Painful Conversations, Shared Grief, Dignity

Angel-girl is one of 80+ students in EA programs this year.  As we continue to grow we are constantly looking for more ways to express to each of them how precious and valuable they are. We know that setting aside quality time, and listening well, are both important ways to communicate value. 

Many of our students live in a kind of war zone. They fight against conflicting emotions that they do not understand. Most want nothing more than to belong in family and be seen, but growing up in a fragmented, abusive, or chaotic family, allows little space for feeling valued. Another pain that grows inside them is that of watching their parents suffer, and feeling powerless to help. 

We are watching one of our own in just this place right now. She is 15 years old. She makes great decisions one day and horrible ones the next. 

Recently, angel-girl, Irma, Ana and I (Tony Kay) sat down together. We wanted to hear this angel's heart. Beginning with a few words of reassurance and offering her the respect that she needs to grow in confidence, we began. 

Precious angel-girl. We are here to walk with you, to support you as you find your way through. You have a voice that should be heard. There has been some tough stuff going on in your world, lately. You have taken some risks; we’ve helped you find some peace in the aftermath. What is weighing most on your heart right now? Are there some plans that you would like to make? Are you thinking about staying overnight at Casa Esperanza still? 
Yes, I want to. 

She says quietly, under her breath, head bowed down. 

We love having you here in the evenings, sweetheart. You are a blessing to our EA family.  The resources required to care for your personal needs and your school uniform are here for you. We want you to stay, be well-fed, and be able to focus on your studies. But, love, in order to be able to offer you this support you will need to agree to begin taking birth control. With your decision to become sexually active, we cannot risk the lives, the reputations, of the men who work here or of the institution itself should you become pregnant. 

She responds empathetically, clearly understanding the risk to people that she cares about. She understands the importance of the reputation of the institution too. She cares about its ability to continue to provide service to others, including her younger siblings. Her spirit is closing down right in front of us. 

There is silence for a moment, all of us with heavy hearts. Everything inside us wants to protect this angel. But this is her life and she is determined to retain whatever control that she can. We must respect her attempts, counsel as she will allow, and commit to being there if she falls. 

I will stay home, then. She is resigned to it. 
What are your thoughts about school, honey? 
I want to keep going, to finish. 

I smile. She knows what I am thinking and returns my non-verbal message with a shy smile. 

Angel-girl, you are so stinkin' smart. Ever since you were little you have excelled in school, always at the top of your class. You amazed me when I first heard you pick up a book and read out loud. That was almost seven years ago. You brought the book to life with your voice. The scholarship you receive from EA for your school tuition is well invested. You can learn whatever profession you would like to do. But your attendance. . .it has been sporadic this year. To keep your scholarship you have to make it to school on a regular basis. You know, honey, that there are others who need the scholarship that you have. We have to be just.

There is no hint of manipulation in my words. I share with her adult to adult. She understands. Her heart is beautiful. Her mind is stubborn, self-protective, and it is so hard for her to make and keep commitments in the world in which she lives. 

She suggests maybe she should just attend the community school as often as she is able to do so. We can see that she feels threatened and defensive. Who wouldn't? We work to re-assure her and give her time to think about options. But it is too much, really, right now. And we understand. 

Let’s give it to the end of this month. Your tuition is paid through then. We can talk again and see what you are thinking and if you have some other ideas that we can support you in accomplishing. 
Esperanza School is open to you, whatever you decide. Please come here to study, enjoy mealtimes, and continue friendships.

The conversation is just plain painful for all of us. We all feel sad together: Irma, Ana, me and angel-girl. 

Sweetheart, no matter what, we are committed to walking with you. You have our love. It won't go away. Through the Launching Leaders program Ana is available to help you reach your education and career goals. But beyond that, her heart is here to listen, to offer guidance where you have doubts. 

She smiles. She knows. But her head is still hung low. 

What else is on your mind, sweetness? 
I am worried about my mom’s health. 

She goes on to explain the symptoms that concern her. 

