Category Archives: The Gifted and Talented Program

Alone Before the Throne: My Last Day at the Episcopal School

A few weeks ago I taught my last youth leadership class in the Episcopal School, that old light-teal-colored three-story building in downtown La Ceiba where the Lord first began training me back in 2012 for the work He has currently entrusted us.

As the magnitude of the work at the Living Waters Ranch (where my husband and I live and labor 7 days a week) has grown over these past two and a half years, we have recently made the decision to withdraw from our part-time labors at the Episcopal School in order to focus entirely on our Father’s purposes in our little rural town on the outskirts of La Ceiba.

So I arrived about an hour before class on that final Monday with my black suitcase filled with dry erase markers, my students’ journals and little candy treats. In a very real way I was burdened with joy, with gratitude.

I asked one of the full-time teachers at the school to unlock the multi-purpose/storage room for me. I had been assigned that room during the last couple months once the air-conditioned upstairs library room had become highly coveted among the other teachers.

As he unlocked that utterly undesirable room at the end of the first-floor passageway, I sighed as I found my classroom as I had found it every Monday prior: desks in total disarray, someone else’s trash littering the ground, boxes of this-and-that thrown about in the back, supplies from some other teacher’s project left haphazardly about, a couple rouge foosball tables here and there to add to the overall eye-sore effect. Some little empty milk cartons tossed about on the tile floor, a layer of very tangible dust covering almost everything.

I set my black suitcase – my mobile classroom, in effect – down along one of the walls and calmly set about ordering half of the classroom while pushing all that I didn’t need to the other half.

Seeing as I had always preferred that my students sit on the floor, every Monday I would lift and move the desks and chairs, creating a very free floorspace for us to sit in a circle and grow together.

Boxes, foosball tables and other miscellaneous objects moved to the back half of the classroom, whiteboard wiped down, trash ‘swept’ away with my foot because a broom was not found. Laptop turned on with Spanish praise and worship music now majestically filling the unlikeliest of spaces. Ready.

As I participated in this familiar routine for the last time, the heaviness in the room became palpable. Standing still, my eyes travelled up to the itty-bitty windows at the top of the back wall of the classroom, opened to allow in the smallest amount of light and fresh breeze. An overgrown tree-plant from outside extended a few of its nosy branches into our sacred space.

In this room – in my posture before the Lord – stillness had become my close friend.

This is God’s will. His Word being preached, His children being instructed not from a grand stage but in abandoned rooms.

God’s wisdom seems like foolishness to the worldly ‘wise’ while He laughs at human ‘wisdom’ and calls us all to become fools for His sake. I’m sure that every other teacher and employee at this school is certain nothing good could ever happen in this dirty storage room, but if only they knew what I know, what my students know! Here we find the Master; here we learn His ways.

How many times during my first year in Honduras when I was 22 years old and single did I find Him two rooms over in what was then my first-grade classroom all alone at the end of a hard day, praising His name in the midst of seemingly insurmountable difficulties?

After having been promised 12-15 manageable students in my bilingual first grade classroom as a first-time teacher fresh out of college and living on my own in a new country, it turned out that 28 had been entrusted to my care, none of which showed any mercy to their young teacher who had zero training or experience. Oh, how difficult that first year was, but how closely I felt His hand over me, over my little ones! How many times did I reach the point of weeping – whether for joy, out of profound gratitude, or exhausted by frustration – in this old, teal-colored building tragically situated in the city that has recently been considered to be the murder capital of the world? How many times have I found Him here, alone, as I do even now on what is my last day? Thank You, Father, for these precious moments of stillness in Your presence.

As in any marital situation or large family, in our daily work at the Living Waters Ranch with the 8 children/youth the Lord has brought us to raise as His sons and daughters mixed in with the 20+ other youth from our rural neighborhood who frequent our home/mission for school and discipleship, it is all too easy to get swept-up in a group mentality. It becomes natural to ‘put family first,’ or enjoy the general feeling of ‘we’re all in this together.’ Now that we’ve become accustomed to loving one another for God’s glory, what on earth would we do if someday we become separated?

While these are not bad thoughts, we must understand that each person’s journey begins and ends standing alone before His throne.

It was alone that I began this journey with my Lord back in 2012, certain of His calling on my life whether single or married – I had not even met my husband and had no idea who my children would be! – and here I was alone once again as this precious chapter was being closed. Four years after the journey began, there I stood deeply scarred and torn — formed — by the myriad experiences the Lord had led me through henceforth.

Likewise, at some point in the unknown future – possibly losing spouse and/or children to tragedy, as is all too common here and in the world at large – I may return to such a state of singleness, aloneness in the Lord’s presence.

As every person must come to wholly recognize in their own lives, my beloved husband and the children whom I so adore do not constitute my walk with the Lord; He is who He is whether the blessing of their presence is granted me or taken away. The Lord’s mission is not realized exclusively on ‘mission bases’ in the foothills of majestic mountains or in organized church environments; it is also realized in hectic urban schools and abandoned storage rooms like the one in which I found myself.

So my students began arriving about half an hour later in their two separate groups: first hour with my fourth- and fifth-graders, second hour with my sixth- and seventh-graders, most of whom I had known since Day 1 of entering the Kindergarten-12th grade Episcopal School in 2012. Coaching them in extracurricular basketball teams, being the full-time first-grade teacher of some, getting to know one another during organized visits to our home/mission out in the countryside, preaching the message during their scheduled ‘church’ time on several occasions, or guiding them weekly through the personalized spiritual formation process in the various extracurricular programs the Lord had guided me to design over the past years. Oh, how many hours I had spent reading their journals, excitedly scribbling this or that insight the Lord had given me to continue forming them according to His wisdom and perfect love!

So our last day together was almost unbearably heavy yet ethereally light as the children and I shared some unspoken understanding, so obvious that no one dared cheapen it with words: The Lord has indeed moved among us. Their eyes said it as we opened up the Word one last time to reflect, sieve, press deeper and farther. My eyes said it as I searched their faces; undoubtedly the Truth had already begun consuming a small corner of their souls. Fan the flame, I prayed silently as I moved and taught among their cross-legged semi-circle on the floor.

