Thursday, February 27, 2014

On the Right Path

After receiving the donation of our property, we made the decision to change the name of our children's home to better match the vision of Serving Paraguay.  Previously named Hogar GANAR, our children's home is now officially named Hogar El Camino.  This name means "The Path" Children's Home.  Our goal is that every child living in our children's home would be placed on the right path, and able to follow God's leading for their future!  Our precious 31 children living in Hogar El Camino continue to grow in their relationships with Christ and others.  They are a blessing to our family and to all of our staff.

We want to take a moment to again thank the Lord for his provision of a brand new tractor that we are able to use to maintain our property and to expand our farming and garden projects.  We have been praying for this tractor for many years and are thankful to God for providing through a local church offering just before Christmas!  Thank you, 3Trees Church in Russell Springs, Kentucky for giving sacrificially so that our property can be maintained and our children better cared for!

This month, we have begun a new school year.  In our inaugural year in 2011, we had 89 students attending our school.  This year, we have 260 students enrolled in pre-school through 11th grade!  All of our elementary school classes are completely full!  With a fresh coat of paint in our classrooms and many new desks and tables, all of our students are beginning a year of learning and growth!  Please keep our school in your prayers, especially praying for our school principals and teachers, as well as our students and their families.  We know that through our students lives, the community of Valle Kare, the city of Itaugua, and the nation of Paraguay will be transformed for the glory of God!

The exponential growth in our school has caused one small problem.  Our facilities now can no longer hold all of our students.  We ask that you would join with us to pray for the miraculous provision of funds to build more classrooms for the coming years!  We have learned that NOTHING is impossible with God!

If you would like to sponsor one child's education at the New Path Christian School, please see the flyer at this link.  You can partner with us to place children on a New Path!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Special Announcement...

We would like to share some amazing news with you.  In April, the Paraguayan counterpart of Serving Paraguay known as Fundación Sirviendo al Paraguay, became an officially recognized foundation here in Paraguay. 

As many of you know, the work that Serving Paraguay does takes place on a beautiful 40-acre piece of property comprised of 12 houses, administrative buildings, a farm, and the school facilities.  When Shaun and I arrived in Paraguay in 2009, we began the ministry here under a contract with the owners of the property, a Paraguayan foundation called Fundación Ganar.   

The view from the ministry property

Over the past four and a half years we have directed the ministries taking place here and watched as God opened doors, touched lives, and blessed our community in amazing ways.  Shaun and I had dreamed that someday the property that we were caring for and living on would belong to our foundation, but it was not something that we discussed with many people.  

In April, when I advised the secretary of the Fundación Ganar of our success in establishing our foundation here in Paraguay, she expressed her desire that the property be donated to our foundation.  After deliberation by the Fundación Ganar, it was decided that they would donate this property and all furnishings to Fundación Sirviendo al Paraguay.  We have been in the process of working out all the paperwork to finalize this transfer over the past couple of months.  Even in this time, it has been difficult for us to comprehend the reality of this donation.  Tonight we finally have the completed property transfer and title in our hands.  With God, all things are possible!

Signing to receive the property donation

We want to express our sincere thanks to the Fundación Ganar for this amazing blessing.  We do not know all that God will do on this property in the future, but we want to thank Him today for making this ministry possible and for allowing our foundation to receive this land.  May His will be done in all things and may all that happens here bring glory and honor to Him!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Overview of our Ministries

The last few days have been a whirlwind preparing for and celebrating Thalia's 15th birthday.  We had a Hawaiian-themed party and around 150 guests.  As always, our local community came together to donate and work preparing for the event.  The day was beautiful and Thalia loved every minute of her party.  If you have ever met Thalia, you would know that the party reflected her personality, lively, colorful, and fun.  We thank God for her life and know that He has special plans for her future.

Thalia with her house parents

In the month of April, we received notification that our foundation here in Paraguay had been approved by the president of the country!  The process here for forming a foundation/non-profit is very difficult and the final step involves receiving approval by the president of the country.  We have been working on this paperwork for nearly two years, but in December switched to a new lawyer to see if the process could not be expedited.  In those short five months, our paperwork was approved in all the many offices and we are now official.  Our foundation here is the national counterpart to Serving Paraguay (called Fundación Sirviendo al Paraguay).  This exciting step will open doors to fundraise here in country and we are trusting God to see amazing things happen in this next phase of ministry!

