits with the bunnies!
Here are the babies when they were just a couple days old! When our kids first saw them, they asked if they were rats!


      Amen! Glory to God!

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!

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!)

 

Another Healing Update

This is the third update I’m writing in regards to my search for healing from the chronic insomnia that I’ve struggled with for many years (which had then led me to all kinds of viruses, tropical fevers, etc, all of which sort of snowballed and caused me to get weaker and weaker, always awake the majority of nights and struggling through exhaustion on top of sickness. ) As one friend who met to pray with me a few weeks ago mentioned with a dry laugh, “You’ve been on a steady diet of IVs and antibiotics these last few years…” Thus, I came to Texas for a few weeks to seek out healing in every realm — spirit, mind and body — as I had reached a breaking point.

I was scheduled to return to Honduras today after having been in Texas since August 20th, but several days ago I decided to push my return flight back a week so that I may have a few additional days of rest as my body is still far from full strength. Thus I will be returning to Darwin, our kids, teaching, etc, next Friday (September 29th).

During the past week-and-a-half or so, all of the diagnostic tests (many, many bloodwork panels, stool cultures, saliva and urine samples, etc) finally came back with their results, and we’ve been able to find out several underlying issues that have been contributing to my insomnia and low-immune battle over these last several years.

I will explain: according to all the testing we’ve done, I have Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease (a thyroid disorder in which the thyroid gland, which controls many important functions in the body, attacks itself), a rampant fungal and yeast infection inside of my whole body (called Candida, which oftentimes begins when you take too many antibiotics, thus killing off the good bacteria in your gut and letting the bad bacteria run wild), sleep apnea, and a couple general disorders in which my body has not properly processed zinc and b-vitamins, which has led to a state of almost constant stress and anxiousness. Many of these things sort of ‘go together’ and affect one another, and all of them have been proven to cause insomnia, anxiety, high physical stress, low immune function, etc. I had even been having a lot of heart pain and difficulty breathing, and I discovered that that can also be attributed to the aforementioned disorders/problems. At least on the physical front, I am very thankful that we finally have these diagnoses and that I’m on a very rigorous treatment plan (including a general detox, high-quality supplements, Thyroid medication, immune support, a strict diet, etc) to begin healing.

All of this was discovered in the last week-and-a-half, so I’ve been following the regimen religiously, although it will probably take 2-3 months or so for everything to really get in my system so that I can begin noticing significant changes in the way I feel. My body has been so out-of-whack for so long that the physical healing process will not be an overnight phenomenon (although I would like it to be). In the meantime my doctors have prescribed me various heavy-duty sleep aids to help “knock me out” at night, but the pills have had little to no effect on my sleeping and have caused many weird side effects, so I’ve vowed to no longer take them but rather wait patiently upon the Lord for my integral healing while I continue following the long-term plan to correct the aforementioned disorders/stresses my body has been facing.

The Lord continues to bring several people alongside of me to pray for my healing, and — as I mentioned in the prior update — I feel that spiritually and emotionally I’ve had many breakthroughs and am being granted ‘new sight’ to see things the way Christ sees them, as I had prior been fighting against a lot of pessimism, self-condemnation, fear, etc. This aspect of my healing has been fascinating, at times two-steps-forward-then-one-step-back, and encouraging. I am so excited to return home to Darwin and our life in Honduras with renewed passion and faith as God ushers me into a new chapter with renewed outlook. More than anything, I believe this trip to the States has been about God reminding me what He’s already done. He really has been with us.

Darwin and I are in communication almost daily by phone, and he’s been able to share with me that the Lord is doing a big work in his own heart during this time as he is being convicted and set free from many negative thinking pattens, pessimism, fears, etc. It is very neat to see that even though Darwin cannot be here with me, the Lord is doing a very similar work in both of our hearts as He prepares us to be reunited next week. I believe these changes the Lord is doing deep down in our hearts will greatly affect (in a positive way) our children’s lives and our hidden life with Christ at the foothills of the mountains long-term.

The Apostle Paul said, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things…And the God of peace will be with you.” However many times I had read that before, now for the first time I am actually learning to live in such a way, even if sleep still eludes me for now. Darwin and I have been through some hard hits and difficult learning experiences in these last few years together (Darwin’s kidnapping last year, many trials with our 8 children who all come from severely broken backgrounds, many robberies, a young marriage, my ongoing insomnia, etc) and in many ways we fell too often in the trap of worry, stress, wanting to try to control that which was out of our control, etc — in few words, we were basically not thinking about that which is noble, right and pure (we were not fully trusting and resting in God). So, we earnestly thank God that He is making this shift deep down in each of our hearts as He is drawing us nearer to Himself and releasing us from our fears, doubts and anxieties (however invisible this process still is on the outside). With time we hope it will bear great fruit for God’s glory.

As for everything in Honduras, our children are okay, our animals (cows, guard dogs, kitchen cats) are alive, and the daily outreach to disciple and teach our neighbors through our community homeschool program continues onward. I’ve been able to send a few long letters down to them to be read aloud during their group Bible study time when everyone (teachers, students, etc) is together in our dining room on Tuesdays/Thursdays. These letters have been a blessing and have provided encouragement both to me and to those who’ve read them as we maintain communication and love from afar, always encouraging one another in Christ.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the local Hondurans who labor alongside of us are pulling double-time to cover many of my duties and support Darwin in his single-parenting venture of our 8 wily (I mean ‘well-behaved’) children, so that has been a huge blessing. Really there have been no big hiccups, and they’ve even begun implementing several small changes/adjustments to the daily routines as the Lord leads. Yesterday all 40 students plus the teachers had an extended prayer and Bible study time in the morning and entered math class late because God had led them in another direction. Amen!

So, I will be returning home next Friday — fully knowing that the true healing process will be worked out over the months to come. I would like to sincerely thank those of you who have been praying for us and supporting us in various ways. God bless you.

 

A Day in the Life: Friday at the Living Waters Ranch

Today I whipped out my camera and went undercover (well, not quite) into each classroom throughout the day to capture what a typical Friday at the Living Waters Ranch looks like. The only classes missing from my visual log are Darwin’s girls’ choir class, my advanced math after-school tutoring and Erick’s “Men of Honor” discipleship group.

Enjoy!

My first stop was Miss Ligia’s small 7th grade class. Our daughter Jackeline and her classmates were taking an exam!

 

Our special-needs son Josue accompanied me on my photo-taking escapade. This is his pose on one of our famous skateboards. (I purchased three old skateboards at a thrift store, and the kids love them!)

