Sunday, December 18, 2011
Our school year officially came to an end. We celebrated the close of our first year as a private school with an award ceremony complete with choir and dance presentations. Last year, the school project was a dream, and the reality of finishing our first year was amazing! Thank you to our wonderful teaching staff and especially to Roberto and Fransisca (school principal and her husband) for working day after day to make the 2011 school year a success! And thanks to each of you for your financial and prayer support that made this project a possibility!
School choir at the End of the Year Ceremony- and they did an awesome job!
Some of the school's beautiful students wearing their traditional, Paraguayan clothing
The children from Hogar GANAR finished the school year well, with 10 of them making the A/B honor roll in the final grading period. For a reward, they came to our house for a pool party and grill out. So many of our children are making good grades for the first time in their lives. Seeing the house parents and teachers' hard work paying off is inspiring for us and the other children. Oscar, one of our 10-year old boys, asked to share his testimony with the rest of the children because he raised his grades significantly in the final grading period and made the honor roll. He shared that sitting "disciplined" for a month and a half without participating in games or watching the TV due to his poor behavior in school had changed his life and he was thankful that his house parents had taken the time to teach him how to improve. His improvement in behavior and in his academics certainly shows that God is working in his life and that the house parents' constant encouragement is making a difference.
At the end of November and into December, we were privileged to host a YWAM team from Brazil for two weeks. They conducted a variety of activities from cleaning around our chicken houses in the farm area with machetes and mopping the school to presenting a community evangelistic event and training our children in the home to present multiple dramas. It would be hard to list every activity that the team conducted, but one thing is for sure: the children came to love each of them and were sad to see them leave. In our final church service in the home with the children and the YWAM team, our kids presented to the adults all they had learned, and there was not a dry eye in the room as they preformed moving skits and shared about the message of each one. Thank you, YWAM Curitiba, Brazil!
Community event at school- the YWAM team presented dramas, did some amazing stunts, and several even breathed fire!
YWAM team leading songs with the children in the children's home
Some of our children ready to present their dramas
As the end of the school year coincided with the YWAM team visit, we were able to have the team help us put on our first ever youth camp for the teens from the school. Fransisca, our talented school principal, planned the camp, where the kids had several workshops, and participated in a variety of obstacle courses and get-wet games.
The youth camp group- if the teachers look tired, it's because they had very little sleep the previous night!
In the whirlwind of activities last month, we celebrated Thanksgiving in our home by inviting some of our precious friends from church and cooking every typical American food we could manage. Our Paraguayan friends really loved the gravy- and wanted to know how to make the "meat salsa."
Shaun, Abi, Maggy, Marcos, and Guillermo with our Thanksgiving feast
The day after the YWAM team left, we received an incredible visit from the "Smiles for Everyone" dental team. The team was composed of five dentists and five more administrators from the "Smiles Brand" organization, including the company's CEO, Steve Bilt. For those of us just meeting them, it was hard to distinguish who were the dentists and who were the administrators as the team worked seamlessly together serving the children in our school, community, and home. The quality of care that was provided by the Smiles for Everyone team was absolutely amazing. What a blessing to have some of the United States' top dentists come to visit our community here in Paraguay and provide a service that we would never have been able to offer to our children otherwise! I lost count of the dozens of children that left the auditorium with a completely new smile!
Our school auditorium during the dental clinic
Araceli, from the children's home- her smile before the dental visit
Araceli's smile after the dental clinic- not only does she have a new smile, but Araceli's self-esteem raised about a thousand points with this new smile!
This morning was a special milestone for Milciades (head of maintenance) and several of our boys. Milciades has been training four boys from House 3 to run. Today they participated in a two and half kilometer race held by the Paraguay Marathon Club. This was the first race for all four of our boys that participated (Amado, Kevin, Antonio Ortiz, and Antonio Paredes). Milciades and their house dad, Arnaldo, bought them matching shorts to wear with their race shirt, and they left the children's home at six o'clock in the morning to drive to the race. We weren't sure what to expect since the boys had never participated in anything like this before. Shaun was videoing at the final bend in the race, and much to his shock, Kevin and Antonio Paredes were the first children to come around the bend! Kevin placed first and Antonio took the second place. All of the boys were given medals and our first and second-place boys received trophies. Their names were called out in the national stadium and they were able to stand on the podium while being recognized. The story is exciting enough without knowing Kevin's background story. Kevin is 12 years old and has been in our home just over two and a half years. He arrived very addicted to his fast-acting asthma inhaler and suffered serious attacks virtually every day. Most nights he did not sleep and it got to the point where he could barely walk to and from school. About two years ago, we decided to take him to a specialist in Asuncion for testing. At the time of the test, Kevin was breathing with just a third of his lungs' capacity. The doctor made him repeat the breathing test more than once because he couldn't believe the results. According to the doctor, even his growth had been stunted by the lack of oxygen circulating in his body. Immediately, Kevin was placed on a regimen of medications to control his asthma. Gradually he has been able to reduce the amount of medication and now is simply taking two maintenance medications. I always thought his long-standing dream of being a fire-fighter would never be possible, but today's race proved that nothing is impossible with the Lord's help. For those of you that support the home financially, thank you, for providing the funding for Kevin's monthly medication. What an amazing difference it has made!
The group before running- Ricardo (house parents' son), Antonio Paredes, Amado, Milciades, Kevin, and Antonio Ortiz
Kevin and Antonio Paredes coming around the final bend, well ahead of the rest of the group
Kevin and Antonio Paredes with Milciades and their trophies (Milciades placed second in his category for the 10K)
From our large family to yours, Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas!
