Tag Archives: Mixed Family

Celebrations of Life and Belonging

In the past four days we have celebrated two birthdays in our large, God-designed household — one of our new foster daughters turned 16, and one of our girls who’s been in our household nearly five years and is in the process of being adopted by us turned 14.

Since answering the call to Biblical parenthood to the orphaned and abandoned five years ago, my husband and I have vacillated in our response to birthdays. The first year or so each birthday was largely extravagant due to the newness of the whole affair and our desire to make our new children feel welcomed and loved, but then over the ensuing 2-3 years birthdays became routine and even boring (largely due to the fact that we’ve had up to 10 children/teens in our family at a time, which makes for a whole lot of birthdays). We stopped going the extra mile and settled for simple birthday wishes and little to no gifts.

Well, this year we are diving back into (and now with more depth, increased love and hours of dedicated thoughtfulness and planning) the act of blessing our 7 children in a unique way on their birthday as we celebrate with them all God has done in their lives and the precious gift that they are to my husband and me.

The following photos were taken in our 10′ x 20′ living room around the wooden table where we eat meals, have family meetings, do homework, pray together and enjoy art projects. We give thanks to God for allowing us to rediscover the joy of celebrating the beauty of our children and making them feel treasured on their birthday.

Thank you to all who pray for and financially support this mission. God bless you, and may you be encouraged by the sheer joy displayed on our children’s faces as they know they are loved by God and by many more.

In Christ,

Jennifer, for Darwin and family

Yesterday was our daughter Gleny’s 14th birthday. She came to us when she was a malnourished and very scared 9-year-old, and now she is a beautiful and blossoming young woman growing in God’s grace. Gleny has been known to struggle in her relationships with her siblings due to her very strong and even dominating temperament, so it was very special to see everyone reach out to and support her last night on her birthday (and to see the way she responded with love and gratitude). I especially enjoy the way her older biological sister (Dayana, purple t-shirt) is looking upon her in this photo, as the Lord has done a lot this year to restore the relationship of sisterhood between these two after many years of emotional distance (despite always having lived in the same household). Praise God for the way He is healing our children.
This is the birthday poster board I designed with two of our teen girls for Gleny’s birthday.
A couple nights prior one of our new foster daughters, Carolina, celebrated her 16th birthday. She has lived with us nearly a year and has been in the child welfare system since early childhood. We feel called by God to legally adopt her once she turns 21 years old, and she is very excited about this. (Certain children/teens in Honduras are adoptable before age 21 and others must wait until 21 for various legal reasons, so she will continue to live with us as our daughter in Christ until she can legally become our daughter once she turns 21.) She wanted ice cream instead of a cake, so we stuck the candles in two tubs of ice cream!
This particular daughter of ours loves pulling pranks on other people, so included in the gifts we got her were plastic glasses, buckteeth, a pirate’s patch and fake snot. (It ended up being fun for the whole family!)
What a pretty birthday girl!

This is Josue, our special-needs foster son who has been living with us over three years. He’s a total ham and loves getting in on the action with everyone else!

Our 11-year-old with the fake snot! Too funny!

Don’t I have a really handsome husband?

Even though this picture turned out a bit blurry, I love it because our eldest (almost 18) is normally quite serious and note prone to doing anything “childish.” It really touched my heart that she got in on the fun right alongside everyone else!

Last but not least…Try not to laugh…I grabbed a big blue bow that was on top of one of our girls’ presents and put it on Darwin! (I had put it on myself first, but then our kids encouraged me to try it on him as well…) Our kids started cracking up and calling out, “Mom! Your present has arrived! It’s Dad!”
Gotta love this photo! (Even though Darwin doesn’t!) He started speaking in a nonexistent foreign language with his birthday bow on his head…He had us all rolling!

 

That’s all for now! God bless you!

Prayer Request for Spiritual Renewal in Our Household and Ministry

We are currently seeking your earnest prayers for spiritual and emotional renewal in our household with our 10 foster kids/teens ages 9-17. (This is probably going to turn out to be a somewhat disorganized post that is anything but eloquent).

The last several weeks all of our kids have been on school vacation (which has allowed all of us much more family time where we’ve all been together with less distractions), and the Lord has allowed us to go through something akin to the “valley of the shadow of death” (I call it this because that is what it has felt like) with them as we’ve come up against unforeseen challenges, incorrect attitudes, and sin issues in our household one after the other, leaving us all quite broken and frazzled in the aftermath. This has all led to many times of sincere prayer, on-edge conflict mediations between various family members, occasions of asking forgiveness and of forgiving, intense times of counsel with our teens, and moments of various members of our household becoming emotionally undone (myself included).

