I Hope everyone is doing great and that this 2018 has brought new beginnings and opportunities to grow and seek The Lord in new and exciting ways. As you all know, another Sparrow Academy school year about to start and lots of new and exiting things are happening here at the Academy. This is our third year open as a school, it has been a blessing to see how God is moving each year in our students as they grow and learn more about him through spiritual counseling and education. It’s been wonderful to see God’s mercy and power in the lives of the students and his provision for our school.
Each year we have added a grade and this year is not an exception. We are happily adding a new class of first graders and a new class of eight graders. They are all exited to learn and some are even exited to have the opportunity to go to school for the first time. For all the students to be able to receive such good care, we need to have a healthy staff. We have to have a group of teachers that are capable to give love and to follow the best example of a teacher there has ever been, JESUS.It’s been great these past two years watching our teachers grow to love, support and work as a team.
A huge part of the growth in our teachers is due to the love and prayers that are constantly sent from each of you every day. We are off to a great start and exited to welcome all the new kids and staff to this new school year. We ask that you please continue to pray and support our school as we kick off our third year. I know that challenges and obstacles will come up throughout the year. Yet I also know that our Lord and Savior will help us overcome, and grow us into something much better. Thank you all so much for all that you do for us here at the academy. We are so blessed to have our Sparrow Family!
In about a week, we will be celebrating the third anniversary of our move into our home in Santiago to become directors of the Sparrow Children’s Home. Three years ago when we began this journey, we had solely a vision, one house, and about 5 acres of property with no idea how it would look in 2018 (or beyond). Now, we are a vibrant community with two more families on site, seven wonderful foster children between two families (and one family to begin accepting children soon), several ongoing ministries in which staff are involved, and connections made to the people around us as we have integrated into the framework of life here in Santiago. Not only that, we are blessed to add another member to our ministry family this year as Tía Leah (Gruneisen) joins us on site as well. So many testimonies how God has done incredible things in and through our ministry these past three years, and great excitement at the thought and prospect of what He will do next.
So I could just stop there and give God the glory for all the incredible high points and victories we have seen, but it would be a disservice to what we have seen through the low points as well. Because inevitably they come right? For every story with a happy ending, somewhere along the way there was a struggle that somehow brought God glory as well. We all know as Christians there is no such thing as a life lived without struggle. It differs for everyone, but they always come. I mean, Jesus even gave us a big warning sign while he was on earth right? Remember when he said in John 16:33 that “…in this world you will have trouble…”? Well, thankfully he didn’t stop there, and went on to let us know we can rest easy because he has overcome the world. Not that there will always be a sunny side or silver lining to every struggle we face, but that ultimately we can have peace in knowing he is always in control. For us here, those struggles can present themselves weekly in the forms of hours spent in the bank, repeated car troubles, frequent power or water outages, trying to master a second language, or any number of other day to day issues that come about. For every wonderful photo you see of missionaries loving on their communities and looking like they have it all together, there are ten times more moments of struggle each and every day. And it is the same for all of us. Those times come, but the good news is…it’s normal.
Recently, our struggles have come on a more emotional and familial level as well. While God has helped our daughters begin to adapt and settle in more to life here, there are still moments they miss living in the US greatly. Especially on days when other factors make life a little more difficult here, it is easy for them to escape into thoughts of moving back to Kentucky or living stateside once again. There is a level of frustration and fear for us as well that comes from uncertainty of the future of the four precious Honduran children that have become part of our family. Will adoption laws become less restrictive for non-citizens? Will trying to adopt ultimately lead to the children being placed with another family? We know that God has a perfect plan, but sometimes it would be nice if we got at least a little bit of a spoiler, right? And finally, another struggle for us has been trying to maintain a healthy marriage and family dynamic in the midst of all the other factors pulling all of us in every direction. If we are not careful, all those struggles and stressors can eat into our personal lives if we allow them to affect the most important relationship of all…our walk with the very God who has already told us he has our back.
In the past several months, we have made a concerted effort to have a nightly family devotion at the dinner table. Roxanne and I simultaneously go through devotion plans in our Bible app together and message each other nightly as to how God is speaking to us. All of this while each of us independently as well making sure we are walking with God daily through reading His word, meditation and prayer. All of this has led to us to keeping a greater sense of peace in our lives and in our homes. Oh, there is still stress and there is still fear and doubt from time to time, but I can’t even imagine how much more that would be magnified without a healthy relationship with our heavenly Father. And that is what I have learned and what God is teaching me now more than ever. That no matter how hard I may pray for deliverance from them or how hard I may try to avoid them, struggles are gonna come. The question is, will I allow God to prepare me and guide me through them? And you know what, that is okay. The world teaches us sometimes that if things don’t come easily, then we must be doing something wrong. So if struggles are present in our lives, then something must be out of whack. But as Christians, we know that this is not the case. In fact, a lot of times you find those struggles even more rampant when our walk is as strong as it has ever been. Struggle is not necessarily a symptom, but it is an inevitability. You can’t prevent it. You can’t find a shortcut around it. However, you can endure it.
