Tag Archives: prayer

The Cow is Returned: God’s Power in Action

As I wrote in my previous post four days ago, local cattle thieves stole another one of our young dairy cows for the second time in 10 months, and the entire ordeal left us feeling discouraged, on high alert, and at a loss as to what our next move should be (or as to who the thief could have been).

Well, today I will write about the events that ensued after the initial shock we experienced on Sunday morning upon realizing that our foster daughter’s cow was no longer among our small herd. This is definitely a story worth telling, and I hope it encourages you to believe in God’s power if only we would cry out to Him.

My husband Darwin and our daughter Jackeline left home Sunday morning and spent the entire day out looking for our lost cow, asking our neighbors if they had seen her and reporting the robbery at the local police station. Monday was spent in similar fashion – Darwin made many phone calls, returned to the police station, consulted with more neighbors and took several trips out to the far end of our rural property to see the extent of the damage done to our fence and take pictures for evidence.

All our efforts seemed futile, especially in Honduras where police investigations are few to none and we had no real lead onto who might have taken our daughter’s cow. 14-year-old Jackeline, who had saved her money for a long time in order to buy the cow two years ago and hoped it would help get her through college, spent great amounts of time sprawled out on the couch in our living room, her eyes puffy from crying. On more than one occasion I sat down to listen to her as she anguished over the lost cow, which represented both a financial investment and a pet to her. Jackeline reminisced about her cow – hoping against hope that it might still be alive – and all the other kids told her to get over her loss. But she couldn’t.

One day passed, then another. By this time everyone knew rationally that the cow must have already been butchered and sold on the black market, because cattle thieves almost always act quickly so as not to get caught. Our other two cows that were stolen last November were butchered immediately upon being stolen. At dawn we found their bloody hides and severed heads thrown out in the field by our front gate. To think that this cow could still be alive several days after being stolen would have been naïve.

Monday night rolled around, and the details cannot be shared of the encounters but I will say that two key eye-witnesses came forth with fear and trembling (both of which are Christians). They saw who cut our fence and they knew who had our cow. Darwin shared with me in a hushed voice late at night in our bathroom as a huge spotlight was then suddenly illuminating the entire case before our very eyes. Adrenaline ran through our veins and we prayed together after discussing everything at length. What to do? Our eye-witnesses were too scared to come forth in public, and there would be no way to confront the thief on our own.

Then Tuesday came. That is generally my day to leave our rural homestead and spend 8-10 hours doing management, computer work and errands in town, so I left without a second thought. In my mind, it was all a closed case: the cow was already dead and we had to figure out what proactive steps we would be taking to assure the safety of the rest of our herd while we would wait in vain for the police to act upon our suspect.

About 3:00pm on Tuesday Darwin called me, informing me in an unnerving tone that he had gone with the local police again – hoping to bother them enough that they would act on the case just to get him off their backs – and they actually came out to our property and picked him up in an effort to go chase down the thief, who an informant had told Darwin was stationed in the pineapple fields right behind our property with the cow still alive. Darwin asked me for immediate prayer and as my heart raced faster I pleaded him not to get out of the police car or get directly involved in any kind of armed confrontation that might occur between the police and the thieves.

I hung up the phone, my heart now racing even more than before – in part from the adrenaline of knowing that against all odds the cow was still alive three days after being stolen and that there was a real chance that the police might capture those who had her, but even more for the danger that my husband would be diving into upon confronting the thief directly.

My car sped down the highway, the windows rolled down to let fresh air in because the A/C stopped working several months ago. Light droplets of rain landed on my arm as I prayed harder than I have in a long time. I prayed for protection for Darwin and all involved; I prayed that the thief would repent; I prayed for God’s favor and His justice in our hour of need. I felt God undeniably close, and I sensed that we were on the verge of some colossal battle, much of which would be fought in the heavenly realm. I continued to pray as I zipped down the highway that parallels the Caribbean Ocean and neared our rural property with my heart and head ablaze. Let Darwin live; may there be no blood shed today; may You utilize these police officers as true agents of justice; may the thief admit his deed and seek forgiveness and new life in Christ. If Darwin should die as a result (as his brother did two years ago when he spoke out against local cattle thieves), please give me the grace, perseverance and faith to continue onward in his absence, however hard it may be…

In Honduras, many such encounters with thieves result in someone’s death – either that of the thieves or those who try to confront them, so my emotions were rightly understood to be on edge. Our old pickup truck jostled up the long gravel road to our property as I found all of our kids to be doing just fine. Darwin had left them alone as he had to leave unexpectedly with the police officers, so I checked on our local tutors with their six after-school students and our seven foster kids to make sure everyone was on task as I then unpacked the car and waited anxiously for a call from Darwin.

After exchanging several phone calls with him to ask what progress had been made and to see if he was okay he finally arrived at home several hours later. The police had done the stake-out and had identified the area where they had been holding the cow but came up empty-handed. It was a bit of progress (or at least a scare for the thieves), but it wasn’t enough. Darwin and I felt frustrated, as we knew that was probably the only real attempt the police would be making to try to catch the culprit.

That night several additional phone calls were made in the stillness of our little bathroom as we sought to communicate once more with our eye-witnesses to see if they would have the courage to come forth and make another police report with us, but all were frozen with fear. We ended up talking to a local community leader who is a friend of ours and happens to be feared by many (and has recently become a Christian and attends the same church where Darwin is involved with a men’s group). We hesitantly shared with him our situation, certain that if anyone could do vigilante justice it would be him but at the same time unsure that he would believe us. The thief, after all, is a family member of his and he could very easily turn on us for having accused his kin.

The whole ordeal – holed up in our bathroom late at night, door shut and floor-fan turned on high speed to cover up our voices so that our 7 foster kids wouldn’t be able to hear our conversations – seemed like something straight out of a movie. Darwin and I sat on the little grey rug on our tile floor, alternating between making phone calls, praying, and discussing the matter between the two of us.

What had initially seemed like a lost case in which we would simply have to throw up our hands and try to turn lemons into lemonade had suddenly turned into a hot chase in which we might fall into grave danger if we made one wrong move.

While communicating with the local community leader whom we get along very well with as neighbors, Darwin shared with him who the thief in the matter was, and our neighbor fell silent. He wasn’t sure whether to believe us or defend his family member, whom he thought to be innocent. His reaction: he went to his relative’s house (the accused), and eventually put him on the phone with us. Darwin put the conversation on speakerphone, and chills ran through my body as the thief talked smoothly and casually, assuring us that he was a man of great morals and values and that he would never steal from anyone. He called us both by very respectful titles and assured us that we were local leaders in our community and that it would be a disgrace for anyone to steal from us. His flattering and reassuring words came rolling of his tongue so smoothly and so confidently that I glanced over at Darwin and wondered in my heart of hearts if we had gotten it all wrong. After all, I wanted desperately to believe him. It had all been a big mistake.

But the two eye-witnesses? The two people who know first-hand that this is the thief?

This man is an expert liar with years of experience. My body turned semi-cold as I contemplated this fact and the spiritual ramifications: does not Satan approach humanity this way – smooth, reassuring tongue, saying beautiful, promising things, but it is all a lie? Oh, he promises happiness, pleasure, eternal youth and more, but it all turns out to be nothing more than a breathtakingly beautiful mirage, not reality. He is persuasive and attractive, but in the end leads only to death.