Seven of our ten kids are teenagers, and all of them come from extremely broken backgrounds. Parenting any teenager is a delicate task, but parenting 15- and 17-year-olds who come from dark places and who entered our lives on the cusp of puberty or several years already into their adolescence is not for the faint of heart. They want their privileges and freedoms as they are nearing adulthood, but they are still in the beginning stages of being trained in righteousness and have not yet proved they are trustworthy. (This power struggle creates much angst in our household).

I am seeking earnest prayers as our household has been shaken several times over the past several weeks, and we are in need of genuine repentance and spiritual maturity for each one of our precious children as they grab hold of their identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Living God. There are always certain challenges and difficulties in our daily parenting endeavor in such a large, mixed household, but for some reason the last few weeks have been much harder than usual. All of this has left Darwin and me quite exhausted and a bit discouraged.

This is a no-frills post; I am simply asking for prayer in regards to a renewed commitment to Christ in each one of our children along with spiritual maturity, the fear of the Lord, and abounding wisdom, joy, peace and love within the bounds of our hearts and household. Pray against gossip, disrespect, rebellion and sexual sin in our household, and please ask God to grant us revival in our walk with Him. Pray that the Lord would pick each one of us up in His mercy and encourage our hearts as we are entering a new year and a new season of serving Him. (Our small, dedicated team of local teachers/missionaries returned yesterday as we are entering a month-long period of team training, house-to-house evangelism in our rural neighborhood, intensive math tutoring for local students, and general preparation for a new school year in our discipleship-based community homeschool that will officially begin at the end of this month.)

Please pray also for me specifically, as these last few weeks have wrung me dry on all accounts, and I’m in need of encouragement and refreshment both relationally with other humans and on a spiritual level in my walk with Christ. I’ve gone walls-up with everyone around me after having been hurt so many times by our kids in these last few weeks, and due to emotional fatigue I feel as though I’ve just been going through the motions of each day, running from one activity to the next, just trying to stay afloat. Please pray that Christ might fully permeate my being and flood me with His peace so that I might be a useful instrument in His hands rather than merely a broken woman who runs around with her hair on fire all day until getting to her room at night and collapsing, exhausted and discouraged. Please pray that my heart might not be hardened and that my being might receive the light of Christ to cast away all darkness.

Thank you to all those who lift us up in prayer and support the Lord’s work through us in Honduras. May God bless you in this new year and fill you with His love. Thank you for considering our humble state before the Lord.

Family of 12

Yesterday we tread across our large, muddy front yard under the misting rain to go ask our night-watchman’s wife if she would be willing to take a few photos of our family later that day. We hadn’t yet taken any pictures with our new daughters (Paola, age 14 and Carolina, age 15) since they had moved in several weeks ago, and we decided that yesterday was as good a day as any to go ahead and schedule the family photo shoot. Our neighbor agreed; it suddenly stopped raining; we picked a nice garden-like spot in front of our little cinderblock house for our photo backdrop; and we took the following series of photos all in a time span of about 10 minutes.

Praise be to God!

Everybody grab a partner and get in close for the first shot! We gotta hurry before it starts raining again!

Now switch partners! Grab somebody new! (I ended up grabbing two — Jason on my back and Gaby in my arms!)

Change it up again! (Our Rottweiler — named Goliath — decided to hop in this shot! He was eager for us to play ball with him…)
Here’s my husband Darwin with our 16-year-old son Brayan with Jackeline and our new daughter Paola behind them.
Everybody get with a new family member! (The young woman whom I’m with in this photo is Carolina, our new 15-year-old daughter. She happens to look a lot like our daughter Dayana, and our other new daughter looks a lot like Jackeline!)

Grab somebody new again! (And this time try to hang them upside down by their feet…not so easy to do with our 17-year-old daughter!)
Our dogs kept trying to take part in the photo shoot! (This is Freckles trying to greet Jason while Jackeline holds him upside-down!)
Carolina with our developmentally-challenged daughter Gabriela (Gaby)

Hang on just a couple more seconds! (Way to go, Darwin!)
Now it’s my turn for a piggy-back ride! (Thanks, Jackeline!)
Everybody tickle your neighbor (and try not to fall off)!

One last shot! Everybody get in position! (The camera was about to lose its battery…plus we were all tired)!
What a big baby I’ve got! I hope I don’t drop you, Paola!

Amen! Glory to God!

Family Roll Call! (Informational Video #2)

Here is the second homemade informational video we recorded this past week! (Even though it starts off by giving a ‘Vacation Bible School’ greeting, the video is intended for general audiences!)

