Perfect in the Potter’s Hands

“What is this?” Ricky asks students as he holds up my guitar.

“Una guitarra!” they all answer

“Let’s pretend that I am the creator of this guitar, and you tell me, ‘Ricky, that guitar is ugly! It’s deformed. It has a big hole in the middle. Your guitar makes no sense! Your guitar is a porquería (useless garbage)!’

Who would you be insulting? Me, or the guitar?”

Some students inevitably answer, “La guitarra!” while others say “You.”

After they answer, either right or wrong, he tells them to now pretend he is their art teacher, and that after asking them to draw something, he insults their creation saying it is terrible and belongs in the wastebasket. “Who am I insulting: Your drawing, or you?”

Since this hits closer to home for them, they all answer viscerally, “Me!” Passionate hand and arm movements often accompany this answer, as this is Puerto Rico, where we talk as much with our hands as we do with our mouths.

“Why you?” Ricky asks.

“Because I made it,” they answer with as much passion as if this had actually happened.

The next question leads each person in the room to look inward and self-analyze.

“What if I tell you that you are ugly. Stupid. Empty-headed. Useless. Worthless. Who am I insulting?”

Some in the group will answer, “Me!”

Ricky asks again, “Who am I insulting. You?…or God?”

The point hits home as they agree that yes, when we insult another person, we are actually insulting the Creator. The idea here is to lead students to understand that the destructive words we say to tear a person down actually weigh heaviest on God’s heart, because we are essentially saying His creation is worthless. Ricky asks them, “Raise your hand if you would stand before an Almighty God and tell Him, ‘God, your creation is a porquería.'”

You can hear a pin drop in the room.

“But you do it everyday,” he reminds them. “When you insult one another and mistreat one another. When you call each other names and push one another around, making yourself bigger by making someone else smaller with your words, actions and treatment. If you wouldn’t do it to God, why do you do it to His creation?”

This is how Ricky begins his ‘anti-bullying’ message in the schools. Soon, he moves on to show them two coffee mugs, one large and one small, again asking them to imagine he created both: one large, strong and full; the other small, fragile and filled with less.

He asks, “Does one mug have the right to say to the other, ‘I am better than you because I am bigger, stronger, and have been given more while you are small, weak, and have so little.”

“No,” they reply.

“Why not?”

Smaller kids often say, “Because mugs can’t talk.”

“Ricky corrects them saying, ‘Because I am the creator and it was my will to make one big, strong and full, while making the other small, fragile and with less.'”

At this point, he turns the message onto the students personally, telling them, “It was God’s will to create you exactly the way you are,” complete with all of their physical, emotional and intellectual characteristics. “Just as each of these mugs was created the way they are for a pre-determined use and purpose.”

But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:20-21)

After sharing some personal anecdotes from his childhood, and how he perceived himself to be worthless, Ricky holds up the mugs again in front of the children. He tells them, “Look at these two mugs again. One was made big and strong for a nice, robust cup of coffee early in the morning. The other was made by its creator for a nice cup of tea at 3 in the afternoon. Therefore, we see how how each cup was formed perfectly by its creator for a specific purpose. Hence, each of these is perfect in the hands of the creator.”

This is where we remind the children that in no way are we perfect, as our sin makes us imperfect,  but by the design of the Creator, we were perfectly formed, according to His will and purpose. Anyone who makes you believe different is lying to you.”

From our own personal life experiences, as well as repeatedly teaching on this topic, we have come to the conclusion that there are three types of people when it comes to bullying:

  1. Bullies
  2. Victims of bullies
  3. Those who stand by and do nothing

If you are wondering why I did not mention those who defend the victim, it is because so few are willing, since they know they soon will become a victim. For this reason, victims of bullying, verbal abuse and character assassination often feel very alone.

There have been times during the course of this teaching where, by looking at the students’ faces Ricky can read who is who in the room. He will tell them, “I’ve been doing this so long, and experienced it myself for so long that I know who in this room is who. I hope this message is reaching your heart in the way it is meant to, whether you are the bully or the bullied.”

At one school we visited, we saw a 5th grade girl crying and hugging her classmates outside the room where we had ministered to her class. The social worker told me, “She has been apologizing to her classmates. She tends to be a busca-bulla (troublemaker) and your husband’s message seems to have impacted her.”

FOREKNOWN

Social workers at schools across the island bring us in to bring a message with the theme discussed above. We do not tire of seeing middle and high-schoolers who came in with their guards up, softening their stance in self-reflection and realization, getting a kick out of Abuelo Paco rapping, or Jenny doing her ‘robot’ dance, then thanking and hugging us afterwards, and asking for selfies with our family. We are in many a young person’s selfie across the island. Below, some photos of middle and high school presentations from February through March.

 

POTTER’S CLAY

A social worker in San Juan  let us know that she had seen a visible change in the students’ behavior after their time with us. We are humbled to hear this sort of report, but we make sure to let school administrator’s know that we are planting seeds, not trees. We are under no illusion that anyone walks out of our presentations completely transformed. We do this work because we trust that God sends some to sow, others to water, and when the time is right, He gives the increase as only He can. Below, a selection of photos from all the pre-k and elementary school groups we ministered to from February thru March.

