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!