Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Festival 2012

Fall festival was a big success at school today. It is a day for kids to dress up in their Christian character outfits (Elleazah is the bee from Noah’s ark), host booths for carnival type games, and serve food- with the goal of raising money for their class, and training the students to work together in planning and executing community activities. Considering we are working with the seniors, our class is very focused on raising money for their class trip, which takes place at the end of May.  Elleazah had a great time at the fall festival. Though it is the rainy season right now, we had sunny skies. Elleazah was still a bit young for the games, but she did enjoy getting her face painted by the 9th grade class. She also had her first taste of cotton candy. At first, she didn’t know what to make of the fact that the cotton just seems to melt in the mouth, but once she realized it was sweet, she was always ready of another taste! Needless to say, cotton candy will be considered a special treat , only eaten once in a long while.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Current events

Wow! Has it really been a month since we last posted?! We must be really busy or there really isn’t much going on- and in this case- there is a lot going on!

Steve has been meeting with a lot of students for a variety of reasons: going over their individual education plans, meeting with seniors to figure out college information since a number of the students this year want to study in the States, meeting with juniors helping them start thinking about college and tests they need to take to be accepted into college, and students who are struggling with social/emotional/ or academic needs. He is starting to observe in classrooms to hopefully help teachers teach in a way to meet the needs of struggling students. He is planning a variety of parent workshops to give parents strategies to help their students. And most recently, he spoke at chapel to the high school students on the topic of “Who is your King,” speaking from Luke 9:16-23. He challenged the students to reflect on how they are living their life to see what rules their life, who they believe Jesus to be, and do they trust Jesus as their king.

Marlayna has been enjoying teaching health to half the 9th grade class and being in front of a class again. Though it is not in her content area, she has really enjoyed bringing Biblical application to the content. She has been able to help tutor a homebound MK student who recently had leg surgery. She meets with him 12 hours a week to help him keep up with his studies. She has also been able to continue building relationships with the students she is discipling and with another family who has twins around Elleazah’s age.

Speaking of Elleazah, she is quit the trouper! She goes to school when we are at school, she goes to tutoring when Marlayna goes to tutoring, and she does all this usually with a good attitude- and for that, we praise God! We know that this busyness is a short season in our lives and we are thankful she is doing well with the schedule. She loves drawing and coloring, which makes it easier for her to play by herself.

We recently went with the staff on a staff retreat, the topic was Integrity. Going into the weekend, it was easy to think highly of ourselves as having much integrity. But coming out of the sessions, we realize how sinful we are and how much area of growth that still needs to take place, Lord willing. The retreat was in hot country so we, especially Elleazah, really enjoyed the pools, and the small zoo, at the location we stayed in Melgar, 120 km south of us.

Be in prayer for:

1.       Next weekend, we will be going to Chinauta, 85 km south of us, for the high school fall retreat. Please be praying for the student’s hearts to be soft and willing to change throughout the weekend. The sessions will also be on Integrity: From the Inside Out.

