“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.” ~John Wesley
“Do all the good you can,
What’s on my heart right now?
A fifteen year old boy who dropped out of school at 6th grade. Yesterday he went to school for the first time in over 6 months. He came back from school so happy and excited – he brought back books and things for us to study together. He went to school again today. I heard him tell somebody, “I’m going to school because Leslie is helping me study.” Last night I kept waking up all through the night feeling for him. I prayed for him through the night on and off between sleeping. I feel like this is such a big step for him. He finally feels he has hope to pass this grade.
A mom trying to live her life after spending years working as a prostitute. She was trafficked from Nicaragua to Costa Rica and worked as a prostitute for years. Now she has three kids – the father of the kids abandoned her and she is trying to raise them without returning to her former job. But she is struggling to make ends meet and pay her rent. She became a Christian this year while at a feeding for the homeless.
A boy living on the streets – homeless – coming to the ramp to skate. His smile, his timid eyes, fearful, checking everything out.
My heart is full and burdened right now with. Pray with me, please.
Yesterday the kids got a little wild. I was helping two kids sort out an argument when a whole gang of kids came running at me shouting, “Fuego! Fuego!” Translation: Fire! I felt a surge of panic as they grabbed my hands and pulled me to a spot where they had tried to set a plastic bottle on fire. They burst out laughing because they had tricked me; there was no big fire.
But, because one of the boys had found a lighter, they all decided that playing with fire was the activity of choice for the day. Well, if you can’t beat them join them, right? And besides, I’m pretty sure playing with fire is listed as one of the 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).
“Do you guys want to make a fire?” I asked. “Yea!!!” they cheered. I figured if they wanted to start a fire we might as well do it right. I pulled out a little barbecue and coals. I let one of the older boys be in charge of making the fire. I ran next door to the little corner store and for a few dollars bought some hot dogs and marshmallows. We set up some chairs around the barbecue, turned on some music, and roasted the hot dogs and marshmallows on sticks.
I could see the kids visibly relaxing and the tension leaving their bodies. There’s just something about a fire that creates a relaxed feel. “Que buen ambiente aqui.” commented one of the kids. Translation: What a good atmosphere here! Another girl leaned back in her chair and said, “This feels like Christmas.”
More than just a simple barbecue, this was their barbecue. They each smiled with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. This was their idea and it was a good one. What started as mischief ended in a party for everyone with gooey, sticky smiles and laughter. So much joy.
And that’s just it. There has to be joy. I think sometimes we’re uncomfortable seeing children just have fun and laugh. I mean, we want them to have fun, but not too much fun. It might sound good in theory, but in reality we’re more comfortable seeing kids work – learn something, accomplish something, etc. I mean, what of value, after all, are they accomplishing by just playing? For us adults it seems like a waste of time.
“You are troubled at seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Is it nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy as now. ” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The reality is, play is an essential part of healthy child development. It’s vital. During play children increase their social competence and emotional maturity. School success largely depends on children’s ability to interact positively with their peers and adults and these skills are rooted in play.
Even beyond that, play can help children heal from trauma. Many of the children in Jaco are living in really difficult circumstances. For a child whose development has been sidelined by trauma, using play can get them back on track. This problem is so prevalent, that some are calling it a silent epidemic. Listen to this.
Millions of our nation’s youngest children have experienced profound trauma in its many forms — domestic violence, abuse, neglect, natural disasters, and extreme poverty. Theirs is a tragic and largely silent epidemic. It receives a fraction of the attention directed at childhood illnesses, yet it cripples development, devastates young lives, and shortens life expectancy. A young, developing brain is highly sensitive to stress and will not fully develop emotional, social, and cognitive capacity if the child is continuously responding to threats during the first few years of life. Consumed by fear and powerlessness, traumatized children stop playing, connecting with others and experiencing joy in the world around them. In the absence of intervention, the impact of early childhood trauma often has devastating long-term effects on their psychological and physical health.
PLAY CAN HEAL:
Playmakers are acutely aware of this national epidemic. They are on the frontlines and experience it every day. Yet they see hope and a healing solution. They know that the sensitivity of young, developing brains also means that children have an impressive ability to bounce back when they receive support from adults who care about them. Interventions centered on play are especially promising in this regard. Play is the medium through which children explore, learn, connect and fully engage with the surrounding world. It is an essential activity through which children form healthy attachments, discover the world around them, and develop a foundation of competence, self-worth, and joy that can impact them for a lifetime.
