Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Semester's End and Christmas Festivities

The end of the semester is always a busy time. Furthermore, holidays add to the busyness of the days. There is much to write about from the last few weeks, so this will be a brief overview.

December 7th is a very important Catholic holiday which is celebrated with many candles, music and fireworks- the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. That evening, Steve was at the school Christmas program (which was amazing to see all the different grades singing and the skits preformed) while Marlayna and Elleazah stayed at home due to the nature of the event and the late evening. In our conjunto (or gated neighborhood), people started to light a line of candles to light the way for Mary. Elleazah and Marlayna went out to walk around some and watch the lighting the candles, children excitedly running around, and load music playing in the background. The administration of our conjunto provided drinks and snacks for the festivities.  

Steve had the opportunity to go to another part of Bogota before Christmas break, to a school that is a ministry outreach for ECA elementary students, to give a presentation on working with students who demonstrate behaviors often related with ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). He identified different causes to the behaviors, different strategies with working with the students who do and do not actually have ADHD, and ways to reach out to the families (considering this school is also a Christian school in a very high risk area). However, this school is Spanish speaking so Steve had an interpreter. The meeting was very productive and helpful for the teachers and appreciated his insight. They even asked that he return with a follow up meeting after some implementation time to answer further questions.

Marlayna was able to meet with the 11th grade girls and other small group leaders after the student’s last final of the semester to make soup, cornbread, and ‘gingerbread’ houses.  We taught the students how to make these simple dishes because most of the students do not ever cook since their families have maids who do the cooking (a very common practice here because labor is really cheap).  Marlayna had a bit of a cultural lesson as she was preparing the devotional about the symbols of Christmas that point back to Christ. Some of the examples of symbols were the star, angel, and the candy cane.  But when she went to find some candy canes as a visual aid that they students could also use on their houses, Marlayna learned that candy canes are not sold here.  Mint just doesn’t seem to be a common flavor, not even for ice cream.

Another activity we participated in with some of the other staff at ECA one evening was to go on a tour of Bogota to see the Christmas lights at some of the parks.  This was a fun way to see different parts of Bogota that we have not ventured out to but like to return for some more exploring.

Pictures from some of these events are limited due to our camera breaking at the high school retreat, so please be patient as we wait to take some pictures from other staff members who also went to the events.

Friday, December 9, 2011

December Prayer Update Letter

HOLIDAYS:  These past 3 months have been jammed pack with Colombian holidays; so much so that in the month of November, we only had 1 full week of school and the rest were partial weeks. For the first main “holiday” of Halloween, we went to serve at the ministry called “the Jungle”. The Jungle is a haven for children to play and learn about God (very similar to Inner City Impact) in a neighborhood ravaged by poverty, drug use, and prostitution. Halloween was a critical day for the ministry because the area has a strong connection with death, since the main source of income is a local cemetery. As such, satanic worship is big in the area and has historically led to child kidnappings, which some suspect to be for sacrificing. Please be in prayer for these children and the community, that they might experience freedom from the bondage of sin and poverty. Some of the Juniors will be going to the Jungle for some of their ministry hours next semester.

11TH GRADE CLASS:  We have recently begun getting to the heart of why students have been struggling with going to the orphanage. We have found that one main reason is that they don’t “feel” like they accomplish anything when they went in the past. With Mark, the other class advisor, we talked about having a servant’s heart and the responsibility of fulfilling a commitment. In future weeks we plan to directly address ways we serve with sinful attitudes and what a Christ-like attitude looks like. In the last 4 months, we have only gone to the orphanage twice because we have not been able to get enough juniors to sign up to go. This past month we enjoyed the company of some recent graduates who joined us in ministering to the orphans for Christmas. Unfortunately, two of our 11th graders got phones taken from them as they were mugged in broad daylight soon after we dropped them off outside a McDonalds. Please pray for Andrea and Santiago as they recover from the experience and that it may deepen their dependence on Christ.

SMALL GROUP: The Junior boys went on their first outing to do indoor go-karting. Steve was able to build relationships with the guys, and the six of them had a fun opportunity spending time with each other outside of school, which doesn’t happen very often due to the fact that they all live in different parts of Bogotá. During Chapel, the guys have been focusing on what it looks like to hold one another accountable. The girls have been continuing through Every Young Woman’s Battle. With the 5th grade boys, Steve has been going through the life of Joseph with them, talking about what to do when we engage in the sins of jealousy, bitterness, and boasting: Repent and Believe!

1-on-1 DISCIPLESHIP: Marlayna is now discipling 2 students, who happen to be close friends and in her small group. She has been focusing with them on staying accountable with their spiritual disciplines and discussing various relationship issues that arise. Steve is going through 2 books with his students: Samson Syndrome with a 12th grader talking about the susceptibility “strong men” have to different failures and Spiritual Leadership an 11th grader, talking about being a spiritual leader and what steps we can take, with God’s intervention, to be a godly influence on others.

SERVICE UPDATE: Marlayna is now coming to school 4 afternoons per week. In addition to leading a small group, discipling the 2 Juniors, going to Spanish classes, she teaches English 2 days per week to people from ECA and the community. She believes that at least 1 of her students is not a Christian, so please be in prayer for God’s Spirit to come upon him. Furthermore, she is tutoring a potential student in math 2 days per week.

Steve has finished designing the framework of the Learning Center and is overseeing staff provide small group study skills instruction for grades 2-12, and administering the instruction for middle school and  high school. He has also been running an anti-bullying group for some 4th grade boys, and providing 1-on-1 counseling for 2 middle school boys who have been struggling with motivational and emotional difficulties. His 1-on-1 math instruction with the 10th grader has been quite the learning experience, as the student also has difficulties with motivation to learn. He has very much enjoyed teaching his self-defense class to 8 high school students. Beginning this month, Steve will be providing monthly parent workshops, with the first one on dealing with stress and how to develop and sustain a homework routine.

Prayer Request Summary:

1.       That we can have joyful hearts emanate to those around us, particularly our neighbors and other staff and through the parenting workshops.
2.       The Junior class: to have the love of Christ as they minister to the orphans with special needs; a heart of unity and accountability among the class.
3.       Our meetings with our disciplees. Pray that we will be able to build them up in love.
4.       Salvation of students
5.       Our fellow supporters: that the Lord will continue to bless them and the ministries He has called them to advance His kingdom.

We are very thankful for your partnership and encouragement. God has truly blessed us through YOU! If there is anything we can do to encourage you or lift you up to the Lord, please let us know!