2.       Healing for the student Marlayna is tutoring

3.       Continue to connect with students and discipleship
4.     Wisdom in parenting

Monday, August 13, 2012

ECA's Partnership with local missionaries

This past weekend we had a wonderful outing with many other teachers from ECA. We went just outside city limits and hiked to a peak. It was a gorgeous day for a small hike and we had such a sweet time of fellowship with others.
Another really exciting aspect of the day was to have the opportunity to hear from a missionary whom is closely affiliated with the school. Without ECA, his children would not have the education the parents desire for their children; nor would the parents be able to invest in their ministry as they are currently able to do.  Let me share about this ministry and how ECA is interwoven into this ministry (besides currently teaching a couple of their children).
The family is the Bartel family.  The goal of this ministry is to reach the street children with the love of Christ and provide a way out of the cycle of darkness that is passed on from one generation to the next… spiritually, emotionally and physically. The Bartels and their team go into some of the most dangerous parts of the city, where gangs are very prevalent, drugs and prostitutes are common, and violence is the norm.  They build relationships with the kids and the parents and share Christ’s love to them. One way they share His love is by running a safe center for the kids to come play. This place is called the ‘Jungle,’ which we wrote about in our October 30, 2011 blog post (click here to read that post about the Jungle). Last year, 180 kids came to the Jungle the night of Halloween. We praise God that so many children were in a safe place hearing about God’s love for them on such a dark night.  
After relationships are built, some of these children are able to go to an at-risk, alternative school  that primarily serves these high risk kids.  Because so many of the kids come from troubled homes, drugs, abuse, prostitution, etc., the kids struggle with school, learning, and interacting with each other. ECA has partnered with this school, providing outreaches with ECA students meeting during the school day with students to have Bible lessons, games, snacks, and sharing God’s love with these children of different backgrounds.
Some of the street children are also taken in to be ‘re- parented’ in a safe living situation. Though the child is off the street, it is hard to get the street out of the child. This can take a couple years before the child is at a point where they can handle being moved into a more stable and loving family home. Sometimes, governmental paperwork is completed for the child to be adopted, but other times, adoption is not an option. 
The last phase of the program is preparing the child for independent living. Though governmental care stops at age 18, like foster care in the States, this program continues with the child to make sure that they have at least a high school degree. Sometimes a child will be 22 before they are able to get a high school degree due to being so far behind in their schooling.
This program has had many success stories, for God’s glory, where children have moved on from the program, doing well on their own and are living out God’s love. Some of those children have become missionaries to other countries, many are giving back to help kids here in Colombia. Not all the children that go through the program are able to break from the curses and grips of sin. But even then, we know and trust that God has His hand in everything and He will be glorified in the end.
It is wonderful to hear how God is using the Bartel family to bring light to some of the darkest places of this city. To God be the glory.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

We're getting back in the groove!

Well, summer break has come to an end and we are getting back into the grind of school and Colombian life. The morning following our arrival we attended teacher orientation for the next three days, had a school picnic where we met students and parents, and then came the first days of school!

Previously, we had written that Marlayna would be teaching Biology to 10th graders, but as we have come to learn at this school, things are not always as they seem. Upon returning, Marlayna was asked to teach health to the 9th graders rather than teach Biology. The reason for the switch was for a more conducive schedule for Marlayna to be with Elleazah and a lighter work load. We agreed and willingly accepted the switch. We have learned to be flexible at this school.

Our first available Saturday, we went large park here in the city. Though we have been to this park before,  we decided to take a different bus system to get there, one that was supposed to be easier… and it was! We are always encouraged when we successfully navigate the public bus system without any problems, especially when it is a new route to us. We had a wonderful day at the park, lots of sun and lots of fun! Elleazah loved the different parks to play on!  There were so many stairs for her to climb, many slides to go down, and a bunch of different swings to choose to ride!  

We praise God for a successful first week and a half back and a fairly easy transition back to life in Bogota!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June Update letter

Greetings Friends & Family,

Family Update—The last few months have been rather eventful. Marlayna had appendicitis at the end of March, right before spring break. She has recovered fine and is doing well. We have learned that Colombia does have health care similar to the States. To learn more about our appendicitis experience, check out our blog where Marlayna posted a detailed entry about the event. Marlayna’s sister also visited us, in God’s providence, she came during Marlayna’s recovery of appendicitis. It was a sweet time together, catching up on life, and showing her a bit of the country of Colombia around Bogota.

Roles at ECA—We were invited to speak to the parents of 5th grade students at a retreat that they held to build unity amongst the families. It was a wonderful cultural experience and opportunity to get to know the families on a more personal level. It also gave Steve a deeper understanding of some of the 5th grade boys whom he leads in a small group. We did workshops on how they can help their children transition from childhood to adolescence, how their methods of parenting are to change as a result, and we worked with the children on how to love your neighbor when they are tempted to or have an experience with gossip, exclusion, or teasing (which have been common problems in the 5th grade class). Please pray that these families will grow in being a reflection of Christ’s church, that the parents will embrace God’s calling as as parents, and that the children will have a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. A number of the children do not have this personal relationship with Him.

Steve has had the opportunity to work with each high school senior to help them plan what is next for them after they graduate. A few high school seniors have been accepted to North American Universities. One of the main challenges for Colombians graduates is obtaining their student visa to attend school in North America. Due to some problems in the past with Colombians not returning to their home country, the U.S. embassy has made it a challenge for Colombians to get a student visa. Please pray for these graduates as they transition in a new phase in life: that they continually rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit and not their own understanding to direct them in major life decisions of friends, vocation, living situations, church, etc; and that their relationship with Christ will grow through the trials they will experience.

