Tag Archives: step-father

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

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!

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!

Who’s Next? [A Reflection on Suffering and God’s Sovereignty]

Yesterday my husband, our high school teacher and I had a meeting with a 16-year-old single mom who is interested in enrolling in our new seventh-grade class.

We sat together around a concrete picnic table under the breezy shade of a tree in our front yard as it was explained to us that she and her one-month-old son moved to our rural town to live with her aunt and uncle after her mother was murdered last month while someone was stealing her cellphone. I didn’t hear all the details on her father’s situation, but he is also dead.

Just three or four days ago my husband informed me that a dear neighbor of ours had received news that his younger brother – a Christian man in his early thirties who lives in Honduras’ capital city – was also murdered recently when someone jumped him for his cellphone.

About two months ago a famous Honduran soccer player in his early twenties was murdered in the parking lot of a small shopping center in the nearby city of La Ceiba that Darwin and I frequent. The night following the murder Darwin and his youth choir held a Christmas recital at the same location.

A few months ago as a family we attended the funeral of a dear friend of ours’ dad, a security guard for a local pawn shop who was gunned down in broad daylight.

Last week as Darwin and I rolled down a rocky street in our 2001 pickup, I asked him casually if so-and-so neighbor, the daughter of an elderly couple we know well, is a single mom. He answered “yes,” and then added that she’s single because someone had killed her husband.

The piercing question — that can neither be answered nor entertained in the slightest if one wants to live with peace – that has been invading my thoughts over these past few days is: “Who’s next?”

The utterly chaotic and unstable situation on Planet Earth is a reality quickly accepted when you live in Honduras. Here there is generally very little white-washing of sin, no careful cloaking of death, no tasteful hiding of the elderly, the sick and morbid behind a safe curtain to shield anyone else from catching sight. Everyone seems to know that death is close and that no one is exempt from being its next victim.

In most cases, the murderers keep on murdering, the thieves keep on stealing until someone kills them (as was the case with a 16-year-old neighbor of ours), and those who break the law in other ways continue doing so because the Justice system. Does. Nothing.

Just last week as I was in the government’s child protective agency’s office in a meeting with one of the agency’s lawyers, a wonderful Christian woman with whom we hold a very positive relationship, I asked about 7-year-old Gabriela’s step-father’s court proceedings, a naïve hope for resolution permeating my question. The lawyer, knowing all too well the system in which we find ourselves here, let out a sigh and informed me that the specific investigative branch that was in charge of looking into the stepfather’s case had been shut down. The government, in hopes of perhaps creating a ‘better’ investigative branch, opened up a different operation only to put all the previous cases so far back that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that they are ‘out of sight and out of mind,’ meaning that Gabriela’s stepfather, who took her as if she were his adult lover and openly proclaimed to others that she was such, is loose – at large, not behind bars – and may very well never receive any earthly consequence for his pervertedness, seeing as the new cases have taken precedence over the old and now 7 months have passed since he should have been caught in the first place. It is what they had promised us.

For a few moments, all hope, all energy drained out of my body as I could do no more than stare at the lawyer lifelessly, wanting to slip away into some other reality, full of rage but at the same time sucked dry by a sorrow so strong that I almost felt as if I could not move. Everything within me seemed suddenly paralyzed, while the following thought methodically stamped itself across my mind:

He’s…probably…found…another…                      …and…

My thoughts came to a standstill at this conclusion, everything tuning dizzy and dark – I mean, why would he not? With no pending consequence, no apparent court case or investigation, no police searching for him, no repentance that we know of, why not find another little girl and continue unfazed?

My thoughts — suddenly both slowed and sharpened by an acute emotional exhaustion — began: How could this possibly be happening? Who’s next? Wh-who will be the next little girl to have her world smashed to pieces, slamming her behind mentally and emotionally, perhaps for the rest of her life? Gaby wetting her pants so frequently — so, so, SO behind in every sense of the word, hours and hours of holding her, praying over her for restoration — the gargantuan although imperfect effort that has been made to give Gaby a sense of ‘normal,’ all the talks to teach her that taking her clothes off and dancing sensually in front of others isn’t God’s plan for her, and…and – there’s probably another little girl out there, who –

If it is said that Jesus is a man of sorrows, well-acquainted with the profoundest of grief, with each passing day He is giving me a deeper glimpse into why that is so.

