Tag Archives: Gospel

2017 Yearend Update

Friday we finished up our last day of regular classes, Bible study and dynamic group activities as the Honduran school year is coming to a close. In the ensuing days there has been much cleaning out of classrooms and office spaces, great administrative effort to close up the year well, and the moving of furniture from one little building to another to convert our primary schoolhouse into a quaint (and rather bare) guesthouse/multi-purpose building for our vacation time.

On Monday we had our last official meeting with our small but extremely devoted team of Honduran teachers/missionaries to pray together and wrap everything up logistically. But, rather than it just being the 7 of us sitting in a circle in one of our classrooms to direct the usual meeting, we had a special guest. One of our male students who has just completed his first full year of classes and discipleship with us at the Living Waters Ranch had asked permission to come to the all-adult meeting in order to share his testimony and thank us for leading him to the Lord. We’ve known him on and off for nearly four years, and he’s always been extremely timid and seemingly on the verge of joining a gang or escaping illegally to the United States. (Alas, he was one of the local vagabonds last year who mocked our students who got baptized in the river near his home! Look at all the Lord has done in him since!)

This particular young man is on the cusp of turning 18 years old and is just now finishing 7th grade. He sat in our midst in his skinny jeans with a soccer shirt and metal chain hanging casually from around his neck. On the outside, he looked like any other male teen in our area, but his eyes were aglow with life, with joy, and you could sense he was at total peace. As we each greeted him warmly at the beginning of the meeting, asking him how he felt, he kept shaking his head back and forth with a huge smile on his face (not typical of any male teen around these parts), and said more than once, “I’m just so happy about all the changes that are going on inside of me…”

All eyes trained on him – alas, this was the first time any of our students had asked permission to come to one of our planning meetings in order to share their testimony! – he began speaking, full of confidence and wisdom, as he ended up pouring his heart out for nearly an hour about how his relationship with Christ has completely changed his entire perspective. We knew this to be true as we had seen a dramatic transformation in him after many, many seeds of truth were sown in him through our Bible studies, prayer groups, individual counsel and encouragement with Darwin and Erick, and his 7th grade teacher’s spiritual investment in his life everyday in the classroom. His heart had gone from cold and disinterested to burning hot for God, and just a few weeks ago he made the decision to give his life to the Lord. He spoke with great joy and accuracy about how he used to be a vagabond; used to live totally immersed in sexual sin; used to not love his brothers and parents (and much less his enemies); used to fear the many dangerous men who roam about our neighborhood (without fearing the Lord). Now, knowing Christ and fully experiencing God’s love for him, his whole life is changing. Now he expresses love and gratitude to his family members; he asks forgiveness when he’s sinned; he listens to praise music rather than worldly music; he longs for his life to bear good fruit for God’s glory; and he loves to be close to God’s Word. If I were to write everything he said, it would take pages. In short, God radically changed the course of this young man’s life, and He is now using him as a Godly influence to reach other teens in our neighborhood with the message of Christ (not to mention his immediate family who is directly impacted by the life of God now in him).

That definitely makes every ounce of effort worth it (and leads us to give thanks to God for making all those little seeds – however imperfectly they were sown – take root and grow)!

And so today is our official celebration day as each of our students and their families will come over for an entire afternoon of year-end presentations and activities, including choir performances, a 2-mile road race involving the local community, a PowerPoint presentation of all the photos we’ve taken this year, and several other musical and dance performances by our students. At the end of the event, our students will receive their official report cards, and then we won’t see the majority of them again until January (if, in fact, they decide to continue studying with us next year).

This is a sentimental and slightly delicate time of year emotionally, as we know that a handful of the students whom we love will not be returning next year. For some, they never caught the vision or aren’t willing to persevere long enough for God to begin to work in their lives; for others, they prefer to attend the local public high school where corruption abounds and it is much easier to slip under the radar without having done much work at all. Despite our earnest, repeated efforts to seek out and encourage the lost sheep, there were over a dozen local youth who dropped out throughout the course of the year. We see them now roaming our rural neighborhood largely as vagabonds without any direction, and we always greet them warmly and remind them that they have an open door here if they should ever decide to return.

