Juaréz is different every year, even as some things are much the same. The area around the Home hasn’t changed much, and many of the children are the same ones I have grown to love. Most of the staff are the same, and the city is still going through much the same things it’s been going through for the past several years.
There is a different feel here, though. It shows that there have been far less visitors to the Home this summer. The initial reaction from the younger kids was cooler, though they warmed up very, very quickly. The older ones who recognized me seemed very glad to see me, and I am deeply happy to see them again. Their warm greetings meant a great deal to me, and I am excited to catch up with them. It also saddens me quite a bit to know that they have been unable to give such warm greetings to many of their recurring friends over the years.
Today we had a surprise—right as we were preparing to teach a lesson to our last group of the day, the oldest boys, Luis (our contact for whatever we need) asked us if we could join him and the kids for a surprise trip. We canceled the lesson and joined him and the oldest boys and girls as we loaded up the van and the Home’s bus and headed for a nearby park. There 15 of the students from the Home who have been at a camp put on by Joventud (a Christian organization) met us. It was very exciting to see some of my friends again (this is where I received some of the warmest greetings). We were able to watch them perform a few street evangelism skits in the park. Afterwards, we returned for an evening of supper, music, and playing with the kids in the concha (outdoor courtyard). It was a great day.
A few highlights for me: One of the originally troublesome girls is now helping us quite a bit with the other students and seems to be very touched by the ‘His Princess’ letters we read. Also, the other night we learning Spanish worship with Armando in the concha, and we were surrounded by a couple dozen of the kids… Most of the youngest girls were there. They jumped up on the tables where we were worshipping in and loudly joined us as they swayed back and forth. It was so awesome to enjoy the cool sound of Spanish worship music on guitar (Armando has an incredible voice) as a bunch of very cute five-year-old girls smiled and danced and sang to the music while the moon rose into the night sky. The moment was very unforgettable.
Just for those of you who wonder what we do in a typical day… We get up in the morning for personal time with God, group devotions, a little lesson planning/tweaking, and off to the Home for time with the kids. We teach three sessions before and three sessions after lunch—each involves a lesson of some sort with some activities (we’ve done skits with the youngest kids and more discussion/question/answer interactions with the older ones). Letters from ‘His Princess’ translated for the girls and times we’ve shared very personal occurrences relevant to the lessons seem to have had the greatest impact on the youth so far. The lessons run 45 minutes and we have 5 minutes between lessons to switch up the room. Sometimes we combine a section for larger activities, and we always do at least some fun stuff—time in the concha, drawing, cards… etc….
Probably the most impactful activity so far has been the ‘red and blue cup activity’. We filled red cups with dirt, water, coffee, salsa, and spit in them (in front of the kids—believe me, some of the kids would have drank it otherwise). The kids were very disgusted. Then we filled blue cups with soda (the good Mexican kind from the little stores). We blindfolded the kids and ultimately sat them in front of a cup. It was possibly to smell the putrid nature of the ‘feos’ (gross ones). The kids were squirming and not sure if they wanted to drink them or not. We had quietly switched out the red ones with nasty stuff for red ones with soda (we kept them red for peekers). Then we told the students to drink (and gave them the option to refuse). Afterwards we had them open their eyes and let them drink their pop. We had some great reactions and excellent discussion afterwards—many of them said they were afraid…. The lesson was over meekness and how it didn’t mean weakness (Christ was powerful and even told the Pharisees that He would be seated next the right hand of the Almighty, yet submitted to God’s will and let them beat Him not two minutes later (Matthew 26:62-68; also Isaiah 53:7)—He was incredibly strong, yet obedient to God). It was also over the fact that the meek are always submissive to God (true meekness) and that we have to trust God and submit even when it seems like a bad idea (like drinking when you smell the grossness and maybe even peeked and saw a red cup in front of you). It seemed to go over very well and definitely made for good discussion.
After the last section of lessons we have time to plan and prepare for the set the next day, then grab supper and take a short break. Afterwards we usually play with the kids in the concha until around 9 or 9:30 p.m. There is sometimes an evening debriefing, and always some time to rest…
So far it has been a blessed trip—I have definitely seen God working with the kids and with those with me…. I am excited to see what is yet to come—especially with my friends who are at the camp and will be rejoining us Saturday.
Please keep us and the kids in your prayers—there is much to do and yet we always must discern what is in God’s will and needs done vs. what is just a good idea. We also need to continue to take the time to rest and draw our strength from God.
Thanks again for your prayers and support