BAD BUNNY, PERFECT LAMB

It is a very short distance from what we see and hear, to what comes out of our mouths and hands. Ricky exhorts congregants gathered in the churches with a message about guarding their hearts as the Word tells us to.

If what we claim to believe is not what we actually live in our homes, communities and places of work, then we are what God’s Word calls a hypocrite. This is a message that has resonated greatly with families in churches.

Based on the things we see happening on the island, and how islanders are currently being portrayed by the music and artists who, for better or worse, represent us to the rest of the world, we have seen the need to target hypocrisy among professing believers.

As Ricky teaches groups about the effects of the media we consume, he gives them present-day examples of television shows we know are very popular among islanders that offer nothing in the way of valuable input. As an example, he cites ‘reality’ television shows that depend on gossip, vulgar feuding and profanity-laced discord to entertain their audiences.

For music, he uses a the very relevant example of Bad Buddy (the suddenly-world-famous ‘trap music’ artist from Puerto Rico.) He breaks down some of the topics that Bad Bunny’s lyrics glorify, showing why he and other artists like him do not deserve a believer’s money or attention:

  • Drug use:  Drug trafficking is the #1 cause of murder on the island of Puerto Rico.
  • Love of money: Drug trafficking, the #1 cause of murder, stems from a love of money.
  • Violence: The majority of homicides each year on the island are attributed to the constant battle for ‘puntos,’ which is the word used for neighborhood points of drug trade on the island.
  • Misogyny: Trap and reggetón artists use a specific word to refer to women, which is a profane word for ‘prostitute.’ Ricky reminds young girls that not only are they repeating this insult when they sing it, but so are their future husbands, who will one day treat them the way these artists teach them that women should be treated.
  • Adultery: A large number of the students who sit before us on any given day are products of a home in which adultery has led to the separation of their parents. There are countless stories of abusive step parents which would not exist were it not for adultery having separated the family unit.

The list goes on, but the above is usually enough to do many in, shaking their heads in shame and disbelief. When Ricky mentions the names of these popular artists in churches, many young people and even parents of little ones slink down in their seats, or look around to avoid eye contact with him or their church leaders.

THE GOD OF OUR FATHERS

Ricky shares an interesting fact with the groups at this point: In December 2018, Puerto Rico’s biggest newspaper (El Nuevo Día) named Bad Bunny Puerto Rico’s new ambassador, indicating that he is the best this island has to offer…to the entire rest of the free world.

He tells them, “But many years ago, before you or I were born, Puerto Rico had a different ambassador. And he wasn’t a bad bunny. He was a perfect Lamb. So perfect that our forefathers placed him on the crest of Puerto Rico, sitting on top of a Bible. So perfect that He left his throne and riches in heaven to come down to earth and be made poor so that you and I might be rich in our hearts.

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“But today, we’ve accepted a new ambassador. One who came to make himself rich in his pockets while you and your children become poor in your hearts.

“So I ask you today: Who is your ambassador?  The bad bunny, or the perfect Lamb. Because it can’t be both.”

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24)

ENTRUSTED WITH MUCH

This entry covers the 10 churches 15 schools we visited from the dates of February 15th to March 31st. Because of the number of invitations we receive to minister across the island, I am no longer able to post each visit to a place in its own set of pictures (or this blog would be much longer).

Still, we understand the importance of continuing to document each of these visits and ministry happenings on our blog for those of you who continually support us and pray for us. Your prayers are bearing much fruit, and as such, in it’s 5th year, the ministry is reaching more people than it ever has, praise the Lord!

Thank you to all who have stood alongside us in prayer and financial support of the ministry at any point along this journey. Thank you to those who have believed in the calling God has placed on our lives. Thank you to all who receive and read our updates with joy, and to those who respond in prayer, notes of encouragement and/or donations. We receive your support and love with humility and a renewed commitment to continue serving the Lord where He has placed us.

To make a contribution to RAME Ministries of any amount (no amount is too small), please click on the image below:

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Thank you for reading, and may the Lord bless you richly.


Below, a video we recently posted to YouTube that is a cover of a well known song by a Puerto Rican artist, but with our own lyrics. Enjoy! 

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Pure & Undefiled

“Look what they gave me!” the little girl exclaimed as she dug through her plastic pencil case. She produced an ordinary yellow pencil with a replacement eraser attached to the top. Wrapped around the pencil was a strip of white paper which read “Pink Rose” in Spanish—the little girl’s name.

She was so pleased to show us this gift, since having something of her very own is really something to celebrate. The girl lives in a group home, a common circumstance among students in the public school system in Puerto Rico. She had seen our presentation at her school that morning, and came to talk to us during her recess. I asked her if she had a sharpener for her pencil. She told me no, so I dug thru our boys’ pencil case and produced a small black one, which I told her she could have.  She thanked me, and bounded happily away from us as a truth came into clear focus for both of us: Each time we minister in the public schools through music, the Word, prayer or our comedies, we are carrying out the precept in God’s Word about pure and undefiled religion:

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble… (James 1:27)

The students we meet typically appear unaffected in the beginning of our interaction with them. While we sing with them and make them laugh, their faces rarely give away the sad circumstances happening at home; or the fact that they don’t even live in a home with another blood relative, as siblings are often separated once they are put into the state’s system.