We essentially got nowhere with our phone conversation, as the thief did not allow Darwin to get many words in. He even offered to come up to our property the next morning to peacefully smooth everything out in person, to which Darwin responded: “Better yet, let’s meet tomorrow morning at 7:00am at the police station to smooth everything out.” That definitely tripped up his previously-seamless speech as Darwin continued, “Look, I have an eye-witness who saw you cut through our fence. What I want is my cow. Tomorrow morning at the first hour I will be going to the police station again. What I want is my cow.”

The phone was passed back to our friend, who was more perplexed than before as to who might be telling the truth, and he assured us that he and his family would be praying.

The conversation soon came to a close, and Darwin expressed the fact that he was not blind to the fact that all of this might get him killed and that he truly had nothing against the thief and wanted what was best for him (an honest life lived in God’s light, not a lying life of thieves.) We hung up, both our hearts racing, and prayed. It would be a long night, and whatever would unfold in the next 12 hours would likely decide the fate of our cow, this case and possibly even our lives.

Wednesday morning (yesterday) we got up at 5:00am as is our custom, and I entered the three bedrooms where our kids sleep and jostled them awake, informing them that we would be having a family prayer meeting in our living room before beginning the day’s chores.

Everyone came shuffling out into our living room, from our eldest who is less than a week away from turning 18 to our youngest, a 10-year-old boy with special needs. We sat around our wooden table – everyone wishing they were still asleep – as Darwin and I tried to begin explaining as best we could (and without instilling fear or directly implying who the thief was) the progress of the case and the imminent danger that might be facing us if the thief tries to silence us or take revenge. It was a very heavy conversation, and in a very real sense I feared that it might be our last family meeting. Jackeline was overjoyed to hear that her cow was still alive, and she thanked God repeatedly for having heard her cries. Each person prayed, and among the many words I shared with my Lord, I said: “If it pleases You that we parent these children and youth and continue along in this work, then please protect our lives…” Our children gave thanks to God and prayed that the thief might repent, that he might return the cow voluntarily, and that God would protect Darwin and me.

After about twenty minutes or so around our wooden dining room table, we all stood up, enveloped in a very real heaviness, and began moving about our house doing our daily morning chores. We opened our front door to go out on the porch (where our kitchen is), and we immediately heard the call of our night watchman’s wife who was standing out by our front gate.

“The cow is back!” She called out in the still, dark morning.

We all froze.

The moon still hanging in the sky above our large, grassy property, we all began to glance at one another, some with incredulity in their eyes and others with raw joy.

Our neighbor continued, “She’s loose right next to our back fence!”

Darwin quickly got into action, sending two of our night watchman’s teenage sons to shuttle her onto our property quietly. I was still frozen as all of our kids began staring at me. God had answered our prayers, and rather immediately. The thieves had untied her and sent her back home. Justice had won out. No blood had been shed. God had won this victory – not with guns, hatred and violence but rather with prayer and unity among Christians.

I felt as though I was walking on holy ground as I made my way silently toward our cow pen. I was still dressed in my old baggy pajamas the light of day was barely creeping over the horizon. Was this all too good to believe? I looked on as our precious Jackeline rushed out to meet her cow and began checking her over from head to foot. Her snout and neck had deep marks on it were she had been roped up too tightly, and her body had scratches all over it. Jackeline stroked her large white cow who quite literally had come back to the land of the living by the mighty hand of God. She should have been slaughtered three days ago.

One of our night watchman’s young adult sons came up the path rather quickly on his bike. By Darwin’s instruction, he had gone out in the wee hours of the morning to keep a lookout on who might be coming or going along the road. He informed, “She didn’t come back on her own. They drug her across the pineapple field. There are tracks to prove it. The thieves brought her back.”

Darwin and I smiled and nodded. We had already figured that out – God had led the thieves to return what was never rightly theirs. This was something that only God could do, and He did.

This all seemed very surreal, and I stood for a long while under a tree in our front yard looking out over our grassy property and contemplating this mighty work of God. I felt that I didn’t even have words for my Lord – only admiration.

Darwin made several phone calls to inform our witnesses that the cows had come back, and they all rejoiced with us and commented that they had been praying fervently that God would act and return the cow to us (something that is unheard of in Honduran cattle culture). Our high-profile friend who had facilitated our phone conversation the night prior with the thief confessed that he finally believed us, and he apologized for his family member’s hostility toward us.

The morning moved quicker than I would have liked, and suddenly all of our 40+ local students and teachers were arriving for what (to them) would be a normal day of classes and Christian discipleship. I still felt like I was recovering from the intensity of the last several days and the fact that God made everything work out just as it should. I vowed that later that morning upon getting out of math class I would write a long, reconciliatory letter to the thief, assuring him that we don’t want ongoing wars with him and that we earnestly hope that he will seek God’s forgiveness and the new life offered to all through Christ.

It ended up being a 4-page handwritten letter written in Jesus’ name, and later that same day (yesterday) as I was running through our neighborhood for exercise I left the letter with a family member who promised to give it to him. I even saw the thief on my way back home as I jogged past his house, baseball cap on my head and tennis shoes on my feet, sweaty from head to toe under the hot mid-day sun. I glanced over as I saw him working on his front porch. I raised my hand hesitantly to wave, and he greeted me by name for the first time in the five years that we’ve been neighbors.

That was yesterday. Today has been a normal day, albeit somewhat sticky with the divine residue of all that God orchestrated in these last few days. We are still getting over all this, processing the implications, and giving thanks to God for His mighty hand. Our daughter Jackeline commented to me yesterday afternoon as we were preparing dinner that she would like to write a letter to the thief (although she still doesn’t know who it is) to let him know that she forgives him and hopes he will seek God’s will for his life. I smiled as I informed her that I had already done the same and that I could deliver her letter if and when she writes it. She seemed content with my reply, and we kept cutting broccoli and onions for the spaghetti sauce.

Please thank God with us for this mighty turn of events in these last few days, and I encourage you to recognize that this was, in fact, God’s justice entering into our fall world. Thank you to all of you who prayed for us in these last few days. We continue to hope for the thief’s salvation and transformation and would appreciate your prayers for him. God bless you.

Glory to God!

Lord, How Do You Choose? A Testimony of the Miraculous

A beloved local pastor who labors alongside of us part-time teaching carpentry classes and leading our youth in community evangelism was diagnosed a few weeks ago with a devastating tumor on his spinal chord. Our staff and students at the Living Waters Ranch along with the pastor’s family, his church congregation and many households in our rural town were devastated. Hospital conditions in Honduras are not the best, especially when considering an extremely delicate surgery on someone’s spinal chord. His wife feared the worst; his church congregation went into fervent prayer and began holding fundraisers to pay for the expensive surgery; and doctors said that he would likely need to spend up to two years in bed recovering from the removal of the large mass. And this is our beloved pastor who is as strong as a rock, oftentimes hauling huge wooden boards to and fro in his carpentry shop, with much greater physical strength than some of our stronger teen boys!

Thus, my husband Darwin and our three foster sons went to visit him several days ago as they prayed with him, consoled his wife and accompanied him as he lied in bed awaiting the looming surgery. The sudden diagnosis seemed surreal to us all.

