Tag Archives: Living Waters Ranch

Missionary Work in Honduras: First Update of 2019

After going over 5 weeks without even touching my computer, I will now try to pick up from where I left off…

We are currently in our annual period of preparation as we will begin a new year of personalized classes and Christian discipleship on our rural ministry homestead (the Living Waters Ranch) at the beginning of February. 

My husband, our seven foster children and I enjoyed a very low-key December in Honduras as we worked around our rural property together as a family doing various maintenance projects, paint jobs and groundskeeping activities. We immersed ourselves in several fruitful activities such as going on long walks, visiting a botanical garden, studying God’s Word as a family each night at dinner, engaging in various service projects in our local community and carving out time for each person to see their biological family members and/or close family friends. My mom and step-dad visited us before Christmastime, and my dad is planning a visit down here in early February.

Our foster kids painted smiley-face t-shirts with encouraging slogans on the front as they went out into our rural neighborhood on several occasions to pick up trash, as it is very common in our area for people to throw their trash directly on the ground or along the road instead of seeking out a trash can. We consider this to be a humble and gracious act of community service, as they are doing a less-than-glamorous job that rarely anyone takes the initiative to do. We hope to set forth an example of loving responsibility and encourage those in our community to take care of God’s creation and value the area in which they are raising their families.
Mission accomplished: over a dozen black trash bags reached our trash bin!
My husband Darwin was able to visit his dad, who is well into his 80s, several times during the Christmas holidays. Darwin and his dad are two of the only Christians in their family. His dad spent the majority of his life on the wrong path until finding the Lord less than 10 years ago. Darwin is the youngest of 18 siblings.
One of our foster daughters and several of our local students participated in an art competition in the nearby city of La Ceiba around Christmastime. They had been faithfully attending art workshops every Saturday for the past several months before the year-end event.
Last year my husband started an official swim club as part of the integral education we offer at the Living Waters Ranch, and he trained this rowdy bunch for several months before taking them on a special outing to a local beach. Many youth in our area do not have  positive outlets for play, exercise and healthy friendships, so activities such as this swim club are very important in the lives of our foster children and local students as we seek to form them for God’s glory.

Our night watchman and his family moved out of the little rainbow-colored house on our property after three years of committed relationship with them for God’s glory, and we have now converted their old home into a new “hospitality house” for local teen boys who are looking to engage in work, study and the search for Christ within safe confines. This is a new direction the Lord is taking us in, and my husband Darwin has done a phenomenal job overseeing, encouraging and working alongside of our new teen neighbors in their first several weeks living on our property. The house can hold 2-4 mature residents.

Our committed team of local Honduran missionaries/professionals recently returned to the Living Waters Ranch after several weeks of rest at home with their families, and together we are currently receiving and evaluating the dozens of local youth who are hoping to enter our grassroots Christian school this year.

Many of those who have wandered up the long gravel road to our rural property in these last couple weeks are youth we’ve known closely for several years who are looking to re-enter our school as they persevere with their commitment to cultivating their minds, bodies and very beings for Christ while others are completely new to our program and have sought us out as the local public schools have failed them and they are looking for something different and more effective. Some come from stable, loving families while others are on the outer fringes of society with almost zero stability in their lives. One local teenage vagabond whom we dearly love has been in and out of our school for the past four or five years and after a series of bad decisions last year has surprised us all with a very humble desire to try once again. He’s 17 years old and in second grade, and throughout these first several days of meetings and evaluations he has surprised us all with the great joy and commitment he’s displaying. These kinds of stories encourage us to keep hope alive.

A group of some of our male students in their evaluation period a few days ago prior to enrollment. (We put them through several physical fitness/endurance tests in addition to teamwork activities in order to build their character.)

A group of our female students building their pyramid in competition with the boys…

Our first two P.E. classes of the pre-enrollment evaluation period this month occurred on rainy, muddy days. Everybody went home with wet, dirty clothes and a big smile on their faces!
Pushups!

This year the Lord has brought a local college graduate with a heart for missions to serve alongside of us full-time, and we are honored that she will begin teaching Christian dance, advanced English and other subjects in our school in addition to leading prayer groups, teaching Bible studies and going house-to-house in our rural neighborhood to share the gospel with our neighbors. A local married couple who has been serving alongside of us for several years just recently finished the construction of their own home in our rural neighborhood where they have an open-door policy with local teens who seek them out after-hours for prayer, counsel, youth group and simply living and serving alongside of them for God’s glory. This couple is an integral part of our ministry, and their home is basically an extension of the Living Waters Ranch about a half-mile down the road smack dab in the middle of our local neighborhood.

Not only did we have P.E. class in the rain and mud for our students; we’re also in the process of physically conditioning our staff and foster kids! (And it’s a great bonding activity…) We all got ridiculously dirty and had a blast even though our muscles hurt so bad after the first day that we could barely walk…

 In the upcoming weeks we will be receiving two students of ours (brothers, ages 14 and 8) into our home as resident-guests as they want to continue receiving the love, integral development and Christian discipleship in our school but would not be able to unless they move in with us due to family issues. So, my husband and I will soon have 9 young people under our full-time care with several dozen more in our school during daytime hours in addition to the small group of young men now living in our rainbow hospitality house. Each facet of this ministry the Lord has entrusted us has its specific purposes, and we feel at peace with and excited about each of them.

There are many more details I could share — some tedious, some heart-warming — but I will try to ensure that my first post of the new year is not overwhelmingly long. We send our sincere gratitude to those who pray for and financially support this mission, and we earnestly ask for prayer as we desire to live as Christ in each facet of our lives here in Honduras (in marriage, with our foster children/live-ins, to the youth in our school and hospitality house, with our dedicated staff, to our local neighbors, etc). Please pray that the Lord might grant us the wisdom, grace and faith necessary to continue onward with this work of love throughout many years to come and that in due time the lives of the young people we are cultivating might give a precious fruit for His glory.

Thank you, and God bless you.

With gratitude,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Communication Sabbatical

I will be taking a break from this blog and a large part of my general communication responsibilities during the upcoming month of December and probably the first week or so of January. 

I hope to spend more focused time with my husband and our 7 foster children as all of us will have a month-long break from our normal school, work and ministry activities. (The Honduran school calendar runs from January/February — November, so December is generally the month students and teachers have off).

