Tag Archives: Leadership

Request for Prayer and Encouragement

To all who pray for and support this mission:

I ask that you would pray for us during this season specifically in regards to our emotional reserves and spiritual endurance.

The relational work we are dedicated to in Honduras requires us to be on the clock 24/7, and our ‘personal time’ almost always includes at least half a dozen young people who need to be lovingly supervised and tended to. (This can be very taxing on my introverted tendencies, as I oftentimes feel drained being around people all the time and wish everyone would just leave me alone for a couple hours.)

We spend our Monday-Friday working hours in teaching, community discipleship and administration out of our home-mission at the Living Waters Ranch, and then as our daytime teaching staff and local students leave we are then ‘on’ during nights and weekends with our 7 children who live with us full-time, 5 of which are teenagers with very delicate and pressing needs. (Oftentimes there is no dividing line between what is work and what is rest/personal time, and frequently the teens we serve in our home are those who end up draining us even more with their poor attitudes and criticism of us.) Please pray that the Lord would grant our children grateful hearts who are willing to serve and bless in Jesus’ name, as that would greatly alleviate the burden we shoulder in our home and grant us allies in our home-ministry.

I share this with you as I seek prayer for our marriage and our personal growth with the Lord (and that of our children), as the majority of our energy is spent actively proclaiming the truth to broken people and helping them resolve their crises. Thus, oftentimes little energy is available to intentionally cultivate our marriage or delve deeper in our personal walk with the Lord (and seek healing for our own brokenness).

(And, as a side note, thanks to God’s healing hand I am sleeping a lot better as my insomnia has greatly dissipated in these last few months without taking any kind of sleeping medication, but even so I am facing exhaustion and potential discouragement due to the many demands we face each day from 5:00am until bedtime.)

We are committed to continue in this daily effort as family to the orphaned/abandoned and lighthouse of hope to the lost for as many years as the Lord allows (and we have seen many breakthroughs and transformation in and around us in these last several years since beginning the journey), thus we are currently searching to see what Spirit-led changes can be made in our approach to ensure that we don’t fall prey to total burnout. We always seem to be teetering on the brink of collapse, and many times I lend a compassionate ear to our teen girls’ deep emotional struggles and spiritual searches and then reach the end of the day wondering who will lend me a listening ear because my husband is likewise as exhausted as I am or is working in our home office until late at night.

As a last note (and please forgive me for such a heavy and potentially discouraging post), I feel that I am personally in pressing need of words of encouragement at this time. Our lifestyle and the demands on my time have not permitted me to maintain any of my old friendships or cultivate new ones, so I find myself frequently lonely or tackling the many tasks before me by myself. As one of our spiritual mentors told my husband and I at the beginning of this journey several years ago, “It’s lonely to lead.” We have found this to be true, as the lifestyle the Lord has blessed us with does not grant many companions along the way.

So, if you read this blog and are able to reply with a sincere word of encouragement for me personally (or for Darwin), I would be extremely grateful and it would go a long way.

God bless you, and thank you for your prayers.

In Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Josselyn’s Living Room Theology Class

Several of our older kids have begun giving 7-year-olds Gabriela and Josue ‘tutoring’ during different 30-minute afternoon time-slots throughout the week to help stimulate our two littlest ones who are the most developmentally behind schedule. Thus far the classes have been a selection of Play-Doh, P.E. (tossing a ball back-and-forth, doing sprints across our front yard, spinning in circles, etc.), coloring, and playing with wooden blocks. It has been a very rewarding experience for all — perhaps even more so for the tutors than for Gaby and Josue.

This Saturday 11-year-old Josselyn (who is Gabriela’s biological sister and the 7th of our 8 kids to move in with us roughly 7 months ago) was the teacher for the designated tutoring time. She took the initiative to lean a large whiteboard against the wall in our living room and set up two wooden stools for her students. I sat on the floor in our bedroom organizing paperwork with our door open into the living room so that I, too, could ‘sit in’ on the class.

Josselyn, who just learned how to read, write and do basic math for the first time in her life since moving in with us in July 2015, up until Saturday had not been one of our more dynamic tutors. She had generally been in charge of the ‘coloring book’ tutoring sessions and, by what we could tell, had fulfilled her once-a-week class out of nothing more than a sense of duty to her little sister.