Educational service plans for students who experience various learning challenges were successfully developed collaboratively with the administration and parents. A few of the students Steve services went to the Amazon Rainforest over Spring Break to help provide basic medical care and do Vacation Bible School activities with the children. It was encouraging to see these students begin who they are as God’s creation and members of His Church and to be used by God to advance His kingdom in the Amazon Rainforest. Please pray that the students with learning difficulties would continue to reject what Colombian culture says about them (that they are a disgrace to their family and have less value than people without disabilities) and accept the truths that God uniquely created them with purpose and capable of bringing Him glory.

Discipleship—Since April, Steve counseled and discipled 5 young men (12th, 9th, 8th, 7th, and 4th) and a 5th grade girl. Some of the issues he began to address with these students include understanding the character of God and how that impacts us, prayer, priorities, family responsibility, organization, abandonment, our role in Christ’s church, reconciliation, problem-solving skills, understanding emotions, and how to make friends. He hopes to continue meeting with these students again next year. Marlayna finished the school year meeting faithfully with the 2 junior girls on conflict resolution, spiritual disciplines, and leadership. Please pray that the Spirit of God will continue to work in these students over the summer and that we will be able to reconnect with them quickly once school year begins in August.

The 11th grade class did a 5 day/4 night service trip to Villavacencio, which is 2 hours (110 km) southeast from the edge of the city of Bogotá on the other side of the mountain. The students served at 5 schools teaching English through various activities. One of the schools was part of a refugee camp for children whose families had experienced persecution from the guerillas (FARC) or their indigenous tribes for being Christian. Some of the children are now orphans due to the persecution from these groups. Pray that the gospel will penetrate the areas controlled by the FARC and indigenous tribes and that the persecution will only fan the flames of commitment to Christ.

 The 11th grade small groups have been much more focused now that we have been able to establish rapport with the students. For the girls, we ended the year finishing our study on building appropriate relationships with guys and setting both physical and emotional boundaries. For the boys, we started the theme of leadership and continued it on the 11th grade service trip mentioned earlier. On the service trip we, the leaders, prepared a devotional and discussion time revolving around the 4 “trustworthy sayings” in the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy (1 Tim 1:15-17, 3:1-17, 4:7-10, and 2 Tim 2:11-13). These times were meant to help prepare the junior class to be the leaders of the high school and build a spirit of unity amongst the students. We plan on continuing this theme in the fall with these students. On the service trip we saw spiritual fruit in the lives of these students as they grew in their encouragement toward one another and their heart to serve for the glory of God and not their own glory or satisfaction. Thank you for your faithfulness in prayer for these students, as we know this growth and change only comes from God and the working of His Spirit. Knowing this, please continue to pray for the now 12th grade class regarding their unity, spiritual leadership for the high school, and that their heart to serve may be focused on bringing glory to God and not what they can get out of it.

Looking ahead—We will be doing quite a bit of traveling for most of July and flying back to Colombia on August 1. The school year begins August 6. There is a possibility that Marlayna will be teaching a Biology class this next school year. Steve will continue his role as Guidance Counselor, Coordinator for Special Needs, and special education teacher for middle & high school. Please pray that we have safe travel and that our time reconnecting with friends and family resembles Ephesians 4:15-16. Please also pray that we will be able to connect with the new staff beginning their service at ECA in the fall. In addition, pray that the administration and school board will seek His wisdom in their decision-making this year.

Check out the Ministry Pictures page to "see" what we've been up to!

Thank you for your continued encouragement and faithful prayer!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Well, the school year is coming to a close. Steve was able to teach a psychology unit to the juniors and seniors. The content of the unit contained information about the different fields of psychology and how to evaluate secular psychology from a Christian perspective. The unit seemed to go rather well; he enjoyed teaching the unit and there were some good discussions that resulted from the lessons.

At the end of the week, we will go with our 11th graders on a service trip to Villavicencio, which is about 135km Southeast of Bogotá at the base of the other side of the mountain, to serve local Christian schools in that town. We will be going to 4 schools, providing professional development to the teachers, teaching English to students and teachers and leading various day camps activities. Steve will be in charge of a group of students who will be leading games and activities and Marlayna will be with a group in charge of teaching English through science activities. Each group will share the gospel as it pertains to the activities. We are hoping to provide at least 30 hours of service for the 11th graders over the 5 days.

We are looking forward to returning to the States for the summer and would like to schedule time with as many of you as possible. If you are interested in having us share what God has been doing here in Colombia with your friends, family, or church, we would love to do that, whether it be a social event or through an individual conversation.  Please contact us and let us know some dates you are available if would like to get together with us in the month of June. 