 

My next stop was our dining room — Darwin’s homeschool-style class with fifth and sixth graders, many of whom are well into their teens and behind academically. We’ve received three new students into this group in the last two weeks. (This photo shows only the sixth graders.)

 

Here are Darwin’s fifth-graders hard at work at our dining table.

 

Erick’s first class of the day was with our rag-tag group of first and second graders, the majority of whom are overcoming learning disabilities and developmental delays.

 

When I arrived at Miss Isis’ combined third-fourth grade class, I found our 10-year-old son Jason teaching our two developmentally behind third graders (the two boys sitting down, both age 11). Way to go, Jason!

 

This is Miss Isis with Paola, one of our night watchman’s children who has been in school with us since 2015. She and her four siblings are some of the first in their family to learn to read and write.

 

Geraldina (Sandra’s mom) was hard at work in the kitchen preparing lunch for 50 people! Thankfully the water hadn’t gone out, as it occasionally does!

 

After visiting all the classrooms during the morning hours, little Josue and I went for a short walk around our rural property. This is the view of the Living Waters Ranch from the front gate.

 

This is our growing herd of milking cows! We started with two cows a few years ago and now we’re up to 12! We invested in the purchase of six young cows a couple weeks ago as we seek to expand our herd, thus wisely utilizing the large grassy property where we serve.

 

This is Carminda, our watchman’s wife, washing the clothes. One day per week our 8 foster kids and I wash, and one day per week she comes to help us wash. Everything is by hand!

 

Is it already recess time? Here is a lively skateboard competition between our son Jason and a local girl. They got nervous when I started taking pictures!

 

We have more male students than females, but the few girls we do have are tough as nails. You go, girl!

 

Dangling from thin air on the left are two girls swinging from our tree rope! Recess is so much fun!

 

Now it’s little Lester’s turn!

 

Okay, the fun’s over, kids (and teachers)! Back to class! Now everyone changes classrooms and heads to their respective English classes…

 

Our office looks like quite the library! Miss Ligia is getting her books ready for her Level 2 English class!

 

My husband Darwin teaches “Level 3” English with the most advanced students we have. He’s been working hard with them for a year-and-a-half to introduce them into their second language.

 

Our 16-year-old daughter Dayana is in Darwin’s English class. Sandra (fourth from the right), who used to live with us, came back to the Living Waters Ranch full-time as a student about a month ago after having spent several months down the wrong path. We are honored to continue cultivating a relationship with her for God’s glory.

 

Our quirkiest (I mean, most precious) kids aren’t quite ready to learn English, so they receive extra help with basic Spanish reading and writing skills!

 

This is 10-year-old Daniela who had great struggles in the local public school system. Her mom brought her to the Living Waters Ranch in January of this year as she was frustrated that her daughter had not been able to learn to read and write. Daniela’s been with us full-time every since, and she just passed first grade in our accelerated program and is now a second-grader with great success. All she needed was a little bit of individualized attention!

 

Here are two young teen boys who likewise didn’t enjoy success in the public school system. Young men such as these in our area have a propensity to fall into gangs and delinquency, so we consider it God’s will that He brought them to us to learn the way of Christ.

 

Here’s Miss Reina with two of her basic Spanish tutoring students. (Our daughter Gabriela is the one without the ponytail.)

 

Here’s Miss Ligia in action in her English class! Our community homeschool/discipleship center is quickly becoming known and respected in our local community as a legitimate educational institution that stands for justice and truth in a country whose educational institutions oftentimes suffer from corruption, complacency and inefficacy. Several local kids and teens are joining our classes as they seek a genuine integral education, something almost unheard-of in our area.

 

The other English teacher at the Living Waters Ranch is Erick. Man, it smelled like teenage sweat in that crowded room!

 

This is Alejandro, a 14-year-old local student in second grade with us, reading a children’s Bible. He had gotten up to 6th or 7th grade in the public school system without having learned virtually anything, so now he’s receiving intensive tutoring to help get him up to speed as we seek to cultivate his life integrally for God’s glory.

 

Daniela was reading the Bible with Miss Isis, but she got nervous when I started taking pictures!

 

This is little Ever, the youngest son of our night watchman, reading a children’s Bible. He is our youngest student at 7 years old.

 

Time to change classes again! Everybody go to your reading class according to your skill level! All students are divided up into four distinct levels, and this is our most advanced reading class — Miss Ligia’s crew of high schoolers who are currently reading one of Ted Dekker’s novels with strong spiritual foundations. What a breath of fresh air (literally)!


  

Reading is not a commonly cultivated practice among most Hondurans, so the fact that our teenagers are learning to read a 300+ paged novel is no small feat. They already finished another novel earlier this year and frequently study the Bible along with whatever God-honoring novel they are reading. Many of our students who were previously averse to reading are now enthusiastically asking for more books!

 

Next I visited Darwin’s Level 3 reading class, one of the largest classes (there were about five other students in the classroom at the far right that wouldn’t fit in the photo!). Darwin has taken on the gargantuan task of teaching to read, annunciate correctly and develop an honorable work ethic to those youth who are not among our most successful students. The fact that they all have their pencil in hand and are sitting down is a huge triumph in this culture! 10 points for Darwin!

 

This is 13-year-old Liliana, one of the new students who joined us recently. We had met her a few years ago through Darwin’s youth choir, but then she moved away and had been out of school for several years. She just entered with us on the 5th-grade level, and she’s quickly finding her niche and always has a big grin on her face. Many young women in our area who are not in school get ‘married’ to older men in their early teens, so we are excited and honored to have Liliana with us as we expose her daily to the truth of Christ and how to live a life of purity in God’s sight.

 

Sandra got nervous when I caught her in the kitchen with her mom and started taking pictures! We’ve had a long history with her and her mom, and we are very thankful that she’s decided to return to the Living Waters Ranch as a student and continue seeking God’s will for her life. Sandra’s mom continues to serve alongside of us part-time, and we enjoy a very blessed relationship with her.



Lunch time! Roughly 50 hungry people came streaming into our kitchen for their lunch of rice, beans and potatoes. I stood on a wooden stool to take the following shots…This is Brayan, our 16-year-old son who was one of our first four students in our experimental homeschool program that we started in 2014 as we struck out from the beaten path to develop a discipleship-based educational alternative geared at restoring broken youth for God’s glory.

 

All of our 40 students eat lunch in our home every weekday, and everyone is responsible for washing their own dishes when they finish!

 

Lunchtime sure is fun…for some people! My next stop was detention, an hour-long daily event for the students who for various reasons need a little extra help in the discipline department. We take very seriously our duty to discipline and train up the youth under our care according to God’s Word, and we believe it is vitally important to their development into useful, grateful human beings. Detention is never empty!