It isn’t until the message portion, where Ricky informs them about God’s love for them as being evident even in the way He physically formed them, that we see faces begin to change. Older students’ walls begin to crumble as they see themselves in the message. Younger students will often well up with tears and pay closer attention as they hear something that resonates with their life experiences. All ages react visibly when Ricky shares that God has a specific purpose for each and every one of their lives, and that God does not make mistakes.

Many of these students have seen more pain in their short lives than many of us will ever see. When Ricky shares in his message about the real meaning of love as an action, rather than a feeling, the realization sets in. Parallels in their own lives make them evaluate whether they are loving others as they should. Naturally, this also causes them to question whether they have ever actually been loved in the real sense by another.

One Kindergartener who was recently with us saw his father gunned down and killed in front of their home two years ago for having been part of a drug ring. The boy describes the event in full detail. Just two weeks prior to us visiting his school, gunmen had visited his home again, this time targeting his mother who, since becoming a widow, has become involved with another man involved in the world of drug trafficking. When she saw a shadow creep past a window outside her house, she ushered her small children into a closet as shots began to ring out. This little boy is not thinking about his ABC’s or 123’s from 8am to 3pm. He has only one thing on his mind: the fact that on any given day, he can leave school only to find out he is now among the many orphans on the island of Puerto Rico.

Love is not just ushering our children into a closet when shots ring out. Love is choosing to not get involved with another person who could put the innocent lives of our children in danger, even it means experiencing loneliness. Our hope when we minister in the schools is that we can encourage students to put a Christ-like, sacrificial, active love to work in their own lives so that they do not repeat patterns that have had damaging and even fatal effects to those who came before them.

OPEN DOORS

We spent an entire day ministering to the students at a public school in Vega Alta. Serving at this school opened the door to opportunities to serve at two different churches later in the semester, which we will document in a forthcoming post. We are grateful for the continued reward of getting to serve God more.

KNOWLEDGE VS. WISDOM

Ricky teaches children and families about the importance of guarding our hearts by way of making wise choices in regards to what we consume, i.e. television, movies and music. One student at the high school pictured below respectfully challenged Ricky’s teaching by asking how he will know what is going on in the world if he is not consuming the popular media that ‘teaches’ about these things. This student was confusing knowledge with wisdom. Knowledge deals with mere information and content, while wisdom deals with how that content is processed, discerned and either discarded, or internalized and assimilated. Ricky encouraged Him to seek the wisdom that is from above; that when we do, everything we need to know will be added to us. I chimed in from the back of the classroom with what God’s word says about this very topic:

…do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20)

BE EXAMPLES IN CONDUCT

Some public school campuses in Puerto Rico, like the one pictured below, are known as “Segunda Unidad” (Second Unity), which indicates that they house elementary and middle school students all together. We often minister in these types of schools and immediately see the difference between the innocence and uninhibited joy of the little ones and the jaded, initially disinterested attitudes of the middle schoolers as the day transpires and we work with each age group. Our ministry has been blessed with a program that can be modified according to this type of environment so that each group will receive just what they need at their stage in life. We do not want to leave the little ones out, while also honoring the maturity and personal experience of the middle schoolers, and God has shown us how to bridge this gap throughout the last five years.

ME ACUERDO

Abuelo Paco wrote an autobiographical hip-hop song for YouTube that we posted several months back. We have adapted it for live performance, and it has become a mainstay for our time in middle schools and some high schools. The students are always surprised at how catchy it is, the hook and the message it contains. Our boys love to participate, acting as the playground “bullies” the song talks about, while dancing up front with Abuelo Paco.

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It gets audible whoops and hollers each time we perform it, as the students never expect Abuelo Paco to spit legit rhymes that they can dance to. At the school pictured below, we spent two days bringing worship, a Word based message, and a drama featuring Paco’s song to the receptive middle schoolers.

SO. MANY. PETS.

At the school pictured below, we enjoyed a time of ministering to students from K thru 6th grade for two days.

The science teacher that had invited us gifted our boys a blue and red Beta Fish and a small plant, both of which are still thriving.

Our new fish brought our count of pets to three (two dogs, one fish). Because our household seems to always operate on a basis of two-by-two, we recently also acquired a puppy from a neighbor. This is not counting the family of chickens that tears up our garden. Them we do not feed, but they return still, much to Ricky’s chagrin.

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Our newest addition on the day we brought her home. We are calling her “Teeny”

FOR GOD SO LOVED PUERTO RICO…

The month of February was one in which we were asked to teach specifically about love and friendship. Ricky was happy for the opportunity to teach about love as a verb, rather than the noun we often treat it as. He teaches that the Word of God does not say God so loved the world that…

He said ‘I love you’, or that…

He got butterflies in His stomach.