For those of you that may not know all the details of our ministries here in country, we would like to overview the various areas in which we are ministering consistently.  Our property is divided into three main areas: the children's home (Hogar GANAR), the farm, and the school (New Path Christian School).

In Hogar Ganar, we provide a home for 30 precious children that have come to live with us via judge's order.  Essentially, the children are living in a permanent foster care home.  The children live with loving, Christian house parents that not only cook and care for the children, but also have daily devotionals with them and disciple them in the Christian faith, helping them to dream big with a firm foundation in the Word of God.  Our children play together, along with other children from the community on our soccer field, track, basketball/volleyball court, and playground.  Children learn practical skills in our on-site bakery and our garden.  Children also attend church with their house parents.  Every child in Hogar GANAR receives ongoing counseling by trained Paraguayan counselors and our house parents have weekly meetings with us as directors and with the counselors to learn how to better serve the children in their care.

House 3 with their house parents

Currently our farm holds our dairy cattle (providing all milk for the homes), pigs, and fish ponds.  These areas are very difficult to maintain, as we do not have a tractor, but our dream for the future would be to transform the farm into an area that would help our homes become self-sustaining.  Pray with us for the provision of a tractor.

Dairy cattle on the farm

In the New Path Christian school, we have nearly 190 students from pre-school to tenth grade.  The children from our home attend school, and the remaining 160 students are from the surrounding, impoverished community.  To see more about how our school works, click here.  Our school is staffed entirely by qualified, professional, Christian teachers passionate about serving the children of our community.  Our teachers arrive a half hour before our students so that they can have a devotional together and pray for unity and direction .  Every morning, the students' school day begins with prayer and each teacher starts their class with a devotional.  Weekly, all students attend an age-appropriate chapel.  Our middle and high school students have and additional Bible class every week.  We are confident in the quality of education we are offering and we strive to challenge each of our students academically and spiritually.  This year, we continue to provide a daily snack for our elementary school students and lunch to our middle and high school students.  All of our school children are available for sponsorship at $30.00/month. 

First Grade with their teacher, Mirta

It has been amazing to see how drawn the local youth are to our children's home property, and many adolescents from our school spend each afternoon in our homes playing sports and spending time with our staff and house parents.  Every Wednesday, we have a Bible study/discipleship group for the youth of our homes and any youth from the community that would like to participate.  We average about 30 young people on these nights and we are so excited with their persistence to come and learn from the Word of God. 

We thank God that not only are we ministering to children at a distance, but we have become a part of their lives.  Our community recognizes our facility as a safe place with staff that they can trust and our testimony to them is already bringing many to know the Lord as their personal savior.  The children and teenagers in our homes at Hogar GANAR are growing and changing in so many ways.  Their humility and persistent faith tells us that God will use them to reach many others with the message of salvation.  As our staff share their lives and faith, God is moving.  We thank Him for all that is happening in the ministries of Serving Paraguay and we trust that He has even greater things in store for the future. 

We ask that you would pray with us, for more children to accept Christ as their savior, for more families to come to know Christ, and for God to provide for the needs of our ministry.  Having a staff of over thirty employees and maintaining our 40-acre facility is not inexpensive, but we trust God to provide for His work here in Paraguay.  If you would like to partner with us financially, please feel free to contact us at  For frequent updates and pictures, please visit our Facebook page.  May God bless each of you!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

School Begins!

February is an exciting month for Serving Paraguay.  In Paraguay, the school year begins in February and ends in late November.  Last year, we were privileged to be chosen as a ministry given funds to host a Christmas party for the community.  We hosted the event in early January just after the Paraguayan holiday of "Day of the Kings."  In Paraguay, instead of Santa Claus, the three Magi bring gifts to children on January 6th.  The funds for this event came from the Viva organization- an international ministry that focuses on connecting and equipping Christian children's ministries.  We are members of the Paraguayan chapter of Red Viva