There are also plenty of positions still open at the school for next school year, If you are interested in teaching or serving in Colombia, at ECA, please let us know and we will help get you signed up to come! We would love to have you come serve along with us!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"When was the last time you did something for the first time?"
5th Grade Family Retreat

Right around the time we were working through Marlayna's appendicitis, Steve received an invitation to be the guest speaker at a family retreat that some of the 5th grade parents were putting together. The parents wanted to do this retreat in response to the difficult time they and their children had at the 5th/6th grade retreat that ECA hosted. The 5th/6th grade retreat was the first time many of the parents had ever let their children spend the night away from home. A few parents had some difficulty letting their chicks out of the nest for a day, and as it turned out, the kids didn't seem to know how to handle their new-found freedom. We were told that the parents wanted Steve to give one workshop with the parents, and if we wanted to, another workshop with the children. After collaborating with the 5th grade teacher, middle school principal, and middle school chaplain, we decided to do a workshop on how parents can help their child transition from late childhood to adolescence. We (Steve & Marlayna) played around with some themes to do a workshop with the kids, but we didn't have a concrete plan or even certainty that we would be doing anything with the kids.

The retreat took place this past weekend, from Sunday afternoon through Tuesday afternoon. Being that this is Colombia, the schedule of the retreat was put together a day at a time each morning. In an attempt to have the most families participate in the workshops because some of them were not staying for the entire time, some coming late and other leaving early, it was decided around lunch time on Monday that we would do workshops for the kids and the parents later that afternoon. Fortunately, the 5th grade teacher had not left yet, so we were able to solidify a plan with the kids. Marlayna and Steve talked with the kids about the truth that if we claim to love God (which they all did) then we need to also love our neighbor: including others, meeting the needs of others, correcting and confronting others, and asking for forgiveness. The 5th grade class has been struggling with friendship and excluding others from activities. As a part of the workshop, we created real life scenarios and then discussed with them how each person's choices impacted everyone else, how we naturally blame others and deny our sin, and how to forgive one another. We then had the kids draw a picture or write about how the choices in the scenario could have been different so that each person would have shown love to their neighbor. We found out after the parent workshop, that the parents believed the problem of exclusion to be one of the major issues amongst the students. We praise God for the opportunity to be used by him to speak into the lives of the kids on issues that directly apply to their everyday life at ECA.

The parent workshop that Steve gave at the retreat was based on a number of the other parent workshops he had done early in the school year, primarily from workshops on How to Help Your Child Overcome the Stress in Their Life and another on the book Shepharding Your Child's Heart. If you have any interest learning more about or even receiving the powerpoint & notes of these workshops, feel free to email us: We give Christ the praise for the encouragement we received and we ask that you pray with us for the families from the retreat, that they will continue to become a brighter reflection of Christ to the world and to one another.

On a side note, the retreat was a wonderful, refreshing cultural experience. The theme of the parent retreat came to life for us: it was the first time Steve was the guest speaker for a retreat, it was the first time Marlayna or Steve had ever sung Karaoke, it was the first time a scavenger hunt involved catching a live chicken, and it was the first time we tried to catch live fish with our bare hands in a swimming pool. We certainly hope we are given another opportunity like this to share in fellowship with other Christian Colombian families. You can see some pictures from the retreat on the "Ministry Pictures" page.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Appendicitis in Colombia

While preparing to come to Colombia, one of our big concerns was about the health care available to us. During our visit, our concerns were put to rest as we learned that we would receive comparable health care to what we were used to in the States. Throughout our time raising our support team, health care questions were common questions we received, right after whether or not it was safe to come here with the guerrilla warfare. We had several concerned ladies ask if we were bringing our infant daughter due to safety and health related concerns. We assured those we spoke with that we had looked into the health care here in Bogota and that we felt comfortable with the care we would receive.  This month, we learned more about the health care system here in Bogota as we utilized different aspect of the hospital care.

To hopefully answer many of the questions around this event, I will start from the beginning.