My heart cracks open so wide that I don’t think I can bear it. She loves her momma. I have never been sure. But she does. She loves her momma. Despite it all, she loves her momma.

Oh honey, you know how much I love your momma, too. She has been a special person to me for almost 10 years now. I am so sorry. We will strategize together to find a way to let us help her. We are not going away from her either. 

We empathize with her. We all love her strong, funny, crazy, stubborn momma. She knows it. We talk together and express compassion as a team, the four of us.

Then she lifts up her head. She makes eye contact. She is one of us and she feels it. She experiences community and shared grief. 

Pray with us for this angel-girl. Her situation is desperate. Pray for the national and missionary staff at Esperanza de Ana. Almost everyday we live second-hand trauma and it takes its toll. Even in the grief we find gladness. Everyday we lift our eyes to see God on His throne. Everyday we remind ourselves that we are His servants and that He will be the one that completes the good work that He began. 

Who am I?

This year Jim has challenged our team and visitors to dig into the Word and find our identity as God speaks it.

The desire for identity is not unique to one individual, but a need for everyone. Everyone has asked themselves, ‘Who am I?’ at some point in their lives. We know that as teenagers and preteens this desire for identity is stronger than ever in their lives and hitting them at a pivotal time. Our desire for our kids is the same one we have for ourselves, that they reflect on God’s word and find in it the answers to their questions. ‘Who am I?’ Well, what does God say? We know that a firm identity is rooted in the truths found in the Bible.

We were able to expand on this idea through a self-portrait project. Our friend Eden was at EA for a few days and she led the kids in a workshop, first teaching them how to draw their faces, position their facial features, then how to add details using paint, picking their own skin color and decorating according to what styles and colors they liked.

In the process of this project we got to see many of our kids find a love for art, a desire to draw and paint, and many got to find the simple joy in self-expression. The only guidelines for this project were that each one was to draw a self-portrait. No one was told they had to do it a certain way. Because of the simple instructions, each child was able to draw themselves as they are and see the beauty in creating something, finding the beauty in themselves.

These self-portraits now hang above the sinks in our public bathrooms. Every day our kids pass by and get to look at their own artwork and take joy in the finished work of their hands. They get to find their own faces and see the collective beauty in the final mural.

Thank you, Eden for your guidance in this project. We could not be more pleased with the final result.

Do you Read the Owner's Manual?

Years ago we could not have imagined that we would celebrate Father's Day at Esperanza de Ana. The majority of our families were made up of children and single moms. We are now seeing God work, putting fathers in families and strengthening unity and stability through their presence in the home. Thank you, Father God!! Many of the dads are growing in responsibility with their families, while also integrating into the community we have at EA. We know that God is in charge of what will come as a result of His good work in the lives of these men and their families.

Friday, June 15th we celebrated Fathers Day with our dads. We started with a fun and purposeful icebreaker that set up the direction we had prepared for the event in their honor. 

The majority of dads we have are not Christians so our staff wanted the focus to be for them to understand the importance of the Bible and its function in our lives. For this occasion, like for Mother's Day we had a donation from the women’s ministry at the SCA Church. We used the donation to bless each one of our fathers with the best gift they could receive, their own personal Bibles.

When the meeting was finishing up we had a time of sharing. We listened to the dads and heard that many of them were grateful for this time of celebration for them. Their sincere gratefulness was not expected and a real blessing for our staff to receive.  For many of those who participated, it was their first time to attend an EA workshop or event. It was encouraging to hear them express their feelings and share in a way that allowed us to know that the message that God had prepared for their lives was heard and received.

Thank you to each of you who prayed over this day and who support the ministry and mission of Esperanza de Ana. 

He Knows Every Name, His Wife Blows Things Up

Esperanza de Ana was founded in 2006 under the name ChildReach Ministries of Peru. In 2012, committed men of faith on the board of directors began to pray and search for a stable, well-matched partner for the mission in Chilca, Peru.

