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July 2016 Updates and Prayer Requests

School Schedule Revamped, Extracurricular ‘Clubs’ Instituted for Local Students

After having completed nearly six months of our new discipleship-based elementary and secondary schools at the Living Waters Ranch (13 students in secondary and 12 in primary), we’ve overhauled the weekly schedule to now include a variety of extracurricular ‘clubs’ that Darwin, our Christian laborers and I direct Monday-Friday in the afternoons once the students get out of their morning classes.

Students must participate in at least two ‘clubs’ (which could also be known as ‘electives’), but if they desire to participate in more (or all!), they are encouraged to do so. Available clubs include: sports, art, Christian leadership, cooking class, math, and recorder (music). Others participate in choir and private piano lessons with Darwin, although they are not counted as clubs.

This new way of directing our school has had the desired effect; the students are excited that they are able to choose what most interests them (the majority of schools here do not allow students to choose activities or classes; all is pre-chosen for them as all students — despite ability and interests — are grouped together constantly), and they are developing skills (team work, musical ability, spiritual leadership qualities, more ample mathematical understanding, healthy artistic expression, cooking skills, etc) that will aid them both now and in their future as adults.

Please pray with us that God would continue to guide us in the ongoing development of these clubs (and new clubs that we want to institute in the future!), and that all may be done for His glory.

 

Extreme Tick Infestation, Another Guard Dog Dies

For the past several months we have been engaged in an ongoing battle against the infestation of tens of thousands of ticks all over the fenced-in part of our yard in and around the little buildings where we live and teach.

We have sought professional advice and contracted different people to come out and fumigate the property, and all to no avail. Just this past week Dingo, our most aggressive guard dog, fell ill with a mysterious disease and died suddenly. All three of our guard dogs (now two that Dingo has passed) have struggled mightily against the tick infestation, as the little buggers are constantly attaching themselves onto our dogs in droves. We bathe them with anti-tick shampoo, give them anti parasitic pills that supposedly ward off ticks, but, despite our efforts,  hundreds of little baby ticks and bigger, inflated ticks are constantly sucking the life out of our dogs, leaving them thin and weak. This was the case with Dingo, and we learned that the ticks can cause an infection in the dog’s system, which can lead to death.

We are very concerned about our remaining two dogs (who are currently in medical treatment to fight against the same tick-caused infection that led to our other dog’s death) and are taking every possible measure to try to rid our rural property of ticks, but it seems like nothing is working. Please pray with us that a solution might be found and that our remaining two dogs might recuperate strength and vitality after such a long-standing battle against these parasites.

 

Miss Isis’ Move to the Living Waters Ranch a Success

Isis, our sister in Christ who was shown on the previous blog post with Gaby and Josue, made her scheduled move to begin living at the Living Waters Ranch at the beginning of this month. Thus far we have enjoyed a very healthy and dynamic relationship with her, good communication, and mutual joy as we are all growing together in Christ, sharing a common kitchen, and deepening our relationships with one another for God’s glory.

Please continue to pray that God’s will would be done in and through us and in our relationship with Isis, and let us give thanks for the great work of transformation and healing that He is doing in her life (and ours!).

 

Gabriela (8) and Josselyn (12), Sisters, Celebrate Their 1-Year Anniversary in Our Home

After having been rescued out of two distinct situations of sexual abuse and extreme neglect last July, Gabriela and Josselyn continue living under our roof and have enjoyed one full year of healing and growth.

During this year with them Josselyn has completed first and second grade in an accelerated homeschool program (and entered third grade last week with Miss Isis as her teacher), and Gabriela has begun recuperating a sense of innocence and play in what was a very twisted childhood she had previously experienced with her biological family. Josselyn has accepted Christ as her Savior during this time and Gaby has begun to pray for others.

Let us give thanks to God for these precious sisters, and please pray with us that our Father may continue to transform and heal them according to His good will.

 

Three New Students Join Our Primary School Program

Marina (age 14, third grade), Bayron (age 14, second grade) and Michelle (age 8, first grade) have joined our primary school program this past week as a new academic period has begun.

