Thursday, December 15, 2011

Feeding Program Success Stories

An omelet made with egg, rice, dried vegetables,
soy protein and vitamins.

This from Bill:

For a couple of years, we were able to feed up to 1000 kids three to five days per week in our poorest schools. Thankfully, the food was generously provided by two ministries: Fire Peru and Feed My Starving Children. Last year, while we were in the states, we had to close the feeding program. The mission of Latin America ChildCare is to transform the lives of children in need with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through education and ministries of compassion (like the feeding program). Closing the program down felt counter to our mission.

Saying Grace before eating lunch.

When we returned to Peru, we received good news. A container of food was available. It would be  enough food to feed the kids in our two schools in the jungle—but it would cost $4500 to get it out of the port. How were we going to pay for it? 

We received a $500 donation last year, specifically marked for the feeding program. Ironically, when we received the donation, we had already closed the program. So, it was a prophetic faith-seed donation. But that left us $4000 short. We did the only prudent thing to do in that situation: close our eyes and jump. That’s right, close our eyes and spend money we don’t have on an expensive program we can’t afford. The reason I was willing to go out on a limb is that I know these kids personally. They’re not just pictures on a television screen. These are the kids that scream “Missionary Bill!” and run to hug me when they see me walking down their muddy jungle streets.  

Three stories haunt me and motivated my decision to spend the money. The first is of a boy who grew two inches in two months. (That must have hurt!) The families in the jungle town of Iquitos only earn 71 cents per person daily. They are literally starving. 35% of the children in Iquitos suffer from stunted growth as a result of extreme malnutrition. He was one of them; but when his body got the nourishment it needed, it took off like a weed.

The second story is of a girl who gained ten pounds in one month. After finishing her own lunch, she went around eating the leftover food off of the other students’ plates. The teachers realized that she wasn’t eating anything at home. It reminded me of my father, who was a prisoner of war during WWII. He spent nine months in a prison camp on the island of Singapore. When the war ended, he weighed less than 100 pounds. He said that for years afterwards, he never felt like he could eat enough. That is what this young girl was going through. As soon as she got the chance to eat, she couldn’t stop.

The third story comes from Doris—one of the teachers in Belen, the poorest neighborhood in Iquitos. She spoke with me as we were installing a computer lab in our school there. Doris thanked me for the feeding program and told me that before the program, the school did not have any behavioral problems with the kids. She said that they all sat in class quietly listening. But, when we started the feeding program, their behavior changed completely. They became like wild animals. They would not sit still. They talked in class. They were disorderly. She realized that before the feeding program, they did not have enough energy to be rebellious. They didn’t have enough energy to move. Once they started eating, their behavior changed and they became kids again. Her face was filled with tears and a smile as she declared, “Now they’re acting like kids are supposed to act!”

Kids are supposed to smile and play

When we returned to Peru, I asked God to get the feeding program back up and running. As such, I was excited when I heard that we could have food this year, if we could pay to get it out of the port. A $4000 expense ($4500 minus the $500 I’d already been given) was not in the budget. But, what could I do? I thought about the kids with stunted growth and the ones who are too tired to play, and I made the decision to pay the money and feed the kids for one more year. On top of that, we paid another $3000 to buy Christmas gifts for the children who don’t have a Latin America Childcare Sponsor. The outlay of cash was making my Midwest conservative head spin right off my body! Having said that, let me now ask for prayer—that God would pay for it all. Pray that He would open the windows of heaven and confirm our decision to spend the money. And, if you feel God calling you to join us by making a special gift, please do so! You can make a special donation by clicking the donations tab on the top-left of the blog. Please send me a note, also, to let me know what the donation is for. Thanks!

For another great story about the feeding program, please see Lena’s blog entry:

For some pictures of the program click here:

20 Fabulous Years

Bill and Lena - Dec. 14, 1991

Yesterday, Lena and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. I'm grateful to God for a wife that is spiritual, fun and gets better looking every day. I'm a blessed man!

