Tag Archives: Faith

Follow-Up to Our Article on the Immigration Crisis

I am writing this post as a follow-up to the post I wrote several days ago about our viewpoint on the immigration crisis.

For those who have taken our story in a very negative light, please forgive my words as it is not my intention to spark anyone’s anger nor am I associated with any political party. My goal in writing was to simply share our perspective — however imperfect it is — about what we see and experience in our day-to-day lives in a small town on the Northern Coast of Honduras. I do not claim to hold the answers nor is it my intention to judge those who are part of the caravan to the United States. I hold no answers and am in desperate need of God’s wisdom in order to conduct myself in my daily life.

Let us all pray that God would direct both Honduran and American leaders during this time to begin making positive changes that will enact long-term change and increased justice in Honduras.

We know that our only real hope is Christ (no matter what situation we are in) as this entire world is under condemnation and will come to an eventual end under God’s wrath. Let us seek Him in repentance and with great faith (and joy!) whether we live in material prosperity or in want; whether we are Hondurans or Americans; and whether we belong to a certain political party or to a different one. Jesus does not promise an escape (or salvation) from the current times in a material sense, but He does work in and around us in the midst of turbulent times for His glory as we trust and believe that He has overcome the world. 

Please be encouraged, and even as we seek healthy, long-term solutions to cultivate dignity and justice in Honduras and other countries around the world, let us remember that this world is not our home and that our standing before God in Christ is much more important than our political, national or economic standing.

Thank you, and God bless.

God’s Hand Over the Next Generation: Compassion Shown by the Unlikely

Friday evening I was in the midst of distributing and applying anti-fungus creams, encouraging young readers and commanding small soldiers to pick up scattered Legos.

As a weekly treat for our kids, each Friday we move our family’s Sabbath Hour from its traditional 7:15pm mark back to 8:30pm or so. I glanced at the clock – barely 7:00pm – and sighed deeply as I wondered where I would find the strength to continue in the daily bustle another hour and a half.

Josselyn tapped away on the wobbly electric keyboard that teetered on a wooden stool in front of her as she sat perched on our small, fading floral-print couch that has survived admirably through many years and owners. Gleny and Jason were sprawled out on the other couch with its bright, multi-colored cushions, each reading a children’s Bible. Our older girls were in their bedroom painting fingernails and such while my attention was fully dedicated to keeping an intense control on developmentally-challenged Gaby and Josue, who are prone to prancing about and making a general ruckus in our not-so-spacious house that doesn’t quite seem to accommodate such exuberant activity (especially at night). Darwin was in our bathroom taking a shower.

Everything seemed to be in order, but I still fought back a very real sense of exhaustion as I knew I would have to confront pianos and giggles and jumping children and read-alouds until late that night whereas on other nights we are granted that blessed blanket of silence from 7:15pm on.

Having chauffeured our littlest ones to the bathroom, I squatted down in front of 8-year-old Josue to change his diaper in the boys’ stall as Gaby started prematurely coming out of the girls’ stall, not three feet away.

“Wait just a second, Gaby! Let me finish with Josue before you come out…”

The little Velcro tabs were quickly put into place, stretchy-waistband shorts pulled up, big toothy grin smiling back at me.

Good to go. The three of us headed for the sink.

“Ok, now wash your hands.” I glanced over at Gaby, “ – Always with soap.” She looked up at me, pretending to be innocently surprised, as she was already ¾ done with washing her stubby fingers with water alone. “I shouldn’t have to tell you that every time, Gaby. You know better. Where’s the soap anyway?”

She scuttled over and brought a bar of light green soap from the kids’ shower. I began washing Josue’s hands – those fingers that can’t seem to coordinate themselves to do anything productive but always find their way into his mouth with perfect execution – as I then passed the bar of soap to Gaby. I instructed her, once again, how and why to wash her hands with soap.

Once the hand-washing was done with a certain degree of excellence, I reached for the kids’ toothpaste. Oh, how many tubes of toothpaste have been so quickly emptied as these two little ones have snuck in the bathroom at all hours to shove the tube in their mouth and feast!