Monday afternoon, I (Marlayna) started feeling ill with an upset stomach. I thought it was food I had eaten for lunch was not agreeing with me. I left school early because I didn’t think I would make it through the rest of the day.  I made it home just in time to throw up three times in three hours with a remaining upset stomach.  At this point, I still wasn’t thinking anything about of. Tuesday afternoon,  I started to have more intense abdominal pain, starting on the right side and then spreading to the rest of the abdomen.  Now we were starting to wonder what illness I have: a parasite? A virus? Or just the flu?  I made it a point to get in touch with our school nurse the next day, Wednesday.  Wednesday the pain remained, about the same intensity, so she came to me at the apartment.  After basic triage, questions, and the rebound test to test for appendicitis (negative result), she thought I had a virus that was going around that has similar symptoms to appendicitis. The rebound test is when you push on the appendix area and when you release from the press, there should be greater pain than while pressing down.  She gave me some medication but also told me that if the pain increases and localizes to the right side to go to the hospital in the morning to get it checked out. 

As the evening progressed, the pain did localize but not intensify and the rebound test was still negative.  Steve started to do research and decided that we were going to the hospital in the morning no matter what. Period. No discussion. Because “there are too many things it can be that are fatal; we’re going.”

We found a sitter for the ‘morning’ for Elleazah and a helper at school to be our translator at the hospital. We arrived at the hospital at 8:15 and by 9:15 I had been through the hospital triage and was being seen by the first doctor. Again the rebound test was negative and I did not show all the normal signs of appendicitis. But, because I had such sharp pain on the right side he ordered for me to have a scan of my abdomen.  But, I was dehydrated and needed to be more hydrated for the test. So I spent the next 3 hours hooked to an IV getting fluids. At 12:15 I had the scan, which turned out to be like an ultrasound and the man said that it was in fact appendicitis. I was still in denial because I didn’t think I had all the symptoms for appendicitis and, furthermore,  I don’t remember the doctors using an ultrasound machine to diagnose my sister with appendicitis when she had it while in college.  Did they really diagnose me correctly? I didn’t want to have surgery unless necessary.  I asked  as many questions I could think of to make sure they were confident that it was appendicitis and not a virus or something else that would be a less invasive ‘fix.’

We were then in the phase called: waiting. The original doctor needed to be notified of the results and a surgeon needed to be contacted.  Nothing seemed to happen quickly. Steve updated our sitter of the situation and they were willing to keep her into the evening.  Our school nurse had called up to check on us and when she found out the news she let people know at the school to 1. Start praying for us, 2. Help us get the extra help we would need.  For example, one lady at school who had often asked to watch Elleazah, even overnight if needed, was notified of the situation and she was willing to alter her evening plans to watch Elleazah that night so Steve could stay with me as much as possible.  Another lady offered to make a meal and help around the apartment since my sister was scheduled to visit for spring break week.  Steve then made a trip home (about 20- 30 minutes by public transportation) to get Elleazah’s things ready for her first sleepover and get other things together we would need for the next couple days.

Steve was back at the hospital by 6 that evening.  I had just met my surgeon, a wonderful older man who spoke some English. He told me he was going to do a laparoscopic surgery, which is the method my sister had, so the news of a similar surgery was comforting. He even told me, reminded me, that “God is in control, He knows.” Oh how comforting it was to hear those words come from his mouth.

By 7:15 I was being moved to the surgical area of the hospital.  We waited for another half hour for the operation room to open and get prepped for me.  I went in shortly before 8pm. 

In the OR, the anesthesiologist told me that I was going to have local anesthesia, meaning I was going to be awake for the surgery (I actually preferred this)! I was thankful they had pretty good English. They gave me a shot in the back, similar to an epidural, though I don’t remember my epidural hurting so much when I received it for Elleazah… maybe because the induced contractions hurt SOOOOO much more than the epidural ‘prick.’ Anyway, the drug seemed a lot stronger than the epidural dosage and they continued to angle my body in different directions so gravity would pull the drug where I needed more numbing. For the most part, my feet were higher than my head so I would be numb up to my mid chest. Though I felt like my breathing was restricted, I could see my chest rising normally as I breathed normally. By 8:25 I was numb and they started the surgery. They put a sheet up so I couldn’t see all they were doing (bummer- though I might have been really freaked out seeing it all). But an anesthesiologist sat next to my head so I could tell him if I was uncomfortable. A clock was just behind him so I was counting the minutes until it was done!  The only things I felt was my belly button being tugged at as they were making the incision putting in the tools (maybe)  and then the pressure of them inflating my abdomen with air so he had space to work. The air added pressure to my upper chest, making it hurt to breath. When I told the anesthesiologist this, he gave me a shot of pain meds… great more medication. Well, the surgery lasted until 8:41 when I was all done getting my stitches.  They moved me out to the recovery room where I was supposed to be for a couple hours. Steve came in to visit after about 30 minutes after I asked 3 times to see him. When Steve came in he told me that the doctor had said that my appendix had broken and that he did his best to clean me out. I was going to be in the hospital for a minimum of 3-4 days due to the inflection.  At this point, I was so glad Steve  insisted  we go to the hospital to get it checked out.

