Tag Archives: Rural School

A Refuge for Misfits

Yesterday as I was taking four of our foster children to the dentist in the city that lies about a half hour from our rural homestead, my phone rang.

It was my husband: “Three more kids just arrived wanting to enroll in our homeschool program this year.”

I breathed deep, knowing that the number of local children and teens who had already enrolled in these past few weeks had greatly surpassed any established limit we would have liked to set. A few days prior I had shuffled through all the enrollment papers in our office, assuming the sum total would be up around 50, about 10 or 15 more than last year.

But my eyes grew wide as I saw that the count was 63. Considering our limited resources and experience, we decided to close the enrollment period. 63 students — almost all of whom come from devastating backgrounds — would be more than enough, seeing as we were facing almost double the amount of students we finished last year with in November.

And then the next day three more local students arrived at our front gate and I felt God lead me to accept them (despite my own personal preferences). 66!

Now Darwin is calling me about three more! We’re getting close to 70, and we don’t have the tables, chairs or really the classroom space to comfortably have so many people running around our home! Help!

Darwin gave me more details about the prospective new students: “It’s a single dad who is raising his three kids because his wife left him when he had a stroke several years ago. He’s unable to work and lives in a room in a little church where a local pastor is economically supporting him and his three children.”

Then there was a moment of silence over the phone as we both considered what this meant.

God has placed us in our rural neighborhood stricken by deep poverty and suffering for this exact purpose: to shine as Christ’s lights in the darkness and extend the love and mercy of God to this hurting corner of the world. If this disabled single father does not fit within the parameters of the mission the Lord has given us, then I’m not sure who does. Surely we must accept them.

Darwin continued: “…And there’s one more as well. It’s a teen boy who’s on his way to ninth grade and last year was unable to study at the local high school because he didn’t have the money to do so. He’s very eager to learn but hasn’t had the opportunity to do so.”

Even in the midst of my own fears and desire for control (and love of small numbers), I breathed deeply – a streak of excitement passing through my chest as I contemplated all the lost and broken people the Lord is entrusting us for healing, “Of course; bring them all in,” I answered over the phone as I zipped down the highway. That was the answer God had placed on both of our hearts.

Teenagers – always more teenagers! The group of young people the Lord has sent us this year is turning out to be quite a ragtag bunch (and that’s just the way we want it). There are many private schools in our area who look for the best, most well-behaved students with good credentials and decent family backgrounds. Our search is just about the opposite: we look for and receive those on the farthest margins, those who are likely within a short distance of falling into gangs or becoming local vagabonds (if they aren’t already).

This year we’re receiving a young man who is already in his early twenties who will be entering third grade with us and another third-grade student who is a teen on the cusp of 15 or 16 years old who is a notorious vagabond in our area with bright purple-died hair who has tried school several times but has thus far always dropped out. We have hope that this time God will give him the perseverance and grace to finish the year, and maybe even several more after that.

Another teen is entering who finished primary school five years ago and dropped out of school since then. He’s now 16 and will be entering 7th grade with us. What made him want to enroll in a God-fearing community homeschool program that is heavy on discipline, love and truth when all that he’s been accustomed to is probably the opposite? Why not continue roaming our neighborhood aimlessly or simply enroll in the local public high school, where everything is easier and cheating/corruption are easily overlooked? We have no idea, but we thank God that this young man and roughly 70 others will be willingly exposed to God’s Word and the truth of His love day after day under our guidance.

There are many other similar stories – many fatherless children and teens who will be entering our school where they will finally have loving, Christian adult males to lead them; many coming from malnutrition and deep poverty who physically look several years younger than they actually are; others who come from the public school system discouraged and rejected after years of trying to learn and failing. The Lord is creating a small, beautiful haven for misfits, and He will be the one to fortify this work, for He is the one who brought so many young people to us.

I contemplated all this as I drove up the long gravel road to our home the other day. Crossing through our rural neighborhood I saw one of our new male students – a 15-year-old who will be entering 6th grade after having been a local vagabond for the past several years – meandering around the streets on his bike. I gave him a double-honk from inside our car to greet him, and then all of a sudden he changed course and began darting up the path in front of my old pickup truck as fast as he could.

This particular young man has had quite a bit of contact with us this month, even coming up to our home to participate in our riotous P.E. classes with our teachers (as in, our teachers are the students). Darwin had met him several months ago when he took our kids to a local field to play soccer, and he’s been developing a relationship with him ever since.

