Tag Archives: Birthday Party

Up that Long Gravel Road and to a Birthday Party We Go!

This past Saturday we celebrated the joint birthdays of Jackeline (13) and Dayana (16), two of the young women the Lord has placed in our household as daughters. Although they are not biological sisters, they were both born on October first, so they decided to have a shared birthday party (with two separate cakes, of course).

We handed our digital camera off to many small, eager photographers who very contentedly ran here and there, functioning as the event’s paparazzi. They did a pretty good job with the photos!

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The majority of our primary and secondary students who study at the Living Waters Ranch attended our girls’ birthday party in addition to several neighbors.

 

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Jackeline (13) and Josselyn (12), two of the young women who live in our home.

 

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Putting the finishing touches on Jackeline’s cake!

 

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My husband Darwin and our 9-year-old son Jason baked the cakes, and 12-year-old Gleny and I prepared the icing/decorations!

 

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One of the big poster boards hanging in our dining room that we decorated/wrote on for the celebration

 

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The majority of the youth in our neighborhood — especially the young men — sit idly on street corners, aimlessly wander roads or get wrapped up in a life of violent crime, so inviting these young men to a healthy, family-oriented birthday party (in addition to being involved in our discipleship-based school program 5 days a week) is a very revolutionary step in their lives that God is using for His glory.

 

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We left out blank poster boards and pieces of paper on our dining room table for the party guests to write a birthday message for our girls.

 

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8-year-old Josue, who has special needs and moved in with us in January 2015, used to fall down frequently, did not walk with much confidence and was severely overweight. His coordination and general motor skills have improved drastically in these past 20 months. Look at him go!

 

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15-year-old Brayan, the young man who lived with us for 8 months in 2014 and who continues to be heavily involved in the Lord’s purposes at the Living Waters Ranch, enjoying the dinner we served to the birthday party guests. He took the initiative to pray for our birthday girls — who are like sisters to him — alongside of Darwin and a local pastor.

 

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Our dining room, where we also hold our community Bible study on Tuesdays and Thursdays,. was the hub of the birthday activity.

 

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Miss Martha — who had to stop laboring at the Living Waters Ranch this past month due to chronic pains — was the first one to arrive at our girls’ birthday party and joyfully began helping in the kitchen! Since discontinuing her daily involvement at the Ranch, she still comes back every Tuesday to participate in Bible study and the Christian leadership class.

 

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Everybody get ready to sing!

 

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Thank goodness your choir teacher is here to help get your voices warmed up!

 

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We consider ourselves to be really fun parents, but our girls just think we’re embarrassing!

 

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Now let’s sing again! This time for Jackeline!

 

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Gotta love that precious face!

 

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Darwin with Elalf, one of our local students who participates in our homeschool-style high school along with piano lessons with Darwin. He and his dad, who is a local pastor, attended the birthday party.

 

Amen! Glory to God!

Celestial Glee in a Land Marked by the Works of the Inferno

Friday afternoon we celebrated the birthday of not one person but eight — one of our daughters, six of our students, and one of our teachers.

After a busy week that presented many unexpected demands (as they all tend to be), I hustled over to our community kitchen about an hour before all of our students would get out of class and began whipping up strawberry cake batter and decorating bright-colored poster boards to hang up in our dining room. I sprinted over and popped my head in our three classrooms to let all of our students know that they were invited to stay from 12:30-2:30pm for our community birthday celebration if they wanted to. (To my surprise, all but a couple enthusiastically accepted the dreadfully informal invitation and stuck around for the party.)

I then hustled back over to our kitchen as the clocked ticked down. The students would all pour out of their classrooms in like 16 minutes, and the cake wasn’t even ready, much less iced, and I still needed to finish the meager decorations and plan what on earth I would actually do with like 25 people for two hours of planned group activities that I hadn’t planned!

Well, with quite a bit of creative improvisation and rugged team-work with our beloved teachers, what seemed to me to be a pretty last-minute, poorly planned effort turned out to be a raging hoot and holler.

The gold medal goes to Miss Ligia (age 29, high school teacher) and Miss Isis (age 22, elementary school teacher) for putting themselves out there and participating with their students in all of the games and competitions I thrust upon them! Neither one is naturally very athletic, but they both got their hands (and heads, knees, and more!) dirty right alongside of their students.

In a country deeply wounded by murder, petty theft, betrayal, corruption and an almost tangible feeling of inadequacy and despair, it truly was beautiful to spend an afternoon enjoying godly friendship — helping one another up, cheering one another on, working as a team, whooping and roaring with side-splitting laughter, praying over those whose birthdays we were celebrating, and running until you can’t breathe anymore.

In this land deeply lacerated — tormented —  by teen pregnancy and unbridled delinquency, what a blessing it is to see teens playing together — loving rather than hating, supporting rather than destroying, giggling rather than being overcome by desperation, participating in a raw innocence that comes from the Father rather than falling prey to Satan’s treacherousness.

Rouge teens on a forgotten corner of the earth who might otherwise be involved in gangs — many of whom are recognizing and confessing for the first time in their lives that they are addicted to pornography —  learning the heart of the Father, asking earnest questions and seeking out the Truth. Young women emerging from devastating situations of abuse and abandonment clinging to the freedom offered them in Christ rather than remaining trapped in the oppressive environment of despair, single-motherhood and self-loathing the world around them offers. Desperately poor youth learning the riches of a just, redeeming God.