Marina, one of our night watchman’s four children who are in our program, decided to return to our school after having dropped out at the end of last year. The majority of our students, especially those in primary, are not accustomed to any kind of daily schedule or long-term commitments as they  were used to generally roaming the streets, sleeping all day and wasting their lives away prior to having entered our school. Last year Marina had struggled mightily with our school’s behavioral expectations and academic load, resigned to spend her life in front of the television and doing simple errands around our neighborhood on her bicycle (as countless youth in our rural neighborhood do). We are very excited that she became bored with that lifestyle and by God’s grace has returned to study alongside of her younger siblings.

Please pray with us for her perseverance, perspective and emotional health as she and her siblings are blazing a trail (that of attending school) that almost no one in their family has taken.

 

Jason (9) Begins Learning Piano, Sandra (16) Violin

Jason, who has been living under our roof almost three years, this month began taking piano lessons from his older sister, Dayana (15). We now have four of our kids in weekly piano lessons while Sandra (16), who has lived with us six months, has begun taking violin classes.

Please pray with us that all of the skills our kids are developing (musical or otherwise) would be put to joyful use in God’s service as they become increasingly useful instruments in His hands.

 

Young Dairy Cow Gives Birth, Provides Fresh Milk Daily

One of our two young adult dairy cows just gave birth to her second calf, a healthy male. Darwin milks her every morning at 5:00am before the daily buzz of activities begins, and we are so thankful that we now have several liters of fresh, organic milk for our growing kids to drink each day.  This helps alleviate grocery costs and obviously helps fortify our kids physically. Our other adult cow, who is very far along in her second pregnancy, is due to give birth within the next few weeks.

 

Twice-Weekly Bible Study, Worship, and Prayer Groups Continue

We continue to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays with our students, live-ins, and Christian laborers in our large dining room to study God’s Word together, sing His praises, and then break up into small groups to pray. We are seeing much fruit from these activities as our students are growing in the knowledge and love of God and are in the beginning stages of being transformed in a very real way for God’s glory.

Please pray with us that the many seeds of Truth that are being planted in our students’ lives both in group settings and one-on-one situations may bear fruit in their due time.

One of God’s Slow Miracles: Gabriela’s One-Year Anniversary

This past Saturday, July ninth, was little Gabriela’s one-year anniversary since moving into our home.

Although her annual landmark was written in large print on our family calendar hung on our living room wall, the day honestly came and went without much hoopla. Get up early, everyone does their chores, eat together, wash dishes, study God’s Word in our dining room, counsel the kids through various mini-crisis throughout the day, wash more dishes, seek one another out in love and forgiveness, spend a few hours supporting the older ones in their studies, watch a movie in the evening as a family.

In years past we celebrated not every year but every month a child was with us, for everything was so new and so difficult that each day survived was an incredible triumph. I remember celebrating Dayana, Gleny and Jason’s two-month, five-month, eight-month, year- and two-year anniversary with big poster boards, tender hugs, hand-written love notes, cake, balloons, and the like.

Now, however, with a bustling household of eight live-ins and even more students and Christian laborers, all of whom have many birthdays and countless anniversaries, the celebrations are becoming less extravagant as our days are now much more full of planned activity than they were before.

So on Gaby’s one-year anniversary as she and I walked hand-in-hand out to Dingo’s pen to fill up his dog bowl together, the Lord utilized that small time-frame to open my mind beyond the daily, the immediate, and allow the memories of an entire year spent with Gaby to flood over me, receiving each one with a heavy-laden gratitude, rattled by joy.

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Gaby, whom one year ago I had met for the first time, that little ANGEL IN THE WHITE DRESS with the shaved head, the dozens of bald patches that revealed peach-colored scalp all over. Gaby, that skinny little girl who had been so hammered by pain and darkness that there wasn’t much little girl left at all. Jaded prostitute in the body of a malnourished seven-year-old, a mere babe who’d undergone more than many adult women do in a lifetime.

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Screaming, profanity, undressing in public, sexual talk, running off, stealing, destroying books and toys, lying, kicking.

Gaby, who months after having moved in began to shed the first of many, many layers of pain and anger, leaving her an empty shell, a little ghost. All she had known was rape, sexual games, abuse, neglect. So you take all that away, and what’s left? She was our hollow little girl who we desperately wanted to fill with the Father’s love.

Alas, in many ways she still is.

Gaby, who even now, one year later, is still so desperately broken. Her psychologist informed me just a few days ago that Gaby has made many strides and is mentally now on the level of the average 3-year-old. And before?

