In looking back at our pictures since the last update, it is difficult to figure out how to fill everyone in on all that has transpired in the last month.
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