In the last month I wrote three articles for online news sources (Dallas News and The Stream) in regards to the current migrant caravans leaving Central America and heading for the States, and the articles got a pretty wide response. Much of my time this past month has been dedicated to writing (and then re-writing) these articles and then tending to the many commentaries people post afterward. This has been a new, challenging and rewarding experience, as the Lord has been teaching me through this how to be open to other people’s opinions, respond with grace, and actively love/pray for those who have very harsh criticisms of me.

Needless to say, I’ve dedicated an inordinate amount of time to these writing projects and have begun to feel the weight of several conflicting responsibilities (marriage/motherhood, directing/teaching in the Living Waters Ranch and now a few ventures into freelance writing).

Please pray for us during this upcoming month as my husband Darwin and I seek to slow down and rediscover how to live a quiet, private life before the Lord while cultivating our foster children/teens in Christ. Pray that the Lord might guide us in doing so and that the many things clamouring for our attention might be put at bay for the time being.

Thank you to all who pray for us and support this mission financially. We could not serve in the way that we do without you. God bless you, and may your holiday season abound in rest, joy and the Lord’s perfect peace. I look forward to being in touch in January.

With peace and gratitude in Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family/mission

Music Concert Adventure

Last week Darwin loaded up five of our foster children and over a dozen of his local choir youth onto a rented bus along with a few adult chaperones and made the 3-hour drive to San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second-largest city to participate in their biggest concert yet. An internationally-trained director conducted one of Honduras’ largest orchestras and led approximately 200 children and teenagers from around the country as they sang classical masterpieces they had been practicing for months for this specific event.

Darwin’s group from our rural town of El Pino plus several of his students whom he teaches in the nearby city of La Ceiba on Saturdays. They had never sung in (or stepped foot in) a building so fancy!
Before going out to sing on stage, Darwin always rounds everyone up to make a massage train so that everyone relaxes!

I can see some familiar faces in that big choir!
Our boys are the ones without ties!
This is Aracely, one of our beloved teachers/missionaries who serves alongside of us at the Living Waters Ranch, with our son Jason (left) and his best friend Francisco who spends about 8 hours in our home each day for Christian discipleship, academics and extracurricular classes alongside of our other students.
Here’s Darwin (teal shirt) with a group of our older teen boys, several of which we’ve been closely involved with over four years for God’s glory. 16-year-old Cristian (far right) arrived at our front gate in 2014 malnourished and illiterate as he and his little brother were simply seeking out friendship and a snack. He and four of his siblings have now all been in school with us during these last four years, and both of his parents are employed with us and actually live on our property in the watchman’s house.

Here is a video taken of one of the songs our kids sang:

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God bless you!

A Constant Gamble for God: Passing the Torch of Love from One Hand to Another

Several weeks ago after a busied trip into the city to do those errands that never end, on my way back home I turned off the main highway and took the drive into one of those dangerous neighborhoods where they say you have to pass with your windows down so that the gang lords can identify who comes and goes.

In this particular neighborhood we’ve come and gone dozens of times visiting different people, so I rolled my windows down without a second thought and began making my way carefully over the neglected pavement eaten up by so many potholes.

I turned down one side road and then another, pulling to a stop in front of a small collection of homes, although I couldn’t remember which one it was. I hopped out – I believe it was raining on that particular day – and knocked on the door of a blue-colored house. I thought that was the right house, anyway. Blue.

A woman opened the door with wide eyes, unsure who I was and what my business was. I immediately realized I had knocked on the wrong door. I quickly apologized and asked if she knew which home belonged to the woman I was looking for. She knew. Two houses down, she told me.

I jumped over puddles, my bright blue rain-jacket shielding my blouse from the falling raindrops. Two houses down, also a blue house. At least I got the blue part right.

 I stooped on the tiny porch, taking the hood of my rain-jacket down under the cover of the roof above. All the windows were closed and there was no sound coming from inside. It looked like no one was home, especially in this culture where people who are home have their doors and windows open, several people lounging on the porch or washing clothes in the front yard and occasionally high-volume music blasting from some stereo.

I knocked once and waited, then again and waited. As I was about to turn and leave, the door opened, ever so slowly, and a woman’s gaze met mine. At first she looked like she suspected trouble – frightened and ready to close the door immediately – but as she recognized me her countenance immediately changed and a genuine smile, albeit a surprised one, overtook her tired face.

We embraced one another as we have on so many other occasions and she quickly let me pass the threshold.

“And the kids?” Her face brightened even more as she glanced behind me, waiting to see her special-needs son and teenage daughter.

I apologized for not having brought them with me (alas, they are always with us!) and told her that the purpose of my surprise visit was not a once-per-month visit between our foster children and their biological family members but rather a visit between two adult women, between she and I.

This definitely caught her off guard, as we’ve never done such a thing in our three years of knowing one another, but she quickly accepted and showed me where to sit in the completely quiet, still home with all of its windows firmly shut. As I sat on the only couch in the living room, rather than sitting across the small room in one of the arm chairs she commented on how she preferred to be closer and sat not two feet from me on that couch. It felt right and natural.

What ensued was a free-flowing conversation that lasted over an hour between Josue and Jackeline’s mom and myself.

For months – years perhaps – the idea of becoming more involved with this woman has been floating around our hearts and minds, swelling up and speaking out at different times. More than once we’ve considered aloud between my husband and I providing this down-and-out shut-in a part-time job with us and a new start. When her two precious children first moved in with us back in January 2015 their stay in our home was meant to be a temporary solution until she could find a steady job and place to live. Three to four months they had told us. Well, a few months has turned into a few years, and she’s been unable to find any kind of stable work or place to stay. The news has always been the same, and her situation – as much economic as emotional and spiritual – has been stagnant if not declining, and up until now we really didn’t know what move to make, if any.

Employ an emotionally unstable woman who probably desperately needs a counselor in our home working with at-risk kids? Is that really a good idea? But have not many people – not only children and teens but adults as well – come to know the Lord alongside of us, and could us being more involved in her life and showing her God’s love on a more regular basis not possibly lead to her salvation and renewal? If her kids’ lives are worth the risk and investment, is not hers as well?

So that idea (without any concrete answers) had been floating around our consciousness for quite some time when our 14-year-old foster daughter Jackeline (who is this woman’s biological daughter) came to me out of the blue – as she oftentimes does – and informed me with great conviction that Darwin and I should give her mom a job. She and her mother have never gotten along well and still have a pretty tumultuous relationship, but she informed me through tears, “I just want my mom to know Jesus.”