This past month I had the privilege to teach on a subject I am passionate about: child development. It was a full 18 hours of teaching plus observations and a movie night. I love it when I have the opportunity to teach on this topic – not just to be able to share with the students, but also because it pushes me to learn more. This year the Children at Risk School in San Jose came to Jaco for the week. I really appreciated the week we got to spend with them. I also taught an additional two days in San Jose on attachment disorders and children with special needs.
One of the students wrote a very nice summary of my teaching, if you are interested to know what I taught about you can read about it here: Child Develoment
Before moving to Costa Rica four years ago, we lived for a year with Scott’s mom and dad. I learned a lot of important things in that time, but maybe the most important lesson was about food and hospitality. The two go hand in hand. One thing I observed over the year was that in the Freeman house there was always food and there was always enough. People were constantly coming and going and whoever came through the door was given a place at the table and something to eat. Scott’s mom, Arliss, is the queen of cooking large amounts of food – she somehow always knows that she’s going to need extra. As I watched food nourish the bodies and souls of her guests, I could see the atmosphere she was creating – one where everyone felt welcome and everyone felt at home. I can’t help but think Christ is so pleased with her. If he happened to walk through her door disguised as a homeless person, he would be treated as an honored guest.
This is one of the things I took with me as we moved to Costa Rica and it’s become almost an unwritten rule in my heart. If someone walks through my door, I will welcome and feed them, no matter what. There are months when I don’t know if I even have enough for my own family, but those are times when my faith is stretched. And somehow there is always enough. See, that’s the thing with being a missionary. Every single thing we have is given to us, and so we have to hold everything with open hands. Nothing belongs to me, it is all the Lord’s. Who am I to know that maybe something was given to me, not for me, but for someone else? Maybe I’m given an extra gift that is not intended for me, but given so that I can bless someone else? And there seems to be something about food that binds people’s hearts together. Eating together creates community. I think that’s why it’s included as one of the main activities of the early church.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42
Teaching and prayer we know about. But fellowship (hanging out) and breaking of bread (sharing a meal)? Yes, those are just as important!
Right now there are a few teenage boys who seem to enjoy being with our family. They like to come over and hangout sometimes. They’ve come to know that they are always welcome, and if I have food I will always share with them. In fact, I actually love feeding them because it makes them so happy! And so I’ve earned the title of “Mama Leslie.” I have to think that the only way someone will call me “Mama Leslie” is if I treat that person as a son. The other day two boys came over and I gave them some food. We sat and talked after eating and one boy began to open up and talk about some painful things. He talked about how he felt when his cousin, the person closest to him, like a brother, died less than a year ago. He shared about how he felt when it happened, how he still thinks about it, how he doesn’t feel like he’s doing ok with God anymore. He showed such a vulnerability that I have never seen from him before.
They say that food is the way to a man’s heart. I think it is. If you want an invitation to speak to someone’s heart, feed them first. Welcome them as family.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…” Matthew 25:35
I want to share this story with you, though it’s hard for me to write about it. I’ve waited over a month to share it because it’s taken me this long to come to grips with everything. It’s been a hard month for our family, but with God’s help and the support of friends around us, we’ve been pulling through.
Monday July 25th was a holiday here in Costa Rica. We had no idea what a life altering day it would turn out to be. I took Kai surfing in the morning because the waves were really small – perfect for him. While we were at the beach we ran into our friends and neighbors the Knapps. Kai stayed with them and I went home.
Leslie needed to study because she was going to be teaching in a YWAM school the next week. So I had Ezzy, Jude and Koa. The boys really wanted to go swimming so I got everyone ready to swim and told Ezzy and Jude they could play on the step until I was ready to go in. Koa is afraid of the pool so I was confident he would stay away until I could go in with him. I was going to quickly clean up a big mess the kids had made in the grass near the pool.
While cleaning up I realized that I hadn’t heard Koa in awhile so I went to check. I asked the boys where he was and they said they didn’t know. I was just about to walk around the house to see if he walked that way when I noticed a dark shape on the bottom of the deep end of the pool. I dived in and saw that it was my baby lying face down. I picked him up and swam to the top, I turned him around and looked at his face and my heart just dropped, his eyes were open, fixed and staring, and his lips were blue. All hope left me, my little boy was gone. I climbed out of the pool and screamed “Oh no!!” I didn’t know what to do. Leslie ran out to see what happened and I told her to get help. We ran through the house to the front yard, Leslie ran down the street screaming for help.
