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!