I smiled and continued driving onward, me now following him as he began pedaling as fast as he could up the slighting inclined path to our home. The car continued to rumble along as he passed as quickly as he could over uneven terrain, rocks and puddles so as to keep his lead on me. Were we in a race? I didn’t think so. I had no idea what was happening, but I enjoyed the game and he seemed really intent on beating me to our gate.

Making the last turn up to our property, our home and the majestic mountains just beyond now in full eyesight, the young man finally reached his destination, threw his bike to one side in one fluid motion and pulled open our front gate, panting and smiling big.

I rolled down my window as I directed the car to pass through the opening. Leaning over to greet the young victor, I thanked him for opening the gate for me. Had he really gone out of his way and beat me up the path just for that? Just to show me an act of kindness? Surely he must have had other business up here…

Still panting, he informed me through my open window: “I wanted to come open the gate for you!” An enormous smile flooded the precious, soon-to-be ex-vagabond’s face.

Chills ran through my body as I suddenly realized I was the recipient of a very extravagant display of friendship and favor. I immediately thanked God in my heart, feeling that the good work in this young man’s life had already begun, and that He used this simple boy to even touch my own heart with His love.

I pulled all the way through the gate; he closed it behind me; and he was off. Mission accomplished!

Many young boys in disadvantaged Honduran neighborhoods such as ours begin working with local gangs from about age 10 on, participating in horrible crimes and Satanic worship perhaps for lack of a better place to belong. Our 16-year-old foster son Brayan (whom we are in the process of legally adopting), has commented to us several times that if God had not placed us in his path when he was 12 years old, he would probably belong to a gang by now or be dead. So, we thank God that he is bringing in the vagabonds and lost young men and women who very well may be within a yard of Hell, and we praise Him that He’s brining them home, bringing them to a knowledge and experience of God’s love for them through Christ.

Please pray with us for this increasing group of children and teens whom the Lord has entrusted us as we are finishing off our preparations for the new year of discipleship and integral education that will begin Monday, February 5th.

God bless you!

2017 Yearend Photos

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! Here are photos that were taken at our yearend celebratory event with our students, teachers/missionaries and local community a few weeks ago at the Living Waters Ranch where we live and serve as Christ’s body.

(I have not updated the blog recently due to the fact that our 10 foster kids/teens are on vacation from our community homeschool program, and I’ve been dedicating more ‘momma’ time to them as they’ve needed me to be more present in the home and put the majority of my administrative/communication duties on hold for now). God bless you, and please continue praying for the unstable political scene in Honduras, as the chaos has calmed down for now but is rumored to heat up again after the holidays.

My husband Darwin directing his youth choir in songs of the hope we have in Christ

Our 16-year-old son Brayan and me sitting in the audience as we awaited the arrival of our neighbors
Darwin directing our 10-year-old son Jason with a piano piece

Darwin and our 13-year-old daughter Gleny accompanied by Annie, a precious teen who I taught and discipled in the Episcopal School in the nearby city of La Ceiba for several years after moving to Honduras in 2012. She and her two sisters are now homeschooled by their parents and are involved part-time at the Living Waters Ranch in music, agriculture, community service, and Christian discipleship to complement the academic education they are already receiving at home. Annie and her two sisters are very special to Darwin and me as we’ve known them closely for several years, and it was a very pleasant surprise to talk with their parents a couple months ago and see a door opened to have them come study and grow in Christ alongside of us part-time at our home. Their parents drive them about 30 minutes from their home in the city out to our rural property in order for them to participate! Praise God!

 

Three of our local teen boys who study with us in our discipleship-based community homeschool program. 15-year-old Cristian (the one in the middle), came into our lives about three years ago as a very malnourished and completely uneducated boy who had never gone to school before, and now he has a heart for the Lord and he’s on his way to high school after successfully completing our accelerated program for older students! He and four of his siblings study full-time in our home, and both of his parents are now employed with us.
Geraldina, Sandra’s mom, getting ready for the preparations. (She even put on a pair of borrowed shorts and competed in the 2-mile roadrace after the musical activities finished!)
During several of the choir’s songs, the older kids and mature teens were all afraid to stand near the microphone! Our 10-year-old developmentally-challenged foster daughter Gabriela (blue dress), who LOVES to sing, unashamedly took up the front and center spot right in front of the microphone when all others were afraid to do so! I laughed when I saw her — knowing that her voice would resonate above all else’s due to her position so close to the microphone — and I whispered to the person next to me, “I sure hope she knows the lyrics!” She frequently mispronounces words and has many difficulties in daily living, but she truly shined during the choir performance — and she did a great job with the lyrics! It was a beautiful moment and one of the first times I’ve really felt proud of our quirky little one. Praise God!
Two of our daughters (Jackeline, left, and Dayana, right)

 

Amen! Glory to God!