Our children and youth in Hogar GANAR planned a Christmas pageant and a drama representing the birth of Christ and the forgiveness of our Heavenly Father.  They practiced for weeks and were able to minister to the children and adults attending the event.  We had a local clown ministry visit, and they presented again to the children the message of the gospel.  We were overwhelmed by the many churches and ministries that came together to provide games and lessons during the first portion of the event.  In our initial planning, we estimated inviting 350 children, but were really expecting about 200 children for the event.  Our school directors and children and house parents went into the community a few days prior to the event to invite our neighbors.  In faith, we bought gifts for 300 children, and as the morning began, we saw that there were going to be a very large number of children.  Every child had to sign in and register.  By the time we were serving snacks we had passed our 300 number and had to run to the grocery store to buy more snacks.  In the end, 346 children ages 12 and under were in attendance.  Between the children, volunteers, and parents, we had more than 600 people at the event!  Hundreds of our neighbors were able to hear and see portrayed the precious gospel message of our Savior!!  And every child present, thanks to the Viva grant and the help of our community grocery store, Super Alegria, was able to receive not only a snack but a Christmas gift as well. 

 Some of the children enjoying the program

At the Viva Navidad Christmas event, we passed out flyers advertising our school, in hopes that many families would return and register their children to attend our school.  After the event many families came to the school to sign their children up and then returned with their friends and neighbors.  February 11th was our first day of school, and as of today, we have 179 students attending classes!  In 2012, we had 116 students and in 2011, there were only 89 students.  Each year, we have opened a new grade so that our students can continue in our school and eventually graduate from high school with us.  This year, we opened 10th grade, the first year of high school in Paraguay.  And in 2015, we will have our first graduating class!

4th Grade hard at work

For those of you that do not know how our school functions, I would like to explain it to you.  The official prices (at the current exchange rate) to attend our school are $15/month for pre-school through sixth grade, $20/month for middle school (7th through 9th grade), and $25/month for 10th grade.  The actual cost/month/student to pay teachers' salaries and to provide necessary classroom materials is almost $45/student with our current enrollment.  In most Christian or private schools in Paraguay, students will be paying at least double the amounts that we charge.  Now, we know that many parents are unable to pay those costs, and it is our desire that no child ever leave our school for inability to pay the tuition.  So, the students that began with us in 2011 receive a "half-scholarship" and only pay half of the above-mentioned fees.  When new students come to register, we study their family situation, and charge accordingly.  Obviously, the children from Hogar GANAR do not pay to attend the school and we also do not charge the children of our employees or teachers.  Every family that brings more than one child to the school also receives a family discount- the second sibling receives 25% off and the third and subsequent children only pay half.  At this time, less than a quarter of our students are paying the full amounts mentioned above. 

Our Kindergarten class

In working as missionaries, we have learned that giving things for free is never the best way.  The families in our community, even the most impoverished ones, are capable of setting aside a $10 or $20 a month to provide a quality education for their children.  And when they are paying something, they understand and appreciate the value of the education our school provides.  In our parent/teacher conference last night I was able to explain the actual costs to the parents and explain to them that every child in our school is receiving a "scholarship." 

Presenting our teaching staff at our first parent/teacher conference of the year

The mission of our school is to see that every child is educated with excellence, and prepared for their future in University studies.  With our entirely Christian staff, we are able to share the love of Christ and the message of his salvation with every child and every family.  We offer English three times a week for every student, thanks to our missionary English teacher, Jewel Vernoy.  Our schedules include morning prayer and devotional every day for every student, and weekly church services.  Our middle and high school students have Bible class as part of their base curriculum.  Students from fourth grade and up also have computer class.  Our curriculum also includes all the requirements given by the Paraguayan ministry of Education, such as music, dance, Guaraní, Spanish, science, math, art, etc. etc.  Our 10th grade students have courses in Philosophy, Anthropology, Physics, Chemistry, and Statistics, along with their general courses. 

Our 8th Grade students beginning their day

And one of the most exciting things about our school is that it also serves as a feeding center.  Nearly every update, I mention the grocery store, Super Alegria and their donations.  Over the past two years they have provided food to feed EVERY student EVERY day.  It has been an incredible blessing!  This year, because of the large quantity of students, they will be making a cash donation each month to ensure that we can continue to feed our students!  We will be serving lunch Monday through Friday to our nearly 50 middle and high school students that attend school for a full day, and we will provide a nutritious snack for our younger children that attend school a half day.  The mothers of the students (that do not work during the day) are asked to volunteer one day a week to come to the school and prepare the meals for the students.  This is the first year we will serve a full lunch, and what a blessing to be able to ensure that our school's young people are eating a healthy, filling lunch five days a week!