Gaby passed me the half-empty tube, and Josue began nodding enthusiastically and babbling in his broken speech as he informed me that he knew he wasn’t supposed to eat it. “Ma! Pata, pata. Yo no. Yo pata no!” I smiled wearily and affirmed that he was absolutely right but that he needed to put into practice what he knew, otherwise his knowledge was worth nothing.

I squirted out a small amount of toothpaste onto each of their toothbrushes, wetted them, and handed the brushes to them individually, instructing them – as they are told every morning and evening – to take their time and brush up, down, etc. Take good care of your teeth or you’ll lose them.

(Oh, how many teens and adults in our neighborhood are missing teeth due to dental negligence! Many young adults in their 20s and 30s wear dentures or have all their upper front teeth missing due to years of Coca-Cola drinking and no-tooth-brushing. Josue moved in 20 months ago and Gaby 14 months ago after having been removed from distinct situations of abuse/neglect with their biological families, and both received extensive dental work earlier this year to fix teeth that had been blackened and rotted out after years of neglect.)

Gaby immediately extended her toothbrush to the sink, turned the faucet on full-power and was effectively about to blast the little squirt of toothpaste right off the brush and down the drain – as she tries to do almost every day – when I corrected her with my make-nice tone that was becoming increasingly irritated: “Gaby, no! I already wetted your toothbrush, and you saw me do it. Just brush your teeth.”

I stood by the sink a couple minutes as my young comrades struggled mightily – as they tend to in almost all activities – to clean their teeth.

Having finally finished the tedious process, I began shuttling them back through the living room, reminding them that it had been a long day – a good day, praise God, but a long one – and that now was not the time to be jumping and running around. They could play quietly with the bucket of Legos, grab a book and sit down, or go to their bed. Their choice.

As I was in the midst of explaining this daily process to our littlest ones, 12-year-old Josselyn, Gaby’s biological sister, intercepted me as she suddenly stood up from where she was playing piano and very intentionally put herself in my path. It was clear she intended to add to my to-do list.

My immediate thought was: Everyone needs me all the time! Can’t you just keep playing piano and let me finish what I’m doing with Gaby and Josue? I’ve already spent the entire day playing with all of you, cooking for you, cleaning the house with you, teaching you and helping you solve various conflicts. Everyone else has already showered and is enjoying a fun activity. Can’t I?

With her small, round face illuminated with joy, she asked, “Can I talk to you?”

That simple phrase oftentimes indicates the beginning of a long, sit-and-pour-your-heart-out time of up to an hour or two. It involves listening to their problems, answering difficult questions, wrestling with disturbing memories from the past, etc, and then seeking out solutions together, praying together.

Much fruit – much growth – has been harvested for God’s glory from such times of intimate communication, but late at night after a long day is not my finest hour to do so. My morale immediately dropped (and probably my face as well) as I imagined I would be spending a good chunk of time – and a good chunk of emotional energy that I already didn’t have – listening to my small friend.

I answered wearily, hoping against hope that it might be something quick like Can-you-give-me-the-hydrogen-peroxide-to-pour-on-the-scrape-on-my-knee, “Ok, go ahead. What is it?”

She answered with equaled (or perhaps increasing) joy, undeterred by my unenthusiastic response: “No, not here! In private.”

“Oh…ok.” Dang it. “Where?” Not in private! That indicates a longer, more intense conversation! Lord, I have nothing left to give. Please accompany me in this moment of great trial. I’m so tired.

She smiled and indicated for me to follow her into her bedroom, where we passed that bright teal curtain into the room she shares with her little sister. Wooden bunkbed with mismatched but clean bedding. Big plastic bucket as clothes hamper. An unclothed babydoll and a stuffed-animal tabby cat. Wooden dresser shared by both. Small black plastic trashcan emptied earlier that morning. Antique (as in, very old) wooden chair with a fading blue cushion. Floor impeccably clean – swept and mopped to perfection – and all belongings in their place after having spent the morning cleaning together as a family.

I remained close to the doorway, my body language communicating my heart’s hidden intention: a quick escape if things got hairy.

She began in an upbeat tone, very direct yet respectful, catching me off guard with her question: “You’re in a bad mood, right?”

My heart sank. Oh no. She could tell I was frustrated. Great self-control, Jennifer. Did I really look that bad? How negative had my attitude been toward Gaby and Josue in the bathroom?

