Creating Art with Children

June 29, 2011

“There is more learning in a good picture than in twenty workbooks.” – John Holt

Unfortunately, I have no photos from the past few afternoons – I’ve been too absorbed in what I’m doing to take pictures. But I wish there was some way to show you, so you could see and feel everything. Someone brought a donation of real tubes of watercolors with the thick water color paper. I brought it over to the property along with some books of art to see if I could get anyone to paint with me. I want to push them beyond coloring books. They will sit and color in coloring books, but if you ask them to paint something original, it’s difficult.

I introduced the new paint in this way – I showed some of the kids the box of paints, and told them this is a very special type of paint. It’s not for children. This is paint that real artists use. Do you want to see? And I showed them some famous paintings in the books I brought. They were mesmerized. I sat down with a 16 year old and told him about the primary colors and we mixed them together on a plastic plate making orange, green and purple out of red, yellow, and blue. He had never done this before and was amazed. He sat and painted a beautiful wave. And that’s how it began. Child after child from young ones to teenagers came and I showed them how to mix the colors, helped them find inspiration and turned them loose to paint. They painted all afternoon.

So, today, I wasn’t sure what exactly we would do, but sure enough, some kids pulled up on their bikes and immediately asked to paint again. I pulled out the paints and paintbrushes and before I knew it the entire table was crammed full of children wanting to paint. I could see so much improvement in the kids who painted two days in a row. Their concentration improved, their understanding of the paint and the overall quality of their paintings was much better the second day.

I wanted to share this with you because I think it is fascinating that kids truly know the difference between a “child’s” paint and real paint. I think kids deserve to paint with the real thing.  To experience the feel of that smooth paint flowing over paper and create whatever is on their heart to create. To spend a few hours in concentration on what they are doing.

“They should at least be exposed to the idea that art can be, not just a diversion, but a very powerful way of getting in touch with and expressing reality.” – John Holt

I have to tell you I was a little bit overwhelmed with emotion helping those beautiful children paint, others were playing with playdough, others playing board games, others skating, others playing soccer. I could overhear conversations, talking about seeing each other at church and asking if they were going to go again. Making new friends. A few moms and dads came with little ones and played playdough and bingo with their children.  What a blessing to be able to provide this place where the community can gather, enjoy and be together in a loving, safe environment. It truly is an oasis in the midst of the chaos of this town.


What Every Child Needs

June 26, 2011

Highlights from the After School Kids Program

June 23, 2011

He walks in everyday and after checking things out, he usually ends up at a table settling down with crayons and his favorite coloring book: Fisher Price Little People, Letter and Shapes. There he will remain for the better part of an hour. He hands me his coloring with his name carefully printed across the bottom. He watches as I peg it up on the bulletin board next to his other colorings. Then he counts the colorings with his name on them – that was #5! He’s happy about that and heads back to work on his next one. How old do you think this child is? 5 or 6? No. He’s 13. This is a tough kid who’s known at other programs to be one of the more difficult kids with behavior problems. He has a lot of challenges in his young life, but for a few hours every afternoon he gets to come and have a quiet space all his own and just do whatever he wants to do, maybe some of the things he didn’t have a chance to do when he was younger.

On the back table I put out a bucket with dry cornstarch, a cup of water, some spoons and paint. I was thinking of this activity for the younger children but they didn’t come today. Towards the end of the afternoon the older boys, after eyeing the table, asked to do the activity. “Sure!” I say. We sit together and start mixing and stirring and feeling as the corn starch changes consistency. We add some paint and swirl the color in. The boys are mesmerized, amazed, laughing. We sit and play together for a long time – these boys – on the edge – wanting to be like the older teenagers, but still so child-like under the tough exterior. I saw them loving this opportunity to just play without anyone watching, no outside pressures. For this moment they can enjoy and be the kids they need to be.

“Skateboarding Saved My Life”

June 21, 2011

Tony at one of his skate events, photo by Joel Duarte

That’s what my friend, Tony Del Rio, told me this weekend. Tony took his passion for skateboarding and started Revolution Ministry, in San Jose, Costa Rica. Nothing gives him greater joy than to see a kid connect with a skateboard. “You never know if this might be the moment that changes that child’s life.” I looked at him in confusion, not quite understanding. How in the world can skateboarding change a child’s life so drastically? Well, for Tony it did. He said skateboarding is what got him through difficult years and kept him from getting into drugs and partying. Now he uses it to help share the gospel. He puts on skate events in the city and also has a vision to help start skate parks – places where kids can skate in a safe environment – a place where they can build relationships and grow as people. Hmmm… that sounds a lot like what we’re doing.  I have always loved seeing the joy the children get from skating, but that’s just because I love to see children enjoying something. But I never looked at  it this way before. Thanks for the insight, Tony, and thanks for what you do for kids and youth in San Jose.

