The teenage years are hard. But then again so is adjusting to college…the first years of marriage… those years where your kids are babies… empty nest, etc. Life can be hard. Often times we try to hide this from others, especially in the Christian realm. We think we shouldn’t have problems although this is clearly against what Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Claudia is doing just this. She struggled in junior high and the first part of high school but she isn’t just hiding her problems away. She started a support group for other junior high and high school students at our school so that they can have the support and encouragement she didn’t have. Last week 14 seventh and eighth graders came to this group to share their struggles and to learn God’s design for getting through them. I watched this young lady respond with more compassion and wisdom than many adults. She’s doing an amazing job and I am so proud that she cared enough about others to share her struggles even though it was not easy. Pray for her as she leads this group for 3 more weeks and then begins the six-week support group for high school.
Each of these young ladies represents a story. Not a fairytale but a story of hardship, perseverance, hard work, hope and success. They have not had easy lives and yet they have taught me so much. They have taught me that we need to learn from each other and learn how to appreciate our differences. They have taught me that life is not easy, yet my Honduran friends are strong because they cannot take things for granted, like education. As a dear friend told me a while back, “We Hondurans value more what we have because of all the things we lack.” I am not just talking about the big things but just the things in day-to-day life. I want you to see the strength and to fall in love with Honduras and the amazing people here.
Through Nely’s story posted below and others I have posted before, I hope you see the struggles and the strengths of these young ladies; to love this country for what it is- a country that values what is important and struggles to become better. These young ladies and their families value an education. They have sacrificed and struggled and they have succeeded. Many are the first in their families to graduate high school. And now, will be the first to go University. They have worked hard. They have studied hard. They have loved and given much to be able to attend school. I am so very proud of them. Thank you ladies for allowing me to be a part of your lives and for teaching me what perseverance and hope looks like.
Meet Nely, a young lady that graduated high school last week, becoming the first in her family. This has come a great cost and will continue to require great sacrifice and hard work yet I have no doubt that she will do great things. She is now going on to Illinois College with a full scholarship and a hope to get a degree in business and a masters in agriculture. Read her story in her words below.
“Since my first years of life, the desire of learning has run through my veins. At the age of twelve, my parents, concerned for my education, decided to send me to another school alone. I came to live to Gracias, Lempira so that I could attend Abundant Life Christian School. In this school I learned English as a second language. I will not deny that it was difficult to leave home. But as a principle of life, experiences teach us how to live.
It has not been easy for me to receive a good education. I have had to sacrifice time, money and grow up away from my parents. My parents have worked hard to support my needs though. In my family, I am the first person to attend high school. This expense was high for my parent’s income. My parents are self-employed and their income varies annually because of continual changes in the harvest. I would love to receive not just a high school degree but attend university as well. l wish to have a college degree in Agribusiness. With this career I see the opportunity to help people from my community. I hope to keep learning and I want to achieve what my parents could not achieve because of the lack of opportunities. I not only want to go to college to have a degree, but to keep building in the bridge of knowledge.”
A friend and coworker asked me last week if I could spend time with her this summer, showing her how to get organized. I was flattered and shocked at the same time. Me? Organized? While I do have a certain amount of Type A in me but I would not have thought I was organized enough that others noticed. This gave me pause as to what others see in me. Am I role model? Not just in organization but in my life? The answer is yes. So are you. People are watching and deciding whether they should be like you or whether they should learn from your mistakes.
I witnessed this in its simplest form on the playground. The high school girls were practicing a dance routine and my little ones lined the fence in awe. They watched for a while, deciding whether they should be like these girls…. And then they started mimicking them. Not perfectly, not exactly but they wanted to copy what they saw in these more mature girls.
I ask then, are we mature role models that lead others to Christ? Do we shine like the stars in the heavens in this world of darkness? Can others follow us; not perfectly, but enough that they will begin to become mature in Christ themselves? I assure you that even though you think no one is watching, someone is. Someone is noticing whether you are organized, whether you are doing a dancing or whether you are leading a life that mimics Christ.
And just for kicks, enjoy the video of the dancing…
Many of you have been praying for Angelica as she has gone through the scholarship process. Here is her story in her own words: “I grew up in a small village near the capital city of Tegucigalpa where my family still lives. My father died when I was four years old leaving my mom to raise me alone. My mother is not wealthy or educated and family didn’t have enough resources to send me to a good school so I attended a public school where the opportunities for me were very few. I had the desire to learn more but my teachers didn’t have enough time for me. They had to help other students that had academic problems. It was time for me to attend seventh grade but my school only offered classes from first through sixth grade and I needed to figure out a place to study to continue learning. It also was hard financially to attend a public high school; however, that was my only option. I didn’t like this idea and sometimes it made me cry. I wanted to learn a new language and attend a school where I could be challenged intellectually.
My mother’s boss came up with the plan to send me to Gracias to learn English. He looked for a way to provide me with the education I dreamed of and her company, Enlace, gave me a scholarship. My dream became true. I moved to Gracias in January 2009, leaving my family at age 13. It was very hard for me to leave my mom. I came to a place I didn’t know and to live with people I had never seen before. Fortunately, my younger sister received the same scholarship as I did and came with me. I had to become independent because of the circumstances. I had to take care of my sister and to make decisions for both of us. I remember that we cried every night at first but the desire to become someone different through education kept me moving. The only reason I know English and have an education today is because Enlace gave us this life-changing opportunity.
I give my best because I know what a privilege education is. I study every night and put forward my best effort in every assignment.”
Did you catch that? “I give my best because I now what a privilege education is.” Regardless of whether she wins this scholarship, I am so proud of how hard she has worked, the hours she has put into every step and her desire to better because of the opportunities she has been given.
A side note for those of you not familiar with the Sam Walton International Scholarship, this is a highly competitive scholarship offered here in Central America. About 400 students from Honduras apply each year. After 4 rounds including two in-person interviews, this is narrowed down to about 10 students who receive it. It is a full, four year scholarship to one of three private universities in Arkansas. Angelica has now made it through all four rounds and is waiting to hear whether she will receive a scholarship.
This week, one of my kindergarten students took a nap after lunch. When I walked up to ready things for phonics, the assistant in the class told me that Levi was not waking up. At first they thought he was joking and after seeing his smile, I am sure you can imagine that. however, it didn’t take long for me to see that he was not sleeping but instead unresponsive. Since we don’t have ambulances here, Shannon ran to get our administration, who then took him down the mountain to the ER. They are leaning towards a seizure but since there were no certified doctors in the hospital here at that time, we honestly don’t know. Our hospital doesn’t have equipment for test for… well, anything… so he was referred to a hospital 45 minutes away for an EEG. The EEG done last week showed nothing. They are going to try to find a pediatric neurologist to see him as well. In the meantime, he seems to be doing well.
This also brought to light a situation that I am hoping to find a solution to. The assistant in the kindergarten room is a very capable 18 year old man. He knew something was not right and tried several things to wake Levi and to care for him. He did what he thought was best but he lacked training in what to do in an emergency. The administration that took him to the hospital also made some major errors out of lack of understanding as well. None of our Honduran staff has any first aid training. In a country that can’t just call 911, we need to be trained in what to do. If you or someone you know can teach first aid, then please consider providing this much needed training to our Honduran staff.