January/February 2017 Updates and Prayer Requests

Teaching and Mentoring Responsibilities Evenly Distributed Among Team Members

Darwin and I along with the 5 faithful Christian laborers the Lord has placed alongside of us this year are evenly sharing the many daily responsibilities to teach and guide the 40+ youth in our homeschool-style program. This year we’ve added many new classes and extracurricular clubs such as: Agriculture, Advanced English, Carpentry, four different levels of math and reading classes according to each student’s capability, Advanced Music Theory, Sewing, Thought and Logic, Dance, after-school tutoring and others. I am currently directing the twice-weekly Bible study along with advanced math class, high-school-level art club, P.E., after-school tutoring for older students, and one afternoon per week of detention (think extreme military training for the kids who didn’t do their homework). Darwin is teaching 5th and 6th grade elementary school (combined homeschool-style in our dining room), piano club, basic and advanced music theory/recorder, advanced English, P.E., and Level 3 reading in addition to guiding a group of young men in our twice-weekly prayer groups. It has been very exhilarating thus far as we’ve implemented new classes and styles of teaching to better meet our students’ complex needs. Each Christian laborer is responsible for various groups of students each day, and thus far our new method is working seamlessly. We praise God for our new system of education as He’s been guiding us one step at a time over the last two years to make necessary changes, add new dynamics, etc in this beautiful effort to teach and disciple youth on the far margins of society for His glory.

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This is Michelle, a 10-year-old student in first grade at the Living Waters Ranch.

 

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This is Geraldina, Sandra’s mom who makes everything run in the kitchen. I caught her off guard with my request to take a photo of her earlier this week, but she was quick to strike a pose! She is now in her second year of having separated from her abusive husband, and she is faithfully seeking the Lord’s will for her and her four children as she valiantly seeks new, healthier beginnings.

Erick and Aracely Move to El Pino to Minister to Local Youth

Erick, who served alongside of us at the Living Waters Ranch in 2014 and returned full-time as a teacher/mentor as of last month, has moved to our rural neighborhood with his wife and two young children so as to participate more fully in the ministry to the local youth who visit the Living Waters Ranch during daytime hours for discipleship and schooling. The house he is renting is strategically placed on the same block as roughly a dozen of the youth in our school, and he and his wife have opened their doors after-hours (nights and weekends) to form relationships with many of the teenage boys in our school who live close to them. He and his wife have taken tremendous God-directed initiative in our group effort to relationally disciple the many youth who the Lord is bringing to the Ranch, and we are thrilled that now our students have another safe, loving married couple to turn to on nights and weekends when Darwin and I are with the 10 who live with us. Erick is in the process of starting a Bible study in his home on Sunday nights for the youth, and he’s already begun taking several of them to church with him on the weekends. This type of initiative to reach out to lost youth in such a self-sacrificing way (giving up time with his family or to rest) is almost nonexistent in our neighborhood, and we are so thrilled that he and his wife are exhibiting such commitment to the Lord’s call on their lives. Please pray with us that the Lord would sustain and encourage them in their efforts, and that the many seeds that are being planted would give a great crop for God’s glory.

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This is 13-year-old Joel, a new student to the Living Waters Ranch. He had spent six years of his life in the public education system in our rural neighborhood without learning to read and write, so he is now on the second-grade level with us. He is a very special young many who is very immature for his age and struggles with learning disabilities, and God is teaching us many things through our relationship with him.
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This is Reina, a new local teacher who signed on to serve at the Living Waters Ranch this year. She has extensive experience teaching small children, so she has been an incredible blessing to our small group of rag-tag first grade students in addition to the academic support she gives to the teenagers at the Living Waters Ranch. She is typically very reserved and professional, so when she struck this pose, we were all shocked! Way to go!