So, yes, the struggle IS real, but, again, so is God. The same God who told us we can take heart, or have peace, because He has overcome the world. Not just our personal problems or struggles, but the world.
Be reminded by the words in Isaiah 41:10, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
No, the sun doesn’t always come up tomorrow, and the struggles we face can be downright unbearable from time to time. However, by staying strong in our relationship with God and walking with Him daily, He will strengthen us and help us as we pass through everything life doles out for us. And He will uphold us. The struggle is real, but so is God!
On occasion our Sparrow Academy director Elena Faulkner will need to be out of the office at the Academy and I get to fill in as the “Principal for the day”. As I type this I can hear a collective laugh of all of the teachers who sent me to “the office” over the years. I dare not name them, but they know who they are and they were right to do it.
One of these days we had a young man who could not stop fighting with other students. He had started four fights and we were only two hours into the school day. He is a young man who has dealt with physical abuse at home and has been abandoned by several family members. And he was angry. Not subtly angry. Overflowing with anger. Often times these emotions come out at school because the students feel safe there. They don’t know how else to communicate their very intense emotions, and they erupt. In this case violently.
I pulled him into the office and had him spend the day with me. He had to be restrained for a bit and then he sat on the floor seething in anger while crying. After some time he began to talk about how he doesn’t want to go home. He would much prefer to sit in the office alone. It was not a time to preach or even attempt to unpack the difficulties that this young man has faced in his short life. I felt helpless. No perfectly worded questions came to mind to bring this situation to a beautiful end. How many times have I tried to solve situations where God wants to work. Too often…
After some very awkward silences only broken up by teachers coming into the office for supplies, God stepped in and showed a path. He placed the 23rd Psalm clearly on my heart. I printed it off and had this young man write it on the large white board in the office. He took his time. He wrote it beautifully. At times he seemed to stare at the sentence that he had just written. He was quiet and peaceful.
After he had completed the six verses that make up the chapter I had him sit back down. He was still staring at it like a work of art. I asked him to read it through slowly and tell me if any words popped out at him. And then if there is a phrase that goes with it that is “speaking” to him in some way. As he approached the white board to begin the exercise I could tell immediately that he was laser focused. I received a phone call that lasted about 15 – 20 minutes and after I hung up the phone I looked up and his face was glowing. I asked him to tell me about the phrase or word that stood out. He pointed to the the sixth verse:
6. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
6 La bondad y el amor me seguirán todos los días de mi vida;
y en la casa del Señor habitaré para siempre.
Then he zeroed in. He pointed to the word “house” or “casa”. He said that this is the house that he wants to live in. (Again, he is glowing at this point) I asked him why he said that, he pensively responded with confidence that it is a house of hope, and love, and the last thing he said was “it’s safe”. I printed the chapter for him on card stock to take home. He smiled, loaded up on the bus, and that was a day at the Sparrow Academy.
“God help us openly show people your word so YOU can lead them through your Holy Spirit to your safe and loving home.”
Wow! 2017 has been a roller coaster of emotions and a truly amazing year for the Weeks family and the SMCH family as a whole. We hosted 3 times the amount of teams as the year before, started several new ministries (Sewing Clinic, Women’s Discipleship, Celebrate Recovery, ministering to the local high school) and maintained ministries started the year before (Ministerio Vida, English classes, ministering to the local elementary school, the Asilo), and we also welcomed new members to the family (both baby Micah and the Amador family.)
God truly blessed this past year for me, for our family, and for our ministry. Much has been said in these posts throughout the year about what has been going on Santiago, Honduras. Today, I just want to share with you a few snap shots about some of the people involved in these ministries and how 2017 has been an amazing year of growth and redemption for them.
In July, Alishia and I welcomed baby Micah to our family. After a few days in the hospital, we brought this bundle of joy back home with us as the newest addition to our family. By this point, our foster kids, K, B and A had lived with us for a year and a half. They call us Mami and Papi, we call them our sons and daughter. We truly thought we were as close of a family as we could be. But something has happened to our family over the last 5 months. Since Micah has joined us, there have been many changes in all of our hearts. The first few weeks were rough, especially for K, as she shifted from her previous role as the attention getter and top dog, to her new role as the nurturing older sister. But Micah has brought out a nurturing passion in her we had yet to see. She is an incredible care giver, and Micah loves to hear her sing to him. In our boys, B and A, Micah has brought out the most gentle parts of their hearts. When we first met B, he was your typical hardened foster kid. All of the walls were up around his heart. He would not dare show emotion, for fear of feeling too much. Now he is an endless pool of love and caring for his little brother. He loves to just love on him, and it brings him so much joy when he can make Micah laugh. And A has shifted from being the little brother, the baby of the family, to being a big brother and protector. He loves his new role and his little brother. But he still doesn’t like to hold him because he’s terrified of breaking him. While every day in not perfect, our family has now bonded in unexpected ways over a new common love.
