Tag Archives: Obedience

Following Jesus, Our Lord Who Sought Out the Tax Collectors, Prostitutes and Sinners

(The following is a rather long story, but well worth the read…)

In our rural town about a half-hour drive outside of one of Honduras’ major cities, it is not uncommon for sporadic murders to take place. Oftentimes our neighbors will inform us that a dead body was found thrown out in the local pineapple fields or seen alongside the highway that runs right through the middle of our town.

In six years of living here, we’ve personally known several people whose lives have been taken by murder, and it is totally expected that the police will take no action to investigate or punish these violent crimes.

Several weeks ago my husband, our 7 foster children and I were driving at about 10 miles per hour in our old Toyota pickup truck through our sleepy town towards the highway. It was almost Easter Sunday, and we suddenly noticed a large crowd of people standing about alongside the road. We always drive with our windows rolled down in order to get more of a breeze inside the hot truck cabin, and my husband casually extended an arm outside of the truck to point at the crowd, commenting, “Oh, I bet a local church is doing some kind of Easter parade for the resurrection.”

He slowed down even more as all of us began peering at the crowd. I began waving at the people, extending a friendly greeting as I searched for familiar faces among them. Soon I realized that something just didn’t seem right as everyone stared on rather gloomily, and they hardly looked like they were parading in triumph to celebrate Christ’s resurrection.

Darwin was the first to notice the dead body covered haphazardly with a bloody bedsheet in someone’s front yard, and he muttered something under his breath and sped up the car a tad in order to move all of us past what he realized was not a parade but rather a crime scene.

I glanced over at him, searching his face for clues, and then glanced back out the passenger’s window when I then realized what he had seen. I let out a slight gasp, looked away, and immediately stopped waving at everyone as chills covered my body. Our daughters who were inside the cabin with us grew totally silent as we all considered the tragedy.

The police station is located only a few blocks away, but there were no police to be found among the somber crowd and we knew that they most likely would show up hours or even days later just to say they were sorry about the family’s loss (if they even decided to show up at all). 

We continued onward in silence for several minutes as we all wondered who had been killed and why. Was it gang-related? Did two late-night drunks get in a fight? Was it a meticulously planned murder, or was it a crime of passion that developed in the blink of an eye?

Not two weeks earlier another dead body was seen (this one uncovered) along the same main road as my husband shuttled a group of our pre-teen students up to our rural ministry homestead for another day of classes and discipleship. Many of the kids had immaturely pointed and laughed, because to them it is entirely normal to see corpses.

On our way back home several hours after having passed by the almost-Easter crime scene, my husband cautiously stopped by a local shop near our home to inquire about the victim of the murder. (It is extremely important not to get too involved in the details or fall into gossiping or finger-pointing when such a crime occurs, because if your comments reach the wrong ears the perpetrators might target you as the next victim in order to silence you.)

My husband Darwin simply asked who the victim had been (and not why he had been killed or by whom), and the shop owner let out a belly laugh and pointed to a house a few doors down and said in an unnecessarily loud voice, “It was Roberto! They took him out!” He shook his head as if it were a shame and continued laughing about his neighbor’s tragic murder as Darwin and I just stared at him, surprised and deeply saddened by his response.

Another grown man and a teenage boy were with the shop owner, and they, too, began laughing and joking about their neighbor’s murder. Darwin excused us politely from their presence, and we continued driving onward toward home, again in silence. 

The victim in question was a man we had seen and greeted on occasion but not known personally. He was the young live-in boyfriend of a notorious middle-aged woman about whom we have heard many terrible rumors. 

Fast-forward a few days.

I was again in our old white pickup truck, but this time alone. I had been running a few errands in our town before I began rumbling back up that long gravel road to our rural property. As I passed the home of the man who had been murdered — which lies less than a half-mile from where we live — a sudden and unmistakeable impression from the Lord was pressed upon me in regards to the woman who survived him: “Go console her.”