Missionary Couple from Guatemala Trains the Team of Servants at the Living Waters Ranch

An American missionary couple who has been serving God in children’s ministry in Guatemala (a Central American country that neighbors Honduras) for several years came to stay at the Living Waters Ranch for a couple nights in January as they held intensive training sessions for our team of 7 Christian laborers (including Darwin and I). The couple has many years of experience working as Christian psychologists with severely abused and hurting children, so they freely shared their experiences and know-how with us so that our efforts to love and teach the children might bear great fruit for God’s glory. (Facilitating this training session was part of our 3-week process of team training in preparation to begin the new school year.)

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This is 12-year-old Sefora, one of our new students who we’ve known since 2014 through Darwin’s youth choir. She is in art club, Christian Leadership, agriculture and academic support tutoring in addition to being one of our 7th grade students.

 

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This is 8-year-old Josue, our special-needs son who has been living with us a little over two years. He is our faithful ‘assistant’ and loves being involved in the many physical education activities and group games we offer. He has recently made great strides as he’s learned nearly overnight to use the bathroom and now has almost no need of the diapers he previously dirtied several times per day. He is also expanding his vocabulary rapidly (although he has his own ‘language’) and is developing better motor skills. We are so proud of him!

Gabriela’s Ongoing Healing Process

Little Gabriela, who we had guessed might be about 8 years old (she has no birth certificate or hospital records) is probably actually 10 or 11 years old because her body has recently begun entering the puberty process. We are honestly very scared about this because she is mentally and emotionally about 4 years old and daily struggles with many behavioral issues that a very small child would display. We urgently and humbly seek prayer regarding her continued healing process as the scars her sexually abusive step-father left in her life are deep. She daily struggles with basic personal hygiene norms, has extreme difficulties learning and does not play easily with the other children. Compared to where she was when she arrived in our family a year-and-a-half ago, she has come a very long way on the path to recapturing innocence, developing better motor skills and learning about a good God, but the path before her is still very long and uncertain. Pray for Darwin and I, that we may maintain great hope in God for her full recovery and that we may daily manifest God’s perfect love and patience with her in the midst of many trying moments.

charlie
This is 14-year-old Charlie, one of our students from last year who did not pass his grade due to  irresponsibility and lack of preparation. We love him dearly and are so proud of him. He’s returned to our 7th grade program this year and is now shining as one of our most consistent students. He is in Darwin’s prayer group, advanced music theory class, piano, art club and advanced English. He tends to struggle a bit academically but is very gifted in the arts. He is one of the students who was baptized last year, and he continues faithfully to seek the Lord’s will for his life.

 

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This is 15-year-old Cristian, one of our spunky fifth grade students who was baptized last year. He is in Darwin’s twice-per-week prayer group and participates in piano, agriculture, dance and logic classes each week in addition to academic classes. He and his four siblings who study with us are the first ones in their family to enjoy an education, as their parents and the majority of their relatives are illiterate and never studied beyond third grade.

Prayer Requested to Expedite the Adoption Process

We have been actively involved in the legal adoption process of siblings Dayana (16), Gleny (12) and Jason (9) for roughly a year, and there has been almost zero progress, which is not surprising in Honduras. My legal residency status took nearly four years to get, so we are prepared to wait actively in this process as well. We ask that you would pray with us that the process would be expedited in Jesus’ name; that all the lawyers, judges and local government authorities involved would review our paperwork in an effective manner and that the three adoptions would come to completion this calendar year. God has planted the desire in us to begin the same adoption process with 15-year-old Brayan, so we ask for prayers as many legal ‘balls’ are being juggled at once.

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This is 15-year-old Genesis, the new addition to our household who moved from the other side of the country in response to the opportunity to study at the Living Waters Ranch. In the desert-like rural region she grew up in there are very few opportunities to study on the secondary level, and the education given is very poor. She’s been with us nearly a month and is actively involved in all the activities offered at the Ranch. Please continue to pray with us for her and the rest of our family as there are still many adjustments to be made/storms to be weathered as we establish a new ‘normal’ with ten kids/teens in our household.

 

eber
This is 17-year-old Eber, one of the oldest students in our high school. He is normally extremely shy, so he surprised us all when he struck this rather expressive (and scary!) pose. He is a slow learner and has struggled in his first few weeks in an environment with such strict discipline, homework expectations, etc, but Darwin has been faithful to go out and get him each time he’s gotten discouraged. Many young men his age in our area are involved in delinquent gangs, already have children or ‘wives’ or simply wander around on their bicycles all day without any direction in their lives, so we are very proud of him and thankful to God that Eber is with us. God has already begun speaking to him in a powerful way through our Bible studies and prayer groups, and he is in the beginning stages of transformation for God’s glory.

