Friday, December 9, 2011

What the enemy meant for evil.....

I was sharing with a missionary today in my office when I got a call that our house had been burglarized and that I needed to get home at once.  The news came in bits and pieces through my cell as we headed home in the busito.   The painters that our landlord had hired were painting the garage.  It occured around 2pm in broad daylight .  The thieves had guns.  The second floor was a disaster area.  The police had been called. Twice. 

All I could think about was Noe’s passport which I had left on my dresser.  It had cost us so much to get it and we had to have it for him to go to Christ for the Nations.  Was that hard won passport now in the hands of unruly men to be sold on the black market?    I imagined the worst….clothes strewn everywhere, drawers pulled out and emptied onto the floor.  Christmas decorations smashed and ransacked.  I dropped the kids off at Elvia’s so that they didn’t have to see the mess.

The landlord and the painters were standing outside the house when we arrived.  The story unfolded slowly as the painter in charge began to explain how the robbers forced the door with a crowbar and herded the painters at gunpoint into the first floor bathroom and set a chair in front of the door to keep them inside.  Then they ransacked the upstairs and left the first floor pretty much untouched. 

I didn’t want to go inside but I knew I had to inspect the damage.    We decided to enter and just look at everything so as not disturb the crime scene should the police ever show up (hope springs eternal)!   I was so thankful that the scene I had envisioned was not at all a reality.  My drawers were open and things were strewn on the bed, but the passport was just where I left it.  I breathed a prayer of thanks.

All my jewelry was gone including my granddaddy’s watch, a bracelet of charms I had collected in Europe when I was a child, my grandmother’s ring, and a gold calla lily pin received from a dear Honduran friend years ago.  But a glimmer caught my eye and thankfully, I spied first one, and then two earrings on the floor…bent and smashed but still wearable.  They were a  pair of gold scrimshaw earrings that my dearest friend from High School had given me for my birthday one year.   In their hurry to dump the jewelry into the pillowcase, the earrings had ended up on the floor instead of in the case. One string of pearls that Hae Young’s friend in Korea had given me lay curiously alone in the now otherwise empty jewel box.  Marlyn found her drawers opened, her earrings gone and her computer case empty.  But a small box of her favorite rings was still there on her dresser hidden behind a frame.  The girls drawers* were all opened as well but they left the boys room alone.

After a while we realized that the police were not coming.  Maybe it was just as well since you never know here if the police will be a help or a hindrance.  The Honduran equivalent of 911 doesn't really exist.  As Marlyn and I prayed through each room to spiritually cleanse them, waves of gratitude washed over me.  I was so thankful that the painters were alive, the house was not a total disaster and that none of us had been home.  I decided to fight back the best way I knew how.  Remembering how horrible it was to have a gun pointed at me, not once but twice, I thought about those painters.  The landlord and the painters were still outside and they were just finishing up when I felt led to take out the sword of the Spirit.  I asked them if they had the assurance of eternal life.  They began to share about how they felt when the thieves held the gun to the lead painter’s neck.  None of them were sure of heaven and two of them said they knew they would have gone to hell if the robbers had used the gun on them.  They were ready to accept the Gift of Eternal Life, the Only True Savior.   We prayed and then I gave them Bibles and it felt good to know that what the enemy had tried to use for evil was now being used for heaven’s gain.

We then went caroling with the kids.  Elvia started this tradition last year and it is a small way for us to show our gratitude to the folks who have been a support to us during the year.  The kids look amazing in their shiny red robes and Isabella is a big hit with her antics.  We visited four families delivering Christmas cheer and brownies to show our gratitude.   The robbers could not take our joy or our gratitude.  I am so thankful to Him for sparing those painter’s lives and for giving them eternal life!  God is good…..all the time!  Keep us in your prayers……we will you!
The real treasures were unharmed

*Jency, after inspecting her drawers, stated that the robbers had taken some of her underwear!  We assured her that they most likely had not taken her panties.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Holy Moment

Pastor Francis invited us and 12,000 was the number he said would be there.  Well, ok then.  Our girls will prepare a drama and be there with bells on.  Save our Youth Rally 2012, baseball stadium, Tegucigalpa.

