Tag Archives: Corruption

Current Prayer Request

This post is for those who routinely pray for us and the small mission the Lord has placed under our care in Honduras. Thank you for remembering us and for lifting up our requests to our Father, asking continually that His will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Request: Government Favor

In the past few weeks the need for government favor (and efficacy) has been pressed upon us greatly, as we must interact with the local government in the operation of our school, the adoption of our children, and in several other facets of our daily life and ministry here. There is much corruption and confusion, and it is very easy to feel oppressed and drained by the monster of a system we come up against.

Juan Orlando Hernandez, the current Honduran president around whom there are many accusations of fraud in last year’s elections. It recently came to light that he was involved in faking his sister’s death in a helicopter crash several months ago so that she could escape the country during all the election drama. She recently returned (alive), and they admitted that the whole helicopter crash was a lie.

We have been actively beating down bushes in our efforts to legally adopt three of our children (the oldest of which is now 18 years old) for the past several years. During the last 18+ months the government lawyer at the Honduran Child Protective Services office has been telling me that any day now they would be calling me to present myself in a courthouse that lies 2+ hours away from our house to take the next crucial step in the adoption process. To make a long (and excruciating) story short, the courthouse called our government lawyer two days ago at 2:00pm to notify her that I needed to present myself in the court (which is a 2+ hour drive from our home) that same day at 1:30pm (as in, half an hour before). That news reached me today, and I am absolutely devastated that we missed our court date (because they did not notify us on time) after roughly a year-and-a-half of waiting. We are now back to square one and wondering if we will ever truly be able to adopt our children (who in less than two weeks will be hitting their 5-year mark of living with us).

We also need government permission in order to open the next grade of our discipleship-based homeschool that we operate out of our rural homestead (we currently offer 1st grade through 9th grade), and after many confusing phone calls and vague answers we put together a detailed document seeking government permission to open 10th grade and they flatly refused without any real reason. There are a lot of politics involved in the Honduran education system, and my husband Darwin stayed up investigating the laws and re-writing our proposal until 2:00am this morning and is going back into town to try to speak directly with the mayor and several other officials. It is very important that we are able to open 10th grade (and then 11th, which is the last grade in Honduran high school) in order to persevere with the good work in the lives of the teens who have already been in our program several years. We want to be able to offer the last two grades of high school under our tutelage at the Living Waters Ranch so that our kids are not forced to finish their education in the less-than-acceptable public system fraught with fraud and mediocrity.

I will spare the details of our other frustrating experiences, and will conclude this request by simply asking that you would pray with us for radical change (and wisdom) in the Honduran government, as much in its personal members as in its overall structure, and that the overall oppression in the country would be lifted as its citizens and residents might be able to go about their daily affairs without constantly coming up against a huge metaphorical brick wall painted haphazardly with the phrases, “No,” “Not today,” or “It cannot be done.” Please pray also for my attitude in the midst of all this and that the work God desires to do in His Honduran people would flourish even in the midst of such debilitating inefficacy, corruption and potential despair.

Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras

Please consider our requests and pray with us so that God might tend to our legal needs so that we not be unduly drained or distracted from our principal purpose in Honduras, which is to love, teach and disciple children and youth (and the occasional adult) in the Way of Christ.

God bless you.

Sincerely,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

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!

The Praises of the Lamb: Remembering Our Purpose

I sit here squinting in the dull light at the several sheets of white paper splayed out around me, each one filled with scribbled phrases, arrows and scratch-outs as many, many hours have been put into the revision and expansion of our mission statement over these last several days.

My breath catches in my throat as I am thrown back by the words I jot down. Infinite purpose is being revealed before me as I wait and listen, type and understand.

This is one of those rare moments of seeing everything with perfect clarity.

The soft glow of my laptop illuminates the polished square dining table where I sit in a missionary couple’s empty home. My husband and I have been here on vacation for the last few days.

I laugh to myself as I think that we almost seem like a normal young couple in this quiet house with nice furnishings. No large, broken children hanging all over us and consuming our every moment; no dire crisis to be tended to; no grinding schedule of extreme hospitality and taxing interpersonal commitments.

But our Father knows He has brought us here not to revel in some temporal notion of ‘peace’ but rather to utilize this empty space — empty time, empty mental space — to sit down and seriously consider what He is doing in our midst.

To remember, to repent.

Darwin sits several yards away on a highly cushioned couch as he is absorbed by his own computer. Books are splayed out all around him on the coffee table and floor while today’s breakfast and lunch dishes accompany me at my work station. Half-empty mugs of herbal tea and plates sticky with food residue populate the glossy surface. Clay Aiken’s song “Mary Did You Know” repeats over and over again on YouTube as my fingers continue typing, my heart heavy under God’s glory.

My eyes trace the words on the open Word document. My posture before my Father is one of worship as I read the overarching purpose He’s given us:

To be compelled by a love for God and humanity; to be utilized as God’s instruments as He establishes His Kingdom among us in a dark and broken region.

When 8-year-old Gaby still struggles to put appropriate sexual norms into practice after having been broken under the insatiable lust of her stepfather; when difficult students are accepted into our discipleship program (and when they storm out only to return again); when our Father’s Kingdom is diligently – desperately – sought in early-morning prayer; when genuine confession and repentance and granted, that’s the purpose behind it all.