So that afternoon as I drove up the lonely gravel road toward our rural property speckled with little melon-colored buildings, I raised my eyes to the mountainous backdrop before me and began praying the only words that seemed to make any sense: “Come, Lord Jesus. Come. May Your kingdom come, Your will be done, one Earth as it is in heaven. Come, Lord Jesus. Please come.”

Replete with exhaustion, the gaping hole in my chest allowed for a sudden flooding-in of praises toward our Father God who is just, who is trustworthy, and who stands in such raw, utter contrast to all that is wrong in our world, all that is wrong in me. So, against all logic my heart let out a welp of joy – a desperate cry for hope – as my eyes travelled up the mountains before me, taken to such depths of sorrow that the Lord lifted me up to some new perspective of His sovereignty, His perfect justice in the face of what can only be classified as bewilderingly tragic unfairness — total, inexplicable lunacy.

So when I climbed out of our pickup and entered our dining room, little Gaby turned around from where she was sitting at the table to greet me with a big smile, her face painted like a kitten.

From that moment on I believe I lost my patience with anyone and everyone, snapping here and there at Darwin and the kids as I felt that I was on the verge of exploding from the inside out. It wasn’t until over dinner that I asked each person individually for forgiveness and, for better or worse, wept in front of the kids and shared with them the news of Gaby’s stepfather (which, of course, is the news of nothing at all, more of the same). Some of our kids looked appropriately intrigued at seeing me utterly undone, while others looked moved toward a compassion I had not yet seen in them, but I believe all of them understood: Our hope is not and cannot be in this world.

In the days following I have had several similar episodes of sorrow, weeping, and praise. If I didn’t know the end of the story (Christ’s total victory over sin and death), I know that personally I could not continue in this work because, from our human perspective, perhaps no territory is being gained at all. We’re just losing time and resources, wasting our lives on a fight that simply cannot be won. But – against all logic, I continue to raise my eyes to the mountains before me as my spirit cries out: “Come, Lord Jesus. Come now. May Your kingdom come, may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Without You, nothing makes sense. Come.”

That Makes Eight

Yesterday around 5:00pm several of our kids were out in our large front yard playing soccer with our neighbors while others were playing board games in our house and our eldest was giving a beginners’ piano class to two young neighbors in our school building. I began to dish out the rice and beans, pasta, and chocolate cake for dinner after a surprisingly productive afternoon in which all of our kids wowed me with their initiative and finished all their homework with excellence before 3:30pm.

When it comes to serving food in our home, you’ve got to be good at math.

Whenever the time comes to take out the cups, plates and forks, you’ve got to do a quick mental head-count of who will be eating: Dayana and Jackeline are out at church with such-and-such local family, so that’s 7 kids – 2 that are not currently present = 5 kids that will be eating here + Darwin and I, so that’s 7 of everything. Got it.

Or: Today for the twice-weekly community lunch/Bible study, we’ll be serving food for the 12 students in elementary school + 16 from high school (but Arnold didn’t come today because he’s sick, so that makes 15) + the 2 teachers + Miss Martha + Darwin and I + our 2 middle-aged neighbors who will be attending + our other 5 kids who are out at school but will be home in about an hour and will need to eat + perhaps 6 other young neighbors who might show up = about 45. Does anyone have a calculator?!

But last night, seeing as our kids, Darwin and I were home together and Miss Martha and the other laborers, students, neighbors, etc had all left by 3:00pm (as they do each day Monday-Friday), I put my mind on autopilot and began taking out 9 of everything, which has been our magic number since July when Josselyn and Gabriela moved in. 7 kids + 2 adults.

As I began lining up all the plates on our kitchen counter, however, something felt odd. I counted the plates again. Yup; 9 plates. 7 kids + 2 adults, right? 7 kids…My mind wandered around somewhat confused until the still-very-new thought hit me: No! Now they’re 8 kids! Ha! That’s what was missing. Our new ‘magic number’ is 10. I quickly added an additional plate, and suddenly everything seemed to make sense.

A couple months ago our 12-year-old daughter Jackeline, who has now been in our family a full year, made a comment to me in a silly tone of voice: “If any new kids arrive in our family in this next year, I sure hope they’re younger than me.” I had laughed and – thoroughly convinced myself – assured her that I did not think more kids would be arriving in this next year or two, seeing as our hearts and schedules were already quite full with 7.

Well, Jackeline’s wish didn’t come true.