In the providence of our great God, He had the perfect relationship for Esperanza de Ana in His plans. In 2013, EA began its affiliation with Christian Children's Home of Ohio (CCHO) and came under the leadership of a special man with a special heart, Kevin Hewitt. 

There are many wonderful leadership qualities in Kevin. Christ is evident in his life and he walks in joy. He is contagious, not like a bad cold, but like one that you hope you get to live with for the rest of your life. 

One of the ways that Kevin is most like his Father God is that he knows each child by name. He thinks about each child by name. Before tasks, he sees people. He asks how they are doing. Kevin is like the picture of our Father in Mordecai, Esther's adoptive father. Esther 2:11, shows us Mordecai's care and concern over Esther while she was sequestered in the harem of the king. It says, 

And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.

Kevin brought a few folks from his church and few folks from his staff at CCHO. It was a wonderful week of worshiping and serving. He also brought his wife!

Lori Hewitt. Well, there's a story...

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You never quite know what is going to happen when Lori comes to visit. You can expect that she will bring joy and creative learning experiences to the students at Esperanza School. We have learned to expect that she will touch and encourage the lives of our staff members by Christ's presence in her life. 

The above photo is of her visit in 2017 when she was doing a science experiment with our 12 - 17 year olds. She noticed that the plastic bottle that was supposed to be changing in a specific way, was instead changing in an unexpected way. It was beginning to expand and expand and expand...until Lori grabbed it up and ran out of the classroom with every single student running out behind her. She got to the gravel and her experiment blew up all over her. The kids were so excited they forgot about their timidity to speak English, all of them yelled, Again! Again! Again!

Lori brought more science fun this year. Look at the wonder and discovery expressions on the children's faces in the photos below.

As W.B. Yeats is attributed with saying,

"Education Is Not the Filling of a Pail, But the Lighting of a Fire."

Thank you, Miss Lori, for being you and lighting fires here at Esperanza de Ana. Thank you for the part that you play in helping our students understand their value as human beings created in God's image. Thank you for praying with us that they will one day experience their worth in Christ. 

O Father, let us be instruments used by you to help children discover their worth in Christ. Help us to encourage them in their God-given abilities and give them a a safe space to belong, to grow, to fail and to succeed. May they learn to express themselves and reflect the beauty of Your image in them. In Jesus Name.

Ten Years Later, A Shining Example in Missions

May was Alliance Christian Fellowship's (ACF) second visit to Peru in 2018. (See David Espinoza's photo work from their first trip in A Walk to Remember.)

This Penn State college student church led the fundraising efforts for Esperanza de Ana's first building project in 2007. They raised ~$100,000 in under one year. Then, about sixty ACF students came in January of 2008 to begin the construction work. Now those students are ACF Alum, they have graduated, several have started families, and many still partner with EA.

Ten years later, in 2018, we are still strengthened greatly by the these passionate young women and men, this new generation of ACF’ers. As a church, their long-term commitment and multi-level participation with EA demonstrates true personal relationship in foreign mission service and to field missionaries.

From the bottom of our hearts, ACF, we say thank you. 

 

Break Out! Crossing Cultures & Team Building

Our high school students (12 - 17 years), broke out of EA with a visiting team from Penn State. They spent the day in Azpitia, a small town in the Andes that overlooks the valley of Mala. They did some icebreakers, ran an obstacle course together and played ultimate frisbee. Afterwards they shared lunch and conversation. The Director of our Launching Leaders program, Ana Dueñas, says, 

We achieved our goal, to integrate our two groups and enjoy time together. The students learned to work in team and broke out of their shells. 

A full day of pictures can be found in a album on EA’s Facebook page in this photo album.

Feliz Día, Bibles for Mommas from The SCA

On Friday, May 11th, we celebrated Mother's Day by crafting, reflecting, and sharing life with our mommas. 

For the last three years, the women of State College Alliance Church (SCA) have given a donation to help us honor the mothers with whom we walk. This year, ACF (Penn State college church, daughter church of SCA) was here on their second mission trip of 2018. They were able to add their hearts and hands to our Mother's Day event. Each momma received a new Bible in a wonderful, simple, accurate translation.