The youth in Honduras need saving, there is no doubt about that. Pastor Francis has a heart for young people in trouble.  Dressed in a well-worn suit that hangs uncomfortably off his tall frame, he is drawn to the most desperate, the pierced, the tattooed, the hardened, the wounded beyond imagining.  His father heart for the fatherless has already changed thousands of young lives. 

There were tons of young people but perhaps not 12,000.  Still it was a much bigger crowd than our girls had ever performed before.  They had fasted and prayed for several days asking the Lord to use them.  Their drama/dance was about the power of Jesus to set people free. 

It took some setting our faces like flint just to get into the stadium.  With one small opening for thousands, the crowd became a sea of death threatening waves.  Our Jericho family got caught up in it until panic set in and we had to push, shove our way to the fray.  A young pastor saw our plight and pulled me and Susana, now clamped onto my hand, out of the crowd into the back of a pickup truck and then out to where the sea of people dwindled.  The whole family followed holding hands, up into the bed of the truck and then back down again.  The pastor led us to another opening hidden behind street vendors.  Once inside we inhaled relief and gathered for prayer. 

Pastor Francis had mentioned something about a program but it became obvious that there was nothing written down.  He asked me to pray for the children of Honduras, for the sexually abused and trafficked, for the dysfunctional families.  I took a deep breath, joined the pastors on stage, and prayed for God to fill my mouth.  My turn, screaming voice ready, I stepped out and lifted my right hand.  We were at war.  These were not nice soft whispered prayers.  These were prayers to cut off the plans of the enemy, to declare null and void plans of abuse, destruction and death.  The who-knows-how-many-thousands all raised their hands with me and together we got mad at the enemy.  The last thing I remember is yelling “Prayer is not a vain thing” which I truly believe.  God hears our war cries and responds in the heavenlies.
 our girls post drama with miss Katie.  Paola is in the middle

The drama went well by God’s grace.  If the girls were nervous, it was not apparent.    These seven young girls, plucked by God from the miry clay, are being transformed before our very eyes.  Their early days filled with abuse, betrayal and rejection are now filled with living for the One who reached down to unstick their feet and free their minds.  One girl, Paola, when she first came would melt into a mess of tears whenever she was addressed directly.  Now here she was performing on stage in front of this huge wildly energetic crowd.  Face bearded with my sable eye pencil, her long hair flowing, borrowed baptismal gown wrapped around her thin frame as her outstretched arms held back the powers of darkness (the other girls dressed in black)… was an amazing thing to behold this fragile timid child portraying Jesus.  His strength powered through her.  And so we stood, awed, especially those of us who know her, at the beauty of God's power made perfect in our weakness.

Then the lights dimmed and the concert began. Young people jumping and shouting and energy everywhere just seemed to drain me.  I sat on a makeshift seat behind the crowds and felt much older than my 54 year old frame.  I began to wonder how to find Jesus in all this ruckus.  The answer became obvious.  I needed to join in the wildness, partake of the dance.  Several of my children standing nearby now became dance partners as we held hands and skipped forward and backward keeping time with the praise.  The night sky our canopy, the twirling and spinning bubbled out laughter as we praised Him in the dance.  He must have been made visible to the street vendor child now grabbing my hand begging me to take him on a whirl.  I don’t know how long we danced like that, grabbing joy out of His outstretched hand.  Then suddenly I stopped us.  I asked this boy child, not more than ten, unknown to me, if He knew the Lord of the dance.  No, not at all, but he would like to.  So we bowed our heads, swirling now fading around us, and he asked Jesus to come into his heart.  An unexpected Holy Moment in the middle of the stadium roar.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Leaving the nest

We are in the thick of it, filling out forms, reading fine print, applying for a passport.  There's so much to do in the wink of an eye and I cannot believe that it's finally come to this.  The thing I have longed for,dreaded, with all the ensuing emotions, is finally here.  My first born son is going off to college.

