When people who have made it out of poverty have been asked what helped them get out of poverty, education was almost unanimously named as one of the elements. This morning we visited two public schools to see how Forward Edge is partnering with them to improve education and opportunities for children to received an education. After our visits we had a team lunch at a restaurant which has been started with a vision to provide skills training and job opportunities for people in order to improve the community. We then took a little excursion to visit Masaya Volcano, which is an active volcano. It was really neat! When we got back to Villa Esperanza we toured the Life Skills Center, which is currently under construction. Here they build as the funds come in, so they are moving by faith. About $65,000 has come in, and they are believing God for the additional $120,000 needed to complete the project, which will allow the girls to learn skills that will enable them to earn a living and break the generational cycles of material poverty which lead to so many of the problems that plague communities. I just want to give a shoutout to my very own daughter Claudia who saved up and gave $200 to this project last week! I am so proud of her! We then heard more about specific ways to engage and partner in the initiatives being undertaken by Forward Edge.
This morning we heard a presentation about a mentoring program that Forward Edge has partnered with to help students in the community. We then loaded the bus and drove about an hour to the town of Leon where we visited a school that our youth team this summer helped to clean and paint. It was wonderful to see over 100 children in school. We visited their classrooms and served them lunch. Over lunch we talked with the pastors and school leaders about initiatives being undertaken to enhance the school, meet practical needs of students, support the teachers, and long-term goals for impacting the community. This afternoon, back at Villa Esperanza, we heard from Dr. Ravi about how Forward Edge has worked with the local people to develop strategies to effectively address community needs identified in their assessment process. After dinner we had more dialogue with Villa leaders, followed by a time of prayer.
On Monday Pastor Jerry and I met up with 8 other church leaders from Long Island and the NYC area and traveled to Villa Esperanza in Managua, Nicaragua where we met up with another 5 church leaders from around the US for a vision trip with Forward Edge International. On Tuesday we heard from Forward Edge founder Joseph Anfuso as well as the Villa founders and leadership team about their vision for holistic ministry and community transformation. We then went to the town of Villa Guadalupe where we went to the homes of two families of girls who are in Villa Esperanza’s residential program. We then had lunch with educators, medical professionals, pastors, and community leaders at the local school and heard how they are all working together to address problems and raise the standard of their community.
This town was famous for years for its dump in which people would make a living by digging through the trash to find everything from scraps of food to things they could sell to make a living. Their extreme material poverty resulted in many abuses, most notably against young girls. While many strides have been made, including shutting down the old dump, creating a recycling plant, and much more, most of the abuse continues. You will notice in the pictures below one of a few houses. These houses were built by the French and Nicaraguan governments when they created the recycling plant. Unfortunately, most of the people were not accustomed to the furnishings provided in the homes, and seeing an opportunity to make a quick buck, they sold off the furniture. You will also notice that the windows are boarded up. This was the case of the vast majority of the houses. Why? Because evil requires darkness. Much abuse happens behind the covered windows of these homes. Forward Edge and Villa Esperanza are working hard to address the systemic issues that cause these things today as well as working on initiatives that will transform the community holistically and break the cycles for future generations.
During the afternoon we heard from Dr. Ravi Jayakaran about their process for working with leaders to assess the needs of their community and address those needs in an integral way. During the evening we had dinner with the girls of the Villa. For me personally it was such a joy to be reunited with the girls I met and fell in love with this past summer.
Last week I had the idea to produce simple 1-minute videos to encourage our students. In our youth ministry we have a ministry to girls called hrt ❤ and a ministry to boys called manUP. Here is the first one for each.
The other day I woke up in the middle of a dream in which I was facilitating a discussion with my leadership team. (I’m weird, I know.) I was asking everyone to finish two simple phrases:
- Today, as we go about our tasks, let’s remember that … (fill in the blank with a truth).
- Today, as we go about our tasks, let’s remember to … (fill in the blank with a value).
Last weekend we had the joy of attending the Larkin family reunion in Pennsylvania. 75 of us were there, 30 were missing, and there are 3 more on the way.
In honor of my Grandma and Grandpa Larkin’s 60th Anniversary, I painted this rock to be presented to them at our family reunion this weekend. They have 8 daughters, 29 grandchildren, and 38 grandchildren (and one on the way). They have served the Lord faithfully and left (and are continuing to leave) a legacy all over the world as pastors and missionaries, and I am so blessed to call them my Grandparents.
About a year ago my daughter Natalia, who was in 8th grade, introduced me to 4 Corner Dodgeball, which she had learned at school. Since then, we simply cannot play regular dodgeball if we have more than 20 students. The idea is simple. You have 4 teams, each in a quadrant, and they are all against each other. Having to defend balls being thrown, not just from in front of you, but also from your sides, adds incredible excitement to the game. Then, recently, I decided to try a twist. In the middle of the game, I yelled, “Rotate!” and teams had to move over to the quadrant to their left. Everyone started running to their new area, all while trying to avoid being hit while switching. The insanity of people moving while still playing was awesome! The students loved it and it kept them on their toes and the game exciting.