Tag Archives: At-risk Youth

Undercover Photos: Integral Learning and Discipleship 2018

Okay, so nobody actually went undercover, but the following photos were taken by our dedicated team of Honduran missionaries/teachers in the midst of our daily efforts to connect with, teach and disciple the youth in our community homeschool program for God’s glory.

We are currently wrapping up the 2018 school year (the traditional Honduran school calendar runs from February to November) with over 40 full-time students involved in our little grassroots mission. Thank you to all who pray for and financially support this living expression of God’s love in Honduras.

Our Christian psychologist solicited the help of a few students to paint her little counselling space.

Our school is very dedicated to giving individualized attention to each student as the majority of our youth come from very broken backgrounds and need personalized mentoring, tutoring and relational discipleship. For that very reason we try to keep each grade at a limit of 3-10 students. This is our very small eighth grade class with three faithful members who have been under our academic and spiritual guidance over two years now.
Much of our teaching occurs outside the classroom walls!
This was an organized field trip for a group of our students to explore a local river.

Last month we celebrated one of our foster daughters’ 15th birthday party, which is a very special occasion in Latin American culture. Here she (Jackeline) is posing with Erick and Aracely, an extremely dedicated Honduran couple who serves alongside of us daily at the Living Waters Ranch in teaching and discipleship while also voluntarily filling the role of aunt and uncle for our foster children.
Here my husband Darwin, Jackeline’s special needs brother Josue and I are enjoying her special day. It is not uncommon in our area for 15-year-old girls to already be pregnant or be living in a marital-type relationship, so the fact that our foster daughter is living in sexual purity, is doing great in school and is seeking God’s will for her life deserves celebration!
An after-school get-together between teachers and students on our front lawn

When it’s your birthday in Honduras, they pelt you with flour and/or raw eggs…One of our local students got to celebrate turning 13 on a school day! (Poor guy.)

(Front) One of our five foster daughters who just recently hit her one-year anniversary of happily living in our family. We plan on legally adopting her when she turns 21, as it is impossible to do so before then due to certain legal requirements around her case.
Another one of our foster daughters enjoying some kind of after-school fun. (I have no idea what she’s doing, but I absolutely love that smile.)
What better way to learn about plans in Science class than to go outside and plant a garden? This was my husband Darwin’s idea, and he gathered together our motley crew of roughly 20 primary schoolers to do just that…

This little boy was one whose father withdrew him from our school unexpectedly in order to join the migrant caravan to the United States.

Many of the youth in our primary school are already well into our teens (like the young man whose back is facing the camera, age 15 even though he doesn’t appear that age) but are very behind academically due to the poor local public school system and/or family issues that caused them to have to drop out of school for several years, drastically interrupting their education.
About a month ago my husband and Erick, the other male teacher/missionary on our team organized a campout up in the mountain with a group of our teen boys.

Even teenagers can enjoy jumping rope! Here are two of our teen boys (ages 16 and 17) who are in ninth grade with us enjoying this spontaneous after-school game. (My husband and I joined in as well!)

In Honduras, “Indian Day” is a very big deal…so we all got dressed up to celebrate!
What a precious family (mother, who works with us, and daughters who are in school with us)!

My husband got really into Indian Day and covered himself with clay and crafted a handmade loincloth. He was definitely the center of attention and made a whole lot of people laugh!
My husband and I performed a made-up Indian dance for our students (which they really enjoyed)…

One of our extremely mature and hard-working local students who aspires to be a Christian psychologist
One of our local teachers (right) alongside of a student of ours

Thank you and God bless! (I hope some of the photos made you laugh.)

With joy in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Personal Reflection and Family Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless you.

 

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!

Family of 12

Yesterday we tread across our large, muddy front yard under the misting rain to go ask our night-watchman’s wife if she would be willing to take a few photos of our family later that day. We hadn’t yet taken any pictures with our new daughters (Paola, age 14 and Carolina, age 15) since they had moved in several weeks ago, and we decided that yesterday was as good a day as any to go ahead and schedule the family photo shoot. Our neighbor agreed; it suddenly stopped raining; we picked a nice garden-like spot in front of our little cinderblock house for our photo backdrop; and we took the following series of photos all in a time span of about 10 minutes.

Praise be to God!

Everybody grab a partner and get in close for the first shot! We gotta hurry before it starts raining again!

Now switch partners! Grab somebody new! (I ended up grabbing two — Jason on my back and Gaby in my arms!)

Change it up again! (Our Rottweiler — named Goliath — decided to hop in this shot! He was eager for us to play ball with him…)
Here’s my husband Darwin with our 16-year-old son Brayan with Jackeline and our new daughter Paola behind them.
Everybody get with a new family member! (The young woman whom I’m with in this photo is Carolina, our new 15-year-old daughter. She happens to look a lot like our daughter Dayana, and our other new daughter looks a lot like Jackeline!)

Grab somebody new again! (And this time try to hang them upside down by their feet…not so easy to do with our 17-year-old daughter!)
Our dogs kept trying to take part in the photo shoot! (This is Freckles trying to greet Jason while Jackeline holds him upside-down!)
Carolina with our developmentally-challenged daughter Gabriela (Gaby)

Hang on just a couple more seconds! (Way to go, Darwin!)
Now it’s my turn for a piggy-back ride! (Thanks, Jackeline!)
Everybody tickle your neighbor (and try not to fall off)!

One last shot! Everybody get in position! (The camera was about to lose its battery…plus we were all tired)!
What a big baby I’ve got! I hope I don’t drop you, Paola!

Amen! Glory to God!

November 2017 Triumphs and Prayer Requests

Four-Year Anniversary of Being Family to the Fatherless and Serving in Our Local Community

On November first we celebrated four years of parenting Dayana (17), Gleny (13) and Jason (10), the first sibling group we began parenting in 2013. We praise and thank God for the transformative, restorative work He’s done in the children’s lives and in our own during these four years, and we stand in awe at how He has made grow deep roots of love and commitment among us for His glory. From those initial three kids God has sprung out the ensuing discipleship-based community homeschool in our rural homestead where we currently educate roughly 40 children and teenagers according to the Way of Christ, not to mention the group of incredibly dedicated teachers and local Honduran missionaries whom the Lord has brought one by one to serve alongside of us in this beautiful life of service and continual growing. We celebrate these first four years with great joy and are expectant for what He will do in the coming years!