We understand that just about everything that is taught and lived here at the Living Waters Ranch is very counter-cultural (and goes against the general worldly stream as a whole), so on the one hand we are really surprised and grateful that so many of our students have been granted the divine wisdom and dogged willingness to want to participate at all! (Now that’s a good perspective to have! Praise God!)

We are officially ending our second school year of discipleship-based community homeschool with 35 full-time students, 5 part-time students and our special-needs foster son Josue, who serves as everyone’s ‘assistant’ and best friend. Several of our more faithful students have communicated enthusiastically to Darwin and me that no matter what, they’ll be back next year to continue growing in Christ with us and acquiring a vast array of academic and life skills. That makes our heart grow in joy and gratitude, as we earnestly desire to walk long-term with each of the youth under our care, not only the 10 who live with us as sons and daughters but also those from our local neighborhood who spend the majority of their daytime hours in our home and classrooms.

And so, today we will say goodbye and enter a new (albeit very short) season of vacation from the typical community hospitality and teaching we participate in 10-11 months of the year. Our local teachers/missionaries and students will have free time to spend with their families and continue to grow in God’s will as Darwin and I will work privately at the ongoing task of taming our 10 foster kids/teens with God’s love.

In these next few days Darwin has many choir events back-to-back as he will be shuttling his young singers all over the place to spread joy and sing hymns. Erick, one of the local missionaries who labors alongside of us, has great plans to take the teenagers who participate in the youth group he hosts in his home (several of which are our foster children) to a local prison to minister to the prisoners and – on another occasion – to downtown La Ceiba to pray for the homeless and drug-addicts. Several of our older teens also have plans to visit the poor and sick in our neighborhood during their vacation time as they seek to bless Christ in disguise.

Sandra, the local teen who lived with us for a season before returning to live with her mother, will be coming up to our home almost daily to give one-on-one literacy classes to her mom, who due to extreme poverty and social disadvantage never learned to read and write. Our daughter Jackeline will likewise be giving intensive math tutoring classes to our two new daughters (Carolina, 15 and Paola, 14) in the hope of getting them up to speed for next school year. Several of our foster teens, two of our teachers and I will be heading out of town to attend a Christian youth conference this weekend, and on Monday we’ll be receiving a visit from a very special friend and missionary who has been serving in Honduras over 25 years. Then my dad comes down for several days (which our kids are especially stoked about).

During these vacation times we will continue to wash our clothes by hand; between all 12 of us we’ll take turns cooking family meals 2-3 times a day; and we’ll continue to ask for God’s grace as we learn to love Him and one another.

Although I feel that I have more to write now than ever, I will most likely take a break from maintaining the blog in December as I devote myself more fully to the cultivation of our children and our relationship with Christ, especially because our kids will not be in classes and will need me to be more fully present.

Thank you to all of you who read this blog and keep us in your prayers before the Lord. For those who are wondering about my ongoing healing from chronic insomnia, it is still a daily battle. In addition to my natural supplements, I have begun taking a strong prescription sleeping aid that does help me get a full night’s sleep, but it leaves me feeling drugged and dizzy all the next day. If I don’t take it, I don’t sleep. If I do, then I feel really weird the whole next day. (So I’m left to choose the lesser of two evils).

Please continue to pray for my integral health, sincere love and joy in our marriage (amidst many daily commitments which sometimes put great pressure on our relationship), and God’s protection over our lives and property. There is much to be thankful for. He has done mighty things this year. Praise God!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. God bless you.

The ‘Praise Parade’: Follow-Up to Friday’s Cow Massacre

Last Friday I wrote about the sudden, tragic deaths of our two adult milking cows at the hands of professional cattle thieves. It was a heavy, sullen morning (as I wrote about in the previous post), but today I’m going to write about the events that occurred later that afternoon.