But something had changed. On Saturday she began enthusiastically writing the vowels on the whiteboard (which Gaby and Josue have no idea how to read), and soon enough she had them sing-songing the vowels in some catchy tune she had made up. Gaby and Josue were thoroughly engaged in the class, and at some point she even had Gaby counting with her up to 20 (Josue does not talk other than a handful of one- or two-syllable sounds). I felt like a permanent smile was glued on my face as I continued organizing several stacks of legal paperwork, students’ exams, and mission statements as the rest of our kids played in our front yard. My husband Darwin and our eldest daughter, 15-year-old Dayana, were in the nearby city of La Ceiba that morning in their weekly English class.

Far exceeding the 30-minute recommended time, Josselyn then dispatched her students to a short ‘recess,’ telling me with a big grin that she wanted to keep teaching them other subjects even though she didn’t have to. She then informed me quite seriously, “The other tutors don’t know how to manage Josue and Gaby, and that’s why they behave so poorly. But I just tell them that if they don’t listen up and participate, I’ll take their recess away. That seems to work just fine.”

I, too, took a ‘recess’ and crossed our front lawn to the little office building to bring more folders for my organizational efforts. When I crossed the threshold of our front door into our living room several minutes later, I was somewhat startled to hear Josselyn – who had already called her students in from recess and had them sitting obediently on their stools to continue the class – saying in a very even tone with more authority than perhaps I have ever heard her talk, and much less teach: “Of course we are going to die, because we are made of the dust of the earth.”

As I passed by them on my few-yard journey to our bedroom, I looked at Josselyn, intrigued, and she informed me, “Now we’re in Bible class.”

I nodded, very interested to hear what Josselyn-the-teacher (who did not have a Bible in hand) would be instructing her two very immature students on the Truth. (From the psychological evaluations we’ve had done, Gaby is roughly 4 years old mentally/emotionally and Josue is 3, and both suffer intermediate to severe developmental delays due to distinctive situations of abuse they suffered before arriving at our home. Josue is in a special-needs pre-school class at a private school five mornings a week, and this past week we moved Gaby down from first grade in a private school to kindergarten in our own school to help cater her needs.)

A few words about Josselyn: she has very short hair that is just starting to grow out after having arrived at our front gate with nearly buzzed-off hair with huge bald patches, and she is very, very small for her age due to malnutrition suffered in her early childhood (she’s about the size of a 7- or 8-year-old, and nobody knows how old she really is because she doesn’t have a birth certificate and was never registered with the government, although our dentist’s approximation is that she’s 11 or 12 years old).

So I continued organizing my mountain of paperwork, but this time with my mind much more focused on the theology class coming from our living room than on the manila folders in front of me.

Josselyn covered the beginning of Genesis with remarkable accuracy, instructing Gaby and Josue with all authority on themes that she has been learning in our weekly Discipleship Group but that, honestly, I had thought were beyond her. Of our 8 kids/teens, she does not tend to have a lot of questions, prayer requests, or comments during the various Bible studies we participate in each week, and I had (very mistakenly) thought that perhaps she was distracted amidst other thoughts, possibly not even hearing the instruction around her, although she had come to give her life to Christ in one of our community Bible studies a few months ago and we had seen distinct changes in her since then.

As I heard nugget after nugget of profound, God-inspired wisdom flowing easily from her mouth, I quickly realized I needed to be writing it all down so as not to forget her exact words. So, without her realizing it, I grabbed an old notebook from one of the many piles of paperwork around me and I began to scribble in a fat, blue marker as quickly as I could everything that she was teaching. Her words, verbatim, were as follows:

“God is love. He’s the only true love we’ve got. The love of a person is small, but that of God is big – bigger and bigger – and He won’t turn His back on you. Not even your mom loves you as much as He does. And if you repent, He’ll be there. But if we don’t repent, when we die we’ll be in front of God and He’ll say: ‘I don’t know you.’”

After Josselyn had instructed several times and in many different ways that God is love, Josue started echoing her every time she said ‘God,’ him answering with “A-moh!” (his way of saying ‘amor,’ which is ‘love’ in Spanish.) Every time she said ‘God’ in any context, Josue’s little voice echoed: “A-moh…” And I think Josue was onto something: every time we think about God, our knee-jerk reaction should be to meditate on His love.

