Thursday, February 16, 2017

Consequences

A group of preschoolers tried to
sneak up on me outside of my window.



I've now officially been working with Nueva Esperanza for over a month. It has been a very full time with getting child sponsorship packets ready and welcoming students in for another school year (since their schools started February 1), and there are days when I just feel exhausted. We even had a team in from Tennessee last week! Things are starting to feel more normal as I'm finding my community and creating routines for myself.

This week I've started to interact more with the students who come to the ministry. In  the mornings I'm still working in the office with child sponsorship responsibilities. In the afternoons, I get to tutor one kindergartner a day and then work with students who have made bad choices. I love having the opportunity to get to spend more time talking with and getting to know the kids, but I'd be lying if I said it was easy.

Alison is my first kindergartner
who I started tutoring!
My biggest issue in all of these new afternoon duties is not being able to communicate as I would like with the kids. I've taught before. I've worked with students who have had diagnosed behavioral problems. I have lots of ideas to share on how to help these students grow to be people who will bear the image of Christ well. However, doing all of this in Spanish as I'm still trying to figure out the language is a lot harder than I anticipated.

Even though it's been so difficult at times, I am so thankful for these opportunities. Every time I've needed help in communicating my ideas or trying to teach something to a kindergartner, someone has been there to help me. Fany, one of the wonderful staff members at Nueva Esperanza, has helped me to handle some behavior cases with such grace and love. She seems to always understand what I'm attempting to say, even if my verb conjugations are totally off. I have been so thankful this week to have her help me and take control when I literally can't think of words to say.

Typical recess time
I thought thinking of logical consequences for students was difficult before, but now thinking and talking through those consequences is even harder. Even though it's hard, I have come to enjoy my time with kids this week who might be seen to some as "the troublemakers". I love being able to tell them that they're receiving consequences because I want to help them become who God has created them to be, not because I want to punish them. I love being able to pray with them and communicate that I care for them regardless of the bad choices they make. Far above those things, I love sharing with them that we all make mistakes, but God forgives and still loves us anyway. After hearing more about some of their stories today, it's no wonder why they make bad choices. My prayer is that God would continue to renew their minds and show them the love that He has for them. I pray that they would also see more of that love and grace at the ministry. I pray that because of God's love for them, they would start to understand what it means to bring God glory through their lives simply because they want to please our Loving Father.

This is Oscar. He is 73 and still works
at the ministry. He's great.

These kids are wonderful. The ones who are viewed as "troublemakers" still come up and hug me the day after I've made them missed their favorite class to write an apology letter to the kid they hit during soccer. Please be praying that God would be working in their hearts and in the lives of their family members. Please pray for their protection. Please pray that they would see Christ's love so that they can begin to better imitate Him. There are so many bad influences surrounding these kids in their families, neighborhoods, and schools. If they are able to start being image bearers of Christ now, how much brighter will they shine in all the darkness that surrounds them?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A New Side of Tegus

Pano view from the ministry office
For those of you in colder parts of the world and interested in the weather here in Honduras, my phone says that it's 79 degrees. The sun is shining brightly, and if I could send you all sunshine I would. Trust me. My mom already asked about that.

I've officially been back in Honduras for just over a week. There have been a lot of changes, moving difficulties, and new things to get used to, but honestly things just feel so familiar. It's so nice to recognize people and places around to have a sense of normalcy even a place I've been away from for 6 months. I have been so supported by family and friends that I'm left speechless at times. Thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement in this time of transition!

I'd love to give you guys a quick recap of my week before I forget what happened. I landed back in Tegucigalpa on Friday the 6th where I got picked up by the Barahonas. We went to lunch and I got some groceries before we made it to my apartment. My landlords greeted me and made sure I had everything I needed! Every time I think about this apartment, I just think of how blessed I am to live here. It's so wonderful! After having some frustrations with getting in contact with people in the states, I was able to talk to my family and get unpacked.
Friends!
On Saturday, two of my wonderful friends came to pick me up for a day of shopping (you know, for practical stuff) and just reconnecting. We made lunch together and definitely had some laughs. That night, 14 other friends came over. I am so thankful for friends who will come over and sit on my living room floor just to enjoy a time of fellowship. I do have places to sit, just not enough for that many people.
On Sunday, I was able to return to Union church and see some familiar faces. I went out to lunch and did some grocery shopping with my favorite Cruz family afterwards. Have I mentioned that I'm so thankful for the community I have? Monday was a day of rest since I didn't have to start work at Nueva Esperanza until Tuesday.
Barbara and Carlos picked me up around 9:30 on Tuesday to go to the ministry. Barbara showed me my desk upstairs and gave me a key. After I stopped staring at the view from my desk, I started working right away on editing child information sheets that need to be mailed out to sponsors in February. I was also introduced to the teachers at the ministry when I went down to eat lunch with them. Since Tuesday, I've started riding to work with a woman who works at the ministry,  practiced speaking Spanish a lot, gave a short teaching training on Wednesday, worked a lot on child information sheets, and gave a birthday gift to a teenage girl in the youth program at the ministry.
Iced Aeropress coffee at one of my favorite caf├ęs in Tegus. 
Outside of the ministry, I've also been able to do a lot with friends these past few days. I went to a Bible study with some women from my church on Wednesday night, and I went to a friend's house for dinner on Thursday. Friday night I stayed at the Barahonas' house for a game night, and this morning I met a friend for coffee after thoroughly confusing a really kind taxi driver. I have really enjoyed my time with people this past week as I'm relearning what my community might look like here.