Update on the Two Orphaned Calves Left After the Slaughter

Our two orphaned calves left behind after their moms were unexpectedly slaughtered by cattle thieves a couple weeks ago are now happily being bottle-fed every day as they are still in the initial stages of their growth. We thank God for His grace in allowing the calves (one male, one female) to be born before their mothers were killed, thus leaving behind new life in the wake of tragic death. The rest of our cows have been left in peace since the devastating event, and we’ve been granted increasing measures on peace during these times. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord!

A teamwork-building exercise among six of our students (including our son Jason, second from the right)

Three Weeks of Intensive/Creative Classes to Finish the School Year

As we near the end of the Honduran school calendar, this week we began offering different, intensive classes to finish off the semester with a ‘bang.’ Having already finished the traditional math, science and language classes, etc, we are now offering an entirely new schedule that includes the following: carpentry, evangelism, community service, cooking class, penal law, orchestra, agriculture, world history and various levels of swimming, among others. During these three weeks I am teaching karate, bootcamp (hard physical exercise military-style) and leading our hour-long group Bible study time, which we are now enjoying every morning rather than only twice per week. Our students and teachers are all excited, as we incorporate and respect personal choice in the daily rhythm of our life of service at the Living Waters Ranch (the students enjoy great freedom to choose the classes they want to specialize in according to their interests/giftings, which is highly uncommon in Honduran culture where most things are decided for children/teens without their input). We thank God for this school year that is coming to a close and for all the seeds that have been sewn for His glory. It is literally so much fun to serve, teach, love, disciple and parents these kids (and make them sweat and heave in bootcamp)! What a privilege!

Cooking Club


Local Pastors Pray For and Prophesy Over Our 10 Foster Kids/Teens

A couple days ago a local pastoral couple came to talk with and counsel Darwin and I for several hours, and then they gathered all 10 of our foster kids/teens ages 9-17 in a tight circle in our living room to pray individually for each one. Many of our teens had been seeking spiritual breakthrough in their walk with Christ, and by their reactions and later comments they received it that night. The pastor even had prophetic words for several of our teenagers that deeply encouraged them. The entire experienced extended so long that the pastors entirely missed the church commitment they were supposed to attend at 6:30pm! (They finally left our home around 7:30pm.) We are grateful for this encounter (the first of its kind) with this local pastoral couple, and we thank God for touching our children’s lives through them. The pastor helped many of our teens to forgive those who had abused and abandoned them in their childhood. One of our new daughters (Carolina, age 15) who moved in only a few weeks ago, received the Lord for the first time, and our other new daughter (Paola, age 14) received many prophetic words and encouragement about the ways in which God desires to pour out His wisdom over her life and use her in mighty ways for His kingdom. She later expressed to our eldest daughter that she had always wanted to be a Christian but wasn’t sure how until she was praying with the pastor and felt God begin to move in her life. God is immeasurably mysterious in the ways in which He touches the lives of His sons and daughters, and we are excited to continue drawing nearer!

Christian Psychologist Found for Gabriela’s Healing Process

Not by coincidence, those same pastors who prayed over our children have an adult daughter in her early 20s who recently graduated from a local university with a degree in psychology. We had long been searching for (or, more accurately, waiting for) God to present the right Christlike psychologist for our kids, especially for our developmentally-challenged 10-year-old daughter Gabriela (Gaby) who suffered sexual abuse and many other traumas before arriving at our home. Thus, God has now provided Nataly, the pastors’ daughter, who is working one-on-one with Gaby every Saturday and will very likely join our team full-time as of January 2018. We are very excited about our developing friendship with Nataly and her parents as God is placing more and more people in our lives to encourage, teach and labor alongside of us in this great redemptive work. Praise God!

Darwin’s choir practices always start off with a massage chain to get everyone’s shoulders loosened up! (This particular day was girls’ choir.)

Experienced Catholic Lawyer Found for Adoption Process; Prayers Sought for Financial Provision and Government Favor

After my trip to the capital city of Tegucigalpa several weeks ago to interview 3 potential adoption lawyers, the Lord made it very clear to us who the best person for the job would be. We are now working with a female lawyer named Martha who has roughly 30 years of experience as a lawyer in Honduras, and she has dedicated the majority of her practice to domestic and international adoptions. She is a Catholic Christian and deeply believes that every child deserves a family (and not just a temporary solution/orphanage), and she has a record of doing just that for hundreds of Honduran children (which is extremely uncommon because most Hondurans are not prone to adopt children). She has already begun working on our adoption of four of our ten children. (Our desire is to be real family to all of our kids and to legally adopt them if they are able to be adopted. Some of our kids cannot be adopted because their biological families are still in the picture and may potentially receive them anew in their homes, so in the meantime we are joyfully family to all of our kids, whether they are legally adopted or not). The lawyer is extremely up-front, passionate and professional, and she’s giving us more than a 50% discount from what she normally charges, but even so we don’t yet have the funds to complete the adoption. We humbly ask for prayer in this regard, as we wait upon the Lord for provision/direction in order to complete the adoption process of Dayana, Gleny, Jason and Brayan in the most efficient manner possible. Thank you!

Gaby taking a “shower” in our outdoor washing station fully dressed…Oh gosh!

Two New Teen Girls Find Permanency in Our Home; Possible Adoption in the Future

Our two newest arrivals (Paola and Carolina), both of whom had bounced around among dysfunctional biological family members’ households and orphanages/foster homes for several years before arriving at our front gate, have both confirmed that they desire to become permanent members of our family. Darwin and I have felt incredible peace (and passion) about this and have pushed hard (in a good sense) to make them feel welcomed and loved as they were expecting to be rejected by yet another household when they arrived at our home. They had known great suffering and bad behavior (both that which they received from others and that which they learned to inflict upon others), so God has literally been breaking chains of wrong thinking, establishing new behavioral norms based on love, and infiltrating their souls with His truth. Our 8 kids/teens who have been with us several years have been used mightily by God in this process to model Christlike behavior, counsel our two new girls in the context of friendship/sisterhood, and express to them God’s unconditional love. We are already seeing great changes in their attitude and outlook and, as I mentioned above, they both had encounters with Christ via the pastors’ visit. We daily affirm to them that they are no longer rejected; that we want to be in their weddings and be their kids’ grandparents (in essence, be what a normal family is to their children for the whole of their life). They have been surprised by much (or perhaps all) of this as they had never before received such intense welcome, and they’ve responded to the hugs and physical affection we’ve shown them (as they had not previously received hugs in their other foster homes/orphanages). They had literally gone the extent of their childhoods without knowing they were loved by anyone until about three weeks ago. We have even talked to them about our desire to adopt them (once our adoption of the first four is complete), and they are very open to and excited about the idea of finally having a real family. There is so much I could write, but suffice it to say that we’re all ecstatic and that God is doing what only He can do. Please continue to pray that all chains of abuse, sexual sin, rejection, lies, stealing, etc would be completely broken off in Jesus’ name and that they would truly pass from death unto life. Praise God!