Rather, God’s radical love did something to show us what love is (John 3:16).

God put His love in action when He sent His sinless son to die a sinner’s death on a cross.

God so loved the world that He offered us the chance at eternal life when we did not deserve it.

God did not wait for us to be better. He loved us before we loved Him. He moved in our favor when we were about the business of our sin. God so loved (verb) us that He acted. That. is. LOVE.

At the public school pictured below, we had the opportunity to teach about this kind of love to the students gathered, from Pre-Kinder all the way thru 5th grade.

…And we were blessed with an invitation to the private school below on February 14th to teach on this very topic during their chapel periods.

WIDOW & ORPHAN

While we go into schools and churches unaware of the depth of need we face on any given day, we trust in a God that does know the unique situation of every single student, teacher and staff member. He is sending us to the orphan…to the widow…to the children of the widow without us even knowing it. We trust in a God who opens doors where His love is most needed, and where the seed of His truth will fall on fertile ground.

If you would like to be a part of this ongoing mission on the island of Puerto Rico, we gladly and humbly accept donations of any amount. No amount is too small and all of it goes to the continuance of bringing God’s Word to children and families in their places of learning and worship. To make a contribution to RAME Ministries, please click on the image below:

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Thank you for reading, and may God bless you richly!


Abuela Jenny wrote a musical letter to Abuelo Paco, and sings it to him as an apology for an argument they had in the video below. Enjoy!  

A Coin in the Bank

One small hand went up, and it was as if a spotlight shone right on the little boy in the center of the room. Ricky’s question to the group at a public elementary school had been, “How many of you here like being insulted and told you are not good enough?”

Ricky re-worded the question and asked it a second time, certain the boy had misunderstood. His hand stayed up.

Ricky asked him, “You do? Why?”

“Because it’s true,” came his answer, as a tear flowed down his cheek. The room went completely silent as I peeked out from behind Ricky to find the face in the crowd.

As we continue to serve in Puerto Rico, we meet thousands of people each month. This allows us to keep our ear to the ground on what individuals are experiencing daily on the island.

Something we see way too much of is children, youth and way-too-young parents trying to find their way with little guidance or understanding of how they fit in, or what their place is in the world. Neglect and abuse at home is exacerbated by bullying at school and a lack of encouraging role models, creating a vicious cycle in which boys and girls grow up to be men and women who believe they will never amount to much. These young men and women quite often end up becoming parents before ever having had a chance to break the chains cast upon them from birth.

As Ricky teaches students the biblical perspective on bullying, he exhorts them to consider the words that we say to others as a coin in the bank of someone’s life. After so many insults, jabs and destructive criticism, an individual does indeed begin to believe what is being told to him or her, as we witnessed with the little boy above. At the tender age of nine, he expressed that he actually welcomed the insults, because they are in keeping with what he has always heard about himself. There is a strange comfort in the consistency of opinion about him, which I understood to be a defense mechanism from my own experience as a nine-year-old: ‘If I beat them to the punch, it won’t hurt as much.’ 

Regardless of socioeconomic circumstances, our idle and poorly chosen words can actually be a coin in the bank of what leads another person into a life of poor choices and heavier chains cast upon their children, and their children’s children. Ricky stresses this point by sharing his own experiences with bullying, and we see walls start to come down as the students realize there is an adult in the room who might actually understand what they are going through.

We spent two days at the school pictured below, teaching the children about the One who came to break their chains.

STARTING WELL

We started the month of January serving at a local church for a special Saturday morning celebration for children and families. Though they had originally asked us to do our presentation outside, we humbly asked if it would be possible to present indoors, away from some attractions that were planned for the children and their families, since our ministry is centered on bringing a message from God’s Word. They warned us that in the past, local community members are not willing to come inside the church, but are more likely to attend activities outside. We assured them that however many came inside was fine by us.  They agreed, and we had the opportunity to bring God’s Word to members of the congregation, as well as families from the surrounding neighborhood who do not normally attend church. The church was kind enough to hold off the other attractions until we finished our presentation so as to hold the attention of everyone in attendance.

LA UNO

We spent quite a bit of January on the pothole-riddled Highway 1, known to locals as La Uno or  La Carretera Vieja de Caguas (the old highway of Caguas)The journey through this area is lined with seedy motels and abandoned warehouses, and is not exactly the most scenic route on the island. But, we go where the Lord calls us. Below, some photos of a morning in which we ministered to students at a Christian Academy in Caguas.

PLANTING SEEDS

Word spreads quickly among the teaching folk, and they have made great use of social media and communications apps to let colleagues in other schools know about the program that we offer. We have been surprised at how excited school administrators are when they call us, having heard about us from someone who has already hosted us. They very often tell us that their school community is very much in need of the message we bring; not only for the students, but for the teachers.  Below, several sets of photos from public schools we visited in Caguas in January.

At the school below, the librarian who opened her space to us was incredibly loving and kind towards every student that walked through her doors.  In the set of photos below, you will see her teaching our board-game loving boys how to play Connect Four in her library, where they enjoyed many puzzles and games (after finishing their school work, of course).