In Honduras, there are many (true) tales of people going in for routine surgeries in large, public hospitals and what should have been routine takes a turn for the worst due to lack of clinical care, hygiene issues, etc. We’ve even heard several testimonies of families who have lost young women who’ve gone to the hospitals to give birth and their bodies are later found maimed or chopped up in trash bags behind the hospital. These are extreme cases, but here underfunded, understaffed public hospitals do not generally inspire confidence, especially not when it comes to such a delicate surgery as the removal of a tumor from someone’s spinal chord.

Thus, these last few weeks we’ve all been carefully praying for our dear pastor friend and waiting with uncertainty for what might turn out to be the loss of his life or the paralyzation of his legs if anything goes wrong in the surgery.

With all of this looming in the air, yesterday after teaching my advanced math class I headed out during my free period to visit the homes of several of our students. I enjoyed several encouraging (and sometimes hilarious) visits with well-meaning but sometimes under-equipped parents as I went home-to-home in our rural neighborhood where poverty and unpunished crime abound.

At one point I was sitting in a plastic lawn chair on a dirt lawn with two sunburned parents who work very hard in the local pineapple fields as I sought to counsel them on how to better parent their extremely gifted but often rebellious teenage son who is in our discipleship-based homeschool program. We’ve had a close relationship with this family for several years, and their son has many natural leadership giftings and considers himself to be quite grown-up at the ripe old age of 16, so I started speaking frankly to his parents. (After all, last year we bumped him down a grade for immature and inconsistent behavior, and this year his attendance and homework completion had been up and down with many bright, promising spots along the way.) After assuring the parents several times that we love their son dearly and desperately want God’s purposes to be fulfilled in his life, I laid it out cold-turkey, “Look, the Bible says that if you don’t work, you don’t eat.” The parents’ eyes grew and the normally-serious mom even let out a surprised burst of laughter as I began explaining that many teen boys in our area live like little kings — they have a cellphone, three square meals a day, total freedom to do whatever they want…and zero responsibilities. No job; no work. Their parents (who themselves are very hard-working and barely making ends meet) pick up the bill on their boys’ irresponsibility and let them become comfortable vagabonds or — worse — ripe pick for the local gangs. So, I advised these particular parents to take God’s Word and put it into action with the authority the Lord has given them as this young man’s parents: don’t serve him dinner until he sits his butt down and starts working on the homework that’s long overdue. A simple limit, but firm. This seemed to be a new concept to the parents, and I reiterated the biblical nature of this advice time and again, encouraging them to assume their role as their son’s authority and not leave him to his own means, which includes endless vagabonding, going to the river for hours on end, and getting mixed up in the wrong crowd. After praying with the parents, I headed for my next stop.

At the next house a similar visit was held as I met with another set of local parents on their front porch. A few emaciated dogs eyed me suspiciously from a few yards away. At this particular house, however, there was someone else present as well: our student’s blind 90-year-old great-grandmother. I have read many counts (both directly from the Bible and from modern-day Christians) of God healing blind people, and this — seeing God heal the sick and disabled — has been a longing of mine for many years. Beyond asking God for His wisdom in my life, I’m oftentimes found asking Him to grant me the privilege of seeing the miraculous — visions, healings, etc. I’ve been reading a book that details the fact that, as Christians, we should not be doing the possible but rather the impossible — that which is only possible with God. I wanted God to do the impossible through me!

And so, on this particular occasion yesterday after encouraging another one of our students’ parents, I felt very clearly that God was leading me to pray that this blind old lady would get her vision back. These kinds of prayers make me nervous, as I know full well that God can heal her, but I’m not quite sure what response to have if or when He doesn’t heal the person. Plus, thus far in my life the Lord has not chosen to use me as an instrument of His divine healing. Why start now, and won’t I end up looking like a fool if He doesn’t heal her? After all, I don’t want to illusion her if it is God’s plan that she continue blind for the rest of her life.

Well, my faith somehow seemed to increase and I dared to pray with this woman, who is a devout Christian. In another plastic lawn chair (which is the furniture that most people have here, both inside their house and out) under a simple overhang very close to the edge of the jungle as the rumbling river passed by on the other side of their house, I bowed my head and prayed as best I could that God would heal His daughter’s eyes. She prayed along with me, and I began to sincerely feel that He would heal her.

When we finished praying, I took my hand off her eyes and asked enthusiastically if she could see. She could not.

I felt sad but at the same time vowed to pray for her again the next time I saw her (which turned out to be today as I ended up visiting their house two days in a row.) I embraced her and said goodbye to the parents as I headed out and off to my next house visit. I couldn’t help feeling let down, as I felt that God had given me the faith and even the expectation of a miracle, but it didn’t come through.

Later that day (yesterday) all of our local students left our home around 3:00pm and our 8 foster kids and I got to work washing our clothes by hand in our outdoor washing station and doing school homework for the next day.

Once evening came, three of our foster teens and I attended a discipleship group in the home of a local married couple that labors with us for God’s glory. We gathered around their cement living room floor in the humid air for over an hour worshipping God and learning more of the life of Christ before we bid our farewells and climbed aboard the three-wheeled mototaxi, a form of public transportation that is a combination between a motorcycle and a traditional car. (My husband Darwin was about a half-hour away in the city of La Ceiba taking three of our daughters to their Christian ballet class, and he had two of our other sons with him as company.) Thus, the three who were with me got aboard the tiny mototaxi with me at dusk as we were leaving the discipleship group and headed for home.

At that moment the wife of the married couple who directs the discipleship group and who labors alongside of us during daytime hours at the Living Waters Ranch came running out to the dirt road where we were boarding the bright red mototaxi.

She had forgotten to tell us something. Somewhat out of breath, she came near the mototaxi and said with great excitement, “Jennifer! The pastor is healed. He went to the hospital earlier today for his final exam before entering surgery tomorrow, and the doctors found that his tumor is gone!”

Her eyes trained on ours with great joy as our three teens who were with me stared at her, both shocked and overjoyed. One of our girls’ jaws just about dropped to the floorboard as she processed the information.

Our dear married friend continued: “He no longer needs the surgery! He’s at home now and will be fine. God healed him!”

Eyes aglow with faith come alive, our teens and I thanked her for the wonderful news and we began zipping off the rocking path up to our rural property. Our teens commented among themselves, amazed at what God had done — we had all been praying for just this!

I stared up at the starry night sky through the open side of the little mototaxi as the night wind whipped my face. Amazed, my only question towards God was: “Lord, how do You choose?”

I marvelled at God — just hours earlier I had asked Him for a miracle for the blind old lady, and it had not been granted. Our pastors’ healing, however, was granted miraculously (which I honestly did not expect). I smiled big as I stared up at the sky, marveling at the mysteriousness of God. Again I repeated deep down in my heart as I admired my Father: “Lord, how do You choose?” Of course, this question probably will not be answered in this lifetime, but I can still wonder in awe of the Great Healer.

And so, I leave you with this little testimony. God is great; He is alive; and His ways are mysterious. He is to be praised! Amen.

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!

April 2016 Updates and Prayer Requests

Update on the Situation with Sandra’s Step-Dad

15-year-old Sandra, a student in our new discipleship-based high school program who moved in with us in February of this year due to an abusive situation with her step-dad, is doing incredibly well under our care.

