“I consider you guys like my parents, my spiritual parents, since my parents aren’t here with me I’d like for you guys to talk to the kids.” This is what one mother told us a couple weeks ago when we asked her if she really wants us to talk to her kids about doing better in school and to give them some dating advice. We just couldn’t believe that someone from this culture would want us to talk to their kids.
Olga is originally from Honduras and we have known her for as long as we have been in Guatemala. Not only is she one of our growing disciples in City of Refuge church were we serve and teach, but also is a family being helped by the Serving At Risk Families ministry (you can read more of her story here). Her family remains in Honduras while she and her sister live here in Guatemala. Since we have known her, Olga has grown immensely out of the oppressive situation she was in and has become an influential leader in the church and her community. However if you asked her, she would respond humbly and say, “I still have much to learn.” She looks up to us and loves us as part of her family just as we love her. She even asked us to walk her down the aisle for her wedding!
This year as a ministry we have been trying to be even more proactive in making sure we do everything we can to insure that the kids that are supported through scholarships pass their grade. Our January team installed a computer lab up at the church so the kids in and around the community have a place to go every day where they can receive help with homework as well as have internet access to do their research. We noticed that with getting kids in better schools, it requires more work. One unfortunate issue that highlights the depth of poverty and lack of support from schools/government in Guatemala is that the majority of these families that are being helped to get into better schools to receive a better education are not able to afford computers and internet in their homes for the schoolwork the children are required to complete! It seems like a never ending cycle.
Thankfully, Servants has received donations of computers that are being repaired and refurbished by Gracetech (a ministry of Servants) and they are being sent down so we can install community computer labs as well as loan laptops to families that need them so the kids can properly fulfill their educational responsibilities as mandated by the schools.
So, we implemented a rule that the kids who failed last year need to come to study hall at least 2 times a week to make sure they are doing their homework and recognize there is help available to them and so those who are monitoring the study hall can try to gauge progress with the kids before they receive negative grades in their classes. Olga had been struggling to get her kids to comply with this rule and asked us if we would come talk to them, that maybe the kids would be more compliant if it came from someone else they respected and trusted. Not only was it an honor to us to be asked to do such a thing, but it was also a bit scary for us as we don’t have kids ourselves! We laughed that we couldn’t treat them like our dog and just put them outside for a while until they learn their lessons!
So, we spent an hour or so one night having “a talk” with them, just as our parents had many with us (I shudder at the thought) but in the end it seems to have helped a little. We didn’t really scold them but asked them where they were struggling and encouraged them that we are here to help them succeed. We were able to identify some problem areas with each child and suggest solutions not only for the kids to work on but also the parents to help them with. This included encouraging them as siblings to help one another where one is weak and the other is strong in certain subjects! While the meeting made us wonder what good it would do, we were blessed to be able to have the talk with the family and recognize how much of an impact we are making in the community.
God continues to bless us with close relationships with the people we are serving in a way we never would have imagined. 3+ years ago when we were giving our initial presentation we never would have thought that one night we would be sitting in the living room of a 5 person family giving tips to the kids on how to study better and encouraging the parents how to better care for their children. I say it all the time and I’ll say it again, “There is absolutely no logical reason why we should be here doing this short of the grace and power of God.” It is He who makes opportunities like this not only possible, but successful.