The command came to me entirely unexpectedly as I was immediately in front of her home, but the car continued in motion almost a block as I considered what I had been instructed to do. I felt surprised and at the same time excited that the Lord had so clearly spoken to me, but I began to reason that it would just be too much of a hassle to turn the car around at this point. It would have been nice to go console the woman whose live-in boyfriend had just been murdered — it was, in fact, what Jesus probably would have done — but maybe another day. Or maybe never.

The car kept rolling up that gravel road — farther and farther from her home as I tried to reason my way out of obedience — when I finally turned the car around and parked in front of her home. God had won. I breathed deeply — praying that the Lord would give me the right words and that He might open the woman’s heart to receive something from Him — and I got out of the car and approached the twig-and-barbed wire front gate.

Most people in our rural town recognize my husband Darwin and I as the directors/teachers of our little discipleship school and know generally that we are doing Christian work in our neighborhood, but there are still many people whom we don’t know personally. This woman was one such case, as we had passed by her home just about every day and waved to her as she hand-washed her clothes in her front yard or as her children played on the porch, but we had yet to take the next step to really get to know one another. (Although last year we were tempted to call the police or storm up to her front porch personally to rebuke her for the harmful and potentially illegal influence she was having on several of our male students.)

As I stood at her front gate and gave a general greeting to alert her of my presence, one of her teenage daughters came out of the house and stared at me. I informed her with a smile, “I was passing by your home when God directed me to come visit you — “

I wasn’t sure at that moment what else I was going to say, but that seemed to be the signal she needed. Before I could say anything else, she invited me in and showed me a place on their living room couch.

Several little children and a few young adult women were hanging around in the small living space and suddenly staring at me, waiting. I began, at once totally sure, “God directed me to come here to visit you. My husband and I heard about what happened, and we are really sorry…”

The command the Lord had impressed so undeniably upon me was, “Console her,” not “Confront her about whether or not she has been selling drugs to the neighborhood boys and tempting them sexually” nor even “Share the gospel with her” at this time. I remembered this as I asked the Lord once more for direction. He wanted me to console her, regardless of who she is and what she had done.

The woman appeared from around the corner and immediately sat next to me on the small couch without any physical or emotional barriers between us as if we were old friends. I put my hand on her knee and explained once more that the Lord had specifically sent me to visit her to console her for the murder of her live-in boyfriend. I asked her how she felt and reiterated several times that we were very sorry for her loss (always without getting involved in the details or the who-done-it questions). Trust was quickly established among us as I listened to her, and she began sobbing as I embraced her in a comforting hug. I felt like I was consoling one of our teenage foster daughters in one of their moments of crisis, but this time it was our precious neighbor who is in her mid-40s. 

After twenty minutes or so of consoling her in this way, I offered to pray for her if she should accept my doing so even though she is not a Christian. She eagerly agreed, and I held her hands in mine and prayed that in His timing God might grant her salvation, peace and transformation in Christ for His glory. I did not expect God to do anything in that specific moment, but I trusted he could bring her to repentance and saving faith by His own methods in His own timing. 

Throughout the entire encounter all of the young people around us observed us quietly, and at the time of my departure I hugged several of them and left with joy in my heart, knowing that the Lord had very clearly worked through me.

A couple weeks passed, and I was again in our car but this time with a group of our teen foster daughters and local students sharing food with our neighbors and praying for people. The outing was going very well as the young women would go door-to-door offering to bless our neighbors with a provision of rice, beans, flour and oil and pray for them as well if they were willing to receive prayer. 

We were coming to the end of our journey when we passed in front of the woman’s house whom I had visited and consoled. She was not on our list to visit in that moment, but she came out of her house and approached me while I sat in the car. I greeted her warmly, and she asked if I could share a Bible with her because she had just begun going to church and was now seeking the Lord. My eyes grew wide and I informed her that I didn’t have an extra Bible with me just then but that I could get one for her in the next few days.

