Tag Archives: Foster Family

Baptism: A Public Proclamation of Faith in Christ

A couple months ago a young man in our discipleship-based homeschool began asking when we would hold a baptism because he wanted to be baptized. He is an older teen who has only been in our school since February of this year, and he had previously lived his life quite adrift in our rural neighborhood without any real knowledge of God. He had been abandoned by both of his parents at a young age, and the disorderly reputation he established henceforth was quite well-known. (To be more exact, one of our teen foster daughters mentioned to me that they had gone as a group to his house in January and invited him to enroll in school on our rural ministry homestead specifically because he was so desperately lost.)

Thus, we were all surprised to see this precious teen’s newborn faith blossoming up within him and the new way in which he spoke and acted with deepened sincerity. The Lord was truly changing him, and he was eagerly soaking up all the Biblical teaching and guidance he could get in his search for Christ. He came to us repeatedly over the ensuing months in the midst of our daily relationship with him, explaining to us his faith in Christ and that he eagerly desired to be baptized as an important step in his walk with the Lord.

Through this one young man’s faithful insistence, we felt the Lord guiding us to open up the opportunity to the 40+ youth in our small school to see if there was anyone else who likewise wished to be baptized as a public proclamation of their faith in Christ.

The following photos record the event that took place in a local river earlier this month. We know that these photos do not capture a final declaration of faith and salvation but rather the very beginning of a lifelong walk under the lordship of Christ. Please pray with us that these youth might be granted the perseverance, wisdom and faith to continuing cultivating this life with Christ for the rest of their days and that they might not so easily drift back into the complacency and sin from which they came. We truly hope that the Holy Spirit might ensure that this work of faith in their hearts might reach completion and that God might be glorified through their lives as his beloved sons and daughters.

God bless you, and thank you to all who pray for and financially support this little mission on the northern coast of Honduras. We love the role the Lord has given us in His Kingdom and thank Him for your generous participation in this work. To Him be the glory.

With joy,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

This is the young man who came to us repeatedly asking to be baptized. He has begun participating in community service projects and praying for those in our local community, and he recently expressed his new understanding that God is his Father even if he doesn’t know his earthly father.

Our newest foster daughter sought us out a few weeks after moving into our household and told us she wanted to invite Jesus into her heart and be baptized. This is the start of new life!

This is another one of our teen foster daughters who will soon reach her two-year anniversary of living with us. God has done and continues to do great things in her life.   



All of these photos were taken by Randy and Marcia Orban who were visiting us during the time the baptism took place.

Are You a King Kong or a Thor? (A Reflection on Obedience and Response)

On our rural ministry homestead in Honduras we have three watchdogs that patrol the fenced-in area of our large grassy property. Their job is to make sure that no intruders get close to the little rainbow-colored buildings that serve as discipleship school, office and home. 

During daytime hours we keep all three dogs locked away in a pen behind our home so that they don’t have any interaction with our students or daytime visitors. Once everyone leaves at about 4:30pm, we let the dogs out and they enjoy intermingling with our family while also assuring that no unwanted visitors enter our remote property.

Two of the dogs are Dobermans, named King Kong and Xena. They serve their purpose well, as most people see them from afar with their large black bodies and clipped ears and don’t desire to get any closer. The third of our guard dogs is Thor, a Pit Bull puppy given to us a few months ago by a relative who was unable to care for him. While the Dobermans are poised, majestic and ready to defend our property at a moment’s notice, the Pit Bull is a bit more clumsy, goofy and outgoing.

King Kong and Xena

Yesterday afternoon my husband, several of our foster kids and I were eating and chatting on our front porch, which is currently where we have our fridge and our makeshift outdoor kitchen space while we have been working towards getting the area closed-in. Our three dogs are always eager to be close to the family, and suddenly the two Dobermans (King Kong and Xena) were excitedly — and more than a bit intrusively — approaching my husband to see if he might share his food with them. Tails wagging, the snouts of both dogs came dangerously close to my husband’s sandwich as he was sitting in a plastic chair with his food on their nose-level. In that moment one of our teen foster daughters — several yards away — made a sharp “Shhh!” sound to correct the dogs, and they immediately responded to the verbal correction and laid down at his feet, totally obedient. He kept eating in peace as we all continued to share the events of the day.

I thought, impressed, “Wow. Our dogs were extremely obedient just now. One sharp sound — without even saying their names! — and they immediately recognized their error and backed off. I sure wish our kids reacted in such an immediate, obedient manner when they are verbally corrected…Or I myself…”

To contrast the immediate, total obedience of our Dobermans (which was not an isolated incident yesterday but rather characterizes their overall demeanor), I will now share with you something that happened moments ago with Thor, our beloved Pit Bull puppy who is nothing like his older counterparts.

Little Thor when he arrived at our home several months ago

Today is Saturday, and this morning I got up before the other members of our household and quietly went out onto our front porch to serve myself a cup of water and grab some breakfast. As I sat down in the still morning hours on a concrete bench overlooking the vast green pasture where our cows were grazing, of course all three dogs eagerly came over to greet me and see what I was eating.

I don’t share people food with our dogs (and they know that), so the Dobermans immediately left me and my breakfast alone and sat quietly on the porch near me but without excessive bothering. Thor, however, jumped right up on the bench with me (which is a big no-no), so I began verbally trying to scare him off while I tried to protect my food at the same time. His snout danced up and down, enthralled by the smell of my breakfast, and I shook my hands in a shooing fashion and began scolding him louder and louder, assuming that my agitated posture and sharp tone of voice would send him the message that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and that he would react accordingly.

Well, that didn’t happen. The Dobermans looked on, totally poised and well-behaved, while little Thor stayed put on the bench right next to me, intent on disobeying because he liked the idea of tasting a morsel of my breakfast. 

Several unsuccessful moments passed of me trying to shoo him off when I realized that he had zero intent of obeying me. I then grabbed a marker off the table that one of our students had left from the day prior and began thumping him with it — on his rear end at first, and then when that had no effect I kept thumping and shooing him on his back and then finally on his head.

I don’t enjoy beating our animals (and I don’t think thumping him with a bright pink marker can be classified as that), but he looked visibly hurt that I was treating him in such a harsh manner.

But he still made no move to get down off the bench.

Several more moments went by of me thumping and harshly scolding him while he just looked at me with these big, sad eyes as if he had no idea what he had done wrong or what he could do to escape from the torment.

Finally our two Dobermans dashed off to bark at something they sensed on the other side of the fence, and that distracted Thor just enough to cause him to clumsily jump down from the bench and follow them in their valiant defense of our property.

Our three guard dogs together

I laughed in relief and began eating my breakfast in peace as the dogs had finally left me alone, but suddenly the lesson — and the striking contrast between our dogs’ responses to correction — began to be made clear in my mind, and I dwelt on this for the following several minutes. 

I felt as if the Lord was telling me that we humans tend to fall into one of the two categories that our dogs had so perfectly embodied: that of quick, willing submission (loving, responsive obedience) or stubborn foolishness (chronic disobedience).

How many times has the Lord (either through His Word, through another person or through His Spirit moving within us) indicated to us something that we should repent of, something that needed to be changed or left behind, etc?

How many times have we reacted like King Kong and Xena, the ultra-obedient Dobermans? Perhaps very few.

How many times have we reacted as clumsy Thor, even getting beaten up a little bit along the way and getting our feelings hurt but even so never truly submitting, never actually learning the lesson at hand? Perhaps too many.

I leave you with this simple reflection inspired by ordinary events as we each consider before the Lord if we have truly been obedient to His call or His correction, if we have heard His voice or read His Word and truly reacted, or if we too often remain put in our foolish ways and refuse to change, to submit, wondering why things aren’t turning out so well for us in the process. If only we would obey, the torment might cease! Have we refused time and again to forgive, to break free from an addiction, to fulfill Christ’s command to love unselfishly?

God bless you and keep you in your daily affairs, and may He illuminate each of us so that we might come to know the perfect obedience of Christ even in the midst of suffering and trial. To God be the glory.

With peace and joy in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Spontaneous Photo Shoot: Jackeline’s Reading Perch

A couple days ago after our discipleship-based community homeschool classes had let out at 3:00pm and our local students had returned to their homes in our rural neighborhood, I crossed our quiet front yard and caught sight of our 14-year-old foster daughter reading a Christian novel while perched on top of our large play structure that is normally swarmed with kids during recess time. It warmed my heart to see her so still and at peace while reading for pleasure (she used to hate reading, and we’ve been intentionally working on this not only with her but with all of our kids), and the sight of her way up there overlooking the beautiful pastures inspired me to go grab our little digital camera and take a few undercover photos of her…

When I got up close for one of my shots of her, my cover was broken and she started laughing when she saw me!
Our 15-year-old foster daughter Carolina — who moved in with us about six months ago — watched from close by and laughed while enjoying our spontaneous photo-taking antics.
Soon enough both Carolina and another foster daughter of ours, 14-year-old Paola, joined in the fun and started swinging on the monkey bars below Jackeline’s reading spot. (Great focus, Jackeline! She just kept on reading as if they weren’t there!)
The jungle gym is not only for little kids, but also for teens! Our kids are very playful…
…And so are their parents! Now it’s my turn! (At this point Jackeline’s taking photos from her perch!)

This is a photo Jackeline took of our cows’ barn in the distance and the mountains behind our property.
Our 16-year-old son Brayan, whom we are in the process of legally adopting, has greatly grown in his maturity/initiative in these last few weeks with the help of a local tutor. He finished his homework early (which used to never happen), so he went out front to enjoy a couple hours playing with the soccer ball! Good boy!

One last shot of Jackeline on her reading perch at dusk…beautiful!


Amen! Glory to God!

Prayer Request for Spiritual Renewal in Our Household and Ministry

We are currently seeking your earnest prayers for spiritual and emotional renewal in our household with our 10 foster kids/teens ages 9-17. (This is probably going to turn out to be a somewhat disorganized post that is anything but eloquent).

The last several weeks all of our kids have been on school vacation (which has allowed all of us much more family time where we’ve all been together with less distractions), and the Lord has allowed us to go through something akin to the “valley of the shadow of death” (I call it this because that is what it has felt like) with them as we’ve come up against unforeseen challenges, incorrect attitudes, and sin issues in our household one after the other, leaving us all quite broken and frazzled in the aftermath. This has all led to many times of sincere prayer, on-edge conflict mediations between various family members, occasions of asking forgiveness and of forgiving, intense times of counsel with our teens, and moments of various members of our household becoming emotionally undone (myself included).

Seven of our ten kids are teenagers, and all of them come from extremely broken backgrounds. Parenting any teenager is a delicate task, but parenting 15- and 17-year-olds who come from dark places and who entered our lives on the cusp of puberty or several years already into their adolescence is not for the faint of heart. They want their privileges and freedoms as they are nearing adulthood, but they are still in the beginning stages of being trained in righteousness and have not yet proved they are trustworthy. (This power struggle creates much angst in our household).

I am seeking earnest prayers as our household has been shaken several times over the past several weeks, and we are in need of genuine repentance and spiritual maturity for each one of our precious children as they grab hold of their identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Living God. There are always certain challenges and difficulties in our daily parenting endeavor in such a large, mixed household, but for some reason the last few weeks have been much harder than usual. All of this has left Darwin and me quite exhausted and a bit discouraged.

This is a no-frills post; I am simply asking for prayer in regards to a renewed commitment to Christ in each one of our children along with spiritual maturity, the fear of the Lord, and abounding wisdom, joy, peace and love within the bounds of our hearts and household. Pray against gossip, disrespect, rebellion and sexual sin in our household, and please ask God to grant us revival in our walk with Him. Pray that the Lord would pick each one of us up in His mercy and encourage our hearts as we are entering a new year and a new season of serving Him. (Our small, dedicated team of local teachers/missionaries returned yesterday as we are entering a month-long period of team training, house-to-house evangelism in our rural neighborhood, intensive math tutoring for local students, and general preparation for a new school year in our discipleship-based community homeschool that will officially begin at the end of this month.)