Below, some photos of a public school in which we had the opportunity to minister to 400 students from K thru 5th grade as we spent the day receiving groups in their school library.

BREAKING CHAINS

We continue our mission to encourage individuals on the island of Puerto Rico with the message of hope from God’s Word. We live a life of service as a small offering to the Lord for what He has done for us. The only way to effectively share the message of the Gospel is to live the message of the Gospel. God sent His son, not so that we could live according to our own flesh, but so that we could spend our earthly days inside of His abundant joy, peace and eventually, come into His perfect rest. In order to do this, chains need to be broken. Praise His name, He is in the business of breaking chains and long-held generational patterns. We trust that as people in Puerto Rico hear the truth of His Word, they will consider who they really are…and who they could be in Him.

PLENTIFUL HARVEST

Since mid-January, we have seen a significant uptick in the communications we receive from schools and churches wanting to bring our program to their students and families. We have a very busy Spring ahead, praise His name. We very much enjoy this work, and are grateful for a God who watches over our home and builds rest into our schedule in such a beautiful way. We are also grateful for those of you who keep up with us regularly, and who support this ministry through your prayers and offerings. No gift is too small for this ministry, and each cent allows us to continue this work. To make a donation of any amount, please click on the image below.

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As always, thank you for reading, and may God bless you richly.


Below, a fun music video from our YouTube channel that has gotten quite a bit of attention from the students we meet in schools. Enjoy! 

Five Years On

For the last five years (yes, FIVE!), we have made it a point to blog on a monthly basis about what we are doing in Puerto Rico. For the first time, we missed a month because, praise God, He has opened a greater door for service, and we have been so busy that we haven’t had a chance to send an update.

Whoops!

We look back upon the last five years and praise the Almighty for calling us, equipping us, and confirming to us that we are doing exactly what we were called to do in exactly the place He called us to do it. Some five-and-a-half years ago, we sold everything and said, “Here we are, Lord! Send us!” We could have never imagined the things He would do, and we look forward to the things He has yet to do.

As such, the events pictured below are some from the end of 2018. Thank you to those who follow this blog, and keep us in your prayers. They are certainly availing much, as the Lord is showing us that He wants to grow the scope and reach of RAME Ministries in this, our fifth year of service.

Below, some photos from a private school’s 1st grade retreat out in Arecibo where we were blessed to serve…

…and where we returned in early December to serve at their Kindergarten retreat.

FROM WHENCE EVERYTHING FLOWS

At the above Kindergarten retreat, a mother approached me to let me know she had been touched by a message Ricky had preached at her church a couple of weeks before.

Ricky taught the families gathered for the evening service about guarding their hearts (Proverbs 4:23) as God’s Word teaches us to do. This young mother confided to me that she had been convicted by her failure to guard not just her own heart, but her young daughter’s. She told me she hadn’t realized how much of what she consumes trickles down to her daughter, i.e. music, television, movies, even relationships, and she was determined to start making some difficult changes. I encouraged her that it’s never too late, and thanked her for her words of encouragement.

GATEWAY TO THE WEST

Our time at the private school mentioned above has opened many doors to minister in Arecibo, a municipality in the northwest part of the island. Below, a church that invited us to be a part of a Friday evening service for the families of the church.

GIVING THANKS

A local church in the central municipality of Gurabo invited us to minister at their annual seniors’ Thanksgiving luncheon. We have been teaching our boys that we can be a blessing to others at any age, and that the elderly very much enjoy the company of young children. We encourage them that though they are small, they can bless the aging population simply by spending time with them; that the elderly receive joy by simply watching children in action. We enjoyed a time of music, Word and comedy, followed by a delicious Thanksgiving lunch with the folks gathered.

¡QUE BONITA BANDERA!

Did you know that there was another Puerto Rican flag before there was the Puerto Rican flag? On a beautifully sunny Sunday morning, we enjoyed a quiet drive out west to the beautiful town of Lares, the birthplace of the revolution to free Puerto Rico from Spanish rule. The town is peppered with images of the first Puerto Rican flag ever rendered, which came into use during this first revolt, referred to as “El Grito de Lares” (for those of you who enjoy history).

We set out to Lares to serve at a small country church, where the pastor apologized for the low turnout on this particular Sunday.

We assured them no apologies were needed, as Christ assures us…

…where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

ON OUR TOES

We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve had the pleasure of returning to the private school pictured below. We’ve told the Chaplain that he keeps us creating so that we always have something new to bring the students who have been seeing us a few times a year since 2015. Since it is a bilingual school, this time we brought Abuelos Paco and Jenny en inglés.

FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE

We had the joy of serving at a public Special Education high school for students thru 21 years of age. They clapped along to the music, laughed heartily at the comedic portions, and listened to Ricky’s message about how each one of them was perfectly created for a specific purpose; God makes no mistakes. They thanked us with hugs and high-fives at the end. Afterwards, we got to spend some time with them and see some of the projects they have been working on with their devoted music teacher, who has taught them to make instruments out of recycled materials.