The Lord placed the words in my mouth to teach His little ones: “None of this – none of these past four years of deep friendship, warm hugs, long letters and uncommon lessons – was from me or about you; it’s all about Him. Seek Him. Everything we have done and said here comes straight from His Word, straight from His heart. Carry the torch; continue the search; allow Him to transform your mind, your sight.”

Then, an uncommon, daring thought. I ventured to put it into words, praying they would understand: “Kids, if you’ve seen something different in me — and I’m certain you have — if you’ve wondered how on earth ‘Miss Jennifer’ always looks so joyful or why she really loves and treasures you while perhaps other adults generally do not or why she seems to see things differently than others  –”

As I sat among them in our tight circle, their eyes were trained on me and confirmed that, yes, they had unmistakably noticed something different about me during these last four years of close friendship, of discipleship that digs deep, sheds light on the darkness, transcends normal ‘teacher-student’ boundaries.

I dared to continue: “– It is God at work within me, the Creator of the universe manifesting Himself among us through me. It’s not ‘me.’ ‘Miss Jennifer’ is actually quite the gossiper, the money-lover, the lazy fool without God. If you’ve seen a distinct joy, a different perspective, an eternal hope, any pinch of wisdom, that is actually God within me, acting through me. If you’ve felt drawn to me as a teacher, it is because you have felt drawn to God. His Word teaches that He actually comes and lives within those who are submitted to His will; that is one of the ways He manifests Himself to humanity in the world today. So now on our last day together I beg you to keep reflecting on all that we’ve learned together, and may you see God Himself in my actions among you. And if you’ve seen any impatience or bad attitude, that’s ‘me;’ that’s not Him. That’s what’s left over of the ‘Miss Jennifer’ without God, and He’s still in the process of transforming that part, renewing and cleansing. But please know that God has indeed been moving among us, acting in and through us to make Himself and His perfect love known to us, and that He longs to work in such ways in and through each of you, thus captivating humanity with the utterly attractive nature of all that He is.”

Many things were said on that last Monday together, while at the same time very little was said while much was understood. It was a Great Commission of sorts, a sending out of those who have started the training process to continue onward with great faith while going out and training others to love and follow the Father in similar fashion.

As the last of my students left, my heart heavy as I embraced each one, I ended that day as I had started it. It was, in fact, how I had started this entire journey nearly four years ago: joyfully alone, trusting,  in an abandoned room in that old teal-colored building, focused on my Father alone.

Move Beyond ‘Me’

The students in my Gifted and Talented program had just spent about fifteen minutes working on their list of 10-15 personal goals they have for their life when I then wrote the second part of the writing assignment on the oversized whiteboard:

Write 10 goals/purposes/desires that God has for your life.

I began to tell a story. “When I was about 20 years old and I was a student in the university – I wasn’t yet a teacher or a mom, hadn’t moved to Honduras yet, just a young student taking classes – I met with my mentor one afternoon to discuss and discern the direction my life would take. She had me write down a list of personal goals – just like what I just had you do.”


A couple students seemed suddenly bored, probably thinking This is a ‘be-all-you-can-be’ lecture, a ‘reach-for-the-stars’ encouragement speech. Heard it.

I continued, praying that something that I was about to say would penetrate beyond their rising and falling mental activity and settle in their heart.

“Well, I wrote my list and thought it looked pretty darn good. I handed it to her, proud of my neat list of personal goals, and, upon looking on it, she said, ‘Jennifer, this is terrible!’”

The wandering eyes suddenly snapped up to mine. They looked somewhat confused, but at least now they were paying attention. “She said, ‘This list has a major problem,’ and I looked at my mentor, not sure what she meant. She then told me, ‘Jennifer, each goal you have starts with ‘I want…’ I want this. I want that. I, I, I. What does God want?”

A light sparked in a few of the kids’ eyes, and I could suddenly read their minds: Oh, maybe God doesn’t want me to be a billionaire soccer star who only drinks Coca Cola, watches television all day and never gets old…Whoops.


“My mentor’s comment that day has shaped so many of my decisions since then. It’s not bad to want certain things, to have personal desires – God’s word says that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will fulfill the desires of our heart! – but we need to move beyond our own desires to ask the more important question of: What does God want from me?”

Now they were listening. Thank you, Father. I continued pacing, as much to keep up my adrenaline levels after not having slept well the night before as to capture these pre-teens’ short attention spans.


“Kids, the whole world is stuck on this question.” I point, using the dry erase marker in my hand to indicate the first question. “But it’s a trick. If I only look for what I like and what I want and what pleases me, we all know where I will end. A life filled with me, me, me ends in destruction.”

“And the good news is that if we move beyond the first question and begin the fervent and life-long search of God’s intended purposes in and through us, it’s much more fulfilling, and it leads us into abundant and eternal life!”

“If this question seems extremely difficult to you, I understand. It would have been for me, too, when I was your age. In fourth grade my life goals included owning a pet shop with a giant open-dog’s mouth built on the front where the shoppers would come and go. But don’t give up in the search! God’s will for us isn’t discerned one time in a wacky school assignment; keep discerning it everyday – next week, when you are in high school, when you’re thirty years old, when you can no longer walk!”


