Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Science Fair, Youth Day, Goats, and Report Cards

Our school director, Fransisca, has been working ceaselessly in the school and we have been thrilled with all the progress our students are making. Today was our first science fair, and students from pre-school to eighth grade had to present science experiments or explain some biological process to the other students and parents present. So many of the projects were creative, from making acid, creating a magnet with batteries, floating an egg in salty water, explaining the body’s digestion, even to the classic exploding volcano! Shaun and I had to judge the projects and choose winners. It was no easy task when even the first graders were “expertly” explaining the life cycle of a plant!

Rolando explaining how to make acid

Antonio Paredes, Lujan, and Oscar explaining the different types of reproduction in animals

Jose Maria, Abi, and Araceli introducing us to animals that live in the water

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!

All our youth with their new t-shirts

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.

Our straight A's group: Rocio, Soledad, and Nayeli

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

The Rest of the Story

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.