Tuesday, February 26, 2013

School, a First for One Young Man!

We are in the beginning weeks of the Nica school year with all the boys attending.  Schools are tightening their policies of appropriate criteria to enter school.  Most and I mean most of the males of Nicaragua are uneducated.  Young men either drop out of school in their 3rd year or don’t attend at all.   If you are a male and decide you want to continue pursuing your education after a time away from school, then it is almost impossible because of the age restrictions imposed by the schools and proof of the last grade completed.  Getting records of the last grade completed can be difficult because generally they never completed a grade.  Also, if they move around a lot, the records get lost or they are too far away to go back to the community to retrieve records.

Having said all that, we are so excited that 2 of our boys are in school, Noel and Israel.  San Sebastian is a small privately funded school that was an answer to our prayers.  This is Noel's 2nd year at the school  He was several years out of school before we discovered San Sebastian.   Israel had only been to school 1 year in his brief life and did not complete that year.   We are very grateful to the director of San Sebastian for agreeing to allow Israel to attend school. 

Both boys are combining the 5th and 6th grades into one year of study.  When they complete this year of school, they will have an official "promotion certificate" that should allow them to proceed to the secondary (high school) level.  

Noel and Israel have birthdays in July and they will be 19 years old.  Think of it, 19 years old and studying at the 5th & 6th grade level.  I am so very proud of the boys for their courage to be in a classroom of younger students.  This privilege also speaks of the character of the boys and the trust that the director has in them to conduct themselves in a manner that is not threatening to the other students.

Freddy is returning to Jose Madrid for his 8th year of study.  He is 2 years older than his peers, but that is not a critical age difference.   He has 4 years remaining before he gets his final graduation certificate.  Freddy has a problem with staying focused.  This could be a result of poor nutrition in his earlier years or ADD.  We are not trained to make a proper evaluation.

Once we received the decision from the school director to allow Israel to attend school, we had the task of shopping for school supplies at the last minute.  We want to especially thank Randy, Steve and Moni for their generous donations which allowed us to get all that was needed to prepare the boys for school.  The funds also helped to pay the bus fare for the first month and purchase a pair of prescription glasses. Israel has been having vision problems.   I noticed that he had difficulty reading when we were having English classes.  He could not read anything unless it was close to him.  The donations  allowed us to have his eyes tested and purchase the needed glasses.   

Shopping was quite an adventure; these boys have definite ideas on how they want to look.  If you have ready any of our past posts, appearance to a Nicaragua male teen is their top priority.   The boys were frantically trying to find pants that  had tapered legs, they did not want to accept the fact that they were limited to the type of shirts and pants they were allowed to wear.  All students in Nicaragua are required to wear the basic white shirt and blue pants or skirt.  Each boy was bought 3 shirts, 2 pants, shoes, underwear, socks, backpacks and school supplies.   (side note: The other day when I was doing laundry, I was joking with the boys that they never had so many pair of underpants before)


We had to stay on our toes because the vendors want to take advantage of the gringos.  Everything gets priced to us far above what a local would buy it for.  When the boys are with us, they help to talk the price down to a more manageable sum.  There are no dressing rooms in the market, so usually the boys are bare chested in the aisles trying on shirts.  Or they might be behind a blanket held up by a worker so they try on pants in private.  How many workers do you think sneak peaks at the boys?  Just wondering......

The boys are very happy to be going to school. They understand that it is crucial to their future to get an education.  All the boys had been studying English as part of our vocational program for the last 8 months and are doing very well.  The boys understand English quite well and Israel is especially good in speaking the language.  There is a world of possibilities that await them and they are on their way to discovering them.  Homework is sometimes overwhelming for them because they are so far behind in their years of study compared to their peers.

There was an election for class president at San Sebastian and ended in a tie.  The teacher broke that tie by announcing her choice for president - our Israel.  She said she felt that he would be the most responsible of the two.  Another proud moment for us.  

Friends, donors and partners, we can't begin to describe the difference that your support has made in the lives of our boys.  They are proof that anyone can turn their lives around with the loving support of others. And those of you who have blessed us with your visits, you have seen first hand the exceptional boys that they are.  They are loving, kind, desiring to grow into Godly men and forever grateful that you care enough to help them.