 

Gleny (12) and Dayana (16) Return to Art Class

Gleny and Dayana, biological sisters who have been living with us nearly three-and-a-half years, last month returned to a local art school every Saturday as we seek to develop the ‘hidden treasures’ (gifts, abilities and interests) in them. Gleny in particular is thrilled to the moon and back to be in the art class, and we give thanks to God for the local Christian woman who runs the school and serves as another very positive influence in our girls’ lives. The goal of having our girls in this class is to equip them with a diverse skill set (including musical training that they receive at home) that they will be able to use in their future to acquire gainful employment and/or to serve God and others.

yefri
This is 11-year-old Jeffrey, who is currently in first grade with us after having spent the majority of his life until now being a vagabond in our rural neighborhood. God is taming this ‘wild man’ with His love, and he’s learning healthy limits through his daily participation in our discipleship-focused homeschool at the Living Waters Ranch. Two of his older brothers are also in our school after having spent a large portion of their life without direction.

 

sindy
This is 13-year-old Sindy, one of our returning students who is now in 8th grade. She is one of the first people in her family to study on the high-school level, and she is currently participating in piano club with Darwin, agriculture classes, advanced music theory, and English classes in addition to the twice-weekly Bible studies that all students participate in and normal academic classes. She got the giggles when I started taking pictures of her!

 

Amen! Glory to God!

First Report of the New School Year: the Positive Reinforcement of Play

Yesterday evening at dusk our old Toyota truck pulled to a slow stop along a narrow strip of gravel road in our neighborhood as one of our students who had been riding in the truckbed prepared to jump off. This was his stop.

I reached over to touch Darwin’s arm, motioning for him to wait, and said, “I’d like to get out and say hi to Stanley’s mom. I’ll be right back.” I then paused and laughed to myself, murmuring under my breath, “This definitely isn’t the first time I’ve visited this house.”

Jackeline, our 13-year-old daughter who was sitting inside the cab with us, piped up and said, “Yeah, you’ve come to visit Stanley and his cousin Sindy quite a few times, right, Ma?”

I laughed even harder and admitted, “No, never Sindy. Just Stanley.”

Sindy and Stanley, who both live at this address, had been students in our seventh-grade program last year. While Sindy had shone brightly as a very high-acheiving and easily-managed student, her cousin Stanley had proved to be a roller coaster of volatile emotions and foolish choices. He seemed prone to making bad decisions and had wanted to drop out of school several times. He had even told Darwin that his life dream was to join a gang, and he had participated in a robbery at our home in 2015.

And so I glanced over at Jackeline, who was a bit confused, and I smiled at her as I knew perhaps the depths and lengths I personally had been through with young, rebellious Stanley were a precious secret that only God and I shared (and Stanley’s mom). After all, I had showed up unexpected on their doorstep on several occasions looking for him, and twice I had even danced in that little strip of gravel road to try to convince him to come back to the Ranch, to continue seeking God’s will for his life.

And so I hopped down from the passenger’s seat of our truck and shouted over to Stanley, who had just gotten down from our truckbed, “Is it okay if I say ‘hi’ to your mom real quick?”

His face suddenly dropped, an instinct probably acquired due to the many times I’d had to ‘say hi to his mom’ for negative reasons, but suddenly a huge smile appeared on his face as he realized this time he had nothing to hide. We both laughed as I patted him on that back and said, “This time it’s good news.”

I waited at the twine gate, but they quickly passed me through to the  more intimate realm of their property. I guess after having visited a house so many times, you sort of become like family. Stanley’s mom suddenly appeared from behind the thin curtain hanging in the front door, and we embraced, as we have on many occasions. This time, however, instead of Stanley escaping out the back door or hanging his head low, refusing to look anyone in the eyes, he stood tall right next to his mom, proud.

His mother instinctively looked worried as she wondered what had merited my unannounced house visit (as in, what-has-my-son-done-this-time), but I quickly reassured her that this time I came to brag on him and announce the fantastic news that he had earned a daily average of 89% during his first week of intensive preparation and had exhibited an entirely new attitude among his peers and towards us. Tears welled up in his mom’s eyes as I told her that her son had even begun taking great leadership among his peers and is a godly example for the new students to follow. Respectful, attentive, enthusiastic and hard-working during the daily hour of physical training. He had even completed all of his homework over the last several days, which had never happened before.