After encouraging the kids along in the task, I later read their responses. A ten-year-old girl wrote of the goals she senses that God has for her life:

  1. Help the sick
  2. Give food to people who live in the street
  3. Pray a lot
  4. Help handicapped people
  5. Not love money
  6. Be a doctor
  7. Not be racist
  8. Not be a liar
  9. Love everyone like I love myself
  10. Not steal


A fourteen-year-old girl answered the same question:

  1. Well, I believe that my purpose will be to sing and show through the music God’s love
  2. Be a mom to teenagers and children who need support
  3. Teach music or something else
  4. Have my own children and guide them on the correct path
  5. Be a counselor to people who need support
  6. Be a writer of encouragement for teenagers
  7. Listen to people’s stories who have suffered in this life…



An eleven-year-old boy wrote the following:

  1. Preach His Word to the whole world
  2. Help the needy
  3. Never be proud
  4. Do what is just
  5. Obey my parents
  6. Have a clean marriage
  7. Be faithful to Him and to my wife…


A ten-year-old boy:

…To not think that what I have is mine, To be humble, To know Who created me…


Notable Kids’ Goals

The following are the written personal goals of several of the students in my Gifted and Talented Program…


An 11-year-old boy:

  1. Go to one of the best universities to teach
  2. Discover cures for mortal diseases
  3. Be able to join the Air Force
  4. Stop delinquency and make the world a better place
  5. Discover the significance of planets’ deaths
  6. To be able to express my darkest feelings and secrets
  7. Go to the United States and be part of NASA
  8. Investigate the crashes of planes that are now lost at sea
  9. Discover if there is life on other planets
  10. Never give up in the pursuit of reaching my goals


A 12-year-old girl:

  1. Evangelize people (principally those in prison)
  2. Be better each day
  3. Be a teacher
  4. Be a protector of animals
  5. Be a protector of children who need it
  6. Help others
  7. Go and donate things to the needy
  8. Be a doctor
  9. Be a veterinarian
  10. Always pray for others


A 9-year-old boy:

  1. Be happy
  2. Be an actor
  3. Keep living in God’s hands
  4. Walk the Red Carpet
  5. Have children
  6. Travel the whole world
  7. Meet Ariana Grande (a singer)
  8. Raise the name of my country (Honduras)
  9. Have a clean heart that the Lord can enter
  10. Be happy with my wife
  11. Die and know the Kingdom of Heaven


An 11-year-old boy:

  1. As my first and most important goal, never separate from God’s path
  2. Never fall in adultery when I am big. Obvious.
  3. Study to be more intelligent
  4. Have a job that I really like and that pays me well
  5. Marry the woman God has for me
  6. Learn to play soccer like the best in the world
  7. Study at a good university
  8. Have the house of my dreams
  9. That my best friends may go on the good path
  10. That my children may be children of God and always serve Him
  11. Have a long life
  12. That God may every day give me more wisdom
  13. That I may never have financial problems
  14. When I grow, to be able to help my parents financially
  15. Always be healthy and my parents also and brothers


A 14-year-old girl:

  1. Marry, have children or adopt children who need a father and mother
  2. Go to Italy and study music, meeting new friends and maybe my future husband
  3. Write my own story going back as far as I can remember
  4. Speak of God and show His love and what He did for me during my childhood
  5. Write my own music…

Look Inside.

The week after I presented my students with the writing prompt about problems in our world that make them mad, I caught them all flat-footed by flipping the question.

With my back to my students, I began to scribble excitedly with large letters on the white board at the front of our furnitureless classroom:

What are some problems (sins) inside of you that make you mad? Why? 

Then I stepped away from the board, revealing the day’s writing prompt. Several of the kids immediately had pressing questions and doubts, as if their minds just couldn’t wrap around what I was asking of them. I laughed — we humans! — and began to explain in greater detail the fact that whatever evil exists in the world — all of the liars, the kids who bully, the people who ignore the poor, those who wage war — also exists within each one of us.

“Last week as I read and re-read your journal entries, many of you went on tirades against your classmates who make fun of you. And you? Have you ever made fun of others?” I looked out at about a dozen blank faces while one or two of the more mature students laughed along with me, already understanding where I was leading them.

“You said that one of the problems in our world is that people lie. Do you lie, or is it just everyone else?” I swept my eyes across the semi-circle of students before me, surprised by the fact that their fixed expression of utter confusion remained painted on their faces, so I continued.

“You angels! Ok, well maybe we don’t need to touch this topic, because it seems like it’s just everyone else out there who lies, steals, and commits sins.” Some of the students actually looked relieved, misunderstanding my good-humored sarcasm and thinking that I really was going to cancel the writing assignment.

After explaining a few more times and in several different ways that the writing prompt actually wasn’t impossible or some kind of trick question, they finally settled down and spread out all across the tile floor of our quiet upstairs room where we meet every Friday. I turned up the volume on the classical music playing from the little red CD player I brought in my teaching suitcase from home and began weaving in and around the students as they wrote, some sprawled out on their bellies to write, others sitting up comfortably against one of the walls, all munching on little candies that I deposited one-by-one on the open surface of their notebooks as the wrote.

Later that afternoon as class came to a close with rounds of chess and logic puzzles, I carried my (extremely) heavy black teaching suitcase downstairs and excitedly took out the kids’ journals, eager to see how they had responded to the prompt.

No! No. No. No. He didn’t understand. I closed the first notebook I had opened, disappointed that instead of recognizing his own sin, the student had continued his tirade about his mean classmates who bully him. It’s not about what they do. It’s about what you do. No! I thought. Maybe the next kid will understand.

I then opened the next brightly colored notebook in the large stack, quickly flipping past prior writing assignments to find today’s. My heart sunk upon reading the first sentence, and from there my eyes skimmed the rest of the page-and-a-half answer in frustration. How can we be so blind? This student, too, continued with their long list of complaints about all of the evil out there, basically repeating the same that she had written the week before about the problems in our world that make her mad.

I went through five or six journals with the same results, and my heart sank. We are so far from understanding who Christ is. We cannot accept His forgiveness until we can recognize that we need it. We are blind to our own hypocrisy, our own sin, even from childhood. Lord, help us to see.

I continued onward, almost frantically opening and closing the journals one after the other, hoping for at least one student who understood that the evil that is in the world roams in his own heart.

And then, with only a few journals remaining, I opened the journal of a new student in the program, a beautiful 10-year-old girl who rarely speaks and could be the poster child for good school behavior. My heart leapt as my eyes travelled across her answer:

“Sometimes I am a hypocrite, and sometimes I lie, and I almost always yell, and I’m mad. Sometimes I have bad feelings towards others, and I fight. Sometimes I make fun of others, and sometimes I play too rough. And sometimes I do not fulfill my promises.”

My lips let out an audible “Whoa!” in the empty school auditorium and I sat back against the wall, overcome with joy. If this little girl — who by all human standards seems ‘perfect’ — can recognize her own sin, none of us have any excuses! 