If you want to continue to support them, our donation page is safe and easy to use.    So much of their life is about study now, but as teenagers they need other things to occupy their minds and time.  They each have musical talent and desire to continue with lessons that have been halted indefinitely due to funding. Noel plays the drums, Israel the piano and Freddy the saxophone.  Please keep in mind that we strive to use every dollar wisely.  Using your debit and credit cards cost us in processing fees. Would you consider making your donation by check draft?     https://www.egivingsystems.org/37718

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you do for them.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Esther and Mordecai

Esther and Mordecai were born for such a time as this.  They aren't just average dogs. God had a huge purpose in mind for them when they were born.  It's time we told the story of how they came to be,  their importance in our lives and the difference they make in the work of the ministry.  They play a part in what we do here in the care of the orphaned and abandoned boys of Nicaragua.

In June, 2011 we were hosting meals for the visiting Book of Hope mission group.  One particular day,  a group from North Carolina was also stopping by for the first time to introduce themselves and see our ministry operations.   A total of 38 people would be in our home for lunch that day; so off to the local mercado we went for last minute supplies.   We had a little over 1 1/2 hours to shop and get back home before our guests arrived.  

This is where the differences between us as a married couple begin to show up.  I'm detailed and usually on a schedule to accomplish my list of to-do items.   My husband is casual and enjoys the sites.  I send him off in a direction to retrieve one item and when he comes back all I get from him is excitement and a lot of chatter.  He's saying something about puppies;  while not really listening, I respond "oh that's nice" and continue with my shopping.  On the way out of the mercado, I had one last stop to buy tortillas.  While I'm standing next to the vendor, counting out tortillas along with her, Preston is behind me and says, "there they are".   By "they", he is referring to the puppies.  I collect my tortillas and turn around to look at what has got him so excited.  Big mistake, BIG!  The vendors here know how to reel you in when you give them half a nod.  As quick as a blink, I was holding one puppy and Preston was holding another.  Preston asks "Cuanto cuesta?" The vendor replies back - 300 cordobas, each (less than $15 US).

For a year, Preston had been wanting a dog but the favorite price around here is $100 to gringos.  Also, my practical side always had reasons why we shouldn't have one and up to that time, I always won out.  I'm telling you the truth when I say that all my common sense left me at that moment.  I was bent on getting home, on time to finish the last preparations for lunch and did not give one thought to practicality.  As Preston looked at me with his "own puppy dog eyes", I said "Whatever".  And it was done, just like that!  We hurried out with 2 Dalmatian puppies, 4 weeks old and headed home.

Arriving home, we were in overdrive.  We had to find a container to house the puppies, put them in a safe place out of human traffic, get a small bowl of water, and since we had no newspapers, old towels would do as a bedding. Next, we had to finish preparing lunch.

Throughout the day, the puppies would cry out and various guests would go back to see what the fuss was all about.  It was not until after supper, that evening, before I would find the time to check in on the puppies. As I sat down next to the trunk where the puppies laid,  I found myself thinking about all the work involved in training puppies, the expense of food, shots, vet bills, loss of freedom to go whenever and wherever we wanted.  What possessed me to agree to buying puppies?  Most months we couldn't feed ourselves adequately and now we had puppies that would soon be full-grown dogs to feed.  Panic doesn't even begin to describe the emotions that were hitting me.  I sat on the floor, petting the little things and tears fell down my cheeks as I repeated again to my husband, "How are we going to take care of them?"

The next morning, the Book of Hope group came by for breakfast.  One of the women, immediately took me aside to talk.  She started by saying that she and her husband love to support missionaries in unusual ways.   They would like to support our dogs; take care of everything for them.   I was overwhelmed.  All the panic and anxiety I had felt through the night and into the morning was gone in an instant.  This kind woman named Terry, whom I had never met before, she and her husband (whom we still have not met) were going to be "padrinos" to our puppies.  The term padrino is Spanish for godparents.   Every single month, there is a draft made to our ministry account for the total care of the dogs.

