Their hearts are getting ready…

March 30, 2012

A few months ago this phrase echoed in my mind as I was thinking about the children we work with. “Their hearts are getting ready for salvation.”

Jesus also talks about that readiness and how hearts become ready…

“Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge people toward receptive insight.”
~ Matthew 13:12, The Message

I sort of feel that’s kind of like the work we do with these kids – through playing, laughing, creating joy and light in their lives. And learning too, learning about friendships, about what love looks and feels like, what love really is. I feel like somehow through all of that it’s creating readiness, nudging toward receptive insight.

The parable of the seeds also talks about how salvation takes root and grows in our lives.

“The seed cast in gravel- this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.”
~ Matthew 13:20, The Message

The soil has to be ready. There has to be some measure of character in a person’s life – a readiness, a receptiveness – to be able to hear the Word.

So when working with children at risk this is a big part of our job. Helping soften, bringing a tenderness, tilling the soil, taking the rocks out. Watering the hard, dry places.

It happens through love, through relationship, through meeting developmental needs. In this way their hearts are getting ready to receive the Word and let it take root and grow in their lives.

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Kids Clubs ~ Making it Work

March 28, 2012

“And we know that in all things God work for the good of those who love Him.” ~ Romans 8:28

As many of you know we recently lost our location. This means the drop-in and skating component of the ministry is no longer possible. BUT, what it does do is cause us to be much more intentional about reaching out to the kids.

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At this moment we have two clubs meeting each day – a surf club in the morning and “creativity” club in the afternoon. This way we can reach kids in small groups of numbers at a time.

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We meet wherever we can – the library, a church office, and the beach! And with 5 new staff coming this summer, we’ll be able to start even more clubs.

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The best thing about it? A new depth of relationship building, closer connections with the families as we pick them up and drop them off and often pop in for a visit.

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We’ve lost the bigger reach we had, but in narrowing down we’re getting a new depth. Both are good and we’re thankful for this journey and what God is teaching us along the way.

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The end result we’re hoping for? Kids growing up with more positives than negatives in their lives, relationship with Christ, lives transformed, hearts healed, the love of God taking root deeply and firmly in each little heart.


Why We Need Sundays

March 25, 2012

Sunday Church

Our green chevy astro van pulls up to the slum and children start running out from all directions. Hair gelled, scrubbed clean, shiny bright faces, they have taken great care to put on their “Sunday best.” They cram in the back – 16 people in a car mean for 8.

Walking into the church with this crew I can feel it: new life in Christ. What could be more refreshing? More life giving? New chances, new grace, fresh mercy falling down from the heavens like rain, as the songs say.

Tears can’t help springing to my eyes as a new baby is brought to church. A young couple embraced and blessed, the shame falling off their shoulders, the young grandma (she’s my age!) smiles with contentment to have them here with her in this grace breathing community.

You can almost feel the strength pouring in. As I breathe in I feel o.k. All is right and I think to my self, I can do this. I can face another week.

Voices lifted, eyes closed, hands raised to the heavens. In a town as dark as Jaco, where so much evil is happening, this takes on an almost magical quality, an early church type of feeling. The Spirit is thick. You can feel God’s joy in the midst of those who love Him.

A father commits his life to the Lord, receiving the gift of salvation and stands before the church, dedicating his son and promising to be an example to him. The church lifts their prayers in agreement – blessing him, his wife and his son. It is quite a baby dedication.

And then a hearty “Feliz Cumpleanos” is sung along to the guitar for a 22 year old, everyone clapping and laughing. He hasn’t been coming to church much lately. His life seems to be spiraling downwards – but today, in this moment, in this family, he’s loved, accepted and his life is celebrated.

Bringing children at high risk into a community like this has the potential to completely transform their lives.

“He has a passion for you,” the pastor declares, calling out people in the congregation by name. “He has a great emotion of love for you!”

Oh, these children need that love. They need it bubbling up, spilling over and pouring into their wounded, hungry hearts.

There is a protective factor here as well for these kids. For children at risk of trafficking and abuse the more people who know and love a child, the safer he becomes. As he becomes part of a faith community he goes from being an unknown child in a slum to someone whose name is known. This builds his resilience in the face of risk.

Thank you, God, for Sundays. Oh how we need them.