I continued onward, this time with renewed hope. I then proceeded with another new student’s notebook, a 9-year-old boy. His response:

“Some of my intimate problems that I have committed are that I have lied; I have committed a lot of errors and I accept it. But I know that Jesus Christ will give me strength…Sometimes I laugh at others and that is not correct…Today I was reading the Bible and there I found the Word of God and I understood that our errors can be forgiven by the Lord so that we have eternal life. I am a human being like everyone else, but if we want eternal life we have to follow the way of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I accept all of my problems…”

I let out a long, pure laugh — a sigh of relief in joyful form. Thank you, Father.

The following notebook, a 12-year-old girl:

“Well, I lie. I am not perfect — only God. But when I lie they are ‘white lies’ (so they say), but a lie is a lie, so I repent. Another problem is that I am resentful and it is difficult for me to forgive others. When someone bothers me, I become sad and I start to think of all the wrong they have done me and say, “What a bad person he/she is; I will never speak to him/her again,” but I always end up forgiving them and that is good because as I forgive them God will forgive me. Another thing is that I lose my patience quickly…As it says in the Bible (well, Jesus), you should not judge others if we, too, have sin in us (and it is much bigger than that of other people’s.)”

I then cradled in my palms the last of all the journals, and carefully opened it. The 14-year-old author of it contents wrote:

“One of the problems that makes me mad is…Lying: When I lie to other people. It makes me furious because it is not good. Sometimes I talk about the other people who lie, but I am another one…Rebellious teenagers: this is something that pains me a lot because when I was with my biological mom I always disrespected her and became very rebellious with her…Now I have nightmares about when I disrespected my biological mom and I cry because I did not take care of her when I was with her…Perfection: It makes me mad because immediately when I begin to focus on the perfection of my beauty I forget about God, and I am slapping Him in the face. It makes me very mad when I do this, because I have not wanted to focus so much on physical beauty. May God forgive me…”


1 John 1:8-10: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

What are Some Problems in Our World That Make You Mad?

“What are some problems in our world that make you mad? Why?”


That was the prompt I presented to my students a few weeks ago. Each student then dedicated twenty minutes to answering the question in their free writing notebook independently of the other kids. Some of their responses were…


“Sometimes we humans think that we’re everything, but that’s not true. Sometimes children and adults don’t have anyone who values them because the people make fun of them and don’t care what happens to them. There is a lot more…and all of this makes me mad.” – Boy, age 9


“Rebelious teenagers, because they lead others down the wrong path.” – Girl, age 12

DSCF1934 “One of the problems that really makes me mad is abortion because it is a terrible thing to kill innocents. They were created by God.” – Girl, age 14


“Violence because it is not correct and God does not accept it, plus it makes a lot of people suffer…” – Boy, age 11

DSCF1939 “One of my problems is that some of my classmates hit me whenever they want and they don’t respect me…It seems like the only solution is to beat them in a fight…Maybe even though it’s not the best solution it is the only one that works. I hope other solutions exist.” – Boy, age 11


“Men’s machismo towards women makes me really mad, but the question is Would they want other men to do that to their mom, sister, wife, or principally to their daughter? What men have in strength women have in brains and in love, friendship, care, affection and respect to their neighbors.” – Boy, age 10


“People that believe that when they do something bad no one sees them, but there is a Glorious Father in heaven who sees everything and everyone.” – Girl, age 12


“That they promise you something and then they never fulfill it.” – Boy, age 11


“Rape because it takes away the happiness of young women. It leaves them pregnant and they don’t know what to do.” – Girl, age 14


“The brain has limits and we cannot get as mad as we want and say what we think…our energies tire and we have to rest sooner or later…There are limits in everything and for everyone…Some deaths are brought about just for fun…I know that God wants me to cooperate in something important…No one is safe here, and that’s why I know that one day justice will be done, and that day I will be ready to help in various ways – hunger, delincuence, sickness…Everyone wonders why there cannot be peace all the time, everywhere…One day there won’t be any problems – there won’t be hunger or evil, only a paradise, and God wants us to be in that place with Him.” – Boy, age 11


“There are a lot of problems in our world. There are problems of war, hunger, bad feelings towards others, people who forget about God. Well, we all forget about God in some moment of our lives. Sometimes I ask myself: “Why is there evil in the world? Why does everything always have to be WAR in our lives and world?” It makes me very sad that there are poor people, needy, without food or shelter and without parents or relatives, or that are abused…” – Girl, age 12


[Revelation 21:4, talking about the coming kingdom of God]: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”



Do You Think God Can Utilize Someone Like You?

The following are some written responses from the children in my Gifted and Talented program to the question ¨Do you think God can utilize someone like you?¨


I don’t know. Only He knows because I have made a lot of mistakes. I hope He forgives me. – Boy, age 10

Yes, in a big way I want to preach the Word to children, and I want to be a good servant of God, and study a lot to be a doctor and save many lives. – Girl, age 10

I think God could use me, well everyone, because He can change people. – Girl, age 12

He is God but does not abuse His power. That is why He utilizes people for the good. – Boy, age 11

As for me, I would like for God to utilize me to teach His word to other children, Who He was and that He is our salvation. That He is the most important, and if it weren’t for Him we wouldn’t match the design He has for our life…That His word is mega important in everything. That He gives everybody the same importance – for Him, color, race and culture are not important…That He gave His life and Son to us…and we despised Him and at the same time we sin against Him and against our loved ones. – Boy, age 10

I believe that God can use my life but I still have not discovered what for. – Boy, age 11

I know that God can use me because He already is. – Girl, age 14

Maybe, if I keep growing in wisdom like Him, going to church, reading the Bible, etc. And if I keep respecting Him. – Girl, age 10

I would say so because He created us and it was Him who gave us life. – Boy, age 10


“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10


I weaved in and around the kids in my Gifted and Talented program as they sat on the school’s tile floor in our quiet upstairs room where we meet every Friday, each one answering in their notebook the day’s free-writing question.