Amen! Glory to God!

“Backpack, Baby, Tower”: Old-Fashioned Fun Coupled with Healthy Physical Touch

Last Friday we organized an afternoon of competitive games, footraces, teamwork exercises and good ole fashioned sweaty fun to celebrate with our students and teachers who have persevered and really put forth a good effort in their classes.

One striking deficiency in Honduran culture (and perhaps world culture as a whole) that Darwin and I oftentimes reflect upon is the lack of healthy, loving physical touch. Many parents in our area aren’t physically affectionate with their own children; spouses do not hug or hold hands; friends do not support one another via hugs, high-fives and the like.

Due to the fact that the God who is love created us to be social beings in need of physical touch, the tragedy is that many young people (and old people) who never received loving, healthy physical touch seek it out in wrong ways. In this culture (and, again, perhaps in world culture as a whole) there is a lot of pushing and shoving, rape, problem solving via violence, physical and sexual abuse, other forms of sexual sin, etc. Trying to fill the void of healthy physical touch (hugs, pats on the back, loving caresses from an attentive mother, etc), many turn to violence and sin as they desperately seek physical contact with other human beings.

Truly, this point needs to be meditated upon very seriously as we consider how we are treating one another, beginning with the members of our own household.

And so, on Friday afternoon just about every game we organized included healthy (and sometimes hilarious) physical touch as an integral part of the activity. One of our favorites (that we learned last year at a youth retreat) is “Backpack, Baby, Tower.” Everybody teams up in pairs of two (boys with boys; girls with girls), and the leader (who doesn’t have a partner) stands in the middle of all the pairs of people and shouts out “Baby!” and in each team of two one of the people has to pick up the other person and cradle them as if he/she were their baby. Then, “Backpack!” and each pair has to quickly shuffle position to throw one of the two on their back as if they were a backpack. (“Tower” is much easier and more boring: the two people in each team simply raise their arms high and clasp hands, but nonetheless it is still healthy physical touch.) The game is an absolute riot, as the leader calls out the different commands one after another, and everyone ends up swinging around their partner from the cradling position to the backpack position as quickly as possible, everyone panting and laughing hysterically. It is an instant friendship-maker and gives everyone involved a really strong dose of healthy physical touch and riotous laughter.

And, the best part of all, is that our teachers who serve as local Honduran missionaries participate right alongside of our foster children and students! 34-year-old Geraldina, Sandra’s mom, who serves in the community kitchen and general cleaning activities (because she hasn’t yet learned to read and write), had finished all of her duties early on Friday, so we invited her to participate right alongside of everyone else. She sent her daughter to run home and bring her some comfortable clothes to ‘play’ in (she was wearing a dress), and literally for the first time in her life she played. After a childhood (and early adulthood) of intense suffering, poverty, abuse and rejection, the Lord is restoring her even in an area as innocent (and oftentimes overlooked) as fun, healthy touch and intense, gut-wrenching laughter. She was laughing perhaps harder than anyone else — and this from a woman who used to be too timid to greet people and had never received hugs before she began working with us earlier this year (and now she receives several daily)!

So, I share this with you to encourage each of us to earnestly show love (not only in words but also in appropriate, loving touch) to those whom the Lord has put in our lives, because God can use it to truly alter people’s lives and serve in the process of healing wounded souls. Thus I boast in the Lord of the transformative work He’s begun in each of us — not only in the children and teens whom we serve, but also in the adults who participate in this ministry. Praise be to God!

This is Geraldina (Sandra’s mom) in the process of the “backpack” position with her teammate Jackeline, one of our foster daughters. Two of our other daughters (Josselyn and Gaby) are in the background.

Way to go, boys! (This is the “baby” position). Erick, who serves not only at the Living Waters Ranch with us but also in our rural neighborhood alongside of his wife in relationship discipleship, played hard on Friday afternoon right alongside of all the kids and teens.
Here are two of our teachers (Isis, far left and Ligia, far right) participating in the “baby” posiiton with our girls!
Jackeline holding Sandra’s mom in the “baby” position! (How silly! What a big baby!)
Of all the photos we took on Friday, I believe this is my favorite of all, because it shows just how hard Geraldina was laughing throughout all the activities. She — not only her teenage daughter — is finding healing, acceptance and joy as the Lord is filling and freeing her in new ways. (She was laughing like this on and off throughout the whole afternoon, and she later told us that she had never laughed so hard or felt so joyful).
Here is our 17-year-old daughter Dayana (whom we are in the process of legally adopting) carrying her teacher in the “backpack” position!
Hurry up! Now everybody’s got to change positions! Now it’s “baby”! (Gotta love Miss Ligia’s face as she tries to pick Dayana up.)
Ariel, one of our local teens, carrying Erick as his “backpack”!
Our 9-year-old special needs son Josue and 7-year-old Ever (the youngest son of our night watchman) trying to figure out how to do “backpack”!
Josue needed to pick Ever up (because he’s bigger and older), but Josue decided to be the “baby”!
Elalf and Donaris, two of our local male students, enjoying the “baby” position! Everyone was cracking up as we constantly changed from one position to another!
Erick holding Roy, one of our 18-year-old local students. What a precious baby!
Now switch! (Erick is now Roy’s baby!)
Our daughter Gleny trying to hold up Miss Ligia, her teacher!
Another game we played on Friday was a leg-wrestling type of match standing up. You have to try to get your partner to lower their raised-up foot! Sandra went up against her mom, Geraldina!
Sandra and her mom
Our daughter Jackeline competing against Dayra, a local student.
This hilarious shot was taken during an intense match of Chinese freeze tag. Erick wiped out!
Next up, we’re gonna make a big circle and pass a ton of basketballs and volleyballs around clockwise. If you let one drop, you’re out! (The circle gets smaller and smaller, and everyone is passing balls one right after the other.) This is great for teamwork and hand-eye coordination!


No afternoon of fun is complete without at least a couple rounds of hide-and-seek! (Our daughter Dayana hid in our outdoor trashcan with the lid on!)

Amen! Glory to God!