And so we gave thanks to God, I embraced his mother one more time, and we were off to do similar visits with the other students who remained joyfully squeezed in our truckbed.

We went house to house down long, remote gravel roads as we embraced mothers and step-mothers — both ones we’ve already had a relationship with from last school year along with ones that we are just now meeting for the first time. We had, after all, just spent the entire afternoon at a local park with our students who had earned a daily average of 80% or higher during their first week of intensive preparation for the school year, and we were eager to bear that good news to their parents.

In our rural community that hobbles around, bound by laziness, apathy and self-pity (not to mention rampant violence and a culture of lies), to see teenagers — especially those who in years past have been on the margins of society, on the brink of self-destruction or turning into instruments to destroy others — become fully alive, read God’s Word, and suddenly acquire a dogged work ethic and new hope regarding their future truly is miraculous.

On one of our last stops, at a small one-room shack with several barefoot little girls running about in the dirt yard, we shared the news of Charlie’s revival with his step-mom, who truly cares for him and who had been quite worried last year as time and time again Charlie slipped into irresponsibility and self-pity before finally failing his school year entirely. We had worked hard to convince his dad and step-mom to allow him to keep studying with us after his first year was an apparent failure (for we know the secret that many local parents don’t: this battle for salvation, for transformation is one that is done over the long-haul and one that cannot be given up on if the first year or two or three don’t go as planned). Charlie, who is 13 years old but has the appearance of an 8 or 9-year-old due to malnutrition, stood tall, his chest puffed out and his face serene as we enthusiastically shared the news with his step-mom. Charlie had earned a daily average of 97% in his first week of intensive prep, and his gracious attitude, servants’ heart and leadership skills — things that were not visible in him last year — shone brightly. His step-mom glowed with joy as she commented that she, too, had seen a distinct change in him over the last several days.

As we said our goodbyes and began walking down that little rocky dirt path back to our car, our 15-year-old son Brayan, who did a phenomenal job in his first week of classes, turned around and said jokingly, “And my house visit?” (As in, are you gonna brag on me too?) I laughed, knowing that we had already bragged on him more than 653 times this past week and I said with a grin, “I think your mom already knows that you did a fantastic job.” He smiled like a little boy and reached out a long, muscular arm towards me and said, “You’re my mom!” and I nodded my head and laughed.

And so we’ve been reading a lot of the book of Proverbs and the students have been copying whole chapters for homework. We’ve been reviewing basic math, assigning personal reflections each night to get the kids thinking, and participating in quite intense physical exercises with them each afternoon. The majority of our students come to us with an extremely weak academic base and need to be taught (or re-taught) the basic of subtraction, multiplication, etc, along with basic grammatical norms and reading support. This can be a tedious process as many of our students have learning disabilities/delays, but this week — praise God! — it was fun and effective. All but two of our students attended every single day, which in and of itself is a great triumph because discouragement and lack of attendance tend to be rampant in the educational system in Honduras.

The first week of intensive prep involved roughly 20 students (those who are new to our program along with those who need additional support), and next week roughly 20 more will be joining us as we enter our second and final week of academic, spiritual and physical ‘bootcamp’ before the official school year begins in early February.

And so we took that small group of students who truly fulfilled that first week of ‘bootcamp’ with excellence to a local park to participate in games of soccer and volleyball, enjoy the pool, and generally play. We are very excited to be able to do this type of positive reinforcement (we call them ‘good consequences’) from the get-go to establish healthy limits and a good foundation of choices/consequences with our students as we enter into this year of intimate commitment with them.

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Miss Ligia, one of our beloved local teachers (who by trained profession is a lawyer) who has signed on for another full year shepherding wily, precious youth for God’s glory. She squeezed in that little truckbed with 13 youth on the journey to the park!

 

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A photo our 9-year-old son Jason took from the inside of the truckbed as more and more youth piled on! Everybody make room!

 

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Darwin explaining behavioral expectations and guidelines as we arrived at the park. Although this is a weekly trip we make as a family, the majority of our students had never had the privilege to enter, so it was a new experience for most. We hit a ‘home run’ by treating each kid to a soda and ice cream, which was also a very special treat that the majority of the local youth in our neighborhood very rarely if ever experience!