Last Thursday, our second day of classes with all of our elementary and secondary students who now study in our home/mission 5 days a week, one of our new 7th-grade students approached us for prayer after Bible study. My husband, the two teachers (Miss Isis and Miss Ligia), and I sat around her in our dining room as she began sharing with us her concern for her mother’s health. As we asked careful questions, she continued to open up until the root of the issue was exposed: her step-father is physically and sexually abusive (and has been for the last 6 years), putting her life in very real danger and causing tremendous stress and pain to her mother as well. The mother had gone to the police several times, explaining the situation and filing official reports, but, as is frequently the case here, nothing had been done. As the story continued to unravel — taking on the horrific shape of so many others we’ve heard too many times — I felt a very strong prompting in my chest from the Lord, so I asked to speak to my husband in private before continuing with the conversation/prayer.

He and I walked briskly outside and I told him: “Gabriela and Josselyn were rescued out of this exact kind of situation. I feel that God wants us to offer her refuge,” and he immediately confirmed. Our conversation must have lasted all of 19 seconds; we then re-entered the dining room, offered her the invitation to escape the abuse by coming to live with us, and she told us that she would talk with her mom and let us know. We prayed with her – for her mom, for her step-father, for God’s will to be done.

Several days passed, and then on Tuesday of this week she approached me with a large grin on her face, asking to talk with Darwin and me. My heart leapt and sunk all at the same time – guessing quite accurately what she would be telling us – and, sure enough, she informed us that she and her mom had discussed it and that her mom wanted to take us up on the offer of refuge for her daughter because she truly is in danger with her step-father.

So, phone calls were made, a meeting with the local government-run child protective agency’s office was made, we signed all the documents with the lawyer, the psychological evaluation was completed, and yesterday morning (Thursday) as she came walking up our long gravel road in her school uniform to attend classes, she brought with her an additional grocery bag filled with all of her belongings.

Her name is Sandra, and she’s 15 years old. Darwin and I are already in communication with her mom to see what more can be done with the official complaints the mother has filed with the police, although right now our hope in the system of justice here on earth (and especially in Honduras) is realistically dim. In the coming weeks/months we will continue to be in contact with her mom to see what plan of escape or new beginning can be made for the mom and her other three children (all of which are biological children of the stepdad and who, for that reason, he treats well), although we still do not have many details or much information at all.

Please pray with us not only for her adjustment to living in our home, but also for the mom’s protection and step-father’s salvation and transformation. Sandra and her mom are both authentic Christians, very humble, and have a very real understanding of and love for God’s Word. Please pray that the Lord’s hand would be over this entire situation/process and that, if possible, Sandra can be reunited with her mom in the right timing and once the familial situation is no longer dangerous.

So, yesterday 12-year-old Jackeline (the same one who didn’t want another older sister to push her down the totem pole) enthusiastically took Sandra out to our rural property’s mango tree, to the little stream behind our home, and traipsing around here and there, giving her new ‘big sister’ a genuine welcome. Sandra’s face shined with joy as our other girls took her out to play soccer; I fixed up her bed with clean sheets and a hand-written welcome note, 8-year-old Jason asked me sheepishly to introduce him to the newest of his now-6 sisters, and I prepared 8 tupperware containers with our kids’ snacks for school today instead of the traditional 7. Thanks to the mysteries of God’s perfect will, the entire transition has seemed surprisingly light-hearted and even fun.

So, of our 8 kids/teens, some of them consider us to be their authentic parents while others view us as loving mentor-figures the Lord has placed in their path. Some call us ‘Ma’ and ‘Pa’ without hesitation while others call us by our first names. Some may be reunited with their blood families if it is God’s will, whereas others may be officially adopted into the ‘Canales-Zilly’ household if the Lord permits it.

Lines are blurry, but everyone is growing in grace.

If someone asks us how many sons and daughters we have, I don’t know if we should answer “7 with 1 honored guest” (because Sandra may very well return to her mother soon if the situation with the step-father is taken care of) or if everyone is automatically included, making it 8 without thinking twice. Lines will doubtlessly become blurrier if and when we have any biological children, but of this I am convinced: the Lord is forming us into a tribe, a people after His own heart. He is erasing divisions created by Man; He is uniting us by Jesus’ blood rather than our own, calling us home to His eternal family that is formed by those who submit themselves to the Good Father’s will. And by some act of miraculous grace, He is enabling our stubborn mouths to freely proclaim: “Father, may Your will be done, not mine…”

Glory to God!