As we grow together as a community — as a patchwork family, a school, a discipleship center — in the knowledge and love of our Father, He concedes us  an uncommon joy, a wild delight. So here’s to His uncommon ways, His active work among His people from every tribe, tongue and nation in today’s world.

Below are the photos I took of the unexpectedly joyous occasion we had on Friday as we delighted in a glimpse of heaven in the midst of a land that oftentimes seems trapped in hell. Praise God for the utterly liberating work He is unleashing among us!

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Ready, set, go! Who’s up for a riotous game of Chinese freeze-tag?

 

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Run, Sandra, run!

 

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Run faster, Miss Ligia! (This photo and many others make me laugh every time.)

 

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Carminda, a beloved neighbor of ours who has three of her kids in school with us and who helps out with general cleaning and cooking a couple days a week, laughing as Miss Ligia, our high school teacher, comes streaking by.

 

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Our daughter Josselyn who moved in with us in July 2015 was one of our birthday girls! Although we don’t know when she was really born because she doesn’t have a birth certificate, we made up a birthday for her and decided that she turned 12! It was the first birthday she’s ever celebrated.

 

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Miss Ligia just doesn’t stop running, does she?

 

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Look at Miss Ligia along the fence — I think she got tired!

 

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Uh-oh! Now our 7-year-old special-needs son Josue is chasing Miss Ligia! If only they knew that they were actually on the same team!

 

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7-year-old Gaby playing with a balloon as the rest of the students engage in their full-on battle of Chinese freeze-tag

 

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Miss Isis, our beloved primary teacher, in athletic clothes borrowed from 15-year-old Dayana. Get ready to run, Miss Isis!

 

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Miss Ligia’s wipe-out! As 14-year-old Brayan was chasing her around the yard, she lost her footing as she quickly came upon a small incline!

 

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Help her up, Brayan!

 

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Go, Rolan, go! Free Miss Isis!

 

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Exson, another one of our birthday boys, playing with 7-year-old Josue. Exson is in our 7th-grade discipleship program and just turned 18 years old. He’s in my twice-weekly prayer group and is experiencing a deep spiritual transformation as he’s actively seeking out the Living God.

 

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13-year-old Donaris, who also recently had a birthday, participated in the festivities with more glee than anyone else. He is typically marked by a very severe countenance and rough attitude, so it was a great privilege to see him so free and joyful.

 

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12-year-old Sindy, the young woman who Brayan is about to catch, is Gaby’s after-school tutor three days a week and one of our high school students who lives with her family in our rural neighborhood.

 

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Now it’s time to pick out pieces of fried bread from a plateful of flour (without using your hands)!

 

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Donaris enjoying a newfound joy that God desires for him not only in moments of play but also in every facet of his life!

 

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Quickly, Miss Ligia!

 

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Charlie, one of our high school students

 

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Cristian, one of our high school students, laughing at his teacher while Sandra looks on

 

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Dayana and Donaris encouraging another student in the flour competition

 

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Our 12-year-old Josselyn

 

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Nice beard, Gaby!

 

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The best part about the flour competition was the end! Grab a plate and throw the flour everywhere!

 

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Look out, kids! I think Miss Ligia is taking revenge for having been chased so much during Chinese freeze-tag!

 

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Exson with the two teachers in an epic battle of flour and balloons

 

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Watch out, Donaris! They’re coming for you!

 

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Line up, everybody! Now it’s time for relay races across the front lawn!

 

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15-year-old Stanley (red shorts), another birthday boy, ready to compete

 

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Stanley and Exson neck-‘n-neck in the bear-crawl!

 

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Uh-oh! Miss Ligia wiped out during the bear-crawl! It looks like Josue’s coming in first place!

 

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The golden rule during relays: you have to encourage your teammates!

 

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Here comes Sandra in the crab-walk!

 

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Brayan and Dayana, two of our original four kids to move in with us in 2013/2014. Since those early days their paths have individually taken on different shape as Dayana has continued living with us and is now in the process of being legally adopted by Darwin and I while Brayan moved out and now maintains a close friendship with us as we continue loving and mentoring him for God’s glory.

 

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Get ready for the soldier-crawl! Most of our kids participated in their shiny white school uniforms because we had not notified them ahead of time about our birthday party plans! Whoops!

 

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Dayana is a really aggressive soldier!

 

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Keep going, Miss Isis!

 

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You got it, Brayan! Pull yourself forward!

 

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It’s neck-‘n-neck! Who’s gonna win — Sindy or Miss Ligia?

 

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When I cheered and encouraged Miss Ligia to soldier-crawl as fast as she could because she was on a battlefield, she responded, “As slow as I’m going, I think I would’ve already gotten shot by now!”

 

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Ok! Now we’re gonna spin 10 times with our forehead on a waist-high stick and start sprinting! Let’s see who gets dizzy and falls down…

 

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Sindy took several wobbly steps and wiped out!

 

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Amen! Glory to our Father who establishes His Kingdom in the most unlikely of places!