The pastor of ACF, Dan Min, shared a special message and each of our mommas received a Bible. Below is a video message to SCA and their women's ministry.

Education Beyond the Classroom

We are growing more and more every year. This year we have 17 high schoolers attending our after school program! It's great to see so many teenagers focusing on their schoolwork in an environment that encourages hard work and education.

Ana is teacher in this classroom. She has a heart to see each kid grow and do better in their studies. She is dedicated to see each one do not only their work but also grow as individuals. Her heart for them goes beyond the classroom. 

The focus for these kids is not only that they complete their homework assigned from school. They spend time reading the Bible to practice their reading skills, but also to learn what the Bible says, who God is, and who they are. We desire that each one knows how much their Heavenly Father loves them.

Time management has become a focus as well. Many have been making personal schedules of their days, planning out when to wake up, when to eat, when they need to leave for school in the morning, etc. They are starting to understand the importance of having a plan of what they need to accomplish each day and where they have free time to fill with what they want to do.

We are excited for the ways each adolescent is growing. Pray for them as they work this year, not just on their studies, but on themselves too. Pray that they develop their confidence, time management, work ethic, and personal relationships. Pray that they learn to be better friends, sons, daughters, and members of their community.

Construction & Community

What is a maestro exactly? In Peru, the term maestro translates to master builder or lead foreman on a construction project. They are responsible for leading their crew and executing the work according to plans. It is a hard job that requires a great deal of leadership.

Jose is our lead maestro on this current expansion project and has been a part of building projects here since 2007. He is an amazing leader and has brought much strength to this current project. Jose has been guiding the team in the practical steps of seeing this building project through, but more importantly, he has been investing in creating community among the construction crew. 

Every morning the construction team begins their day with prayer and a short reflection on God's word. Jose has been leading this time and inviting others from the group to share as well. Rony, the youngest in this group, expressed how much he is enjoying working in an environment where he is free to share his faith. He finds encouragement in the work he is witnessing God do in their hearts.

Luis, a father to two children in Casa Esperanza, our overnight program, has found a community where he is accepted and loved, something he did not believe was possible. As we were celebrating the birthday of Manuel, an incredibly hard worker whose joy and laughter is contagious, Luis shared how working with this team has impacted him. 

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“Since working on this project, and getting to know you guys and the way you interact and work. It’s changed my perspective on life. I had shut myself off from the rest of the world. I felt judged by others and alone. Working with you all has surprised me. The joy and care you have for one another, its not like anything I have seen before. It’s showed me that it is worth getting to know the people around me. I came into this project thinking my life was a closed book, but now I am looking at my life with new hope.”

Luis' testimony is a beautiful picture of the building of community that is taking place as we build and expand our facilities. God's presence and provision is abundantly evident among this team. It is a joy to witness what the Lord has been working out during this time of construction.  

Have you ever tried Peruvian Pachamanca? The dish literally translates to Earth Pot. We celebrated Día del Trabajador (Labor Day) with the construction crew and their families. It was a sweet time of celebrating the hard work they have each invested into the building of EA and the new friendships that have formed in the process. 

1 to 3's

Meet Lia, Valentina, Yamiré, Luis Alejandro, and Esperanza in our new classroom for the 1, 2, and 3 year olds. 

At the beginning of the year we recognized the need for a class specifically for younger preschool kids. In our community, many in this age group are at risk to neglectful situations if left at home. We opened a classroom just for them, a safe and loving place to learn. At EA we value education and know that it is important to start as young as possible to encourage development in each child according to their age. These little ones spend their afternoons eating, listening to music, dancing, reading, napping, playing, and practicing their fine motor skills through dynamic activities.

Our teacher in this classroom is Miss Guisela, mom to Lia. She has wonderful leadership skills and a huge heart that makes her the perfect fit to care for these little ones. She is committed to love and teach each one in her care, and is able to give each one the individual attention they need.

We are grateful for each child and the opportunity to see them grow, learn and play at Esperanza de Ana.