Surprisingly, the police finally did show up at her mom and step-dad’s home, he went to court the next day, confessed to all that was being said of him, and then returned home with Sandra’s mom. The details are still somewhat gray to us, but I believe Sandra’s mom – a sincere Christian who is illiterate and has three other young children at home – decided not to send him to jail because she needs him to continue working so that she and the other three kids do not starve or find themselves on the streets (there is no government welfare program or widespread help for single moms/abused women in Honduras).

This is obviously shocking and frustrating and, as you can guess, has led to zero change in the step-father’s behavior. Sandra’s mom wants to leave him and rent a small one-room apartment for her and the kids, but she is having a very hard time finding something she can afford (even if the apartment doesn’t come with light and running water), and we feel that even if she did move to another house in our same neighborhood he would very easily find her, move in by force or threaten her, and continue onward in the abusive relationship without any real legal consequences.

We want to see Sandra reunited with her mom because they truly do have a healthy, loving relationship, but we sense that it may be quite some time before her mom is able to get away from the step-dad and secure a home that is far enough away from him that he can’t find her. Please continue to pray for Sandra’s mom’s protection during this time and that she and Sandra would not become discouraged in the face of what seem like insurmountable odds. Let us give thanks to the Good Father for Sandra’s current safety in our household and for the physical health she has been able to enjoy under our care (she came to us extremely underweight and with severe dental issues). She is blossoming in our high school program and is quickly becoming one of the best students. Darwin recently began teaching her violin, and she and our other older girls (15-year-old Dayana and 12-year-old Jackeline) enjoy a very positive relationship.

Parque Natural View El Pino
Sandra with our 8-year-old son Jason in the pool at a local park

Parque Natural View El Pino

 

Prayer for Struggling Students

In just two-and-a-half months of classes thus far this year, 6 students have dropped out of our primary school and 4 out of our secondary school. We are currently left with 9 students in primary and 13 in secondary.

There is such a strong cultural pull toward laziness and utter purposelessness in our rural neighborhood that many students literally give up and give in, preferring to wander the gravel roads aimlessly, spend their days goofing around at one of the many natural swimming holes, stealing from neighbors, participating in illicit sexual behavior, and watching an unreasonable amount of television, basically condemning themselves to a lifetime of ignorance and suffering.

This is not at all surprising to us due to the fact that we live here and daily experience the very, very low educational and behavioral expectations of many of our neighbors, but it is still extremely saddening and frustrating. We are blessed and encouraged with the students who have decided to stick it out and persevere a bit, although there are a few more who are currently in secondary who don’t show the least interest in learning and are on the verge of flunking themselves out due to having put forth zero effort thus far.

About half of our 7th-grade students don’t know the times tables and aren’t interested in learning them (something they should have learned early on in primary school), and many if not all come from the local public school system in which a student can miss up to 30 days of school or more and not do a single homework assignment and still pass their grade without having learned anything at all. For this reason and many more, much of the work we do with our students (who do not live with us but are in our home/mission five days a week for school and discipleship) is very similar to the intensive, individualized effort we invest in the lives of those who do live under our roof – praying with them and counseling them one-on-one, seeking to heal and transform that which is broken, being Christ’s living, breathing body to them, teaching them a Way that is completely different from that which they have known. Looked at under this lens, it might actually be a blessing to have fewer students, because that allows us more personalized time with each one.

Please pray with us for our students – both those who remain and those who have dropped out – that God may grant them an ounce if not a pound of perseverance and wisdom to continue onward in the good fight so that we may have the chance to mold them according to God’s perfect will. Please pray also for any potential candidates for the future, that the right students would be brought to us and that those who truly are not interested in being transformed would eliminate themselves before entering our discipleship program. May God’s will be done and His name be glorified whether we have 50 students or only 5! Amen!

Discipulado Cristiano Costa Norte
Miss Isis, our primary teacher, in a Bible study with her students after class

 

Escuela Primaria EDUCATODOS
Cristian, a hard-working 12-year-old student in third grade

 

Escuela Primaria Rancho Agua Viva
Miss Martha in a reading class with our older boys in primary. Congrats to Brayan and Cristian,the only two boys in this photo who have persevered!

 

Colegio Rancho Agua Viva
Darwin, Miss Ligia and I with our secondary students after performing a small-scale school play. Darwin and I participated!

 

Clases de piano Darwin Canales
13-year-old Elalf, one of Darwin’s new piano students who is also enrolled in our discipleship-based secondary program

 

Educacion fisica
P.E. class on the day this photo was taken was a bit rougher than they were expecting! I think their moms must have had a heart attack upon seeing how dirty their kids were when they got home!

 

Colegio Rancho Agua Viva

 

New Saturday Routine: the Dentist

During the past few months, we have developed a new routine nearly every Saturday morning with our 8 kids: going to the dentist. Our kids are in such drastic need of dental services that we have literally spent 3-4 hours at the dentist at least 6 or 7 Saturdays thus far, and we still need to complete 2 or 3 more visits to get all the work done. We’ve done root canals, molar extractions, general cleanings, and more cavity drillings and fillings that can be kept track of. The dentist, a local woman who is a wonderful Catholic believer, has been such a blessing to us, and she and I have grown to develop a very sincere friendship (I’ve sat right next to her dental chair as we’ve shared stories and gotten to know one another during the 20+ hours she’s been working on our kids’ teeth!). Let us give thanks to God for our dentist’s life and for the generosity and love she has shown our kids.

Ejercicio fisico para nino discapacitado
7-year-old Josue having fun with the weight set Darwin made out of concrete-filled recycled paint cans.

 

Ejercicio fisico para nino discapacitado

 

Prayer for Ongoing Insomnia

Please join me in prayer for my ongoing battle with insomnia. I felt like my sleep issues improved somewhat for a week or two in March, but in these past 3-4 weeks I have been sleeping 1-3 hours per night, and I’m on the brink of total exhaustion (as I have been for several years). I still do not know the root to this issue, and I’m currently on several natural supplements, relaxing herbal teas, etc, to help with the problem, but they have not produced any results whatsoever.

Hula Hoop
7-year-old Gaby playing with a Hula Hoop

 

Grocery Bills Extremely High

Now that we have 8 kids/teens under our full-time care along with providing twice-weekly community lunches for about 45 people and providing breakfast and lunch 5 days a week to our laborers (teachers, nurse/cook, cleaning ladies, etc), our grocery bills have been through the roof these last few months. We’ve taken measures to cut back on our food spending, so we are currently on a strict rice-and-beans diet 3 times a day, whereas before we also spent money on milk products (our cows are not currently producing milk because their calves are already sufficiently grown up), cereals, fruits and vegetables, chicken or beef one day per week, and snacks for our kids to take to school. We’re considering continuing this diet for the rest of April and possibly May in order to get a handle on the grocery bills, but long-term we are still trying to figure out how to most wisely steward the resources the Lord has entrusted to us while also providing for the legitimate needs of those under our care. Please pray with and for us about this, and may we continue trusting the Lord for His provision for all of our needs.

Natural View Park El Pino
Playing in the pool at a local park with our kiddos after a long day of work and school.