Older brother Mario with Noe and Mari
I can't actually claim his birth.  He slid into my life through a different channel, stealing my heart with his pathetic appearance and sweet shy smile.  He was actually four, not the three we had calculated due to his size and lack of birth records.  A big crossed out X still covers the 4 in his baby book that followed the words "Noe turns" and a big 5 is by the photo of him blowing out his first Birthday cake, ever.  That first day, another X formed by two crisscrossed bandaids  on the left side of his forehead when peeled back  revealed a large scabby wound that was struggling to heal. His abdomen protruded, his hair resembled wheat...classic signs of malnutrition. He had come to live with me and another missionary named Suzy because the mother was long gone and the father was addicted to selfish decisions.  The grandmother, crawling with numerous grandchildren, asked us, no begged us, to take, first the sister, and then Noe. Despite the obvious signs of neglect, there was a sweetness about him, a winsomeness.

Sometimes, when God is about to add or subtract something from my life, He gives me a heads up, but this one came out of the blue.   I was single and not really planning on taking on other people's children.  Mari had been with us a year already and I was still praying that God would do the sensible thing and provide a stable mother/father family.  But as time passed and no beautiful adoptive family appeared, my heart wound tighter and tighter around those two.  They became ours.

Noe was all boy from the start.  He thought he could fly, taking leaps off anything higher than the floor until  that one plunge from the upper bunk scarred him for life.  Homestitched him right on the cranium, that's what Dr. Elvia did.  He was convinced he was the next superhero.  I remember he could not remember.  In a string of directions, he could maybe remember, say, one thing.  Our visiting doctor friend from the States, post IQ test, stated that he would either grow up to be an absent minded professor with an agitated secretary trailing behind him or a very good criminal.  One can only hope.....and pray.  I remember him calling me for the umpteenth time from the bathroom because he once again forgot his towel.  While his memory languished, his ear flourished.  He picked up English in 6 months, parroting back the sounds he heard in the home.  The Korean team that came the summer of his 7th year was impressed at how he could repeat the sounds of Korea.  They say that those who are good with languages are also good with music.  That should have been my first clue that music would play a huge part in forming his life.  But there were other clues on the horizon.

Noe's graduation from 6th grade
He was in sixth grade when his teacher called me into the office.  It was Noe's best friend Eduardo who had tipped his mother off about Noe's extra-curricular activities.  So Eduardo's Mom, who happened to be my dearest friend, told me the scoops.   Noe was in possession of a number of soccer uniforms. Donated from a  visiting mission team, he was instructed to share them with the needy.  By the time I got wind of it he had already sold two uniforms at school for $25 each and had plans to sell more.  His teacher had also gotten wind of the informal soccer shop and hence the meeting.  I was livid and I know I disciplined him though I cannot recall for the life of me what it consisted of.  But a mental note was tucked away:  possible future entrepreneur.

And then there were the accidents.  One day he decided to cram his big feet into his sister's small roller skates.  As he wildly wound recklessly around the park at speeds too high for those sister skates, I called out to him to slow down.  Two seconds later he was on his back with his arm twisted behind.  Many hours and a full arm cast later, he had received instructions from the doctor to keep his arm upright all night long to prevent possible surgery.  So guess who stayed up all night keeping it upright?  Not the 10 year old.  But curiously enough, years later on a trip to Guatemala when we rented dirt bikes to tour the back roads, it was his voice I heard from behind me cautioning me to slow down just 2 seconds before I gripped the wrong brakes and went flying over the handlebars.  Thankfully there were no broken bones this time.  Just a very bruised ego.

Perhaps at 13 the music began for him.  He took free lessons from the leaders of the worship team at church. Guitar, drums, keyboard, he ate it all up.  A woman who has prophetic gifts spoke over him.  "Salmista" (one who worships and writes melodies to God) is what she spoke through the power of the Holy Spirit. Another tucking into my heart.  He lived and  breathed and took much joy in all that was worship before the King of Kings. The music wooed him into a love relationship with Jesus.  Soon he was not only playing in the band but leading worship with others at the service and then leading alone.  There was a definite anointing.  I remember thinking that most moms who have kids of this age are at odds with them over music.  By God's grace, the songs Noe would choose to play ad nauseum on his cell phone were songs I loved.  God spared us the wrath that occurs when music styles clash and the turbulent relationship that often characterizes the teenage years.