Even though I'm living in Honduras again, I've said more than once this week that I'm starting to learn my "new part" of the city. The school I worked at for the past 3 years is across town, so every time I get in a car I try to figure out how the roads around me connect. Most things feel normal, but I realize that what I'm doing now is so very different. I have learned so much about the children who are enrolled at Nueva Esperanza through reading and rereading the child information sheets I've been editing. Tears have formed in my eyes more than once as I read what the families at the ministry have been through. I have also been encouraged to read how some of the kids have changed through what they have learned about Christ and the love He has for them through Nueva Esperanza.

To say that I am excited to work with this ministry would be a drastic understatement. Although I'm excited, I also am slightly scared and nervous to be working in such a different capacity. Tutoring five year olds in Reading and Writing in Spanish will definitely stretch me. This is so much different than IST.  I know that my heart will be broken more than once as I get to know these kids and families more personally. I know that I haven't cried in the ministry office for the last time; however, I do have hope. Kids' lives and the lives of their family members are being affected through Nueva Esperanza. I am so glad to be apart of it in this capacity.

Here are some specific prayer requests:

  • the families involved with Nueva Esperanza
  • the teachers at the ministry as they prepare for a new school year
  • practical things for me in transitioning--figuring out rides, how to continue transitioning well, taking taxis on my own, finishing child information sheets, etc.
Once again, thank you for your support, prayers, and encouragement that helped me get here. When I think about the amazing, supportive community that I have all over the world, I'm left speechless. I am definitely looking forward to working with Nueva Esperanza this year, and I couldn't have done it without you. Also, below are some pictures of my apartment. Yes they are all different sizes and not arranged in any sort of pattern.

 

 


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Almost There!

Hey there!

This may be a shorter post than usual because I require lots of sleep and still need to teach tomorrow. However, I wanted to give a very exciting update on how things are going in regards to my support raising!

As far as funds go, last night I posted a picture of the confirmation for my plane ticket along with an update that I had 83.3% of my monthly support. If you didn't read that sentence, try it again. That says HAD. Within the past 24 hours, I've received other monthly pledges that have raised that percentage to 95.7%!!! I have been overwhelmed with thankfulness to the point of tears in response to the support I've received. It's hard to believe that in one month from today, I'll be on a plane back to Honduras.

My last post on here was one of honesty, despair, and a little bit of hope. In the month since then, I can say that God has shown me His faithfulness through so many prayers, checks, words of encouragement, and people. I had the privilege of speaking at a women's retreat and a nearby church in the month of November. As nervous as I was at both events, I was so blown away by the responses I got from complete strangers. There is so much love in being the body of Christ. People were so open to listen about Nueva Esperanza and what I hope to do there. Many of them have come beside me to make the ministry I hope for more of a reality. At the church that I went to, they prayed for me as if I was their own! I was able to see another glimpse of what the universal Church looks like.

In the past 6 days of December, I received the phone call giving me permission to buy my plane ticket and shared at another church in a neighboring community. Once I got off the phone, I promptly went around my house telling everyone who would listen that I officially get to go back to Honduras. I have been so blown away by my family's support that their reactions were very similar to mine with high pitched voices and hugs. That phone call from Barbara was also filled with things to do in preparation for leaving and what I can expect to do in my first month with Nueva Esperanza. This past Sunday, I also spoke at Dorset Baptist during Randy's sermon. That was a new experience, but many words of encouragement afterwards helped me to believe that it was well received. Once again, support from strangers is a weird, wonderful phenomenon to show that we are joined together by one Savior.

