Tag Archives: Great Commission

Buried in Baptism, Raised with Christ

Two Thursdays ago we held a baptism for our children, students and neighbors who desired to publicly be buried with Christ and raised with Him to new life.

God planted this desire in us because several of the children/youth in our school (and in our household) had confessed faith in Christ over the past months and years but had yet to be baptized. Also, a beloved adult neighbor of ours shared with us that she had long-since desired to be baptized but her local church refused to do so despite the fact that she had been faithfully attending the church and obeying God’s will for many years.

Taking that as our cue along with Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything [He] has commanded [us],” we scheduled the baptism a couple days out and extended the invitation.

As a community, family and school, we have been faithfully proclaiming God’s Word to the same small group of people several times per week in our rustic dining room since February, so the baptism gave the opportunity of confession to those who have been exposed to God’s Word this year but perhaps had not come to confess faith in Christ in a public way.

We met up on a gravel road about a mile from our home alongside a local river. Some arrived walking; others found our car passing through town and hopped in the truckbed. Below are the photos that were taken during that beautiful morning.

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Before beginning the baptisms in a local river, we gathered together with our foster kids, the majority of our students, our three teachers, our night watchman and his wife, my mom and step-dad and several other neighbors to read aloud the majority of the book of Romans as we all meditated on what it means to be buried with Christ in baptism and thus raised with Him in new life.

 

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My husband Darwin as we went down to the river

 

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Miss Luz (a local believer who serves as our special needs teacher), Darwin and I praying before receiving those who desired to be baptized

 

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The first one to come down to the river to be baptized was Sandra’s mom, Geraldina (pictured above in the yellow blouse). Sandra is a 15-year-old local teen who lived with us for the greater part of this year in refuge of a situation of abuse at home with her step-dad. Sandra’s mom has been a very sincere, humble believer for many years and was finally able to escape from the control of the abusive step-father several months ago as she has valiantly been looking for new, healthier beginnings for her and her four children (Sandra included). When we finished praying and looked to the shore to see who wanted to be baptized first, she was standing there eagerly with a big smile on her face. Praise God!

 

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Sandra, Geraldina’s daughter (who has also been like a daughter to us during this past year as she lived under our roof from February to August), was the second person to get baptized!

 

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16-year-old Dayana, our eldest daughter who has been living with us almost three years and whom we are in the process of legally adopting, was next!

 

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Risen to new life in Christ!

 

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Jackeline, our 13-year-old daughter who has been living under our roof nearly two years, was next in line!

 

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12-year-old Josselyn, another one of our precious daughters (we have quite a few!) also decided to get baptized publicly!

 

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My ‘Wild Gleny’ was the next one in line! Praise God for this huge step in her life! May God continue to be glorified in and through her!

 

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This is Cristian, a 13-year-old young man in our primary school who is one of our night watchman’s children. He arrived at our front gate roughly two years ago without ever having entered school. He and three of his siblings have been studying in our homeschool-style primary school program ever since, and they’ve learned to read, write and do basic math in addition to being continually exposed to God’s love. In the accelerated program he’s in for older students, Cristian is about to graduate fourth grade with very good grades. He also plays recorder in Darwin’s musical group and is a very faithful member in the weekly Christian Leadership class I teach.

 

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Cristian was the only one of his siblings who decided to get baptized. During the sharing of God’s Word before the baptism, God touched Cristian’s parents’ hearts to make a commitment to Christ as well, so they are in the process of legalizing their marital union as they’ve asked us to help them plan a double celebration in the upcoming months: their wedding and baptism!

 

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Here comes Brayan! We are so proud of this young man who lived with us for 8 months in 2014 and continues to be like a son to us. He’s been in 5th grade with us for nearly three years, and in these past few months he’s begun to develop a really good work ethic even though academically he continues to struggle due to abuse/neglect suffered in his early childhood. He’s becoming quite the gentleman and remains very involved in Bible study, Christian Leadership, and several other clubs at the Living Waters Ranch in addition to accompanying us on various family outings. A couple days prior to the actual baptism when we announced that those who wanted to get baptized would be able to do so, he was the first one to raise his hand and announce in front of the large group that he wanted to be baptized!

 

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Our 9-year-old son Jason was next!

 

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Charlie, a 13-year-old precious young man in our secondary school program (7th grade) also decided to get baptized. Please pray with us for Charlie and the commitment he has made to follow Christ, as he recently left his parents’ home and has been making very poor choices. He will most likely not pass 7th grade as our school year comes to a close next month, so please pray for wisdom and an increased work ethic on his part as he actively seeks for God to transform him according to His good will.