As our teen girls exited the last official house on our route, I informed them that I felt like God was leading us to one more home: that of my new friend who had asked for the Bible. Several of our girls seemed hesitant and others downright scared, as this woman’s negative reputation is pretty well-known in our neighborhood. Her teenage daughters had even verbally insulted our girls on many occasions without reason. This would definitely be a powerful lesson in loving their enemies as Christ taught us to and praying for people who don’t fall into their category of “family” or “best friends.”

The girls looked at me as if to ask, “Are you sure?”, and I assured them that she would be very open to prayer and that she had recently begun seeking the Lord. I would wait in the car because I wanted them to learn to serve as Christ’s messengers without an adult constantly leading them. 

As they began walking quietly toward that same twig-and-barbed wire front gate I whispered to one of my foster daughters who was toward the back of the group, “She needs a lot of hugs. Make sure you give her one.” I winked at her, and the look in my eyes encouraged her not to be scared; that this, in fact, was the Lord’s will and a powerful way of sharing His love with a woman few people draw near to.

I waited in the car quite a long time before all of our girls came filing out from within that same house that I had visited a couple weeks prior. Their expressions had changed drastically and suddenly reflected great measures of peace and joy. They piled back into the car with me as they lovingly bid farewell to the woman whom they had been reluctant to visit. 

Pulling away from her home, I turned around in my seat to ask one of our local students how the experience had been. She beamed and answered, “Oh, it was so good. She was really open to receiving prayer and several of us prayed for her. At the end we each took turns giving her a hug, and that really touched her. I think she needed that.”

I smiled and thanked God in my heart as we rumbled back up that long gravel road to our ministry homestead, the car now empty of the sacks of food it had held but each young woman full of a profound experience of Christ’s love in and through them. 

To God be the glory!

Divine Communion in the Midst of the Mundane

Early this morning I rolled over, extending a lazy arm across the edge of our small double-sized mattress, still very much enveloped in a blessed sleep. As I realized the other half of the bed was empty save my gangly arm, the lights of my mind snapped on: Did Darwin already get up? What time is it?

I wearily peeled my eyes open as I saw him not three yards away, participating in his peaceful morning ritual, unseen by the world and oftentimes unseen by his own wife: slip on those dirty black rubber boots and those old, mismatched clothes, brush his teeth and head quietly out the door to go milk the cows before the sun comes up.

An exclamation point stamped itself across my consciousness as I suddenly reached for my cellphone, alarmed that I had not heard the wake-up jingle I had set the night before. I jabbed at a button on the little black phone and the screen lit up: 4:46am. Oh no! It’s already time. He had woken up before the 4:45am alarm and had turned it off, thinking he was doing me a favor.

You see, the 4:45am get-ups have not really been my strong point. Normally he heads out the door and I stay in bed a little while longer before finally allowing my bare feet to make contact with the tile floor an hour later at 5:45am.

But not today. Today that 4:45am get-up was as much for me as it was for him. He just didn’t know it.

So I mustered whatever pinch of energy that short night of sleep had granted me and got to my feet, made the bed, and shuffled my way into our tiny bathroom, silently nudging him over so that he would share the sink with me. Brush my teeth. Hairband on to push my wild, short hair back. I would change out of my pajamas later.

Darwin looked at me with a confused smile on his face as he studied me, amused: my eyes drooped sleepily as I methodically brushed my teeth, moving about very purposefully albeit in a very low-energy fashion as I very clearly was getting ready for something. He asked with a twinkle in his eyes: “You’re not tired?”

My unenthusiastic response: “Oh, I’m very tired.” I spit in the sink and reached for the towel.

He continued to stare at me as his unspoken question still waited for an answer: Why on earth was I up so early, and where was I going?

My response: “I have a deal with God.”

He let out a single laugh, waiting for more explanation but didn’t receive any. I grabbed my keys, put on my sandals and headed out our bedroom door without another word, intent on fulfilling my promise from the day before.