I mustered a sincere smile and answered, carefully managing my tone of voice, “No, I’m not in a bad mood. I’m just really tired. But I’m okay; thanks for asking.”

My body turned slightly toward the doorway; I was ready to leave.

Her facial expression indicated that she anticipated I would answer that way, so she threw up her thin, muscular arms with clear, innocent eyes and asked, “Can I pray for you?”

That was why she had asked to talk to me in private. She had taken note of my emotional fatigue and intended to pray for me.

Just the day prior this young woman and I had experienced a heated conflict . We had sat down, both cross-legged on a small strip of concrete behind our house as I had wanted to approach her lovingly about my desire that she improve her relationship with her little sister. She misunderstood my motives, got offended and screamed at me, burying her face in her knees pulled up to her chest and crying uncontrollably. My attitude went south, frustrated that she had reacted so strongly to what I had hoped would be a peaceful, productive conversation. I usurped the uncontrollable cryer’s freedom and sent her to her room to calm down. As she passed through that same bright teal curtain, she turned toward me and spat ugly words. My own anger increasingly incited, I sent her to wash her mouth out with soap, leading her into the bathroom as she continued to cry and murmur against me.

It had been neither her best moment nor mine. Her words were loud; mine were piercing. “You need to learn to control your mouth!” I scolded; she stormed off to her room, where she would be until she was ready to talk lovingly. (Until I was ready to talk lovingly).

Feeling annoyed by her unnecessary outburst – in no way had I intended for our initial conversation to offend or upset her – and full of self-justification, I sensed my heart being subtly persuaded toward an intensifying anger.

I walked with hands slightly trembling to the next building on our rural property. Several minutes prior I had seen Dayana, our eldest daughter, sitting on the floor in the entryway as she organized the choir members’ folders and sheet music. I hoped to find her there again.

The Lord had spoken to my heart: Go ask Dayana for prayer. Your anger has led you out of My will. You must re-enter in love in order to treat Josselyn the way I want you to.

I had stopped in the doorway as Dayana’s eyes moved from the dozens of black folders splayed out around her on the tile floor up to me. She smiled.

Now. Ask her for prayer now.

I passed the threshold and sat down next to her, trying to make small talk about the folders she was organizing, wanting to avoid having to ask for prayer. The “I’m-right; she’s-wrong!” ballad was playing quite loudly in my mind as I finally humbled myself and informed Dayana that Josselyn and I were having a conflict and that I wanted her to pray for the situation – for both of us.

She immediately freed her attention of the busy work of folder-organizing, put her hands in mine as we turned to face one another, both heads bowed. She began praying earnestly for reconciliation between Josselyn and I, that our Father would guide us both toward a healing of our relationship and the fulfillment of His will.

She finished the prayer, her adolescent hands – those small fingers adorned with several fun rings and that bright pink wristwatch that she never takes off – releasing my larger hands, long fingers crowned with chipped black nail polish.

9-year-old Jason, Dayana’s younger biological brother, suddenly appeared in the open doorway as messenger: “Ma, Josselyn is ready to talk to you. She’s in her room waiting.”

I thanked him for the message, eyed Dayana with a smile, thanking her for the very timely prayer, and began walking towards Josselyn’s bedroom. God’s peace had replaced the raging anger in my heart right on time.

I knocked on her doorframe, my hands no longer trembling, and she indicated that I come in. My eyes swept the room as they suddenly landed on the prize: short-haired, very small-framed Josselyn sitting in a far corner in that antique wooden armchair. Her eyes were red and swollen from violent tears, but her open posture and even breathing indicated that the intense emotional battle was already over.

I approached her, both of our attitudes having been corrected by our Father, and I squatted down in front of her, my hand placed affectionately on hers.

She began: “I was…so upset. I thought you were furious with me. But…then…God revealed to me that I – was the one who was furious…It wasn’t you. Forgive me.”

If ‘Furious’ had been her name, ‘Impatient’ and ‘Rash’ had been mine. I accepted her apology and followed her lead, asking for forgiveness for my escalating reactivity and assuring her that it had not been my purpose to upset or anger her with our initial conversation.

We were both at peace; forgiveness reigned; God was glorified.