That same day our car had broken down, so our 14-year-old daughter Jackeline approached us around noon, the air around all of us heavy due to the shock we were still experiencing from what had happened to our cows earlier that morning, and asked carefully, “…Are we still going to go to the park today?” She was one of the few in our discipleship-based community homeschool who had gone the entire month without a single detention, so she was fishing to see if the prize would get pushed back or forgotten altogether due to the heavy atmosphere plus the fact that we had no vehicle to reach our destination.

I confirmed to her that, yes, we would still be going to the park. On foot. After all, we had announced the end-of-the-month trip-to-the-park prize weeks earlier as an incentive to our students to be diligent with their responsibilities, and we earnestly try to fulfill our word.

So Friday afternoon at 3:00pm we rounded up our small group of local students plus our own kiddos who had gone the entire month without getting sent to detention (it was a small group indeed!) and we informed them that we would walk from our remote rural property down to a local park for the afternoon of fun we had promised them.

And so that is how we went. Emotionally heavy and on the brink of exhaustion we closed up our little houses and front gate and began walking down that long gravel path exiting our property.

As Darwin and I walked hand-in-hand to our outer front gate, we noticed that all the teens who had walked out of the gate ahead of us were waiting patiently in a big group right near the bloody hides we had discovered that same morning.

We thanked them for waiting for us, and I began walking alongside of 17-year-old Sandra — the local teen who lived with us for a season and who has been restored to her biological mom after the mom (who cannot read or write but has a beautiful relationship with God) valiantly left behind her abusive husband, established healthy boundaries and began serving with us part-time. I walked and giggled alongside of Sandra– to whom we serve as her ‘second family’ — extending my long legs to kick her in the butt when she walked in front of me.

Sandra’s mom (Geraldina) and several other students and children/teens of ours were accompanying us, some kicking around a soccer ball as they walked; others walking in pairs and small groups, laughing and chit-chatting. Sandra had a little portable speaker device blasting upbeat Christian music, and before we knew it we all literally began singing and dancing down that path, traipsing over the path of slaughter with light footsteps filled with laughter and joy.

The music blasted, proclaiming of the inner fount of joy in every believer as I began doing some silly dance moves. I looked over at Sandra’s mom — a very quiet and timid woman with fierce faith in Christ — and I laughed out loud and said, “Hey! This is like a parade for Jesus!” She laughed along with me as I hip-bumped Sandra and we were all consumed in laughter and praises in the most unlikely of places.

And so we passed — dancing/running on foot and with praise music blasting — those same neighboring properties I had visited earlier that day to share with them the weight of our tragedy. I felt eyes trained on our joyous parade as I could feel their unspoken question from where they stood or worked in their yards: How on earth are these people so joyous (and so childish!) — how dare they dance and sing?! — after what just happened to them this morning?

Thus our parade of praise continued onward for close to a mile as we dropped Sandra and her mom off near their home (after much effort and saving, they’ve constructed their own wood-planked home, a refuge where Geraldina can raise Sandra and her other three children free of the step-father’s abuse) and we continued onward toward the park, hand-in-hand with our children, all of our burdens literally laid at the foot of the cross.

So the miracle in the midst of the tragedy is that God has granted us increasing joy and freedom; we haven’t fallen into fear, anger or worry. Our 16-year-old son Brayan has been working diligently with our night watchman to make an enclosed corral for our cows each night (so that they are closer to our home and thus perhaps harder to reach by thieves), and we continue onward with great assurance in our Provider and Protector, no matter what happens in the coming months and years.

Sunday morning — two days after the morning massacre and the afternoon praise parade — I sat in a small circle in Erick and Aracely’s home (a local couple whom the Lord has brought to labor alongside of us and who work very closely with the teens in our neighborhood in discipleship/hospitality) for a time of worship, Bible study and prayer. Geraldina, Sandra’s mom (one of the participants in the praise parade two days prior) sat right next to me.