 

These folks were also in detention, and they all started laughing when I entered with the camera! Nobody wants to get caught on film in detention! (They were in the process of doing 150 squats.)

 

After visiting those precious kids in detention, I returned to the kitchen to take more photos! Here’s Darwin enjoying his lunch with our daughter Jackeline and Miss Ligia.

 

Another skateboard competition on the porch of our high school building!

 

This is Marlon, another new student who entered the Living Waters Ranch discipleship-based community homeschool in these past couple weeks. He is a young man from our neighborhood who began spending time with Erick and attending our Bible studies before he decided to withdraw completely from the public school where he was studying and dive into a completely different environment at the Living Waters Ranch. He mentioned to us that at his other school the teacher spent the majority of the day playing on her cellphone, and many students didn’t even show up for class.

 

Another fun lunchtime activity on Fridays is Darwin’s outdoor recorder class.

 

The boys always love playing soccer! We’ve designed our daily schedule to have an extended lunchtime so that the kids can develop healthy friendships, play together, practice their instruments, etc.

 

 

Good news: if you didn’t get sent to detention all week, a prize awaits you on Friday! Miss Isis and Miss Ligia are getting the Friday snack ready for those students who were responsible and wise during the week. We love this weekly practice because it further inculcates in our students an understanding of the reality that they reap what they sow.

 

This is Miss Ligia and Miss Reina’s after-school cooking class! During this time the older boys are in “Men of Honor” with Erick, and the rest of the girls are in Darwin’s girls’ choir.

 

Well, we’re coming to the end of the day! This was my workstation in our living room where I worked on administration all day (…well, when I wasn’t playing the role of ‘paparazzi.’)

 

Josue, our 9-year-old son with special needs, was a great photography assistant! To wind down from a hard day’s work, he decided to spend some good time ‘repairing’ his bicycle on our porch…

 

Amen! Glory to God!

 

 

Informational Video #1

Below is the first of five videos that we filmed this week at the Living Waters Ranch with the purpose of being shown to a specific Texan church during their week-long vacation Bible school for kinder-5th graders and their leaders. The video, however, can prove interesting to anyone who would like to learn more about the day-to-day life and purpose enjoyed at the Living Waters Ranch. The 5 videos are best viewed in sequence…

(We filmed all 5 videos within a 24-hour timespan, but I kept changing my clothes and hairdo to make it look like each video was a different day!)

This first video is a bit slow-paced (it is the general overview), but the following four are a bit more lively…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7qHlVkXaeo

A Day Without Water: Superwoman Transformed Into a Desperately Dry Husk

[Written a few weeks ago]: This morning at 5:00am my husband and I rolled out of bed and made the usual rounds, patting sleepy backs and whispering early morning greetings as we went room-to-room waking our 8 kids up for a new day of classes and untold adventures.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan until one of our kids went to use a faucet to wet their toothbrush, and no water came out. We then tried the other faucets in our home to no avail, and a conclusion was quickly reached: we found ourselves absolutely without water. Upon reaching our kitchen (which on our rural property is not attached to our sleeping quarters), we discovered the kitchen faucet equally dry.

In the third world country where we live, the electricity frequently goes out, and there have been dozens of times in the past when we’ve been without water for up to a day or two, but today – in the midst of an extreme heat wave we’ve been experiencing for the last several days – the reality of being without water in our rural, no-air-conditioning home hit us (or at least me) unusually hard. We were no longer in the delightful rainy season in which we enjoy slightly cooler temperatures, but in the blistering hot, dry summer months.

16-year-old Dayana, the eldest of our kids, towel in hand, looked at me with her big, curly hair and asked, “Is it okay if I go down to the creek to bathe? I didn’t take a shower last night…”

Knowing that she is accustomed to taking a shower each morning – and the fact that we were facing the no-water situation – I agreed to her idea, and off she went. Soon her younger sister followed her, bar of soap in hand and towel flapping behind her as she raced off to the little creek – which was most likely also nearly dry – behind our home.

Several young voices, dry toothbrushes in hand, eyed me and asked, “Mom…how are we gonna brush our teeth?”

“Well, I guess we’re just gonna get cavities today…” I answered, already feeling choked up in the hot, humid air thinking about a whole day of smelly breath.

“And how are we gonna wash our hands…?”

“Not sure, sweetheart, but just don’t touch me…” I gave hugs and kisses on the tops of heads, trying strategically to avoid contact with their little hands that always seem to be touching floors, exploring the inside of their noses, etc. How on earth was I going to serve breakfast without having washed my own hands? All of us had been sick on and off the last few weeks with fevers and viruses, and the idea of falling ill again didn’t appeal to me.

I reached our kitchen around 5:40am after overseeing the general morning routine in our home. I glanced at the kitchen counter – where my husband Darwin and our 15-year-old son Brayan normally leave the large bucketful of fresh milk they get out of our two cows each morning – and saw nothing. I opened the fridge and peered in. Nothing. Where was the — ?

I glanced over at Darwin, who stood across the kitchen in his old raggy milking clothes that he wears each morning, and my eyes spoke the question for me. He answered, “Oh, the cows wouldn’t give any milk this morning. Their calves are getting so big that their utters are no longer producing. But the good news is that both cows are well along in their current pregnancy and should be birthing soon.”

No milk? I had gone to the grocery store the day prior to buy several big bulk-sized bags of Cornflakes and other cereals, but we never buy milk because we get it fresh from our cows each morning. Cornflakes without milk? I glanced at him, somewhat irritated as if it was his fault that he couldn’t squeeze out at least a few liters of nonexistent milk, and I suddenly felt a strange emotion: desperation. I was starting to feel like I was in some kind of apocalyptic nightmare, some kind of worldwide scarcity endemic that just might possibly sweep the planet in the coming years due to climate change, deforestation, rampant pollution, etc. Had we reached the point in which countries will war over water rather than petroleum?

Darwin added calmly, “Brayan said that we have powdered milk in the pantry.”

I laughed sarcastically, convinced that he was wrong, but I went to go check just in case. I took a few brisk steps and swung by head into our nearly bare pantry where our two ‘guard cats’ sleep. Several sacks of rice and beans; more than a few cartons of eggs; close to a dozen bottles of cooking oil. Pots and pans…and…

Bingo. My eyes landed on a lone canister of powdered milk. A large supermarket chain that donates expired and damaged goods to us about once a month had included a dinged-up can of powdered milk that we hadn’t used or even noticed due to our prior daily abundance of cows’ milk. I went to grab it when the accusatory words suddenly came out of my mouth, “But we don’t have water! How am I going to be able to prepare the powdered milk?!”