Just Hangin’ Out ~ What it Means to Me

June 20, 2011

Written by Scott and Leslie

What does it mean to hang out with a kid?

The number one thing it communicates to a child is, “I have value.”

“This grown up could be doing anything and he just wants to hang out with me.”

What does Jesus think?

He says, bring the children to me and do not hinder them. The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.  Unless you become like a child you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

What was Jesus trying to say?  To me, I hear him saying, “These kids have value, these are my precious children.”

Have you ever noticed how hungry kids are for attention? And if you give them just a little bit they want more and more and more? Well, it’s for a good reason. It’s because kids need attention! That’s how they learn and grow and become adults – by talking to and interacting with adults who care about them. That shapes their development more than anything else and it’s how God designed things to be – it’s why He created the family structure. But for many of these kids the family structure has broken down leaving them missing out on this essential ingredient in their childhood.

That’s why we can see a lot of the kids that are coming to the after-school program are so desperate for attention. They just soak it in when they come to hang out with us in the afternoons.

When a child has not had a stable caregiver in his life, modeling God’s love to him, it’s hard for him to understand the concept of God’s love and what it means to have a relationship with Him. He has no reference point. God created children to grow up in families for a specific purpose.

Floyd McClung says, “I believe that God designed us to begin our lives as babies, totally dependent and vulnerable, because He intended the family to be the setting in which His love was modeled.”  

But what happens when that plan goes awry? And in this fallen world, sadly, it often does, leaving children without a foundation for understanding who God is. When we help meet a child’s developmental needs, then he will be receptive to the transforming power of the gospel – it goes hand in hand.

Did you know that 95% of what children learn is through modeling adult behavior? And that applies spiritually as well. So hanging out with a kid and modeling God’s love to that child through relationship, might very well lay the foundation for a deep relationship with Jesus to develop.

These kids are the future. But they’re also important for who they are right now. And what happens in their life right now will determine who they become in the future. Hang out with them. Get to know them. Invest in them. Gain their trust. Let them know that you are someone they can depend on. In a life where maybe they’ve never had someone they could depend on. To a child hanging out communicates more than words. I don’t know what could be more impactful.

And I can’t think of a better use of time.

So that’s what I’ll be spending my afternoons doing – Just Hangin’ Out!

A Safe Place for Children and Youth

June 13, 2011

For those of you that read our May Update, you read about the new ministry we’ve started on a beautiful property in Jaco.  Every afternoon we open the doors and welcome children and youth to come, skate, play and just “be” kids in a loving, safe environment. We’ve been starting small – welcoming small numbers of children each day and getting to know them. Well, we prayed and asked the Lord to grow it in His timing and guide this whole thing. Next thing we knew this past week we had 30 – 40 kids each day coming to the property!  It’s a little overwhelming as we were not prepared for this amount of children at one time. But it’s also exciting!

One aspect we hope to bring is a place for creativity to develop.  The schools here rely on rote learning methods, are lacking in resources and children have little opportunities to create and play.  Creativity is really important – in the development of children and the lives of youth! Why, you ask? Well, check this out:

 “Some may say creativity doesn’t really matter. Who cares if a kid can paint a picture as long as he can read, right? Well, creativity is more than the ability to wield a paintbrush. Creativity is what gives all the math and reading skills application, and therefore, meaning.

Creativity certainly is the source of inspiration for great works of visual art, literary novels, music pieces, and productions of stage and screen. But creativity is also the wellspring of problem-solving and inquiry. Creativity is the ability to think outside of the box, to be curious and resourceful.

Children who are creative are better prepared to be successful and thrive as children and as adults. Creativity aids in navigating social relationships and is the true source of all great professional accomplishments. Divergent thinkers not only become the painters and authors of the future, but they are the coaches who create game-winning plays, the entrepreneurs who find new ways to meet their customers’ needs, and the medical professionals who develop cures for our toughest diseases.” – Amanda Morgan

So we’re gearing up for another week and getting ready to welcome children. Please begin praying for these kids – for each child, youth and adult that sets foot on this property – that it would be holy ground. Lord, as we create space, a place for relationships to develop, Lord would you bless it, would your Spirit be tangible in this place. Do your work here, Lord, soften hearts, speak through your servants, create divine appointments, build a depth of relationship, trust, prepare the way for your healing power to come into the lives of those who have been hurt, wounded, those who feel alone, abandoned, angry, scared, sad. Let the power of your love come and transform lives.

Our May Update ~ It’s Been A Big Month!

June 5, 2011

Click the photo below to read our latest update… trust me, you don’t want to miss this one!