A DOOR THAT NO MAN CAN SHUT

This past month has brought a flood of telephone and online communications from schools public and private, churches, vacation Bible schools, and others wanting to know what dates we are available to bring the ministry’s program to them. We are receiving at least one call per day and the calendar is filling up in an unprecedented way. We are grateful for God’s faithfulness in giving us good work for our hands to do, and we continue to trust Him for provision. If you would like to be a part of this mission, please click the image below to make a donation of any amount to RAME Ministries. Any amount is a blessing to be able to continue carrying out this work:

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Thank you for reading. May God bless you richly!


You do not need to speak or understand Spanish to enjoy the video below. For your amusement, here are some Bloopers from our time filming for YouTube. Enjoy! 

He Felt Everything

Sorrow. Grief. Humiliation.

My oldest son pointed to his right palm and asked, “When they put the nail in Jesus’s hand here, did He feel it?”

Both boys looked at me wide-eyed, as I answered:

“He felt everything.” 

God’s Word says that He experienced all things that we experience, except for the fleeting pleasures of sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Some might say of God’s impossible-to-keep commandments, “Easy for Him to say; He doesn’t know what it’s like to be me!”

But God does know. He knows because Jesus felt everything.

Rejection. Betrayal. Abandonment. 

Though Jesus lived a sinless life, he wasn’t birthed by a sinless mother, nor was He surrounded by sinless family or friends. His devotion and piety made others angry. His own brothers didn’t believe He was the Son of God until after His resurrection. So, if we imagine that everyone smiled every time Jesus walked into a room, we are mistaken. His sinless existence and very presence aggravated the sinful nature of those around Him. This certainly had to make for a very lonely existence.

We might say, “Ok, so His family didn’t ‘get’ Him, but He rolled 12 deep for the last three years of His life.”

Well, we should consider the following:

None of the 12 disciples understood Jesus’s words fully until they received the Holy Spirit, which was after Jesus had ascended into Heaven (John 14:26).  So, while Jesus was on earth, He was misunderstood by even those who walked closely with Him (Matthew 15:16). Furthermore, one of the twelve betrayed Him right into the hands of His killers (Luke 22:3-6), while another denied ever knowing Him when challenged shortly before Jesus’ sentencing (Luke 22:54-62).

Temptation. Pain. Fear.

Scripture documents the tempting of Jesus by Satan immediately after our Lord’s baptism in the Jordan (Matthew 4:1-11). Not only did Jesus feel the extreme physical pain of thirst, hunger and exhaustion while He contended with the enemy’s jabs; He also felt the enormous weight of temptation…a temptation that was all the more painful because He never relieved Himself as any one of us would have done (Matthew 4:10-11). On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Father, and His sweat was drops of blood because of His anguish at the thought of bearing and dying on the cross (Luke 22:44).

My oldest asked, after hearing the above: “If Jesus is so powerful, then why didn’t He take Himself off the cross?”

Sound familiar?

Mocked. Exploited. Crucified.

As Jesus hung, dying on the cross, passersby could not get enough of the vindication they felt at having been “right.” There was no way this could be the Son of God, and they made sure to let Him know it:

And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. (Matthew 27:39-42).

So, my son’s question received a simple answer: “Obedience.” 

We tell our boys over and over again: God’s mercy means that while it should have been us, it was His Son…His perfect, sinless Son…suffering and dying for our sins.

God kept His Son from experiencing the fleeting pleasures of sin, and instead had Him endure the inestimable pain of it. For you and for me. There is no way for us to get to the Father aside from accepting the sacrifice made by the Son on our behalf.

No. other. way.

Jesus knew that He came to die. The Father had sent Him for this very purpose. Jesus also knew that He had legions of angels at His very disposal if He just said the word (Matthew 26:53). But, in order to be sin’s perfect sacrifice, He had to feel it. Every last bit of it. There was no relief. There was only obedience.

SHINE A LIGHT

When asked where he won’t go to preach, Ricky has no answer, except to say “If God sends me to preach at the gates of Hell, I have to trust that He will protect me there.”

Gulp.

From national news these days, you may be thinking that Puerto Rico has become pretty close to that aforementioned place. But, we trust God for protection as we continue to shine His light in obedience to those He sends us to.

Wherever the preaching of God’s Word is welcome, we will go. So, comparatively speaking, a private school’s Halloween celebration sounds pretty tame.

The principal was so impacted by the message preached that she asked Ricky if he could return to bring just the message to the middle schoolers several weeks later.

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SUNDAY BEST

A local church had been holding on to our information for over a year before they contacted us to host a Sunday morning service geared toward children and their families.

BELIEVE IN THE LIGHT

A recent national news story spurred by several horrible daytime shootings on the island mentioned how Puerto Rico’s ex-Police Commissioner does not leave her house after 6pm. We have a similar rule, except for when we are going to bring God’s Word. Trusting that we have the Light, and because we are bringing the Light, we know that God will shine His light on us to not only keep us safe, but also to keep us from the debilitating fear that could keep us from bringing His Word to many local churches. We don’t glory in being called to minister in a dangerous place. We glory in the Lord of hosts, who promises to send His angels before us, and who makes the way straight for His light to shine into the hearts of others.

