Sunday, January 13, 2013

2013 - Weeks 1 - 2 Photo 'n Prayer Review


Nexser, Marlon and Sebastian dig into the Word during boy's Bible study.
With the passing of Christmas, the Ranch's Bible studies are turning their focus from the Nativity story to our New Believer's study, Nueva Vida en Cristo. Originally written in Spanish, this great curriculum not only covers the basics of Christian faith, but requires the participants to get to know their Bible. I was blessed at how excitedly the boys got into the work! PRAY that God would touch these boy's hearts and that our time in the Word would grow some serious spiritual roots that will weather the storm!

Ilsy helps the girls locate the correct Bible passage in girl's Bible study.
The girl's study has had a jump start in the curriculum because Ilsy lead the girls through the first seven studies during our furlough. Here the girls are learning about the importance of a personal devotional time. They all committed to read their Bibles daily! Praise the Lord! PRAY that God would draw this girls into a deeper relationship with Him via His Word!

Lu, Tabitha and Naomi watch as Oscar prepares for soccer practice.
One of the great blessings this season of ministry is the added help from our intern Lucinda and our local help, Oscar and Ilsy. Marillyn and I were able to take Tobi and Poema into Tegucigalpa to do our monthly shopping, while the rest of the crew stayed in Ojojona for soccer practice. Thank you, Lord for your provision and wisdom to divide and conquer! PRAY that God will continue to draw faithful servants to assistant at Rancho Oasis, both North Americans and Hondurans!

U14 captian & goalie, Douglas (in light blue),
receives some instruction from the referee before our game.
This year's school-break soccer tournament has been very interesting. God has allowed so many opportunities to minister to the boys and challenge them to consider their eternity, not just the outcomes of our matches!

We increased practice to twice a week, but we've struggled with attendance. The U12 players were either irresponsible to remember or were being punished for not asking permission when attending previous practices. The U14 players have found summer jobs or were just plain lazy. So, this motivated Oscar and I to be in better communication with the parents and to establish a new set of guidelines for the players.

Players on the U12 team watch the veterans (age 30+) championship game.
Oscar and I have high hopes for this group to finish the year strong and to continue to mature as a team!

After being educated by the book, When Helping Hurts, we realized that providing everything for the players was actually doing them a disservice! Besides time there was no personal sacrifice on their part, except for the few faithfully training players. Our frustrations were highlighted on Saturdays when the majority of players would show up to play a game without practice! These players weren't allowed to play. But what about the players who were working? (This was a good excuse in our minds.)

A long time ago, we decided that teaching the boys responsibility and self-control were more important that winning games. But, in order to have players for the games, we needed to find a compromise. Now we fine the players who don't come to practice: Lps 10 (~$0.50) for missing one practice, Lps 20 (~$1.00) for missing two practices. Also, we have asked the players to now rent cleats at all practices and games for Lps 2 (~$0.10). 

We've found that this has motivated the U12 team to be at practice, because they don't have the cash to pay the fines and now the U14 players can work and play, but are learning to save their salary to pay the fine for the game. It's not a perfect solution, but it is getting better. And to top it off all the parents are on board!

Oscar gives thanks to the Lord with the U12 boys after their 2 - 0 victory this Saturday.
What made their win so exciting is that the team played a player short without substitutes and still won!

Currently, the U12 boys are on a winning streak and are in second place in the league; a strong position to compete to play in the championship game. The U14 boys are still playing well, but do not have a single win to show for it. (Yesterday's match was one of their best! They were leading 1 - 0 playing with three players short, but eventually fell 1 - 4). They are learning one of life's lessons: individual talent can't win a team sport. Their lack of attendance at practice hampers their ability to learn to play as a team, giving them a clear handicap at games. These teens are in last place of six teams!

PRAY for the Holy Spirit to convict these "unchurched" boys of their sin
and to draw many of them to the Ranch's weekly Bible studies to know God more!