So that was all it took. I talked with Darwin, and we sensed that it was finally time to act. I would go to her house unannounced (because her cellphone no longer worked so we had no way to call) and I would propose the idea to her: a healthy way out of unemployment, more physical closeness with her children, being included perhaps for the first time in her life in a loving, vibrant Christian community and hopefully a drawing near to Christ as well.

One of those very familiar questions began to show itself in my mind: Do we have the finances to provide a job for her—? before it was quickly dismissed. After all, God has called us to do many crazy things over these last few years, and He’s always provided a way to make it happen.

Well, the details of our in-depth conversation have since been lost on me, but I do know one thing: the Lord did send me there that day, and He did use me to listen to a very broken woman who desperately needs loving companionship and a new start in life. I said little; she spoke much. Several times throughout our conversation I reached across the little couch to pat her shoulder as she shared with me her struggles. Several times she mentioned her belief that only God could help her; that she had been flirting with Satan too long and that it was time to make a change and give her life over to God. I continued to listen, hope swelling in my chest.

She mentioned her kids many times – which strangely enough are also my kids now. It was surreal listening to this mother who desperately loves these same kids whom I have grown to dearly love. Toward the end of our conversation I walked over to a coffee table in the small house – her sister’s house where she’s been living in a spare room for several months – and saw an 8’ x 10’ photo of now-14-year-old Jackeline when she was a toddler. This woman holds the memories of the kids when they were little, and the memories from these last three years have largely been made with us. Between us there was no sense of competition or anger but rather of gratitude and deep respect from both parties. Surely God had orchestrated this whole thing.

So I left, and she said she would call me in the next few weeks once a family situation was resolved to see if she could come serve alongside of us two days per week. Serve in what capacity, I had no idea, but Darwin and I were ready to step out into the unknown as God was in the process of preparing just one more miracle of life and redemption.

Our initial conversation was several weeks ago. Yesterday was Momma Ingrid’s first day of work. We can say that it was lacking in any drama and full of spiritual blessing. She arrived on time, quite timid but ready to participate. Many years ago she was a secretary in a bank (a prestigious job in this society where many people are illiterate and do hard labor for a living) before falling on hard times and bad decisions, so we decided to make her our official secretary at the Living Waters Ranch (a job that never before existed). Darwin worked with her a couple hours in the office that all of our staff share in order to show her the ropes, and she joyfully went about with general office tasks for the rest of the day. She saw her kids throughout the day, participated in Bible study and prayer group in the morning, and smiled more than she normally does. Several times throughout the day she told Darwin and I that she doesn’t need to get paid; she’s just happy to help and see her kids. We listened, thanked her for her thoughtfulness and willingness to serve but assured her that we will be paying her.

She’ll be coming back again on Wednesday.

And so, yesterday at 3:00pm as I left our home with all of our teachers and Momma Ingrid piled in our old pickup truck to go drop everyone off after a long day’s work, Momma Ingrid didn’t go home to her sister’s vacant house.

Geraldina, a woman in her early 30s (just like Momma Ingrid) who was in a similar position as her not two years ago – her teenage daughter Sandra had come to live with us until her mom could get back on her feet – will be voluntarily hosting Momma Ingrid (who she just met yesterday for the first time) in her home as an act of radical Christian hospitality to the downtrodden for love of God.

What?

Yes, an illiterate single mom of four who has suffered hunger, abuse and rejection who now works with us full-time and is learning to read and write for the first time – who went against all cultural norms and left behind her abusive husband in order to get her daughter back and even build her own wooden home! – will be extending an arm of charity and love to a woman not so different from herself.

Is it not the rich who help the poor, the powerful who help the weak?

Not this time.

So yesterday in our pickup truck after dropping all our teachers off and Momma Ingrid at Geraldina’s home, I turned to 17-year-old Sandra (Geraldina’s daughter) who sat in the passenger’s seat right next to me. She lived in our home for almost a year and continues being like a daughter to Darwin and I, and we get to see her everyday now that our community homeschool program started its 2018 classes a couple weeks ago. I patted her leg and asked sincerely, “What do you think about having Momma Ingrid live in your house?”

I was expecting her to hesitate or to comment that she was nervous about having an emotionally broken woman in her personal space, but she piped up, “It was my idea!”

My jaw must have dropped down to the floorboard as I sputtered – “Wha–?” I was definitely not expecting her to say that.

“Yeah. When Jackeline mentioned to us that Momma Ingrid would be working at the Ranch and had nowhere to stay, I told my mom that we should receive her in our home. Last year in Bible study you encouraged all of us to receive the homeless and broken in our homes as a way of ministering to Christ and, well, we’re gonna start with her.”

Goosebumps ran through my body even as they do now as I remember yesterday’s events and type this all down. Are not the poor – are not Sandra and her mom, Geraldina, people themselves who have known deep poverty their whole lives — to wallow in self-pity or look for some scheme to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’? But – to forsake their own poverty (the thousands of legitimate excuses they could have to explain why they couldn’t possibly take Momma Ingrid in, especially as no one was asking them to do so!) and to extend a hand of loving hope – even receiving her in their own humble home! – yes, that is God’s work among us.

So, Momma Ingrid spent her fist night in Sandra and Geraldina’s home last night in our rural neighborhood, and we’ll be seeing her again tomorrow as she comes up for her second day of work. Please give thanks to God with us for Sandra and Geraldina’s walk of faith and obedience as they are receiving a woman they have no relation to into their home, and pray with us blessings of harmony, service and humble love among them as they figure out how to live together. God bless you.

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!

Another Healing Update

This is the third update I’m writing in regards to my search for healing from the chronic insomnia that I’ve struggled with for many years (which had then led me to all kinds of viruses, tropical fevers, etc, all of which sort of snowballed and caused me to get weaker and weaker, always awake the majority of nights and struggling through exhaustion on top of sickness. ) As one friend who met to pray with me a few weeks ago mentioned with a dry laugh, “You’ve been on a steady diet of IVs and antibiotics these last few years…” Thus, I came to Texas for a few weeks to seek out healing in every realm — spirit, mind and body — as I had reached a breaking point.