 

Official Adoption Process Begun with Dayana (15), Gleny (11) and Jason (8)

We’ve begun the official adoption process with the sibling group of three that has been with us two-and-half years and were the first of the now-8 kids to move into our household. Two of the lawyers involved in this process with us have been doing a phenomenal job, moving and shaking more in a few weeks’ time than other lawyers would in a full year, and it is literally shocking the advances we’ve experienced just this past week in the potentially intimidating legal process of adoption. We continue onward with great hope that we may become family to these three for the rest of their lives, and another blessing in the midst of all of this is that the adoption itself is free (the only cost is what our privately contracted lawyer charges). Please join us in giving thanks to God for the lives and effort of the lawyers, judges, secretaries, etc, that have been involved thus far both in the nearby city of La Ceiba and in the capital, and let us pray that the process may continue onward in efficiency and transparency for God’s glory. Amen!

Coro Rancho Hogar Agua Viva
15-year-old Dayana teaching the sopranos during choir practice. She’s a pretty tough teacher!

 

Coro Rancho Hogar Agua Viva

Coro Rancho Hogar Agua Viva
Darwin teaching the altos and tenors

 

Musica5 Musica4

What Michael Jackson, Mother Teresa and Francisco Morazan Can Teach Us About Our Knowledge of God

A few weeks ago we began our twice-weekly Bible study in a rather unusual way. Glancing at the dozen or so words wildly scribbled on the index card in my lap to guide us, I began throwing out the names of well-known international and local celebrities or heroes one by one to see how much we truly knew about each person.

There we sat next to and across from one another on an assortment of wooden benches in our dining room that is quickly becoming too small. Sitting around the rectangular-shaped bench-formation were our high school and elementary students, teachers, our own 8 kids, Darwin and I with a couple other laborers (Miss Martha and Alma, a local woman who helps clean a couple days a week) and a neighbor or two. There were about 40 or so people present.

I started off with the most famous man in all of Honduran history. There are schools, companies, streets, and even one of the 18 Honduran departments (the equivalent of a state or geographical region) named after this man, and — without fail — every September during the patriotic celebrations there are students all over the country participating in very important parades with banners and musical bands to honor this man and what he did for Honduras.

“Francisco Morazan.”

Anyone and everyone who was at least 8 years old displayed some kind of really strong reaction upon hearing such a familiar name. Some, sighs with a big smile. Others a loud, “Hey!” Still others nodding their heads up and down enthusiastically, like Yeah, I know all about him. It’s Francisco Morazan, for goodness’ sake! I graduated from Francisco Morazan elementary school last year, and I’ve been attending parades in his honor from the time I was in my mother’s womb. Please!

I let the reactions die down and asked the group, “Who is he?”

As if they had known ahead of time what I would ask and had rehearsed their answer, nearly everyone shouted out with utter confidence in their supreme patriotic knowledge (while simultaneously passing judgment on me for presumably not knowing): “He’s a national hero!

My response: “Yes…But, I mean, who is he? Why was he a national hero?”

For a moment or two I had them all, as the majority looked like I had just knocked the wind out of them. ‘National hero’ didn’t say it all?

Then my husband and Derbin, a neighbor of ours who is a 9th grade student at the local public high school, began spouting off quite a few textbook-style details about Francisco Morazan, much to everyone else’s amazement.

I pressed deeper: “Do we know how many kids he had? Was he faithful to his wife? What did he like to do in his free time? Did he lose his patience easily?”

To those questions no one had answers. The point had been made.

I perked up in the now-very-sullen emotional atmosphere, gave a friendly slap on the back to whoever was sitting next to me, and said convincingly to the group, “Gosh, we sure do know a whole lot about him! We know Francisco Morazan just like he were our own brother, right?”

Everyone’s eyes began to light up in agreement with my statement due to my positive tone of voice, but then several students registered the absurdity of what I was saying. Their response: “Uh, no, we don’t know him as if he were our own brother.” Staring at the floor, probably disappointed in themselves for not having absorbed the least bit of information about their favorite national hero after having studied him in school year after year, several students added,  “We hardly know anything about him at all.”

Me, sympathetically, “Ohh, darn. I guess we don’t know much about him at all. Well, why not? How could we actually find out if he lived with true joy, if he genuinely wanted to serve his country or only his self-interest, what his weaknesses were?”

After a bit more probing and explaining, the group arrived at the conclusion that we would have had to intentionally study in-depth about this man from reliable resources to be able to answer the real question of who this man was (and not just his basic, ‘national hero’ profile of wars won and laws passed) or, better yet, as someone from across our rectangle wisely said, “We’d have to have known him. Personally.”

“That’s right. But we haven’t done all the investigations, and we definitely don’t know him personally. So we should just go ahead and jump to conclusions, assuming we know all about him, judging on the incredibly small amount of information we have available to us, right?”

They all got it: “No,” they answered in almost a whisper.

“Well, what if we hit the books, go do in-depth research on his life, habits, read his old diary entries, etc — what if we really do our best to figure out what kind of man Francisco Morazan was beyond his impressive public profile? How much would this information really be able to impact our daily lives, decisions and future?”

Some looked uneasy but gave their answer: “Uh, not much at all. He’s dead.”

“Yeah, right? Okay, well let’s give it a go with some more names.”

I was shocked that the names ‘Nelson Mandela’ and ‘Mother Teresa’ earned only blank stares from the youth sitting around me on all sides. My thought: We’ve got a lot to teach these kids!

We named Barak Obama, the current Honduran president (Juan Orlando Hernandez), several other national heroes from Honduran history (with results strikingly similar to those of Francisco Morazan), certain famous actors, well-known Biblical characters (John the Baptist, Adam from the Garden of Eden), etc. Each time, without fail, the group thought they knew the person very well (as in, had heard their name before and had at least a vague idea of their profession), but, in the end, knew almost nothing at all, at least not the most important details of their character, convictions and deepest motivations. And I, without fail, would conclude each round with, “Hey! Isn’t that great? We know so-and-so so well that it almost seems like they’re our blood relative, right?” By now they had caught on and realized that, no, we didn’t know any of these people even a little bit because we haven’t studied their lives in-depth or known them personally. We just hear a name and jump to a conclusion, assuming we already know everything when, in fact, we know nothing. And, each time I posed the question about how much it would truly affect our life trajectory, our decisions and future if we were to do that in-depth search on such-and-such person to find out who they really were, the year they got married, what their vices and personal victories were, each time the answer came back: “Not much at all.”

Then, a new name: “Michael Jackson.”

Upon hearing his name, a loud roar went up among the students, threatening to blow the tin roof right off our dining room. Brayan, the young man who used to live with us who is now back in the picture as our 5th-grade student, had the strongest reaction of all. Sitting a couple yards to my left, his eyes grew abnormally large, he pointed an extended finger to me as if I had just told a hilarious joke, and echoed, “Michael Jackson!”

Once the hoots and hollers died down, I singled him out: “Brayan, you had a pretty strong reaction. What do you know about Michael Jackson?

Brayan, suddenly nervous for being put under the spotlight: “Uh…he’s a singer.”

Me: “…And? What else?”

That was it. He knew nothing else.

Certain other students knew a few hearsay details about Michael Jackson, but even their knowledge was incredibly limited and based on gossip and/or what they’d heard or seen on television. I asked: “Do we know where he was born? If he professed some kind of belief in God? If he really did abuse children as some have said of him? How did he treat the people closest to him?”

