Theologizing the “Zero Tolerance” Policy

As someone who vocationally works on behalf of the fatherless I believe it is my duty to think critically about the issues affecting the fatherless around the world and do my best to critically work through a Biblical approach to these issues. Having lived in Latin America, having worked with migrants in the States, and now working with the fatherless via advocacy inside of the foster care system in the States and programmatic approaches to battle the epidemic of fatherlessness globally, I believe I bring a perspective with intimate knowledge of the people who are in the midst of this debate.

First, lets take a look at the policy. 

The Department of Homeland Security says, “If an adult is referred for criminal prosecution, the adult will be transferred to U.S. Marshals Service custody and any children will be classified as an unaccompanied alien child and transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services custody.” (www.dhs.gov)

Under the new “Zero Tolerance” Policy instituted by the current administration in April 2018 the amount of individuals who are “criminally prosecuted” has gone up and more children are being separated and held in facilities away from their parents.

What is the reality of Central American violence? 

The Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) consistently rank as some of the most violent countries in the world. The realities of drug trafficking, extortion, gang recruitment, and poverty have created cycles of despair and misery for many individuals caught in the crosshairs. As well according to The Washington Post, “Latin America is home to just 8 percent of the world’s population, but 33 percent of its homicides. In fact, just four countries in the region — Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela — account for a quarter of all the murders on Earth. Of the 20 countries in the world with the highest murder rates, 17 are Latin American, as are 43 of the top 50 cities.”

What does the Bible say about immigration? 

In looking at the idea of the nation-state and the ideal as instituted by God we must begin by looking at the nation of Israel. As God’s chosen people, Israel was called to be a light in the darkness, a tangible example of Yahweh’s heart to a pagan society. Thus, as we look to the institutions set up by God for Israel in the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible) we see the creation of a society centered around certain ideals that were inherently close to the heart of God.

In Leviticus 19:33-34 we see Yahweh specifically address the role Israel was to play as they approached the “sojourner” living among them. It says, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (ESV)

As we continue to look through the societal structure that Yahweh expected from His chosen people, we see a specific heart in the approach from Israel towards the vulnerable and marginalized living among them. Consistently we see the “sojourner” or “foreigner” lumped in with the widow and orphan as the most vulnerable members of Israelite society and individuals that Israel was required to care for in a more intimate manner. Deuteronomy 27:19 says, “‘Cursed by anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.'”

As well from a missiological perspective we constantly see God’s heart for the nations, that they will worship Him, and in Solomon’s dedication of the Temple we see immigration play a role in God’s missiological approach to the nations surrounding Israel. In Solomon’s prayer of dedication he says, “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.” (1 Kings 8:41-43) Israel’s missiological approach had immigration at the center, it was not only a “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19a) but a “come and see the greatness of our God.”

As we continue to track through the story of God and His people we see prominent Immigrants playing center stage in the story of redemption. We see Jospeh, a Israelite slave in Egypt who rises to the highest of ranks to protect the story of His people, Moses, a fostered Israelite baby who left his adopted home of Egypt only to return to lead his biological nation out of captivity, and Jesus, the central figure in the entire story of Redemption who not only immigrated from a Heavenly home to earth, but again immigrated to Egypt to flee an unjust regime and violence.

Finally, as we look towards the end, the culmination of this beautiful story of redemption, we see God’s people coming together in unison, from every nation and tribe and people, singing “Salvation belongs to our god who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9) God’s people are multicultural and multilingual.

How do I respond as a Christian born in the United States? 

First, my response must be based in the inherent worth of all people. As is clearly shown in the creation account, we were created in the image of God and thus bear, as humans, the mark of our Creator.

Second, I must understand that our God is a God who identifies with the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed and as His follower I must also seek the well being of those who are not being treated with the dignity of which they are worthy. I must seek to model the Gospel to my neighbor, whatever my neighbors documentation status might happen to be.

Third, as Christ modeled compassion and empathy throughout his time on earth, we as His followers must seek to embrace that same compassion and empathy. We see Jesus seek out the children (contrary to social norms), embrace the Samaritan women (crossing social class) and push back against the political structures at play in first century Israel (socially and politically radical) in order to model justice and compassion.