I was scheduled to return to Honduras today after having been in Texas since August 20th, but several days ago I decided to push my return flight back a week so that I may have a few additional days of rest as my body is still far from full strength. Thus I will be returning to Darwin, our kids, teaching, etc, next Friday (September 29th).

During the past week-and-a-half or so, all of the diagnostic tests (many, many bloodwork panels, stool cultures, saliva and urine samples, etc) finally came back with their results, and we’ve been able to find out several underlying issues that have been contributing to my insomnia and low-immune battle over these last several years.

I will explain: according to all the testing we’ve done, I have Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease (a thyroid disorder in which the thyroid gland, which controls many important functions in the body, attacks itself), a rampant fungal and yeast infection inside of my whole body (called Candida, which oftentimes begins when you take too many antibiotics, thus killing off the good bacteria in your gut and letting the bad bacteria run wild), sleep apnea, and a couple general disorders in which my body has not properly processed zinc and b-vitamins, which has led to a state of almost constant stress and anxiousness. Many of these things sort of ‘go together’ and affect one another, and all of them have been proven to cause insomnia, anxiety, high physical stress, low immune function, etc. I had even been having a lot of heart pain and difficulty breathing, and I discovered that that can also be attributed to the aforementioned disorders/problems. At least on the physical front, I am very thankful that we finally have these diagnoses and that I’m on a very rigorous treatment plan (including a general detox, high-quality supplements, Thyroid medication, immune support, a strict diet, etc) to begin healing.

All of this was discovered in the last week-and-a-half, so I’ve been following the regimen religiously, although it will probably take 2-3 months or so for everything to really get in my system so that I can begin noticing significant changes in the way I feel. My body has been so out-of-whack for so long that the physical healing process will not be an overnight phenomenon (although I would like it to be). In the meantime my doctors have prescribed me various heavy-duty sleep aids to help “knock me out” at night, but the pills have had little to no effect on my sleeping and have caused many weird side effects, so I’ve vowed to no longer take them but rather wait patiently upon the Lord for my integral healing while I continue following the long-term plan to correct the aforementioned disorders/stresses my body has been facing.

The Lord continues to bring several people alongside of me to pray for my healing, and — as I mentioned in the prior update — I feel that spiritually and emotionally I’ve had many breakthroughs and am being granted ‘new sight’ to see things the way Christ sees them, as I had prior been fighting against a lot of pessimism, self-condemnation, fear, etc. This aspect of my healing has been fascinating, at times two-steps-forward-then-one-step-back, and encouraging. I am so excited to return home to Darwin and our life in Honduras with renewed passion and faith as God ushers me into a new chapter with renewed outlook. More than anything, I believe this trip to the States has been about God reminding me what He’s already done. He really has been with us.

Darwin and I are in communication almost daily by phone, and he’s been able to share with me that the Lord is doing a big work in his own heart during this time as he is being convicted and set free from many negative thinking pattens, pessimism, fears, etc. It is very neat to see that even though Darwin cannot be here with me, the Lord is doing a very similar work in both of our hearts as He prepares us to be reunited next week. I believe these changes the Lord is doing deep down in our hearts will greatly affect (in a positive way) our children’s lives and our hidden life with Christ at the foothills of the mountains long-term.

The Apostle Paul said, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things…And the God of peace will be with you.” However many times I had read that before, now for the first time I am actually learning to live in such a way, even if sleep still eludes me for now. Darwin and I have been through some hard hits and difficult learning experiences in these last few years together (Darwin’s kidnapping last year, many trials with our 8 children who all come from severely broken backgrounds, many robberies, a young marriage, my ongoing insomnia, etc) and in many ways we fell too often in the trap of worry, stress, wanting to try to control that which was out of our control, etc — in few words, we were basically not thinking about that which is noble, right and pure (we were not fully trusting and resting in God). So, we earnestly thank God that He is making this shift deep down in each of our hearts as He is drawing us nearer to Himself and releasing us from our fears, doubts and anxieties (however invisible this process still is on the outside). With time we hope it will bear great fruit for God’s glory.

As for everything in Honduras, our children are okay, our animals (cows, guard dogs, kitchen cats) are alive, and the daily outreach to disciple and teach our neighbors through our community homeschool program continues onward. I’ve been able to send a few long letters down to them to be read aloud during their group Bible study time when everyone (teachers, students, etc) is together in our dining room on Tuesdays/Thursdays. These letters have been a blessing and have provided encouragement both to me and to those who’ve read them as we maintain communication and love from afar, always encouraging one another in Christ.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the local Hondurans who labor alongside of us are pulling double-time to cover many of my duties and support Darwin in his single-parenting venture of our 8 wily (I mean ‘well-behaved’) children, so that has been a huge blessing. Really there have been no big hiccups, and they’ve even begun implementing several small changes/adjustments to the daily routines as the Lord leads. Yesterday all 40 students plus the teachers had an extended prayer and Bible study time in the morning and entered math class late because God had led them in another direction. Amen!

So, I will be returning home next Friday — fully knowing that the true healing process will be worked out over the months to come. I would like to sincerely thank those of you who have been praying for us and supporting us in various ways. God bless you.

 

Depraved Humanity Loves to Judge Depraved Humanity: A Word to be Shared

Last weekend I struggled through one of those long, sleepless nights. I tossed and turned, thoughts bouncing and racing here and there until I finally got up in the wee hours of the morning to use the little restroom that connects onto the bedroom that my husband and I share.

Arms outstretched to feel my way toward the open doorway as my feet felt about carefully in the darkness, I suddenly took three quick, bounding steps and shot out an open palm to flip on the lightbulb in our bathroom. My trip thus far had been a success, for I hadn’t stepped on a scorpion. In and around our house they seem to come out, especially at night, and have oftentimes been found in the middle of my nightly path, in our bed with us, or inside the roll of toilet paper. Every time I get up in the middle of the night my blind feet wonder if they’ll accidentally find one.

As I flicked on that simple exposed bulb, suddenly shedding an extreme amount of light on tired eyes, something else flicked on inside of me: judgment. In a tiny corner of our sleeping cinderblock house in the foothills of some forgotten mountains in a country very few people desire to live in, my thoughts took a direct, unexpected turn toward a certain situation my husband and I were witnessing from afar, and I began to judge the situation – or rather the people involved.