I suddenly felt very, very thirsty.

At that point Brayan spotted one single jug of emergency water that was sitting idly under one of our countertops. Atta boy. It would be enough to mix into the powdered milk and serve our family a glass of water for breakfast, but it wouldn’t get us all through the rest of the day, especially considering that roughly 50 people would need to eat (and drink) from our kitchen once our local students and teachers arrived.

I got to work preparing the powdered milk and serving the cereal bowls for our littlest ones while I then filled up my Nalgene water bottle to the brim with water from our emergency jug. I gulped deep as I felt the cool water sliding down my hot, dry throat. The feeling of desperation continued as I entertained the uneasy thought that that might be the last glass of water I would be able to drink in a long, long time. (And I’m the kind of person who is constantly thirsty and drinks many more than the recommended 8 glasses of water per day. A single glass in the morning wouldn’t cut it. Within an hour or two I would need more.)

By 6:15am I was already sweating bullets as my husband and I began organizing our dining room to receive all of our students and Christian laborers in our twice-weekly worship time and Bible study. As our kids came and went, each grabbing their breakfast cereal with powdered milk, we would laugh dryly (no pun intended) each time they would approach the sink, empty bowl in hand, to wash their dishes. They would turn the handle on the faucet, wait, look over at me, confused, and then suddenly remember that we didn’t have water. “What do I do with my breakfast dishes?” they would ask as I motioned for them to leave them next to the sink. (And if the water didn’t come back for several days? What would we do with the Mount Everest of dirty dishes?)

Back in our bathroom – that little cave-like room attached onto our bedroom for my husband’s and my use – our poor toilet quickly became a gurgling, stewing melting pot of nasty sights and odors. Seeing as we’re both seeking to take really good care of our health, we had taken certain vitamins to help cleanse our system, so between the two of us we had gone #2 three times in that porcelain pot before 7:00am. I had also gone pee two or three times, plus I was menstruating, so every time that toilet lid was lifted up, it felt like a bomb was set off in our bathroom. Each time I went to go use our restroom – which seemed to be more frequent than usual – I pranced around outside of the door for a moment or two, psyching myself up, took a big, deep breath – cheeks inflated with emergency reserve oxygen – and darted in, opened the lid as quickly as possible, did my business in the most efficient manner – covering my nose and mouth with part of my long skirt – shut the lid, and darted out, gasping for clean air on the other end.

Throughout this whole morning escapade, I housed a sense of thoughtful dread in my chest. Would the world come to this someday, and will it be sooner than we think? When will the world’s water sources dry up or get so contaminated after years of senseless pollution that they are no longer drinkable? In a matter of hours I had become a very philosophical, dry husk.

Take electricity or petroleum away from man, and he can survive, although without the luxuries he is accustomed to. Take water away – even for a very short time – and he gets put face to face with a life and death situation.

My morning – which I had thought would be all about normal affairs, human relationships, Bible study, preparing for classes, etc – suddenly became all-consumed by a single thought: water. Survival. Although externally I continued to joyfully fulfill the many duties (privileges) before me, internally I was becoming quite frantic. All I could think about were the sunburns on my arms and neck from day after day of walking under the blistering Honduran sun, the beads of sweat forming all over my body, and my dry throat. Everyone around me started to look sweaty and worn out; we were quickly becoming like a band of Israelites wandering around a very dry desert. When would it end?

We humans believe we are so powerful, so smart, so capable of taking on any difficult situation and coming out victorious – we’ve traveled and conquered the globe, learned new languages, earned advanced degrees, own many of the greatest comforts and luxuries the world can offer – but if you take water out of the equation, our own weakness gets put immediately in perspective. It turns out that we are not our own gods; we are not the all-powerful, super-independent individuals we’d like to think we are.

It turns out that, after all, each and every one of us is extremely fragile, surprisingly weak. We must be constantly sustained and cared for in order to survive. Taken out of a situation of comfort and security, we quickly become fearful and aggressive as our own mortality stares us in the face. Dry husks whose beauty and power disappear faster than the snacks in our pantry.

Just a few days ago as I was running errands in the nearby city of La Ceiba I passed by a little stand on the side of the road that sells newspapers. The daily headline had been printed out extra large and pasted on the outer wall of the stand so that passersby could see the news and hopefully be attracted to purchase the newspaper. My eyes felt automatically drawn to the large, colorful poster with the day’s breaking headlines although I knew, as usual, they would hold devastating news.

Sure enough, an oversized photo of an extremely fit man with rippling muscles in his 20s or 30s gave visual power to the text below: Local gym owner murdered.

I do not know why he was murdered — if he was involved in illegal business with the wrong crowd and it finally caught up with him, if he had refused to pay the ‘war tax’ to local extortionists or if he was simply an innocent victim to one of many senseless murders in our area, but what I do know is this: his large muscles and perfect physique could not save him, did not preserve his life. What’s more, I’m convinced that yesterday was a normal day for him — he probably went about his business without the idea of death having crossed his mind once. He probably woke up, went to work at the gym, and thought he had many years of vibrant life and excellent health before him. He might have even marveled at his own impressive body and thought that by doing so much exercise he was even extending his lifespan. I’m convinced that never in his wildest dreams did he think that his very own photo would make national headlines the next day to announce his sudden death.

And so, as I went about my own business on that extremely dry day, the reality of our human frailty — no matter how chiseled our muscles are or how much money we have saved up in the bank — suddenly became inescapable. As odd as it sounds, I thank God for this. Living here in the midst of rampant violence and gang activity, police corruption/unresponsiveness, devastating poverty all around, highly dangerous viruses and tropical illnesses and even uncomfortable physical elements such as scorching heat and no-water days, I am daily faced with my own mortality. I must daily come to grips with the fact that I need a Savior, that my own life dangles by a little thread with many roaming machetes threatening to cut it.

I may have all my accounts in order, put into practice a daily exercise routine, eat right, and live a healthy and respectful life by anyone’s standards, but when faced with a prolonged water outage or some angry neighbor carried toward violence (we know of far too many accounts in our area where one neighbor turns against another, oftentimes due to jealously or a simple misunderstanding, and a life is taken), my entire well-being — my very existence on Earth — is put into question.