Hanging on for Dear Life: A Riotous Family Photo Shoot

Yesterday afternoon we went to a local park with our 8 kids, as we do every week. Some swam; others went to the fruit grove to pick mangos; I played a riotous game of volleyball with several of our older kids; Darwin zipped back and forth on the monkey bars. After everyone was either really wet or sweaty — and not by any means in their nice ‘photo attire’ — it occurred to me to organize an impromptu family photo. It had, after all, been months since the last time we took a photo of all 8 together, so I called everyone over and began explaining what was going to happen: everyone was going to hang from the monkey bars while I snapped a couple photos. It sounded easy enough.

As everyone started swinging into place, we started realizing that the photo I had in mind was a lot easier said than done! The hard part was that once the first ones got into hanging position, they had to wait for the others — some of which are not exactly lightning fast — to climb up and make their way across the bars as well. Before we knew it, everyone was slipping and falling from the bars because they couldn’t wait long enough for everyone else!

Poor Gaby and Josue! They were the first to get in hanging position, and they ended up staying there several minutes while everyone else climbed up and across the bars! Darwin had to come in for emergency monkey support!

Oh no! Jason (green shirt, red shorts) just fell! Now everybody else has to wait for him to get back up again, which is no short process! Hang in there! (No pun intended…)

Somebody suggested that they bring in stools to help expedite the process, so everyone began frantically bringing over carved tree trunks to stand on so that they could grab the bars faster. Gaby and Josue (left) kept hanging on for dear life! Hurry up, everybody! Where’s Jackeline?!

Finally we got a good shot (even though Jackeline and Gleny are technically cheating — their feet are on the stumps!). This one’s going in the family photo album!

On our park outing, we had a young family friend along with us who sat nearby just watching the whole photo-taking craziness. As I glanced over at him and smiled several times — our kids all laughing hysterically and crying out in pain — I felt that he did not know whether he should laugh or feel embarrassed to be associated with us in public. Our dear friend is from a very small, subdued family; we’re accustomed to turning heads just about everywhere we go!

The first shot was over, and everyone’s hands hurt! Look at those beautiful faces!

Everybody cried out, “That’s it, right, Mom? Can we go now?!”

My too-perky response, which was received with groans: “No! Everybody get back up there; we’re gonna take a few more photos! Let’s go, team! Up and at ’em!”

Round two! Get in there, Jackeline!

Their faces are priceless! Aren’t they just too cute? (Hey! Jason isn’t even hanging from the bars…) This must have been the most painful photo shoot they had ever attended!

Red alert! Josue’s grip gave way after several minutes clinging to the bar! Good thing Darwin was close to make sure everything was okay…

One last shot, everyone! Darwin, hop in there!

Do not fear, kids! No more monkey bar shots; now we’re headed to the teeter totter for the last part of Mom’s crazy photo shoot! Everybody grab a sibling!

They were certainly relieved when we told them that we had successfully finished taking our wild series of family photos! Several collapsed on the ground dramatically in response to the rigorous process…

Amen! We praise and thank God for the beautiful family He is forming among us. He certainly is Father to the fatherless; He sets the lonely in families…

“God Lives In My Family”: Reflections From Our Eldest Daughter

A year-and-a-half ago I published a reflection on our very intense, heavily blessed journey with our now-16-year-old daughter Dayana, the eldest of the children we are fostering who we are in the process of legally adopting along with her younger siblings.

Now, nearly four years into our journey with her, I am publishing not my thoughts regarding our relationship but rather hers. Earlier today as I was waist-deep in finishing the process of weeding through the many stapled booklets of our students’ handwritten reflections, seeking small golden nuggets of wisdom and compelling stories — traces of God’s active work in their lives — I found myself fully absorbed by hers. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the 150+ pages of our other students’ journals, but this blog I will dedicate to the developing thoughts of a young woman whom my husband and I treasure more than she will ever know and alongside of whom we have fought tooth and nail for her salvation and transformation.

She is currently one of our top 8th-grade students in our small, discipleship-based homeschool program, and Darwin and I actively serve as her math, English, Bible and music teachers in addition to sharing with her the daily rhythms of family life in a large, mixed household.

The following paragraphs are separate excerpts taken from her 22-page stapled reflection journal written last month.

Dayana with her little biological brother Jason, who has also been living in our family since November 2013.

 

I give thanks to God because He has given me a big family full of love in Christ. What we do really well in my family is that whenever there is good or bad news to be shared, we communicate well…I consider that God lives in my family. We are all growing in the love and faith of the only King.