She continued, changing the subject: “If I tell you to do whatever you want because you run your own life – like, go and have a lot of women — am I a good friend?”

Josue, who wears diapers, answered shyly: “No.”

Josselyn: “Isn’t that right that I’m not? A good friend would tell you to submit to God’s will and give away what you have to people who need it more than you do, and God will bless you.”

She continued: “Life is hard, even for children. A lot of kids can just run around and play, but they don’t even know what they do. But once you arrive in adulthood, things will be harder.” She swings her gaze over to me and confirms: “Right, Jennifer?” I laughed. “One day you two will be big, but you’ve got to start believing in God even now when you’re small. You don’t have to go around fighting – God says let there be peace and freedom, but no fights and wars.”

Josue started to giggle nervously, and Josselyn corrected him: “We don’t have to laugh at God’s Word. This isn’t like ‘A, B, C’ in first grade, Josue – this is the True Word, and I’m not lying.”

Josue shaped up, and she continued, now teaching on the crucifixion, Lazarus, and the end of the world. “Not even the angels know when the end of the world will come, only God – right, Jennifer?”

Her two pupils sat with total focus, listening to their young teacher who, by some miracle, already has God’s Word stitched deeply in her heart. She addressed her students: “Do you have a question about how God is?”

Gaby, stuttering and mispronouncing certain words, as is the way she always talks: “The—the…chapters say that we must love one another.”

Josselyn: “Very well, Gaby, but first we must love God.”

“If I believe I am bigger than God, we are believing Satan, the Father of Lies. If I say I want to be the queen because God’s dead, who’s talking crazy? Me, right? Because I’m from the dust of the Earth, and God is the Father of Truth.”

At some point the class started winding down, and the teacher asked me what time it was. “2:20pm,” I answered.

She laughed out loud and said, “I think I’m gonna keep going until nighttime!”

February Third is the Big Day! (January 2016 Ministry Updates)

Students Enrolled in Discipleship-Based Secondary School

After beginning with 40+ candidates for our new 7th-grade section of secondary school that we will begin teaching five days a week at the Living Waters Ranch, we now have 15 students ages 11-17 from our rural neighborhood along with our eldest daughter who have fulfilled all the enrollment requirements, attended the mandatory meetings with their parent(s), brought all their documents, signed the student contract, etc.

About half of the students already have a relationship with us through their participation in choir, Bible study, agriculture, etc, and the other half are completely new to us as they simply responded to our announcement in the local schools or heard about the program through a neighbor.

The parents of the students who have officially enrolled are thrilled at our rather simple, God-fearing program (which includes several weekly Bible studies, musical involvement, a family-like atmosphere, and very clear, Biblical norms), because the educational experience that many have had in the public institutions has been that of classrooms with 45+ students per teacher, students with 25+ absences who still ‘pass’ their grade, used condoms littering the playground, sixth grade classrooms in which a great percentage of the kids still don’t know how to read, zero art or music classes, absentee or uncommitted teachers, etc.

Please pray for us, the 7th-grade teacher (Miss Ligia), the students and their families during this time of newness, continued decision-making, etc, as we finish preparations of the new classroom, continue designing the extracurricular activities and training the teacher (who has never taught before because she is a lawyer), put into practice school norms, etc. Pray that each activity, effort, conversation, etc, may be centered on God’s will and pleasing to Him. May Christ continually be made known in and through us to the students, parents, and among those of us who are laboring at the Ranch.

All the teens will be arriving at our front gate in their uniforms for their first day of school on Wednesday, February 3rd!

 

Jackeline (12) and Gabriela (7) Accepted into New School

This past month has been filled with many surprises, one of which is that after an entrance exam/evaluation, both Jackeline (our 12-year-old daughter who just celebrated one year of living in our family along with her 7-year-old special needs brother) and Gabriela (our 7-year-old popcorn kernel who’s been buzzing around our home for six months now along with her 11-year-old sister) were accepted into the same private Christian elementary school that Jason (8) and Gleny (11) were in last year and will be entering again this upcoming week to start a new school year.