Our beautiful school kitchen where snacks and meals will be prepared

When we privatized the school on our property in 2011, we did so out of necessity to protect our children and because we had the dream that the school could be a major center for community ministry and blessing for the families living nearby.  At that time, we had no idea all that God would do through the school.  It is difficult to sit in South America and write to a North American audience hundreds and thousands of miles away trying to express both the excitement we have and the burden we feel for this small nation of Paraguay.  It is hard to share the subtle changes in the personality of adolescents that a year ago had no hope, and today are smiling and able to verbalize what they want to see happen in their lives in the future.  I wish you could each meet the mothers of our special needs students that are so overwhelmingly grateful to our school because we treat their children differently from every other school, valuing them and taking the time to ensure that they, too, can learn. 

Four of our 10th grade students

If every parent pays their tuition each month, we will have an income in the school of $1,250.00.  This money serves as the petty cash for the school: to keep our photocopier running, to buy textbooks, paper, white boards, and any other classroom or cleaning needs.  The petty cash from the school also now buys all school supplies for the children of Hogar GANAR!  What remains is paying the 15 staff members of the school.  This amount is $6350.00/month.  If you have ever wondered how you could be a part of our ministry of "Serving Paraguay," we are now asking for school sponsors.  We would like to see each of our students sponsored at $30.00/month, beginning with those living in our children's homes and with those receiving full and half scholarships.  We will partner you with a child and send you their picture and updates of their progress throughout the year.  If you choose to sponsor a child in the Itaugua Christian School, you will not only be sponsoring their education, but you will be providing them with a chance to receive nutritious food five times a week, a chance to know Christ as their personal savior, and a chance to receive the tools that will allow them to choose their own future, impacting the nation of Paraguay in an amazing way!

Our school facilities

Please consider partnering with us in "Serving Paraguay!"  We are always available to answer any additional questions you may have about our ministries or finances.  Simply email your questions or concerns to

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The End of a Wonderful School Year!

The weather in Paraguay is hot and humid this time of year.  Our school year has come to a close (the school year here is from mid-February to late November) and with that comes a flurry of end-of-the-year activities. 

In Hogar Ganar, our children, despite the heat, continue to run laps in the late afternoon.  We have been able to make t-shirts for our runners and the children from the home, school, and community that are participating in the training must keep their grades up, be on good behavior, and attend training regularly.  We are so excited to see the positive impact that exercise and discipline is having on many of our children and young people!

We are also very proud to share that Carlos, our eldest boy in Hogar GANAR asked to be baptized this November.  He is a wonderful young man that is dedicated to his faith and eager to attend church, even late night prayer meetings!  All of the other children from House 1 were able to attend church the morning of his baptism to witness this important event in Carlos' life and to hear his public profession of faith. 

Carlos with his four biological siblings and Sammy

In October, we had the end of the school year presentations- for dance, choir, aerobics, and a special presentation from each grade on various aspects of the city of Itauguá.  The morning weather was beautiful and we had a wonderful event- with every student participating and demonstrating exercises they had practiced and learned during the school year.

The choir performing

In Paraguay, 9th grade is the final year of middle school.  High school is 10th through 12th grade.  This school year, we offered kindergarten through 9th grade, and next year we will be opening 10th grade, the first year of high school.

As a special gift for our graduating 9th grade class (of seven students), we took them on a field trip to the city of Ybucui to tour one of South America's first iron factory and to swim in a nearby river and waterfall.  It was the first time that all of the students had been to that region of Paraguay and the first time they had seen waterfalls like the ones we were able to swim in.  We grilled out lunch in the woods and fished in the river.  Hearing the students' exclamations at each thing we passed on the trip and watching their faces when they saw the waterfalls made the trip well worth the time.  Even with the sunburns and mosquito bites, it was an awesome day. 