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Oh, Gaby, our little girl who the world has treated as trash and who still struggles to understand, to receive, when we tell her she’s a princess of the King. Gaby who still wets the bed and struggles to put into practice appropriate sexual norms and whose fine motor skills are still so terribly far behind. Can’t draw a square, can’t hold a pencil or a fork properly. Can hardly open a door. Doesn’t know the alphabet, can’t write her name. Miraculously learned the colors, can count to 10 with help. Loves singing in Darwin’s choir, has learned to pray for others in her broken, hard-to-understand way of talking.

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So she and I walked this past Saturday, hand-in-hand, as we always do, as she eagerly offered to help me fill up Dingo’s dog bowl. She loves to help me. I’m her favorite person, after all, which is an incredibly demanding blessing. She physically looks to be eight or nine or ten years old (she has no birth certificate, no record of her existence in this country’s vast archives) but has the intense emotional needs of a toddler, you see. I hold her heavy body in my long arms, kiss her on the forehead and nose, bounce her on my knees, cradle her now-quite-large body as you would a baby.

And it’s never enough.

She wants to be in my arms all the time, under my skin, in my womb.

As we’re hugging each other or as I’m cradling her, she’ll look me in the eyes and whimper, “I miss you, Mom.” I want to cry to the heavens, “How do you miss me?! I’m right here! I cannot be any closer! Oh, Father, fill up this little one because I simply cannot! Fill her with Your love! We need You, Father!”

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Crossing our grassy front yard together on Saturday, wearily contemplating the utter fullness of this past year with her in all of our ups and downs, all our little triumphs that when marked on paper or pronounced aloud seem like nothing at all, I asked God what He thought about all this, about Gaby.

After all, I’ve asked the World and I’ve asked myself quite a few times and, honestly, the answer isn’t very encouraging. She’s got the body of a third-grader but the mind of a three-year-old. She may never fully recuperate, may end up living with us for the rest of her life as she struggles onward well into her teens and adulthood with promiscuous sexual behavior, theft and destruction. She may never learn to talk correctly, may present these incredibly intense emotional needs for many years to come without any apparent result. She´s a heavy load that no one can carry.

Gaby and I were nearing Dingo’s pen. Not a moment after having asked God what He thought of our Gaby and the work we are doing of raising her, He sliced through my whirlwind of woes with this piercing question:

“Are you loving her, and are you teaching her to love Me?”

 

Borne somewhere in the deepest recesses of my  inner being — overcoming the daily exhaustion and general discouragement like a powerful wind — a peace blew over every corner of my being and my busy thoughts were immediately settled as I recognized the truth:

“Yes.”

 

We had reached Dingo’s pen in a few short steps that to me expanded into eternity. She was probably chattering on about this and that, always with her stubby little hand firmly grasped in mine, but I did’t hear her in that moment. What I heard, my inner being completely stilled, was this:

“Then all that is being done with and for Gabriela is a success. The purpose of the entire universe is to love Me with all that you are and to love one another as yourselves. If you are doing that and teaching Gaby to do the same, you are fulfilling the one and only purpose I have set for mankind to fulfill. Nothing else matters.¨

 

So we continue onward with great hope, a hope not placed in Gaby and her performance (or even her behavior, which in the two days since her anniversary has been utterly atrocious), but a great hope — a pure hope, one that cannot be grabbed and dirtied by this world — in the God who is love, the God who revealed Himself to mankind as a poor, humble, powerful man who gave Himself up for us, taking on the punishment we deserve. This same God who calls us simply to love — not to change the world, invent something new or reach great heights of human ‘success.’ We are simply to love — love Him with all that we have and all that we are, and love one another as we love ourselves.

And in all of our imperfect efforts of loving, failing, seeking forgiveness and returning to love again, He is pleased. If Gaby never learns to assimilate into normal, productive adult society, if she’s always a step behind but is being shown God’s love and being taught to love Him in return, her life will be a raging success. I imagine Him jumping for joy, cheering us on as perhaps the world mocks, asks for more.

So our journey with Gaby is one of God’s slow miracles, etched out over time and with the promise of great eternal rewards.

And when I am tempted to become impatient, when I tempted to give in to despair, to want to push her hard and fast toward ‘normalty,’ I ask that God might remind me of what He taught me just two days ago out at Dingo’s pen with Gaby’s hand in mine:

As long as we are wrapped up in the divine task of love, we are fulfilling the ultimate goal for the entire universe. Nothing else matters.