Many, by now accustomed to the knowledge that they knew almost nothing at all about all the people they thought they ‘knew,’ just looked at me with blank stares, admitting defeat. Others, those with a bit more confidence and information, began: “Well, I saw in the newspaper or read online…”

After a couple minutes of discussion, I reminded everyone that even what we read in the media can be biased, written to cover so-and-so’s backside or to accuse unjustly, invented, or well-meaning but based on misinformation. Imperfect, sin-stained humans — all stained by a terrible egotism, fueled by the desire to be our own gods, to command our destiny — oftentimes without firsthand information writing about others from their same fallen species  and many of which do so against strict deadlines and with certain reader expectations. Oftentimes the naked truth simply doesn’t come out in the media, however much we’d like to think that it does.

By now, we were all admitting that we know almost nothing about anybody — whether that be because we haven’t really studied the person’s life or the source of information (internet, newspaper, hearsay, etc) isn’t completely reliable. One of the teenagers in our rectangular-shaped think-tank laughed and said for me, “We know Michael Jackson as if he were our own brother, right?”

At that, we all laughed.

After continuing on with a few more names, we finally arrived at the last name scribbled on the index card in my lap. I think by now many of the youth had forgotten we were in Bible study because we had spent the good part of an hour playing our not-too-impressive trivia game. We had all laughed quite a bit — mostly at our own ignorance — and, hopefully, the message had been clearly given that we shouldn’t jump to such quick conclusions about others because, really, we know very little (if nothing at all) and most likely will continue knowing very little because it is extremely difficult if not impossible to jump into the inner circle, the thought world — beyond what the media does or doesn’t tell us, beyond what their polished biographies proclaim —  of Barak Obama or such-and-such Famous Person to truly search out their intentions, private goals and raw character to know who they truly are, where they stand. And even if we did somehow attain such intimate knowledge, how much would it even affect us?

The last name: “Jesus Christ.”

Upon hearing His name, almost everyone in the circle let out a long sigh of understanding or expectation, the emotional environment now appropriately heavy as the youth then saw where we were going with all this trivia nonsense. No one was quick to say anything.

A good portion of our students are skeptics while a handful have come to place their faith in Christ in recent weeks and months under our guidance. Very few have any solid foundation of faith established beyond these Bible studies and prayer groups that we have only just recently begun.

Dayana, our eldest and in whom we — along with many others — have invested more time, one-on-one Biblical study, teaching, prayer, counsel and fasting than in any other child of ours, began saying what many others could not. I had to stop her, because I know that she knows Jesus, but our goal was to reach the group at-large.

I asked the group: “Who is He?”

One 11-year-old boy in second grade who is tremendously shy, has had rather extreme behavioral struggles and who just weeks ago became a Christian (the first to do so in his family), said barely above a whisper, “Powerful.”

Another from across the room: “Savior.”

Derbin, our teenage neighbor who has grown up in a loving, Christian family and who has dedicated much effort to his walk with Christ now in his adolescence, began picking up where Dayana had left off, explaining with authority Jesus’ miracles, some of His teachings, the way He treated the poor, etc, while the rest of the group stayed quiet. I imagined — or at least hoped — they were asking themselves what they really knew about Jesus, if they really knew Him at all or had just heard His name tossed about and proclaimed here and there, written on church signs and bumper stickers. Francisco Morazan, Michael Jackson, and Jesus Christ — we know them all as if they were our blood brothers, right?

I explained what I think they were already catching onto: “Many, many, many people here — and probably all around the world — say they know Jesus. They’ve heard that He’s the ‘Son of God’ or that He lived and died thousands of years ago, and they think that is enough to make a snap judgement about Him and consider that they have Him figured out. Just in the same way that we fool ourselves into believing we know all about Francisco Morazan because we know he’s a ‘national hero,’ we think we’ve got Jesus figured out because we attended church a few times way back when or have seen the outside cover of a Bible once or twice in our life, have heard rumors that He rose from the dead or was born to a virgin. But do we know how He treated women, prostitutes even? Why was He killed, and by whom exactly? What did He teach about money? What does He do even now in today’s world, and what on earth does it mean to be His follower?

Many people around the circle began to nod and chuckle appropriately, because the connection was being made.

“If Jesus really is the savior of all mankind, really did walk on water, really does love us and died to grant us peace with God — or, on the contrary, if everything about Him is just a big lie, if He’s just some Santa Clause figure up in the sky to make us feel better about ourselves — how much does this affect us?”

Several people from across the circle, some new understanding dawning behind their eyes: “Infinitely so.”

Me: “Yeah, right? If He is God or isn’t God — that knowledge has the capacity to change the trajectory of our entire lives! If He is a humble servant or rather some celestial tyrant, God-Made-Man or just some ancient myth, these are things worth knowing, knowledge that can actually change how we live and die! So is it worth investigating, putting in the time and effort to know Him?”

People around the circle began nodding and affirming verbally that, yes, this search actually is worth it.

“Literally, several times per month, people here ask me who I am and what I do. When I mention the Lord’s work that I’m involved in, without fail, every person whom I talk to immediately says something along the lines of, ‘Oh, yup. The things of God are the best. That’s the most important thing.’ Whether it’s a taxi driver, someone I meet in a store, or whoever, no one has ever looked at me like I’m crazy or asked, ‘Well, now, what are you talking about? I don’t know this God you refer to.’ Everyone, everyone, acts as if we’re all on the same page, we all know Jesus well and understand that He’s ‘the most important thing’. But the question I’m gonna start asking these same people is, ‘What are the things of God? Who is God?‘ because, really, I think a lot of people don’t have the slightest clue — they know Him no better than they do Francisco Morazan or Michael Jackson, are satisfied with knowing woefully little — if nothing at all — and for that reason they do not seek Him. They have fooled themselves into believing they already know Him.

“So here, in this little dining room out in the countryside in the middle of nowhere, we are commencing a search, a quest, admitting that many of us actually do not know Jesus beyond the one- or two-word titles assigned to Him. Savior, Prince of Peace, Son of God — yes. But there is so much more! We will never begin to seek Him fervently if we’re fooled into thinking we already know all there is to know about Him. Case closed, quick judgment made, and we carry on with our lives. No! Today let’s admit that many know Him no more than we know Mother Teresa or President Juan Orlando Hernandez, but we can, in fact, know Him — both through God’s Word (which is not written as newspapers and magazine articles are, based on human opinions and folly!) and through His Spirit. And this search is actually worth it and has the capacity to change everything.

So please pray with and for us during this time of fervent searching, of teaching what many believe they already know, of receiving new revelations from God and asking that He may touch all of our lives in ways that go beyond knowledge and into experience. Amen!

Quick Update Regarding Police Situation

For all of you who read our urgent prayer request several days ago and have been praying about the situation with the police in our rural neighborhood: miraculously, the police came to our property yesterday and have promised to send a periodic police patrol up and down our long gravel road to keep watch for the child molester. The police interviewed several of our students who know who the man is, and the police chief gave his personal phone number to all of the students to call him in case they spot the man or encounter danger. After dozens of phone calls and many unfilled promises on the police’s part up until now, it is literally HUGE that they have even done as much as they’ve done in coming out to our property and beginning to address the issue. Let us give thanks to God for moving the policemen’s hearts toward justice and compassion, and may we now pray that they fulfill their word and send the patrol.