So, four of our seven kids will all be in the same school, which we are thrilled about. Jackeline and Gleny will be classmates in the school’s only fifth grade class with roughly 12-14 students, and Jason will be in third grade and Gabriela in first. It was a long shot for the school to accept Jackeline (and an even longer shot for them to accept Gabriela, who is behind developmentally due to severe abuse), so I gave a big hug to the school’s director when she gave me the good news! We earnestly give thanks to God for this wonderful opportunity for both of them to be in a truly loving, disciplined school environment everyday where they can learn and grow alongside of peers their age, seeing as the elementary school we have at the Living Waters Ranch is geared toward literacy in older students and, although it could work for them, may not be the most effective option.

Everything seems a bit hectic (in a good sense) as we are in the process of buying school uniforms, PE uniforms, sizing up school shoes, making several trips to local office supply stores for notebooks, compasses, rulers, etc, meeting teachers and school directors, and organizing transportation for each child. Everyone (including Josue, who will be returning to his special needs school in the nearby city of La Ceiba and Dayana and Josselyn, who will continue their education at the Living Waters Ranch) will be entering school on Wednesday, February 3!

Please pray for Jackeline and Gabriela’s adjustment to a new school environment, and that their behavior and attitudes would be honoring to God. Pray for their overall self-discipline and effort, that they would take this opportunity as the blessing that it is and use it to grow further into the Lord’s will for their life.

 

Community Lunch and Bible Study to be Held Twice Weekly

In September 2015, we began holding a once-weekly community lunch and Bible study in our dining room, and we’ve seen much fruit from this initiative to share God’s Word with our neighbors. After receiving confirmation from several people that we should begin holding it twice a week, we have decided to begin doing so on February 3rd along with the commencement of a new year of primary and secondary school, choir activities, etc.

We have several elderly neighbors who attend along with some middle-aged married couples and several children and youth from our neighborhood, plus all of the primary and secondary students who will participate as part of their school curriculum. We are excited and honored to be able to share God’s Word with our neighbors who attend because the majority of which don’t attend church or hear the Word of God in any other place. Please pray that the Lord would continue to provide inspiration and guide the discussions/teachings that we prepare, and that those who participate would truly be persuaded toward the Truth.

 

Child/Youth Leadership Program and Basketball Team in Local School

This past month I returned to my part-time assignment in La Ceiba’s Episcopal School to continue training/guiding the children and youth there in God’s Word.

I have renamed the “Gifted and Talented Program” in two different sections: “Child Leadership” (4th-5th grade) and “Youth Leadership” (6th-7th grade), both of which meet weekly and are targeted at raising up leaders in the next generation who are founded on Christ. I have had basically the same group of students for three years now, so I am very excited and honored to see the work the Lord will continue to etch out among us. In addition, I am continuing to coach the (now co-ed) basketball team at the same school for the fourth year in a row, with students ages 8-15. Our eldest daughter (Dayana, age 15 in 7th grade) participates weekly in the Youth Leadership program, and five of our kids (Dayana, Gleny, Jason, Jackeline and Josselyn) participate in the co-ed basketball team.

 

Blossoming Relationship with Isis, our Primary Education Teacher

Our relationship with Miss Isis, our 22-year-old Honduran teacher who runs the elementary-section of our government-registered school program at the Living Waters Ranch (1st-6th grade for older students who are behind academically), has truly been one of the biggest surprises of these past six months.

She began working alongside of us in August as a temporary help when our sister Jenae Matikke felt called to move to the nearby city of La Ceiba, and it quickly became apparent that the Lord had great plans to accomplish both in and through her at the Living Waters Ranch. She worked three days per week the last five months of 2015, and for the duration of 2016 she has a contract to labor five days per week in teaching, discipleship, and general care-giving.

On Wednesday, February 3rd she will receive her 12 students (one of which is our daughter, Josselyn, and the other 11 of which are neighbors from our rural neighborhood ages 8-20) for their first day of classes after having spent the entire month of January in preparation, planning, design of her new classroom, meetings/interviews with potential students, etc.

The Lord has also guided her to design and begin leading a new weekly Bible study geared at small children, which is different from the other twice-weekly Bible study we will be teaching for older participants. This will also start on February 3. Let us give thanks for her life and for her willingness to serve the Lord’s purposes!