I must seek to put myself in the shoes of those who are so often relegated to being pawns in a political agenda. It is so easy to demonize and create a self-serving stereotypical image of those we don’t agree with, but how often do we consider what we would do if relegated to a situation of desperation like many who are fleeing to the borders of the United States for the safety and livelihood of their families.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to think theologically through the issues at hand and formulate and educated response to those issues. I encourage you if you are reading this to do your homework. If you agree with the “Zero Tolerance” policy, so be it, but I pray that you have come to a conclusion from an educated stance to know why you agree. It is not enough to align ourselves solely along party lines, we must be able to formulate an understanding that prioritizes what Scripture says and comes at the situation from a position of education and knowledge.

Finally, talk to your immigrant neighbor. You might just come to the realization that they aren’t that different from you. Most of us are worried about the same things; health, safety, prospects for our children, our marriages, work, etc. and when we can come to that realization people cease to be images or stereotypes, they become real, with names, faces, dreams, and hopes. I pray as Christians we can live into that model and be the hands and feet of Jesus to our neighbors who may come from different countries of origin.

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Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)

One of the things about Seminary that I will be eternally grateful for is the ability to learn, research, and apply practices from those who have gone before me in whatever role I find myself. Now that I am headlong into my role with Man Up and Go and specifically looking at the plight of the fatherless and how we apply best practices to engage and provide care, I have been seeking out material specifically on orphan care and the role of the Church and parachurch organizations in ministering effectively.

Orphan JusticeRecently I finished OrphanJustice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting by Johnny Carr who works with Bethany Christian Services. As I feel inundated at times with the complexities of the orphan crisis and our role in ministering both at home and abroad to the fatherless, Mr. Carr’s book gave some practical insights into ways individuals, the church, and non-profits can lock arms and minister effectively.

While I won’t inundate you with facts from the book, or even practices, I do encourage you to read and study for yourselves as I have become more and more convinced of the intimate nature of the plight of the orphan to the heart of God.

A few key things I will points or quotes I will pull out to hopefully stir your heart towards engagement with the orphan:

  • “Ultimately, orphan care is a gospel issue. It’s about Jesus Christ and His work. And the amazing irony is that as we live out the gospel to these hurting kids, we also experience the gospel in ways we never imagined.” (pg. 195)
  • “According to UNICEF, 153 million kids worldwide have lost one or both parents due to all causes. That’s twice the total number of children in the U.S.” (pg. 1)
  • “If we have the means and the capability to care for orphaned and vulnerable children, yet fail to do so, we are in direct disobedience to God.” (pg. 17)
  • “Man made orphanages for children, but God made the family for children.” (pg. 63)
  • “After all, if we don’t allow orphanages to exist in the United States, why are we content to build and sustain them in other countries?” (pg. 70)
  • “Institutional care is, at best, a poor model for long-term orphan care, and at worst, quite harmful to children’s development.” (pg. 71)
  • “How my heart longs for the day when churches celebrate one more orphanage being closed because all of its children are placed in families, rather than reporting on one more orphanage being built on a short-term mission trip.” (pg. 74)
  • “More than just writing a check, God’s Word challenges us to invite the poor and needy into our everyday lives.” (pg. 98)

I could give you many more tidbits of his writing, but ultimately, I pray that our hearts our stirred, our churches are changed, and we are able to “be the Church” in the way God intended it to be. Last night as I played outside with Isaiah and Elijah, my mind was drifting to the children I just left in Uganda and Ethiopia, the stories I have wept over in my office as I build our sponsorship program and seek to secure the food and education of these children, and the kids in the foster care system right here in Tampa Bay that don’t have a father to play outside with them, take them for donuts after flag football, and read them books and pray with them before they go to bed. I pray our hearts are moved for these children that were born into circumstances many of us will never understand, have experienced pain many of us can’t imagine, and truly crave a family to take them in, hold them close, and give them the same love and affection my kids take for granted.

Cry out to the Lord

 

Masese III

“These kids might eat 1-2 times a week if they are not in school.”

This is what I heard from Pastor Andrew as I walked through Masese III in Jinja, Uganda. Pastor Andrew and his wife Juliet are ministering to the children of Masese III through the church he pastors called Gloryland Church and Bethel Junior School where currently they have 252 children studying between 10 grades.