“Jesus says that if we pay attention to His teachings and put them into practice, we are wise. But He says that if we hear the teachings and do not put them into practice, we are fools. The only difference between being wise and being a fool is putting it into practice. “ Suddenly, without planning on it, I blurted out, “So many times I am a fool!”

One fourth-grade boy who is new to the program snapped his attention from his notebook up to me, eyes unusually wide, probably thinking Is the teacher really calling herself a fool?

I look down at him with a wide grin and said emphatically, “Yeah!” as if to answer his unspoken question. “Jesus says ‘Do not worry’, and yet so many times there I am, worrying about something. In those moments I’m a fool! I know very well what His teaching says, but I fail to put it into practice!” The realization of just how foolish I tend to be hit me rather unexpectedly as I stepped carefully over the legs of another student sprawled out on his stomach, elbows propping him up as he wrote with a wooden pencil in his bright yellow notebook.

“He says to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us, but so many times I don’t. What a fool I can be! Knowing God’s word is not good enough – you have to put it into practice or you’re just another fool!”

Today’s prompt for the allotted free-writing time was: Jesus says that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. What do you think of that? Do you have enemies or people that persecute you, make fun of you, or treat you poorly? How can you put into practice Jesus’ words to love your enemies?

By now I was on my soap box, talking more to my own foolish soul than any young student in particular. I walked around the extremely quiet room, bare of furniture except for an oversized dry-erase board at the front filled chaotically with the day’s schedule, different thoughts, arrows, and writing prompts. “There are a ton of people out there who know the entire bible, but don’t put anything into practice. Fools! You can go to church everyday and know every last detail about Christ, but if you don’t put it into practice, it’d be better to just stay at home and watch television.” A sixth-grade girl whom I have known for three years and attended my wedding made eye contact with me and we both laughed.

I continued my excited speech, propelled onward after remembering the saddening journal entry of a smart young girl in the program. The prior week as I sat on the school’s playground after school revising her journal entry about the injustice in the world that makes her mad, she went on a long written tirade against idolatry, writing about how outrageous it is that so many people do things against God, sprinkling her writing with various distinctly biblical terms. Unfortunately, while reading her entry, I overheard her at a nearby table ferociously back-stabbing a classmate of hers. Poor fool.

“I don’t care if you can quote the bible – good for you! Do you actually live it? It’s not enough to ‘know’ that Jesus said ‘Love your enemies’ unless you actually do it, so think about if you have enemies. Is your dad a drunkard? Did your mom abandon you? Do the kids in your class bully you? Do you have a neighbor who mistreats you? How can you love that person, or at least pray for them? Write!”

The children continued in a joyful silence as they filled a couple more pages in their journals, the contents of which I would read and re-read during the coming week, enthusiastically marking them up with ideas, comments, and Bible verses to help guide them along.

You may think I know Jesus said not to kill or steal, and I’ve definitely put that into practice. I’m a good person. But, do you lust? Do I love money? Do we become anxious about what will happen tomorrow or in 16 years? Is there anyone you have yet to forgive? Do I love my own life more than I love Christ? Who have you judged? How many times have we been disobedient to the Living God for love of our own twisted egos? Do you rush to help when you see someone in need? Is my gaze fixed more on this current world than the one to come?

According to Jesus, the only difference between being wise and being a fool is whether or not you put into practice what you know of God’s word.


“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock…But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” – Matthew 7:24,26

2014 in Review (An Unorganized List of 64 Small Miracles)

Yesterday afternoon as the kids were in paint class and Darwin was resting in our room after a very busy week, I took a walk around our property, studying the visible differences of what this past year has brought –our faithful garden with its new sprouts of radish and squash that Darwin and the kids planted, the ducks who now inhabit our chicken run, our school building finally organized, certain rooms freshly painted – and caught off guard with a deep awe of all God has done in this past year that isn’t so visible – the emotional growth and health of the children, my own healing from severe insomnia, new relationships formed, prayers answered. After the dogs happily followed me around our yard, tails in a constant lazy wag as I admired all God has done this year, I sat down at the wooden table in our living room to make a list of all I could think of that He has orchestrated, permitted, given and guided in this past year. I started with a single sheet of notebook paper but soon had to bring a second and then a third sheet. The list, without any order or importance, is as follows…


1. Many local boys have received haircuts in our home, and in the process I’ve gotten pretty good at doing the mohawk.

2. Due to God’s abundant provision, we have been able to joyously be His “middle-men” in sharing clothes, backpacks, food, and other goods with our neighbors for His glory.

3. Darwin, the children and I attended a week-long intensive missions course with our faith community to prepare us for a mission trip that we are planning for January 2015 to a village in southern Honduras.

4. We survived several robberies, difficulties, and encounters with corrupt people (including a very dangerous fraud).

5. After much deliberation, we finally purchased a gun for security purposes (and had to use it shoot-in-the-air-style-to-scare-the-burglar the day after we learned how to use it!)

6. The message of Christ has been shared in local churches, on public buses, in a school, at a used clothing shop, in Darwin’s sister’s home, and in various other places as God presents opportunities.

7. We have developed a very friendly relationship with our elderly neighbor who has a large herd of milking cows, and our large grassy property has been utilized to feed his grazers several times per week.


8. We said “yes” and actively followed four different leads in order to receive more children into our family, but none of them produced results, so we continue to wait for God’s timing.

9. Darwin and I have been able to dedicate ourselves to God’s purposes in our home/family/farm/mission six days per week (we each spend one day per week as teachers at a local school).

10. Relationships have been formed with Brayan, his stepmother and three stepbrothers.

11. By God’s grace He enabled us to have kids in our home for the duration of the calendar year.

12. Peace has been poured out over our home and in the children’s hearts after months of very intense emotional waves, spiritual battles, disciplinary struggles and outbursts of all types.

13. Our living room, the kids’ bathroom, and the schoolroom were painted.

2014-11        2014-12

14. The four kids received homeschool classes along with private academic tutoring.

15. Many, many mistakes have been made and learned from.

16. The four kids received therapy with a Christian psychologist for several months.

17. Our used truck was purchased (and Darwin got his driver’s license for the first time!)

2014-518. High-security steel doors have been installed on the two houses and school building.