Beyond exhaustion, beyond any warm fuzzies or sense of adventure, beyond personal conflicts, struggles and victories as we live in the messy and the mundane alongside of other broken human beings in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, this is our mission:

To be God’s refuge for orphaned, abandoned, neglected and abused young people as we extend Christ-centered hospitality, healing and guidance to them with the goal of raising them up as powerful servant leaders to their generation, wholly submitted to Christ and equipped for any good work.

To serve as a holistic mentoring and discipleship center for local children, youth and adults as we diligently proclaim Truth and faithfully bind up those who have been broken in a society wrought with violent crime, sexual perversion, a corrupt and unresponsive justice system, educational inefficacy and devastating poverty; to cleanse and renew individuals with God’s grace as they learn to trust and follow Jesus in every area of their lives.

Is it really that big, Father? How on earth do I so quickly lose sight? How is it possible that I get so easily wrapped up in my own feelings and frustrations — so consumed by my own needs and desires — looking for personal gratification and recognition when the task is so much bigger than us, so much more beautiful than anything we can offer?

Wow.

And when little girls who’ve been thrown out as trash learn to trust their Savior; when the Word of Truth is proclaimed in that rustic dining room day after day after week after year; when our teenage girls slowly shed destructive patterns and adopt God-honoring attitudes, this is who we are:

A community of individuals being healed and set free as we experience and share the good news of Jesus Christ.

When our high school students still haven’t developed the habit of doing their homework; when the justice system fails to put child molesters and rapists behind bars; when my husband is kidnapped and miraculously spared his life by those same gang lords who’ve paid off the police and the political officials; when my own patience comes to its end and I must cry out to the Living God, the vision He’s given us has not changed:

To be a prophetic community of believers, living in accordance with God’s Word and utilizing music, writing, preaching and other avenues of communication to function as God’s messengers both to our immediate region and around the world.

Did I have to leave home for a few days in order to have Him open my eyes to the weight of the work He’s etching out among us? Did He have to guide these gangly fingers to write it in order for my heart to remember it, to continue trusting the Good Shepherd in the midst of our daily walk through the wilderness?

My eyes absorb the words on the screen, and I begin to understand.

To actively fight the many evils in our region with prayer and fasting, interceding for God’s Kingdom to be established on earth as it is in heaven.

Oh, those messy, after-hours battles that we’ve fought with tears – at times totally desperate, trusting in the freedom Christ won for us even when those chains of sin and abuse are so hard to be broken, holding our girls and weeping – that’s what it’s been all about.

Not ten minutes prior my fingers added to the open Word document what I have so mightily struggled with:

To assume a posture of long-term commitment in our relationships with the people the Lord places in our lives, accepting the responsibility of patiently coming alongside of them without seeking immediate results or personal recognition.

Oh, on a daily basis this war must be fought and won against my own ego, as I so pompously strain for that “thank you,” that look of gratefulness that hasn’t come, that medal of honor for going the extra mile.

As that soft glow continues to illuminate me, He whispers: Faithfully persevere until the end, and I will work all things out for the good of those who love Me and have been called according to My purpose. No immediate results; no personal recognition. You must become less so that My power may be made manifest in you.

The music continues to proclaim the same Truth that He confirms upon my spirit.

I read:

To adopt the attitude of Jesus, constantly asking that the Father’s will be fulfilled rather than our own; to carry our cross and follow Christ, spending ourselves on God’s will.

Oh, how often I’ve grumbled under the weight of this cross! How often I’ve eyed others’ lives – the personal time I think they have that I don’t – and how often have I looked for those short-cuts just to arrive at the end of the day a little less scarred, less spent. Forgive me, Lord.

Clay Aiken’s voice rises as he reminds me that all – even the blind like me – shall sing the praises of the Lamb, the praises of He who chooses to redeem and utilize the unlikeliest of people – alas, we are all the unlikeliest of people, for the whole of humanity is a disgruntled group of murderous prostitutes!

Is that not the purpose of all things, of our very lives? To sing the praises of the Lamb, to be joyfully consumed by the praises of He in whom we find our salvation from this world, from Satan’s grasp, from ourselves? Is not the great task of all humanity to not lose or forsake our relationship with the Living God — to not  trade Him for our fanatical busyness, distorted ego and that heaping pile of daily obligations and distractions? To repent, to believe that the Kingdom is near and that the King is good?

The glory of God rests heavy in the room, on my heart, as I am nearly brought to weeping, amazed that the Creator of all things would choose us – me in all my daily failings – for this work. How is it possible?

My eyes continue to dart between documents, between paragraphs, as He reminds me the great purpose He has called us to:

To embrace the fact that lives are transformed through relationship; to focus primarily not on tasks, programs or appearances but on cultivating deep, sacrificial relationships as lasting transformation is achieved for God’s glory.

How many times have I wanted to lock myself in the bathroom, cleaning toilets rather than wiping noses! Oh, forgive me, Father, for even now as I sit here a sense of dread is creeping in as I think of all the demanding emotional and behavioral needs that will meet me at our front gate tomorrow upon our return home. Accompany me once more, Father, and fill me with You so that what the kids receive isn’t me, but You.

This is Your work; it never was ours and it never could be.

May Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.