~Shaun and Sara
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Our science fair day coincided with “Day of the Youth,” a very important holiday for young people here in Paraguay. Once again, our friends from Super Alegria (a local supermarket) showered us with donations for the event. The young people (6th grade and up) ate hamburgers (loaded hamburgers which here include a fried egg, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and cheese) and had soda and a cake. They spent their afternoon playing soccer and volleyball games in the children’s home and each received a t-shirt with a Bible verse and their name as a gift. What a wonderful tradition to celebrate youth for an entire day each year!
We can’t fail to mention the donation that our generous friends in the grocery store presented us with last week. They told us one evening that they wanted to give us a couple of goats, because they heard we were looking to buy some more for the home. The next morning they showed up at the home to deliver three goats, one being a male and one pregnant female. We have begun our goat project in hopes that these low-maintenance animals will help save us time and gas money in mowing our large property. Our oldest children are in charge of tying up and watering the animals during the day and returning them to their shelter in the evening. We now have a total of three females (two pregnant) and one male. Milciades (head of maintenance) is working now on a house made from recycled materials for these additions to our farm.
Finally, report cards were handed out this week and I am proud to announce that in the second grading period, three of our girls from the homes received all A’s. We are so thrilled for Soledad, Nayeli, and Rocio. They have worked hard and will each be treated to an individual dinner in town as a reward. We also had five children that earned all A’s and B’s: Marcos, Lorena, Antonio Paredes, Lysandry, and Ever. They will go out as a group for dinner in town to reward them for their hard work! The academic level in the school this year has been significantly more challenging for our students, and we feel proud that they are adjusting and even excelling.
Please be in prayer with us for following needs:
New teachers for the coming school year (Paraguayan school year runs from February through November): We will be adding a few teachers to our staff as we are separating the grades that are currently taught together and adding ninth grade. We are currently conducting interviews and praying that God will send the right, capable, passionate teachers to our staff.
Funding: The Lord has been faithful to miraculously fund the ministries this year month after month. Legally, every December, Paraguayan workers have to be paid a 13th salary in addition to their December salary. It is a sort of bonus for workers- something that was very strange for us to understand when we first moved to Paraguay, but something that is an absolute legal requirement. This means an extra $6,000 will be needed this December to pay our staff in the school and children’s home.
Deliverance for each child from their past: Many of you have been praying with us for the lives of the children in our home and we can honestly say that we are seeing God’s hand working in the lives of the children that most desperately needed his touch. Continue to stand with us in prayer for their lives. Please see my last blog for more information on how to pray.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
I rarely touch on the issues that I want to address in this note. Our desire, in working with children in our homes, is that they would be transformed from the inside out. We want them to learn manners, to study in school, to be kind to others, and the list goes on. However, beyond these good habits that we want to instill in our children, there is a much deeper level that we have to address in their lives. Our kids come to us from situations of serious neglect and most come from cases of sexual and physical abuse. It is hard to describe the effect that these drastic and violent abuses have on a little boy or girl of four or eight years old. We have children in the home that go into fits of rage, kicking their teachers, throwing knives, displaying superhuman strength in their destruction, screaming profanity, and even abusing other children. I do not generally write public notes about these challenges that we face, but I want to share with each of you a little more in-depth glimpse of the challenges that these precious children face every day.
Some of our children suffer from nightmares, reliving their past abuses night after night, afraid and trembling in their bed. Other children hear voices telling them to harm others and themselves. We are so grateful to have a male and female counselor on staff at the home that are working in the process of recovery and healing for each child. As a Christian, I understand that many times our struggle with the children in our care is not really with them but with the darkness and spirits that have taken a hold of their little hearts and lives. In some sense our job is a spiritual war, battling for the soul of every child. The house parents live in this battle day in and day out and pray and fast so that the children in their houses can be free of their pasts. Currently, all of our children are going through a lengthy program focused on forgiving those that have harmed them, asking forgiveness from those they have harmed, and freeing their hearts from their pasts.
I know that liberation for these children may not happen all at once and that recovery for them will in many ways be a process. Several of our children, as you saw in the last post, have already been transformed and are completely “new creations” in the Lord, displaying a joy and strength that comes from their salvation. However, with many of the children in our care, we have arrived at a point of desperation, begging the Lord to intervene and deliver them from their own suffering and harmful and compulsive behaviors. I cannot imagine being a child of 12 years old, not being able to lay down at night and sleep, without having to relive the most traumatic and painful moments of my life in my dreams. Nor can I understand the deep struggle that is happening in a 9-year old boy’s head when he hears voices demanding him to abuse a younger child.
I know that these descriptions are not cheerful or pretty and honestly, I don’t even like to write them down. But, we desperately want the Lord to work in the heart and mind of every child living in our care. We want them to find freedom in coming to know Jesus as their savior, being able to overcome the fears and burdens of their pasts. We want each of our three houses to be totally filled with the peace and joy of the Lord.
We feel that the Lord is leading us to invite our staff and church family here in Paraguay and our friends there in the United States to fast and pray with us, specifically for deliverance and freedom for our children in Hogar GANAR. Please keep these needs in your mind and pray for us, pray for our house parents, pray for the children in our homes and the thousands like them suffering on the streets around this nation. If you feel led, also consider joining us in fasting once a week. At this link you can see pictures and first names of each of our 30 children, which may help you to be able to pray for each one.