Please pray also for me specifically, as these last few weeks have wrung me dry on all accounts, and I’m in need of encouragement and refreshment both relationally with other humans and on a spiritual level in my walk with Christ. I’ve gone walls-up with everyone around me after having been hurt so many times by our kids in these last few weeks, and due to emotional fatigue I feel as though I’ve just been going through the motions of each day, running from one activity to the next, just trying to stay afloat. Please pray that Christ might fully permeate my being and flood me with His peace so that I might be a useful instrument in His hands rather than merely a broken woman who runs around with her hair on fire all day until getting to her room at night and collapsing, exhausted and discouraged. Please pray that my heart might not be hardened and that my being might receive the light of Christ to cast away all darkness.

Thank you to all those who lift us up in prayer and support the Lord’s work through us in Honduras. May God bless you in this new year and fill you with His love. Thank you for considering our humble state before the Lord.

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!

Dancing Barefoot to Andrea Bocelli: Marriage on the Mission Field

Two times in the past month my husband Darwin and I have organized a “date” in the living room of our little cinderblock home to dance together to romantic music. Many a time over the past four years we’ve organized different dates or outings together to go to dinner or even get away from home together for a couple nights every few months or so (which is increasingly hard to do because not many people can adequately handle our growing number of children, all of whom are experts at eating alive any and all “babysitters” who are not fully and completely trained and full of supernatural energy/wisdom), but we consider it important for our 10 foster kids/teens to be able to get a ‘sneak peek’ of our hidden life together as a couple rather than only witnessing the work-work-work all day long, during which we oftentimes behave more as co-workers than husband and wife. Frequently the first time we actually sit down to enjoy one another is late at night when we are behind our closed bedroom door or away at a restaurant where our kids can’t see us.

Thus, we’ve had two official dancing “dates” right there in our living room for any and all to see. We understand the importance (as much for our kids as for us) of us having a strong marriage, so we’re working to cultivate it in Christ and put it on display to encourage/teach our kids what a healthy, joyful, godly marriage relationship looks like (which they didn’t witness in their biological families).

The first time this happened was several Saturdays ago. I had been at home with about half of our kids washing clothes by hand, doing different chores, overseeing their individual piano practices, cooking meals, etc, as Darwin had spent the majority of the day in the nearby city of La Ceiba with the other half of our kids teaching music classes and running errands. Around 4:30pm as I looked at the clock and knew Darwin would be getting home soon, I went to take a shower, shave my legs and armpits (a luxury that I oftentimes don’t have time for!), and put on a new black sleeveless dress. Casual but classy, reaching beyond my knees. I put on a pair of simple silver dangly earrings and headed barefoot out of our home to cross our large front yard to reach our kitchen (which is not connected to our actual house).

Each of our kids as they saw me for the first time had a very similar reaction, “Ma! Wha–? You look so pretty! Where are you going?” Normally after a long day, I take a shower and put on my old oversized pajamas that are less than flattering. Never had I gotten all dolled up on a Saturday night without having a specific plan of going somewhere special.

I laughed at each one’s sincere reaction, thanking them for their nice comments and telling them with a twinkle in my eye that I had a date scheduled with my “boyfriend” that evening (that’s what I call Darwin to make our kids laugh). We were going to dance. Each one sort of looked at me, intrigued by this new information. They smiled big, although they appeared a bit confused. I continued walking barefoot, my long black dress lapping at my calves as I reached our kitchen to serve dinner. After family dinner we would shoo all of our kids into their rooms for our family’s daily sabbath hour and we would dance.

I glanced over at our 14-year-old daughter Jackeline in the kitchen and said, “You know, it was dancing that your Pa and I had our first kiss.”

Her eyes widened in shock and she scolded, “Ma!”

I laughed and shrugged innocently.

And so Darwin arrived in our old Toyota pickup with many heads sticking out of the truckbed just in time for dinner. We all ate together and then headed back out across our front lawn into our little bunkhouse-style home where we shower and sleep each night with our now-10 foster children ages 9-17.

The Lord started this blessed journey off with 3 kids that He brought us in 2013 (whom we are in the process of legally adopting along with one other), then He brought more in His timing. Now we’ve got people sleeping on the floor because there aren’t enough beds, and the shower rotations require increased humility (and speed) as we all share the 2 showers in our home! We never planned on receiving older kids and teenagers; after all, most people desire to foster/adopt/raise babies and smaller children because they are supposedly cuter and arrive with less baggage. That, too, had been our original plan, but God had better plans. He’s brought us those who didn’t really fit anywhere else — special needs children, sexual abuse victims who need many years to emotionally and spiritually heal, misfit teenagers, those who have a gigantic chip on their shoulder after having been in the ‘system’ for over a decade. The icing on this beautiful, God-designed cake He is making of our family was the arrival of two 14- and 15-year-old girls less than a month ago. We had no plans of receiving anyone else into our household anytime soon, but God gave us His peace and brought us two young ladies who had bounced from one foster home and orphanage to another, under a constant cloud of rejection and rebellious behavior before finally arriving at our home and finding permanency (they’ve both affirmed that they finally feel at peace somewhere and don’t desire to be moved anywhere else, and we’ve even begun talking with them about the possibility of us legally adopting them, with total disregard to whatever their behavior may look like as they heal over the coming years). Thus, our household is now a lovely patchwork of broken people whom God is healing with His love.

6:30pm or so rolled around, and several of our teen girls (we now have 7 daughters ages 17, 15, 14, 14, 13, 12 and 11) sat squeezed together like sardines on the little couch in our living room, eyes sparkling and staring at us. They could barely contain their excitement as they elbowed one another and leaned toward us with bright faces. “We’re ready!” A couple of them clapped with joy.

They thought we were going to put on a show!

Darwin and I both laughed as he got the cd player ready. He had showered and changed, sporting a nice button-down teal-colored shirt and black slacks with his hair neatly combed. He looked very handsome. We were both barefoot. We would be dancing to one of Andrea Bocelli’s romantic cds, but it most definitely wouldn’t be a show! We laughed at our girls’ eagerness to see us dance and lovingly shooed them off to their rooms, much to their disappointment. We told everyone that they were free to watch from their open doorways, but we weren’t looking to have an actual ‘audience’ within arm’s reach in the living room with us.

And so the music started and some of our girls squealed and several excited faces shined from one of the three bedrooms where our kids sleep. Others pretended not to be interested in the living room spectacle of Pa and Ma slow-dancing to romantic music, but as I looked over Darwin’s shoulder I could see them stealing glances our way and biting back smiles. Brayan, our 16-year-old son, stood in his open doorway watching, probably taking notes on how his Pa woos his Ma.

Darwin and I held each other close, our feet moving slowly as we swayed back and forth to the music. I bit my lip and held back laughter, as I loved the reactions our kids were having. This — dancing close to Andrea Bocelli’s music — was, after all, one of our first encounters as a couple back in March of 2013 (three months before we got married), and it was both astonishing and beautiful to think of all that God had orchestrated in the four-and-a-half years since. Our first round back in 2013 was in private; now we had an audience of the blessed children and teens the Lord had brought us! Single in 2013 with great hopes of parenting the orphaned together for God’s glory; married in 2017 several years into the fulfillment of that sacred mission.

As we continued dancing for close to an hour, some of our kids got bored and closed their bedroom curtains (they don’t have doors), retreating into their rooms to participate in other quiet activities while others walked right past us supposedly needing to ‘use the bathroom,’ but I suspect they wanted to secretly be closer to the action. Again, I smiled in my heart of hearts, thanking God for all that He’s done.

Our 14-year-old daughter Jackeline, whom I write about frequently and who is quite special to us after an extremely rough start in our home back in 2015, went tip-toeing through our living room — not three feet from us — on her way back to her room after using the bathroom as Andrea Bocelli’s voice sang of some passionate kiss long overdue. Her eyes grew wide and she squealed in shock (as if she had heard something she wasn’t supposed to) and darted into her room, hiding quickly behind her curtain. Darwin and I both cracked up.

So that living room dance date with my “boyfriend” has occurred now two times, and both occasions have given similar results. Our girls squeal; Brayan takes notes; and our kids steal glances at Pa and Ma moving around our itty bitty living room to beautiful romantic music.

I share this with you because I frequently write about our children or what God is doing in our surrounding neighborhood through the Living Waters Ranch, but I haven’t dedicated many posts to our marriage journey and how God has and continues to use us together to display His extravagant love to our children. So that’s that! Glory to God!

Hidden Miracles of Servanthood

Many small, beautiful shifts in attitude and perspective that would go completely overlooked by the untrained eye have been occurring in our household over the last few weeks.

The ongoing — and literally daily — task of managing our household’s laundry is a job that honestly no one enjoys doing. With then-ten (now twelve) people in our household and no washing machine or clothes dryer, the task of juggling what’s clean and what’s dirty — and where to hang the wet clothes out to dry during the rainy season — can be taken as a great headache. Plus, two of our precious children who are developmentally challenged frequently wet their beds at night or have poo- and pee-accidents in their clothing (and on rugs and towels) during the daytime, so lump bedspreads, towels, sheets and underwear all stained in pee and poo in the mix with several bucketsful of dirt- and sweat-stained clothing from all our other kids (all of which is to be washed by hand in our outdoor washboard station one piece at a time), you’ve got to find a system that works and the right mentality in order to not feel constantly frustrated.

Oh, we’ve had the bleach fall in the hands of mischevious children, ruining dozens of pieces of clothing in their halfhearted attempts at washing. We’ve had all of our clothes hanging out to dry when a sudden unexpected rain storm comes through and wets every piece to the bone within minutes, thus leading us to have to wait another day or two (or three of four depending how long the rain lasts) for the clothes to dry. During the really intense part of the rainy season (like right now), we’ve had to hang clothes up to dry inside our humid house — over doors, on bunkbed posts, on hangers hanging from open doorways, etc — with floorfans blowing on them just so that our kids would be able to put on a semi-dry school uniform the next day and not go soaking wet (as they’ve had to do on occasions). Basically any and every issue that a large family might face with managing laundry (multiplied by our context in a third world country), we’ve faced it. This has been just one small, yet constant, aspect of our daily life.

Needless to say, I’ve perhaps been the captain of the protest march in all this. I’ve tried to hide my own bad attitude in regards to our laundry woes, but it has shined through spectacularly for all to see. Washing developmentally-challenged Gabriela and Josue’s poop-stained clothes, having to sprint out of whatever building I’m in to grab all the clothes off the line and throw them inside when the rains come (only to then have to string back all 176 pieces back up on the line an hour later once the rains passed), having to constantly keep an eye on where the bleach is and who’s using it, etc, has not been my favorite aspect of our life and service in Honduras. My mindset has been: this is all such a distraction, such a waste of time; I would rather be doing something “important” like teaching a Bible study, counseling our kids, directing a meeting with our teachers, praying with someone who needs help, etc, than dedicating so much time to such an endless household chore that — to me — was anything but ‘spiritual’ and revolutionary. After all, I wanted to see lives changed into the image of Jesus Christ, and spending hours every week moving around wet and dirty clothes seemed to me not to accomplish that end.

Well, all that changed. (Not the reality of our larger-than-life laundry monster, but my attitude). In these last couple weeks, in the quiet spaces within my own soul — during those times of silent prayer, of meditating upon God’s Word that’s already been written upon my heart, of giving thanks, of reflecting on all the good that God’s done — I’ve taken much initiative in going about my business when no one’s looking as I hang out the wet clothes to dry, fold those newly sun-dried clothes that no one wants to fold, wash my own and Darwin’s clothes without complaint, etc. In essence, what I used to avoid like the plague has now become a spiritual activity, a time alone with the Lord to keep my hands occupied and my heart focused on Him. I’ve said nothing of this to my kids and, truly, everyday as I’m engaging in these radically domestic activities in a joyful manner our kids are not even normally around. While they are in classes or when I have a spare moment between activities I’ll calmly walk out our front door and check one by one the different clothing articles hanging on the line: what’s dry, what still needs to dry more. Basically, I’ve made my peace with this aspect of our daily reality, and God has even allowed me to convert it into a form of Christlike servanthood, literally acting as a slave in our own home and doing gracefully the job that no one else wants to do.

Before, each week we would assign the gargantuan task of folding several bucketsful of laundry to one or two specific children (on a rotating basis), and whoever’s turn it was would complete the task, but not with anything that resembled joy (I believe dread would be the correct word). The rains would come, and no one would want to stop whatever they were doing to go take the clothes down. Oftentimes the clothes would get soaked several times and end up staying on the line for days, possibly even falling to the ground and getting dirty all over again. Everyone hoped their name wouldn’t be called to wash Gaby and Josue’s poopy clothes. Oftentimes folded, clean laundry would remain on our living room table for days at a time as no one would take initiative to deliver it to each person’s room. In short, the kids had completely adopted my own attitude toward our household’s laundry: they viewed it as a terrible inconvenience and hoped it wouldn’t be their turn on any given week to take on the task.

