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.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Coming Home.

Shaun and I spent March and April in the United States on furlough visiting family and churches.  Leaving was bittersweet, knowing that it would be a while before we would see our family again.  Our second day back in Paraguay, the children in Hogar GANAR planned a special church service to welcome us back.  They read us scripture and sang us songs that they had chosen to encourage and honor us.  It is so wonderful to realize that while we left one family behind, a much larger family was waiting for us.

I hate to brag about the children in our homes too much, but I do want to say that they are some of the world's most precious and loving children.  Thanks to those of you that support Serving Paraguay, Shaun and I were able to purchase suitcases full of much-needed winter clothing and tennis shoes while in the states to give to the children on our return.  In passing out the new items, I was overwhelmed with the selflessness of the children.  There were many one of a kind shirts and shoes and although one child desired the item, they consistently told me, "No, this shirt would look beautiful on _____," or "these shoes will be a great fit for _______."  I am always humbled to see the precious, gentle, giving heart that God has placed in our children.  We know that He desires that they not just receive but that they learn to be young men and women that look to the needs of others first.  In the end, everyone received many new things and all were grateful and excited.  I remembered many early times in our work here in Paraguay when the children would literally get into a fight over items as little as candy and I thanked the Lord that He has done a great work in each of them!

We would like to share this video with you that we put together this March.  Several of the children from Hogar GANAR share about what God is doing in their lives.  God is raising up young men and women in Paraguay to transform this nation, and we give Him praise!

Monday, February 20, 2012


Hello from Itaugua, Paraguay. We would like to share with you a couple of pictures to show how we spent our Christmas in Hogar GANAR. The children put on an exciting re-enactment of the nativity story and each child opened the gifts from their sponsor (toys and a soccer jersey). We ended the unseasonably cool evening by sharing dinner and cake. For New Years, we projected a slide show of pictures of the year, showing how the kids have grown and changed.

Jose Maria opening his Christmas gifts

The Christmas Choir with the summertime mist coming down

The Nativity Scene

On January 6th, we also celebrated Day of the Kings, a holiday celebrated by the magi bringing presents to children. They leave the gifts in the children's shoes which are placed outside the night before. The children also leave hay and water for the magi's camels. Thanks to wonderful end of the year donations, we were able to give the children a gift both at Christmas and on Day of the Kings! My mother came to visit for New Year's and was able to bring down suitcases of American toys for the younger kids. Our older children received MP3 players, and they were thrilled.

Flip-flops filled with gifts from the "magi"

Summer vacation here has come to an end and another school year has begun. Summer vacation flew by and was filled with activities. Every Monday during vacation, the kids came in shifts for pool time at our house. Virtually every child in the children's home now knows how to swim and we had a blast teaching them.

Oldest girls enjoying the pool

To celebrate the end of summer the girls came to our house for a slumber party and the boys camped and fished on the Paraguay River.

Girls' Slumber Party- Dance Hour

Boys' Camping Group

Fishing in the Rio Paraguay

Several of our boys are continuing to train in order to participate in national races and four boys from the home ran in a night-time race in January. They finished with excellent times and we were so proud of each of them. Every child in the home now wants to run in the next race!

Preparing to run the race

Shaun and I had the privilege of helping to plan our church's youth camp that took place the last weekend of summer vacation. Our camp theme was persevere and Shaun planned the groups and games for the weekend. Our children from the homes that are 13 years and older attended the camp (a total of seven). The weekend was spent with devotionals, workshops, services, games, and competition. I had forgotten how anything related to soccer can become quite explosive in this South American country! Shaun and I taught workshops for the young men and women about relationships and dating. It was the first time we have taught on this subject, and we were so happy that our church, Centro Familiar de Adoración, Itaugua, gave us the opportunity to share with the youth.

Our camp group from Hogar GANAR

The four team mascots

Playing "crab soccer"

The most important update is that we are back in school. Classes began the 13th of February and we have nearly 115 students enrolled as of this week! Milciades and Shaun worked tirelessly night and day, with the help of the house dads, to renovate and paint the school prior to classes starting. Thanks to a special donation for the school, we were also able to hang new white boards replacing the old chalk boards. We are so excited that our school building is beginning to reflect the excellence that we are offering in education for our students. The parents and children are also thrilled with the changes. The grocery store that provided last year's school snack is again coming and bringing delicious food for our students and more mothers than ever are showing up to work together and prepare the food for their children! We have added several new, excellent teachers to the staff to accommodate the addition of 9th grade to the school.

Our newly painted pre-school/kindergarten classroom

Third grade with Profesor Marcos

Seventh Grade with Profesora Evelin

Finally, we want to share a couple of pictures of our farm animals. It seems the Lord is multiplying our animals. Two years ago we had one horse, and now we have three. A little over two years ago we bought a few pigs to start our pork production and in the last month, 28 pigs were born on the farm!! Our cows also continue to reproduce and we are now able to periodically use our own meat, greatly reducing our grocery bill for the homes.

Future Bacon

Mommy and baby horse

Thanks to each of you for the role you play in making this ministry possible. Without you, what we do on a daily basis would be impossible. We are preparing for furlough during March and April and would love the opportunity to share with you and your church or business in person about the ministry here in Paraguay. Please contact us ( to arrange a visit to your area.

Please be in prayer or consider if you would like to help with the following needs:
• $45.00/child for school uniforms and shoes for the 30 children in Hogar GANAR (Total: $1350.00)
• English teacher for the school- we have still been unable to find anyone to teach for this school year
• 15 passenger van for the children's home
• Tractor for use on our farm and in our garden