Sister Bonding: Tabi has connected strongly with her new little sister, Poema


Youth Study moved to Tania's house (far left) this week
when she had to house sit and baby sit her siblings!
Last July, a team donated NIV Study Bibles for the teens, full of notes and application points. Before we left for our furlough, I left the teens with a "Read the Bible in a Year" schedule. Well, everyone's good intentions fell short and though all started strong, nobody continued. However, with a new year, comes new ministry goals. And the teens and I have agreed to read the New Testament together, one chapter a day, for a year. Our first study, pictured above, through the first seven chapters of Luke was awesome. We discussed points or events that stood out to us and then brought it into application. It is a joy and a privilege to guide these young men and women into a deeper understanding of God's Word! PRAY for the teens to be faithful to their daily reading and for their lives to be changed!

Jon being attended by the local TLC nursing staff
after his kneecap dislocation soccer practice injury.
Trials & Spiritual warfare come in many shapes and sizes, but praise the Lord what the devil meant for harm, God can use for good. (Genesis 50:20) PRAY for patience, strength and grace for our home as we deal with whatever comes our way!

Mare discovered lice in Naomi's hair two days after my kneecap injury. 

The goat with the blue collar is nameless: Any ideas?
This is the kid of G-G and BK (R.I.P.). He was a twin, but his sister was born a still-birth.

Despite all of our trials we press forward in Jesus' strength and enjoy one another:
Naomi and Tabitha organized a talent show for the family. It was quite a memory maker!
Thank you for your prayers, gifts and notes of encouragement in 2012! We look forward to seeing how the Lord
works at Rancho Oasis this new year! 

Sunsets in Honduras never stop to amaze me!

The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to [Jesus].
He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:
 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 - Weeks 50 - 52 Photo 'n Prayer Review


Jon and youth, Crisna.

Visiting kids and their families is an important part of Rancho Oasis and a very cultural practice in Honduras. I'm trying to make it more of a habit, even a lifestyle. I had Naomi accompany me to help have some one-on-one time with my daughter. PRAY for Crisna. Once a faithful 14-year-old, she has decided to abandon all things Rancho Oasis. Why? It is complicated: her father abandoned her years ago and her mother is an alcoholic. She is drawn to the tough love we show her, but can easily be offended when confronted. PRAY for her return.

The roof photo was taken from a family who was asking for financial assistance from the Ranch. Obviously, the roof is way overdue for replacement, but families have a hard time leaping this financial obstacle. Currently the Ranch as a program where families raise 50% of the funds for the roof and the ministry covers the other 50%. This is a big sacrifice for the families, but it instills responsibility and ownership into the work. PRAY for wisdom as we work with families in the community on these 50/50 projects.

Youth Group members meet Poema: Eyli, Marillyn, Tania (w/Poema) and  Lesly.

U14 Filipenses F.C. teammates play a scrimmage match.

The soccer ministry is in full swing this break from school classes. It has been amazing to watch the transformation in character of not only the boys, but Oscar. Oscar has really taken the reigns of assisting me with the boys and is not only thoughtful in his preparation for practice, but prayerful and powerful in his pep-talks. As the boys learn soccer technique and skills, Oscar and I emphasize surrender to Christ and traits such as humility, responsibility and self-control. PRAY that the boys will finish the season strong and that God would spark a desire for Him in their lives! Half-way through the season the U12 boys are in third place of six teams and the U14 teens are in last place. (Hope is not lost as the teens are playing well, but have only tied two games and lost three - each loss by only one goal!)

Naomi and Lucinda, our intern, begin classes.
Naomi is repeating her kindergarten year with an emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic.

Boys in the mid-week Bible study take time to read from the Ranch's new library.

"Which one of these is not like the other?"

Girls from the Friday Bible study hold up their advent decoration of Mary and Elizabeth.
The girls focused on the birth of Christ through the month of December.

Our little-man, Tobias Dayne, celebrates his 2nd birthday on December 14th.

Chocolate-Vanilla Bean Swirl Cake &
Cookie Dough Ice Cream Loaf! Rico/Yummy!!!

                                                WEEK 51

Christmas Dinner of Thanks for:
Oscar and his family (wife Marilyn, mother Katalina and kids Fernando & Genesis)
and Ilsy. PRAISE for God's provision of faithful, local ministry help!

Ilsy celebrates her birthday with a few gifts from her friend, Marillyn.