So, the miracle is this: as the Lord is radically changing my own attitude regarding the simplicity of this domestic routine, several of our kids have fallen suit without me saying anything. Anyone on the outside would easily overlook this subtle yet powerful change in our attitudes — Christ’s very nature being manifested among us — but to me it has been an overwhelming sign that God is with us and that He’s leading each of us (perhaps beginning with myself) into a deeper knowledge of what it means to truly live as Christ lived, to put on that servant’s towel, to consider others better than ourselves, and to serve as others’ slave even as we fully know our final destination in God’s glorious kingdom.

The first instance was as follows: Several days ago I had hand-washed mine and Darwin’s clothes and hung them out to dry on the line. At that point it was sunny, so the prospects of the clothes actually drying seemed good. I then headed over to our kitchen, got involved in other activities, a rain storm came (I thought nothing of my clothes drying on the line; I had forgot completely), and then a couple hours later I crossed our large front lawn (which in the last few weeks has become an epic muddy slip-and-slide) on my way back to the little orange house where my husband and I live with our now-10 foster children. I glanced at the series of long ropes strung out between our home and fence (in essence, a spider-web-like figure of clotheslines) and suddenly remembered that it had rained and I had forgotten to move my clothes. My eyes searched frantically for my dripping wet clothes, but not only were my clothes no longer on the line but neither were anyone else’s. My first reaction was to feel confused. What had happened?

I then swiveled my head to the left under our large front porch, which also holds a series of clotheslines (the only ones that are under a roof and thus protected from the rain.) There I saw mine and Darwin’s clothes, every last piece of laundry perfectly hung by what were obviously careful hands.

Although it probably sounds absurd, I had perhaps never felt more blessed in recent times. Someone saw that it was raining and moved our clothes to the safe haven under the porch, and they did so not haphazardly but with great care. And I didn’t even ask, and they didn’t even come to me to boast of what they’d done. For a moment I just stood there, dumbstruck in the midst of the first blessing of this kind that I’d ever experienced.

I then headed through our front door and began asking everyone I saw in a quiet tone, almost a whisper: “Did you move the clothes under the porch?” I felt like I was walking on sacred ground.

Oh, how many times have we had to go to each member of our household asking negative questions, such as, “Did you steal the money from our room?” or “Do you know who ate such-and-such food from the kitchen without permission?” Oh, how beautiful it is to have to find the ‘culprit’ of a good deed done in secret! Yes; Christ is with us.

I finally reached our eldest daughter, 17-year-old Dayana, who — just as much as anybody in our household — in times prior dreaded the entire laundry task and never volunteered herself to go above and beyond what was specifically required of her. I asked, “Hey, do you know who moved the clothes…?”

Her face radiated kindness as she answered, “Yeah, I noticed that it started raining…Gleny and Jason helped me.”

Me, mouth sort of dangling open: “Oh. Thank you.” I just sort of stared at her for a few moments.

And so that was the first miracle. No dead were raised; no terminally ill were healed and no blind gained their sight, but God did manage to turn some selfish hearts of stone into humble hearts bent toward servanthood, which in an of itself is a sort of resurrection from the dead and renewal of sight.

Later that night — or perhaps a couple days later; I do not remember exactly — I was again folding laundry and moving wet articles from one line to another in an attempt to care for the clothing that God has entrusted us as I then carried a large laundry basket full of dry clothes into our living room. I sat down on our sofa for a few moments to read the Bible with the bin of laundry at my feet (with several other bins still waiting outside) as I was fully prepared to fold them myself and then go door-to-door to give each of our kids their dry, folded clothes to stash in their dressers before doing the rounds again the following day (if it didn’t rain and thus soak all the other clothes that were waiting their turn on the line outside).

In the quiet of the evening hours — most of our kids already in their rooms for the night and a few candles lit in our living room to give off a cozy feel — our 13-year-old daughter Gleny came happily bouncing out of her bedroom through the bright-colored curtain that hangs in the doorway. Completely out of the blue, she asked me, “Ma, whose turn is it this week to fold the laundry?”

Seeing as God has secretly led me to stop assigning the task to our children (which only leads to my grumbling and theirs) but rather to do it myself and thus manage the task more organically, I stammered, “Uh…I don’t know.”

She piped up, obviously already with the plan in mind before presenting herself in the living room, “Okay, well I’ll go ahead and take this laundry basket to my room and take care of it tonight.”

I stared at her as words could not formulate themselves in my mouth as she picked up the huge metal tin with a contagious smile on her face — my Wild Gleny who used to always scream, cry and isolate herself so many times each day, who moved into our home in 2013 as a scared and extremely aggressive 9-year-old! — and disappeared behind her bedroom curtain before anything else could be said. (And, for the record, of all of our children Gleny has in times past been the least servant-oriented of all. She’s exploded in fits of rage and tears when her sisters have asked her to help sweep their bedroom floor or collaborate in simple maintenance activities in daily life. She has never offered up extra help in any capacity unless it is specifically asked of her, so this completely Spirit-prompted act of service I literally do count as a miracle upon her heart.)

And, sure enough, the next morning Darwin’s and my socks and shirts were neatly folded outside of our door as Gleny had done exactly what God had prompted her to do (that which I had tried for years to prompt her to do without much success). She had folded that heap of clothes and gone to each person’s room during the night to deliver whatever was theirs. I’d say that’s Christ’s work in her life.

So there have been many extremely small, exceedingly beautiful moments of servanthood such as these in our household in the last couple weeks. One afternoon as I was once again quietly at work with the daily laundry chore, I began to hear Bible stories being read aloud from our living room. Our 14-year-old daughter Jackeline (who tends to be very uptight and high-achieving with her schoolwork and other activities, oftentimes forsaking resting in God’s presence for do-do-do) was sitting cuddled up on the couch with her 9-year-old special needs brother, reading to him one of our children’s Bibles. Jackeline — who normally “doesn’t have time” for things like that, who even has said she doesn’t like to read for fun and struggles to spend time in God’s Word! What an extravagant display of God’s love. As I went in and out of our living room, carrying with me large heaps of laundry flung over my shoulders, I walked carefully, again feeling as though I were treading sacred ground.

And the coolest part is that as the rest of the world perhaps zooms onward with all of its activity and “importance,” God is touching the unlikeliest of hearts and calling us to slow down with grace, to serve rather than be served, to live as Jesus lived.

Amen! Glory to God!

New Beginnings: My Return to Honduras

I’ve been home now five days after having been away from Honduras six weeks for medical treatment and spiritual renewal in Christ, and it’s thus far been a journey of learning all over again many things I thought I already knew. How to really live in the joy and peace of Christ, for one — not just talk about it or read about it or even counsel others on how to do so, but to really live in Christ everyday and allow His peace to permeate me no matter how much activity is going on around me. Really, these last five days have been the beginning of a completely new era (from the inside out) — in my walk with the Lord, in my relationship with my husband and our children, in handling many responsibilities with grace, and in my daily walk of loving and serving those whom the Lord has so generously placed in our lives.

A truckload of screaming teenagers greeted Darwin and I on Sunday at the little local hotel where we had been staying since I arrived on Friday. (My first “re-initiation” upon returning to Honduras was with my husband as he picked me up from the airport — alone — and we got away for two nights before I saw the kids. We are both learning all over again what it means to love one another and live in the joy of Christ right here in our daily context, and truly these last five days have provided us a completely new beginning.)

So, that truckload enthusiastically unloaded on Sunday as Pastor Domingo and close to a dozen teenagers — some our kids, some our students — ding-donged impatiently on the front gate of the little hotel where Darwin and I had been staying. Everyone exploded out of the truck and began a hugging processional as each teen and I embraced before beginning the 20-minute journey up the highway to home, where the rest of our kids were waiting. That was Sunday.

In many ways, everything is the same — the same things are happening as before I left (the same little daily adventures, learning experiences and potential frustrations that come with living in a third world country and laying your life completely down so that Christ might live through you) but the Lord has given me an entirely new attitude to confront these situations. My surroundings are the same, but I’ve been given new sight (in the sense of seeing things the way God wants me to see/experience them).

There were welcome-home posters, hand-written letters of encouragement and prayer from each of our students and teachers, and many sweet moments along the way. Although I was returning home, in many ways I felt like tip-toeing around with a sneaky grin on my face, feeling like a welcome stranger as I was experiencing everything from an entirely new perspective (and without the feeling that I had to run-run-run and handle everything myself). In many ways, these first few days back in the full swing of the daily routine have been a lot about quietly observing and discerning all over again what God wants from me in this place. I’ve gotten up at 5:15am to brush our kids’ hair and get them ready for school; I’ve washed our clothes by hand on our front porch; I’ve gotten back into our administration activities; I’ve done everything I did before, but it’s now fun and enjoyable, whereas before I felt like I was constantly trying to battle off a wave of anxiousness night and day as every demand on my time seemed like too much.

On Monday we had a lengthy meeting with our team of teachers and mentors — those six people (including my husband Darwin) who held the fort down for six weeks during my absence, taking on my teaching, parenting and administrative duties without complaint — and person after person took the time to share, unhurried, what the Lord had been doing in their life since we had last seen each other in late August. God’s presence was near, and while we perhaps should have been handling school logistics, planning the upcoming calendar or “doing” something important and work-related, the Lord led us to take several hours to share and listen to one another, as each person independently told of huge breakthroughs in their walk with the Lord over the last several weeks, many with tears.

And, the truly remarkable thing is that every aspect of the work the Lord was doing in my own heart on a range of issues over these last several weeks — from my walk with Him to my freedom from many lies the enemy had led me to believe to my new way of viewing our students and loving them better — He was also working out in our teachers’ lives completely unbeknownst to me. He literally kept us all on the same page (and even advanced us a couple chapters along the path of true freedom in Christ!) even though we were geographically far away and had very little communication. Wow.

So, fast-forwarding to Tuesday (yesterday), I gave each student individually a big hug when they came streaming through our front gate at 6:40am, participated with everyone in Bible study and worship, took on my math class again and fully (and rather spontaneously) participated in every aspect of life and service in our home with a newfound spark in everything I did. (I’ve been getting 3-5 hours of sleep since getting back to Honduras and generally feel extremely at peace in God’s presence, which has radically changed my parenting style, general outlook and attitude, etc). I even spontaneously prepared like 8 blenders-full of garlic, cucumber, and other-vegetables smoothie for all of our teachers and students (like 50 people), which led to a lot of laughter, almost-vomiting and renewed health in many. It was great!

So…

One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was a full-blown participant in Pastor Domingo’s military-style athletic training class. (I had arrived at his class after lunch with our oldschool digital camera to just take some silly pictures of the kids, but God had other plans.) The exercises were actually not incredibly difficult, but my non-athletic attire and the scorching heat/humidity did make for quite an interesting (and sweaty!) afternoon. After all was said and done and I went to our little bathroom to take a cold shower, a ton of dirt came falling out of my hair (and not to mention all over my clothes)!

Every Tuesday afternoon all 40 of our students (ages 7-18) divide up into their various P.E. groups — swimming, long-distance running, dance, little kids’ games, and military training. This was a photo I took from my first experience attending Pastor Domingo’s military training class! (I was standing it the taller grass behind the instructor doing whatever squats/push-ups the students were doing while I took the photos, so that’s why some of the students are laughing).

Bottoms up! I struck the same pose as the students (with the camera shooting photos from between my legs), so that’s why this photo came out upside-down!
Our 9-year-old special needs son Josue participated right alongside everyone else! (At this point, I was belly-down in the grass after having been in a one-armed planking position taking photos.)
Okay, everybody line up for a brisk jog around the property! (Roy, our 18-year-old student on the far left who was leading the activity, was very calmly advising all the students to be careful with the large rocks and unexpected holes scattered across the terrain they would be running on, all of which are well hidden under the tall grass where our cows graze). Who needs a track or a gym?!
Well, I earnestly desired to try to run the lap around our 17-acre property with our students, but they left me behind in the blink of an eye! (I was too busy looking out for the potholes below me and trying not to sprain an ankle). So, changing plans, I grabbed a huge stick off the ground and decided to dart off in the other direction and plan a surprise attack on the students once they came to the end of their run. Before I knew what was happening, Isis, one of our young Honduran teachers, was right behind me!