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

Abandoning Shame and Embracing Love: A Speech Class Experience

Costumes, healthy physical touch, eye contact and God’s love — welcome to our twice-weekly Speech/Communications class! As we’ve reached our mid-year point in our discipleship-based community homeschool program at the Living Waters Ranch in rural Honduras, we’ve introduced several new classes. One such class is a dynamic, sometimes impromptu class I’m teaching our oldest students — roughly 25 teens grades 5th-8th who come from (and many of whom are still in) marginalized situations.

During the first half of the school year we began seeing the dire need for such a class as the majority of our new students are desperately shy, afraid to speak up or share in Bible study, won’t pray in public, and are completely lost as to how to do any kind of class presentation. In Honduran culture, it is very common and accepted for people to be ‘ashamed,’ which becomes a debilitating disease that causes them to hide from doing anything good (but not, of course, to shy away from doing anything bad, as we know all too well that violent crimes and rampant sin have this culture in a stranglehold).

As we are learning alongside of our students in Bible study every Tuesday and Thursday, one of the many messages in the book of Hosea is that human beings generally love shame above honor; we love what cuts us off from relationship rather than what gives life; we give our affections to a passing, flawed worldly system with false promises rather than to the good, eternal God. This backwards or confused attitude is very present in our students, as many struggle secretly with pornography addiction, theft, lying, etc, but are scared stiff to talk openly about God’s love, give their undivided attention to the person speaking to them, respond to God’s grace in joyful, unashamed devotion, etc. They are scared to sing worship songs but are not scared about falling into sexual sin. Surely we as a human race have got it all backward!

Thus, we invented our three-week-long intensive Speech/Communications class (a more in-depth version of the one-day workshop I gave last year), and thus far we’ve seen many breakthroughs in even our shyest of students. The class atmosphere is light and fun, and the youth are encouraged to participate openly without shame. In addition to playing many interactive games, a good portion of each class is dedicated to sitting in a large circle as a certain theme is presented (it could be something from the Bible, everyday life, etc) and each student — in their own timing — stands up and talks freely for a minute or so on said topic. (This is the only activity I can recall from my own high school speech class, and I remember that it greatly helped me overcome my own fear of public speaking.) The speaker is instructed to create and maintain eye contact with each member of the audience (which is a new concept for the majority of them, as they’re used to staring at their own feet or up at the ceiling), and the audience is instructed to maintain  open body posture and not break eye contact with the speaker (another struggle, as respectfully listening to speakers is not generally a strong point in Honduran culture.)

Last week as class was nearing its end, we sat down in our large circle on the porch to discuss the topic of ‘family.’ I had assumed this topic would be the easiest of all to discuss because it was intimately known and experienced each day. They didn’t need to prepare a large presentation or do any research; just talk about their family. After all, if they wanted to take the quickest route out of their public speaking commitment, all they had to do was stand up and stutter, “Uh, I have three siblings, and I live with my mom and dad,” before quickly sitting down again. I thought it would be easy enough.

Well, a young male student was our first volunteer. He popped up to his feet, his short frame standing as tall as he possibly could as he opened up his heart in an entirely unexpected way. He began sharing with all of us some of his family struggles along with the fact that when he was younger he spent much time in the street, even occasionally sleeping on the street to avoid family conflicts. He then went on to publicly thank God that he now has a much more loving step-mother who treats him nicely along with the fact that God’s hand has been over him in several other noticeable ways. This particular young man is normally very upbeat and tends to play the role of ‘class clown,’ so we were all blown away by what he shared. As my eyes searched the faces of all those two dozen students who were looking up at him, eyes trained on him as he spoke, my heart recognized another miracle: no one laughed.

When he finished sharing several minutes later, another teen boy hopped up to his feet and began sharing a long, intricate narrative of his woeful relationship to his mother, her murder a couple years ago, and his blossoming relationship with Christ since then. No one made any uncomfortable faces or poked fun. They were just really, truly listening in the purest sense, and he was earnestly speaking. No big poster boards; no dull, memorized speeches; just real, God-honoring sharing.

Our eldest daughter was the next one to follow suit and, like the other two young men who shared, she went far over the minimum time limit and valiantly shared about her experiences with her biological family, the devastating details of which her classmates had not previously known. After her, three or four other students shared sincerely. Two students finished their time of sharing about their family in tears. Some shared heartwarming stories of parental love and support while others spoke of murders suffered, indescribable loss and abuse. The element that was present in nearly every story, however, was that of redemption, of God’s love shining through to reach them in the darkest of places, drawing them toward Christ. And the best part was that they were putting it in their own words, were recognizing (and proclaiming to others!) God’s handprint on their lives.

With great joy I share with you the following photos that were taken from our class last week. To God be the glory!

The first step during each Speech/Communications class: hand out silly hats! We’ve purchased dozens of fun hats from a local thrift store, and with our students they get plenty of use! One of the goals of the class is to help the students to have more confidence, not be afraid of one another, and lose what the Honduran culture calls ‘shame,’ so we see the use of the goofy hats to be integrally important to this process!
Our 16-year-old son Brayan loves his Mexican ‘mariachi’ hat!
What a cute, fluffy pink bear! That’s our 13-year-old daughter Jackeline who oftentimes gets the giggles when she has to stand up and talk in front of the group!
The next step: silly greetings! Everyone has to go around greeting everybody…The only catch is that you have to do it according to the announced theme. Sometimes we have to greet each other ‘sickly;’ other times ‘like old people;’ sometimes ‘mad’ or ‘sad,’ etc. This always makes even the shyest kids laugh!

What an elegant gathering of young ladies! Great hats!
Next up: eye contact! Everybody grab a partner and you have to look them in the eyes for several minutes straight! (This activity can be extremely difficult/uncomfortable even for the most socially well-balanced person, so this ‘eye-contact game’ proves to be quite the challenge for youth who come from broken backgrounds and are used to hiding at all costs. I’m sure they feel like they’re under a magnifying glass!)

These are two of our shyest boys, both of whom this year have struggled with behavioral issues in the classroom. The act of looking each other in the eyes for several minutes can go a long way toward cultivating focus, respect, and love toward one another. As the kids/teens do this activity, I walk among them and talk openly about the fact that each one of them was made in God’s image, and the same salvation in Christ Jesus is available to each one — there is no reason to hide, to fear, or to hate one another. The students have at least a ‘head knowledge’ of this through our ongoing Bible studies and prayer groups that they all participate in, but it is pretty cool to be able to reinforce this reality through interactive games such as this, especially in the Honduran culture where violence and broken relationships abound.


The giraffe and the pig have a stare-off!
Great costume! We’ve got a fireman in our class just in case any problems break out!