9th grade field trip

The tradition here is that the graduating 9th grade class hosts a dinner for their friends and family.  It is a very formal event and involves an after dinner waltz.  We had over 100 guests and thanks to help from our church family, house parents, and older boys, had a wonderful dinner.  We were also able to take a moment to share with the families about the mission and vision of our school and our desire that the students love God above anything and that they live to serve others. 

The five girls in the "graduating" class

In the final week of school, kindergarten also has their graduation ceremony.  They danced Paraguayan dances, did a choreography, received special certificates, and the mothers prepared snacks for all present.  We were excited that all the parents were present and that the children's hard work was evident in their recitations (in Guarani) and dances!

Some of the kindergarten students getting ready to dance

The older elementary and middle school students also had an end-of-the-year awards ceremony.  Many of the students that won highest honor in their grade were from Hogar GANAR.  We were proud of each of our honored students and their work throughout the past school year.  We know that many of them will go on to be amazing professionals and ministers that will affect great change in the nation of Paraguay!

One of our many honored students receiving her certificate!

The two days following the final awards ceremony, nearly every one of our middle school students attended the camp we held for them in a nearby campground.  Despite the fact that the first day of camp started out with torrential downpours and lightning, our students came walking through the downpour to catch the bus.  Thankfully by the afternoon of the first day, the weather improved and the young people were able to enjoy the camp's large pool.  I would like to say a special, "thank you" to our friends from church that own a local restaurant "Tia Pachi" where they prepared much of the food for camp.  The camp was filled with teaching times, and lots of crazy games and competitions.  In the evening, we had a concert with special guests- who shared their testimony and sang.  Shaun and I were amazed at how well each of the young people behaved during camp.  They were respectful, they went to sleep by midnight, they were eager and happy to clean the camp, and they were excited to participate in the games and activities.  We are so blessed to have such a wonderful group of young people to work with. 

The camp team mascots... the tomatoes, peppers, and onions!

Playing a blindfolded relay race with water balloons

Finally, we would like to let you all know that we had a change in House 1.  Sebastian, who has been with us for the past two years, has gone back home to live with his mother and grandmother.  Sebastian has always been a student in our school on the property and his family only lives a short walk from the school.  During his two years here, his family have visited him regularly and maintained a close connection with him.  He had come to live with us due to a recommendation from social services to temporarily help the family.  This week, the judge made a ruling for him to return to live with his biological family.  He will continue to attend our school this coming year and will be visiting us here in the home.  We had a going away party for him this morning and many of the kids shared special letters and hugs with him.  We took several moments to pray for him and his mother before they left. 

Sebastian with his grandma and mom getting ready to leave

On the same day that the resolution came through for Sebastian to leave our home, the resolution was also approved for a new girl to come to our home.  There are dozens of children in constant need of a children's home in Paraguay, and any available spots that we have are filled almost immediately.  Maria Lorenza is ten years old and is extremely outgoing.  Shaun and I have never seen a child warm up so quickly to their new siblings and house parents.  Maria was playing with the other kids, running laps around the field, swinging, and playing volleyball on her first evening.  Please pray for Sebastian as he re-adjusts to life with his family, and for Maria as she adjusts to life in the home and as she heals from the scars of her past.

Maria Lorenza with Abi, one of her many new "sisters"

For those of you that live a continent away, it is hard to really comprehend how your donations and prayers are at work here in Itaugua.  But I want to say, that through the school and children's home, the lives of hundreds of people are being daily affected.  The children in our school are building their self-esteem, and learning about the amazing, unfailing love that God has for them.  The children in our home are being transformed from their past hurt into children and young people that have a passion and desire to serve others and to help those in need.  If you have ever shared with us a prayer request, know that the children here are praying for you with their whole hearts.  They understand that God provides what they have through wonderful people a continent away that care about them enough to sacrifice and send donations that will bless them.  Know that what you have done for the "least of these" precious children will be rewarded and has already been fruitful in their lives and in this community!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Our Children are Champions!

The month of August was filled with activities and special events.  In Paraguay, Friendship Day is celebrated similarly to the American celebration of Valentine's Day.  Children and even adults exchange small gifts and notes of friendship.  Our children in Hogar GANAR celebrated during their weekly church service by drawing names exchanging small gifts with their Bible study classmates.  Our staff also celebrated the event by exchanging gifts and taking a moment to share about the good qualities of each person. 