But God would test him in a different way during his last years of High School.  The testing came in the form of an illness.  Mine to be exact.  And not just an ordinary illness but a rare incurable one that brought us all to our knees.  The test was in the mind.  God spoke scriptures of healing into our situation so Noe had to learn to choose to believe the promises of life and living, and to reject those of death despite what he could see.  It was not pretty.  My body, deformed, life seeping out of it, while God made noises about it all being for His glory.  Doubts crouched at the door.  What would life without Mom be like?  Would the family which had grown to include other siblings now be broken and torn like the first family he had barely known?  How could God so full of love allow such a thing to a daughter and those under her wings if He truly loved them all?   And then in the prayer times, the times of waiting upon Jesus, he learned to believe for the impossible.   It all caused him to depend upon God not only as a Father but as a Friend who could hold his heart even in the valley of the shadow of death.  While we all awaited the signs of the promised healing, Noe took on the tasks that I could not.  He learned to make a mean spaghetti, washed and hung his siblings clothes, fixed things around the house and just served us all without complaint.  God's grace poured out through a 17 year old servant son.

Noe (center) leading worship with Dani and Eduardo
This affair with melodies sung to Jesus has gripped him hard.  He  has chosen a Bible college called Christ for the Nations.  We are applying now.  Well, actually he is applying now.  I do want him to go.  I really do.  I want him to fly, this precious scar-headed entrepreneur superhero servant son we call Noe.  This beautiful God given boy who came so lonely and ragtaggle, so futureless and scrawny.   Who would have known that he would be used by God to change so many lives... mine.  He has to start trying his wings, but this time, this time it's on the WINGS of another, the realio trulio SuperHero holding his hand.  Of course I want to be there...who is going to call out from behind to tell him to slow down and who will hold his heart upright?  Who will remind him about the things he forgets?

As if that isn't enough, the "enough" questions assault my brain.  Did I do enough?  Did I prepare him well enough?  Did I love him enough?  Did I live out Christ's life well enough before him?

The answer is the same for each question.  Trust JESUS.  The same one who took care of me when my parents let me fly off to college and then off to a foreign land for the rest of my life.  That same SAFE HAVEN will hold my boy when I cannot.  That beautiful Friend who taught him to trust even in the dark days will be with him.  He is ENOUGH.

And so we prepare for flight.  The nest will be different.  We will adjust our weight and move the feathers around a bit, perched and waiting, eyes uplifted watching to see how the soaring goes, trusting in the One who gives flight. I don't think the nest will be empty anytime soon.  There are still so many in the wings, each with their own stories of His healing and glory.  Each with their own time to fly.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Something said I had to write, to be a witness to his gifted life

The news of his death touched me deeply but instead of sadness, a deep peace flooded my soul. David Wilkerson was in glory land. There was a knowing, a total assurance that this godly man, had gone directly into the presence of Jesus. I met him years before, not up close and personal, but through the media. His life and writings had a huge impact on my life. His obedience to Christ was unrivaled in my experience.

I first became aware of his life when I saw the movie The Cross and the Switchblade. It was all about Brother David’s call to the streets of New York. Later when God called me to the streets of Tegucigalpa, I read the book many times to glean wisdom from His experiences. We were hungry to learn from other ministries and on our way back from Amsterdam (where we had visited ministries to prostitutes) Hae Young and I got stranded in Miami. She did not have a Honduran visa to get back into the country and it was Easter weekend so we booked a room at Howard Johnson’s and decided to visit the local mall. We first visited a perfume shop and God allowed us to lead two of the shopping attendants to Christ. We needed Bibles to leave with them so we went across the street to purchase them at the mall. As God would have it, Nicky Cruz was speaking at the special pavilion at the mall and he was due to speak in 20 minutes! Nicky was one of the wild gang members that David led to the Lord in his early years of ministering on the streets. Not only was he speaking there, but they were giving out free paperback Bibles. We had just enough time to take the Bibles to our perfume sisters and found our seats within spitting distance from this amazing legend in his own right. Nicky was full of fire and he told stories of how David, in his naivety, was used powerfully to bring gang members to the feet of Jesus. God used a country bumpkin preacher from Pennsylvania with no street smarts to minister powerfully to the lost and desperate gangs of NYC. He relied upon God’s power. I needed to hear that message.