 

Okay, now everybody break up into groups of two, and find a quiet spot in the yard to start planning your secret handshake! In 10 minutes each team will have to perform in front of the rest of the group! (In this photo Sefora, one of our new seventh grade students, got brave enough to try on the large, old lady dress I got from the thrift store. It was the only costume part everyone was afraid to put on!)
Don’t be scared to show your face! You’re rockin’ like a homeschool mom from the 80s! You go, girl!

Everybody’s busy designing their secret handshake/greeting with their partner!


Here is our 16-year-old daughter Dayana (right) planning her upbeat ‘secret handshake’ with 12-year-old Dayra, one of our new local students who entered the Living Waters Ranch in Jan. Their greeting involved a hip bump and many other fun details!

Okay, gather up! Everyone sit in a semi-circle on the schoolhouse’s front porch (it was way too hot to do the class inside), because everyone’s going to present their handshake! (Aren’t they all just too cute?)

Elalf (our tallest student, Pastor Domingo’s son) was partnered with Charlie (our shortest student). The last step of their creative greeting was that Elalf picked Charlie up by his trousers and spun him around! Good thing he’s got a firm grip!

Come on out, Jackeline! She was so nervous that she kept hiding behind the house so that she wouldn’t have to perform!
Our daughter Jackeline was so nervous that she ran off the ‘stage’ when she finished the last step of her handshake with Josselyn!

Amen! Glory to God!

The Sound of Music: Darwin’s Recorder Class Under the Mango Tree

My husband Darwin recently took the following photos of his small group of students in the Living Waters Ranch’s beginners’ recorder class. This first semester (February-May 2017) he gave several music classes to different groups of students, including piano, advanced music theory/recorder and the beginners’ recorder class pictured below.

Last week as we entered into a new weekly schedule, Darwin began his group choir lessons for the first time this year, which a lot of our returning students are excited about because the choir was their initial connection to us as we began forming relationships with youth from our neighborhood from 2014 onward.

Darwin is a very passionate music teacher, and he firmly believes that God can utilize music to restore and renew the souls of broken children for His glory. He oftentimes takes the students outdoors to play in the shade of some large tree on our rural property, and he tends to incorporate prayer and Scripture-reading into the class. The photos shown below were taken on one such occasion.

This is “Little Ever,” our youngest student. He just turned 7 years old, and he is our daughter Gabriela’s classmate in our small first grade class. He is our night watchman’s youngest child.

Here are three beloved teen hooligans in Darwin’s recorder class. Roy (far left) is one of our eldest students this year, a local 17-year-old who came to us through unlikely circumstances and whom has really taken hold of all that has been offered to him through the Living Waters Ranch. His aunt recently told us that she is thrilled that God has used those of us who serve as Roy’s teachers to be ‘channels of blessing’ in his life. Roy is very consistent in showing a grateful and positive attitude, something that is highly uncommon in this culture. He is a follower of Christ and is one of the youth leaders in his church after having passed through a very difficult and dark childhood.

This is 12-year-old Cesar, part of a sibling group of three brothers who entered in our discipleship-based community homeschool program in January of this year. He had dropped out of the public school system after having completed fourth grade, and he was frequently seen darting around our rural neighborhood on his bike, generally wreaking havoc and without any direction. He has been surprisingly consistent with his attendance and effort with us thus far this year, and we are excited to see what fruit God will produce in his life via the many seeds that are being planted.

What a spacious and beautiful classroom!

This is our (mostly) precious special-needs son Josue who just turned nine years old yesterday. He serves as Darwin’s and my faithful ‘assistant’ in the various classes we give, and he enjoys playing with all the other kids during P.E., recess and lunch in addition to the fun games he does with his tutor. He serves as Darwin’s assistant in his advanced English class, and Josue surprised us all earlier today when someone thanked him for something (in Spanish), and he answered “Welcome” in choppy English. He suffers from severe speech impediments and struggles to put together basic words in his own language (Spanish), so we were all astonished to realize that he had actually learned (and was able to pronounce!) some English!

It looks like 11-year-old Jeffrey, one of our very wild and immature first grade students, got tired of playing recorder and decided to take a break! He’s eating a mango that must have fallen from the tree!


   Amen! Glory to God!

Learning How to Live: a Math Class Experience

On Thursday of this past week I began walking from one little building on our rural property to the next in preparation for my Advanced Math class that would start once recess finished. The general energy level on our property was extremely high as we had all just gotten out of Bible study and prayer groups, and everyone was busy eating their mid-morning snack, playing a pick-up game of soccer in our front yard or tapping away some upbeat tune on one of several pianos in our bright purple school building.

I quietly but very purposefully began moving rather unusual objects into our simple rectangular classroom: a large wicker table from our house’s living room [our family’s simple cinderblock home lies about six paces from our high school building as our family life with our 8 foster children is very intertwined with our open-door ministry efforts to the local community], three wooden stools, several boxes of colored pencils, a large bucket of water, old rags, and a cup of detergent.

As I greeted and passed by different students and teachers on my way in and out of my classroom, I smiled big – not only because we daily practice the art of joyfully loving one another, but because on that particular day I knew something no one else did.

Abigail, one of our new students this year, a 13-year-old in our small 8th-grade class, eyed me with a twinkle in her eyes and said boldly, “Teacher! I think you’ve got something really fun planned for our math class today! …I mean, just look at that big grin you’re wearing on your face!” She wagged a silly finger at me, waiting eagerly for me to affirm her conclusion.

My eyebrows arched high and my eyes widened as my smile grew even bigger (if that was even possible). I answered, “Oh, Abigail, I always wear this grin on my face, despite the circumstances! So, really, you have no idea if I have something fun planned or not…” I shrugged my shoulders high as my smile remained intact, inciting her to question her teacher’s sanity (as she had probably already done on several prior occasions).

She suddenly looked perplexed and then, slightly worried, as she realized what I said was true. “Yeah, you are always smiling…” [Here at the Living Waters Ranch we like to say that our smile is our uniform. Whatever is happening – good, bad or ugly – we choose to receive and display the joy of the Lord.]

I made a tight squeeze through the doorway with the rather clunky wicker table pushed through on my hip as I glanced over my shoulder at her, “I love you so much, sweetheart! See you in five minutes when we enter class!”

Our rural neighborhood – and the country of Honduras as a whole – is known for devastatingly low educational standards. Overcrowded, underfunded government schools are required to pass all students automatically, and it is not uncommon for youth to spend years in the formal education system without having learned virtually anything. Many students graduate high school without knowing the times tables or basic grammar rules.