That morning, in the midst of my own mortal insecurity as my thoughts frantically ran toward the obvious: my own physical discomfort and even possible danger if clean water did not start running out of our faucets as soon as possible, my eternal security in Christ was affirmed once more. For even if the worst happens — if there is a worldwide water crisis or the local gangs burst through our front gate or cancer hits close to home — nothing and nobody can take from us the eternal redemption we have in Christ Jesus. He is the only thing in the whole universe that doesn’t change, can’t be purchased, and doesn’t belong to this quickly-fading world. I felt as the Apostle Paul did, “Externally we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

Several hours later, as everyone was drooping lower and lower due to the heat and lack of water, I went to the bathroom once more and instinctively went to flush the toilet even though it had not been able to be flushed all day. Like music to my ears, I heard a loud ‘whoosh’ of water as all the day’s waste was taken from the pot down through the plumbing. The water had come back! I ran outside, my long arms extended high in victory as if we had all just won the Olympic gold as I announced to everyone who would hear, “The water’s back! We have water! Praise God! Yes!”

Once I had sprinted to the nearest faucet to take in a big glass of water, wash my hands and brush my teeth, my own pending mortality got quietly placed back on the shelf. I felt like Superwoman — well-hydrated and ready for anything! Bring it on! Me? A mortal being only inches from death at any given moment? How could that be so? I felt great and looked great (except for the waterfalls of sweat cascading all over my body, but never mind those because I would soon wash all that away with a nice cold shower!)

As I rejoiced, feeling eternally young and fully alive — just because the water had come back! — the quiet voice of truth whispered to me, “It’s not true. You’re not Superwoman. Don’t get fooled into thinking you have everything under control or that this world is your home. Just because you now have all the human comforts at your fingertips — full belly, access to abundant water, roof over your head — does not mean that you can secure a life on Earth forever, nor should you desire to do so. I am your home; My Kingdom is your eternal home.” In my heart I repented for my sudden turn in attitude, my brusk ignorance of my own mortality as I suddenly felt myself to be the all-powerful (all-hydrated) being.

And so I encourage you, too, to see your own life and your own human frailty from an eternal perspective. Secure home, stable job, vibrant health, normal life — it can all come to an end at any moment, whether you live in a prosperous nation or a third world country. (And praise God that it is so! Praise Him that we don’t have to live on earth in the midst of such suffering, corruption and sickness forever!) We know that Jesus Himself is actively preparing for us another home, free of all death, sin and suffering. We are just passing through in this life. Let us be careful, lest we get too comfortable and forget that we will soon be face-to-face with the Living God.

Amen! Glory to God!

April 2017 Updates and Prayer Requests

Possible New Horizons for Gabriela and Josselyn

In a prior update I sought prayer for our little Gabriela who has been living with us almost two years now. Surprisingly, we found a biological family member of hers in a nearby city several weeks ago (the first contact we have had with any family member since she and her sister moved in with us in July 2015). We got their cellphone number and have since realized two structured family visits for Gabriela and her older sister Josselyn. The family visits have helped to fill in many of the gaps in the girls’ fragmented history, and one of those is their ages. Although the majority of their family members are illiterate and do not have a very accurate concept of time, dates, etc, several of them affirmed that Gabriela is roughly 10 years old and Josselyn 12. We continue to parent, love and guide them day after day in this new stage of monthly family visits and increased contact with their past, and due to Josselyn’s insistence we are doing the legal investigations to see if one or both of the girls can return to their biological family’s home, most likely with their grandparents. This is a very delicate process for all of us, as Josselyn is currently feeling a very strong pull to return to her familial roots and daily experiences pretty dramatic mood swings as she has even escaped twice from our home in recent weeks. We are approaching the possibility of her living with her biological family with an open mind and much prayer, but both girls arrived at our home in terrible shape in 2015 and had experienced much abuse and neglect at the hands of certain relatives, so we do not yet have peace about them returning to such an unstable situation despite Josselyn’s adamancy. Please pray with us for our two girls during this time, as the government will have the final say on where the girls will live. This week I am scheduled to accompany a government social worker to the girls’ grandparents’ home as part of the reintegration investigation. Please pray for peace over our household as well, as Josselyn is quite unstable emotionally, and that affects everyone in our family. Please continue to pray with us for both girls — for their healing, relationship with the Lord, future, etc — as any child who has been separated from their biological family struggles with great insecurities and doubts as to why they do not live with their family in addition to periods of very intense emotional angst. Pray that Father God would bless them both with wisdom to understand their past, gratitude towards Him for where they are in the present, and great faith in God as to their future. In particular, pray that God would illuminate Josselyn’s mind with the truth (as we feel that she is currently very confused), and that wherever she ends up she would continue to seek, love and obey Him. The attachment process when a new child/teen arrives in our family (and then the detachment process if/when they leave) is extremely taxing on Darwin’s and my emotions, and we currently feel very stretched thin emotionally. We appreciate your honest prayers.

This is our 13-year-old daughter Jackeline, the proud new cow-owner I wrote about on last month’s general update blog. Her young female calf has grown considerably since the taking of this photo, and Jackeline goes out to the stable to take care of her, give her salt and garlic (to relieve her of internal parasites, etc) several times per week. We are very encouraged about the opportunities this growing calf might provide Jackeline in the future and pray that any financial gain she might provide would be used to glorify God and serve others.

 

Erick’s Young Men’s Retreat and Running Group

Earlier this month during ‘Holy Week’ (the week in Latin American culture leading up to Easter Sunday) Erick and Darwin organized a camping retreat for about a dozen young men, the majority of whom are in our school and others of which weekly attend the Bible study that Erick and his wife host in their home on Wednesday evenings. They all threw on their backpacks and headed up a remote path into the dense jungle behind our home to enjoy a campfire, sharing of stories and testimonies, several Bible studies, etc. For the majority of the young men, it was the first time they had ever done anything like that. We are excited about and blessed by the wisdom, energy, and sacrificial attitude that Erick and his family bring to this ministry in rural Honduras, as he is actively investing in and guiding many teenage boys during his free time and during vacations. He has also since formed a running group with the same young men as he is training with them several times per week to run in a 10K in a nearby city next month. Not only Erick but all of the Christian laborers the Lord has placed alongside of us this year are taking great initiative to form relationships with and disciple the many youth in our homeschool-style school, both during ‘work’ hours and on nights/weekends. This is awesome!

Everybody hold your machete up! This photo was taken of Erick and Darwin’s group of ‘wild men’ when they came back from their overnight campout in the mountains. Two of our sons (Brayan, age 15, and Jason, age 9) participated in the event. Our 8-year-old son Josue stayed at home to protect the women!