Years later when a diagnosis of incurable cancer led me to NYC, I listened to Pastor David’s sermons online and visited Times Square Church where he was the main pastor. Once again God used this man and his flock to minister to me in my time of need. I was still in a wheelchair and barely able to sit for much time at all but somehow being in that theatre-turned-sanctuary with people from many tribes and nations helped me to believe in the impossible. Pastor David said something like this: “The Scriptures say that faith can move a mountain. Our mountains are not our problems. Our mountains are not illnesses, or addictions, or financial troubles, or difficult relationships. Our mountain is unbelief.” So we battled unbelief and God kept His promises.

As fate would have it, Hae Young and I just happened to be in the very state where David and his wife were traveling when their car collided into a tractor trailer. The accident claimed his life and nearly took hers. We were able to witness the reports on TV of this beloved man’s passing. Interestingly enough the entry in his blog written the morning of his death was about how there are no accidents in God. Ever a prophet, God even used his last day on earth to proclaim that which was about to come to pass. He wrote:

"To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights—and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, “I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident. It was no failure on your part. Hold fast. Let me embrace you in your hour of pain. Beloved, God has never failed to act but in goodness and love. When all means fail—his love prevails. Hold fast to your faith. Stand fast in his Word. There is no other hope in this world."

The Lord gave me a gift from Brother David the night before he died. I was reading a book he had written with Nicky Cruz called The Last Warning. I was reading it in Spanish but there was no confusion as to what God was speaking to me through this prophet. In his classic, very straight forward way, he matter-of-factly stated that Christians really had no business spending time watching TV. Not a popular thing to say in this day and age and it cut me deeply. My kids and I had slowly slipped into that pattern of turning on the TV and watching…well, you know….stuff. Stuff as in having nothing to do with eternal matters. Stuff as in not making any difference in our lives. Stuff as in wasting time.

So we are back on track thanks to this gift of God’s conviction through Pastor David. We made a pact to begin our day again with prayer before the sun comes up which means going to bed earlier and keeping the black box silenced. There I said it, publically. Now you can keep us accountable if need be. But we are determined. We are on it. David made a decision to stop watching TV and instead devoted the two hours he spent before it praying for others and the world. That decision changed his life. It was in those wee hours that he read about gang members in Life Magazine and as he prayed God stirred his heart to action. The rest is history. The rest is Teen Challenge and World Challenge. The rest is thousands upon thousands of lives radically changed by Jesus.

Thank you, dear Jesus, for this amazing servant whose desire for Your Truth inspired so many even if it first caused offense. We will miss him but we are blessed to know that he is finally with You, His beloved King. (link to a special tribute to David Wilkerson)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Other People's Children

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would grow up to be the mother of "other people's children". Not even one of them is a biological child. They were all gifts. They were all born in my heart, not under it. The other day Hae Young and I were reflecting upon how much we enjoy our God given children and how very much their birth parent/s are missing because of extremely poor decisions. There is so much blessing in being their Moms. On most days there is much laughter and the joy of watching God do the impossible in their lives is just beyond price. But there are certainly challenges in bringing up children whose early years were filled with uncertainty, rejection, degradation, abuse and abandonment among other things. Issues like:

1. when something like chicken pox hits, you don't have any idea who will get it! Like last month when one little boy at school came down with the pox and we just kind of had to wait and see on a weekly basis who would spout the little pustules next.

2. they have scars, major ones, emotional and physical and I don't know how they got them, for the most part. Like my one son who has cigarette burns on his body and it is still too painful for him to tell me about their origin. I hate it that I don't know all of their stories and I hate it that they were so abused. Sometimes I just want to shake their parents and give them a piece of my mind instead of smiling at them on visiting day. But I don't because I know that they abused because they were abused. And they need love too. Sometimes I discover the scars of my children when I least expect it because, although the visible scars have healed, many of the underlying causes haven't, which is why there are....