And we were off like lightning (really, really slow lightning) as we began running mischeviously toward our hiding spot, where we would jump out with our sticks to surprise the unsuspecting students…
Gotta love this photo! When Darwin saw it, he said we looked like cave-women. (This photo really captures the whole spirit of our spontaneous game).
There were no photos of our actual attacks (perhaps for good reason!), so this is the last visual record we have of our cavewoman attack… (And, in case you were wondering, almost none of the students were surprised. Only like two screamed. The rest just looked at us and shook their heads every time we launched ourselves out from behind the parked car and screamed with our sticks when the various groups of students passed.)
At one point our students got ahold of the camera and started taking their own pictures!

After our big stick-bearing cavewoman scare (which actually wasn’t that big of a scare for most), it was time to do some mountain-climbers, ab work and squat jumps! (This will be the last time I wear a nice blouse and jeans to any military-training class!)
You go, Josue! (He and I have had a wonderful time together since me getting home on Sunday).
Okay, enough of that class! I headed up the gravel path to the inside yard where I found Miss Reina and Miss Ligia (two of our other teachers) leading a hilarious P.E. class for our littler tykes. I arrived to find several students (even some of our teenagers who wandered over before I did and decided to join in!) blind-folded and trying to find their way across our uneven, rock-filled yard. It was such a simple game, but it was a riot!
There goes Sandra (in the middle of the three) blind-folded and with the bright fire-fighter pants on for the competition! (We have a costume closet of things we’ve purchased at a local thrift store that we use for silly occasions such as these). Our daughter Gabriela (Gaby) is on the left, and a local student participates on the right.
Be careful, Sindy! (She was particularly scared about not being able to see, so I periodically yelled out, “Sindy, snake!” and she would jump around and scream. But she would get her revenge when I took up the blindfold a few minutes later…)
Uh-oh! Sandra got lost and started heading for our house!

        

Okay, my turn! (Man, was it scary not knowing where I was going, and they made me do it walking backwards!)
I kept trying to feel the ground to try to find the rocks — I didn’t want to roll an ankle! (Look at how dirty the back of my blouse got!)
Sandra kept trying to make me trip!
Got off track and almost went right out the front gate! (Sandra wouldn’t give me any verbal cues — she just kept laughing!)
Now she’s putting tires in my path!
One of the last games of the day was limbo! (A tall person really can’t compete with short kids on that one…)


 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!

 

 

Learning to Persevere: The Family Footrace at Dawn

Several weeks ago my husband and I were evaluating the daily routines we’ve established to foster the integral growth and development of those in our household when a rather displeasing thought entered our minds and just wouldn’t wriggle out: rather than getting up at 5:15am each morning, let’s get up 30 minutes earlier so that we can go running as a family. Yeah! That’s just what we need to further inculcate discipline and overall health in each member of our household — go sprinting down a long, solitary road half-asleep in the pitch black with 8 kids! Sure!

Seeing as Darwin and I have both been involved in athletic training to some degree in our lives (plus the fact that we are willing to try anything that might give a positive result as we seek to ‘train up’ our 8 kids/teens in all that is good work ethic, self-discipline, integral health, etc, for God’s glory), we decided — despite our own desires to get a little more shut-eye each morning! — to give it a try the following morning.

I do not remember how we informed all the members of our diverse household — if I wrote the announcement on our family’s living room whiteboard or if we broke the news over dinner — but, needless to say, they were less than enthused.

The night prior to the big adventure, we informed everyone: when we come get you up in the morning, just put your tennis shoes on, brush your teeth and get to the front door as quickly as you possibly can. We’re not going to be rubbing our sleepy eyes and shuffling around the house aimlessly for 20 minutes (as some of our teens are accustomed to doing).

And so, the next morning the alarm sounded (it was a weekend, so we were able to sleep in a little longer and commence the run around 7:00am rather than in the wee morning hours), and our shoes were already on our feet before the last remnants of our dreams had fully left us. I went bed-to-bed jostling sleeping legs and patting tired backs as I informed in a sing-song voice, “Time to get up…we’re gonna go running. Get your shoes on…”

From that point on, everything went downhill. 12-year-old Gleny, one of our daughters who is most definitely not a morning person, received several back-to-back wake-up calls, but she ended up flopping over in bed and never actually getting up. 11-year-old developmentally-challenged Gabriela couldn’t find her tennis shoes, and everyone else had a tangibly bad attitude.

We filed out our front door and through the front gate with most of our kids grumbling and exchanging angry glances. As the run began, 16-year-old Brayan, who is extremely fit athletically and capable of beating most people in a footrace, ran slower than anyone else because he got distracted along the route when he saw the girl he liked. 9-year-old Josue, who suffers from several developmental delays, barely got to the front gate before he got tired and quit running. Our eldest daughter failed to exit our home on time as she took too long getting ready, and she came flying down the path in a less than punctual manner to catch up with us several minutes later. Jackeline, our 13-year-old daughter who loves to eat and is not typically known to be the queen of personal fitness, cried the entire way as she struggled to maintain a jog during the mile+ journey.

By the time we returned home, collecting stragglers and disgruntled teenagers along the way, everyone had gotten sour. By all accounts, the run had been a disaster.

As we returned home, we assigned a consequence to Gleny and Dayana, our two daughters who had not gotten ready on time. Darwin and I exchanged glances as we decided to wait a few hours before calling a family meeting to discuss the (abysmal) results of that day’s run. We gave everyone space and let everyone cool down emotionally from what had unintentionally turned out to be an absolutely terrible experience.

Later that afternoon, we all gathered in the kitchen for one of our periodic family meetings. Our eldest daughter, 16-year-old Dayana, sat on our kitchen counter with her curly, afro-like hair as big as ever and her arms crossed defensively. She was leading the protest parade, and it was obvious that she was still bitter about the entire morning escapade. I sat on an ages-old rickety wooden stool as I looked around at discouraged, bitter faces. Had the run really ruined their day? Poor souls.

Darwin and I prayed, as we customarily do to begin any family meeting, and we began: “Well, the run this morning really went…terribly.” I let out a slight laugh and glanced around our large, open-air kitchen at our kids and teens, some of whom sat on the concrete floors, others standing with their backs resting against bright green walls. Dayana, arms still crossed, rolled her eyes in agreement.

Then, a ray of hope flashed across the faces of a few of our kids as I read their minds: Yeah, the whole running idea just didn’t work. At least we can say we tried! Now we can check that crazy idea off our list…Thanks for the experience, Mom and Dad!

I continued, knowing I would be dropping a bomb in their midst: “…Which is why we’re gonna do it again tomorrow. At 4:45am. Before classes. We are not going to quit just because it’s hard or just because it didn’t go well the first time. In our Christian walk we must persevere.”

Whatever flicker of hope had lit up their young, innocent eyes suddenly shut off, replaced by shock and rage. Darwin and I laughed together, as the entire idea of doing it again seemed absurd even to us. We had already tried, and it was a bust! Who on earth would want to repeat the completely negative and chaotic experience we had all been through that morning? Had we lost our minds?

As our kids glanced frantically at one another, hoping against hope that we were kidding, the second bomb was dropped: “…And not only will we run as a family tomorrow, but every single weekday for the next three weeks until vacation.”

Whoa!

Oh, there were protests and shaky-lip whimpers and rebellious teenage glances when the news was given, but let me tell you — that next morning at 4:45am our alarm sounded and everyone was up and successfully out of the house within 5 minutes! No complaints, no bad attitudes. Everyone ran the best they could, and the entire experience actually seemed almost fun! (As fun as it can possibly be to run down rocky gravel roads in the pitch black with drool still running down your chin hoping you don’t step on a poisonous snake!)

Well, we kept our word, and we ran with our kids for the next three weeks. And not only that — we’re currently at six weeks and counting!

Just this morning as we all shook the cobwebs from our sleepy minds at 4:45am, our little Gabriela — who first moved in with us two years ago as a severely malnourished and broken little girl who could barely walk, much less run — completed the entire 1.2 mile run for the first time (on prior runs she only got half-way due to exhaustion), arriving successfully at the finish line (the local highway intersection) at breakneck pace with Darwin running by her side! She even passed several of our older kids along the way! Wow!

And so we share this story of perseverance to encourage you in your daily walk.

Amen! Glory to God!

Sweeping Away Bitterness: Learning to Foster Gratitude and Humility in Our Home

In our little cinderblock home out in the countryside with our 8 foster kids, roughly 30 local youth in our community homeschool, 5 local missionaries/teachers, a few guard dogs, more chickens than you can count and about a half dozen cattle thrown in the mix (all under the blistering Honduran sun without air-conditioning or properly sealed buildings), we are constantly innovating new cleaning routines so as to maintain our rustic little buildings as clean as they can possibly be (for at least five minutes before they get dirty again).

We have two local moms come help us out part-time in the kitchen and with general cleaning during the schoolweek, but even so everything seems to be perpetually grimy. Sweaty, dirty children (many of whom come from local poor families that do not bathe or brush their teeth frequently/properly, do not own deodorant, etc) dart about our property, leaving dirty hand- and shoe-prints all over our walls; bats, rats, bugs and other creatures constantly invade; and special-needs children frequently leave pee- and poo-messes in the least desirable places.

Thus, we dedicate a good chunk of time to scratching our heads and scheming up new ways to tackle the hygiene giant on our rural property (without becoming totally obsessed with this endeavor, as our ultimate purpose is not to maintain an immaculate house but rather to usher young men and women to the foot of the Cross).

And so on Monday of this week I orchestrated a long day of deep-cleaning activities around our property in collaboration with the ongoing effort to establish good hygiene. Brayan spent the entire morning washing the walls of our 2 school houses with abundant water and detergent (we had done so not three weeks prior, but they were already dirty again). Developmentally-challenged Gaby and Josue helped out by filling four grocery bags full of little bits and pieces of trash, thrown-out papers, etc, that they found in and around the porches and tables on our front lawn (this is also a job that is done weekly, but many Hondurans are accustomed to throwing trash wherever they want, and they frequently choose our front lawn).

Each person had a job, and all seemed to be going according to plan as a rather simple (perhaps even obvious) idea dawned on me: what we really needed (and had yet to establish) was a morning sweeping routine, as we sweep all floors and porches once or twice in the late-morning/afternoon, but each morning as we receive all our local students through our front gate, it would be really great if the porches were already swept. Our porches are large cement slabs that are often covered in a fine layer of dirt, dog hair or insect remains, as people and animals with dirty feet are constantly walking across them. Although our morning routine is already tight with our 4:45am get-ups and the very precious task of getting 8 young people ready, making beds, serving breakfast, etc before all of our neighbors arrive, I came to the conclusion that the sweeping routine must be added to our daily schedule if we were going to elevate our overall hygiene standards as we hoped to.

I briefly considered who would do this job – I personally enjoy sweeping, but with my many other early morning commitments, I knew that my time simply would not allow me to take on any additional commitments. And our kids? How would they react to the news of being the new chief executives of the morning sweeping routine? 

As is evidenced throughout the Bible, humankind oftentimes is given to murmuring and complaining, and our kids are no exception. Just the day prior I was listening to the Old Testament on CD as I drove around town doing errands. As I listened, I felt surprised and personally convicted by the fact that the Israelites – who had been rescued out of grueling slavery in Egypt by God’s powerful hand! – fell into the trap of complaining so many times in their journey through the desert. Had they not just been rescued, and should they not be grateful and full of faith in the good God rather than constantly complaining, doubting and murmuring? Unfortunately, humanity has not changed much, and I mulled this over as I considered how to break the news to our kids. In any situation of responsibility or work, we want our kids to approach the activity with joy and humility, doing all things with excellence as unto the Lord and not unto men, but this grace-filled attitude is not always achieved. How could I break the news to them about my fabulous new idea to sweep each morning without them falling into murmuring, complaints, and “it’s not fair”?