19. We have instituted the (very small and indescript) whiteboard in our living room where I write the next day’s schedule in great detail each night so that I don’t have to answer 84 questions about what we’re going to do tomorrow.

20. Four dogs have been purchased/adopted for security purposes (and therapy with the kids!)

2014-721. Two batches of chicks were born in our chicken run and hundreds of eggs laid.

22. Twelve ducks were purchased to lay eggs in our chicken run.

23. We enjoyed the visit of eight fellow believers in our home for several days in July.

24. Fifty rhambutan saplings have been planted.

25. Darwin and the kids have maintained a small garden behind our kitchen weekly.

2014-8 2014-9

26. Darwin and our accountant organized and submitted the last four years of financial statements.

27. Many, many hours have been spent on the preparation of legal documents, in meetings with the board of directors and with lawyers, and making trips to and from different offices.

28. A daily system of cleaning/chores has been put into practice for the kids and adults.


29. Hundreds of man-hours have been spent preparing the land and cultivating small gardens without extremely little success due to infertile, rocky soil and long dry spells.

30. We’ve enjoyed a full year of growth and relationship with our dear sister Jenae Matikke, who lives alongside of us, raises the kids with us and serves in our local community.

31. A large steel trashcan has been constructed behind our property to deposit our trash.


32. We’ve been able to continue developing and deepening our relationship with our faith community and mentors, visiting their home weekly.

33. We’re at three months and counting of the children taking a high-quality B-complex vitamin daily to help with their overall growth and mental activity –  (and it’s working!)

34. Our kids have enjoyed one full year of weekly paint, music, agriculture and Bible classes.

35. Two public music concerts have been held in our home for our neighbors and friends.

36. Darwin has formed a youth choir as a way of reaching out to local kids and forming relationships with our neighbors.

37. Our little plants produced harvests of plantains, a rare fruit called guanabana that tastes like cotton candy and looks like a very squishy white pineapple, mango, yucca, lemon, radish, chili peppers, cucumber and papaya.


38. Darwin and our eldest daughter, Diana, have begun taking weekly English classes.

39. Relationships and trust have been formed with local business owners.

40. We have begun teaching the kids biblically-based financial education to accompany their small incomes for household chores.

41. Various visitors have been received in our home, thus providing all of us with many opportunities to offer hospitality and learn from and love those who stay with us.

42. Our first long-distance family trip is planned for the last two days of this year to visit Honduras’ biggest and perhaps only zoo in a town several hours away.

43. The Living Waters Ranch’s mission statement has been written.

44. We’ve formed a weekly Bible study every Wednesday morning where we dedicate time to growing spiritually as a family/community and giving thanks.

45. Sexual education has been given to our kids/teenagers several times and in many different forms.

46. I’ve received ten months and counting of medical treatment for my insomnia, and the larger part of recovery has been achieved.

47. Our kids have learned how to swim and play chess.

48. God’s provision and protection have been with us daily.

49. After much trial and error and team brainstorming, we were able to make the decision of how to use each of the three “houses” on our property most efficiently.

50. The “School House”, the second of the three houses, has been furnished and put into use for homeschooling, music classes, and for receiving neighbor kids in the large living room that serves as a play room.


51. The question of maintaining our (extremely large, rocky, and uneven) yard trim has been settled by hiring a local man to weedeat it once a month. (We used to have a full-time employee who dedicated the majority of his time to cutting our lawn bent-over with his machete, but he could only cut a piece the size of about two backyard swimming pools per day, and the job was never done and thus our yard always looked like someone with long, untamed hair who took a buzz-cutter to a few sections here and there, thus the poisonous snakes had a heyday.)

52. The office has been put together and Darwin constructed bookshelves for our library.


53. Friendships have been formed with a handful of children and teenagers from our local community who come to our home to play soccer, work in agriculture, receive sex education classes, spend time in our playroom, and attend Bible study.

54. Our four kids gave their lives to Christ.

55. Darwin and I attended Honduras’ “Children’s Home Conference” in May to learn from others who serve in the same capacity.

56. We have begun developing relationships with various neighbors, visiting them in their homes and likewise opening our home to them.

57. Darwin and I celebrated our year-and-a-half anniversary December 24, 2014.

58. Darwin and I enjoyed three marriage retreats to escape from the kids for a few nights and focus on cultivating our still very-new marriage.

59. New telephone poles have been put up and electrical lights repaired.

60. We have sanded and painted the steel window bars on the houses, dining room and kitchen to save them from rusting.

61. We have achieved much better organizational structure and financial accounting as a registered Honduran NGO.

62. Official schedule, menu, and budget have been made for legal purposes.

63. Our eldest daughter has begun to sell her paintings.

64. God has cultivated a very pleasing attitude of love and respect in our children towards Himself and others.

Ministry Updates

Ministry Updates in the Living Waters Ranch – November 2014

ministry updates nov 2014 4

Community Choir

Darwin is a pianist and choir director, and God has placed it on his heart to expand the little choir we have as a family and include our neighbors from our surrounding rural community. We praise God that several children and teenagers have begun attending the twice-weekly practices, and it has given us great joy to see our three kids receive the newcomers with love and grace as they take leadership positions among the newbees. We are honored to develop relationships with these youth and their families for God’s Kingdom, and our kids are taking advantage of making several new friendships!