3. frequent meltdowns. Like the time Helen burst into tears the first time she was served spaghetti at our home. The rest of my children all kind of looked at each other with eyebrows raised in wonder. We found out later that she had been served spaghetti everyday at the horrendous government home she had been in before coming to us. It seemed to her that she had come to the same old same old and her hope for a new life seemed dashed by a plate of spaghetti. It took her a month of Sundays to to finally be able to eat the Italian dish without associating it with her former life and to realize that it was not daily fare at our home.

4. they have more aches and pains than I can keep track of. I thank God that I am a nurse because it has become very important to discern between what is doctor worthy and what is just "needs some time with Mama".

5. it takes time for the children to believe that they are truly loved. They test at every turn to see if this divinely patched together family is the real deal. So here we are in all our glory.......on Mother's Day

Front row: Helen (12) Jency (7) Valerie (7) Middle row: Juan Carlos (15) Isabella (3) Betsy (getting up there)
Back row: Noe (19) Marlyn (she doesn't like me to say) Julio (13) Susana (10)

thanking Him for truly He sets the lonely in families and brings forth the prisoners with singing!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Shofar

I totally forgot to share what happened during one of our devotionals this past month.

It was Candy's turn to lead. She is one of our teachers, and she started by saying, "We are just going to worship this morning because I sense that is what God wants from us." I thought to myself, "Oh good because I have tons of things to do today and it will probably be shorter if we just praise". Hmmm! Not exactly a Mary heart.

Candy chose Psalms that had been put to music so after we read a particular Psalm out loud, we then sang the corresponding Psalm. As the assigned person read out each Psalm, a hush seemed to fill the second floor room that we use as our library/meeting place. As we sang together, what started out as singing routinely changed into true worship of the King. The staff began to spontaneously weep and pour out their hearts before God. Some fell to their knees. Some had a look of bliss on their faces as they were lost in the Presence of Jesus. Heaven was breaking into earth and no one was left out. Suddenly there was a noise that sounded like the blowing of a horn. Not a car horn. Not a plastic horn. Not an ordinary horn. It was the sound of the shofar, the horn the Isrealites used. I have never heard it except in movies. I looked up and caught my son Noe's eye. He was sitting on the steps and I thought maybe he had gotten ahold of one somehow and was blowing it. He looked at me and raised his eyebrows as if to say, "I heard it too but don't know where it came from!" Then a very thin cloud seemed to fill the room.

Once the worship began to wind down, the questioning began. " Did you hear the sound of the shofar? About 2/3rd of the staff had heard it. The other third hadn't heard it at all. We were all touched by the way the Lord showed up so strongly in the devotional. Elvia went immediately to look up what the shofar was used for and among her discoveries were the following:

A call to gather for worship (2 Ch 29:26-28; Ps 98:6; Ps150:3, 2; Sam 6:15)
Ushers in the presence of the Lord (2 Sam 6:15; 1 Chron 15:14)
Make proclamation (1 Sam 13:3)
Symbolizing freedom and liberty (Lev 25:9 & 10)
Sounds the alarm for war (Josh 6:4 -20; Joel 2:1; Jer 4:19,21; Jer 6:1,17)
The Lord responds to our prayers (Exodus 19:19)
A Call to repentance

There was no doubt in our minds that the Presence of the Lord had been ushered in. He had showed up in a powerful way. And because of His decision to allow us to experience His presence, there was more freedom in our day, our steps were lighter, our faces more radiant, our tasks more joyfilled. It definitely bought several of our family members to repentance, including me.

His Presence is so rich. So why do I resist Him? Why is it easier for me to dwell on the doing of the thing instead of the Creator of all things? I long to be more Mary than Martha. I even have this posted on my facebook page for goodness sakes: Prayer is the Work!"

I know God has been calling me to more intimate worship. In the Old Testament, worship always involved sacrifice. That's the rub. I want to just jump in and skip to the intimacy without any sacrifice. But He bids me to come and worship, to lift up my heavy hands and in the words of Beth Moore, "to focus all I am on all He is, both personally and universally." I have to sacrifice "my" time, my sleep, my sloth, my apathy on the altar of sacrifice as I move towards the Holy of Holies. But when I do that, His Presence is so amazing. It changes the way I live out the day......there is more freedom to do His bidding, my steps are lighter, my tasks more filled with joy.