Without further ado, I headed to our family’s whiteboard in our living room, feeling suddenly sure of what I was to write: “…We are going to start a new sweeping routine every morning. The schedule is written on the piece of paper above this whiteboard. If anyone has a problem with this, you can talk with Mom and Dad and exchange jobs with them, and they will gladly sweep for you. Mom and Dad’s jobs are: wake everyone up each morning, prepare/serve breakfast, make sure everyone makes their beds and brushes their teeth, brush the girls’ hair, and bathe Gaby and Josue and get them dressed. If you do not want to sweep or see this job as unfair, then just talk with Mom and Dad, and you can take their jobs instead.”

I laughed to myself as I wrote the breaking headline on our frequently-used family whiteboard. I knew that within moments everyone would be flocking to it to see what the latest announcement was. I added at the end of my short informational paragraph: “Please be encouraged to take on this new morning routine not as a punishment or extra baggage, but rather as a privilege as we learn to serve one another and take care of the home God has given us. God bless you!”

Sure enough, our kids all read the message and there were immediately signs of negative attitudes as several of our girls exchanged glances that seemed to say, “I don’t like this. Why is Mom giving us one more job? This isn’t fair. Ugh.”

Refusing to be discouraged, I kept a smile on my face.

The next morning I was glad to see that our first two daughters on the list completed their task after a friendly reminder. Although I can’t say that they did so joyfully, the porches did get swept in a timely fashion.

Later that afternoon, our eldest daughter approached me in the kitchen pretending to not understand the new sweeping schedule that I had written and taped to our living room wall. She is a very smooth-talker and very emotionally astute, so she began the conversation with me as I was serving dinner: “Hey Mom, I guess I didn’t really understand the sweeping schedule…My days are Tuesday and Friday, right?”

I smiled at her – knowing that she was probably masking her true feelings about her new job – and said, “No. Your days are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The four days we have classes.”

Her eyes grew wide as her face displayed a slight grimace. Ouch! Not two days, but four! She and Josselyn would take the weekdays for now, and our other two teen girls the weekends. She probed further with her smooth talk, still trying to find a way out: “When is the schedule gonna change?”

“I’m not sure, but for now it remains as is.”

She crossed her arms as she leaned back against the kitchen counter. She looked thoughtful. This conversation hadn’t quite turned out the way she had hoped.

Just in case she really had not understood the whiteboard message or had read it too quickly, I added with an upbeat attitude: “I personally really enjoy sweeping, but I just don’t have the time to take the job on in the morning. You know, if you want to exchange jobs with me, I’ll gladly take yours. Each morning I prepare and serve breakfast, bathe Gaby and Josue – “

She stood up straight with a look of genuine surprise in her eyes and cut me off before I could finish listing off my morning responsibilities, “No thanks!” She let out a sincere little laugh and shook her head in an enthusiastic ‘no’ as her rather simple job of sweeping two porches suddenly seemed a whole lot more desirable. Her entire countenance changed as she approached the job with gratitude for the first time.

I laughed with her and continued cutting the watermelon that I would be adding to each person’s dinner plate. Joy had suddenly been restored among us as I thanked God in my heart for this change of attitude in our delightful daughter.

To all you parents and educators out there: try this technique! I learned it from Danny Silk’s book Loving Our Kids on Purpose.

 

Amen! Glory to God!

The Cross in Daily Life: A Story

A few months ago I was listening to an online podcast by Frank Viola about the ingredient that is perhaps most important in authentic Christian community (and that which we most often overlook because it is the most painful): the cross. Not the cross which Jesus bore, which we frequently remember and give thanks for, but that cross which He called us to bear when He instructed His disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. He who loves his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it.

Without this element of the cross, genuine Christian community cannot exist.

To understand what is meant by “the cross,” GotQuestions.org informs: To a person in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop. Two thousand years later, Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death.

Now, when you live alone or perhaps congregate in a large church setting where you simply file in and take your pew anonymously, it is easy enough to avoid this cross. If you participate in a civil meeting over a cup of coffee or an hour-long Bible study gathering, it is easy enough to carefully sweep your sin to one side and forget all notions of the cross, of dying to self. After all, anyone can be a ‘good person’ for an hour or two within reasonable parameters.

However, when you engage in deeper human contact (‘collisions’ might possibly be the more accurate word), the reality of the cross — that each person must die to their own selfish desires so that God’s will may flourish among the group without inflated egos getting in the way — becomes entirely obvious and necessary. When you are around another human being in a transparent setting long enough — whether it be as a family or in a marriage relationship, as a close-knit group of friends or in some other context of nitty-gritty human relationships, sooner rather than later the problem of sin — of bad tempers, impatience, lies, jealously, etc — is going to arise, and we must know how to deal with it if the relationship is going to thrive under God’s will and for His glory.

By human nature no one wants to ask forgiveness, admit they were wrong, listen to another’s ideas before their own, or humbly submit to another’s authority. Thus; the cross. Jesus calls us to die to our own wills; to literally crucify our desires, plans, and the demands of our ego. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me. And it hurts. I mean, really hurts. When you do so, it sort of feels like you’re dying to all that you are because, well, you are.

What I am about to share is one such story that occurred in our household only a few days ago.

On Sunday my husband and six of our foster/adopted children spent the entire day away from home visiting Darwin’s extended family members in a neighboring town while I chose to stay at home and rest with two of our sons. I spent the day organizing mounds of paperwork in our home and office, cooking meals for our two boys, spending time with them and practicing piano.

During that day I called my husband a couple times to try to find out if I was expected to cook dinner for him and our other six kids that evening (sometimes when we visit Darwin’s extended family members we eat dinner in their home while on other occasions we return home early and eat in our own kitchen); thus I did not know their expected return time nor if they would be arriving hungry. I am not a particularly enthused cook, so I not-so-secretly hoped that they would arrive home with bellies already full.

On both occasions, however, Darwin did not answer my calls as it appeared his cellphone was turned off. Thus, I waited until about 7:00pm (we normally eat dinner at about 5:00pm, so it was reasonable to think they had already eaten). When they still had not returned home (or called to let me know any details as to their dinner plans), I felt quite like Pontius Pilate as I “washed my hands clean” of any dinner-making responsibility and began cleaning the kitchen. Although it had been a quiet, easy day, I was feeling a bit tired from such a long week and was looking forward to putting away the last of the dishes and heading to our room for an early rest (in our household we get up at 4:45am).

Lo and behold, at about 7:45pm as wacky lil’ Josue and I are finishing off the last of the kitchen duties, I spot two large headlights approaching our front gate. Honestly, my immediate thought was: Run and hide! Pretend you’re asleep!  I knew full well they would be entering what had been our nearly-silent household with much noise, enthusiasm and stories (so late!), plus I ran the risk of them not having eaten, which would then usher me into the responsibility of preparing dinner from scratch for 7 hungry people (which is no small task in any country).

I decided to play it cool as they came bounding in our previously peaceful kitchen. Suddenly there were hugs, loud greetings, a dozen heavy feet pounding on the cement floor and, of course, many wild stories of conquest and adventure that had to be told.

I smiled wearily as I asked in a very nonchalant manner, “Hey, um, you guys ate dinner at your aunts’ and uncles’ home, right?” I bit my tongue in expectation as I waited for them to say ‘yes.’

Several heads snapped toward me at the mention of dinner and answered, “No. We ate lunch with our aunts and uncles, but that was hours ago.”

My face dropped. I tried again, still hopeful, “But, I mean, are y’all like just a little bit hungry or really hungry? I mean, it’s pretty late.”

13-year-old Jackeline, one of our precious daughters who never has a problem with her appetite, piped up, “Well I don’t know about everybody else, but I’m really hungry.”

Hoping I had heard her wrong, I asked with the last of my fading hopes, “You’re not really hungry?”

“No; I said I’m really hungry. What’s for dinner?” She looked around at our empty, sparkling kitchen.

And that’s when I lost my cool. Darwin came strolling into our kitchen after what had probably been a lovely day visiting his family members. I greeted him sharply, “I called you twice to ask if I was supposed to prepare dinner for everyone, and you didn’t answer or return my calls! Now everyone’s hungry and I didn’t prepare anything because you people came home so late that I thought you had already eaten! Zero communication!” I huffed and puffed and threw the refrigerator door open. I wanted to stick my head in and cry. Everyone seemed surprised, as I do not typically behave in such a manner.

I was immediately ashamed for my outburst but continued to feel justified in my anger (and extremely tired), so I continued murmuring a bit about how we need to have better communication and how I had already cleaned the kitchen (which in our large, rustic kitchen is a gargantuan task) and was ready to go rest for the night. I was determined to win the gold medal in bad attitudes, and there seemed to be no turning back.

Seeing as they are extremely resilient, our kids kept bounding toward me with their great tales of their visit to Grandpa Joaquin’s farm — their encounter with an angry pig mom when they touched her piglets; their visit to the crocodile-infested river; how Josselyn cut her nose with a machete while opening a coconut. I half-heartedly listened to their stories as I began pulling things out of the fridge, warming up a pot of beans and figuring out what the heck I would feed these 7 hungry people (and who would clean the kitchen up afterwards, because it certainly wouldn’t be me).

Well, the dinner routine was brought to completion and everyone ate, although I felt like a mad porcupine throughout the process. About an hour later everyone was finally tucked in their rooms in what had turned out to be a less-than-punctual Sabbath Hour, and I felt convicted about my sour attitude. Soon enough I laid down to rest and thought, “Tomorrow I will ask for forgiveness via our family’s dry-erase board — I will write a note to everyone asking for forgiveness for my bad attitude,” but I sensed in my heart that writing it on the board would be too easy — would not truly be ‘carrying my cross’ and admitting my mistake, my sin (which we all hate to do). God wanted me to go to each person individually, humble myself — die to all that is my pride, my ego! — and ask forgiveness for my terrible attitude. I determined in my heart to do so, even though the very thought made me want to scream bloody murder. (Admit I was wrong? Humble myself in front of our kids? I would rather stub my toe or bruise my funny bone!) But this is the way of the cross, and the Lord is guiding me in it, however loudly I scream in resistance.

And so early the next morning — which was Monday of this week — I found myself washing dishes in our large rustic kitchen as Dayana and Jason (our 16-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old brother) were serving their breakfast. I breathed deeply as I looked beyond the rusting wire mesh on our panoramic windows out towards our grazing cows and beyond to the mountain range behind our property. My heart suddenly began beating faster as I knew this was the moment God has designated for me to begin the humiliating death-to-ego process. Oh Lord, why couldn’t I have just written a general note to all on our family’s whiteboard? Why must You lead me to ask forgiveness not once, but on multiple occasions for the same error? Please, no!

Before I could ‘reason’ my way out of obedience, I turned around to face our two unsuspecting kids and said all at once, “Please forgive me for my bad attitude last night.” Oh, I wanted to add so much more to that simple phrase — I longed to justify my attitude or subtly excuse my misbehavior with sophisticated words, but the Lord would not have it to be so!

They both looked up at me, smiled softly and answered, “We forgive you.”

No excuses; no justifications; no guilt.

I breathed deeply again, but this time in relief. “Thank you.” I held their eye contact for a good moment or two before I turned around again and continued washing the dishes. Even though I still felt close to the agonizing cries of my own death, I suddenly felt lighter. Something had been restored among us. I believe it was God’s blessing.

Two down. Several more to go.

Moments later 13-year-old Josselyn with her unkempt black hair came in the kitchen, put-off because she had wanted to spend the morning chit-chatting with her friends but had to hand-wash the clothes as a disciplinary procedure for an infraction she incurred. She huffed and puffed as she passed by me in our kitchen, on her way to grab more soap and detergent before heading back outside to continue the laborious process of washing. I declared over her what she didn’t want to hear, “I know you want to spend time with your friends, but right now your responsibility is to wash the clothes with Jackeline. Finish the task at hand, and then you can see your friends.” Her bad attitude was tangible (as mine had been the night prior), and as she and her dark cloud began exiting our kitchen I called her name. She quickly reappeared, her eyes trained on mine but not at all happy.

I breathed deeply, again feeling like someone was about to push me off a cliff — heels dug in, arms flailing, facing imminent death! — and I said softly, “Hey, I wanted to ask your forgiveness for my bad attitude last night.”

Her face immediately changed — she smiled! — and she came over to give me a big hug. Wow!

Three down.

Less than an hour later I was sitting at one of the pianos in our high school building to practice a new piece when my husband Darwin came up behind me to give me a warm bear-hug. My cue from God could not have been more clear: Now! Ask his forgiveness now.