So then, the day after our timely reconciliation, she stood before me asking if she could pray for me. I felt as though I could not answer, had not rehearsed for this. Prayer is a normal part of our daily life together  – we pray as a family before meals each day, send requests and thanksgiving to our Father in prayer groups several times a week with our local students, pray with our kids for their many conflicts and emotional problems, pray with our faith community on Sundays – but her praying for me? Taking the initiative to search me out, chase me down with love? None of our kids had ever done that before.

Sensing my surprise, she shrugged, eyes still very bright, and informed me with total assurance, “I feel that it’s what God wants me to do.”

I nodded awkwardly, words still escaping me, and I took a few strange steps toward that same antique armchair that marked our reconciliation from the day prior.

I sat down, still unsure how this would go and at the same time feeling incredibly blessed by this little one’s faith flushed out in deeds – her unswerving obedience to God’s instruction on her heart – in the midst of what was one of my less inspiring moments.

She instinctively squatted down in front of me – the posture I take with our kids many, many times each day as a way of getting on eye level with them (especially because I am extremely tall) – and reached for my hands that rested idly in my lap.

Our posture – me in the chair, her squatting down, embracing my hands – was a perfect reversal from the day prior.

Without giggling nervously or wondering aloud where to start, she immediately bowed her head and began praying for me out loud with great confidence, admirable faith. She prayed many things, the majority of which I cannot remember – but at the end of the prayer she asked God to grant Darwin and I the perseverance to continue onward in this marathon work during many years to come. She prayed that I may be granted rest, that even in difficulties God would grant me great joy.

Having finished the prayer, still feeling awkwardly blessed after having received such undeserved compassion from such an unlikely person, I stood up and gave her a big, slightly awkward hug. This time my tall frame enveloped her small one as her face disappeared somewhere in the middle of my torso.

Having reversed roles if only for a moment, this small preteen – this young warrior princess who only a year-and-a-half ago was wandering dark streets collecting bottles in the wee hours of the morning, sleeping in nooks and crannies in public places after having been effectively disowned by her blood relatives, body emaciated and hair shaved off – had been used by Father God to express compassion and faith to this discouraged mom.

Passing through that bright teal curtain, I re-entered our living room and noticed that Josue was already lying in his bottom bunk. He never is much of a night owl. With renewed faith, I walked over to his open doorway, bent over in order to see his little eyes, and asked if I could come in. His response was an enthusiastic “Chi, Ma! Chi,” slightly dulled by sleepiness. I crossed the threshold, perched myself on the side of his bed, bent over so as to fit under the not-so-high top bunk above his, and intended to pray.

Whereas on most nights it’s a quick good-night-hug and kiss-on-the-top-of-the-head and off-to-bed-you-go, Josselyn’s daring act of faith inspired me to step out of the boat as well, to take up my cross and joyfully follow Christ even when it isn’t easy. I bowed my head — Josue’s eyes squinted intensely shut as his whole face crinkled up in prayer, my fingers tracing up and down his baby-soft arms — and I allowed Christ’s perfect peace to invade Josue’s bottom bunk, daring to ask God to heal this broken little boy.

Amen! Glory to God!

In a Land Replete with Water Damage, a Refuge from the Rain

A few nights ago I lay awake amidst dull, humid air as my husband’s steady snore quietly hummed around our little bedroom, bouncing softly off the walls to accompany what was otherwise a perfectly silent night.

It was probably an hour or two after midnight, and I had yet to fall asleep. I stared at my husband, not three inches from me, as a too-familiar jealously overtook my weary body as my thoughts jumped to accuse the unfairness of the situation. The alarm on my cellphone would sound at 5:00am to get us both up for a new day, regardless of how much or how little each had slept.

My foggy thoughts then began marching off in one direction and then the next as I frantically tried to reel them in, unsuccessfully trying to trap and tame them under a desperate prayer for peace, for sleep. How many nights over these past few years had I spent with eyes clamped shut but with my mind spinning onward, struggling against my own utter exhaustion to plead with God that He may grant me sleep?

And then, suddenly — in the midst of flip-flopping from one side to the other, positioning and re-positioning a pillow between my knees or held close to my chest, heart racing and anger rising for another night spent without any semblance or rest — it began to rain. And I mean, really rain.