You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. (Psalm 91:5-6)

We set out on a Friday evening for the northwestern part of the island to minister at a church’s special event for children.

KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

Our time at a public school was made sweeter by the Kindergarten teacher, who so graciously opened her classroom to our ministry for the whole day. When we arrived, she had already moved all the furniture out of the way so that we could set up, and offered us the use of her computer and projector. This gave us the opportunity to show the children a fun video from our YouTube channel as well.

Eugenio, our younger son, had taken a shine to a microscope the teacher had in her classroom. After we had finished with the final group, I asked her if our boys could take a look through it, and she was happy to let them. As we were leaving, she handed us a heavy plastic bag. The microscope was inside with some viewing samples. It had been gifted to her by a retired biology teacher, and since our boys had liked it so much, she wanted them to have it. We were so moved and blessed by her kindness, and give all glory to God for putting such incredibly generous people in our path as we serve Him.

WE’RE HERE ALL DAY

When we speak to schools who want to bring us in, they assume they have to jam all their students in for one presentation only, or hand-pick a small group of students to be with us. They are pleasantly surprised when we tell them, “We will stay with you all day. As long as it takes to impact all your students.”

This is what we worked out with the Social Worker at the middle school below. We set up in the school’s library, and they brought us 5 different groups from 8:30am thru 3:00pm.

 

Killed. Risen. Ascended.

I was recently reminded that Jesus’s disciples did the very same thing children do: They asked Him questions; sometimes the same questions they had already heard Jesus speak on (Mark 10:10). Christ answered every one of the disciples’ questions according to Scripture and the law, but they did not get the full understanding they were seeking while He was with them.

God the Father sent God the Son to bring insight into the Scriptures, then sent God the Holy Spirit to take the knowledge received to a new level of understanding and application. What had begun as head knowledge was now heart knowledge…and the disciples would never be the same. They were now able to apply it in their own lives, and teach it to others.

Our prayer as we answer these types of questions from our boys and others, is that they will hide the scriptural answers in their hearts so that in time, God will give the seed increase.  We pray that soon, the Holy Spirit will dwell in their hearts to turn this head knowledge into heart knowledge that becomes the very fabric of who they are and how they operate in a fallen world.

PRAY FOR PUERTO RICO

Puerto Rico needs your prayers. Please pray that God will continue to give us the strength and resolve to preach His Word boldly and without fear in every place we go.

We give thanks to God for our health and the energy to be able to do a 5-presentation day, and for two patient little boys who want to know more about the God we serve, who participate in this work and who believe in the importance of it. God continues to confirm that His calling is on our entire household, and we look forward to seeing what He has yet to do through Marcos and Eugenio.

We are encouraged by those who believe in this mission. No contribution is too small, and each little bit helps us to continue this work in Puerto Rico. To make a one-time or monthly donation of any amount to RAME Ministries, you may click on the image below:
donation-button

Thank you for reading. May the Lord pour His Spirit upon you, that His Word may be food for your heart, and His grace flow out toward those around you.


Below, a fun video from our YouTube channel that is a parody of a well-known daytime ‘court’ show among Latinos…except ours is a musical. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Time to Laugh

Laughter and tears are very closely related to one another. They are both the physical release of overwhelming emotion. Both are cathartic. Both indicate the letting down of one’s guard. We have learned that we often need to make someone do one of the above in order to get them to listen.

As a family, we have always been adamant that God’s Word and the preaching of it would be the central point at which all activities of our ministry converge. We set out from New Jersey in February of 2014 with visions and imaginations of sharing the Gospel with many people in many places in Puerto Rico.

We quickly learned, however, that Puerto Rico is an island saturated with churches, ministries, roving preachers and evangelists. So why, we wondered, was there so much erroneous belief among those we were meeting? There was obviously a need not being met, and we trusted the Lord to show us how to meet it.

As God developed our ministry and opened doors in unexpected places, we were grateful for the opportunity to bring His truth to so many people. But since we are always asking Him what He requires of us, we did the same when it came to asking Him to guide our steps in creating and refining the content and structure of our ministry.

As I mentioned above, there is an over-abundance of churches and spirituality on the island. This reality tends to make people apathetic towards the things of God, an unfortunate downside of living in a place that enjoys freedom of religion. The Lord showed us early on that in order to avoid being another drop in the sea of ubiquity that is ‘religion’ on the island, we would have to present clear and strong convictions, and insist on biblical teaching, regardless of the environment we were serving in.

Our presentation of colorful characters and comedic skits grew out of the need to present something that would open a door where it may not have been opened otherwise, (i.e. public schools), and, like everything else, was instituted in prayer and strong consideration. God has confirmed His will many times over by giving us an outpouring of ability, creativity and ideas that we never expected or imagined.  We have seen the effectiveness of bringing God’s Word to someone who has just had a good laugh at our expense. We have seen that they are more inclined to listen to a hard teaching from someone who, just moments before, laid his dignity aside to be made fun of by a puppet, or to dress up as an old man who spits rhymes (more on this below).