 

Greater Organization Achieved in 2017

Although this may not be a particularly striking headline report to make, we are very excited about the organization, communication and daily structure we’ve been able to establish this year. During the first three years of this ministry (2013-2015), we oftentimes felt like our lips were flapping violently in the breeze and our hair was flying all over the place as the learning curve is pretty drastic for learning how to parent hurting children/teens, establish and grow a ministry from scratch, utilize and protect a rural 17-acre property in the middle of one of the world’s most dangerous countries, etc. Last year we had many breakthroughs as we opened our previously itty-bitty homeschool program to dozens of local youth through the creation of our discipleship-based high school, twice-weekly Bible study and prayer groups, Christian Leadership class, etc, although we still had many kinks to work out as we had been thrown into an entirely new arena. Now that we have more experience under our belts (and hopefully wisdom gained both through the ups and downs we’ve personally gone through in addition to increased and ongoing reading of Scripture, etc), this calendar year we are all taking a collective sigh of relief and gratitude as things are marching along without so many hiccups. This year we are serving more people than ever before, and with much less stress! Knowing how to manage a kitchen where about 50 people eat on any given day – calculating how many and which groceries to buy, how to keep the kitchen clean (and who cleans it on what day, and then making sure that person actually cleans it!), etc – is not something that comes in the owner’s manual, but by God’s grace this year things are running more smoothly and the overall organization of the property and its buildings (not just the kitchen) has improved drastically. Setting appropriate limits both with the surrounding community and with those within our household; discerning and then communicating the specific vision/mission the Lord is giving us; establishing and managing our kids’ and laborers’ many schedules/responsibilities; learning how to keep our guard dogs alive; discerning the next step in any new situation and taking it, etc, has been the ongoing task during these first few years of laboring under God’s grace and for His glory. Through many people’s generosity we’ve also been able to purchase a printer for our office (before we used to have to run to town every time we needed to print something!) and we’re in the final stages of finishing a large swing-set/play structure for our yard. Join us in thanking God for these advancements – some big, others very small – as we are daily learning how to be the best possible stewards of all that has been placed under our care. Yes!

This is the homeschool-style support group I teach in our dining room every Tuesday afternoon with a small group of some of our most marginalized students. Josue, our 8-year-old specials needs son (the one in the orange shirt looking at the camera), is my ‘assistant’ — he helps me encourage and supervise the other students, hand out the snack (and eat the snack), etc. We have seen great progress in this group of students since they joined us in January of this year, and many are actively seeking God’s will for their lives. Josue, who cannot learn in a normal classroom environment, also feels very important as my ‘assistant,’ which is a good niche for him to have. He is my right-hand man  in my advanced math class as well, and he helps Darwin in the many classes he teaches.

 

In my Tuesday afternoon support group we work a lot with open-ended art projects, team-building activities and Biblical study as we seek to ‘wake up’ and develop youth who have largely been left to their own devices since early childhood. Many of our students have spent years of their life out of school only to run wild around our rural neighborhood or wander aimlessly, so activities such as art, music, healthy physical touch, etc along with Biblical direction are crucial to cultivating their minds and lives for Christ.

 

These are two of our older teen boys who are new to our school this year. We are very proud of the decisions they are making and their sincerity of faith as they are coming to put their lives in align with God’s will. Their decision to study in our program and participate in the many additional faith-building activities we offer (such as the boys’ campout, Erick’s in-home Bible study, etc) is very countercultural for young men their age. Please pray with us for them, that God would fully transform their lives and build them into Christ-centered leaders (servants) to their generation.

 

Seeking Prayer for Sandra, Who Left Our Home

Sandra, a 16-year-old local teen who has sought refuge in our home on-and-off over the past year-and-a-half, recently decided to move out of our home. Ever since her escape from her mother’s house a couple months ago, she has been actively engaged in many occult activities that go directly in contrast with God’s will for her life. Several weeks ago Darwin and I sat down with Sandra and her mother (a very devout, humble Christian who works with us part-time) to try to get to the root of Sandra’s sporadic behavior, and she told us that she no longer desired to live with us nor study in our school. She has since moved out and we have lost all contact with her, as she is living in her mother’s home but not under her mother’s authority. We are deeply saddened by the very dangerous choices she is currently making, but we feel absolute certainty that God has called us to release her (as in, no longer worry about her nor try to ‘rescue’ her from her own poor decisions). Prior to her moving out we had invested much individualized prayer, conversations, etc, into her life as we sought to be faithful channels of God’s grace to her, but she ultimately made her decision and will pay the consequences. Although Darwin and I along with our kids are in absolute peace with all that we’ve done, said, given, etc in regards to our relationship with her, we do seek prayer on her behalf and that of her mom, who is daily faced with a very rebellious daughter who has placed herself near many dangers. We long for Sandra to return to God in repentance, as she confessed faith in Christ last year and was publicly baptized, thus making a lifelong commitment with God. Thank you for your prayers.

Here is a photo of Domingo, a local pastor/carpenter and one of the Christian laborers the Lord has placed alongside of us, and his eldest son in the beginning stages of putting the large play structure together. We designed it from scratch several months ago, and we are very excited that within the week this ‘dream’ will become a reality for the many youth who spend their days at the Living Waters Ranch.

 

 

Praising God: Protection from Danger

We praise and thank God that roughly a year and a half has passed since the last burglary on our property. Although those within our walls (students and our children) oftentimes struggle with stealing money or small items from our office or backpacks, we are very happy that the issue we had experienced in 2013-2015 of late-night unknown neighbors stealing chicken, electric generators, cutting through fences, etc, has since ceased. Our night watchman — who does his rounds with nothing more than a flashlight — has been doing a very diligent job each night, and he and his family will soon be celebrating two years of living on our property with us. Five of their children are in our school, and we enjoy a very positive relationship with them. Please continue to pray for us in regard to the general issue of security, as Honduras is a very dangerous country. We thank God for His protection — over our lives and our property — that He has granted us, and we humbly ask that you might pray with us so that this divine protection against evil might continue. Praise be to God!

This is Reina, one of our faithful Christian laborers in her 50s whom God is utilizing (and at the same time transforming!) at the Living Waters Ranch, supporting a group of young girls during a Bible-study activity we held during Holy Week for our students who were on vacation from their normal classes with us.

 

Amen! Glory to God!

Choose Your Compass Carefully: A Reflection on Technology, Luxury and Following Christ

A few days ago our 13-year-old daughter Jackeline came home in the evening after having spent the day with her 8-year-old special needs brother Josue in a visit with their biological family members. I greeted them warmly at the door as Jackeline then plopped down on our little two-person floral print couch. I instinctively pulled up one of our old wicker stools as I then sat down on it a few feet in front of her. My eyes searched hers as wacky lil’ Josue began trying to do some kind of rear horsey-kick with his stubby hands grabbing the couch’s tired arm while pushing his legs up and back as he bounced about next to the couch.