As I inserted my key into our front door, prepared to head out without making much ruckus, our 9-year-old son Jason, quite the early bird, sat up suddenly in his bunkbed and peered at me through his open doorway as our door creaked. I smiled and went to greet him, shuffling over to his top bunk and giving him a kiss on the top of his head as his eyes asked the same questions as Darwin’s: Why on earth was I up so early, and where was I going?

Without answering him, I slipped out that gaping hole leading to darkest night.

Both our sleepy guard dogs stretched lazily and began their enthusiastic tail wag as they saw me unexpectedly approach. I shuffled carefully with strained eyes, hoping I wouldn’t come across a snake along the short path. I squinted in the darkness as I held my jumble of keys up close to my face, searching for the key to that little painted cinderblock building that lies right next to our family’s home. I entered only to be greeted by more darkness. Standing in the building’s main room, the search continued as I felt with tired fingers for the next key: the office.

That silent little office with its two very full bookshelves and lone round table with its team of three faithful chairs serves as a library and meeting room and is probably one of the only places where I can go and not be easily found. I flicked the lightswitch on but quickly decided to turn it off again. The strong light in the wee morning hours seemed too abrasive.

I pulled up one of the wicker chairs to an open window, hoping my clumsy feet would not come across a scorpion or other frightful creature in the dark room. Face inches from that cool morning breeze, our backyard only slightly illuminated by a dull porch light, I began to pray.

During that hour from 4:45-5:45am that I typically toss and turn, seeking out a last-minute refuge in that illusive sleep-rest, I instead sought refuge in the Giver of Life in a clumsy attempt at divine communion.

I sat by that window and gave thanks to the Unseen God, asked Him for forgiveness, guidance, liberation, new life. I confessed: “I have nothing more to give. I’m dry bones. I’m so tired, Father. Fill up this empty soul with You, with Life.”

A stream of bats came sweeping by and leafy branches swayed, rustled with unseen life. Fighting against mental and physical fatigue, I continued. After all, I had promised God that I would participate in this morning prayer routine every day during the coming months.

In many ways, the vast questions of “What now?” and “What more?” have been whispering in the recesses of our minds, and only a deepening of our communion with Yahweh can provide the answers, the joy to continue onward in the midst of the daily humdrum.

If there was ever any sparkle dust, any warm fuzzies or all-consuming adrenaline rush at ‘doing something new,’ that has worn off.

I am no longer that 21-year-old recent college graduate who moved to that third world country with nothing other than a large hiking backpack and the certainty of a call from God to be mom to those who have none.

With each of the total-of-9 children and teens who have come in and through our home in the last almost-three years, there has been a great urgency, a great push, a 9-1-1 response of sorts, the big welcome and the ensuing months of very real spiritual warfare, of freedom-seeking in Christ.

Everything has been new; in many ways these first three years have been spent in a state of constant crisis. Children who have been abandoned, orphaned, raped, beaten, thrown away — those are the ones whom Father God has so miraculously allowed call us ‘Ma’ and ‘Pa.’ Our eyes have been pried open; our hair has been whipped back and we have participated in this charged expedition for answers on this wild ride of seeking and fulfilling God’s will. They were exciting times as one by one God brought the children, taught us by way of difficulty and tears, love stretched to its limit. Newness was everywhere; everything an adventure waiting to be had.

Daily we experienced something new; everything was a teachable moment; the kids were naive; we were naive. How should we interact with and talk to this child so that he will stop hiding under furniture? How can we counsel her through the tough decisions of adolescence? Oh, we need to take them to the dentist? How on earth can we keep this kitchen clean?! She has accepted Christ! Let’s take our first family vacation together with the children! How do we form some kind of dynamic, Christ-centered homeschool program to educate our kids in a holistic way? Are we to accept local youth into our school as well? How do we balance marriage, ‘family’ with many foster children, and ministry to the local community? 