2 ministry updates nov 2014

Jenae Celebrates 14 Months in Honduras

Our beloved Christian sister Jenae Matikke is celebrating 14 months of service at the Living Waters Ranch. A native of Tennessee, she dedicates her time to reaching out to our neighbors with the good news of Jesus, investing in our kids’ lives, serving in local churches, and teaching in various capacities. She is currently preparing her program “Princes and Princesses of Promise”, a biblically-based sexual abstinence curriculum, to begin sharing God’s message of sexual purity and giving sex education classes in local churches and schools.

ministry updates nov 2014

Gifted and Talented Program and Basketball Team to Start in January 2015

God confirmed in my heart that I am to return to La Ceiba’s Episcopal School part-time beginning in January 2015 to continue with my girls’ basketball team and elementary-aged Gifted and Talented program, so I went to the school to meet with the kids and send home parent letters. Over 30 kids have responded positively, so I am looking forward to my third year with the same group of kids I’ve been working with, along with several new ones that are now eligible for the programs. Pray for God’s guidance over both the team and the GT program, and that the children I coach and teach may see Christ’s light and salt through my words and actions.

ministry updates nov 2014 5

Updates on Brayan

Brayan, the 14-year-old who lived with us for over eight months and moved out a couple months ago due to various factors, just made a 100% on one of his major exams after returning to homeschool several weeks ago. His attitude has taken a complete 180 degree turn, and he has impressed us all with his kindness, willingness to serve, and gratitude. He has also returned to choir and music classes, and has begun working alongside of us in agriculture one day per week. Let us give thanks to God for His mighty hand over Brayan’s young life, and for giving us all the patience and courage to trek through some pretty difficult seasons together as we seek the Lord’s will in our relationship with him.

ministry updates nov 2014 3

Darwin’s English class

My husband, Darwin, is a native Honduran and currently speaks pretty choppy English. That isn’t a problem here because we communicate with one another and our children and neighbors in Spanish, but in order to further develop his ability to communicate with a broader range of people, he has enrolled in an intensive English course that meets every Saturday morning for five hours. We are all excited for him about this chance to grow, and in addition to the class we have instituted the “English Hour” during dinnertime every night, in which each person has to do their best to speak only English. (Dinners have been pretty quiet for a change, as most of the little people can’t say much!)

ministry updates nov 2014 6

Still Waiting to Hear About the Arrival of More Kids

We have put the word out with the government agency that we are ready to accept 2-3 new children, and we have yet to hear anything. There are many organizational changes occurring right now in the government’s child protective agency, and the shifting of staff positions and leadership could be causing the delay. We are waiting to hear if there are children who need a home from a large government-run orphanage in a nearby city that was recently shut down or from the local foster system. Please pray that God’s hand would guide the entire legal, emotional, and financial process of expanding our family, and that Gleny, Jason and Diana may accept new children into our home with grace and joy.

ministry updates nov 2014 7

Chicks Hatch After Robbery

After a devastating robbery a few days ago in which someone stole more than half of the hens from our chicken run, our rooster and male duck, we are beginning anew with a batch of newborn chicks that our momma hens have been warming for the past several weeks. It seems as though any agricultural progress we enjoy is immediately cut down by theft, so please pray for protection over our animals and crops so that our efforts to organically work the land are not in vain.

Ministry Updates

BRAYAN RETURNS TO HOMESCHOOL Brayan, the local 14-year-old who lived with us for over eight months, has decided to keep studying in our homeschool program to finish out this school year, which ends in January 2015. He is still living at his stepmother’s home and we are committed to helping provide their family with food every month to help care for him. He has returned to us on a part-time basis through homeschool, our Wednesday morning Bible study and afternoon visits, and there is newfound joy and gratitude in his face that wasn’t there before. Pray for us in developing a new relationship with him as we discern what role God would have us to play in this young man’s life during this season.

OPEN TO RECEIVING MORE KIDS We have put our “feelers” out there with the Honduran child protective agency about possibly receiving 2-3 additional kiddos in our home. This is a tedious process laden with bureaucracy, and the first time we received kids we had to go back-and-forth with the agency for over six months before the three siblings finally moved in. It is also a very delicate emotional process, both for the three that are already here, us, and those that may arrive. Please pray that the next kids to arrive, whenever they do, may be the exact children that the Lord would have us to care for. Pray that Diana, Gleny, and Jason may have tender and open hearts towards those who may come and that the adaptation process may go as peacefully as possible.

DARWIN ON A WATER PROJECT IN SOUTHERN HONDURAS This week Darwin is installing a potable water system in a poor rural village in Choluteca, one of Honduras’ 18 departments, with our mentor from our faith community and a diverse group of American and Honduran Christians. The goal is to live among the people for the week, sleeping in hammocks at night and doing manual labor alongside the townspeople during the day, in order to provide a physical need (potable water) and a spiritual one (the gospel of Jesus Christ). Our faith community has been participating in these trips twice per year for several years, but this is Darwin’s first trip. Pray for guidance over him and the rest of the people participating in the trip, and ask that God may grant open and willing hearts to the villagers who are being served.

RELATIONSHIP WITH THE EPISCOPAL SCHOOL In the past month the Lord has led me to preach twice in La Ceiba’s Episcopal School, where I have worked in various capacities for three years (first grade teacher, basketball coach, and Gifted and Talented program teacher). Each week the high schoolers have a designated 40-minute block of “church” within their class schedule, and I have had the opportunity to deliver the message twice in the past month. I am excited to see where God would lead me and in what capacity He would have me to serve among the students in this school year. I am open to continue preaching from time to time as He leads me, and I am planning on re-starting weekly girls’ basketball practices in January 2015 after taking several months off due to my severe insomnia.

ROBBERIES In the United States, if a crime is committed, the police are called and the justice system goes to work. In Honduras, if a crime is committed, it is rare if anything happens, even if the police are called. Robberies – both petty and large-scale – are extremely common here. People have stolen our shoes, crops, chickens, agricultural supplies, clothes, and an electrical generator. Robbers have cut through our fences, broken through locks, and pried open windows. We have called the police, gone to their offices in person, and submitted various reports, but nothing is done. We recently purchased an 8-month-old German Shepherd to team up with our other two guard dogs to ward off potential robbers, but ultimately our safety is in the Lord’s hands. Please pray for wisdom in deciding how to approach this issue, God’s continual protection of us, and that we may always have enough to generously aid our neighbors if they come to us in the daylight in need. Please also pray for the people who have or are currently robbing us, that they would be convicted of what they are doing and that the Lord would change their hearts. Praise God that these robberies make it much easier to not put our hope and security in this world but rather in His Kingdom where love and justice reign!

NO LEGAL PROGRESS Several weeks ago I wrote about our current legal battles. We have all of our paperwork compiled and ready, but there has been no progress on any front.