Also: after talking with the same 3 police officers who came out to our home/mission yesterday about the situation with 15-year-old Sandra’s abusive step-father who has been following and threatening her, later that night we got news from Sandra’s mom that the police had actually shown up at his home (which almost never happens — he had been sexually and physically abusive over 6 years, official complaints/reports had been filed, phone calls made, etc, all to no avail until now), and he hid under the bed over an hour before finally coming out, obviously very shaken up. He has to present himself in court today around noon (in about an hour), and Sandra’s mom (who does not know how to read or write) has to present the case in front of lawyers, a judge, etc. Last night Sandra and I prayed for her mom’s protection, seeing as he could have been moved to an extreme rage for having been reported, but this morning when Sandra called her mom to see how the night had gone, she miraculously said that the abusive step-dad had, rather than beating her, been on his knees weeping, saying he wants to change, go with her to church, etc. I just went by Sandra’s mom’s home to pray with her for strength (I was hoping to find the man as well and be able to talk and pray with him, but he was at work).

Please pray that God’s hand continues to guide these two situations, and let us rejoice for the very real steps that have been taken by the police between yesterday and today to begin enacting justice on a human scale. Let us continue to pray fervently for Sandra’s step-dad’s genuine repentance and rebirth in Christ!

Amen!

More Prayer Requests

Freedom for Our Teen and Pre-Teen Girls

There are certain destructive behavioral patterns that we are discovering first-hand are extremely common in young women who have suffered sexual and/or other types of abuse. One after another the daughters in our household – the five older ones ranging in age between 11-15 – are revealing these patterns of behavior with striking similitude. Please join us in prayer with and for their total liberation from bondage, destructive behaviors, feelings of inadequacy/being unwanted, etc, so that they can walk in wholeness and freedom as is God’s good plan for their lives. Pray that they may truly see Father God as a good, protective, loving parent and that they may turn wholeheartedly to Him to find strength, refuge, and Truth. We have seen several small, tangible victories in our girls’ walk with Christ in regards to these ongoing battles, but there is still much territory to be gained.

 

Battle Against Typhoid Fever

On Monday I was diagnosed with two strains of Typhoid Fever after having struggled with constant fever, weakness, migraines and confusion during the past 3+ weeks. I had previously gone in to get bloodwork to test for Dengue Fever and a host of other possibilities (the tests came back negative), so I got several IV treatments and injections at a local clinic in hopes of fighting off my undiagnosed fever as if it were a common virus that’s been going around, but the treatments had no effect. I am thankful that we finally know what I have so that we can treat it – I am currently on a 5-day series of shots in the butt that are specifically designed to combat Typhoid Fever, so hopefully by Saturday or Sunday I should be feeling much better. These past few days I’ve been restricted to bed-rest, which has been frustrating but probably for the best. Please continue to pray for my ongoing struggles with insomnia as well – my sleep patterns improved a bit during the month of February, but in the past couple weeks I’ve returned to old patterns of tossing and turning several nights a week without being able to fall asleep.

 

Prayer Groups Established with Students

Last week the Lord steered us in a new direction: we now have prayer groups every Tuesday and Thursday for about half an hour immediately after we finish our Bible study with the 28 students (elementary + high school), the laborers (teachers, cook, cleaning lady, Darwin and I), and our 8 kids. Each of the laborers break off into a small group with several students/kids to share needs, give thanks, and pray. It has thus far been a very rewarding experience: at least half of our students are not Christians, so perhaps for the first time in their lives they are learning that God hears us and that He’s interested in our needs, triumphs, struggles, etc. Please pray with us against a spirit of joking or teasing (I have about 12 students in my group, and probably because they are nervous or afraid of what the others in the group may think, have adopted a too-playful attitude and are tempted toward poking fun at others or laughing constantly.) Please pray that all of us (students, laborers, etc) may receive a deeper revelation of God’s love and sovereignty and that we may turn to Him with deep reverence and gratitude. Pray also that His Spirit may move among us freely and that students may be brought to genuine repentance and renewal as we seek to bless God’s heart and seek His will.

Urgent Prayer Request (A Cry for Justice)

[Written Sunday, March 6, 2016]: Last night around 10:30pm my husband and I put on tall rubber boots and covered up in long pants and sleeves to protect us from the hungry mosquitos as we walked down the gravel road to the big front gate of the 17-acre property where we live and work.

We waited under the large lampposts for quite some time, swatting away hungry mosquitos, before finally turning around and returning home. Our night watchman, who is armed with nothing more than a flashlight, stood guard on his front porch about 100 yards away, having already done his rounds on the perimeter of the property and probably wondering why Darwin and I were doing such a strange night-walk.

The next morning (which is today), as we all got up and everyone started getting ready for the day, our older girls – who very well knew why we had taken that walk down to our large front gate – asked expectantly if the police had come as they had promised. We’ll be there is 10-15 minutes, the officer had told Darwin over the phone the night before. Well-acquainted with disappointments in these last several days, I didn’t even sugar-coat it and simply said, “No. Pa finally called the officer and he told us there was an auto accident on the highway that they had to attend to, so maybe they’ll come today.”

Sandra (15) and Jackeline (12) scoffed and mumbled, “They’ll never come.”

Last evening while our two eldest daughters – Dayana and Sandra (both 15 years old) – were at church with a local family whom they attend with several times per month, Sandra’s sexually abusive step-father (whom she was rescued from) found them and began harassing and threatening Sandra. He passed by the home of the family where they were spending a few minutes before attending the service, and began to verbally berate Sandra and Dayana, listing too accurately all of their movements over the last few weeks – the days and times they’ve left our home to attend music class or to work on a school assignment with their classmates, etc, evening listing the clothes they were wearing every time he’s seen them – telling them that he has ‘spies’ (his friends) in our little rural town (where he, too, lives) that are tracking their every move, and that he thinks that Sandra needs to come back home to him so that he can ‘care for her.’ The mother of the church-going family pulled Sandra inside the house (they were on the porch), and Sandra – obviously very shaken up – said she wanted to go home (to our house) immediately and not stay for the church service out of fear that he would go to the church and harm her.

She took a mototaxi (which is like a three-wheeled cross between a car and a motorcycle) up the long path to our home while Dayana decided to stay and attend the church service, seeing as the step-father is not directly looking to harm her, but Sandra.

Well, Dayana stayed, and later that evening (last night) she told us that as she was standing up to read one of the Bible verses in the church service, the step-dad showed up at the back door aggressively looking for Sandra, and passed by several times after that. Once Dayana had begun her journey home in mototaxi after the service had ended, she saw the step-dad on the way (or rather he saw her), him trying to glance inside the open-air mototaxi to see if Sandra was with Dayana.

So Sandra got home first, and we listened to her and prayed, and then once Dayana got home a couple hours later we sort of repeated the whole process again, inviting 12-year-olds Josselyn and Jackeline (all four of the girls share a room in our home and, thus, a special sense of sisterhood) to join us as we all sat on our bedroom floor – Darwin and I and our four eldest daughters, as we talked openly about many different topics for what I think were several hours. Josselyn sat cuddled up in my lap, Dayana rested her head comfortably on a pile of clean laundry that Darwin and I had not yet put away, and we all sat more or less sprawled-out or propped-up in a circle sharing, counseling, listening and encouraging.

After having prayed, addressed the emotional needs and fears of our girls, and talked once more about the strongholds of abuse that Satan holds in the lives of so many (and how Father God wants to liberate them, see them walk in victory in His love), we then did an honest brainstorm of what-to-do, seeing as normal answers such as ‘let’s-call-the-police’ aren’t hardly worth mentioning.