Jackeline with her wild shoulder-length hair and beautiful round face did not look stressed out or worried, so I dared to ask: “How was the visit?”

That simple question was all it took for us to dive into an hour-plus conversation as she shared with me her many (very insightful) observations on the world outside of our family. (Some of our 8 foster children have regular monthly visits with their biological family members while others have gone years without hearing anything from their relatives.)

She began, voice accelerated as she entered her dramatic story-telling mode, “I asked my little cousin – you know him, the one who’s three years old – if he wanted to play cars.”

I nodded my head and smiled, for Darwin and I have met all of her biological relatives on several occasions and maintain a very positive relationship with them.

“Well, my little cousin said ‘yes’ to my invitation to play cars with him, and then he whipped out two cellphones out of nowhere and said, ‘Which one do you want?’” At this point her eyes are really wide open as she replays the shock she felt when the event happened. I felt like I was right there with her in live action!

I began giggling, and I glanced over and winked at Josue. He flashed me a big, toothy grin. Jackeline continued, “And I said, ‘What?! I asked you if you wanted to play cars with me, like toy cars….Sitting on the ground.’” She motioned with a hand weakened by shock the little back-and-forth movement as she rolled an imaginary toy car in the air.

By then I was really laughing, and she paused to reiterate the whole cellphone part: “I mean, he just whipped out not one, but two of those big fancy cellphones! Two! And he’s only three years old!” I nodded in agreement.

“So when I clarified that I wanted to play toy cars with him on the ground, he shrugged disinterestedly and said, ‘Boring,’ and then showed me the cellphones again, asking me which one I wanted to play on. He told me that he had some electronic app on the phone that was called ‘Cars’ that was more fun than what I had suggested.”

Her way of story-telling – hands moving about animatedly, passion displayed in her fluctuating tone of voice – was both hilarious and effective as she shed a lot of light on the utter absurdities of today’s world culture.

“And, like during the whole visit my little cousin ended up playing on both of the cellphones all by himself, and the television was on all the time! It was like…chaos. At one point he told me that he didn’t like one of the cellphones because it wasn’t as advanced as the other one, so he was going to give it to Charlie!”

I tilted my head, slightly confused because I had never heard mention of Charlie. She was quick to clarify: “That’s the cat!

She looked genuinely worried. Josue continued grinning and nodding enthusiastically as if he understood and agreed with the entire social commentary. I rejoiced in my heart that God is developing in Jackeline a very effective ‘truth filter’ – the ability to observe and even be immersed in what many people consider to be ‘normal’ while evaluating it from the perspective of God’s eternal Word. In effect, to be in the world but not of it.

I treasured this moment in my heart, for our precious – wild, at times immature, strikingly wise! – Jackeline, by God’s grace, is developing the ability to discern her surroundings. She will desperately need that ability, especially when she leaves our home and protection one day to enter the adult realm. In a wildly confused world that is quickly accepting all forms of sexual sin as ‘normal’ (in addition to  rampant materialism, a very isolated ‘individualism’, political corruption, etc), she is going to desperately need to be able to discern what is of God and what is not if she is to walk closely by His side in the world’s wild maze of infinite options and endless ‘ways.’

While I ruminated on all this, thanking God in my heart for the firm character and wise discernment He is forming in His daughter, she continued: “And then my grandma began telling me that it is really important for me to get a tablet and learn how to use it.”

I felt uneasy at the idea; she continued, laughing as she pointed at my reaction: “I told my grandma, ‘I don’t think my parents are gonna like that idea!’, but she said that it’s important because in daily life everyone uses one.”

At that we both began laughing, because although Darwin and I have never spoken openly against modern technological advancements, all of our kids can observe clearly that we are not addicted to them (nor do we own many of them). In our daily life we read books (those old kind made from trees); we enjoy the creativity God has given us to roll up our sleeves and do art projects; we teach classes and Bible studies in bare rooms on wooden benches; we use our hands (and sweat glands) to work around the house and yard; we dedicate ourselves to the ongoing task of developing the minds God has entrusted us; we spend ourselves joyfully on the task of binding up the brokenhearted and setting the captive free; we worship God through music; we care diligently for the various animals God has placed on our property. In a large sense, we are ‘unplugged.’

Jackeline continued, fully enjoying the process of story-telling, “And I said, ‘Grandma! But my parents are adults, and they don’t use a tablet in everyday life!’ And with that, my grandma was really surprised and asked how that was possible. I said, ‘Well, they only use their computers for like really extreme jobs, and they have no use for a calculator because they do the math in their heads!’” At that point I was rolling with laughter, and Josue continued glancing energetically between his older sister and I, eager to participate in the joy. “My grandma was shocked and had no reply! She had never heard of such a thing!”

You see, in our home my husband (who is Honduran) and I (who was born in America) have put a ‘stop’ to the endless advancements in technology and luxury that many in the world constantly chase after. We choose not to have hot water or air-conditioning; we all wash our clothes by hand; we have no television. Our kids do not have internet access; my cell phone is a little black apparatus with an itty bitty screen and old school keypad that probably made its world debut when your great-grandmother was in kindergarten. It doesn’t have any apps and can’t even take pictures. I’ve had my cellphone so many years that the part that sends text messages no longer even works. It’s only used for…*gasp*…making calls! People constantly ask me if I have ‘Whatsapp,’ and I finally had to confess the other day, “No; I don’t have ‘Whatsapp, and to be honest with you, I don’t even know what it is!

I lived my first two-and-a-half years in this country without a car; Darwin, the kids and I walked everywhere and took overcrowded public transportation, oftentimes waiting hours for the right bus to pass. Only now do we have our 16-year-old battered war vehicle; our Toyota pickup truck with a camper on the back. When we rumble by on the narrow gravel roads in our rural town, many of the neighborhood kids shout, “Chicken Coop! Chicken Coop!” because there are always so many little heads sticking out of it!

Probably within a few years – as the outside world continues its frenetic grasping at ‘new’ and ‘better’ while we remain joyfully content with a simple life in God’s presence – someone will probably label us as Amish.

I am currently away from home to attend a day-long conference several hours away from our little ‘home on the range.’ The majority of the other conference attendees – a mixture of local Honduran Christians and American missionaries – had their advanced cellphones with the big screens, cars that look to be in a lot better shape than ours, and their overall attitude (along with the content of their conversations) dripped with worldly enticement. I felt, as I do in many situations, out of place. Like I’m from a different tribe.