As if on autopilot, I began engaging internally in the act of casting judgment, and I felt justified (as all judges do) in my opinion. It was clear to me that so-and-so had done wrong, and I began playing that delightful (dangerous) little game of judgment as I ruminated on the very few details I actually had about the situation. Couldn’t sleep; didn’t have the mental energy to get up and begin working on the computer or read the Bible. But judge? Oh, sure. At any hour.

The one-sided court case in my mind jumped to the ‘guilty’ verdict after a split-second-long hearing when something suddenly pierced me.

They were words that came out of nowhere, that shot right through the chaos of the courtroom and silenced me and all the other lawyers who backed me up. The din of judgment calmed, disappeared entirely in an instant.

Get off My throne.

I suddenly felt naked in that courtroom, ashamed. I had assumed the throne that wasn’t mine. I had dared to pass judgment on those who are the same as I. Depraved humanity loves to judge depraved humanity – one liar scoffing at another’s lies, one big ego pointing an accusatory finger at another’s bold egotism.

I understood and repented, still surprised by how clearly that word had reached me. My shame and shock were immediately replaced by joy and thankfulness, for He who is on the throne is a perfect, just judge, abounding in mercy and quick to forgive all who seek Him humbly. Scripture even tells us that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, acting as a lawyer on our behalf! And not a lawyer seeking to condemn but rather to redeem, to liberate. Thank you, Father, that You are the judge. The only trustworthy judge in the whole universe.

Feeling humbled in God’s presence and assured in His love, I quickly glanced at the short path to my destination, checking one last time for scorpions. I then turned off the bathroom light and returned bounding tip-toe-style to our small double-sized bed and crawled up and under our blanket, still in awe of what had just happened.

As I curled up in a small ball, an old pillow wedged between my knees in the pitch black room, I thought it a very special occasion that God would speak to me so clearly and so piercingly. I felt I was to share that bare revelation with others and began wondering how. Was I to plan next week’s Bible study around the theme of not judging others, for when we do so we falsely assume God’s throne as if we were the judge, denying Him?

My thoughts ruminated on this one question of how and when to share the word I received, for I felt He had spoken it to me not only for my own instruction but also for that of others. The wee morning hours dragged on as I searched in my heart what to do. Surely this throne-robbing is a habit that runs rampant among the human race, causing division, accusations and inflated egotism where Father God intends sacrificial love to reign. This word must be shared.

The following day my husband Darwin took our 10 kids (yes, the newcomer Genesis from the other side of the country arrived safe and sound and Sandra is still with us, transforming our 8 live-ins into 10) to the nearby city of La Ceiba for a day of music lessons, paint class, a trip to the beach and a day of errands and fun as I stayed at home planning the upcoming week, reading page after page of our local students’ journal collections and generally getting waist-deep in administrative tasks that simply can’t be done when our kids are at home with us. Several times I considered in my heart what to do with the word God had spoken to me earlier that morning, but I sensed I should wait. He would show me when the time comes.

And, sure enough, when our old pickup rolled through our gate with several little (but actually rather big) people hanging off the back with bright neon backpacks and big wind-blown hair, I went out to greet our increasingly large family that I had not seen for several hours that day. The boys greeted me warmly along with our younger girls, but several of our teen girls (yes; we have many!) seemed put-off. I wondered what had happened.

Moments later, as everyone began filtering into our beloved little home with its large front porch, I found one of our girls in the bathroom close to tears. Another one seemed to be eyeing the sad one from a safe distance. Then, out of nowhere, a clan of three powerful young women came marching toward me and asked to talk in private. I could already sense where this was going, for we have been in (and successfully resolved) situations like these more times than I could count.

It had been a long, productive day and I was on the brink of sending everyone to bed for our family’s Sabbath Hour so that we could all get a little bit of rest after an incredibly demanding week (as they all seem to be), so I hesitated for an instant before finally agreeing to invite them into our bedroom to sit cross-legged on the tile floor with me and get to the root of whatever was happening. Better to get it all out and resolve the problem now rather that let it fester until tomorrow.

Our three girls sat down huffing and puffing, fire just about spewing from their ears as they began openly and rather aggressively sharing with me their complaints regarding their other sisters. There had been team-forming, back-stabbing, hurt feelings and the like. The balance of powers (and friendships) had gone quite off-kilter with the sudden arrivals of 16-year-old Sandra and 15-year-old Genesis, and now it seemed like each one was wondering where they fit on the totem pole and who their closest ally was.

I thanked them for trusting me enough to share all their hurt with me, and then I told them that I would be inviting our other big girls in the room to join us – those whom these three had marked as ‘perpetrators’ – for we have a rule in our house that if someone has a problem or misunderstanding with someone else, everyone involved must be present to resolve the situation together to avoid any back-stabbing, gossiping or further misunderstandings. This also facilitates the forgiveness process and allows for everyone to pray together for peace and for God’s love to abound among us. (This is a weekly and sometimes daily process in our household – facilitating healthy confrontations among irate siblings, sometimes taking up to an hour or two to listen patiently to both parties and then, once everyone is calm, seek together a God-honoring solution. These many, many episodes of conflict resolution have been a secret, powerful ingredient that has enabled us to experience ongoing, deeply rooted joy and love in Christ in a highly mixed household whose inhabitants come from dysfunctional, abusive families.)

So there they sat, all five closed off and ready to attack. Several cried. Each one took their turn to share their point of view. Without fail, each and every one said essentially the same thing, although they themselves were blind to that fact: I felt rejected by you, so then I began rejecting you. I saw you hanging out with so-and-so, and I misinterpreted your actions to mean that you no longer loved me, so then I closed my heart off to you and began rejecting you as I perceived that you had rejected me.

Nearly an hour passed as everyone began winding down. Each person had taken their turn – many turns – and they had said all they had to say. They still had a little bit of fight left in them but their strength was largely fading due to the intense emotional sharing. Everyone had talked; everyone had listened. This is almost always my cue to begin talking (once they’ve finished), so I looked around our tight-knit circle with a soft smile on my face as I saw tired, but open faces. It was getting late, and the rest of our household was already quietly tucked into their bedrooms as my husband waited patiently on the couch in our living room. He didn’t dare enter the female battlefield of roller-coaster emotions, jealousy and teenage insecurity, and I didn’t blame him.

I could read our girls’ faces. They knew that they had nothing else to share — they had already told me that — so they thought, shrugging their tired shoulder,  ‘Why not take a few minutes at the end of the battle to listen to Mom? At least we know she has good intentions and wants to help – after all, we sought her out – and we know that she doesn’t take sides, even if each team is actively recruiting her.’