IMMIGRATION CRISIS We are still available to receive refugee children in our home who have been deported from the United States, but we have not received any phone calls or further information.

QUACK QUACK QUACK! Our chicken run has a few new inhabitants: a momma duck with her ten ducklings and their “stepfather.” Ducks lay eggs just as chickens do, and it is said that their eggs are extremely rich in protein and vitamins. We are raising the female babies to be “laying ducks” in the coming months, and we will eat the young males and/or be able to bless our neighbors with free meat.

HARVEST In the past several weeks we have enjoyed a harvest of organic radishes, chile peppers and cucumbers from our gardens. We continue experimenting to see which crops grow best in our incredibly rocky soil.

Even for Just One

One by one the majority of the students in my fourth-sixth grade Gifted and Talented program at the local school where I taught full-time last year and continue part-time this year came in as I was setting up for our usual Friday afternoon class to tell me, “Miss Jennifer, I won’t be coming to class today.” Their reasons seemed legitimate as they told me of the school-wide science fair and how they either had a competing project or wanted to see their classmates’ creations, and I thanked each child sincerely for having the respect to come and let me know that I should not expect them that afternoon although I was slightly disappointed with the news of the science fair’s conflicting schedule with my class.

But in my heart I rejoiced, thinking Yes, I can just cancel the class due to low attendance and spend time resting, reading my Bible, preparing for the coming week, and getting ready for the girls’ basketball practice that will begin in a few hours. I had spent a week in a warzone between our four children who are all struggling with the adjustment of having a new sibling, plus the continuing adjustment of dealing with their pasts, being in a new homeschooling program, accepting Darwin and I as parents, etc. The week had been filled with bouts of jealousy, various children declaring that they felt unloved or outright accusing us of favoring one child over another, the children forming teams against one another, feeling as though they need to struggle or compete to earn their spot in the family or classroom, playing the victim, and putting others down to feel better about themselves. Every day it seemed like each child had at least one eruption or shut-down, and our week was filled with stress, long prayers, varying punishments, discussion upon discussion about what it means to show the love of God to others, and so forth. I just wanted to collapse from mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual exhaustion, and I thought What an unexpected gift that I won’t have to teach today –

And then in came one of my eager fourth-grade students, and with a fake smile on my face I anticipated his science-fair excuse and cut him off, “Oh, it’s okay, I know there’s the science fair. Go enjoy it and we’ll just wait to have class until next week.” And somehow my exhausted cheek muscles forced out a reassuring smile, expecting him to accept my proposition as valid and leave.

“No!” And his face dropped, “I really want to have the class this afternoon…” and he looked confused about why I was considering canceling.

And I thought Dang it, why doesn’t he just go to the science fair? Doesn’t he realize I’m on the brink of some kind of breakdown?

I then asked tiredly if it would just be him or if others were also planning on attending our class, and he confirmed that there was at least one or two others who had said they would arrive.  I thought, trying desperately to justify myself in canceling the class, If there are just two or three kids – when there are nearly twenty enrolled in the program – it’s not worth it. It’s better just to wait until next week when we’ll have full attendance.

Then, as has happened so many times, Jesus’ words cut to my core “Even if there were just one person — one sinner — in the whole world, I still would have died for that person. Even for just one. Numbers don’t matter. Look at this eager little boy and accept him as I would – invite him in and teach him of Me and my ways. He matters to me. As I said to my Father in anguish before dying on the cross, have Your will be done, not mine.”

Then, even with rebellion – I might even call it self-defense – crying out in my heart, I told him that, yes, we would have class because numbers don’t matter, and in my heart I knew that having the class would be a submission of my will to God’s. His eyes immediately lit up, and he left the room and began shouting loudly to his comrades, “Let’s go! It’s time for Miss Jennifer’s class!” And I laughed and quickly stumble-ran out of the room to the school’s balcony where he stood to tell him to stop shouting because class wasn’t scheduled to start for twenty more minutes and, as he and my other students know, I am allergic to unneeded noise.

His eager little face then appeared periodically in my window over those next twenty minutes as he squinted to see the agenda I was scribbling on the whiteboard and to catch a glimpse of the learning materials I was preparing for them. My rebellious heart broke and I thanked God for having guided me into loving obedience.

That day five enthusiastic fourth-graders arrived in my classroom and we had an incredibly fruitful time that began with an in-depth reading of the words of Saint James: Religion that is pure and faultless in God’s eyes is this: to take care of widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself clean from the corruption of the world. From there each of us – myself included – spent about twenty minutes drawing what that means – not only the aspect of helping those in distress, but what it means to keep oneself pure from all of the destruction and sin in our world – be it pride, love of money, hatred, materialism, lies, sexual impurity, etc. We then continued on with a writing exercise in their journals with a given open-ended prompt, followed by an exercise I have invented called Rapid Math, and finished with a logic game, all interspersed with dynamic dialogue about what it means to know and follow the True God.

Throughout my two-hour time with my students, I recalled my husband Darwin’s words that he spoke at his cousin’s home recently. His cousin, who is married, in his late fourties, and a very wealthy businessman, had asked Darwin sincerely about the life of Teresa Devlin, the elderly missionary under whom Darwin worked and was mentored by at La Ceiba’s Music Conservatory for over ten years. Darwin answered sincerely, “She spoke frequently and sincerely of Christ as she ran the Music Conservatory, but the majority of the students and teachers received the message of Jesus with deaf ears. I heard the message and was saved. Basically I am the product of her 15 years in Honduras, and her mission was fulfilled through my life.” I remember looking at my husband in a new way – and not only him but also the life of Teresa Devlin and God’s infinite and tireless power – with renewed awe, respect, and determination.


Even for just one, it is worth it. For one life turned toward Christ – even if it takes several years, frustration and despair over those who are lost, and daily struggle – it is worth it. Even if you or I or someone’s student or your grandchild or that terrible boss were the only human being alive on the face of the earth, Christ would have willingly died for that one person as He did for the multitudes. May we never judge our success, failure, or the value of our efforts on numbers.