Masese III, in the middle of Jinja, Uganda’s second largest city, is an area of hopelessness. Thousands of people living day-to-day on an average of $10 a month, trying to make it to the next day. The faces of children, many malnourished are what greets you as soon as you arrive in this community, thousands of them, coming from all around as they hear there is a “muzungo” (white person) in the community.

Man Up and Go has been partnered with pastor Andrew since 2011. Under Pastor Andrew’s leadership, Man Up and Go runs the child sponsorship arm and the feeding program in the community.

Bethel Junior school is an area of hope in a community where there isn’t much hope going around. The children at Bethel receive breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday and all the children in Masese III get a meal on Saturday at the Super Saturday program. This past week we had 1,354 children show up for food on Saturday, some of whom will only eat that meal for a while.

sponsorship pic

As Man Up and Go runs the sponsorship for these children, if you are reading this, I ask that you consider sponsoring one of these precious children. At $45 a month, we can make sure their school fees are covered, they are eating consistently, and they are receiving a Christ-centered education. Second, I ask that you pray, that you cry out to the Lord for these children. It is impossible to walk these communities and not pray “Lord Jesus come quickly.” Pray for food, for clothing, for healing, for reestablished families, for parents to step up, and for income to be generated.

Jesus, Thank You

From my perspective (Abbie here).  Almost 7 weeks into this transition, one week down in our new city, it has been a whirlwind. The good kind. Over the last few weeks, we’ve hugged so many friends. Chatted with family late into the night. Sipped coffee with loved ones and reminisced about the good, bad and hard. I’m grateful. It encourages my heart to share, hear stories and see how the Lord has been at work in so many hearts all over the world.

Many have asked how I’ve felt about moving back to the states. If I miss the DR? Did I want to come back?
Really my life has been full of moves. I don’t think I’ve lived in the same place/home for more than three years really (my parents might correct me). So this process, of packing, hugging friends, crying on an airplane is one that I have known for… as long as I can remember. If you had asked me as a fifteen year old, on that flight taking me away from Quito, Ecuador, if this was a good life; I would have screamed NO! That one day I would never move my kids and I would make sure they had a stable life. Oh the irony. And now, I see how my Jesus was preparing me and shaping my little heart then for a life of hellos and goodbyes. And its good! Yes I miss the Dominican, I miss the roosters outside my window, I miss the sweet smell of the ocean breeze, the complete silence when the power cuts off, the giddy smiling neighbor kids waving and running up to the car as we drove up, friends who taught me how to cook habichuelas, concon and pollo guisado, drive in a mop-ed infested city and showed me how to find the best deals/food at the grocery stores. I miss our loud staff meetings in our living room, fans humming, coffee on tap and the sometimes heated discussions about theology and equality.

I’ve lied awake in the night and thought about so many memories, tucking some away and others wishing i could forget forever. Guys, it was life. Beautiful. Messy. And yes I miss the Dominican! And yes, Im excited to see what the Lord has for us here in Tampa. Its absolutely beautiful to see how the Lord has had His hand on us.

Last week as we were packing the moving truck to drive to Tampa, I couldn’t stop saying, LOOK at what Jesus has done for us. We flew to this country a month ago with 8 suitcases. Now we are loading a whole moving truck (and it wasn’t a small one!) with things that had been gifted to us. Beautiful antiques, a set a bunkbeds that my boys have literally prayed for (they had a set back in the DR and we prayed God would provide another set here!) and so much more. Thank you Jesus.

Since arriving to Tampa we have been staying with new friends and their generosity is astounding. Opening their home, time, resources to us and welcoming us, these strangers, into their home! Jesus thank you.

This morning my phone dinged to remind me that in 97 (give or take) days we will be welcoming another sweet baby into out home. I had to take a deep breath! Last night, as I lay awake, I started to doubt. What are we doing? We have no home of our own, no insurance yet, I don’t have a nursery set up, let alone a house. What do people think of us? So irresponsible. Bringing another baby into this? Right now? You know what causes that done you?
Then this morning, Gods truth flooded my heart. “Ive never left you before. Remember when you weren’t insurance two weeks before Elijahs birth? Remember when I provided that furniture? Remember when I moved you across the ocean?”. Never once are his little ones a mistake!! Never once is the timing wrong. Never once was the doctor appointment and insurance out of His control. And this last week the medical group I’ve been hoping to use for this delivery gave me an appointment for this coming week! The women on the phone gracious told me that they aren’t supposed to schedule without having reviewed your medical file or without having insurance but she was excited to have us in the area and wanted to help me out. Thank you Jesus.