And suddenly, once more, I felt like every ounce of ‘me’ was being put under immediate threat. My ego was facing the death penalty. I felt scared and angry, like a cornered wolf. I don’t want to die! Anything but this! Please! 

I suddenly went tumbling over the ledge of the cliff, my descent made ever the faster due to the weight of the large cross I was carrying —

“Pleaseforgivemeformybadattitudelastnight.” It all came rolling off my tongue so fast because I knew that if I didn’t say it quickly, then it might never come out. I glanced down at the black and white keys in front of me as Darwin’s hug didn’t loosen.

“You’re forgiven.” He smiled at his dead wife.

Okay! Please change the subject…and quickly! Ouch, that was painful!

Not long after that I came face-to-face again with that terrible sensation of being pushed over a cliff as I humbled myself and asked forgiveness from Jackeline and Gleny, the other two recipients of my undeserved vitriol the night prior.

And so that was my experience this week with the cross, and since then several of our children and teens have followed this example and have humbled themselves — without excuses or justifications — to seek me out asking for forgiveness for their various bad attitudes or misbehaviors. Look at how all that works!

Amen! Glory to God!

 

A Heart That Longs for the Eternal Rest

A couple nights ago our 8 kids were tucked in their bedrooms in our little cinderblock house, several already asleep while others drew or read quietly in their quarters. It was our family’s daily Sabbath Hour.

The electricity had gone out several hours prior, so our otherwise pitch dark house held small pockets of light provided by a few strategically-placed candles. The old wicker table in our living room housed a large display of folders, papers and office materials where I had been working with a headlamp strapped to my forehead the last couple hours. My husband Darwin was in our office in the adjacent building on our rural property finishing his own ‘homework’ by flashlight.

I stood wearily in our living room after having survived a day that involved directing a 6-hour-long crucial planning meeting with our team of teachers/mentors/pastors, another six hours or so of paperwork, a constant waterfall of sweat dripping over my body accompanied by more than a few mosquito bites, and managing our 8 kids (and all their shenanigans) in the midst of it all. Although my work performance (at least in the meeting) had been high, my attitude was quickly taking a turn for the worst as I felt bogged by a sense of guilt that I had not given our children the time and attention they had needed from me that day.

Living in a household with 8 youth ranging from special needs children to abuse victims to active teenagers is not exactly conducive to cultivating a focused work environment, as every 5 minutes or so someone comes asking for a new pencil, seeking permission for something or announcing World War III. Then the heavy rains started, and the thunder spooked our oversized guard dogs to such an extent that they began frantically pushing their way past our kids into our house, which further added to what was quickly becoming an impossible work environment.

My thoughts limped toward the obvious: hopefully the electricity would come back on at some point during the next several hours so that all the food in our refrigerator wouldn’t spoil. Plus we still had to make copies of each of our students’ mid-year evaluations, but without electricity our photocopier was useless.

Oh well.

Dry-erase marker in hand, I began jotting down the next day’s predicted schedule along with general family news on our living-room whiteboard. I felt ready for a really long nap, but there was still more work to be done in preparation for the new semester of classes that would begin the next day. After having been on a mid-year week-long vacation, all of our local students  would be returning to commence the second half of the school year.

Our family had gotten away from home for that full week in order to breathe deeply and distance ourselves from the usual pounding of activities, demands on our time, dozens of local people constantly in our home, etc. We had rented an itty-bitty rustic cabin on a desert island off the Honduran coast, and for that week it felt like we had stepped into someone else’s life. In the blink of an eye (or rather in the hour-long boatride that led us away from the mainland) I was transformed into a relaxed, fun and funny stay-at-home mom who didn’t have the weight of dozens of other people’s struggles, the administration of an NGO and the constant threat of local violence on her shoulders.

The intense demands on our time and emotional reserves were greatly decreased during that week, and even the mosquitos and scorching heat were kept at bay. We were the only inhabitants there besides the local married couple who looks after the place, so even the constant supervision we are normally engaged in with our teenagers was lightened as there was no immediate temptation to search out their next potential crush. We laughed and played with our kids; we prayed together as a family; we stayed up late talking to and enjoying one another and slept late the next morning (‘late’ as in 7:00am). We cooked and ate every meal together as a family; there were no errands or legal concerns or fear of being the next victim of so much senseless violence that occurs in this country. We kayaked together; we swam in the ocean with our kids; we played chess and fished. I was no one’s boss and no one’s teacher; I was free to just be ‘mom,’ something I’m still trying to learn to do gracefully.

And so on Sunday as we left that beautiful desert island where the refreshing breeze whips constantly and you don’t even need to know what time it is, our senses were immediately accosted by the ugliness, the utter rawness of the reality we were re-entering on mainland Honduras. Whereas natural beauty, human silence and the crashing of ocean waves had accompanied us on that little island, our eyes and ears were suddenly under constant attack. One of our teenage daughters even cried as we left our little haven and re-entered the reality of living unprotected in a country dripping in corruption and devastating poverty.

The water transitioned from crystal clear to totally opaque upon arriving at the coast: floating trash and littered streams greeted us. Upon loading ourselves and our luggage into our pickup truck, Darwin began the awkward zig-zag, dancing haphazardly down the highway as he jolted between dozens of huge potholes. Two or three times he didn’t react quick enough and the car slammed down into the holes as everyone screamed. Destroyed roads; beggars; trash strewn about; idle, lost people at every turn; palpable human negligence and sin everywhere you look. Those on the inside of the cabin with us were enveloped in a solemn silence as we all felt the sting of re-entering our reality in third-world Honduras who frequently tops the worldwide ranking of homicide per capita. Danger suddenly seemed close and mistrust closer as we were very literally re-entering the battlefield whether we were ready or not.

And so as I stood propped-up near that light green wall in our living room filling our family’s whiteboard, I reflected sadly on the fact that the transition back home the day prior had not exactly been smooth as each of us was feeling the sudden demands to perform on a superhuman level, to fulfill duty, to detect possible danger (and somehow avoid it) and to re-open our home daily to dozens of people, the majority of whom are very broken and untrustworthy.

As my hand continued moving, dry-erase marker in hand, a small person suddenly came out of their room and was standing by my side, looking up at me. It was Jason, our son who is on the cusp of turning 10 years old this month.

My immediate thought was to send him back to his room or onward toward the bathroom (whichever his destiny might be), but I took a deep breath — fighting through exhaustion to put a genuine smile on my face — as he asked innocently, “Can you come pray with me?”

Who can say no to that? I put the marker down and followed him through the curtain into the room he shares with our other two boys, who were already sound asleep. It was a hot, sticky night, and there was no refreshing ocean breeze anywhere closeby.

He scurried up and into his top bunk as I took off my headlamp and laid the small light at the foot of his bed so I could see our sweet son. I looked at him expectantly, waiting to hear a couple quick prayer requests but instead received the beginning of a very long, quite animated discussion involving many different topics.

I realized that the prayer time would doubtlessly come at the end, but what he had really wanted wasn’t a quick bedtime prayer but rather his mom, who had been almost entirely absent from him emotionally throughout the day. I stood next to his wooden bunk, my hands stroking his feet as he began enthusiastically commenting this and that to me as he sat up in his bed in the dark room.

He is quickly becoming a Bible expert as he’s read every children’s Bible we have cover-to-cover several times, so he dove right into deep theological questions regarding idol worship, Baal, and whether or not people in today’s world still worship false gods. We discussed freely the book of Hosea, Genesis, and other texts as he rapidly jumped from one topic to another as soon as he was satisfied with the answer I had given him. He then began expressing his excitement about choosing his new classes the next day, and asked several intelligent questions regarding what he had observed that day in the planning meeting (he had requested to be present in our team meeting which turned into the 6-hour-long mammoth meeting, so he gained a lot of valuable inside knowledge that our other kids didn’t have). Through a huge grin on his face he talked of his new upcoming ‘masks and theater’ class that he’ll be in; the military-training P.E. class he hoped to join with Pastor Domingo; and his general comments regarding the next day’s promising events.

Jumping between theology and his daily reality as a 9-year-old, a new question suddenly dawned on him as his eyes swung toward me: “Mom, why is it so hard for some people to believe?” He began explaining his question as he quoted some text about Zacchaeus from the New Testament as my mind felt suddenly numbed by his question. The question had floored me. Why is it so hard for some people to believe? Better yet, why is it so hard for me to believe — trust, find peace and joy in — Christ in the midst of our demanding and at times dangerous daily reality? How is it possible that I’m at peace on a remote desert island but feel constantly persecuted by stress once placed back within the confines of our daily environment?

And so I began to answer his question, as he had asked it in search of an answer. I discussed briefly the reality of spiritual warfare (that Satan is actively involved in convincing us in subtle ways not to trust in God, as is evidenced from the beginning of time in the Garden of Eden) in addition to several other comments. I then breathed deeply and shared with him the fact that in the midst of many pressures that day I had even lost the eternal perspective. Even as Christians it can be difficult for us to have faith; we must ask God to grant us more.

My last word had hardly left my mouth as he experienced a burst of energy and sat up even taller in his bed as his next question came bouncing out, “Mom, when’s my hair gonna grow?”

I laughed and followed him down the path of the new topic, now far from theology. Moments later, as I felt I was wilting lower and lower, the wooden rungs of the bunk being the only thing keeping me from collapsing on the floor, I asked him what his prayer requests were so as to wrap up our time together. His answer: “That I won’t have nightmares tonight. And that God would grant me wisdom.”

And so I prayed over our son that God would give him deep sleep and protect him from nightmares and that He would fill Jason with wisdom. After our ‘amen,’ I tucked him in and made my way over to our bedroom, still captivated by Jason’s question about faith. As my thoughts still drew me back to the beauty of our time on the island, I felt God gave me my answer, rooted in His perfect peace:

What I most longed for was not the temporary rest on a beautiful island, which even at its best is not an entire rest from all struggle, as even on our vacation our kids at times behaved as little toots and had to be corrected, counseled and disciplined. Even at its best a total distancing of oneself from earthly drama can never be complete, for within each and every one of us is the battle between good and evil, between Christ’s light and the darkness of sin. On that busy Monday full of meetings and stressors, what I was most longing for was not another vacation or even a change of scenery: in the depths of my being I longed for God’s Kingdom, that glorious place of eternal rest and communion with the living God.

And that thought energized me, for I knew — had experienced! — just how beautiful and blessed our time had been during that week in a peaceful place surrounded by God’s unadulterated creation, although tainted by our sin. And how much more awesome will God’s eternal kingdom be, where true justice will reign! Oh, I can’t wait to be there. Lord, please grant me the faith that I lack in order to persevere through mosquitos and sickness and threats of violence and trial — and even my own struggles with sin, which sometimes seem to be the last ones to be addressed because everyone else’s needs are so pressing! — in order to arrive successfully at that beautiful eternal rest with You.

And with that, I took a shower and crawled into bed, my body still exhausted and knowing that my alarm clock would sound before the sun came up, but with a renewed energy in my soul, knowing that the promise of rest — of real justice — is drawing near, and that is the eternal reward for which we are so arduously working. Amen! Glory to God!

A Day Without Water: Superwoman Transformed Into a Desperately Dry Husk

[Written a few weeks ago]: This morning at 5:00am my husband and I rolled out of bed and made the usual rounds, patting sleepy backs and whispering early morning greetings as we went room-to-room waking our 8 kids up for a new day of classes and untold adventures.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan until one of our kids went to use a faucet to wet their toothbrush, and no water came out. We then tried the other faucets in our home to no avail, and a conclusion was quickly reached: we found ourselves absolutely without water. Upon reaching our kitchen (which on our rural property is not attached to our sleeping quarters), we discovered the kitchen faucet equally dry.

In the third world country where we live, the electricity frequently goes out, and there have been dozens of times in the past when we’ve been without water for up to a day or two, but today – in the midst of an extreme heat wave we’ve been experiencing for the last several days – the reality of being without water in our rural, no-air-conditioning home hit us (or at least me) unusually hard. We were no longer in the delightful rainy season in which we enjoy slightly cooler temperatures, but in the blistering hot, dry summer months.