 Our teenagers exchange their gifts

During July and August, the Colgate Foundation here in Paraguay, sent their mobile clinic to the home to attend to the dental needs of all of our children.  Over the course of several weeks, the dentist performed extractions, filled cavities, and cleaned the teeth of all of our 32 children (including the house parents' children) in Hogar GANAR.  We were so blessed to have been one of the first children's homes in Paraguay to receive the attention of this clinic.

 Keila with the dentist

During one week in August, our school held the annual school Olympics.  The Olympics consisted of funny and challenging races and scavenger hunts, soccer and volley ball tournaments, and even academic quiz bowls.  The students and elementary school teachers were divided into three colors and our middle school teachers served as the judges for the competitions.  Paraguayan culture is extremely competitive and the kids took their Olympics very seriously, created team mascots, "kings" and "queens", team songs and chants, and brought signs and banners each day to use in cheering on their teammates.  As always, our school principal, Francisca worked hours to make the events a success and the children had a great week!

The red team preparing for their initial march

Our school auditorium during the quiz bowl- divided into the three teams

August 16th is the celebration of Day of the Child.  This is the day that the whole country takes a pause to honor and celebrate children.  We are so grateful that our church families and community again supported us in the planning of this day.  We had donations for the food, sponsors to help with purchasing gifts for every child, and volunteers that gave of their time to organize games and to serve the food.  Our middle school students and youth were also extremely helpful in organizing the event and helping with the children. Many of the children from our home planned skits and dances to present during the program.  All the children from our school were involved in the event, along with their siblings that are not yet school age.  Every girl received a stuffed animal and treat bag, and every boy received a ball and treat bag.  Many of the school parents were also present for the celebration.  We had a visiting clown, Toti, and his friends.  With a long history of working with children in Paraguay, Toti and his team did an excellent job of making everyone laugh by interacting with the crowd.  In the end he shared an important and clear message about Jesus' desire to cleanse us from pain and sin through forgiveness and to give us a life full of joy as we learn to serve Him.  It was a wonderful day that I think the children (and parents) will remember for a long time. 

Toti and his friend sharing with the children and families

Araceli and her classmates with their gifts

In September, six of our children from Hogar Ganar ran in a nighttime race (with head lamps) in the Botanical Gardens of Asunción.  To be able to run in the race, each of the children had to maintain good grades and had to be training ahead of time (for several weeks) with Milciades (our head of maintenance).  The five younger children ran 2.5 kilometers.  Carlos, since he is now 15, ran 8 kilometers.  We decided the day before the race that it would be important that all the children from the homes go to cheer on their brothers and sisters, so all our house parents and children rode a couple of hours each way on public buses to be at the event and to cheer.  The emotion of the evening is hard to describe here, but it was absolutely beautiful!!  Milciades ran both the 2.5 kilometers and 8 kilometer races to cheer the children on, and it worked, because Amado (13 years old) WON the 2.5 kilometer race!!  We were so proud of Amado, who is a wonderful young man.  He takes his faith seriously and is very humble.  Even after his win, he was embarrassed to go on stage and receive his trophy, but of course we got him up there, cheering him on.  All of our children finished with good completion times and most importantly came around the final bend running strong, with smiles on their faces.  We are proud of all of them!!

Carlos, Amado, Lorena, Kevin, Matias, and Antonio Paredes ready to run

Amado with his trophy

It seems that September was meant to be the month of excitement in sporting events.  At the end of the month, Itauguá hosted a city-wide field day with all middle schools.  Since our school had never participated in these events, we were not sure what to expect.  For the weeks leading up to the event, the children trained in track and field with Milciades and volleyball and soccer with Roberto (our school principal's husband).  When we arrived, there were probably 1,500 people and lots of events we did not even know were going to be offered.  Our students bravely jumped in and participated in virtually every event.   Because we are a much smaller school than most, our same students were participating in every sport.  The boys and girls both made it through their first couple of elimination rounds in soccer and volley ball.  Our girls were the only ones that participated in the distance races, so they took home first second and third place medals!  Another of our students came in second place in the boys' 100 meter sprint, and Carlos won second place in the high jump (something he had never practiced before the event).  At the end of the very long day, our girls' soccer team made it to the semi-finals.  Quite honestly, we never expected them to make it that far, playing against much larger schools.  The game finished with a tied score and went to penalty kicks.  For those of you that watch soccer, you know that it is the ultimate stress!  There were three total kicks per team and the other team made 1 of their 3 goals.  We also had 1 goal, when Lysandry (from house 3 in Hogar Ganar) was up to kick the final goal for our team to win without having to enter another round of penalty kicks.  She ran to the ball and kicked with all her might--- GOAL!!  We-- students, parents, teachers, and all rushed the field. 