In this next month until January 6 (literally, ONE MONTH), I have a lot of things to do. I need to buy international medical insurance, pack up a couple suitcases, spend as much time with family as possible, see as many friends as possible, finish working at my schools, continue working at the ministry office, and try to raise that last 4.3% of monthly support so that I can be fully funded. I've been waiting for this for what seemed like forever, but now in light of my to-do list, it seems like I need more time!

Please be praying for my patience, raising my final support, and leaving well. For those of you who have had to transition your life to a new place, you know that leaving well is the hardest part. After getting accustomed to life in Ohio again, leaving will definitely be bittersweet. I'll go from living in a house with 4 other people to living on my own for a bit. I am so excited to finally start work with Nueva Esperanza, but transitions are hard. Thank you SO MUCH for your encouragement, prayers, and overwhelming support!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Trying to be a Tree by a Riverbank

Tomorrow is the start of November. NOVEMBER. I'm not sure how the last few months in the states have gone quite so fast. When I was first talking with Barbara about support raising, I felt mostly excited to see how God would work through people to provide the support I needed. In these last few months, I have experienced times of excitement when I am overwhelmed by a pledge or donation that comes in. I have been astounded and brought to tears by the encouragement I've received. The people who have supported me through prayer are too many to count. I'm currently at 100% of my start up funds, and 63% of my monthly pledges! Praise God!

But here's the flip side. The excitement that I was anticipating isn't a constant state of mind anymore. Even though my support is increasing, there have been times when I've also felt discouraged and defeated. When contacts don't work out, my plans don't happen, or a week without pledges goes by, I start to doubt that I'll get the support I need. I know that people are praying for me and encouraging me all the time. There are just also days when my negative thoughts overtake the excitement and hope. My situations begin to influence my mindset more than they should.

Some days I wonder if I should be taking things off of my to do list so that I can spend more time on the actual process of support raising. Then I realize that I have had so many wonderful opportunities through what I'm doing right now. I am learning so much about my students, and it's amazing to see them grow not only in academic knowledge but in character. My heart breaks to hear of their backgrounds at times, but I am so thankful to spend even 30 minutes with them a day pouring into them too. I enjoy my time at the Nueva Esperanza office because it connects me with the ministry even when I can't be there. From my online college course, I am learning so many valuable things to apply in my teaching as well as simply how to interact with my students. Every opportunity and thing I'm involved in right now is good for endurance, growth, and relationships.

A few weeks ago, I read through Jeremiah 17. I've been thinking about a few specific verses from the chapter as I read through the rest of Jeremiah. So here's the context in chapter 17: Jeremiah is describing more of Judah's punishment because of their worship of other gods and other sins (a common theme throughout the book). Here's what I found amazing though. Even after 4 verses of that kind of message in the chapter, Jeremiah shares wisdom from the Lord in Jeremiah 17:5-8.
5 This is what the LORD says:
"Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.
7 But blessed are those who trust in the LORD 
and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought. 
Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit."

That passage seemed to have smacked me in the face. Looking back, I can see times when I was trusting in "mere humans" instead of making God my hope and confidence. How silly. I shouldn't be bothered when it seems as if there are days or weeks of little financial support. Right now, my challenge is to trust even more in the perfect God whom I serve. The God who created me and gave me a new life through Jesus Christ.

If you'd like to pray for me, here are some requests!
- Make more contacts and appointments with area churches
- Trust God more fully because He's always been faithful
- Find more people who are able to support me monthly

If you would like to get in contact with me, please email me at elovejoy634@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

New and Familiar

In the past month since my last post, a lot has happened and changed. Even though I'm working on raising support and working at the Nueva Esperanza office while I'm in Ohio through Ohio, I also decided to sign up to be substitute teacher to bring in some money for college loans. One day after I got my first call to substitute in a first grade classroom, I was called in by the school district I graduated from to interview for an Intervention Tutor position. I ended up accepting the position after talking through details the same day I got their call! They were even very accepting of my decision to only teach through Decembr so that I can return to Honduras in January. I wasn't expecting to be working full time this fall, but I'm super grateful for this opportunity that seemed to have fallen in my lap. I'm going to be able to pay more money on my college loans, and I'm enjoying my time with students again. In my position, I get to teach guided reading groups, work with reading intervention groups, and help out identified students. Some days, I feel very overwhemed and exhausted. Then I remember that I've been given so many surprise opportunities that are such blessings.

I've also been working in the Nueva Esperanza office since July when I first officially met with Barbara. My work involves a lot of computer work such as writing thank you notes, tracking donations, and inputing new information. I feel as if I'm always learning something new, and I know that it will be so helpful when I move back to Honduras and work in the Nueva Esperanza office there. It also provides me with the chance to see donations that come in from family and friends for my personal account within Nueva Esperanza. I'm blown away by the support I've received. Honestly, I tear up every time I see another one of my support cards come to the office.