Now, as we are nearing our three-year anniversary with the three kids who started it all in November 2013, it seems like nothing is new. We’ve already had the big, silly experience of taking the kids to the local movie theater for the first time. The majority of our kids have already accepted Christ and are faithfully walking with Him, growing in Him. Many of the major disciplinary battles and bad-habit-breaking brigades are well underway. Those who didn’t know how to read and write have learned. They’ve asked their sincere questions about life, about sex, about God; we’ve sought together for answers, learned together from God’s Word. We’ve prayed for healing, for freedom, and in large part we are rejoicing in answered prayers. We’ve been through big and little moments alongside them, and, now…it’s just…daily life.

Whereas there used to be constant verbal battles among the kids — kids from different (highly dysfunctional) biological families suddenly thrust together under one roof with new rules, new parents — now we can spend an entire day (maybe even two, three!) without any real discord. I have to do less and less conflict mediations. The kids are acquiring more self-control. Several are even becoming good students. Whereas they came to us malnourished, too small for their age, girls with buzzed-off hair and large bald patches, now they are healthy, growing, normal. Most of our kids even have pretty good manners now; they are learning piano, look you in the eyes when you talk to them, and generally react as a child who truly knows they’re loved.

So now, in this season where the newness of it all has worn off — alas, the 9-1-1 hotline has calmed down — a new word has been laid before us: perseverance. Now it is no longer a great, exciting question waiting to be answered of “Who will the children be? What will their names be, and how old? Oh, Lord, may we be ready when they arrive!” but rather it is a matter of looking into those same faces — those 9 whom we’ve been called to parent in addition to the 25+ in our school — day after day after month after year and faithfully fulfilling God’s will for us as His instruments in their lives, loving even when the warm fuzzies are long gone.

So, sitting quietly in that wicker chair this morning, I prayed. I asked God for new strength, for a perseverance that goes beyond feelings, that transcends novelty, that remains firm even when routine replaces adventure.

As the sun shed its first rays over our large, grassy property, I checked my cell phone: 5:45am. It was time. I returned the wicker chair to its station around our office’s table, left the building quietly and returned through that same creaky front door to a still-silent house.

And, yes, the events of this morning played out as they do just about every other morning: I squatted by beds, jostled sleepy legs and stroked tired shoulders, waking up the children one by one. I then chaperoned 8-year-old Josue to the bathroom for the umpteenth time to change his diaper as he babbled to me joyfully in his broken speech. I squirted out toothpaste for Gaby and Josue, gave Josselyn a good-morning hug, and opened the front gate for our students and teachers.

While I felt no immediate effects of my early morning spent in prayer, one thing I do know: I will go again tomorrow.

He who has called us to the great adoption as His sons and daughters is faithful, and He fervently desires that same faithfulness reciprocated in our devotion to Him. He is with us in the exciting moments of discovery along with the hidden, mundane moments of steadfast obedience. Nailed to a cross, dying for the sins of the world, having participated throughout His life in both the mundane and the miraculous — He continued onward, trusting in His Father even when the task’s attractiveness gave way to pain, when raw obedience was put to the ultimate test, when pleasing emotions or any sense of reeling adventure were long gone. May He empower us to do the same — to remain joyfully faithful until the end!

Amen!

Unlikely Disciples

A few weeks ago we began offering an optional “Christian Leadership” class on Tuesday afternoons for those students and laborers who wish to stay a bit late after their morning academic classes and deepen their walk with Christ.

We had the handwritten sign-up flyer taped to the external wall of our Education Building during the days leading up to the first class, and I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few names scribbled on the list. There would be no credits given for the class, and, moreover, the other after-school classes being offered – sports, art, music, cooking class, and math club – honestly presented a glossier, more alluring attraction to the majority of the students than another class about Jesus. I mean, all of our students already spend several hours each week in Bible study, praise and worship, and organized prayer groups. What teen or pre-teen previously accustomed to very little spiritual direction would voluntarily sign up for more?