16-year-old Dayana, the eldest of our kids, towel in hand, looked at me with her big, curly hair and asked, “Is it okay if I go down to the creek to bathe? I didn’t take a shower last night…”

Knowing that she is accustomed to taking a shower each morning – and the fact that we were facing the no-water situation – I agreed to her idea, and off she went. Soon her younger sister followed her, bar of soap in hand and towel flapping behind her as she raced off to the little creek – which was most likely also nearly dry – behind our home.

Several young voices, dry toothbrushes in hand, eyed me and asked, “Mom…how are we gonna brush our teeth?”

“Well, I guess we’re just gonna get cavities today…” I answered, already feeling choked up in the hot, humid air thinking about a whole day of smelly breath.

“And how are we gonna wash our hands…?”

“Not sure, sweetheart, but just don’t touch me…” I gave hugs and kisses on the tops of heads, trying strategically to avoid contact with their little hands that always seem to be touching floors, exploring the inside of their noses, etc. How on earth was I going to serve breakfast without having washed my own hands? All of us had been sick on and off the last few weeks with fevers and viruses, and the idea of falling ill again didn’t appeal to me.

I reached our kitchen around 5:40am after overseeing the general morning routine in our home. I glanced at the kitchen counter – where my husband Darwin and our 15-year-old son Brayan normally leave the large bucketful of fresh milk they get out of our two cows each morning – and saw nothing. I opened the fridge and peered in. Nothing. Where was the — ?

I glanced over at Darwin, who stood across the kitchen in his old raggy milking clothes that he wears each morning, and my eyes spoke the question for me. He answered, “Oh, the cows wouldn’t give any milk this morning. Their calves are getting so big that their utters are no longer producing. But the good news is that both cows are well along in their current pregnancy and should be birthing soon.”

No milk? I had gone to the grocery store the day prior to buy several big bulk-sized bags of Cornflakes and other cereals, but we never buy milk because we get it fresh from our cows each morning. Cornflakes without milk? I glanced at him, somewhat irritated as if it was his fault that he couldn’t squeeze out at least a few liters of nonexistent milk, and I suddenly felt a strange emotion: desperation. I was starting to feel like I was in some kind of apocalyptic nightmare, some kind of worldwide scarcity endemic that just might possibly sweep the planet in the coming years due to climate change, deforestation, rampant pollution, etc. Had we reached the point in which countries will war over water rather than petroleum?

Darwin added calmly, “Brayan said that we have powdered milk in the pantry.”

I laughed sarcastically, convinced that he was wrong, but I went to go check just in case. I took a few brisk steps and swung by head into our nearly bare pantry where our two ‘guard cats’ sleep. Several sacks of rice and beans; more than a few cartons of eggs; close to a dozen bottles of cooking oil. Pots and pans…and…

Bingo. My eyes landed on a lone canister of powdered milk. A large supermarket chain that donates expired and damaged goods to us about once a month had included a dinged-up can of powdered milk that we hadn’t used or even noticed due to our prior daily abundance of cows’ milk. I went to grab it when the accusatory words suddenly came out of my mouth, “But we don’t have water! How am I going to be able to prepare the powdered milk?!”

I suddenly felt very, very thirsty.

At that point Brayan spotted one single jug of emergency water that was sitting idly under one of our countertops. Atta boy. It would be enough to mix into the powdered milk and serve our family a glass of water for breakfast, but it wouldn’t get us all through the rest of the day, especially considering that roughly 50 people would need to eat (and drink) from our kitchen once our local students and teachers arrived.

I got to work preparing the powdered milk and serving the cereal bowls for our littlest ones while I then filled up my Nalgene water bottle to the brim with water from our emergency jug. I gulped deep as I felt the cool water sliding down my hot, dry throat. The feeling of desperation continued as I entertained the uneasy thought that that might be the last glass of water I would be able to drink in a long, long time. (And I’m the kind of person who is constantly thirsty and drinks many more than the recommended 8 glasses of water per day. A single glass in the morning wouldn’t cut it. Within an hour or two I would need more.)

By 6:15am I was already sweating bullets as my husband and I began organizing our dining room to receive all of our students and Christian laborers in our twice-weekly worship time and Bible study. As our kids came and went, each grabbing their breakfast cereal with powdered milk, we would laugh dryly (no pun intended) each time they would approach the sink, empty bowl in hand, to wash their dishes. They would turn the handle on the faucet, wait, look over at me, confused, and then suddenly remember that we didn’t have water. “What do I do with my breakfast dishes?” they would ask as I motioned for them to leave them next to the sink. (And if the water didn’t come back for several days? What would we do with the Mount Everest of dirty dishes?)

Back in our bathroom – that little cave-like room attached onto our bedroom for my husband’s and my use – our poor toilet quickly became a gurgling, stewing melting pot of nasty sights and odors. Seeing as we’re both seeking to take really good care of our health, we had taken certain vitamins to help cleanse our system, so between the two of us we had gone #2 three times in that porcelain pot before 7:00am. I had also gone pee two or three times, plus I was menstruating, so every time that toilet lid was lifted up, it felt like a bomb was set off in our bathroom. Each time I went to go use our restroom – which seemed to be more frequent than usual – I pranced around outside of the door for a moment or two, psyching myself up, took a big, deep breath – cheeks inflated with emergency reserve oxygen – and darted in, opened the lid as quickly as possible, did my business in the most efficient manner – covering my nose and mouth with part of my long skirt – shut the lid, and darted out, gasping for clean air on the other end.

Throughout this whole morning escapade, I housed a sense of thoughtful dread in my chest. Would the world come to this someday, and will it be sooner than we think? When will the world’s water sources dry up or get so contaminated after years of senseless pollution that they are no longer drinkable? In a matter of hours I had become a very philosophical, dry husk.

Take electricity or petroleum away from man, and he can survive, although without the luxuries he is accustomed to. Take water away – even for a very short time – and he gets put face to face with a life and death situation.

My morning – which I had thought would be all about normal affairs, human relationships, Bible study, preparing for classes, etc – suddenly became all-consumed by a single thought: water. Survival. Although externally I continued to joyfully fulfill the many duties (privileges) before me, internally I was becoming quite frantic. All I could think about were the sunburns on my arms and neck from day after day of walking under the blistering Honduran sun, the beads of sweat forming all over my body, and my dry throat. Everyone around me started to look sweaty and worn out; we were quickly becoming like a band of Israelites wandering around a very dry desert. When would it end?

We humans believe we are so powerful, so smart, so capable of taking on any difficult situation and coming out victorious – we’ve traveled and conquered the globe, learned new languages, earned advanced degrees, own many of the greatest comforts and luxuries the world can offer – but if you take water out of the equation, our own weakness gets put immediately in perspective. It turns out that we are not our own gods; we are not the all-powerful, super-independent individuals we’d like to think we are.

It turns out that, after all, each and every one of us is extremely fragile, surprisingly weak. We must be constantly sustained and cared for in order to survive. Taken out of a situation of comfort and security, we quickly become fearful and aggressive as our own mortality stares us in the face. Dry husks whose beauty and power disappear faster than the snacks in our pantry.

Just a few days ago as I was running errands in the nearby city of La Ceiba I passed by a little stand on the side of the road that sells newspapers. The daily headline had been printed out extra large and pasted on the outer wall of the stand so that passersby could see the news and hopefully be attracted to purchase the newspaper. My eyes felt automatically drawn to the large, colorful poster with the day’s breaking headlines although I knew, as usual, they would hold devastating news.

Sure enough, an oversized photo of an extremely fit man with rippling muscles in his 20s or 30s gave visual power to the text below: Local gym owner murdered.

I do not know why he was murdered — if he was involved in illegal business with the wrong crowd and it finally caught up with him, if he had refused to pay the ‘war tax’ to local extortionists or if he was simply an innocent victim to one of many senseless murders in our area, but what I do know is this: his large muscles and perfect physique could not save him, did not preserve his life. What’s more, I’m convinced that yesterday was a normal day for him — he probably went about his business without the idea of death having crossed his mind once. He probably woke up, went to work at the gym, and thought he had many years of vibrant life and excellent health before him. He might have even marveled at his own impressive body and thought that by doing so much exercise he was even extending his lifespan. I’m convinced that never in his wildest dreams did he think that his very own photo would make national headlines the next day to announce his sudden death.

And so, as I went about my own business on that extremely dry day, the reality of our human frailty — no matter how chiseled our muscles are or how much money we have saved up in the bank — suddenly became inescapable. As odd as it sounds, I thank God for this. Living here in the midst of rampant violence and gang activity, police corruption/unresponsiveness, devastating poverty all around, highly dangerous viruses and tropical illnesses and even uncomfortable physical elements such as scorching heat and no-water days, I am daily faced with my own mortality. I must daily come to grips with the fact that I need a Savior, that my own life dangles by a little thread with many roaming machetes threatening to cut it.

I may have all my accounts in order, put into practice a daily exercise routine, eat right, and live a healthy and respectful life by anyone’s standards, but when faced with a prolonged water outage or some angry neighbor carried toward violence (we know of far too many accounts in our area where one neighbor turns against another, oftentimes due to jealously or a simple misunderstanding, and a life is taken), my entire well-being — my very existence on Earth — is put into question.

That morning, in the midst of my own mortal insecurity as my thoughts frantically ran toward the obvious: my own physical discomfort and even possible danger if clean water did not start running out of our faucets as soon as possible, my eternal security in Christ was affirmed once more. For even if the worst happens — if there is a worldwide water crisis or the local gangs burst through our front gate or cancer hits close to home — nothing and nobody can take from us the eternal redemption we have in Christ Jesus. He is the only thing in the whole universe that doesn’t change, can’t be purchased, and doesn’t belong to this quickly-fading world. I felt as the Apostle Paul did, “Externally we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

Several hours later, as everyone was drooping lower and lower due to the heat and lack of water, I went to the bathroom once more and instinctively went to flush the toilet even though it had not been able to be flushed all day. Like music to my ears, I heard a loud ‘whoosh’ of water as all the day’s waste was taken from the pot down through the plumbing. The water had come back! I ran outside, my long arms extended high in victory as if we had all just won the Olympic gold as I announced to everyone who would hear, “The water’s back! We have water! Praise God! Yes!”

Once I had sprinted to the nearest faucet to take in a big glass of water, wash my hands and brush my teeth, my own pending mortality got quietly placed back on the shelf. I felt like Superwoman — well-hydrated and ready for anything! Bring it on! Me? A mortal being only inches from death at any given moment? How could that be so? I felt great and looked great (except for the waterfalls of sweat cascading all over my body, but never mind those because I would soon wash all that away with a nice cold shower!)

As I rejoiced, feeling eternally young and fully alive — just because the water had come back! — the quiet voice of truth whispered to me, “It’s not true. You’re not Superwoman. Don’t get fooled into thinking you have everything under control or that this world is your home. Just because you now have all the human comforts at your fingertips — full belly, access to abundant water, roof over your head — does not mean that you can secure a life on Earth forever, nor should you desire to do so. I am your home; My Kingdom is your eternal home.” In my heart I repented for my sudden turn in attitude, my brusk ignorance of my own mortality as I suddenly felt myself to be the all-powerful (all-hydrated) being.

And so I encourage you, too, to see your own life and your own human frailty from an eternal perspective. Secure home, stable job, vibrant health, normal life — it can all come to an end at any moment, whether you live in a prosperous nation or a third world country. (And praise God that it is so! Praise Him that we don’t have to live on earth in the midst of such suffering, corruption and sickness forever!) We know that Jesus Himself is actively preparing for us another home, free of all death, sin and suffering. We are just passing through in this life. Let us be careful, lest we get too comfortable and forget that we will soon be face-to-face with the Living God.

Amen! Glory to God!

A Recovering Control Freak’s Manifesto: Abandoning My Will for God’s

A couple days ago I lay with a light bed sheet covering my entire body and tucked up and around my face – the little air-conditioned room where I was receiving the IV was very chilly, and my body was not accustomed to the artificially cold air after having gone several years without it. As I lay there, my eyes studied the bright yellow liquid in the hanging bag that made its way one drop at a time into my veins. I then glanced at the tall window  at the foot of the bed that lorded over the tiny room, and I laughed at my predicament.

I have Typhoid fever again along with an aggressive virus, and at the worst of times!