Each person freely shared what the Lord was doing in their lives, and after a couple people had spoken I began to share with them what the Lord was doing in our own hearts through what had happened to our cows only two days prior. Everyone in our intimate circle knew exactly what had happened (news spreads fast here), and all had shared in our sorrow over the injustice of the matter. Erick, after all, had lived with and served alongside of us in 2014 and helped care for the two cows who were slaughtered and felt deeply enraged by the news.

However, the Lord opened my mouth to speak of the incident not as a story of woe, fear or self-pity but rather of power, joy and freedom in Christ. I spoke freely of the Lord’s abundant blessing in ‘lending’ us the cows for the four years we had them. They were, after all, given to us as a gift from Darwin’s family. We had not purchased them; we had paid virtually nothing in their daily care and had reaped great gains (milk and the selling of their calves) with little effort on our part. Their living on our property and birthing several calves had all been part of God’s grace. The Lord gives and He takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord. We can be upset that the cows were taken away, or we can rejoice over the season of grace that the Lord allowed us.

In that moment I began laughing and mentioned our completely impromptu “praise parade” the same day of the massacre. I glanced over at Geraldina, Sandra’s mom, as she smiled and agreed that the Lord truly had given us all joy in the midst of what could have potentially been a prolonged period of mourning and fear.

Once I finished sharing, Geraldina spoke up. She has been a desperately poor woman (materially) the majority of her life, but she has been closely walking with Christ for several years and has deep communion with Him. Rejected by most people and well-acquainted with suffering, but approved (and highly treasured by) the Most High. On many occasions she has talked with Darwin and I in private to share with us different dreams the Lord gives her, many of which have come true. We have oftentimes marveled at this gift; for it was the Lord — through a dream — that directed her to us for the first time in 2016 and told her that her daughter Sandra would find refuge in our home to escape the step-father’s abuse until the mom, too, could escape in the ensuing months.

She began, carefully. Oftentimes we have to lean in close to hear her, as she speaks very softly. She laughed a little and admitted, “Sandra tells me I’m crazy when I share with her the different dreams the Lord gives me…but this one I feel like I have to share.”

We all leaned in closer. We knew she wasn’t crazy. She continued. “The night the cows were killed, I was overcome with an intense fever and anguish in my spirit, although I didn’t know why. I felt extremely ill and like I could sense in my body that something terrible was going to happen, but at the time I didn’t know what it was. That night I dreamt that there was a great massacre; there was blood everywhere — but I couldn’t tell who or what was killed. Then, in the next part of the dream I was with several of you and we were all dancing and singing praises to God, like in a parade down a long path.”

I sat not 8 inches from her, eyes wide with wonder. She continued, now stating the obvious, “And then, the next morning — Friday — I went to work at the Ranch and heard the news of the cows and understood that was what God had revealed to me in the dream. And then, later that day, we all began dancing and singing praises to God in our ‘parade.'” She began giggling, as we all knew that we had never — literally never — before had any other kind of ‘praise parade’ (and much less after a tragic slaughter). After all, we would have taken our car (thus eliminating any opportunity for a ‘parade’) had it not been broken down. What were the chances? This dream had truly come from God. He had planned all along to turn our mourning into dancing. Beauty for ashes. Wow.

And so we continue onward with great faith as He is working out among us many such miracles of grace, moments of wonder, divine joy and communion with other believers. Be encouraged as we are!

Glory to God! Amen!

The “Living Waters Bridge” — Braving the Rainy Season

In Honduras when there are heavy rains, almost everything comes to a hault. Schools cancel classes; certain businesses close down for the day; people stay in their homes. We are currently in the midst of a pretty strong tropical storm, so via the radio we’ve heard over the past couple days that most schools are on “red alert” and thus have cancelled classes. The rains have been constant, and there has been pretty severe flooding.