I have so many dreams for my life as an adult. I want to earn two college degrees: Architecture and Music. Another dream is that of helping needy people; be a counselor for youth and adults in accordance with God’s Word; raise children who do not have the protection of their [biological] parents; exercise the gifts the Lord has given me; be my children’s teacher and that of others; marry a man who serves Christ; be a writer or poet; write my own music; be a good wife and mom; show God’s love to the world; offer help free of charge to people who need help cleaning and organizing their homes; go to the ends of the earth proclaiming the truth about God; be an art teacher; be fully submitted to God’s will; live in England or Brazil (but now that I think about it, I will need to live fairly close to my parents so that they can take care of their grandchildren when my husband and I go on dates!); acquire love for my enemies…I can achieve these goals, but if they are not used for the good, it is as if they were never achieved. May it be God who guides my future and my dreams. Everything in God’s hands is good.

Knowing God and having a relationship with Him is not only about saying “I’m a Christian,” but about recognizing our sin and repenting with all our heart. I am a human being and fail every day, but I examine myself and repent. I love God and trust Him. He loves us, and we can prove His love because He sent His only Son to die for us. We do not deserve His forgiveness, but He loves us enough to extend His forgiveness to us. He is my everything.

I am studying at the Living Waters Ranch high school by my own free will. I truly want to be prepared to confront all that lies ahead in today’s world…If we look closely at the local public schools [in Honduras], they do not offer an adequate education, whereas here [at home] I do receive one…I am here to grow in God’s will; may God guide me in my learning, and may all that I learn be for His glory and in honor of Him.

A recent experience I’ve learned from was that of Sandra’s escape. Through that situation I’ve learned not to run away when things are difficult; God has not given us a spirit of cowardice. The whole situation was very difficult because I love her as a sister…God did great things [when we went to visit her the night she was found], and He used me in a great way. She talked with me at length, and I counseled her. I give thanks to God because He gave me the right words according to the truth in order to counsel her. If we run away, we are turning our back on God. Anything could have happened to Sandra, but God protected her. God is using the gift of leadership that He’s given me. 

…My parents have heavily impacted my life. They have not only been parents but have also been my counselors and teachers. They have shown me their love, something that not all parents do. I have had many struggles, but even so they love me. They correct me; they discipline me; they give me advice; they love me. Each day I am walking with them towards God. They have taught me to not fear in this world, to love others without taking notice of their defects, to walk in the light, to not lie, and to protect myself for my future husband…

My whole family is Christian by God’s grace. The majority of us have been baptized. We have all confessed our sin; we have repented. In other words, my family is worshipping God. Something that I have present in my mind and that we should all have present is that they [my family] are not going to save me when I am standing before God’s throne. Just because my family is Christian does not mean that they respond for me. No; we all have the responsibility to choose whether we follow God or not.

A terribly silly photo my dad took of Darwin and I with our 8 kids when he visited us in January (Sandra was not present at the taking of the photo). What a goofy crowd!

 

Please continue to pray with us for Dayana’s continued transformation and renewal; may she daily grow in her love of Christ as He continues to liberate her from the many chains of her past. Let us thank God for the powerful testimony He has already begun etching out in her, and may Darwin and I be granted great perseverance, faith and hope as we continue onward in our journey parenting her for God’s good pleasure. Amen!

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)

Diplomas, Choir Songs, and More: Our Yearend Celebration in Photos

We recently celebrated our end-of-the-year academic promotion and music recital with our students and their families. Each of our 25 students (12 in elementary and 13 in high school) received diplomas for the different extracurricular clubs they had participated in — Sports Club, Christian Leadership, Art Club, etc — along with their official certificate for having passed their grade. Darwin’s musical group performed various piano and recorder pieces along with singing several songs, and the students from Cooking Club prepared delicious snacks for all the guests.

We handed the camera off to several kids as they dashed about as undercover paparazzi, but the camera’s battery died before the majority of the invitees arrived and the actual event began!

Enjoy the photos from the set-up…

clausura1
Some of our teachers and students preparing the decorations for the event in the porch of the small building that serves as our high school/music training center/office.

 

clausura10
Miss Luz, a local Christian woman who served with us this year as the special needs teacher and prayer group leader, was putting the finishing touches on the snacks…

 

clausura9

clausura11
The two cats we got recently to help with a rat infestation in our pantry — Kitchen Guard and Rat Police — were making sure everything was going smoothly with the snack preparation.

 

clausura8
Charlie, a 13-year-old local student who did not pass our 7th-grade discipleship program due to immaturity and a general lack of academic preparedness, was very brave and showed up for the event even though he wouldn’t be receiving the official certificate for having passed his grade. He is a faithful member of Darwin’s recorder group, so he participated in the music recital and was awarded several diplomas for his consistent participation in Christian Leadership and other extracurricular clubs. (This is one of the young men I wrote about in the previous post whom we tracked down and convinced to enroll again next year even though he was upset he didn’t pass this year.)