In my Advanced Math class that meets four hours each week, we are putting an end to educational corruption, to a system that enables students to pass on to the next level without having first mastered the level they’re at. We work on strengthening their generally weak math base with dynamic methods and then go onward with loads of mental math, complex problem sets and, of course, many hours of homework each week. I like to call my students ‘human calculators.’

And so, five minutes later when all 12 of my precious mathematicians came sweatily bounding into our unairconditioned classroom after recess, I walked to the front of the room and began the process of announcing that secret that had placed that unusually large grin on my face.

Our 12-year-old daughter Gleny, one of the youngest students in the mixed-grade homeschool-style class, saw the bucket of water near the door and made a strikingly accurate guess as she plopped down into her seat: “Oh no. Those of us who didn’t pass the exam are gonna have to wash the walls.”

I threw my head back and laughed freely while all 12 eyed me with dread. It was, after all, the last day of the first grading period, and they had taken their final exam the class prior. I would be announcing the news everyone was anxious to hear.

After a short lecture, I began writing their final grades on the white board as the suspense grew exponentially…

Only three students passed the class: one with flying colors and two by the skin of their teeth. The other nine missed the mark. Several had a final average of somewhere around 45%. [But I know something that they perhaps don’t: even those who earned a woeful percentage in my class have progressed mightily as they’ve learned more than many youth in local public institutions who pass with high grades.]

Without ever taking the large, sincere smile off my face, I ushered the three victors over to the wicker table at the other end of the classroom where I had snacks, encouraging hand-written celebratory notes, colored pencils and open-ended art projects for them to enjoy.

The faces of the other 9 dropped. I had warned them several days prior that they needed to put forth a great effort to study for the exam, because they surely wouldn’t like the consequences if they didn’t. Now they all knew that they were about to find out just what those consequences would be.

I asked them one by one how much time they had dedicated to prepare themselves for the final exam – which was worth half of their final grade. Their answers: one hour. Five minutes. Not at all.

I then glanced over at the victors and asked them how much time they had dedicated to study for the exam. Their answers: five hours. Seven hours.

My heart rejoiced as I reminded my students – the best and brightest in our homeschool program – that, in real life (as in our class) consequences always line up with decisions. You reap what you sow.

And that is why I was so giddy. In our world – and especially in this Central American country where we live – so often the consequences experienced in this life do not line up with choices. The lesson of ‘you reap what you sow’ is so easily lost when the murderers and the liars seem to be getting ahead and the ones who dare to act justly get killed. Here there is very little trust in just consequences due to an unresponsive, corrupt justice system. Whereas the lesson of ‘you steal or kill, you go to jail’ should be present in everyone’s minds, here there is no such thought impeding evil deeds. Here, you steal or kill and you can just keep on doing so for many years to come because generally the police do not respond as they should and/or are paid off by evil gang lords.

In other schools, students can put forth a sub-par effort and receive grand certificates and diplomas. Lies are everywhere, especially in the Honduran educational system. A dear neighbor of ours will be graduating from the local public high school soon, and he’s renowned as a very good student, but his grammar is that of a very young child and he has yet to learn the times tables.

And so on Thursday my heart rejoiced, because I knew that my beloved students would learn an invaluable lesson. Several of the 9 students who did not pass – three of our daughters included in the mix – had never before experienced such academic failure. Perhaps they were finally in a class that could not be passed with a nominal effort.

With the three who passed the class joyfully working on art projects in the far corner of the room, I then began filling the board with the ‘recuperation’ requirements. ‘Recuperation’ is a mandatory process in Honduras that is designed to ensure that all students pass, something which we are not in agreement with but is a process we are required to do. Whereas in most schools the failing students simply show up the next day to take the same exam again (several times if necessary), a false grade assigned if even so they never manage to pass the make-up test(s), we have a new technique: assign physical jobs and heavy homework loads as recuperation. If they do not complete the task with excellence, the failing grade remains the same.

Basically, you have to work if you want to pass (what a novel concept).

Recuperation to be turned in next week: 1.) Write the entire 4-page exam all over again, by hand, and complete it with excellence. 2.) 20 additional problem sets (each of which takes over 20 minutes to complete if done quickly) done with excellence. 3.) Wash the walls of our classroom today; wash those of the other math classroom tomorrow during recess. 4.) Receive a ‘strike.’ (Three strikes and you go to after-school detention, which lowers your overall GPA and is 2+ hours of physical labor under the sun). 5.) Write a half-page reflection about what you’ve learned.

My precious Gleny sighed deeply as she read the board – she had been right about washing the walls. Abigail, the one who had seen the wicker table and the colored pencils and optimistically guessed that the fun activity would be for everyone, eyed me with a little smile on her face as she began copying in her notebook the long list of recuperation requirements.

I went around the room, giving loving pats on the back and words of encouragement in the midst of total emotional devastation for those who did not put forth the necessary effort to pass the class. One of our new students, a 14-year-old boy, eyed me angrily as I blurted, “You know, I really like you! Even if you don’t like me, I really like you! You are gonna do a great job with the recuperation!” I gave him a hearty pat on the back and threw out a joke or two to lighten the overall mood among those poor souls who would soon be drowning in make-up homework.

That blessed day the students worked two at a time sudsing down the bright purple classroom walls while the others worked with pencil in hand to begin the long recuperation process, which would then be finished during their own time over the weekend. I sat at that delightful wicker table with the three who had worked their butts off to earn the prize. We drew. We colored. We chit-chatted. They divvied up the bag of snacks and read the hand-written notes I had left for them. It was great!

The following day I fulfilled my word to the 9, rounding them up during recess to finish the wall-washing job in the other math classroom. Teens on hands and knees, towels and rags in hand, soap and water everywhere, while less mature students from other classes passed by, observing the unusual process. After all, the ones washing the walls are the best students! They aren’t normally the ones who are assigned such consequences! What on earth had happened?

So we thank God, because this process of connecting hard work with rewards (and sub-par work with displeasing consequences) is not something that happens only in my classroom, but rather it is a team effort among those of us who serve, teach and disciple at the Living Waters Ranch. Several local Hondurans who have visited our mission (and those who now labor alongside of us) have commented that we “teach people how to live.” In a world devoid of love, we love abundantly because God first loved us. In a world devoid of truth, we proclaim it boldly. In a world where everyone is busy destroying one another and themselves, we go about quietly picking up the pieces, rescuing the lost and indicating the Way. In a world of confusion, of consequences that don’t correspond with actions – truth paid with murder; corruption paid with great wealth – here on this little piece of land we take very seriously the process of carefully forming those who come to us, of teaching them to live in the light of Christ, to take responsibility for their actions and, ultimately, to stand before the throne of the just Judge and give account for their every action, thought and decision.