Tabitha and I received our most recent short-term mission team: Tracy Pepin!
Once out of the airport, we grabbed a bite to eat for lunch at the new mall.

Above: Tracy helps convert shorts into handbags and assists Juan David with his craft during the boys Bible study.

Tracy had a unique experience with us at Rancho Oasis. Unlike larger teams that stay at a retreat center in Ojojona, Tracy lived with us on the Ranch. She was a huge blessing for Marillyn, Lucinda, and the kids & I during her two week stay! 

While reflecting on her week, Tracy wrote:

"God taught me about being a Christian wife and showed me what that looks like. As strange as this must sound, I believe it was much needed. Marillyn taught me a lot about just being a wife, coming alongside Jon and supporting him. He also showed me some of my past that I needed to let go and just give it to God. I feel refreshed and my load has been lifted. Thank you, Jesus."

New Year's Eve day group photo
Tracy's last day at the Ranch 
It is encouraging to know that the Ranch is also a refuge for those who come to serve alongside us. Tracy is a single mom who longs to serve the Lord in an orphanage. PRAY that God will continue to draw the right servants to Rancho Oasis and that he will prepare the larger teams coming in 2013!

The RO4Y Team/Family at El Picachu in Tegus w/ Jesus statue ascending in the background.
The ladies participated in a missionary women's Christmas event and we did a little sight-seeing afterwards.

View of Tegucigalpa from El Picachu.
One day we hope the Ranch will be a refuge for the thousands of young people
in this city of  1.3 million. PRAY for God's timing!

Oscar reads a chapter from the biography of missionary to China, Eric Liddell.
In addition to our weekly Bible studies with the kids, we are taking time to read from a missionary biography. Our desire is to install a passion for serving Jesus in the hearts of the children by helping them learn about average men and women who trusted in God's faithfulness to them. We want the children to have God's heart for the lost and a bigger picture of the world. PRAY for the Lord to grow devoted Christ followers in these studies.

Ilsy reads to the girls from an Amy Carmichael biography, missionary to India.

Oscar prepares the U12 boys soccer team for their match.
The boys tragically lost 3-2 against the first place team after holding a solid 0-2 lead.
It was a good lesson in humility and determination to play until the whistle blows!

Local village scene:
A grandfather of a few of the RO4Y kids shucks corn.
The cobs in the rafters are drying for seed and the pile will be used for consumption.


RO4Y Intern Lu stands in the midst of our Christmas Community Rummage Sale
As a ministry we choose to sell donated items to encourage financial stewardship and
discourage dependency. Both the community at the ministry are blessed!
As Mare and I prayed about Christmas gifts for the RO4Y faithful, the Lord gave us great wisdom. We had a lot of surplus left over from our previous rummage sales, but we needed a way to "package" the gifts. Mare remembered that there were several school uniform shorts that never seem to sell, so she turned them into handbags with the help of Lucinda and Tracy. They made 16 Christmas bags, so we contacted 16 families who are involved with the ministry and invited them to come the morning of the sale to purchase the bag for L100 (just over $5). Once purchased, they could enter the church and fill the Christmas bag with items from the sale for free! We just asked that the families only take one pair of shoes for those living in their home (not all their cousins, nieces, etc.). It was a wonderful morning and many of the families were very grateful!

Marillyn helps keep Xiomara honest and revises her Christmas bag before she takes it home

Our Christmas morning was simple, but memorable...

We tried out new gadgets, opened stockings and napped!

Finally, after nearly two years of paper work and bureaucracy, we are technically Honduran residents. Well, almost... we get our ID cards this month. Now we need to start Poema's paperwork.

Below: Tabitha is being inscribed into the system with out lawyer, Guillermo.

Ilsy reads to the girls on the Ranch's soccer field.

Oscar and I were encouraged before Saturday's game as the referee, Rafael, preached to the starting line-up about discipline, hope and Jesus Christ. Unexpected, but awesome!

Mare and I enjoyed a nice Italian meal together for her birthday in Tegus.
She is quite the amazing woman!

Then the Lord turned to [Gideon] and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

Judges 6:14-16 (NLT) - emphasis mine.