 

clausura16
13-year-old Arnold, one of our local students who passed our 7th grade program after much blood, sweat and tears (or something like that) during our two-week intensive yearend bootcamp, was helping his teacher tape up the decorations.

 

clausura12
While everyone was stressed out, zipping around from one decoration to the next and getting diplomas and everything in order, I took advantage of the microphone set up for Darwin’s choir and had a little too much fun playing the event’s quite animated ‘announcer’…

 

clausura27
Anybody know any good jokes?

 

clausura13
Miss Ligia (high school teacher, left) and Miss Isis (elementary teacher, right) enjoyed my jokes.

 

clausura14

clausura28
Our 13-year-old daughter Jackeline getting ready to sing and play piano. She passed fifth grade with flying colors in a local private school and is currently doing sixth grade (the last grade in elementary school according to the Honduran educational system) right now during school vacation so that she will be able to enter 7th grade (the first year of high school) in our discipleship program in February. We are very (very, very) proud of her as she has experienced a dramatic transformation after having spent a very difficult first year with us in 2015 that was riddled with laziness, depression and very poor decision-making. Keep it up, girl!

 

clausura20
How many more people, tables and musical instruments can we fit on the porch? Keep ’em coming!

 

clausura2
Yexon, the 12-year-old son of our night watchman who has been in school with us along with three of his siblings for two years. He passed both second and third grade this year in our accelerated elementary program for students who are academically behind. He’s trying to look serious for the photo!

 

clausura3
Josue, our 8-year-old son with special needs who has been living with us for almost two years, enjoyed running around our yard while everyone else frantically made preparations for the event. Exercise is a great way to keep away the stress!

 

clausura4
Go, Josue, go! Feel those endorphins!

 

clausura5
And he just kept on running and laughing!

 

clausura6
Where’s Josue?

 

clausura7
Gotta pass right through the mud puddle!

 

clausura17
9-year-old Jason and 15-year-old Brayan, two of our pianists (and sons), enjoyed playing a few songs on the keyboard as the beginning of the event drew near.

 

clausura15
People are arriving!

 

clausura18
Darwin had many choir and musical ensemble members to get ready for the big outdoor event. Everybody get in line to get your red ribbon!

 

clausura22
15-year-old Marina and 10-year-old Paola (both of whom look much younger than they are due to malnutrition they suffered in early childhood), two of our faithful elementary school students, arrived at the event with several of their siblings and mother. They are both on their way to fourth grade in our accelerated program after having spent their early childhood in deep poverty with no education. They are some of the first people in their very large family to learn to read and write and be involved consistently in school. We are so proud of them!

 

clausura19
Our 12-year-old daughter Gleny — who we are in the process of legally adopting along with her two siblings — had had enough of my antics with the microphone!

 

clausura21
Arnold, one of our local students who generally displays a ‘too cool for this’ attitude, has recently confessed how much his experiences this year at the Living Waters Ranch have meant to him. In the last couple weeks he and Darwin and I have made many phone calls and house visits to persuade his parents to allow him to continue studying with us (the father, who is not a Christian, was looking for a more ‘traditional’ educational experience for his son). After much effort, his parents finally agreed and understood that this is the best place for their son to study and grow in God’s will, and Arnold has since come to sign the enrollment papers for next year! Praise God!

 

clausura24
These precious young women are 16-year-olds Sandra and Dayana, our two eldest daughters and two of our students who successfully passed our 7th grade program. Sandra is successfully living with her biological mom again as the mom has valiantly left behind the abusive step-father to look for new, healthier beginnings. Dayana continues to live with us as we are in the process of legally adopting her.

 

clausura25
Here are three of our strapping young gentlemen getting ready for the big event. For teenage boys who are accustomed to wandering gravel roads in torn, dirty clothing and surviving year after year in suffocating poverty, getting ‘squeaky clean’ and all dressed up in formal attire to participate in an organized music concert (that they’ve been practicing for for months) is a really big deal. All three of them were baptized in October and have signed the enrollment papers to come back again next year.

 

clausura26
Our daughter Dayana

 

clausura29
Derbin, a local young man who is not our full-time student because we do not offer the grade he is in (ninth), but who participates very faithfully in choir, piano, Christian Leadership and Bible study, was excited to attend the event with several of his young siblings. Nice mustache!

 

clausura31
Lookin’ sharp, Charlie!

 

Amen! Glory to God!