The following day, my permanent smile fixed in its place, a 17-year-old young man who is new to our school this year found me during lunchtime and extended his hand. I instinctively reached mine out to receive his, although the lunchtime hand-shaking gesture seemed a bit odd. I tilted my head and looked at him as he began: “I just wanted to thank you for what happened yesterday.”

I felt confused. He was one of the ones who had not passed the class and who would now be working his butt off all weekend. What good could have possibly happened to him yesterday? “Y-yester-? Wha-?”

He continued: “For the math class recuperation. It is fair. I really appreciate that Jackeline [one of our daughters who is in the class] earned a 69 average, but even so you didn’t bump her grade up to 70. In other schools around here they would just give everyone a passing grade, but here the teachers are really interested in making sure that we learn. I’m gonna make sure that in this next marking period I work a whole lot harder to make sure I pass.” His smile was genuine, and his wisdom striking. He gets it!

My jaw was dangling somewhere down around my ankles as I sputtered, “ Oh, yeah, uh – great! Of course! We are so proud of you…” And he was off, getting ready for his after-school agriculture class with Erick. Wow.

We give thanks to God for guiding us as we form the young men and women that He brings us according to His Word, His love, His justice. While a handful of youth have left our program because they have chosen to believe the lies offered by a world that says decisions and consequences do not line up, we give joyful thanks to God for the roughly-40 who have chosen to stay, who like the 17-year-old young man who thanked me for the heavy discipline procedure understand what we are trying to do and are submitted to God throughout the process. Pray with us that the Lord would raise up great Christ-centered leaders (servants) among those whom He is training and transforming among us for His good pleasure.

Amen! Glory to God!

March 2017 Updates and Prayer Requests

A Young Entrepreneur: Jackeline’s Cow

Darwin and I have been actively educating our children and teens in the realm of godly stewardship (how to wisely and generously manage their finances) for several years. Each of our foster children have several weekly chores that they are responsible for, and they receive a small income for them every other week. In a recent family meeting we shared with them the idea of investing their savings in the purchase of a young dairy calf, which will eventually grow at almost no cost and can then be sold (or kept to have babies). Jackeline, one of our teenage daughters, very enthusiastically embraced our suggestion and has since utilized the money she had been saving in order to purchase a young female dairy cow from a neighbor who sold it to us at a great price. Her calf now lives on our large rural property with our small herd that Darwin manages and milks each morning with our 15-year-old son Brayan. We are very excited that she has made this wise investment, and the cow – especially if it gives birth several times, whose calves can then be sold – has the potential to provide the income to send Jackeline to college, help transition her into adulthood, etc. You go, girl!

The following are photos from Pastor Domingo’s weekly Carpentry Club. He is a local pastor whose son entered our high school last year. He is now involved part-time as one of our Christian laborers and teaches elementary-level math, supports one of our prayer groups, teaches a Christian leadership class and does weekly house visits to our students’ homes in addition to leading the Carpentry Club. He is in the process of finishing a large swing set structure that will soon be installed in the Living Waters Ranch’s front yard.

A House Full of Pianists

Our eldest daughter, 16-year-old Dayana, continues faithfully onward in her piano studies as she is now in her third year of playing music under Darwin’s guidance. Every Saturday she goes into the nearby city of La Ceiba as Darwin’s assistant to teach piano lessons to a small group of young students. She has a dogged work ethic and has been extremely consistent in practicing roughly ten hours each week. Six of our other children are also in piano and/or violin, and just recently I, too, began practicing piano on a daily basis. Several months ago I felt God was nudging me toward learning more hymns and worship songs on the piano (I took lessons for about six months upon moving to Honduras in 2012), and as of this past week I am joyfully walking in obedience! I sat down at the piano bench for the first time in several months on Saturday to learn a new hymn, and I ended up practicing for five hours! In these past six days I’ve practiced 13 hours and learned two new worship songs!  It is becoming a daily routine in our household that once our students and teachers leave around 3:45pm, several of us head to the schoolhouse (where the two big pianos are and several keyboards) to tap away for an hour or two. We praise God for this aspect of our daily lives and are encouraged as we see the majority of our kids develop the self-discipline and focus required to learn a musical instrument for God’s glory.

This is a photo of our four full-time Christian laborers (Reina, Erick, Isis and Ligia) taken during a team-building workshop we held in January. (Pastor Domingo was not present at the taking of the photo.) We give thanks to God for His faithful (and extremely hard-working) servants!

Relational Discipleship

We are thrilled and blessed that all of our Christian laborers have begun actively forming relationships with our students after-hours and on the weekends. Three of them live in our tiny rural neighborhood while two daily take a bus in from a nearby city. Erick, whose story I mentioned on a prior blog, has started a weekly Bible study in his home for several of our teen boys, and Pastor Domingo has opened up his home on the weekends to several of our students whom he has joyfully put to work sanding and sawing in his carpentry shop. He has also received several students in the church he leads in his front yard, and our other teachers recently organized a riotous hiking/swimming outing to a local nature spot on a Sunday. We are thankful that God is allowing us to form a holistic ‘lifeline’ for these children and youth who may not have other loving, God-fearing adults in their lives.

This is a photo of Miss Isis’ weekly dance club. Four of our kids (Dayana, Brayan, Sandra and Josselyn) are in this class, and I think the two hours that they get footloose in our dining room are the highlight of their week!

 

Here is a photo from Erick’s weekly Christian Leadership after-school club. (He teaches the class with a certain group of students on Wednesdays, and Pastor Domingo has a different group on Tuesdays.) Reina, who is one of our teachers, participates in the class as a student along with Geraldina, Sandra’s mom who manages the kitchen.

Genesis Returns Home

Genesis, the teenager who had moved from across the country to live with us and study in our high school, unfortunately made the decision to return home to her family. She struggled with great mood swings and general negativity during her four weeks living in our home, and despite our best efforts to encourage, pray for, and try to convince her to continue studying and preparing herself to fulfill God’s will for her life (she had said that she wanted to become a lawyer, learn piano and return to her rural village fully equipped to serve God), she decided to return home about two weeks ago to her dry, very poor rural region where she has almost zero educational opportunities and no plan. Please pray with us for her, as we do not believe she made the correct decision but hope all the best for her according to God’s will for her life.