And, as if in an instant of revelation, I suddenly knew exactly what to share. My experience with God the night prior in the bathroom. Were not our girls blinded by their own judgment, just as I had been? Were they not each grabbing at God’s throne, desperate to assume to role of ‘Judge’ so they could stamp a ‘guilty’ verdict on each of their sisters, when they had all participated in the same gossiping, the same emotional warfare? How can one judge the other when they all do the same things? Yes; this was the moment God had chosen to share this word.

And so I did. Carefully, and with great detail and focus. Our girls seemed captivated and intrigued, for it seemed as though I had changed the subject entirely. After all, I was talking about my own struggle with judgment (for they had yet to understand that it was also their struggle). What does Mom’s late-night trip to the bathroom have to do with me?

This apparent change in focus disarmed them completely as they allowed themselves to be wrapped up in the moment. My voice soft and filled with overflowing excitement, I told them, “All day I’ve been wondering how to share this word and with whom, and now I understand that God intends this word for you. In the midst of my judgment last night – swept up just as you are now, casting judgment on others without even having all the information necessary to make a fair verdict – God’s voice pierced my spirit:

…Get off My throne.”

A silent gasp engulfed the entire room as I believe that same word that snatched me from my own inner courtroom the night before likewise liberated our girls in an instant. For the first time in perhaps the whole day – in the midst of emotional warfare, hurt feelings, judgment and back-stabbing – each one suddenly understood exactly what had been at play. They had each assumed the throne that was never theirs to assume: they had observed a negative glance or the unavailability of their sisters and quickly passed judgment, stamped a guilty verdict, assumed the all-powerful position of ‘Judge.’

I continued. “Even the best of lawyers and judges – having conducted very thorough investigations – will never have all the details. Did you know that many people are sentenced to prison each year without having committed the crime they were accused of? There have been studies that have shown that some people have wasted away – years of their life gone forever – in a jail cell, but the lawyers and judges were wrong. Or biased. Or they simply didn’t have all the information. There is only one Judge, and He’s perfect. We can trust Him, and the throne is His. It will never be ours –“

13-year-old Jackeline, who had been extremely heated and put-off only moments prior, added, eyes wide and sincere: “…We must get off His throne…”

With that new revelation alive among us, quickly the girls one after another began asking forgiveness and we prayed together before everyone finally went off to bed with a lightness, a joy that was far from them earlier that day. I smiled and thanked God in my heart.

Since then our 12-year-old daughter Josselyn shared with me in the ensuing days that God stopped her in her tracks as she began judging in her heart. She came up to me with wide eyes and her unkempt black hair one afternoon: “God just spoke to me! I had begun judging someone in my heart, and suddenly I heard, ‘Get off My throne.’”

13-year-old Jackeline shared with me several days later that during a visit with her biological family members, the adults present began a rather aggressive disagreement, each one casting judgment on the other, and she spoke up boldly, “Get off of God’s throne! Each of you is judging the other, but God is the only true judge!” Her family members, who are not Christians, just looked at her oddly, but they did calm down.

I thank God once more for this word He shared with me, and I hope it helps you in your daily life. There is only one Judge, and He is trustworthy! The throne is occupied!

Amen! Glory to God!

Red Ink, Blue Ink and Pencil: The Next Chapter

As I saw the hand-written note carefully wedged in the handle of our dining room door my heart sunk as I sensed I already knew what the contents would hold.

I had been granted the rare treat that morning of being home alone as Darwin had taken all of our kids to town with him to a music session. It was Saturday, and I had spent the morning in our quiet home writing and praying. 15-year-old Brayan — that same young man who lived with us for 8 months in 2014 and has since been heavily involved in school with us, discipleship and occasional family outings — had asked permission to be in our school building that morning working on his homework assignments alone, as his general focus level is very low and he’s thus unable to work effectively in his step-mom’s house in the midst of younger siblings and much activity.

I had not seen or heard from him all morning as he was holed up in our school building with his notebooks and audio learning tapes while I was holed up in our cinderblock home with my own quiet activities.

It was early afternoon when I came upon the carefully folded-up letter wedged in the door on my way to get water from the open-air kitchen that the three small buildings on our property share.

I immediately knew the letter was from Brayan, and I felt my eyes could see right through the lined notebook paper to the inside of its contents, read the entire letter without unfolding it.

I un-wedged the little note from the door handle and cradled it in my hands for a few moments, just staring at it and wanting to delay the inevitable. It’s like getting a life-changing phone call or having your pregnancy test come back positive; for better or worse, your life will never be the same again afterward.

Darwin and the rest of the kids far from our rural property, I breathed slowly as my heart increased the beat of its rhythm. I took a step back from the emotion of the present moment as I very intentionally situated myself under God’s perfect will, staving off my own rebellion with something greater. I breathed those increasingly familiar words once more, bracing myself for what would come next. “Father, may Your will be done, not mine…”

A sense of very selfish dread filled my chest not because I feared some vulgar message or devastating piece of news scribbled inside but rather because I knew he was right.

I unfolded it and realized it was not one page but two. Front and back. Wobbly cursive hand-writing that must have taken all morning to perfect. One paragraph written in red ink, then the next in blue, then the next in pencil. The entire document was written like this, alternating between colors. Paragraph after paragraph, the pattern never broke. Red ink, blue ink, pencil.

At the end of the second page, there were three hearts, one in red ink, one in blue and the other in pencil.

Brayan, our beloved “martian child” who in the past couple years had not managed to pass fifth grade despite his many efforts in our accelerated program for older students — whose emotions (and body) have been hammered by pain and abandonment from a very young age — did, in fact, write exactly what I had feared. And worse, for once he was being logical.

Please, God, give me a solid reason to say no because I certainly can’t think of one.