I stood there for a moment at a complete loss. Then I laid Koa down on the grass just inside the front gate. Koa was lying there completely lifeless. No pulse, not breathing, eyes still wide open, lips blue.
Inside I was dying. I knelt down on the grass in front of him and it seemed like this moment went on forever. Neighbors were starting to come now and they didn’t really know what to do.
Finally our neighbor Indira showed up with an absolute look of horror on her face. She got right down on her knees and shouted in my face, “Do you know CPR???” I said “Yes.” She said “DO IT!!” The ironic thing is that I have taken CPR and been re-certified at least six times but until that moment it had not even occurred to me to try because how can you revive someone who is dead??
Meanwhile I could hear my wife somewhere behind me saying, “Oh my God he’s dead, oh my God he’s dead!!” So I started doing toddler chest compressions and did two breaths in his mouth and Koa groaned. His face was still completely lifeless. His eyes were open with no life in them, but a little groan came out with some bubbles. I thought this was some kind of reaction to the air that I just put in him so I still had no hope. I did more chest compression and breathed in him some more and he coughed. I turned him on his side and some water came out. I breathed in him some more and this happened again. I laid him on his back again and he took a gasping breath. The weird thing is that when he took that breath his eyes were still completely lifeless, but from that moment on life began to comeback into them again. People were all around me saying keep breathing, keep breathing and I did. Koa started very weakly to cry and it got stronger and stronger. People started saying he was going to make it and he was going to be alright.
I picked him up and handed him to Leslie. He was crying and then his eyes started rolling back in his head and it was like he was passing out and nothing we did could keep him awake. Leslie screamed, “We have to get him to the clinic!!” An ambulance had been called, but since they weren’t there yet, we jumped in the car and went racing to the clinic. The doctor checked Koa out and said he was fine but he wanted to observe him for a couple of hours. Koa fell asleep with Leslie and slept for the full two hours. When he woke up he laughed, walked, said “Mama” and the other words he knew. He was fine. And all the doctor could say is, “Es un milagro de Dios.” A miracle of God.
We immediately left town to get away as a family. Leslie and I kept having flashbacks of what happened. We were traumatized and broken.
The next day our friend in San Jose told us that a group of ladies had been praying for us and one of them saw a vision of Jesus kneeling down and breathing in Koa’s mouth. Another one said make sure that you tell Scott that this was not done by human hands but by God, and what God does is perfect so he doesn’t have doubts about what happened to Koa.
Here’s the thing, people were saying you saved him, but I never thought I did. I mean what I did in CPR was so minimal it was not enough to bring a person back like that. I talked to a lifeguard down here and told him what happened and he said it’s a miracle. That does not happen. He is the head lifeguard here in Jaco and in his experience when kids drown they die very quickly. Adults you can bring back but with kids it’s very rare.
So what the lady said about it being God who did this was the only thing that made sense. And it took a huge burden off Leslie and I because although Koa seemed perfect we were critically examining everything he did looking for something out of the ordinary that would show signs of the brain damage that he must surely have. So since God was the one who did it we didn’t have to worry anymore.
That night I received an email from a family friend. He said that he had woken up from a dream at 4:30 am on Monday morning. In the dream he saw a baby on the bottom of a pool. He jumped in and grabbed the baby; he said he felt such love and compassion for the baby but the baby was dead. He laid the baby down on the grass and saw God raise him from the dead then he went back to sleep. At 6:30am he woke up again and God told him to intercede, so he did, though he didn’t know who he was praying for. That same afternoon he received an email from my brother telling everything that happened to Koa and he just started shaking.
I wanted to tell this story all for Gods glory. I think many people think that either God’s not real or if He is He is far off and detached from what is happening to us on this earth. This illustrates how active He is. In this situation Leslie and I did not have faith – we lost hope – but God raised up someone who did have faith and He moved on our behalf. He “…searched for someone to stand in the gap…” (Ezekiel 22:30) and found a man who would pray. God is real, He loves us beyond what we could imagine.