God has shown his faithfulness in such amazing ways through this support raising process. I love seeing the ways that people show their compassion and Christ-like love towards me. I know I have mentioned God's faithfulness a lot, but it has been such an important lesson for me throughout this year. In times of uncertainty, God is faithful. In times of support raising, God is faithful. When I begin to doubt that the financial support I need will come before December, God is faithful. If I begin to feel discouraged, God shows His faithfulness by surrounding me with friends and family. He is just so good.

Currently, I have a fully funded start up fund (woot woot!!!), and I have about 33% of my monthly support pledged. This weekend, I have the opportunity to do two things. First, I get to help direct a senior high retreat at Camp Koinonia. I'm so excited to see loved campers and friends again before next summer! Second, I get to speak at a women's retreat to tell about my ministry opportunity at Nueva Esperanza. I'm praying for good teaching time and community time this weekend in the different things I'm doing.

Please be keeping me in your prayers as I continue to teach, work in the Nueva Esperanza office, and do more support raising. Specifically, I would love prayer for new connections with churches and people to partner with me by committing to support me monthly. Thank you so much for your continued support and prayers as I continue to journey in this support raising process! I couldn't do it without you!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pressing Forward--One Step at a Time

Here's a very necessary update for those of you keeping track of what I'm doing in life! First, I'll start with a little recap. In June, I finished working at the International School of Tegucigalpa. I worked there for three great years stretching myself more than I thought possible and building relationships with phenomenal people whom I wouldn't have met otherwise. God grew in my heart a passion for the people, culture, language, and need of Honduras through my experience there. Toward the second half of this past school year, I was desperately praying for God to show me opportunities that would allow me to work in a ministry in Honduras. In researching the possibility of teaching at a school in Siguatepeque (another city in Honduras), I realized that I there was a different ministry I already loved in Tegucigalpa. Upon researching this ministry called Nueva Esperanza, I kept pursuing working with them by taking one step at a time.

Here are some of those baby steps I've been taking to get where I am now. After not feeling super comfortable with the decision to teach in Siguatepeque, my wonderful friend Lindsey asked if I had looked into Nueva Esperanza. In that moment, it was almost as if I had been blind to an opportunity that was in front of me all along. I scheduled a meeting with Barbara, a founder of the ministry, back in May where she told me she thought I would be a great fit in working with their Child Sponsorship program. Little did she know, that was the position I wanted to have if I was approved to work with Nueva Esperanza. She also talked about the possibility of me tutoring kindergartners in reading and writing to help prepare them for public school and working with students who have behavioral issues. (Basically, she would love for me to use the skills I've learned from my education and work in the area I have a passion for all at the same time.) We continued to talk about the process of working together as well as dreams of all the things I could do with the ministry. Did I mention that Barbara is also from my hometown in Ohio, goes to my church in Honduras, and has invited me to work with their ministry on short weekends before? She's wonderful, and our meeting went so well that I was excited to start taking bigger steps.

That meeting lead to me filling out an application to work with the ministry, talking more with Barbara about position possibilities, and slightly stressing about having to raise support for this next adventure in life. In early July, I met with Barbara about what my budget would look like. When I tell you that it worried me to look at the numbers, I mean that it really worried me at first. Then I was reminded that God had brought me through every step so far, and He would continue to be with me in each next step. I put off budget worries as I started working with the Nueva Esperanza's stateside office learning how to do computer things dealing with their Child Sponsorship program. I have loved learning how the ministry works first hand and being involved in the "behind the scenes" process. I also had the opportunity to meet with Nueva Esperanza's board members and present my plans to them. They were so supportive as they genuinely wanted to get to know me and seek what is best for the ministry before they voted to approve me. I can now say that I have been officially approved as a missionary candidate for Nueva Esperanza!

Some of you might be thinking, "Well that's nice, but what now?" Since it takes time to raise support, I'm planning on staying in the states through December to do so. This will hopefully give me time to visit with people, meet with churches, and talk with mission boards in order to raise prayer and financial support. Meanwhile, I'll be volunteering with the Nueva Esperanza stateside office to learn more about the ministry and subbing in schools in the area. I'm already anxious to get back to Honduras, but I know that this will be a great time of preparation, waiting, and expectation to see how God provides.