So, I’ll continue to wait on the Lord. Reminding my heart that He has been good to us and never, no never leaves us. Thank you Jesus.

Pray with me this week.

  • That I will be diligent about getting insurance worked out. And lets watch in anticipation as the Lord provides again.
  • For Luke and I as we house hunt. That we would be wise with our resources, find a space for our family to rest well and not get drawn away on our desire to find a space that we can host well and provide a space to build community in our neighborhood and beyond.
  • For our kiddos as they continue experience joy and adventure in the transition.
  • For Babys Sawyers doctor appointment this week.
  • Praise Him for his faithfulness and for provision. For Luke and his drive, vision and faithfulness to the Lord. For friends, especially for the kids as they have LOVED playing with friends all week!

Be Radical in 2018!

Transitioning back to the States from a developing country is an eyeopening experience. As I am in the midst of it, there are things that stand out drastically in the “culture shock” of life in the United States. Driving around the US makes me sad. It is difficult for me to drive past huge mansions, overwhelming church buildings, Lexus’ in church parking lots, and other such images of obscene abundance. Having lived internationally and domestically, it is difficult for me to rationalize the excessive consumerism with the overwhelming poverty that is present in much of the developing world.

While it is easy to judge the careless spending in the US (or globally depending on where you are), this is not a post to write about how the US has it wrong and the global south has it right, this is a post to wake us up to the reality of what Jesus called us into. The reality is Jesus talked about money in the New Testament than heaven and hell. Why? Because what we do with our money matters. Unfortunately, the culture in the United States does little to challenge us to live radically generous. As I missionary who raises funds I have had my fair share of conversations surrounding money, and one thing I try to make clear when I raise funds is that my goal is not for anyone to give to me. My goal when I have any conversation about fundraising is to challenge people to think critically about where their money goes and give generously wherever God leads them to give.

The western world has unprecedented access to capital that can be used intentionally to further the kingdom of God. However, I believe, in having that access we are given a huge burden to be good stewards and live radically and utilize that which we have to further the Kingdom. Unfortunately, all to often, that has been used to build bigger buildings, expand already sufficient church buildings, build bigger auditoriums to house more congregants instead of planting new churches, and build bigger houses to “be hospitable” when we may host in our “formal dining rooms” eight times a year.

Living radically means we are generous when it hurts, we are charitable when we don’t have enough ourselves, we share what we have to stretch it further, we don’t buy more when there isn’t a need, we provide for people when they don’t have the means, we feed people when they don’t have food, and we live in such a way that puts Jesus on display everyday showing the world that there is something so much better than the status quo.

This is an area what we can learn greatly from in the developing world. I have had meals in sugar cane villages, where people makes less than $1 a day, yet when you eat at their houses its like they cooked for Christmas dinner. I have seen families kill their goats and chickens (livelihood) to feed those who are visiting for the day. I have seen people live radically generously on $1 a day, and I believe similar to Mark 12:41-44 where Jesus commends the poor widow saying, “but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.” (vs. 44), this is what we are called to emulate. Live radically, radically generous and out of radical faith that God will provide what we need if we are faithful with our generosity.

The Christianization of Latin America

I have decided in the wake of my time in the Dominican Republic, and with time spent up to this point studying and learning about the modern missions movement and the state that we are in, to begin to blog about some of what I have seen and experienced in a hope to bring about a larger understanding to the state of missions in our current time.

As we embarked on this journey years ago, in seminary, prepping for our move to the Dominican Republic, and our years spent in the Dominican Republic, I have gained a lot of life experience when it comes to Latin America (or the Caribbean more specifically), the Spanish-speaking world, and the state of the church and the movement of “missions” in our day and age.