What about that quickly-fading (and extremely selfish) dream of mine of attaining some sense of ‘normal’ someday? What about the under-control household environment, the small collection of beautiful, high-achieving biological children? Brayan is possibly the worst student academically that we have! And — and we have so many daughters! Surely this would just feed the chaos. Why can’t we just keep on going as we have been this year with him — a friendly, mentor-type relationship, but at a safe distance? And our house is so small; we’re going to have to start piling people one on top of the other to make everyone fit! Please give me a reason to say no…

My rebellion continued as my ego turned red-hot and stamped its feet: If we are going to take in kids who sprung from another woman’s womb, at least bring us ones that are ready for a quick recovery! May they have bright, active minds — may they be able to fully integrate into productive society! But the broken ones, the ones who will forever need emotional crutches, who will probably never really spread their wings and fly? I mean, we already have developmentally-challenged Gabriela and Josue who have more needs than anyone can fill. Oh, Father…

In this past year we’ve made it a habit to tell our kids that there is nothing they could ever do that could make us stop loving them. Good decisions, bad decisions — it doesn’t matter. God has placed us in their lives to show them daily — over the long haul that is the rest of our lives — what His love is for us, and it’s unconditional. They can rest in our love as we all rest in God’s; we’re not going away nor will we ever abandon them.

Was I prepared to look Brayan in the eyes and say the same thing to him, day after day?

My eyes wearily took in the heart-breaking multi-colored paragraphs that I know he pined over all morning, searching for just the right words. And, even as my own ego rebelled against his request, my Father confirmed in my heart what I had known all along: our prodigal son would be coming home.

His step-mother, the very hard-working woman up to her thighs in poverty who had been taking care of him all year, would be sending him away to another town to live with his biological mom (who abandoned him in his infancy and since then has had almost zero role in his life) once he finished his school year this month because she could no longer manage the heavy burden that Brayan presents.

His step-mother had every right to do so — it was not her choice to be Brayan’s sole guardian after his father (the step-mom’s husband) died a few years ago. But Brayan — and I — understood what that would mean. No more school, no more guidance. He is, after all, too old to be in a public elementary school, and very few people have been granted the grace to love Brayan well. He would be sentenced to a life of probably wandering around aimlessly, very far geographically from the love and Biblical guidance that we provide him daily. No more Bible study, no weekly trips with us to the park, no fun birthday parties, choir trips, and prayer groups. Just a life of being cut off from the only real source of love he’s possibly ever known.

We were and always have been the family that God has blessed this young man with, even if over the last two years it has been at arm’s length.

So he asked several times and in several different ways — and with several different shades of ink — if he could move back in with us. He asked for forgiveness for the times he’s disrespected us, not followed the rules. He asked again and again, and it broke my heart even as my mind rattled off its last few objections and then eventually gave up.

He wasn’t the one who needed to ask for forgiveness; it was us.

We had been the ones to be too impatient with him, earnestly seeking harvest where we should have been concerned only with sowing. Had we not thrown up our hands in exasperation so many times with Brayan, unable to see any light at the end of what seemed to us to be a never-ending tunnel? (And had we not found ourselves in very similar stages of frustration with each and every one of the kids under our care, but had we not persevered with them where we hadn’t with Brayan?)

And so, six days after receiving that multi-colored note, Brayan moved back in with his cardboard box-full of belongings. Darwin, Brayan, and I went to sign all the paperwork down at the local government office to allow him to legally begin living with us again (which turned out to be no paperwork at all because the lawyer who had agreed to meet with us was out of the office and the other lawyer just spoke with me briefly and jotted down Brayan’s name on a little piece of paper before letting us go). First I then Darwin embraced Brayan bear-hug style with a big grin on our faces that matched that of his. God’s glory among us was palpable as we surely displayed the appearance of people who genuinely like — love — one another, something that in this culture is very rarely shown even among biological family members. The middle-aged female lawyer who had spoken with me in her office just observed us from a careful distance with a curious expression on her face. Why on earth were Darwin and I — and this rogue young man who has no other place to live, no real love in his life, so many reasons to be depressed and angry — so joyful, and how on earth did we feel such freedom so as to hug him? The majority of the minors who are admitted into foster families or children’s homes are little children — not towering young men with budding facial hair. Why had this abandoned, broken teenager chosen to find refuge in a Christian family rather than a gang?

So as we sat around the dining room table together that first night as a 10-again family (two parents and 8 kids), Dayana — who had shared our little cinderblock home with him during his first round in our household back in 2014 — smiled ear-to-ear and said, “Welcome home again, Brayan.”

Since his move home, these first twenty-two days have been off to a blessed start. In the wee hours of each morning Darwin gets Brayan up, they both slip on their rubber boots and old work clothes and head out to the barn together to milk the cows. Whereas during his first round of living in our home he and Darwin often butted heads like two of those male mountain goats that you see on Discovery Channel, both wanting to knock the other one off the mountainside, now he and Darwin wrestle together for fun, poking each other and giving the other a hard time with a big smile on their face. Whereas in his early times in our household nearly three years ago he was a loud, uncontrollable young man with extreme impulses, he is now much calmer, more mature and smiles frequently (as is consistent with his behavior this year in school with us). Darwin calls him “Brayan Big Beard” due to the little budding facial hairs on his upper lip, and Brayan adds a good dose of testosterone to our household after having previously been dominated almost entirely by young women. The girls are putting into practice good, healthy limits as is he, and we are all clinging to God’s grace each day as we are trusting with all our might that this is what He’s asked us to do.

Amen! Glory to God!

Other posts written about our journey following God’s will with Brayan: It All Started With a Cup of Water (February 2014), Our Favorite Neighbor (October 2014), “Hola Ma” (July 2015) and A Million Pinpricks of Light: The Hand of God in a Dark World (January 2016)

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!

 

Art Club Kick-Off with Miss Ligia

A couple Fridays ago ‘Art Club’ commenced under the enthusiastic direction of Miss Ligia, our beloved secondary teacher who continues to brave the untravelled ‘classroom’ waters. She had studied and practiced law prior to taking the rather large leap earlier this year to begin practicing a different kind of justice — the taming of 13 unruly teenagers with God’s love.

In addition to being the full-time 7th grade teacher, she has taken on the role of leading the weekly ‘Art Club,’ and the class’ kick-off a couple Fridays ago went phenomenally well. After organizing an in-class lesson on the primary and secondary colors, etc (a very basic topic but one that is unknown to the majority of youth from our rural neighborhood as they have never taken even an introductory art class before), she grabbed the white t-shirts, fabric paint and brushes and headed out to our front lawn with her Art Club participants to spend the afternoon decorating t-shirts (which will then be used as their ‘uniform’ for the club each Friday). Oh, and I believe there was some kind of glitter-filled balloon trap hanging from the ceiling of the classroom to begin the whole activity. Way to go, Miss Ligia!