Lysandry's kick that won the semi-final game

We made it to the finals.  We were matched against the same school that beat our girls in the volley ball semi-finals.  So, I was worried.  We made the first goal, then the other team scored a goal.  And in the last moments of the game, we scored our second goal.  Defending our goal until the final seconds of the game, with time stretching on endlessly, our team won the championship.  We were jumping and screaming and running and chanting and everyone was asking, where is that school located?   Our girls had practiced many hours to prepare for the event and played with all their might.  It was a day that we will never forget and we thank the Lord that we were able to share such a wonderful moment with the students and parents from our school. 

Itaugua's championship soccer team from our own Tape Pyahu school

I also want to say a special thanks to our donors.  Due to a few unexpected donations, we were able to purchase couch cushions for the couches in each of our three houses and playground equipment for the school.  Below, you can see the states of the couch cushions before they were replaced.  Essentially, our children had been sitting on wood.  In some of the houses, they had even just stuffed the ripped cushion covers with old clothing.  The children (and house parents) were thrilled with the new cushions and are enjoying them every day!  We had wanted to buy playground equipment for the school for some time, and are so happy with the jungle gym, swings, and slide/swing/see-saw combo that we were able to install.  The first, second, and third grade students have been coming to school early just to play on the equipment before school begins, and during recess, the kids are making good use of every swing, slide and bar on the jungle gym.  Thanks to each of you whose donations allowed us to make these two major improvements. 

Matias on the old cushions

Matias on the new cushions

The new playground equipment

Junior likes the jungle gym

I want to say thank you as well to those that are committed to give monthly to our ministry.  I know that often the donations you send are a sacrifice.  Please know that you are such an important part of ministry to 120 children on a daily basis.  The transformation and discipleship that is taking place in the 30 children in our children's home is unmistakable.  They are precious and we know that God is preparing them for great and powerful ministries in the future.  Our other 90 students in the school are daily growing more open to the truth of God's love and are gaining confidence and receiving  nourishment, not only in the form of food, but also through a quality education, and through the love of our Christian staff.  We know that God's plan and purpose for each of them and their families is something that will amaze us.  You are a part of that, with every donation, and with every prayer prayed.  We love you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for partnering with us to serve Paraguay.

Shaun and Sara Morton 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Winter in Paraguay

Greetings to everyone.   Allow me to catch you up on all that is happening in Hogar GANAR and in Tape Pyahu Christian School.  Soon after returning to Paraguay in May, we celebrated Mother's Day in the homes with our house moms.  The children from each house prepared a program for their house mom, including poetry, dances, and singing.  The mothers each received a bouquet of flowers and chocolate to honor them on this special day.  We are blessed with house moms that are serious about serving God and loving the children in their care. 

               Hogar GANAR House Moms 

As a combination of Mother's Day and Father's Day, we celebrated Family Day with children and families from the school in June.  The children worked long hours preparing dances, dramas, and poetry for the occasion, all centering on the importance of the family. 

Deborah dancing a traditional Paraguayan dance at the Family Day Celebration

June is the month of birthdays, as five of our children in Hogar GANAR have June birthdays.  Thankfully the birthday rush comes during the month when our oranges and grapefruit are ripe.  We are able to trade our fruit at a local restaurant for credit and this June I was able to buy every birthday cake with credit from our own fruit!  Many visitors that see our property declare it to be flowing with milk and honey, and it really is true.... milk, honey, and citrus fruits! 