One of the funny "wedding stories" has to do with the eating of the wedding cake. Lena and I were blessed to have two receptions. The first one was in Cleveland, immediately following the wedding. As is my nature, we were very proper in that ceremony. I'm not a big fan of newly married couples displaying some kind of hidden aggression in their first hours of matrimony. The second reception was held in Cincinnati, the day after the wedding. It was for our Cincy friends who couldn't make the drive to Cleveland. My mother insisted that we wear our wedding garb to give it an official feeling. To add to it officialness, we replayed the cutting of the cake for everyone. But, this time it was a lot more relaxed. As I recall, my brother-in-law Bob lead the call for something more fun than our politeness from the day before. Others joined in and I began to see a playful gleam in Lena's eye. She went into a wide-up like a major league pitcher and I knew I was in trouble. Bob saw it too and had his camera ready. That is how we got my favorite picture from our wedding. After Lena pelted me with the cake, it was my turn. I couldn't smash it in her face. So, I rushed forward and kissed her--smearing it all over her face. It's a good image of our marriage--a mix of play and proper, fun and fancy. I'm looking forward to 20 more years of the same!

The pics below tell the story in order:

Lena contemplates the attack while the crowd is egging her on.

She makes her move!

Bill responds with a kiss, smearing icing on Lena's face.

It tastes so good, we opt for another kiss.

Here are some pics of the wedding:

In my FaceBook post, I dedicated a song to Lena. If you want to hear the song and view some really big hair, check out the Forester Sisters' youtube video:

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Waiting for Worship: Raising Kids to Worship with their Hearts

This from Lena:

This morning we enjoyed a family time of worship together.  These days it is harder to assemble, with sleepovers and busy teen social schedules, but we still manage to squeak out some time many Saturday mornings to worship together.  We started this custom years ago with a promising vocalist of 12 years and novice drummer on a Costa Rican bongo.  It was stop and start, especially with two toddlers, but we have been richly rewarded with Hannah showing great promise as a lead vocalist in worship, with a couple of instruments budding, and Colton is now an intrepid percussionist.

But the heart of this--the desire we had--was to nurture a heart of worship in our children.  We raised Hannah and Colton in a constant environment of communal worship in Chi Alpha campus ministries, and when we switched ministry focus, we didn't want to lose that focus.  I see a natural progression in the lives of Hannah and Colton, that now it is THEM who desire to worship and adore, and their own relationships with the Lord now drives their worship.

But I remember the squiggly days--especially because I see it lived out in Abi and Will.  They struggle to stay with us.  Many of the songs aren't familiar, as Sunday mornings are done in Spanish and apart from the parents, so they are learning other songs.  We try to let the little ones do their thing.  They can hit a drum, shake a shaker, dance a dance, or whatever, but they have to invest.  Every Saturday that we manage to gather them up for worship, it is so similar.  I see the little ones slip away in their minds, and have to call them back, and it is not exactly fun or worship-rewarding on my end, but I look at my two big ones, and praise God that they found their way to Him in the middle of this environment, and I keep setting them on the right track, waiting for worship to spill out of their little hearts.  Some children are like open spiritual magnets, and draw the Lord into their hearts like sponges.  They easily slip into His presence, and it is a breeze.  Others are more cerebral, and require more patience, but that doesn't mean they aren't right there in worship.  Just different.

But when worship arrives, and time stops, and they slip into that timeless place where God touches their hearts and they are talking to Him and walking with Him---that is the gold of parenting.  Sometimes it feels like I am serving them carrots and peas for the umpteenth time, following that old principle that if you expose them to a vegetable enough, they will eventually like it and get used to the taste.  Repeated exposure.  But the moment that they find out that worship is like a fresh orange of life and refreshment, and not a rutabaga, there is celebration in the house.  Don't give up. Wait for worship.  It is worth it.