One can just google Latin America and Christianity and come up with overwhelming statistics about the health of the Gospel in Latin America. While the demographics have been changing, Latin America has been home to one of the largest Roman Catholic populations on the face of the earth, with roughly 80% of the world’s Roman Catholics coming from Latin America. In this NY Times article (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/13/upshot/latin-america-is-losing-its-catholic-identity.html) they state that previous statistics identified roughly 90% of Latin American adults would identify with Roman Catholicism.

My point here is not to pin Roman Catholicism against Evangelicalism, but rather, to show, what many have said, that Latin America is supuestamente Christian. It is very difficult in Latin America to come across someone who does not at the least hold some kind of ideology surrounding God as Creator and Jesus as His Son. However, would that mean that Latin America is Christianized?

As Jairo Namúm states in his article in on The Gospel Coalition, “But more and more evangelism has turned into an effort to preach the gospel to those who ascribe to some kind of prosperity gospel, showing them how Jesus is so much better than the riches of this world.” (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/stirrings-of-revival-in-latin-america/). In my time in the Dominican Republic I have heard some of the most off-the-wall things being backed up by obscure “proof texting” trying to make claims about what the Bible says. Through these conversations, and the experiences I have had, I can honestly question the true salvation, or at least basic understanding of the Gospel, of many of the people I have met that are pastoring churches in the Dominican Republic. While statisticians and polls might say one thing, my experience and conversations say something very different. While I understand my on the ground experience is in the eastern portion of the Dominican Republic, what I have heard and conversed about with fellow missionaries and national leaders is that my experiences are not an anomaly when it comes to the Spanish speaking world. An identification with is not an understanding of the Gospel.

The lack of healthy Bible believing churches is painful and the amount of people that are confused about what the Gospel actually means is sad. The evangelism efforts that take place with little to no emphasis on the Cross or on grace is mind boggling and unfortunately, I do not see anyone leading the charge in changing this dynamic. Most of the people I have encountered in the evangelical world come out of an unhealthy Pentecostalism that fails to truly portray the Gospel and the roll of the believer. The modern missions movement is failing because of a lack of Theological education and Gospel-centered discipleship. Bill Hybles said, “There’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working right – it’s the hope of the world”, and I truly believe this is the case. What I have witnessed and experienced is a major failing of the local church. A failure of pastors shepherding their flocks and leading them in truth. I am encouraged by a few splattering of individuals who understand and adhere to the truth, but as a whole I am discouraged because their voices are squashed in the overwhelming presence of an unhealthy evangelicalism.

 

 

 

Man Up and Go

Man Up Logo

In April 2016 we (FCA DR)  partnered with Man Up and Go (MUG) and hosted an Authentic Masculinity conference in Boca Chica with coaches and pastors connected to the ministry of FCA DR. Again in April 2017 we hosted our second event in Santo Domingo, again with coaches known and ministered to by our staff in Santo Domingo.

During that second trip Jeff Ford (CEO MUG)  and Shane Scott (MUG Board Member) stayed at our house in San Pedro for a night and we connected over food and ministry. Moving forward I stayed in touch with Jeff and others on the MUG Board as well as traveling to Tampa as they hosted a fundraiser to help support our family and FCA DR.

Over time Abbie and I started feeling the nudging that our time with FCA DR was coming to a close. We were encouraged by our staff, what was happening in the ministry, and were feeling that the need for our presence was becoming less apparent. As well we were at a point where our finances were rough, and we were realizing a change was a necessity.

In that period of time as Abbie and I were praying and thinking about what God had next for our family, I had a phone call with Jeff, a normal catch up kind of conversation and I mentioned to him that we were thinking about a change and asked about the direction they were going as a ministry and what their long range ministry and hiring goals were. At that point he voiced to me the need for additional man power with MUG and the direction they were heading.

I had always been interested in MUG (not from a job sense but more from a ministry sense) for a few reasons: 1. My capstone work in seminary was on authentic masculinity specifically in a Latin American context and have always been drawn to this type of work; 2. They were working in Community Development and holistic ministry, which is a strong passion of mine and where much of my seminary work was focused. 3. They were working in the developing world, partnering with local in-country ministries and finding people doing good work.