On the morning of the first class I glanced at the sign-up sheet again, and to my surprise many of the names had been carefully covered up with white-out! The brightest students – and honestly those whom I’m closest to and who participate most in our twice-weekly Bible studies – had erased their own names from the list! I sighed and read the names that remained: generally lazy trouble-makers – bad students! – who I have to constantly reel in during Bible study! How could this be? Why on earth would they sign up for an intensive Christian leadership course while the others backed out last-minute? Why didn’t those wily, disobedient students just sign up for cooking class and sports club? Is this some kind of joke?

I headed to our bedroom, quite disappointed and wondering why so many students backed out last-minute. I gathered my teaching materials from our wooden bookshelf and began heading over to the 7th-grade classroom where I would hold the class. In passing I commented to my husband sarcastically: “Ha! Stanley [a 15-year-old 7th grade student who has a long record with us of disrespect, laziness, sexist jokes and general immaturity] signed up for Christian Leadership! And he’s constantly goofing off in Bible study. Why would he sign up for the class? I think he got confused with the sign-up sheets.¨

As soon as those venomous words came spewing out of my mouth I bit my lip, already regretting having said all that I did (or rather, having thought it in the first place).

So I exited through our front door, repentant for my judgment of Stanley and determined to ask God for a better perspective – His perspective. As I took the ten or eleven steps to reach our Education Building, Charlie, a very small 13-year-old in 7th grade (who also has a long history of clowning around, not passing his exams, etc), came running up to me and asked if it was too late to sign up for Christian Leadership.

I smiled warmly – Charlie had been in Darwin’s and my prayer group that morning – and told him we would be entering in 5 minutes and that he was welcome to join us.

I guided the 5 students who had signed up for Christian Leadership over to our kitchen to serve them rice and beans, and from there they carried their plastic bowls with them over to the classroom where we would be having our class.

Miraculously, rebellious Stanley had not slipped out our front gate unnoticed, escaping his commitment to the class. He was right there with the others, face unusually bright and open. I suppose I had still hoped that he had signed up for the wrong after-school class and would be erasing his name from the list as so many others had already done.

We entered the empty classroom, everything swept and cleaned – smelling of a strong yet pleasing cleaning liquid – after our 7th grade students had collaborated only a few minutes earlier to clean at the end of their schoolday.

Everyone sat down as we formed a tight semi-circle out of the desks, moving aside those that remained empty so as to create a sense of greater unity and less distraction. Miss Martha, our 56-year-old nurse and cook, came in, as she had also written her name on the sign-up sheet. A few moments later 22-year-old Miss Isis and 29-year-old Miss Ligia, our elementary and secondary teachers, also entered the class, eager to learn.

As Spanish praise and worship music played softly over the CD player – at times barely audible as the rains intensified over the tin roof of our Education Building – I considered the motley crew of eager disciples Jesus had chosen for this class: a woman in the autumn years of her life, a young single mom, a lawyer who left the world behind to take a low-paying job teaching troublesome rural teens for God’s glory, four teen boys (all of which are not generally classified as ‘good students’ and who have had their share of behavioral struggles with us), our 12-year-old daughter Josselyn (who had just entered third grade this past week after passing second grade with flying colors), and myself.

My mind listed about five or six names of students who would have been perfect for this class – those who actively participate in Bible study, those who actually show some interest in knowing God and obeying Him. Where were they?!

I sort of looked around, stupefied, waiting for at least one or two of the boys to stand up and leave once they realized this was a Christian Leadership class. No fun art projects; no tasty cooking experiments; no high-energy relays or trips to the local soccer field. Just the Bible, an open heart, a large whiteboard in front of us, and a journal for each person.

No one moved, not even Stanley.

My eyes met 15-year-old Brayan’s, our beloved prodigal son who is in fifth grade for the fourth time.  Brayan – Brayan!, that now-almost-as-tall-as-me man child who lived with us for eight months a couple years ago, whom I used put to sleep at night, whom I read Lion King picture books to, who has the affectionate needs of a small boy, who can’t seem to ever ´get his act together´ and get on schedule with his homework assignments, who spends his free time wandering aimlessly around our rural neighborhood, who can´t seem to maintain a respectful attitude toward his step-mother, who even recently got mixed up in some bad decision-making – who even now, almost two years after having moved out of our home, still calls me “Ma” – this Brayan! – wants to learn to be a leader for Christ.