Already in these past four or five days we have had close to a dozen nothing-comes-of-it encounters with the police about a (different) child molester who our students have seen roaming the long, lonely road up to our property and whom is known to have already sexually abused several children from our community. We’ve called the Honduran 9-1-1 to report the man several times, we’ve called the private cell-phones of several police officers who work in our area, and Darwin even made a face-to-face visit with the police officers at the local police station a couple days ago, and our efforts to protect our students from this man have produced a lot of mind-boggling frustration for us and not much else. And all we are asking is that the police – who have their official command post literally 1.2 miles from our home/mission! – do a once-a-day (or once-a-week, once-a-year!) patrol – in their car, on foot, however – just so that there is a police presence and, hopefully, the child molester gets spooked. The day that Darwin went to file the official complaint at the police station (after we had called with detailed information to no avail many, many times), the police officer who received the complaint just stared at Darwin blankly and said, “Just let us know when he abuses someone. Until then we can’t do anything.”

We’ve called and they’ve (falsely) promised to pass by at a specific time (Friday and then again last night), but the majority of the time they flat-out say that they can’t (won’t) do anything. One of the students in our high school shared in prayer group the other day that his 16-year-old sister was held at knifepoint a few days ago as a man from our small rural community tried to rape her, but thankfully she escaped. Their parents went to the police station the next day to report the man (and they know exactly who it was!), but the police said dryly, “We can’t do anything because 24 hours have already passed.” Our 12-year-old daughter Josselyn shared with us last night that her grandfather had raped a young woman many years ago and that the police had put him in jail. For two days.

‘Utter bewilderment’ and ‘rage’ and ‘exhaustion’ do not even begin to describe how Darwin, our kids and I currently feel toward the ‘justice’ system here. Just yesterday as we passed through the nearby city of La Ceiba in our old pickup truck with our 8 kids on our way home from a dentist appointment I read a new billboard, advertising the police, that says, “I called 9-1-1, I filed a complaint, and that was enough (as in, the police then reacted and brought justice to the situation.)” I scoffed and my heart began to fill with a certain rage that is becoming too familiar.

I do not want to become a scoffer, and I am keenly aware that a deep cynicism is threatening to consume me. This morning as I was in the shower – a small trickle of cold water falling over me – I asked the Lord, “What do we do? What would you have us to do?”

It is all too easy to sit around and invent apocalyptic nightmares, imaging the worst-case-scenario, becoming suspicious of everyone, generally giving in to fear and falling in the same pit as nearly everyone else. (The majority of people here fear leaving their homes at night, don’t send their kids on public transportation, build tall, barbed-wire prison-like walls around their homes and live under a very real cloud of constant fear and doom, which go directly against the peace-that-passes-understanding that Christ wants to bestow on us.)

Darwin and I have intentionally swung the other direction and have even begun discerning if we should go to the step-father’s home in a bold but loving confrontation and share with him God’s liberating Word, possibly inviting other Christian neighbors to join us.

So as I stood there, little drops of cold water sliding over my skin in the shower this morning, the only answer I heard immediately and clearly to my question of what-would-the-Lord-have-us-to-do was this: “Be still and know that I am God.”

So please pray with and for us right now, especially in regards to these two cases – Sandra’s step-father who is following and threatening her (and who knows where we live because our town is so small) and the other child molester who has been hiding out along the road to our home/mission and who several concerned students and parents have told me is trying to grab our students on their way to classes each morning. Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us, so I ask for special prayers of deliverance, repentance and transformation for these two men, whether the Lord chooses to use us as His instruments to confront them or if He reaches them in anther way. Please pray God’s divine protection over all 28 of our students and over Sandra during this time of very real danger. Pray also for the police – that they may be prompted to begin patrolling the 1.2-mile stretch of gravel road that leads up to our property, and that they may actually begin responding to the people’s cries for justice. And, perhaps most importantly of all: pray that the Lord may saturate our hearts and minds with His perfect peace and that we may not fall prey to living in constant fear and dread. May we fear only God Himself and not men!

Amen!

Isaiah 9:1-7 [What we have been studying in our community Bible study]: Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever…The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod…The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

February 2016 Life and Ministry Updates

First 3 Weeks of Classes in Living Waters Ranch High School and Elementary School a Success

Since the first day of classes on Wednesday, February 3rd we have enjoyed a surprisingly smooth and joyful transition into hosting 30 students ages 8-20 in our home/mission every day Monday-Friday for academic classes (grades 1-7), Bible studies, music and art lessons, etc. The students have said many times that they wish they had to come to classes on Saturdays too!

They start trickling in through our front gate each morning at 6:30am —  (due to our disciplinary system that includes a very detailed contract that each student and their parents signed before enrolling, everyone’s learned quite quickly to be punctual for 7:00am classes!) — and they leave between 1:00-3:30pm each afternoon depending on the specific day of the week.

Please continue to pray that this new outreach would bear much fruit for the Kingdom, and that many children/youth who are not yet willing vessels for God’s love would come to know and submit to Him through the various ways the gospel is taught and lived at the Living Waters Ranch. Pray also that the Lord would grant us wisdom, perseverance, and vision so as to impact the children/youth from our rural neighborhood in the deepest way possible for His glory.

Legal Progress

We’ve received notice from our lawyer that all of our legal paperwork, accounting, organizational reports, etc, from 2011-2015 have been officially received by the Honduras government in the capital city, which is a huge step. That process lasted several months, so now at least we have in hand a signed and stamped copy that proves that our documents have been received and are being processed.

Please continue to pray for God’s hand over this entire process — that the government officials may work effectively and transparently, and that the Lord may grant us peace in the midst of continued waiting.

Brayan Returns to Living Waters Ranch School as Fifth Grade Student

Brayan, our young neighbor who lived under our roof as a son during 8 months and has continued his on-and-off relationship with us since, recently moved back to our rural neighborhood and, after a period of discernment, has been accepted into our discipleship-based elementary school program into a class with four other teen boys five days a week. He is doing incredibly well, and we are all thrilled to have him so close as he continues to grow and develop into a man after God’s own heart.

Let us give thanks to God for all that is happening in Brayan’s life, and pray with us that Brayan’s decision-making would continue following its current pattern.

Dayana (age 15) Begins Teaching Beginners’ Piano

Dayana, the eldest of the 8 children/youth the Lord has placed in our home as sons and daughters, recently began teaching weekly piano lessons to three young neighbors of ours along with 11-year-old Josselyn, one of our 8. In these last few months Dayana has begun taking on many new leadership roles in our home/mission. She is the only one of our kids who is in our 7th-grade Living Waters Ranch High School, and it is exhilarating to see her very quickly and naturally taking on leadership roles among her peers (all 15 of which are from our rural neighborhood), participating more than anyone else in our twice-weekly Bible study, and aiding our new teacher in various ways.

Let us give thanks to God for the ways He is enabling her to develop according to His will, and please pray with us for her continued protection, purity, and joy.

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

Students Enrolled in Discipleship-Based Secondary School

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Community Lunch and Bible Study to be Held Twice Weekly

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

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

 

Child/Youth Leadership Program and Basketball Team in Local School

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

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

 

Blossoming Relationship with Isis, our Primary Education Teacher

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

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

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

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