As I have been reflecting on our family, and how Micah has been a bridge for us that bonded our family together in new and amazing ways, I am reminded of how Jesus Christ is that bridge for us to the father. While God was always there with Israel, it was not until the coming of Immanuel, God With Us, that we had the bridge that offers man a second chance at redemption and salvation.
Another story I want to share is of Miguel and Gabriel, two of my Ministerio Vida guys. Miguel is an older gentleman, who had been struggling with his addictions for many years, and when he arrived at Vida he was very beaten up. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, he was a wreck. Miguel was given an ultimatum by his family “Get clean or get gone.” He has been at Vida for 10 months now. Gabriel came to Vida a month after Miguel. He, on the other hand, is a younger man, with years of addiction, but more the victim of bad circumstance. Gabriel came to Vida after the current leader, Romalo, went out on a missionary journey preaching the word. He met Gabriel at a local store, drinking, in a town far away from us. He invited Gabriel to come back to Vida with him, and he came. Romalo has 15 months now at Vida. Miguel has 10 and Gabriel 9. Sadly, it is unusual to have 3 men doing so well for so long and showing true growth and change. I accredit this growth to several things. First has been the construction of the new ministry house. Towards the end of 2016, we started working on building a new Ministry house on donated land. For around 9 months, we worked daily on the new house. This gave the men a new found purpose, a drive, a hope, and honestly, a much need distraction. As of August, the ministry has moved to the new house, and now they are out of the city, further away from all the noise and temptation and have a better chance to reflect and rest in Christ. The second thing I credit is Celebrate Recovery. Back on January 1st, 2017 I started teaching CR at Vida twice a week. Now in our 2nd cycle, you can see true growth in each man as he learns the causes of addictions, and how much He needs to depend on Christ to overcome them. The third reason is prayer. Throughout the year, we have partnered with a mens’ group at church who prays daily for these men. Many others around the world are now praying for them weekly. The power of prayer is an undervalued instrument in today’s church and we should not forget it. Gabriel and Miguel are now on great paths. Miguel, God willing, will soon be reunited with his wife and children where he will have a lot of work to restore broken relationships. Gabriel’s future is uncertain at the moment but he and I both are praying over it daily to figure out God’s will for his life. Please continue to pray for them and all the men at Vida. If you would like to know more about how to pray for them specifically, please contact me at [email protected].
If you are reading this I want to thank you. Thank you for your support of the work God is doing through Sparrow Missions. Without your prayers, without your support it would be much more difficult to do what we do daily. We lean heavily on the Spirit but we must also lean on the church, Christ’s bride to fulfill His plans and desire for His kingdom.
In the love of Christ,
I’ve had many roles so far in my short time with Sparrow Missions. From leading teams to painting the Sparrow Academy to sweeping water out of the hallways, I have been blessed with a wide range of experiences that continually grow me as a teammate, leader, and servant. With that being said, I was a little weary when Justin asked me to take on my most recent task. I never saw myself being a teacher. Growing up I always struggled getting people to see things the way I saw them. It may have been due to a lack a patience, or maybe it was because I was not passionate enough, but whatever the reason, I always thought teaching was not my thing. So, when Justin asked me to begin English classes with the 4 boys who are going to India, I had my doubts. I thought to myself, “I can do a lot of things, but teaching is not one of them”. I doubted myself before my first class began. How often do you lose confidence in yourself? How often do you hear the whispers of the enemy saying, “You can’t do that, or that is just not your thing.”? All too often we let the enemy dictate our abilities, especially our abilities we can use to serve.
You can ask Elena, I had never been more nervous before that first class. But thank goodness that God is on our side, and “… all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
Our Lord did not let me falter, and taught me something through a powerful passage in Hebrews. In chapter 10, verses 35 & 36 Paul states,
“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”
We have a confidence not in our abilities, but in the abilities of Him who has called us. I walk into English class everyday with confidence knowing at the end of all it I will receive my reward. I may not see the impact of my endeavors in this lifetime. But I know that once those 4 young men know English and following their calling to India, that lives will be impacted in a mighty way. I have absolutely loved teaching English to Irvin, Luis, Angel, and Victor. Not only do I get to see them learn and grow, but we’ve grown closer as brothers in Christ. Do not let the enemy tell you that you cannot do something, but have confidence knowing that our God will be with you through every endeavor you take on to further His Kingdom. Please pray that these young men continue to learn English, and the doors for their trip continue to open. Merry Christmas to my Sparrow family!