After having spent the duration of the day running around the city for various health-related appointments, blood work, etc, and having walked more than a few blocks under the blistering sun because our car was in the mechanics’, I lay still on the hard little bed and marveled at God’s faithfulness, even to this sick little servant of His. Surely He should have picked someone with a stronger immune system than I to participate with Him in such a work! (But have I not struggled with insomnia, various tropical illnesses, etc, almost without respite these last five years, and has He not fulfilled His will even in the midst of my own weakness?)

Just hours prior I had visited the child protective services’ humble government building hoping to give some kind of follow-up to Katy’s case. Darwin and I had continued praying for the little girl over the last several days, asking Father God to indicate to us what to do. First our 16-year-old daughter Dayana and then 12-year-old Josselyn, Katy’s older biological sister who has been living with us nearly two years, had both approached us independently, telling us they felt that we should bring Katy to our home to raise her. After all, Father God had confirmed the same in our hearts, but a week had gone by and we had yet to act. I had thought rebelliously: But I’m sick! Right now I don’t want to receive a new child; I just want to lay my spinning head down! Bring the new child when I’m feeling like Wonder Woman!

But even as I lay there in that chilly, isolated room I knew there comes a time when the rubber of obedience must hit the road; we mustn’t sit around ‘waiting for answers’ all day when He has plainly showed us the path we are to take.

Thus, earlier that day I found myself entering that little government building and seeking out one of the head lawyers, a very kind Christian woman who works closely with the social worker who had accompanied me on the visit the week prior. I was in a cold sweat and more than slightly dizzy as she allowed me to enter her small workspace to talk. Our prayer over the last several days had been: Lord, if it is Your will that Katy come to live with us, open doors (and hearts) in the government agency, and compel them to move forward on the case.

Without this, there was nothing we could do.

The female lawyer and I received one another with a warm hug, and I sat down in front of her desk to share with her what was on my heart. I told her of Katy’s visibly poor condition, and that I feared that she was in the same situation of sexual abuse that our Gabriela had been in not two years prior.

The lawyer seemed stilled and completely attentive, which is no small miracle considering the mounds of paperwork and emergency visits that she is responsible for each day. Oftentimes when we enter the extremely under-staffed building, it seems like everyone is running around with their hair on fire, consumed entirely by the ‘urgent’ perhaps rather than the ‘important’. We have certain specific legal actions we have been requesting from them for years, but their wait-line of ‘emergencies’ is so long that they have yet to get around to our kids’ adoption, creating birth certificates for a couple of our girls, giving us vital paperwork that was due months ago, etc. Getting the Honduran government to move quickly is no task for mortal man!

So when the lawyer put aside her mound of papers, gave me her undivided attention and – what’s more – seemed to really ‘get’ the root of what I was talking about not only on a professional level but also with profound compassion, I suddenly felt convinced that it was God’s will that Katy come live with us. The lawyer assured me that she would put it on her calendar to go out to Katy’s home next Wednesday to investigate the situation further and, quite likely, remove her that same day.

I thanked her several times for her availability and collaboration, although, before leaving the office, I felt compelled to say more. My mind spun in a few circles as I fought hard to focus, as is one of the symptoms of Typhoid fever. I continued, carefully: “I have to tell you that Katy also has a little brother. I have not seen him, but our girls have told us about him and I believe he is roughly 4 years old. I hope to God that he is okay and can remain living in his family situation – because the Lord knows we already have a lot of our plate! – but when you go out to their home to investigate Katy’s case on Wednesday, it is possible that you will see him and may feel that he, too, is in danger and needs to be removed from their home. If that is the case –” I breathed deeply, remembering that all of this is about fulfilling God’s will rather than our own “– we can accept him too.”

Once the entirety of that sentence escaped my mouth, I knew there was no turning back. I began laughing slightly at the absurdity of it all – I felt I was about to pass out, and just walking from the parking lot to the seat where I sat had been laborious, yet here I found myself on the brink of receiving possibly two new, severely broken little guys! Oh, God, help me! This truly is a task we cannot do alone!

The lawyer completely understood, and I continued, possibly to affirm my own faith in God’s goodness rather than for her benefit. I spoke slowly, again choosing each word carefully: “The path we have travelled with little Gabriela – her recovery thus far from severe sexual abuse and malnutrition – has been a very intensive and trying process, but — by God’s grace — innocence is being recovered. She is learning to read; she hears God’s Word daily; and she is truly blossoming, although it is an arduous process…God has accompanied us during this process as we have been in over our heads on numerous occasions, and if He leads us to begin all over again with Katy – and possibly with the little boy as well…then He will give us the grace we need in order to love them well.” I spoke even slower as I reached the end of my statement: “He will give us the patience, the love and the energy that we lack.”

In my mind, a very clear image presented itself: Darwin and I arriving toward the finish line of a grueling 26.2-mile marathon. We were consumed with sweat and total exhaustion, hauling ourselves over that blessed end mark as we literally gave all we had, nothing left in reserves. We collapsed on the other side, having successfully finished the race – perhaps slowly, with several stops, not having won any kind of medal at all and probably limping more than half the way, but, by golly, we crossed the line – when someone came and announced, “Okay, go immediately back to the start line, and do it all again! Ready, set, go!” and the gun fired to commence the entirely unexpected second part of the marathon.

Wha-? Wait! …No!

I suddenly felt delusional as I stared at the entire race track that had suddenly been laid before us. But we had already run! We had already passed each of the landmarks, leaving drops of sweat, blood and tears all over the course! Maybe, just maybe, we could think about training again after a long period of resting, getting enough liquids and taking some time off, but right now? So soon? Oh, God, lead us to give more Bible studies or to teach more classes or do more community visits – anything but this!

Even as I felt led towards hysteria, I could not have been more convinced of God’s perfect will for our lives and for that of Katy and possibly her little brother. And, what’s more, I had total peace. Exhaustion and sickness, yes. Even dangerously low emotional reserves. But peace and confidence in the Living God who will doubtlessly come to our encounter as He already had, who will equip us from moment to moment to love those whom He is so clearly rescuing and bringing to our care. Peace; yes. I could not be convinced that God would have it any other way.

Outwardly the lawyer and I continued on in joyful, informative conversation for another twenty minutes or so as she inquired sincerely as to the wellbeing of our other kids, how Josselyn had received the news that she won’t be able to return to her biological family, etc. In every sense of the word it was a God-ordained visit, as such a sincere, unhurried conversation is not common in the Honduran sphere of legal matters and government agencies. At the end of the conversation I sensed that God was leading me to pray for her, so I asked her permission and we both extended our hands toward one another, heads bowed right there in her office, and we prayed.

And so, hours later, as I lay in that little bed with the needle in my hand, I rejoiced in my heart of hearts over what Father God is doing with us – is doing in me. Surely this is what it means to store up treasures in heaven; to seek first the Kingdom of God –to show His love to the least of these – before securing worldly comforts and control. Oh, yes, how I have loved control! How I have wanted to cling to my own plans! Oh, how I have wanted to chart out the next five years, check boxes off the list! But He is liberating me from all this and showing me a more excellent way. Secure within the Father’s will, I rest assured that if and when Katy and her little brother move into our household, He is already going before us, preparing even the smallest of details, and will be with us in the moment of trial, of exhaustion, of desperation. He has done miracles in the lives of our other children and teens – and even in the depths of our own hardened hearts – and I sensed He was anxious to begin doing it all over again with two new souls apt for rescue, for salvation.

I turned over in the little bed, the sheet tucked under my chin, and I felt that I had never been more at peace or more fascinated with my God.

A couple hours later, as the IV had finished and I sat on a bench waiting for the doctor to finish with another patient, I felt a bit anxious to get on the road because it was already our family’s Sabbath Hour and I had been gone all day. I wiggled around on the bench as the doctor’s wife, who serves as his assistant, came over to chit-chat with me while I was waiting.

I smiled at her and asked politely, “Do you know how much longer I’ll have to wait? It’s already past 6:00pm, and my husband’s been by himself all afternoon with our kids…”

Her face lit up at the mention of kids, and she inquired as to how many we had.

I laughed before the answer escaped my lips, because I already knew what her reaction would be: “Eight.”

Her eyes doubled in size and her jaw crashed to the floor. (That is the typical reaction.) Before the poor lady had a heart attack, I quickly began explaining God’s calling on our life and that, no, I had not been through eight pregnancies by age 26.

It turned out the doctor’s wife is also a Christian, so that sparked a long and rather dynamic conversation between us as I suddenly found myself telling her the amazing stories of God’s redemptive work in our children’s lives.

Suddenly experiencing a burst of renewed energy, my voice picked up speed and my hands put themselves in motion in that little waiting room as I remembered that fateful, beautiful day back in November 2013 when God brought us our first three kids, the eldest of which is now on the cusp of turning 17 years old, “I mean, we had wanted to receive little children! Like 2 or 4 years old! As you can imagine, they supposedly bring less baggage…”

She nodded in agreement. I continued, “But when we entered that busy government complex with dozens of kids running around everywhere — me greeting little guys right and left, seeing tons of kids jumping around, sliding on swing sets! — and I suddenly laid eyes on her, God spoke to my heart and said as clear as day ‘She will be your daughter.'”

I jumped ahead to the part where the head honcho at the government agency brought us the three kids he had supposedly mentioned to us via telephone — a young sibling group with the eldest, a male, being nine years old. “And then the director came around the corner, not with the kids he had mentioned, but rather with the girl whom God had told me would be our daughter! There she was with her two younger siblings! I asked her how old she was…” I began laughing out loud as I continued onward in the very familiar story that has forever changed our lives: “…and she responded ’13.’ Thirteen!

I continued as the doctor’s wife listened with eyes widened with intrigue, with glee: “You know that in this country girls who are 11, 12, 13 years old oftentimes already have children! I mean, to receive a 13-year-old girl into your home as a daughter — without knowing virtually any of her history! — is crazy!”

She nodded in total agreement. My mind spun, now not only from the Typhoid but also in joyful response to this sensation of fast-forwarding that I was mentally experiencing in regard to our journey with our eldest daughter. “Oh, her mother and the majority of her older female relatives are all prostitutes! It has been so hard to break those generational chains — we have been through so much with her, cried in desperation, felt we had reached our limit on dozens of occasions! — but I tell you that now, almost four years later, she is closely walking with the Lord and was publicly baptized last year! She continues to live in our home and under our authority; she is our daughter and we’re in the process of legally adopting her. God’s work has been great!”

To jump from beginning to present-day as I had just done — to remember and even share with someone else the reality in as few  words as possible of all that God has done over the course of these 2, 3 or 4 years (depending on each kid’s arrival date), does great things to encourage the heart. In the mundane, in the fire of the trial, in times of fasting and weeping on their behalf, it can perhaps be easily lost on us the miraculous, transformative work that God is doing in our midst. But to take it all in in a single snapshot: to remember the tragic, against-the-odds beginning, fast-forward the years of daily battles and victories, and take in the God-ordained present reality of redemption and transformation — wow! This gives me new fuel.

I felt greatly encouraged by God’s extremely visible hand over her life, and I added: “Being her mom — specifically her mom, not even mentioning our journeys with the other kids — has been absolutely the most difficult, most precious thing God has led me to do in this life. I’ve never done anything harder or more beautiful.”

And so, as one story led to the next and our dialogue deepened and expanded, sharing and encouraging one another in Christ, I left that little clinic under the dark night sky feeling more encouraged than I had expected to. I sensed it was a blessed joy sent specifically from God to lighten my heart during this current season: if our journey with Dayana, our eldest, has been so absolutely demanding — and so absolutely worth it, despite whatever happens in these coming years — can I not participate with Father God even now in anticipating another entirely unique redemptive story in Katy’s life? I felt Father God was rubbing His palms together enthusiastically with a big smile on His face, helping me to remember His absolute faithfulness towards us with each of our other kids as He wanted to incite my heart toward burning joy and great faith in regards to what He has in store for Katy and her little brother.

Please pray with and for us during this time, as the lawyer’s pending visit to investigate Katy’s living situation is three days away. Pray that nothing would interfere with her completing her promised visit, and that all the necessary people involved — Katy’s mom, Katy herself, etc — would be at home and willing to receive the government workers when they arrive Wednesday morning. Please pray, too, for my health, as my activities have been extremely restricted over the last several days and I’ve had to visit a local clinic to receive additional IV treatments since. Pray that the Typhoid fever would be eliminated from my body along with this long-standing virus so that I may regain health and vitality.

Thank you! Amen!