The blowing of the shofar bids us to come and worship the King. It is so worth doing simply because He is Worthy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The prodigal sons return

Two weeks ago we received a surprise visit from one of our Jericho graduates named Neyda. We were thrilled to see her even if she had left disgruntled and angry six years earlier. The whole kerfluffle had been over the much needed discipline that her two boys had received while in our school. She yanked them out of the school and was furious with the director of the school, so furious that she showed up the next week with a court summons for Elvia. It was kind of ironic this whole yanking-them-out-of- school business because we had actually started our Jericho Christian School with her boys in mind. Kevin was 8 years old and already being lured to the streets by a local gang. And so we started the school in 2004 with Kevin and his younger brother Joshuan and a whole slew of other children whose Mum's were in our program.

The incident occured in my office. Neyda could barely look Elvia in the eye as she thrust the summons paper towards her. She was trembling from the anger that overwhelmed her heart from the perceived injustice. As I prayed I began to receive what seemed to be direction from the Lord. I sensed that I needed to bow down before her and beg her to forgive us for any way we had hurt her or her sons. My first response back to God was, "Whaaaaat? You're kidding right? SHE is the one who is at fault here and needs to be reprimanded for not supporting Elvia in trying to help her kids. Lord, please, this is so humbling. Do I have to be so dramatic? " A resounding YES echoed in my heart and in an instant the Lord allowed me to feel her pain. Suddenly what seemed totally ludicrous seemed the right and meet thing to do. So I knelt down before her and placed my two hands on her feet, my head resting on the surface of my hands. I asked her to forgive us. I was not really prepared for her reaction. The sobs seemed to start at the top of her head and ripple through her whole body. This step of faith to ask her forgiveness broke something deep within her and she no longer was filled with anger. Through her sobs she began to ask US for forgiveness. The paper that she had clutched with such vehemence lay forgotten, crumpled on the floor.

Forgiveness was offered and received by all, no one went to court, but the boys did not come back to our school. Six more years would pass before we would see Neyda and her boys again. When she did come back week before last, I noticed that her face had a wisened look about it. Her attitude bespoke humility as she asked us to take the two boys back. God alone knows what she and her children have been through in the six years that came between us. But whatever God had used, the effects on her character were clear. She was a different Neyda, much softer and much more humble. I was the one who remembered the summons incident. So I asked Elvia if she really wanted to take them in after all that had transpired before? Elvia had totally forgotten all about it. She was just so thrilled that they had come back. Just like the father in the story of the prodigal son, she was so happy to see them that a fiesta was on her mind rather than a session to recount the wrongs.

So we are rejoicing this week with Kevin now in Jr. High and Joshuan in 5th grade. Joshuan states that he doesn't remember us at all from his time in Jericho. But curiously enough, every time I see him in the halls, he comes towards me and gives me a gentle hug which bespeaks of remembrance at least on a spiritual level. The prodigal boys have come home.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Clothes for Christmas or......God hears the faintest prayer

I can't remember now which day it was before Christmas Eve but I think it was the Thursday before because I remember thinking that we had one "back up" day to finish our task of buying a new set of clothes for each and every Jericho child just in case we experienced failure in our attempts to clothe the crew in one day. This is tradition here, the buying of new clothes to be worn on Christmas Eve for the first time. It's called "estrenando" and it's very close to the word for constipation (estrenamiento). I actually have a very funny story about how I mixed up those two words once on one of our street visits but I won't go into that now. Even the poorest of families make a big effort to buy new outfits for their children at this time. It's tradition. It's actually a very practical tradition since many children spend the rest of the year in ill-fitting hand-me-downs. For many, it's the only time they will receive clothing that is purchased just for them.

That morning I was the only early riser. The holiday vacation has kind of quashed our getting up together to pray but I remember asking God to help us not only with the task of buying for so many, but to help us be alert to any divine appointments that He might have for us that day. I also thanked Him for providing so faithfully so that we could do this tradition for our Jericho kids.