 

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This elderly man is Sandra’s great-grandfather. He accompanied Sandra, her mom, and younger siblings at the baptismal event to support them but had not planned on being baptized himself. Upon hearing God’s Word, he felt called to become a ‘new creature’ in Christ, so he, too, entered the waters to proclaim faith in the Savior. He was very excited to do so and has since asked us for a Bible to deepen his understanding of God’s will.

 

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One of Sandra’s younger sisters, Paoli, was next! She is one of the great-granddaughters of the elderly man who was baptized.

 

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Rolan, a very kind young man in our 7th-grade program, was the last one to get baptized. He is always very attentive during Bible study and has a mind that is very hungry for the truth. He had talked with us at length a couple days before the baptism about the many questions he had about getting baptized, and we were wonderfully surprised that he took the leap to publicly proclaim his faith in Christ as he entered the waters two days later at the public event. He is one of our better students academically and recently told us that he has been very content this year to be in our program as he had not previously had people in his life to lovingly guide him according to God’s Word.

 

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Amen! Glory to God!

 

Alone Before the Throne: My Last Day at the Episcopal School

A few weeks ago I taught my last youth leadership class in the Episcopal School, that old light-teal-colored three-story building in downtown La Ceiba where the Lord first began training me back in 2012 for the work He has currently entrusted us.

As the magnitude of the work at the Living Waters Ranch (where my husband and I live and labor 7 days a week) has grown over these past two and a half years, we have recently made the decision to withdraw from our part-time labors at the Episcopal School in order to focus entirely on our Father’s purposes in our little rural town on the outskirts of La Ceiba.

So I arrived about an hour before class on that final Monday with my black suitcase filled with dry erase markers, my students’ journals and little candy treats. In a very real way I was burdened with joy, with gratitude.

I asked one of the full-time teachers at the school to unlock the multi-purpose/storage room for me. I had been assigned that room during the last couple months once the air-conditioned upstairs library room had become highly coveted among the other teachers.

As he unlocked that utterly undesirable room at the end of the first-floor passageway, I sighed as I found my classroom as I had found it every Monday prior: desks in total disarray, someone else’s trash littering the ground, boxes of this-and-that thrown about in the back, supplies from some other teacher’s project left haphazardly about, a couple rouge foosball tables here and there to add to the overall eye-sore effect. Some little empty milk cartons tossed about on the tile floor, a layer of very tangible dust covering almost everything.

I set my black suitcase – my mobile classroom, in effect – down along one of the walls and calmly set about ordering half of the classroom while pushing all that I didn’t need to the other half.

Seeing as I had always preferred that my students sit on the floor, every Monday I would lift and move the desks and chairs, creating a very free floorspace for us to sit in a circle and grow together.

Boxes, foosball tables and other miscellaneous objects moved to the back half of the classroom, whiteboard wiped down, trash ‘swept’ away with my foot because a broom was not found. Laptop turned on with Spanish praise and worship music now majestically filling the unlikeliest of spaces. Ready.

As I participated in this familiar routine for the last time, the heaviness in the room became palpable. Standing still, my eyes travelled up to the itty-bitty windows at the top of the back wall of the classroom, opened to allow in the smallest amount of light and fresh breeze. An overgrown tree-plant from outside extended a few of its nosy branches into our sacred space.

In this room – in my posture before the Lord – stillness had become my close friend.

This is God’s will. His Word being preached, His children being instructed not from a grand stage but in abandoned rooms.

God’s wisdom seems like foolishness to the worldly ‘wise’ while He laughs at human ‘wisdom’ and calls us all to become fools for His sake. I’m sure that every other teacher and employee at this school is certain nothing good could ever happen in this dirty storage room, but if only they knew what I know, what my students know! Here we find the Master; here we learn His ways.

How many times during my first year in Honduras when I was 22 years old and single did I find Him two rooms over in what was then my first-grade classroom all alone at the end of a hard day, praising His name in the midst of seemingly insurmountable difficulties?

After having been promised 12-15 manageable students in my bilingual first grade classroom as a first-time teacher fresh out of college and living on my own in a new country, it turned out that 28 had been entrusted to my care, none of which showed any mercy to their young teacher who had zero training or experience. Oh, how difficult that first year was, but how closely I felt His hand over me, over my little ones! How many times did I reach the point of weeping – whether for joy, out of profound gratitude, or exhausted by frustration – in this old, teal-colored building tragically situated in the city that has recently been considered to be the murder capital of the world? How many times have I found Him here, alone, as I do even now on what is my last day? Thank You, Father, for these precious moments of stillness in Your presence.

As in any marital situation or large family, in our daily work at the Living Waters Ranch with the 8 children/youth the Lord has brought us to raise as His sons and daughters mixed in with the 20+ other youth from our rural neighborhood who frequent our home/mission for school and discipleship, it is all too easy to get swept-up in a group mentality. It becomes natural to ‘put family first,’ or enjoy the general feeling of ‘we’re all in this together.’ Now that we’ve become accustomed to loving one another for God’s glory, what on earth would we do if someday we become separated?