 Matias' Birthday Party

Also in June, our beautiful city of Itaugua celebrates Founder's Day with a city-wide parade.  Our school was chosen to march in the parade, and our teachers, house parents, and students spent hours marching, beating drums, and carrying flags and batons in preparation for the parade.  We tried to prepare so that our school would stand out from the other dozens of groups marching in the parade.  It seemed to be a foreign concept here in Paraguay to hand out candy to those in the crowd, but in American tradition, we gave away free stuff!  Four boys were chosen to hand out suckers to the crowd with little notes that said, "God is love."  While we will probably never know if these suckers had any impact on those present, we certainly stood out since we were the only organization that gave anything away to those watching the parade!  As we passed the stage of dignitaries, the announcer began to expound on our Christian mission statement and our school emphasis on teaching God's Word.  We thank God that our school could be used as an impetus to speak about Him in our city in a very public way. 

Nilda and Soledad with their flags- those with highest grades were chosen to carry the flags.

The beginning of our group in the parade

Special parade uniforms

This winter we have also launched two new projects.  First, Shaun has taken over teaching middle school English and Christian education in the school.  He is loving his time with the students and they are thrilled to have "uncle" Shaun as their teacher.   Second, as an extension of our local church, we have begun a weekly cell group Bible study for youth.  Shaun is teaching the young men and I am doing a study for girls with the young ladies.  We have several youth from our school and from the community that are attending as well.  We have been surprised at the dedication of the young men from the community to attend a Bible study.  Several are boys that have never before participated in events at the children's home and they are genuinely interested in learning about God's Word.  Please pray that God will continue to open their ears and hearts to His word.

Bible study groups (minus Shaun who is taking the picture)

July brought a three-week winter vacation from school.  We used these weeks to plan outings and activities for the children in the homes. As has become an annual tradition, we took the youth from Hogar GANAR to the Expo (national fair).  This year it took two trips to fit all 11 of our adolescents in the car with us!  We also took advantage of the break to reward the students who made the honor roll during their first grading period.  Our three boys (Marcos, Jose Maria, and Antonio Paredes) that made all A's, went to see Ice Age 4 and to eat McDonald's.  I never knew three boys so small could eat so much popcorn!  Our group that made A's and B's went to lunch and then to walk around Lake Ypacarai in a nearby city.  The children that didn't earn a trip this time are planning on studying even harder this grading period, since EVERYONE wants to go to the movies!

Soledad, Lysandry, and Nilda at the lake

In July, Carlos, our eldest boy in Hogar GANAR, turned 15!  While a 15th birthday party for girls in Paraguay is something like celebrating a wedding in the states, for boys the tradition is much more simple.  We wanted to honor Carlos on his special day, so we had an asado  (bar-b-que) that Carlos could invite his friends to attend.  The party had a Texas cowboys theme, so we gathered cowboy hats and boots and wore plaid!  We literally killed a fattened calf for Carlos, and used our own beef for the bar-b-que.  The house dads, along with Carlos and Milciades (head of maintenance), awoke at 4 AM on the day of the party to begin to grill the meat outdoors over a pit.  The party was a success with Shaun's home-made corn hole and horseshoe games, an abundance of food, and a special song by Carlos' best friend from House 3, Amado.  Part two of Carlos' gift was a camping trip with Shaun and Milciades, and three other boys from the home.  They attempted to drive to a secluded lake that is surrounded by toucans, monkeys, and crocodiles.  While the road became impassable before they reached the lake and we may have ruined a set of tires on the large rocks, it was a night of camping that the boys will never forget!  And they did get to see the monkeys and toucans in their natural habitat, which was a bonus. 

Milciades cooking the meat on the newly dug fire pit

Carlos and his four siblings

Carlos stands with his house parents while our pastor shares a short message

To finish our vacation time, Milciades organized an Hogar GANAR "Olympics" race.  There were categories of 100 meters up to 2 kilometers.  Nearly all the children participated as well as the house parents.  I was even coerced into running, something that I try to avoid at all costs!  The children had a great time and the winners in each category were thrilled to receive Powerade. 

Gold, Silver, and Bronze "medalists"

Thank you for making every event and every outing a possibility.  Your donations are what make "Serving Paraguay" a reality!   

Blessings from Itaugua,

P.S.  If you would like to see more pictures of the events mentioned above, please visit our Facebook Page.