At the Living Waters Ranch where we live and serve, we do not consider weather inconveniences to be sufficient reason to halt the work the Lord has entrusted us, and all of our students and teachers know this well. Rain or shine (literally) — even when all other local schools are closed down and their students remain cooped up at home all day — we continue onward with the lifestyle of discipleship, outreach and teaching with Christ as our guide.

So, as the rains pounded all last night and the radio announced that schools would be closed down, my husband and I awoke to our usual 5:00am alarm and got our 10 kids up and ready for school. We laughed and said, “Although certain students in other schools may not be able to receive their education today due to flooding, seeing as y’all are homeschooled, I’m pretty sure we can reach the classroom!”

Everyone in our household put on their uniform in the dim morning light and got ready for a “normal” school day, although we were pretty sure almost none of our local students would brave the heavy rains (everyone arrives on foot or bicycle). A few of our teachers even called saying that the roads were closed and that they wouldn’t be able to come in. Our kids hoped against hope that we would throw up our hands and give in, but we headed to our large cement-floored dining room to get ready for worship and Bible study as we would on any other Thursday, fully convinced that it might just be our family in there without our 30 local students and teachers joining us.

As we quietly served breakfast — the rains pounding down on our tin roof nonstop and our front yard converting itself into a large lagoon — our 14-year-old daughter Jackeline shouted, “One’s coming up the path!”

Sure enough, one of our faithful students — going completely against every cultural norm in this country — had decided to walk up muddy, flooded paths under heavy rain to attend classes even when all other schools in our area were on break today.

Then another came. Then another. Before we knew it, all but about three or four of our students had arrived.

We laughed as each student tried to figure out exactly how to enter through our front gate, seeing as the large lagoon-ocean of muddy water had created quite the obstacle to cross. Then our 13-year-old daughter Gleny said, “Why don’t we put down tires to make a path?” Perfect!

That was all it took for several soaking wet collaborators to begin seeking out and hauling over various old tires that we use for different P.E. activities. We were forming the “Living Waters Bridge” for our dedicated students and teachers to pass across without having to get ankle-to-knee-deep in water! Soon enough everyone was laughing wildly and helping one another across the slippery “bridge” as they crossed the threshold onto our property for classes.

And so we enjoyed an extended worship time with all who showed up, and just as we were about to break into our prayer groups, a car pulled up with three of our teachers who had been delayed due to the flooded roads. Everyone had made it!

Glory to God! Enjoy the photos…

The “Living Waters Bridge”!
(This is actually a reenactment of the real arrival of our students. The first time around we didn’t have the camera, so we sent everyone out again so we could take photos!)

 

September 2017 Prayer Requests and Triumphs

Below are our current prayer requests and triumph reports from our life of service with Christ in Honduras. Thank you for your interest in supporting/following this work.
***All of the photos on this post were taken by Isabel Dayton during her visit to the Living Waters Ranch a couple months ago. Even though the work at the ranch has continued onward in my absence and I’m in frequent touch with those in Honduras, we don’t have any new photos at this time. (I’ll try to take some once I’m back in the routine of service next week.) Thank you and God bless!
1. We are coming to the end of our second full school year of Spirit-led “discipleship-based community homeschool” with roughly 40 students who meet daily in our home (the Living Waters Ranch) for a complete homeschool curriculum that we’ve designed/tweaked over these last two years as God has led. The Honduran school calendar runs from February — November, so we are nearing the end of school and are reflecting back on all that has happened this year. The Lord brought new key Honduran missionaries/teachers/pastors to our team; He brought additional students, all of whom come from very broken places; and we’ve all learned a lot (sometimes the hard way) and are actively drawing near to the Lord as we seek to walk alongside of the children/youth in our school in the Way of Christ. We simply give thanks to God for allowing us to participate on this great adventure and for the fact that many kids/teens are coming into a saving knowledge of Christ and are genuinely walking with Him. Nothing has been easy, but it has absolutely been worth it. Classes will wind down and come to a close in November, and then all of our teachers and students will reconvene in early January to begin prayerfully planning for the new school year. Please continue to pray for God’s protection and blessing over our community homeschool — the lives of all our students, that of our teachers, the physical protection of our property where we live and serve, etc — as Honduras is a very dangerous country. He has protected us until now, so we eagerly press onward.
 