While these are not bad thoughts, we must understand that each person’s journey begins and ends standing alone before His throne.

It was alone that I began this journey with my Lord back in 2012, certain of His calling on my life whether single or married – I had not even met my husband and had no idea who my children would be! – and here I was alone once again as this precious chapter was being closed. Four years after the journey began, there I stood deeply scarred and torn — formed — by the myriad experiences the Lord had led me through henceforth.

Likewise, at some point in the unknown future – possibly losing spouse and/or children to tragedy, as is all too common here and in the world at large – I may return to such a state of singleness, aloneness in the Lord’s presence.

As every person must come to wholly recognize in their own lives, my beloved husband and the children whom I so adore do not constitute my walk with the Lord; He is who He is whether the blessing of their presence is granted me or taken away. The Lord’s mission is not realized exclusively on ‘mission bases’ in the foothills of majestic mountains or in organized church environments; it is also realized in hectic urban schools and abandoned storage rooms like the one in which I found myself.

So my students began arriving about half an hour later in their two separate groups: first hour with my fourth- and fifth-graders, second hour with my sixth- and seventh-graders, most of whom I had known since Day 1 of entering the Kindergarten-12th grade Episcopal School in 2012. Coaching them in extracurricular basketball teams, being the full-time first-grade teacher of some, getting to know one another during organized visits to our home/mission out in the countryside, preaching the message during their scheduled ‘church’ time on several occasions, or guiding them weekly through the personalized spiritual formation process in the various extracurricular programs the Lord had guided me to design over the past years. Oh, how many hours I had spent reading their journals, excitedly scribbling this or that insight the Lord had given me to continue forming them according to His wisdom and perfect love!

So our last day together was almost unbearably heavy yet ethereally light as the children and I shared some unspoken understanding, so obvious that no one dared cheapen it with words: The Lord has indeed moved among us. Their eyes said it as we opened up the Word one last time to reflect, sieve, press deeper and farther. My eyes said it as I searched their faces; undoubtedly the Truth had already begun consuming a small corner of their souls. Fan the flame, I prayed silently as I moved and taught among their cross-legged semi-circle on the floor.

The Lord placed the words in my mouth to teach His little ones: “None of this – none of these past four years of deep friendship, warm hugs, long letters and uncommon lessons – was from me or about you; it’s all about Him. Seek Him. Everything we have done and said here comes straight from His Word, straight from His heart. Carry the torch; continue the search; allow Him to transform your mind, your sight.”

Then, an uncommon, daring thought. I ventured to put it into words, praying they would understand: “Kids, if you’ve seen something different in me — and I’m certain you have — if you’ve wondered how on earth ‘Miss Jennifer’ always looks so joyful or why she really loves and treasures you while perhaps other adults generally do not or why she seems to see things differently than others  –”

As I sat among them in our tight circle, their eyes were trained on me and confirmed that, yes, they had unmistakably noticed something different about me during these last four years of close friendship, of discipleship that digs deep, sheds light on the darkness, transcends normal ‘teacher-student’ boundaries.

I dared to continue: “– It is God at work within me, the Creator of the universe manifesting Himself among us through me. It’s not ‘me.’ ‘Miss Jennifer’ is actually quite the gossiper, the money-lover, the lazy fool without God. If you’ve seen a distinct joy, a different perspective, an eternal hope, any pinch of wisdom, that is actually God within me, acting through me. If you’ve felt drawn to me as a teacher, it is because you have felt drawn to God. His Word teaches that He actually comes and lives within those who are submitted to His will; that is one of the ways He manifests Himself to humanity in the world today. So now on our last day together I beg you to keep reflecting on all that we’ve learned together, and may you see God Himself in my actions among you. And if you’ve seen any impatience or bad attitude, that’s ‘me;’ that’s not Him. That’s what’s left over of the ‘Miss Jennifer’ without God, and He’s still in the process of transforming that part, renewing and cleansing. But please know that God has indeed been moving among us, acting in and through us to make Himself and His perfect love known to us, and that He longs to work in such ways in and through each of you, thus captivating humanity with the utterly attractive nature of all that He is.”

Many things were said on that last Monday together, while at the same time very little was said while much was understood. It was a Great Commission of sorts, a sending out of those who have started the training process to continue onward with great faith while going out and training others to love and follow the Father in similar fashion.

As the last of my students left, my heart heavy as I embraced each one, I ended that day as I had started it. It was, in fact, how I had started this entire journey nearly four years ago: joyfully alone, trusting,  in an abandoned room in that old teal-colored building, focused on my Father alone.