Several of the conference speakers spoke (inaccurately) of the need to correct and educate the local people in matters of technology; that we must show the poor that rather than washing their clothes in the river or in an old-fashioned washbin, they must learn to use a washing machine. (And with what money will they purchase and maintain one if they can barely put food on the table?) Rather than bathing with a bucket, they must learn to do so in a shower, with hot water if possible.

My heart grew heavy with each passing word pronounced by the well-intentioned Honduran speakers, for Christ did not come to improve the worldly conditions of the poor – to make them bilingual or grant them a college scholarship or purchase them a washing machine – but rather to preach the truth in the midst of a world drowning in lies; to pay the price none of us can pay in order to put us into right relationship with our Creator and our neighbor. Whether we claim to serve God at home or in a far-off nation, we must be very careful what ‘good news’ we are proclaiming with our words and lives: that of worldly prosperity (which, even at its best, not all can attain), or the everlasting Good News of a loving God who comes to redeem, to heal, to guide. Jesus went around proclaiming, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near!” I dare say that that should be our message as well.

In a video on human trafficking that we saw with our older girls in months past, there is a very sincere American missionary fighting the effects of the forced-prostitution industry in Asia, and he very accurately says, “This is not a matter of money and education. In the West there is abounding educational opportunities and plenty of money, but that has not solved the problem of evil. This (whether it is sex slavery, the problem of parentless children, the existence of violent gangs, political corruption, etc) is a spiritual problem.”

To be an overseas missionary — or to serve Christ anywhere — is not a matter of raffling off washing machines and giving college scholarships to help bump people up and out of poverty; it is of teaching others to know and follow Christ; to go to the ends of the earth making disciples, for we know that He will be with us until the end of the age.

Men like Adolf Hitler, Hugh Hefner and others – men with excessive power and know-how (men who have quite strategically gotten what they wanted out of life and whom  we can safely say probably did not bathe with a bucket) – have used their privileges, their intelligence, their money not for good but for evil. So we must be careful what we aspire for those whom we are serving. ‘Developing with the times’ and ‘learning the ways of the world’ do not in any way go hand-in-hand with the good news of Jesus Christ. They are two distinct messages with results that find themselves at opposite poles.

‘Helping the poor’ is not a question of bringing them up to the middle-class. If that is our goal and strategy, we may just be creating more ego-saturated materialism addicts whose hearts are even farther from God than they were to start with.

It is and always has been a battle deep within the human heart – whether the person is rich or poor. Light versus darkness. Truth versus lies. Live for the eternal or live for the temporal. Honor God with your life or believe the age-old lie Satan presented in the garden: “Take things into your own hands; you can be like your own gods!”

Last evening, as I stayed at a bed-and-breakfast hotel, I took a long walk. It was very serene — one of those rare moments of ‘alone time’. The cool breeze blew through my hair as I walked the sidewalks and nearly empty streets of an upper-middle-class neighborhood at dusk. Tall, impenetrable walls around each property. Two-and-three-story homes designed with breathtakingly beautiful architecture. Polished, highly protected people with polished, highly protected lives. No noise. No trash in the streets. I felt like I could have been perusing a wealthy neighborhood in any corner of the globe.

It is so easy to be drawn to what is most comfortable, and to then let our lives be dictated by our desire to protect the luxuries and comforts we have. As I walked the empty streets, the quiet breeze accompanying me as I reflected deeply upon the day’s conference, I felt both saddened at the way many in today’s world choose to live while simultaneously awed by God’s grace over our tiny lives and the way He has led us to take firm decisions, both for our own sake and for that of our children. We refuse to be guided by the world’s compass. Just because the world shouts “North!” does not mean that North is the way; it just might mean that the real way is South. At every turn, we must seriously consider whose voice we are heeding; that of the world’s or that of the quiet whisper of the only true shepherd.

(And, let us all remember that several times in Scripture it is noted that Satan is the prince of this world; the whole world is under his persuasion. Let us be careful lest we find ourselves as his unknowing accomplices. Nearly everyone takes the wide path that leads to destruction; few walk the narrow path that leads to life. If you find yourself saying, doing and thinking the same things as everyone else, stop and ask yourself what path you are on.)

My sandaled feet guided me along as my long skirt lapped at my legs in that quiet, perfectly insulated neighborhood, far from the mess of our daily life surrounded by hurting people in our simple cinderblock buildings. Surely in these nice homes bat droppings don’t constantly fall on their sofa and severely broken children don’t wipe poop on their walls!

A very dear family who visited us briefly in January later published on their prayer newsletter that we were ‘so poor’ – the guest room where they stayed was one of our classrooms with foam mattresses on the floor, and they observed that all we eat are rice and beans.

I continued walking, observing majestic homes that anybody would die to live in. Are we poor? I laughed at the question, for I believe we feel as the Apostle Paul felt: having nothing, we have everything. No, we are not poor: we are rich beyond measure, beyond cellphones and luxury bathrooms and insulated homes. We have infinite riches in Christ, for we know that this world is not our home; we are just passing through on our way to the eternal Kingdom where the true treasure is waiting.

Jesus said to be careful where your treasure is, for there your heart will be also. He said to store up treasures not here on earth – not worldly wealth, power, human comforts – but rather treasures in heaven. Lose your life for His sake in order to find it. Deny yourself, carry your cross and follow Him. We must not fall in love with the world and all that it offers; we are to be in the world but not of it. Renew your mind; allow God to transform you so that you may come to know His perfect will. In this life we will suffer, but we must take heart because He has overcome the world! He who affirms that he is united with God, must live as Jesus Christ lived.

And so, I humbly encourage you to evaluate your own life and carefully consider whether the fast-moving train of technology, luxury, over-eating, etc, is taking its many passengers toward a deeper relationship with their Creator, their Savior, or whether it intends to propel them blindly towards a darker fate. The world’s bandwagon has a megaphone that proclaims ‘Entertainment,’ ‘Ease,’ ‘Have it your way.’ Eat and drink, for tomorrow you die. Have we believed this message; have we blindly given our lives over to an untrustworthy system; have we jumped on the bandwagon that is leading many away from God’s heart and His eternal purpose?

We must all remember how Jesus lived among us and that He is calling us to live the same way –fully united with His Father’s will rather than fully rooted in the worldly system.

After all, our message is not a popular one just as Jesus’ wasn’t, but we proclaim it boldly and with great faith, for we know and love He who is guiding us.

All that is in the world will come to an end, but those who do the will of God will live forever.

Amen.