 

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Stanley, left, with whom we have a long and treasured history and Eduardo, right, a new student who just entered our high school program this past week

 

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Miss Isis, one of our very dedicated local teachers who has been with us since August 2015, leading Michelle to the pool. Michelle is 10 years old although she physically appears to be about 5 or 6 due to extreme poverty/malnutrition. She has been in school with us several times over the last two years but has had very little constancy in her education because her family moves frequently. She is currently in first grade learning the basics of reading and writing with our daughter Gabriela.

 

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Charlie (back left), one of our other students who did not pass seventh grade last year and was hesitant about re-entering, enjoyed a phenomenal first week at the Ranch alongside of his cousin, Nixon (front right), who just entered our program this year.

 

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Our 12-year-old daughter Gleny, who does not officially enter her classes with us until this upcoming Tuesday, helped out tremendously during the first week of intensive prep as she spent several hours tutoring a new student in reading and math. We are so proud of her!

 

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Our 15-year-old son Brayan, who had a 99% average in his first week of classes/intensive training, enjoying a soccer game alongside of his new classmate Eduardo. Brayan has never been a good student (he repeated fifth grade with us several times), but a change has occurred in him and he has begun taking great initiative with his homework, assuming positive male leadership among his peers (something that is also new), and showing a newfound gratitude and enthusiasm in all that he does. Praise God for this transformation!

 

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Darwin, who is naturally a very gifted swimmer, got in the soccer mix as he, Dayana and Brayan (our two oldest kids) teamed up in an intense math of 3-on-3 against three of our local students. In this photo he and Stanley are going full force for the ball! (Not bad, Darwin, considering the kids are 20 years younger than him!)

 

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Please pray with us for our students (and for our team of teachers, counselors and mentors) as we are beginning a new school year with more youth than we have ever had in our program before. Please pray also for my health, as my insomnia remains a daily constant, and I physically am weak and prone to acquiring viruses/infections, as I have one right now (high fever and throat infection that has lasted much longer than it should). The insomnia greatly affects my mood, daily energy levels, and my relationship with everyone around me. Pray that this burden may be taken from me so that I may be even more effective in this great work the Lord has put before us.

Amen! Glory to God!

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

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

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

Enjoy the photos from the set-up…

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Anybody know any good jokes?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Go, Josue, go! Feel those endorphins!

 

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And he just kept on running and laughing!

 

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Where’s Josue?

 

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Gotta pass right through the mud puddle!

 

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

 

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People are arriving!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Our daughter Dayana

 

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

 

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Lookin’ sharp, Charlie!

 

Amen! Glory to God!

August 2016 Updates and Prayer Requests

High School Students Studying Ted Dekker’s Historical-Based Novel “30 A.D.” About the Life of Jesus

A couple months ago Miss Ligia (our high school teacher) and I began reading Ted Dekker’s novel “30 A.D.” with our thirteen 7th-grade students. The majority of our students had never read an entire book before on any subject (most schools here do not assign books to read nor is reading in general a common pastime for most Hondurans), so tackling a 398-paged historical novel with teens who read on a very low reading level has been quite the task. The book itself is phenomenal, and although several of the students have struggled mightily to develop the discipline of actually reading the chapters and the mental capacity to understand the content, it has been a very rewarding experience enriched with discussions, quizzes, group work, etc, as we seek to deepen our knowledge and love of Christ with our local students. After our students finish the novel at the end of the month we have missionary biographies prepared for them to read!

 

Prayer Needed for Gabriela’s Intense Emotional Needs

I am very humbly asking for prayer for Gabriela (nicknamed ‘Gaby’) and for my attitude towards her. She has been living with us a little over a year, and we’ve decided to say she’s eight years old (although it’s very likely she’s 9, 10 or 11 because no one knows how old she really is), but mentally and emotionally she is on the level of a three-year-old.

She is by far the most emotionally demanding of all of our children, and I get drained very quickly in her presence as she is extremely clingy, wants to be held constantly, wets her pants and her bed nearly every day/night, struggles when I pay attention to the other kids (or when I try to do any other task), and behaves as a toddler would although physically she is a big kid and has already begun wearing a training bra. Her personality in general is very loud, repetitive and annoying, so most of our other kids do not actively spend time with her, leaving me as one of her only loving companions (besides special-needs Josue who is her best friend).

I have begun talking and praying with her extensively about the fact that only God can fill her emotional void; I love her and God utilizes me in her life to show her His love and affection, but I alone will never be enough to fill her up.