Here are photos taken during Darwin’s Advanced English class. Two local young people who are not students in our school participate in the classes as well. Darwin loves to go around speaking English to all of our students, but very few of them have any idea what he’s talking about!

Working as a Team: Learning to Delegate Tasks

Amidst our many daily responsibilities as parents, directors of the Living Waters Ranch and teachers, Darwin and I are learning which tasks can be delegated and to whom. We are very excited and blessed that we have now delegated all of our legal communications with our lawyer who resides seven hours away in the capital city (in Honduras your lawyer has to live in the capital city if you want to experience any progress because that is where all the legal action takes place) to Miss Ligia, one of our faithful teachers who is a trained lawyer. She has taken great initiative to communicate and move forward with our capital-city lawyer in the adoptions that are currently in-process along with several other general legal procedures. We thank God for the team of very hard-working local Hondurans He has placed at our side and for the fact that Darwin and I are learning to rely upon them so that we do not get stretched too thin.

The following are photos taken during my secondary-level Art Club. On this particular day the students’ creativity was unleashed as they used clay, pipe cleaners and goggly eyes to design their own city/world — they could choose between the ‘Earth’ theme or, more fun, ‘Outer Space!’

Prayer for Sandra

We are currently seeking prayer for Sandra, the local teen who we met last year when she entered our homeschool-style high school and then later moved in with us for seven months to escape a situation of sexual abuse in the home. She has since moved back in with us nearly two months ago due to various dangers and bad decisions she was facing in our rural neighborhood. She has sought Darwin and I out in private to talk/listen, confess different things she had hidden, and seek prayer for her life, but she is still extremely unstable and, according to what our other daughters have told us, seems to be on the cusp of dropping out of our high school and returning to our rural neighborhood to live a life of purposelessness and sin. She is extremely bright and has many God-given talents, but lacks perseverance and steadfast faith to see things through. She was baptized last year and has expressed to us several times that God has placed the desire on her heart to begin ministering to a group of young children who wander aimlessly around our neighborhood through the creation of a weekly Bible study, but she is easily distracted and has yet to take any steps toward fulfilling this specific call God has on her life. We love her dearly and have been through quite a bit with her thus far, and we are seeking prayer once more that God would illuminate her mind and that she would remain firm in her decision to love and follow Christ.

A few weeks ago Darwin and I celebrated our two-year anniversary of parenting 13-year-old Jackeline (the proud new cow-owner) and her 8-year-old special needs brother Josue. We took them out to a local restaurant while Erick and his wife Aracely came over to our house to stay with the rest of our kids. Jackeline and Josue continue to have monthly contact with their biological relatives, and by God’s grace we maintain a very positive relationship with them.

Insomnia Progress

There is finally good news to be reported about my insomnia! Over the past two months I have been visiting a very professional local physical/massage therapist twice weekly as a last-ditch resort to finding the root of my sleep disorder. She has found several stress-related physical problems that have remained hidden over the last several years, and she has been working with me extensively on how to manage my stress levels better so that they don’t take root and turn into physical problems. My sleeping has improved drastically over these past two months although there is still much progress to be made. At home we have also made several positive changes to help manage stress levels better (such as the aforementioned delegating of tasks along with my new daily routine of playing worship songs on the piano), and I have begun sleeping much better. Please continue to pray for me as this will probably be an ongoing battle over the course of my lifetime (learning to trust in God and lay all my cares/stresses at the foot of the cross). Praise God for this progress!

This is Miss Ligia teaching the Beginners’ English after-school club. We keep class sizes small in order to create a family-like atmosphere that enables individualized contact and relational discipleship. Our teachers spend their recess and lunch period playing and talking with our students in addition to being their prayer group leaders on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
This is Miss Ligia’s elementary-level Art Club!

 

Amen! Glory to God!

Art Club Kick-Off with Miss Ligia

A couple Fridays ago ‘Art Club’ commenced under the enthusiastic direction of Miss Ligia, our beloved secondary teacher who continues to brave the untravelled ‘classroom’ waters. She had studied and practiced law prior to taking the rather large leap earlier this year to begin practicing a different kind of justice — the taming of 13 unruly teenagers with God’s love.

In addition to being the full-time 7th grade teacher, she has taken on the role of leading the weekly ‘Art Club,’ and the class’ kick-off a couple Fridays ago went phenomenally well. After organizing an in-class lesson on the primary and secondary colors, etc (a very basic topic but one that is unknown to the majority of youth from our rural neighborhood as they have never taken even an introductory art class before), she grabbed the white t-shirts, fabric paint and brushes and headed out to our front lawn with her Art Club participants to spend the afternoon decorating t-shirts (which will then be used as their ‘uniform’ for the club each Friday). Oh, and I believe there was some kind of glitter-filled balloon trap hanging from the ceiling of the classroom to begin the whole activity. Way to go, Miss Ligia!

Enjoy the photos several of our younger kids and I took during the first Art Club meeting…

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Miss Ligia and Darwin in our front yard with a few of the Art Club students painting t-shirts at one of our concrete tables

 

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Miss Ligia with Arnold, a 13-year-old student from our rural neighborhood who participates in our 7th-grade discipleship program, piano classes with Darwin, and several of our new extracurricular clubs

 

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Four of our boys as they plan how to decorate their t-shirts

 

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Our 15-year-old daughter Dayana with local students Stanley and Sindy as all three paint t-shirts during their first Art Club meeting

 

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12-year-old Dariela, a glitter-covered local student

 

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Watch out, Miss Ligia! The girls are coming for you!

 

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It looks like Miss Ligia has been fully initiated into Art Club! Nice face markings!

 

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18-year-old Exson, a very artistic young man from our rural neighborhood who participates in our high school program

 

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I don’t know who’s comin’ for who; both Miss Ligia and Cristian look like they’re up to no good! I bet paint is involved!

 

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This was the shirt 13-year-old Elalf painted. It reads “God is love” with a lamb in the top corner.

 

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Our 9-year-old son Jason took this photo and several others as he camped out in the truck-bed of our parked car. He’s pretty good paparazzi!

 

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14-year-old Arlen, a local students we’ve known almost three years, as he poses with his newly-painted t-shirt


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Clean-up time!

 

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Our 11-year-old daughter Gleny as she greets her older sister who just got finished with Art Club

 

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Time for everybody to head home! See you Monday, Miss Martha!

 

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See you on Monday, Charlie and Arnold!

 

Amen! Glory to God!