This testimony speaks to us every day about the faithfulness of God to provide.  Even if we make decisions which might be questionable, God in his goodness has a solution.  When we think back to the events, it was predestined for Terry to be on that exact mission trip in order to be used by God.  How many people would ever think about supporting dogs?  And God knew that this woman and her husband were the perfect couple to meet our need.

Naming our dogs was easy because of the assignment on their lives.  Esther and Mordecai were indeed born for such a time as this.  These dogs are an important part of our ministry.  The boys that we take care of have a lot of emotional issues.  They have walls so high and thick that they have built around themselves, at times it is impossible to penetrate;  but boys will relate to dogs.

We have picture upon picture carved into our minds and hearts of the number of times that each boy has had moments when it was just them and one or both of the dogs.  We have one boy with OCD behavior that will bury his face into the dogs neck.   The boys love on the dogs from when they get up in the morning and each will in his own way tell the dogs good night.   These dogs are very therapeutic for the boys.

Every morning, we awake to sloppy wet kisses and the unconditional love of our dogs.  Esther and Mordecai are a blessing to us in so many ways.  When we have days that are difficult and lonely, they are there to heal us.   When we get to stressing about the lack of funds to pay the necessary bills, all we have to do is look at the dogs laying at our feet and we know that all will be well; we have proof of God's provision.

They are 22 months old, Esther weighs about 50 lbs. and Mordecai, the "magnificent specimen" that the Vet calls him, weighs in at about 95lbs.  We can't get an accurate weight because Mordecai's feet hang off the Vet's scale.

The "kids" as we all refer to them, are always close by; trailing either Preston or myself (Sandra).  They love to sleep under my desk when I am working.  They take turns switching out as to whom will
occupy the space.  Today for the first time, they shared the space which left me having to be a foot away from the desk top so that my chair wheels would not run over their feet. 


It was a very good day at the mercado back in June 2011, Esther and Mordecai are 2 very privileged dogs that God had chosen to make a difference in all of our lives. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Israel's Going to School

There are no words to describe our excitement today.  Israel is able to go to school.  This is a HUGE event for him.  He has attended one semester of school in his whole life, but was not able to complete that grade because of 100 cordobas.  100 cordobas is equal to $4.15. The facility where he use to live did not give him the 100 cordobas to complete the course. 100 cordobas can be a big expense for people here; however,  they have no problem finding money for candy, sodas and countless hours of cell phone minutes.  Sometimes, education is not important to many people of this nation.

Israel will be 19 years old in July.   He will go to a small private school with Noel starting on Monday which is the first day of the school year.   The director of the school has agreed to allow Israel to attend.  She knows first hand how well Noel did in school last year and that he is a well behaved young man.  She has as much confidence in Israel as she put into Noel when she gave her consent for him to attend school.

The boys will be studying 5th and 6th grade in a combined study for the year.  Imagine being 18 1/2 years old attending primary school with kids half your age.  There are a few other youths that are a little older than the acceptable age but our boys will definitely be the oldest in school.  This school is for the primary years only.  They do not educate students beyond the 6th grade.

The benefit of the boys going to this school is that they will have a report card showing that they completed the 6th grade.  This important document should allow them to attend the secondary (high) school next year. Schools are getting more strict about the age requirement to attend school.  We can certainly understand their concern for the students.  There could be social and security issues with having kids 5 plus years older than the majority of the students attending school.  There are special secondary schools that have programs where the students take 2 grades in one year.  This is our dream for the boys after they complete primary school.

The boys know that education is important. Their chances for meaningful employment soars when they can list on the application that they have completed high school.    Israel will excel in school.  He has been teaching himself how to read, write and speak English.  His thirst for knowledge and education drives him to spend hours each day in study.  The happiness within him is so apparent.  He will be able to participate in a normal ritual - attending school.  

Israel was in prayer mode when he was at the meeting with the director.  He was continually and quietly Praising God during the interview.   And, God was faithful to answer his prayers.

We need help with the expense of preparing Israel for school.  Would you consider donating to buy his shoes, school uniforms and school supplies?   He will also be riding the bus to school everyday which will cost $7 a month.   Our donation site is easy and secure.  https://www.egivingsystems.org/37718