2. We thank God for His continued provision over our lives, as we have lacked nothing in these 5+ years of serving Christ by faith in Honduras. We thank God for His miraculous provision (in every sense of the word — financial provision, His way of bringing each of our local teachers/missionaries to work alongside of us, His provision of believers who actively intercede for this mission, people who lend us their expertise, the wisdom and discernment He has provided when we have needed it most, etc) and stand in awe of His power made manifest in our little corner of the globe. Thanks be to God.
 
3. We are currently facing several potential complications/frustrations in regards to the process of legally adopting 4 of the 8 children my husband and I are fostering. We have had to switch lawyers and are having to re-submit much of our paperwork, so please pray first and foremost that this process (which tends to put our nerves on end, especially as we are coming into close contact with a third-world government that suffers from great corruption, inefficacy, etc) would bring us great joy rather than stress, as we are earnestly convinced that God wants us to be family forever to our kids, and that makes the legal hassles and uncertainties worth it. Please pray that the government may have favor upon us, that everything would be expedited as much as possible, and that all monetary costs involved in the adoption would be provided for (as all of our needs are). Thank you.
4. I will give a quick update in regards to 12-year-old Josselyn, one of the young women who has formed part of our family since July 2015 and for whom many of you had been praying in months prior. She had gone through a very rough season earlier this year as she even ran away from our home twice in search of her biological family (where she had been sexually abused and generally neglected), thus I had solicited urgent prayer on her behalf. She continues to live with us to this day, and she has not run away again (or even threatened to do so) in these last several months. She and her little sister Gabriela (Gaby) are currently in a season of monthly monitored visits with their biological family members, and thus far we have been able to maintain a respectful relationship and kind with them, so we thank God for this emotional stability in Josselyn’s life as she has accepted that her home (at least for now) is with us, and we ask God’s continued blessing and guidance over these monthly family visits. We are unable to adopt these two girls because their biological family is still closely involved, so we simply ask that each day the Lord would accompany us as we seek to parent and love them without holding on too tightly or feeling threatened by their biological family. Our payer is that the peace of Christ reign in our relationship with our 2 girls and their biological family members, and that God’s will be freely done. Amen.
5. Lastly, as many were informed, I had come back to the States for roughly five-and-a-half weeks in August/September for emergency medical, spiritual and emotional intervention as I had reached a breaking point in Honduras and could not go on without receiving help. I had been struggling with debilitating insomnia for several years and, as a result, had contracted any and all viruses, tropical fevers, etc, one right after another and was spending more time in bed receiving shots/IVs/antibiotics than I was participating in our daily life of service, so I accepted my parents’ offer at help and came back to San Antonio, TX in search of healing. I’ve written about this journey in greater detail in the prior post, so you may click on it if you would like to know more about my healing journey. I will be heading home to Honduras in three days. Please continue to pray for my ongoing recovery so that I may be as healthy of an instrument as possible in God’s hands, and let us thank Him for fully orchestrating my visit to San Antonio, my diagnosis, several breakthroughs I experienced, provision to cover medical costs, etc. Thank you.
I could probably list many more prayer requests and triumphs, but I will leave it at that for now. If you or anyone you know is not currently receiving our periodic printed newsletter and would like to receive it (it contains photos, testimonies/stories, etc, very similar to this blog), please send me via email that person’s name and physical mailing address so that they may be included on the mailing list. Thank you again for partnering with us in this amazing Kingdom work; God bless you.
With peace and gratitude in Christ,
Jennifer, for Darwin and all of our kids/teachers