I get it, Father. They’re all here on purpose – You’ve carefully chosen each one and placed them here for a reason – and no one is leaving.

Your plans are always better than mine, Father.

With a big, genuine smile and an ‘okay-then!’ attitude, I let out a small laugh that probably only I understood and began displaying several brightly-colored notebooks on one of the desks in the middle so that each person would come and grab one.

The Spanish worship music continued in its majesty; rain trickled overhead, then pounded, then trickled again.

The Bible verse I scribbled in large print across the whiteboard that first class was this: ¨Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.¨ (1 John 2:6)

From there, everyone participated as they called out different aspects of the way Jesus lived. Perfect obedience to God, joy in the midst of difficulties, did not love money or seek happiness/security in it, willingness to suffer, did not consider this world to be His home, etc. I listened as I wrote frantically with arrows spouting out from the large-written verse, trying to keep up with all that was being said.

Then one of the teen boys mentioned with confidence, ¨Jesus spent time with the tax collectors, prostitutes, and the ´bad´ people – drug lords and thieves. He wasn´t scared of them, nor did He judge them.¨

Another one of the boys perked up, familiar with this teaching that we had all studied together in our community Bible study several months prior and added enthusiastically: ¨He came not for the ´good´ people but for the ´bad´ — those that recognize that they are bad, that is. We are all murderers, after all. He came to heal the sick – those that recognize they need a savior – and not for those who try to justify themselves!¨

As my long arm extended toward the whiteboard, instinctively trying to keep up with their right-on proclamations of the way Jesus lived, it hit me hard and clear: that´s why God has brought together such a motley crew of disciples for this class. These are the kids who recognize they need more of God; they are the ones who perhaps best associate with the God-man who sought out the lost, the robbers, the ‘bad guys’.

These are the same kinds of young men Jesus would have probably hand-picked to walk with Him 2,000 years ago.

I’m so foolish in my quick judgments and human standards!

Now I get it, Father. Thank you for revealing Your wisdom to the most unlikely.

Oh, throughout this year we had been so consumed with looking for ‘good students’, with finding bright youth from our neighborhood – those that display some real sense of leadership capability, those who already have good habits, fairly respectable personal hygiene and some pinch of academic work ethic. But the whole time our Father has been preparing the vagabonds – the ´bad´ teens, those that are a step or two away from falling into the gangs – to take hold of His Word with faith and be trained up willingly to go out and make more disciples for His glory.

So we continued onward with an attitude of great joy, mine rooted in deep thanksgiving, as we held dynamic discussions and participated in communal prayer.

We finished the class by reading the entire book of 1 John, which I believe none of the participants had previously read. Each person grabbed a Bible as some sprawled out on the tile floor to read while others remained in their desks or stood quietly by the open windows to take God’s Word in their hands and meditate.

The peace among us was so strong; a great calm overtook the room as soft sunlight poured in, the rain still trickling overhead, each person silently absorbing the great hope we have in a God who loves us enough to not give up on us, who goes so far as to die for our redemption, liberating us from the punishment we deserve. The rest of the world carried on with its business (busyness): our kids and students passing by the front porch, Darwin giving piano classes in an adjacent room, others involved in cleaning projects or group homework assignments or pick-up soccer games on the damp front lawn as God silently, efficiently, made His will known to each of His unlikely disciples.

That was four weeks ago; every Tuesday afternoon since then we have continued to meet, to open the Word together and learn what it means to submit ourselves to God’s will to such an extent that we become useful instruments in His hands, leaders to reach the nations with the Truth. Three additional students, also very unlikely disciples, have since joined our class as we continue onward with great hope that He will transform us – we who would be the last to be chosen for any great task the World could assign! – into powerful instruments in the Living God’s hands.

Amen! Glory to God!