Over the next few months of praying and seeing where God was leading things (both Jeff, the MUG board, and our family) we are excited to announce that we have officially taken a position with Man Up and Go as the Director of Operations. This will be a big change for our family as we will be relocating to Tampa, FL. While much of us is struggling with the thought of moving back to the States, we are also fully at peace and are excited to be able to move into a very multicultural area as well as be working in the developing world. As the Director of Operations I will be assisting in both domestic and international programing, of which there is a lot, and helping MUG focus their development and compassion projects, as well as help develop and implement the mens development program which will have pieces of Biblical discipleship, fatherhood and husbandhood, as well as an entrepreneurial and business development piece with microfinance parts.

We will be finishing up our time with FCA through the end of 2017, and are encouraged about where FCA DR is currently and where it is heading. I truly believe FCA DR will be better in six months than it is with us here. Our staff here in the DR is ready for the challenge and will be excellent in continuing to move forward with the vision and mission of FCA DR. While it is difficult leaving friends who have become family, we are encouraged that this will not be goodbye for good, but as well with my role with MUG I will be very connected to FCA DR and our staff.

Please be in prayer for our family, our transition, and our funding. This roll will as well have a fundraising component so for those of you that are currently supporting our work here, we ask that you prayerfully consider continuing to fund our ministry with FCA until we finish up, and check out http://www.manupandgo.org to find out more about the organization and talk with us about whether you feel led to continue supporting our family.

Hiroshima Carp

Sometimes you don’t know how God is going to use certain decisions or experiences. A little over a month ago, one Saturday, instead of taking Isaiah to his normal program for baseball here in San Pedro, I took him to Boca Chica and he played with Jesus (Willie’s son) in his program in downtown Boca Chica.

That day I was helping to organize the kids into teams with another dad whose kid was there. Him and I started talking and it turns out he coaches for the Hiroshima Carp, the only Japanese Academy in the Dominican, which also happens to be directly next to my house in San Pedro.

Him and I got to talking about what I did, and he asked if I would be interested in doing some chaplaincy with the players and coaches with the Carp. That next week I visited one of there practices, where via a translator (who is also a coach) I was able to talk with the manager of the team about the ministry. The manager only speaks Japanese, and the coach Spanish and Japonese. I also sat down and had coffee with the administrator of the academy, a very kind young Japanese man who speaks Spanish to talk about how to get involved in ministry at the academy.

Now for the past month I have been able to serve as the chaplain at the academy. Every Thursday morning I am there and pre-practice we are walking through Scripture towards the Gospel.

The reason I included languages and cultures in this post is twofold. First, the language of baseball can supersede literal language. Every person in the conversation can be united via the game, whereas in most other contexts those relationships would not take place. Second, Japan is a place largely opposed to the Gospel. Via the game of baseball people are being united on a small island in the Caribbean around a game, with the possibility of eternal ramifications across the globe.

The final exciting piece of the puzzle is Will Thompson. Will and I met in the Dominican a few years ago, and Will and his wife Kimberly serve with FCA in Tokyo. I was also able to reconnect with Will in Thailand in February. I look forward to the day when one of these young Dominican kids in the academy comes to a real encounter with the living God, goes to Japan to play, gets connected with Will and we see people in Japan coming to faith! Pray with me towards this end!

The Story of a coach

IMG_5410.JPG
“Moreno” in the Blue LA hat with Victor Sanchez

The first time I met Alfredo Gotier Guerrero, or “Moreno” as he is lovingly called, he was sharing a devotional with his players before the start of practice. When I arrived he called me over and asked if I would like to jump in, and together we talked about the Gospel and the sacrifice of Christ. This was over a year ago now, and I have spent other times with Moreno and his players at his field behind the local friend chicken joint in downtown San Pedro de Macoris.

Over the past number of years Moreno, a 51 year old coach, has had his life impacted by Jesus Christ through the ministry of presence and discipleship of Victor Sanchez, one of our staff members in San Pedro. Moreno grew up in San Pedro, playing around the outskirts of the city in different brutally impoverished sugar cane villages called “Bateys”  before being selected nationally to play for the country when he was 16 years old. He never signed professionally and instead started coaching and training players in 1996 as a way to make a living. Over the course of his career he has had 23 of his players sign professional contracts, and one rising all the way to the Major League level, but that is not the important stuff, what Jesus has done in his life is what counts.