Enjoy the photos several of our younger kids and I took during the first Art Club meeting…

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Miss Ligia and Darwin in our front yard with a few of the Art Club students painting t-shirts at one of our concrete tables

 

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Miss Ligia with Arnold, a 13-year-old student from our rural neighborhood who participates in our 7th-grade discipleship program, piano classes with Darwin, and several of our new extracurricular clubs

 

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Four of our boys as they plan how to decorate their t-shirts

 

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Our 15-year-old daughter Dayana with local students Stanley and Sindy as all three paint t-shirts during their first Art Club meeting

 

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12-year-old Dariela, a glitter-covered local student

 

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Watch out, Miss Ligia! The girls are coming for you!

 

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It looks like Miss Ligia has been fully initiated into Art Club! Nice face markings!

 

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18-year-old Exson, a very artistic young man from our rural neighborhood who participates in our high school program

 

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I don’t know who’s comin’ for who; both Miss Ligia and Cristian look like they’re up to no good! I bet paint is involved!

 

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This was the shirt 13-year-old Elalf painted. It reads “God is love” with a lamb in the top corner.

 

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Our 9-year-old son Jason took this photo and several others as he camped out in the truck-bed of our parked car. He’s pretty good paparazzi!

 

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14-year-old Arlen, a local students we’ve known almost three years, as he poses with his newly-painted t-shirt


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Clean-up time!

 

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Our 11-year-old daughter Gleny as she greets her older sister who just got finished with Art Club

 

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Time for everybody to head home! See you Monday, Miss Martha!

 

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See you on Monday, Charlie and Arnold!

 

Amen! Glory to God!

June 2016 Updates and Prayer Requests

Outrageously Fun Learning Curve

At the Living Waters Ranch we are currently riding quite a thrilling learning curve, seeing as none of us has previously done the kind of work that the Lord has currently assigned us.

Special-needs kids, sexual abuse victims, parenting teenagers who spent their childhood in someone else’s family, teaching God’s Word weekly to dozens of people, intimately guiding the hearts and lives of wounded youth, mounds of (sometimes confusing) legal documents to be continually written and updated, designing and then operating a new high school, seeking to cultivate an intentional Christian community, financially stewarding a growing ministry, managing (and guiding, loving, investing in) a team of Christian workers, legal adoptions, a herd of milking cows? 

Our hair is blown-back and our lips are flapping in the intense wind as we daily engage in the outrageous privilege of learning on the fly, utilizing every spare second of freetime to absorb new teachings, devour the Word, go and learn from those ahead of us, listen to sermons directing our steps into this unknown territory of children’s ministry, devour books on topics such as sexual abuse/spiritual warfare/leadership training, sit down to pray and seek guidance together as Christ’s body, and make 1,459 mistakes along the way.

Let us give thanks to our Father who calls the unlikely, and then — miraculously! — equips them to go out and proclaim His name! Amen!

Miss Isis, Primary Teacher and Christian Laborer, Will Move to the Living Waters Ranch in July

Miss Isis, our young primary teacher who has been roughing it with us in the ‘wilderness’ among rogue youth, hard-learned lessons and joy abounding since August of last year, will be moving into a spare bedroom in our office/special needs building with her year-and-a-half-old daughter at the beginning of July.

She is a native Honduran and has been called to leave her family’s home, sell the majority of her belongings, and take the huge step of faith to begin living on our mission base 7 days a week as a way of deepening her walk with the Lord. The step she is taking is very counter-cultural and has been difficult for her family to accept, but it is such a privilege to see that she is assured even moreso that Jesus is calling her into deeper intimacy with Himself.

She is a sponge, has grown exponentially in these 10+ months of laboring alongside of us, and is a tireless worker in proclaiming the incredible grace of a good God.

We are so proud of her and are excited about taking the step to include her into our growing family/community at the Living Waters Ranch as our Father continues to mold us into His family, a beautiful expression of His love for wounded, rebellious humanity.

Sandra’s Mom Begins Attending Bible Study

15-year-old Sandra, who moved in with us in February of this year due to a situation of sexual abuse with her step-father and about whom I have written many updates and prayer requests since then, continues to hold a very precious relationship with her mother.

Sandra´s mom, who is still trapped in a difficult relationship with Sandra´s step-dad but doesn’t have the financial means to leave him with her three younger kids, visits Sandra weekly at our home/mission and has begun to attend Bible study in our dining room with us as she continues to seek refuge in the warrior God who loves her and is constantly seeking to protect her heart from the harsh circumstances in this world. Two of Sandra’s younger sisters (who are not in danger with Sandra´s step-dad because he is their biological father and treats them well) have also become actively involved in Darwin´s youth choir, and their mom is now attending first grade at a school for illiterate adults on Saturdays as she desires to be able to read God’s Word for herself.

Please continue to pray for this precious woman as she continues to seek God’s will in the midst of an unhealthy marriage relationship and deep poverty.

Celebration of Four Years Living in Honduras, Three Years of Marriage

The 5th of this month I celebrated my four-year anniversary since moving to Honduras as a recent college graduate in 2012, and on the 24th Darwin and I will celebrate three years of marriage. Glory to God for these milestones!

Prayer for Additional Supporters

Due to the fact that this is the first year we have offered our discipleship-based 5-day-per-week high school program along with our new special-needs classroom to local youth from our (destitute, gang-riddled) rural neighborhood, we have higher monthly expenses than we have had in years past as we are now serving more people. Each month more is going out than coming in, so I am humbly expressing our need to see if anyone is called to join with us to fill it.

My husband and I currently toil joyfully alongside of four full-time Christian laborers (local Honduran missionaries serving as teachers, prayer leaders, etc) whom the Lord has brought to the Living Waters Ranch and from which they earn their living. All four full-time laborers have been added on in the last year, and thus salaries — however meager they are — are currently a heavy (but entirely necessary) financial burden in addition to the many other monthly expenses we incur (medical/dental/basic care costs for the 8 who live with us full-time, food, administration, legal fees, educational materials for our students, etc).

There are currently 18 individuals/families and  3 churches who financially support this work monthly and several others who give generously from time to time.

Please pray with us that the Lord would raise up a handful more of faithful individuals/families to partner with us in this incredible expression of God’s Kingdom among us here in Honduras. If you or anyone you know is called to participate with us in this work, you can go to http://www.CTEN.org/jenniferzilly