The infection caused me to have a high fever the first 36 hours.  I was on antibiotics and pain medication, which I started to have trouble with (migraines and nausea) so they switched me to strong Tylenol. I was glad for this switch because I knew that was what I had after my knee surgery  11 years ago.

Once out of the recovery room (which wasn’t until the next afternoon due to the crowded hospital), I was moved to a regular room, which was similar to a room we were in while in the States after having Elleazah. The accommodations were very comparable.  The nurses were nice, talking slowly in Spanish and using words I knew. One nurse even tried to teach me some more vocabulary, which I appreciated.

Overall, we were very pleased with the care we received. The only negative would be the amount of time we waited to have the surgery after we found out it was in fact appendicitis. After all, we think my appendix broke sometime between the scan and the surgery. 

It was really neat to see God working out the details of those five days. Prayers were being answered and we are so thankful for our prayer warriors.

I think my parents were especially thankful my sister was coming to visit me. She was able to send them more detailed information about my condition faster than Steve. Though our plans for her visit changed due to my surgery, it was nice to see her and have her part of my recovery time.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy week reflection

This past week has been Holy week here in Bogota. Many families from the city leave to go on vacation; many families that remain make their trips to Mass for their religious obligations. Church buildings that I thought were no longer in use are now rather busy with worshippers and people selling candles just outside the doors. It is sad to see many trying to earn their way into God’s good graces by being good and completing tasks. And yet, when reflecting on our own lives, it is not too difficult for us to find areas where we can be just like the Pharisees in doing good things with the wrong motives. What a refining processes we are in but we are thankful that it is through God’s grace we are saved and not from any of our own works that we gain favor with God. This past week, as a family, we have been reading through parts of the Gospels that make up Jesus' last week. How thankful we are for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross so that we may have a personal relationship with God.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Activities in the High School

We just got back from the high school retreat, the theme: honoring one another. We about just over 50 students attend the retreat along with the small group leaders of each grade. We had four sessions followed by small group discussion. Due to the lower turnout of students attending the retreat, the small groups were a bit smaller than usual which resulted in honest, heartfelt discussion that were fruitful and profitable.- praise God.

Currently during lunch time, there is a soccer tournament taking place between each of the high school grade levels plus a staff team. Marlayna surprised the students by being able to hold her own with the best of them out there. The surprise may have come from not advertising her years of playing soccer growing up, nor did she start out playing with the teams at lunch due to discipleship scheduling conflicts. It almost appeared that the staff had a ‘ringer’ on the team. We have enjoyed playing together despite the different skill levels.

We recently celebrated a day called ‘Dia de Idioma’ meaning day of the language. Really, it was a day of celebrating the culture. At school, each grade, and a group of staff learned a cultural dance that they performed for the parents and other students. Steve was part of the dance because they needed males to participate.  All those participating in the dances got all dressed up in traditional outfits to go along with the dance.  It was a fun day.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Parent Workshops

Ever since my training in graduate school, I have desired to do parent workshops. Parents have so much more influence over their children than teachers, and so I believe the greatest potential toward influencing children is through training parents, especially training from a Biblical worldview. ECA has some structures in place for parent workshops, in that it is required for parents to go to at least one workshop each year. I have been very encouraged by ECA's desire to provide parent workshops and have me expand what they have been doing.

So far this school year, I have had the blessed opportunity to do 3 workshops for parents: 1. Having a Biblical understanding of stress and how parents can help their children counteract its effects; 2. Preparing your child to go to college in the states; 3. The pictures seen below based on the book Shepherding Your Child's Heart on understanding the motives of our children and how parents can shepherd them toward righteousness. The 5 pictures found in "Ministry Pictures" are of my most recent presentation based on the Shepherding book. I did this presentation because last year the elementary school at ECA (pre-k through 4th grade) began using the philosophy and methodology of the book for discipline (although not the "Rod" portion of the book). All the parents invited were parents of elementary children. (Pic 1)

I will be doing 2 more presentations this semester:

1. Procrastination & Perfectionism
2. Understanding English Language Learning.

Liana Moguel, a parent of current students and a former staff member of ECA with the "Learning Center", translated the powerpoint and the presentation for me. She also marketed the workshops for me by making personal phone calls to parents. She has been a great asset, and I could not have been able to reach the parents without her! (Pic 2)

At my most recent workshop, I was really struggling to find my rest in God as I had tremedous difficulty with extraneous circumstances. 1st, The teacher van brought us to school late because of the rain and traffic being particularly heavy; 2nd, I was originally supposed to be presenting in a large conference room, but the room was under rennovation; and 3rd, the school internet went down, so I was unable to print my handouts in Spanish, nor was I able to use my "enhanced" version of my powerpoint. I was very thankful that Mrs. Moguel had saved a version of it on her computer!! Praise the Lord! I learned a valuable lesson: to never rely entirely on technology to work and to always bring your materials on a pin drive. (Pic 3)

I was very grateful that our High School principal was willing to allow me take over a classroom. Although we started late, didn't finish the intended material, and had to move locations, the parents were very gracious and gave me a lot of positive and constructive feedback. (Pic 4)

Over the 3 workshops, God has given me the opportunity to share his truths with over 60 parents, some of whom have come to multiple workshops. (Pic 5)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Little New, a Little Old.

Older news: A few weekends ago, we decided to venture out of the city limits to a ‘national park’ called Chicáque where there would be fresh air, many hiking trails, some great sites to see! We were excited to venture out with some ECA staff friends.  We wrote down the directions to get there and set off. The only problem was the directions were a bit vague with multiple options of how to get to the park. We could take two or three buses, depending on the route we would take. We were not sure where we would catch some of the buses, so we had our two most fluent Spanish speakers ask for directions. The random lady they chose to ask suggested that we take a taxi to a park where the final bus would pick us up. So, we all piled into two taxis and told the drivers the name of the park. The taxis took off fighting the traffic and heading the direction we came from!  After a 30 minute taxi ride, with really nice drivers, we finally asked again if they knew were the park was for us to catch the final bus ride. We showed a written name of the ‘national park’ and the name of the intermediate park and his face dropped. He wasn’t headed toward the right park, if fact, he couldn’t take us to either park because both parks are out of city limits and taxi drivers are only allowed to stay within the city limits! Oh no! So the two taxi drivers pulled over to discuss where to drop us off to give us the easiest route to the national park! They even flagged down a public bus for us, talked to the bus driver and told him to tell us where to get off to catch, yet another, bus! We were blessed to have such nice drivers.  The taxi ride turned out to be a $8 (per taxi) mistake that took an hour to correct. So, after 3 buses, a taxi ride, and a 45 minute hike, (4 hours of commute) we arrived at the gorgeous Chicáque Park. Now that we have been there and making mistakes along the way, we now know an easier way to get there. Next time, which I hope there will be a next time, we will arrive at the park in half that time and only use two buses. Pictures are already posted from our beautiful hike to a tall waterfall. Plus we had the neat opportunity to watch the clouds roll back from the mountain as the sun came out, which exposed the valley from the mountain we were on.
New news: This past week a work team from a co- staff member’s home church came to ECA to do a work trip and help out the school. A couple of the project included fixing the ceiling of the multi-purpose room, building a new playground set, and doing some maintenance to different apartments.  We were so thankful to this group for fixing several things around our apartment, a leaking shower (which they had to replace a pipe), re- ‘plastering’ the toilet paper dispenser to the wall and re- anchoring our blinds into the cement ceiling. Furthermore, they noticed that the handle on our fridge handle had broken off which we had become so used to it being broken that we had forgotten to write it on our ‘wishlist’ of things to get fixed! But they noticed it and added little medal cabinet handle to the door! A small fix, but a wonderful fix!  We, as a school, are so thankful for the work and help from the group, as the school continues to grow and reach out to the community, it is nice to have a more improved campus!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A new semester, January 2012

With the new calendar year has come a new semester! We are starting to fall back into our school routine with a few changes. Though changes take place here, we are thankful for your continual prayer and support remaining constant.
Steve is no longer teaching the self-defense class; instead, his schedule has become more open to meet with students who need some academic or personal direction. He is also presenting several parenting seminars to the parents of ECA. We are excited that he will be able to not only touch the students at ECA but also the school families.
Marlayna has a couple opportunities to tutor in our home, which will keep Marlayna and Elleazah at home more days a week rather than going into school. These opportunities are a blessing because Elleazah has more freedom at home than at school for her increasing mobility.
However, some things will remain the same. Marlayna and Elleazah will not be strangers at school. Small groups and discipleship are still a priority which will bring the two of them to school at least two afternoons a week in order to meet with students. This semester, Marlayna will be working through the book Living the Cross Centered Life, with the two girls she is discipling and she is continuing the Every Young Woman’s Battle in the small group.
The students Steve disciples are very much at different stages in their walk. The topics he is addressing ranges from helping a student grow in his self-control and being a spiritual leader to studying some basic tenants of the Bible and what it means to have our identity in Christ.