Victor started playing for Moreno years ago, when Moreno was chasing women and alcohol. Victor specifically remembers times that women would come to the field, in fits of anger, looking for Moreno while Moreno was hiding and having his players or other coaches tell the women that he was not at the field that day. But on the 22 of October 2009 at 11:45 am that changed. Moreno gave his life to Jesus, and nothing has been the same since.

Moreno recognized Victor’s calling spiritually before Victor. Even telling Victor on multiple occasions that God was going to use him in a mighty way. Now years later, Victor and Moreno’s relationship has transformed, from player and coach, to “hermanos en Cristo” with Victor now spending time in the Word with Moreno at the field where they used to train together.

Moreno credits his time with Victor and their discipling relationship with his change as a man and as a coach. Moreno shared with me this morning, that where he used to be a perverse and angry man, the Lord has changed his attitude and his character as he seeks intimacy with the King.

Now at this little field in San Pedro, every day before practice Moreno is leading his team in discipleship time and prayer, telling me that he is much more concerned that their names are written in the Book of Life than on a professional contract. As well, Victor and Moreno are making Jesus famous as they engage in Bible studies with other coaches, sharing with them the change that Jesus has made in their lives.

As I finished up my time with Moreno and Victor this morning, I looked over and next to the dugout, with rocks, Moreno has spelled out “Cristo Salva” (Christ Saves) as a reminder for his players every time they step on the field.

 

School is Starting!

Many of you have played a huge role on our homeschool journey so I wanted to update you on what our plans are for this year and where we are headed! First I wanted to remind you all that we are SO thankful for your contributions this last school year as many of you helped buy us books and shared so much wisdom about homeschooling!

We ‘started’ our first day of school this Monday, I say ‘started’ for two reason, one being I’m learning that this schooling journey doesn’t really have to stop over the summer (at this age anyway!). The other reason because Monday was terrible! My expectations were much to high and Isaiah was not much in the mood to sit for any reading or write in the least! So Tuesday morning before the kids were up I backed tracked and reevaluated my heart, my homeschool goals and our purpose.

This year our goals are:

  1. Scripture memorization
  2. Read good children’s literature
  3. Learn more bible stories
  4. Gain more confidence in counting and writing 1-100.
  5. Writing our letters and starting to read short stories.
  6. Play with other kids on a (almost) daily basis and learn more Spanish through play.

While I haven’t chosen a specific curriculum to work from this year, I have compiled a list of good books from Five in a Row, some of Sarah Clarkson’s recommended childrens books, K12 Classics for Young Readers (Volume A), and The Children’s Book of Virtue (which is a reread from last year but we love it!). We read one story from the Jesus Storybook Bible everyday as well as are working on memorizing a bible verse each week. I have thought about doing the ABC Scripture Memory cards too. Numbers are usually reviewed on the go, when I need him to count out things for me at the grocery store, share legos with his brother, play hide and seek, etc. I say we do this everyday, but sometimes we miss a day because we have a team or we are all to grumpy. Sometimes we pack up and just go to the beach or the park instead.

Each week I pick one story from our list of books, then each day of that week we reread it. We talk about a different subject each day like science, math, bible, art, or geography, etc (this idea is from Five in a Row). For example, this week we are doing The Legend of the Dipper,  from the Classics for Young Children. On Monday we learned about droughts around the globe, Tuesday we talked about humility from Philippians 2, and Wednesday we learned all about constellations. Today we will look at water conservation and set up some buckets to collect rainwater. Tomorrow I’ll have him draw his own dipper and we will take about the art form used in our story.

Being a bit dyslexic myself, I get so anxious about reading! I doubt my ability to teach and worry if i’m not doing enough/doing to much often. So far Isaiah has almost memorized all of his letters and sounds, but refuses to put them together into words. Instead of pushing him, which I was totally doing during the summer, we are working through this part 2 of Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool.

I WAY overcomplicated this whole idea before I started school last year.  I quickly realized that more then the right curriculum, a strict schedule, or hours of planned activities  I want our family to create a culture of learning, a desire to adventure (through stories and reading), a knowledge of the Word of God,  serving others around us, and provide rhythms to help cultivate a relationship with Jesus Christ (daily Scripture reading and prayer). I also love that we can really do this anywhere and that this isn’t just for our Zay but Eli can be a part of it too!