It seemed good to take the girls with me so that they could try things on and to buy for the boys in absentee. I asked Noe to be our chauffer since I wasn't exactly sure how many stores we would have to visit. Driving is not one of my big joys here and the traffic in Teguc around Christmastime is atrocious. Noe likes to drive so we were both happy with the arrangement. This was our shopping tribe: From my household, Susana (9yrs) Helen (11yrs) Jency (6 yrs) Valerie (6yrs) and from the Villa, Paola (11yrs) and Michelle (17yrs). Six girls, one boy, and the queen-of-buying-cheap. That was us.

The Lord had provided for our purchases for the children through several very generous donations and with a grateful heart I had figured out exactly how much was allotted for each child. We had $34 dollars per child. I decided we would visit a store here that has new clothes on the second floor for $13 each (250 lempiras) and lightly used clothes on the first floor for $3 (50 lempiras)each. We had a plan and we were ready to go when a young boy around 13 years of age appeared at the drivers side of the car. He was holding a tin can covered in Christmas wrapping paper which had become very tattered from his travels by foot. He looked at Noe and then at me and thrust that can towards the window while asking for "Las Pascuas". This is another Christmas tradition here. I have no idea how it started but it's also very practical and can be described as "glorified begging". This young man not only wanted Las Pascuas, but he also asked for a new outfit and shoes. It didn't take much more than a glance to realize that he came from humble circumstances. Very humble. He definitely needed new duds. I looked from him to Noe and gently suggested that maybe he (Noe) could share with this young stranger about the Best Gift. Noe paused and then in what I can only describe as "language that is indecipherable to most non-adolecent Spanish speakers" , he shared the Gospel with Jason, our new found friend. God had made Jason's heart ready and he joyfully prayed with Noe to invite Jesus into his heart. We invited him to Christmas service at our church and I took down his clothing size on the paper with the sizes for my other children. Somehow instead of being irritated with the burden of buying yet another set of clothes, I felt excitement to see how God would provide for Jason too.

When we finally made it to the clothing store, the children went every which way until they made it to the dressing rooms with all kinds of clothing possibilities. Everyone, that is, except Michelle. Michelle is Susana's older sister and she is quite beautiful but her physique is atypical and her self-persception is not particularly good. She could not find anything that she thought would look good on her. To add insult to injury, Susana quickly found all kinds of clothing and she looked fabulous in every single thing she picked out for herself. I knew we were possibly in for a meltdown so I grabbed Michelle's hand and told her we just had to ask Jesus for His help in this. I am a firm believer in asking God for the smallest of needs. He is so into details when it comes to His children. He answered that prayer immediately. I began grabbing all kinds of tops and skirts off the racks for her to try on and the first blouse she tried on looked amazing on her. Then she tried a silky black skirt on which matched perfectly with the blouse, and suddenly she started sobbing. I was hoping that she was just overwhelmed by this blessing of new clothes, but no. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, "The last time I wore a skirt a boy tried to........" I didn't let her finish. I just knew we couldn't do an all out counseling session right there in the dressing rooms with all the other girls listening in, so I said, "Fine, no problem, you don't have to wear a skirt.....just go out and find some black dress pants and we'll call it a day." And she did. She miraculously found some pants that went with the shirt and then went on to find several more tops on the $3 each floor that made her look beautiful. After that prayer, she found so many things that made her shine that we had to return some of the clothes to the racks.

(Michelle is pictured here in the back row farthest to the right. I have new wraps on too. I have never really gotten into the "estreno" tradition in all my years here because I am a believer in the little black dress. I have one or two and I have worn them at every special event and am proud of it....if you get my drift. But this year while shopping for something else for the holidays, I came across a sparkly dress that was just my size and the cost: $10. It might as well have had my name on the label. (Elizabeth queen of the bargain basement Hake)

We found pants and shirts for all the boys, including Jason. God had definitely heard our prayers, not only for help with the clothing of His children, but for the privilege of sharing the real meaning of Christmas with a young street boy. Jason not only received his new Christmas clothes but he was clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Truly that is the Best Gift Jesus could have given. He allows us to trade in our filthy rags of unrighteousness for His sparkling robes of righteousness. He clothes us anew according to the Scriptures. Isaiah 61:10 says "I delight greatly in the LORD: my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness."
I pray this finds you enjoying the amazing fact of the Christ child coming to clothe us anew, to remove our sackcloth and clothe us with joy! (Psalm 30:11)