Prayer requests:
1.      God would continue to soften the hearts of the students in serving the lost.
2.      We have another high school retreat this month; pray that God will bring revival amongst the student body.
3.      Staff needs for next school year are great; pray that God brings people to join the ECA staff.
If you, or someone you know, are interested in working at ECA, check out their site to learn more or contact us for more information.


  • Three elementary teachers

Middle School

  • 5th grade
  • Bible teacher
  • Computer teacher
  • Science teacher


High School

  • Chemistry
  • English teacher
  • Math teacher
  • Social Studies teacher


  • Academic director
  • Art teacher
  • Director of community care
  • Director of development
  • ESL teacher
  • Guidance counselor
  • Music teacher
  • PE teacher
  • Special Ed/Learning Center teacher
  • Student activities coordinator





Saturday, January 21, 2012

One year down, Seventeen to go.

This week, Elleazah knocked off one birthday, she only has seventeen more to celebrate with us before she will move on to a new chapter in her life... so we hope. Our time is limited with her under our direct care. We made the most of this birthday with great memories. Her birthday fell on a regular play date day, which we had a little celebration with her playmates and the other moms.  Elleazah is really starting to interact more with some of the other kids and it is fun to watch her grow and develop more skills. We later inviting some friends over to have popcorn and cupcakes and enjoyed the time of fellowship.  Elleazah had a small cupcake. Though the cake was small, she was still able to make a mess of it. She really enjoyed the sweets and we enjoyed watching her eat! She did not disappoint us in her fine motor skills of eating!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christmas Break has ended...

Our Christmas break is over, it was a wonderful time of relaxation and being refreshed both physically, mentally, and spiritually. Here is an overview of our break.
Santa Marta. We started off on a trip with a school family, a couple ECA students and some ECA graduates. We used some of our personal savings to cover the cost of the trip. We flew to the coast to scuba dive and stay with an ECA missionary family. It was fantastic to see God’s creation underwater. The diversity of species were fantastic! Steve got scuba certified and Marlayna worked toward increasing her certification. Our exploration of the city took us to the oldest cathedral in South America, to a couple parks, and a beach. We spent Christmas with the missionary family and experienced a ‘Colombian’ Christmas. The family gathered late Christmas Eve, with a lot of music, food, and conversation. At midnight they exchanged some gifts.
Once we were home in Bogota, we laid low for a couple days, recovering from ‘something,’ something we probably ate.  So we used the time to read.  Over break, we each finished three books; the books were either for pleasure, personal growth, or to implement with the students we disciple.  Steve finished: Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul Tripp, Teaching Preemptively by Donavan Graham and Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper. Marlayna read: Living the Cross Centered Life by JC Mahaney, Dandelion Dust by Karen Kingsbury, and Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper
 Upon feeling better, we started to explore our city. We visited three different parks and successfully made it to and from the parks without getting lost on the public transportation. The first park was a petting zoo, which we actually met-up with other ECA families to see the animals. Elleazah did rather well with the animals. She was a bit timid with some of them but really enjoyed others. The second park we went to was similar to central park in New York City. It was a large green area with many paths to walk on. A botanical garden was next to the park and we loved the tranquil environment of the garden. The ‘jungle’ portion and the rose garden were our favorite parts. The last park we went to was Parque Jamie Duque, which was a cultural history park with a zoo. There were many monkey exhibits, which were our favorite area, but we also liked how close you could get to some of the large cats (tigers, pumas, etc). Lastly, we had to chuckle when we saw the squirrel exhibit, but the Colombians LOVED the little rodents! The squirrels were some of the smallest squirrels we had seen! It was such a blessing to go; a relative from a school family owns the park and admits ECA workers into the park for free! It was so good to get out and enjoy the warm, sunny weather of the season, especially after the rainy season we had up until the end of the semester.
But now we are getting back into the school routine with our discipleship continuing, both one-on- one and in small groups, and preparing for class lessons.