I could no longer hear Darwin’s maddening snore — before I could even think to remember if we had clothes out on the line, our tin roof had become a chaotic drum set, playing a rather majestic yet frightful series of sounds as so much water hammered down over our little home in the foothills of the mountains.

It rains quite frequently in our part of Honduras, but, even so, whenever a rain of such caliber comes down, you can’t help but shiver with fearful awe at such power.

And then, as strong winds came to accompany the rain in its madness overhead, the thought entered my mind and, with it, a very real sense of worry: What if our roof blows off?

Now, this had never happened to us before, but due to the construction of our home, it would not be a far-off possibility in the face of such a strong storm. In many other occasions — and this one included — the wind had come up under the tin roof with such force that the roof actually does warp and flap, creating an impressive metal-on-metal noise to accompany all the slapping of water on metal.

The thought that immediately followed the first was: That would be absolutely terrible. I mean, everything would get really, really wet. 

Sometimes such simple, obvious thoughts are made somehow more special or enlightening when one is so sleep-deprived. I looked, mind drained of energy, over at Darwin, who continued to sleep as if he was completely unaware of any pending danger of losing our roof.

I lay on my back, looking up at our roof but at the same time convinced that at any moment I would be under the direct rain if and when the storm decided to take our roof away. In a daze, as if using a flashlight to light a small path through my mind, I began considering the absolute usefulness of a roof, hoping against hope that we might be able to continue enjoying the benefits of our own.

In rain, to keep dry. And not just people, but objects. Without the roof, the computer gets wet and ruined, all paperwork, other electronics, books, wood furniture over time if it gets enough exposure. Clothes mold. Bed becomes soggy and unusable.

In sun, to keep protected. Otherwise, the direct rays would be almost unbearable.

In snow, the roof provides obvious protection from such cold elements. Who could sleep in their bed under a heavy snowfall if they didn’t have a roof?

Oh, a roof is such a wonderful thing, and I had never truly considered it before now in the face of possibly losing it!

Not only provides protection from the elements but also against bugs and other animals, together with the support of the walls. And, heaven knows, in our home we would be living wild if it weren’t for our little tin roof and cinderblock walls! How many of the bats that we hear and see daily, rats, mosquitos, and other large scurrying animals would be our housemates if it weren’t for our blessed roof!

So, as the wind and the rain howled onward, growing in their anger —I could hardly hear myself think in the midst of such din! — I continued to light up small, forgotten corners of my mind as I remembered all the ways in which a roof is so utterly valuable.

I was then unexpectedly swept up into a sense of newfound awe at just how utterly amazing a roof really is.  I mean, we’re facing pounding rain and really strong winds — and I’m not wet! Not even a little bit! It’s as if I’m in another world, apart from the aggressive elements, but, really, this is all thanks to the roof, nothing more. I should be soaking wet — everything outside is! But I’m not. It’s as if I’m not even in close proximity to the storm, because the roof is protecting me.

Then, completely out of nowhere, as if that itty-bitty flashlight that was oh-so-slowly searching the deepest recesses of my mind was suddenly exchanged for a giant light-switch that illuminated everything at once:

“I AM your roof.”

 

He is my roof. With that, I felt like a thousand new revelations came upon my mind like rain: He is our refuge, our shelter. Literally. In the storms of this life — the chaos, the injustice, the suffering, the stress, the loss — we can hide under Him and remain untouched. There is no longer any rationalizing of this nonsense about falling prey to worry, control, outrage, and fear. The storms of this life that come beating down upon us, howling and threatening to consume us, can actually not even touch us if we remain under the One Roof who cannot be stripped and blown away. The Lord is my refuge; now I understand what that means. To get swept up in the storms of this life, soaking wet with the chaos of this world, is proof that one does not understand this. I have not understood this.

And so I continued to lay there as the storm raged on, but now with my thoughts swept up in awe at the God of Refuge, who — if we dare to trust Him — takes the hit of the rain and the wind so that we may hide beneath Him, untouched in the midst of a land replete with water damage. May He give us the eyes to see this and the faith to live accordingly! Amen.

 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”   Psalm 91:1-2

I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.   Psalm 55:8

You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.    Psalm 32:7