Speaking of God's provision, He has already literally taken my breath away a few times since I've been stateside. Even before I knew I was going to be applying for Nueva Esperanza, an anonymous donor sent me a check that reminded me to believe in what God is doing through me. This was back in FEBRUARY when I had no idea what I would be doing the following school year. It was such an encouragement that God would provide for my needs, no matter what those needs might look like. This summer before I was even approved, people continued to encourage me with kind words, prayers, and gifts. At the beginning of August, I received word that I even have a safe, furnished apartment waiting for me when I return to Honduras in January. And now, only 2 weeks after I've been officially approved by the Nueva Esperanza board, I have about 3/4 of my start up funds already raised. Thinking about the ways God has provided for me in this adventure to Nueva Esperanza literally leaves me speechless. I know that I don't deserve an ounce of the grace He has shown me in His faithfulness, but I am so thankful for a Heavenly Father who provides for me abundantly.

Now I'm smiling as I'm now reflecting on all the ways God lavishes His love over me daily. Thank you for supporting me by reading to see how God has been working through my life these last 6 months. I'm so excited to see what lies ahead. If you would be willing to support me through prayer, I would definitely appreciate it!
Here are some specific things you could be praying for:

  • That I would trust that God will continue to provide
  • Open ears/hearts that are willing to support me through prayer
  • Preparation for returning to Honduras
  • Training with Nueva Esperanza's stateside office


If you would like more information on what I'm going to be doing at Nueva Esperanza or how to support me, please feel free to email me at elovejoy634@gmail.com.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Catching Up

Hey friends!

So I've failed at posting any blog updates this school year. It's been a mix of a busy life, lots of learning opportunities, and of course some traveling too. I'll try to give you guys a quick recap of the school year so far!

For those who have lost count, this is my third year teaching at International School of Tegucigalpa. Going into it, I assumed that it would be my easiest teaching year by far. I was right and wrong about that. Although I feel more confident in my ability as a teacher, every year has its challenges. I've dealt with hard student situations, lack of teaching supplies, and teaching without a 3rd teacher in my department. However, this year I have especially appreciated the relationships I've been able to create with my students. I love the experience of being able to see them grow in their knowledge of Christ and love of others. It's beautiful.

Outside of school, I've hiked across a mountain, been white water rafting, visited a few new coffee shops, attended a wedding, learned how to play volleyball (that's still a work in progress), taken a couple trips to Siguatepeque, and held a few babies. Those are just the highlights! I'm sure there's lots more that I missed. Life has been nothing short of an adventure. I love having the opportunity to live and thrive in this place. God has truly grow in me a love for this country and these people. Even Spanish is a language I enjoy struggling through now!

Along with the fun adventures, I've also seen a lot of pain this year. I know it always exists, but I think my eyes have been opened to more of it this school year. I know multiple people who have lost family members.  Even students as young as six-years-old have lost parents. I have friends who have struggled with physical pains that just won't go away. Yet, God has been providing as He always does, and I've been able to see that in so many ways this year.

Through all of the pain, I've also been able to see how God uses community to encourage us in His truth. I've seen His healing both physically and emotionally. I've seen His faithfulness and goodness in my life and in the lives of those around me. In my prayers, that how I find myself referring to God first. "God, you are faithful and you are good." It has been so good to have that reminder through this year--a year that has proved to be harder than I originally anticipated.

Now that the year is about halfway over, it's time to decide what to do next year. Honestly, I've been trying to push the necessity of making a decision out of my mind. If I ignore it, then it will go away, right? I won't have to make a decision, will I? Right now I know that any decision I make will involve a big transition of some kind. Even though I've made a few big decisions that involve hard changes, I never like transitions. They're filled with emotional goodbyes, weird cultural adjustments, changes in lifestyle, and the feeling of starting over. I'm in a place where I now feel comfortable. Why would I want to leave that?

If you're wondering what I'm planning on doing next year, I can't give you an answer. I do know a few things though. I know that God has given me a passion for this country and the people who live here. I also know that ever since I was about in junior high, I've wanted to work with an orphanage in some way. In December as I went with a friend to pursue a possible internship at a coffee shop in another city here, I learned about an orphan care school called La Providencia. In January when my friend was getting more information about her possible internship, I was able to meet with the English director of the school and visit the school itself. It is a wonderful place. As I think about the possibility of teaching at such a school, I feel slightly crazy for wanting to leave my school where I get paid to instead teach at a school that would not be able to pay me for being there. I would have to raise support and depend on other people for what I need.

As all these thoughts are running through my head, I would ask you to please pray for me as I'm trying to decide between the future opportunities that God has put in front of me. I really just hate making decisions--especially decisions that have large effects on my life. However, I know that wherever I go, whatever I do, God will be there. He is good and He is faithful.