Saturday Surf

March 25, 2012

Saturday Surf

Saturday surf begins at 9:30 a.m. But the kids start calling us on the phone before 8:00 a.m. “Can we go at 8:30?” They are ready to go and can hardly stand the wait. The anticipation is just too much. They really look forward to this time with our family at the beach ~ such a simple thing, yet it means so much.

Because it’s more than just surfing. It’s someone watching you surf, cheering you on. That glance back to see if anyone’s watching and finding, to your surprise, that someone is! And they’re smiling and give you a thumbs up! It’s taking a break on a blanket in the shade to eat a snack together. It’s digging in the sand and making a sand castle. It’s laughing and playing with the family dog, and the kids, and the smiles, and the joy and love coming out all over the place.

And it’s the presence of God. Because He’s right there. He always is. And His love fills our hearts as we enjoy His creation together, rolling, basking, playing, splashing in the glory of who He is.


Children and Animals – there’s more to it than you might think…

March 15, 2012

“One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.” ~ Margaret Mead.

“Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger or arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

When you get to know the children at risk in Jaco, there’s something that you will probably observe pretty quickly.

It’s animal abuse.

These children will throw rocks at dogs, tease them, kick them, hold them under water without hesitation and they will laugh.

Why do these children do this? I’ve heard others comment that these kids just need some discipline, someone to get them in line so they know what’s right and wrong.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.

In reality when a child abuses an animal – it is a signal that the child is deeply disturbed and needs help. Animal abuse by a child should be considered a warning that a child may be experiencing some form of psychological or physical distress.

Most commonly, children who abuse animals have either witnessed or experienced abuse themselves.  For example, statistics show that 30 percent of children who have witnessed domestic violence act out a similar type of violence against their pets.

Even scarier, children who abuse animals are at risk of becoming violent toward people. Nearly all people who have committed a violent crime have a history of animal cruelty.

When children’s needs are not met at a young age, and they don’t receive the caring and nurturing required in infancy and toddlerhood, they have trouble developing empathy.

Children’s compassion towards animals is related to their empathy towards humans.

These children often also walk around with a deeper sense of anger at not having had their early dependency needs met, and they will take that out in all kind of ways.

Sometimes when kids are hurting inside, they try to make themselves feel better by hurting other people or animals, something smaller than them that cannot defend itself.

When they kick the dog, for instance, it makes them feel more powerful. It dulls the ache in their own heart. But only momentarily.

In the end, though, this doesn’t work, and they end up feeling even worse.

We have to recognize that children who deliberately abuse animals are crying out for help.

So what do we do at our program when we see children abusing animals?

We start by making our program a kind one. Leading by example is the most powerful tool. Our efforts to rescue a spider, feed a bird, pet an iguana or care for a hamster make a lasting impression. By modeling and demonstrating empathy, we help develop empathy and compassion in these children for people and animals.

We like to incorporate animals whenever possible. We’ve had children help care for aquatic turtles, hamsters, and most recently our dog, Lucy.

When  I observe the children interact with Lucy at first they are very aggressive. They tease her or try to hurt her in some way.

I make it a point to help each kid get to know Lucy. The child usually laughs uncomfortably, and then I see underneath the tough exterior, he is afraid of the dog.

And then he confesses that he’s never pet a dog before. Sure, he’s tortured dogs, but never actually pet one. And so we sit as I instruct the child to let Lucy sniff his hand and then we pet the dog together. It is a very healing experience.

It’s interesting, too that studies have been focusing on the fact that interacting with animals can increase people’s level of the hormone oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that helps us feel happy and trusting. It also helps the body be in a state of readiness to heal and grow new cells.

How amazing that there are so many benefits for children spending time petting a dog!

Creating new pathways in the brain that open a child up to experience compassion and empathy, and a release of the powerful hormone oxytocin,which makes a child more receptive to love and healing.

Have you pet your dog today? 🙂

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Read More:

http://www.azcentral.com/families/articles/0130fam_cruelty.html

http://my.counseling.org/2010/03/16/children-who-abuse-animals/

http://www.pet-abuse.com/pages/abuse_connection.php

http://www.humanesociety.org/parents_educators/childhood_cruelty_breaking_cycle_abuse.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-equation/201104/children-who-are-cruel-animals-when-worry


The Hardest Update to Write

March 15, 2012

It’s been awhile. We finally got an update out – thanks for reading it and being a part of our lives.

The Hardest Update To Write

Much Love,

Scott, Leslie, Kai, Ezra, Jude and Koa