Please pray with me that this message would penetrate into her heart and that she would earnestly seek God as her eternal Father, for He is the only One who truly satisfies. Please pray for me also, as being Gaby’s mom is an extremely exhausting affair (although an incredible blessing); pray that the Lord would grant me the patience, unconditional love and energy to love her the way Jesus does. I feel hounded almost constantly by guilt because I simply do not have the superhuman strength to attend to all of her emotional needs to the extent that she wants, and I sense that she oftentimes feels rejected by me. Please pray that God would liberate me of these feelings of guilt and replace them with trust in Him.

 

Legal Progress Report: Documents from 2011-2015 Finally Processed, Approved (!)

After having compiled and trying to submit a rather extensive portfolio of legal documents, photos, letters, etc, to the capital’s government office in Tegucigalpa since 2014, we were notified about two weeks ago that everything finally went through and we are in good standing with the government after quite a bit of organizational confusion that occurred when the leadership of the Living Waters Ranch was transferred from Teresa Devlin (the founder) to my husband and me in 2012.

We thank and praise God for this great news (and huge relief!) that we are finally up-to-date and have been accepted/recognized by the government as a legally operated NGO (non-profit) who fulfills the national requirements. Praise God!

 

Prayer for Ongoing Insomnia

Several years have passed and I still struggle each night with insomnia, sleeping about 2-5 hours per night. I’m exhausted to the bone and frequently struggle with irritability toward those around me. It seems like several times per day I have to humble myself and go ask forgiveness from those who were the victims of my snappy attitude or impatience.

Please pray that God would give me the perseverance and energy to continue to fulfill His will and that I may be granted deep, restorative sleep so that I may be an increasingly useful instrument in His hands.

 

Miss Martha to Rest from Chronic Pains

Miss Martha, our beloved sister in Christ in her late 50s who serves alongside of us at the Living Waters Ranch as the cook, literacy teacher and nurse, notified us last week that she has made the difficult decision to stop serving at the Ranch and spend a season resting at home due to several chronic pains she has been struggling with for many months. The work at the Ranch is very physical – a lot of walking between buildings, bending over, carrying things, playing with kids, etc, and due to the intense pains in her left leg, one of her hands, and her neck/arms, she feels that she can no longer continue in the work. We love her dearly and will continue to see her every Tuesday as she plans on continuing her participation in the ‘Christian Leadership’ class.

Please pray with us for her healing and that the Lord would continue the good work that He has begun in her.

 

Much Time Consumed Each Week with Trips to Local Government Offices

Although we are up-to-date with the capital offices in Tegucigalpa, there are many smaller, local government branches that have different requirements that organizations like ours must fulfill, so in the last few weeks Darwin’s and my time has been largely consumed with waiting in said government offices, turning in paperwork, having meetings, etc, in addition to the many daily hands-on tasks with our kids and students. We’ve been going to the Social Security Office, Board of Education, and several others (I’m not sure how they would translate in English) in somewhat exhausting/frustrating circles as we’re trying to jump through the many required hoops to ensure that we are legally covered in every possible respect should anyone come and bring accusations or complaints (such attitudes of accusation and of wanting to see others fall is very common here and can be very dangerous). Several nights recently Darwin has not gotten home until 7:00 or 8:00pm after having been away all day jumping said hoops.

Please pray with us that all these errands, etc, would not distract from the purpose God has given us to proclaim His Word and invest in the lives of the children/youth for His glory, and that we would be able to meet all the requirements quickly and efficiently.

 

Coming Up On 1-Year Anniversary with Nightwatchman’s Family

Next month will mark one year of living in relationship with the family of our nightwatchman at the Living Waters Ranch. By God’s grace we have been able to develop a very healthy relationship with them as we serve one another for God’s glory. Four of their kids are in our elementary school as they are learning to read, write and do basic math along with their participation in Bible study, choir, various after-school ‘clubs’, etc, and the nightwatchman’s wife helps serve in our kitchen and cleaning a few days per week. During this almost-one-year that our watchman has been doing his rounds each night with a flashlight, we haven’t had any robberies.

Please continue to pray with us for our relationship with this family and that our Father may continue to grow us all up in love, wisdom and Truth as we serve one another as neighbors for His glory.

Art Club Kick-Off with Miss Ligia

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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Clean-up time!

 

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

 

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

 

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See you on Monday, Charlie and Arnold!

 

Amen! Glory to God!