That said, we kindly decline any invitation where the teaching of God’s Word is not central. Believe it or not, this type of invitation has even come from churches. On the flip side, we joyfully accept invitations to only preach the Word. Though Ricky could go on his own and the rest of us could get the day or night off, we attend even these events as a family, since we are clear that God’s calling is still on all four of us, as it has been from the beginning.

PLANTING AND WATERING

We were happy to receive a repeat invitation to minister at an elementary school in Caguas. Because of the number of permanent school closures on the island last summer, each school we visit has more students than it did the year before. We got to meet some new students and greet some familiar faces, including one student whose name often features at the end of our YouTube videos as a faithful viewer.

WHOM GOD HAS ENTRUSTED TO YOU…

A Social Worker from a shuttered school invited us to minister to her new students at the school she was transferred to. We were able to bring music, the Word and joy for a whole day to a large population of students, including many with special needs.

One teacher shared that a large number of students at this school live in abject poverty. He makes it a point each year to plan field trips to San Juan and Ponce to show them that the world is bigger than their small municipality in the interior part of the island, which he told us many of them have never left.

GONE WITH THE WIND

The church service below took place in a makeshift sanctuary the congregation has been using since Hurricane Maria effectively tore down the entire back wall of their church building. The destruction in the photos they showed us was unimaginable.

The pastoring family shared how when they first drove by the church after the storm, they were relieved to see that the structure had held up. Relief turned to horror when they were finally able to enter the church property, and found the entire back wall blown off. Reminders of the destruction remain in many places on the island, as in this coastal city church which was still in the process of rebuilding over one year after the storm.

DJ JENNY LITE

We had a blast with the students below on our second visit to their school. Their librarian has expressed a desire for the students to hear God’s Word, and brought us in a second time to continue the teaching we started with them in September.

Since it was a follow-up visit with the same students, we wanted to bring them something new in terms of the skits. We decided to do a live adaptation of one of our YouTube music videos called Me Acuerdo.

In the song, Abuelo Paco raps about a difficult childhood in which he was the victim of abuse and bullying. It is a song addressed to both bullies and those who are bullied, letting them know they are both loved by a God who lives. In it, Abuelo Paco shares how the Lord used his experiences to show him that He always had a meaning and purpose for his life, regardless of how many times he was told that he would never amount to anything.

Marcos and Eugenio play the bullies in the skit. Abuela Jenny provides the beat and sings the hook.

These students, some of the first ever to see the live presentation of this song, responded very positively, with some getting up and dancing along.

A SWARM OF BEES

Well, not exactly a swarm, per se, but a whole lot of them became insistent on disrupting our time at the 2nd grade retreat for a private school with which we have been serving since the beginning of the school year. We ended up moving the presentation out of the chapel and into the cafeteria, which had screened windows. We enjoyed our time with the second-graders at their annual retreat. Our boys especially enjoyed the bounce house and popcorn outside after the presentation.

MOURNING TO JOY

Today, just as in 2014, we remain insistent not only on sharing the truths of God’s Word, but also living them out as a family. This comes with many sacrifices, and is certainly not without its share of tears, heartache or loneliness. But we serve a faithful God who, through this ministry, allows us to spend the majority of our time turning those tears into joy, and leading others to do the same.

We continue to serve faithfully on the island and step through each door the Lord opens to bring His Word. We are encouraged by those who believe in this mission. No contribution is too small, and each little bit helps us to continue this work in Puerto Rico. To make a one-time or monthly donation of any amount to RAME Ministries, you may click on the image below. 
donation-button

Thank you for reading. May you look to the Lord, and Him alone, to turn your mourning into joy.


Below, our annual ministry video; a year-in-review of RAME Ministries on the island of Puerto Rico. Enjoy! 

Refreshed

“I hope you remember me…” the communication began. The message appeared in our inbox almost one year to the day after the writer of the message had visited the island and partnered with our ministry to serve the people of Puerto Rico.

She continued, “I would love to see you and your family again.” The feeling was mutual, and of course we remembered her.

She had served in Puerto Rico in 2017 with a group of people from three churches on the mainland. It was humbling to learn that she had such fond memories of her time with us.

She was writing because she was charged with finding a speaker for the children’s portion of her church’s upcoming missions conference in October. “Hopefully you can do your skits in English….I really hope we can make this work,” her message read. We were humbled and excited to have been offered the opportunity, but we knew that October is typically one of our busiest months on the island.

Still, we left it in the Lord’s hands.

A few weeks later, the Lord confirmed that this opportunity was indeed within His will for our family and ministry. We were excited, and got to work translating several of our skits and preparing our full program in English. We wanted to bring our very best on the four nights we would be serving, closing with their weekly AWANA program, where unchurched children from the surrounding community typically attend and numbers swell to 80 children.

WORSHIP AND SERVING

After arriving stateside late on a Friday night, we spent Saturday setting up our equipment, catching up with with our friend and meeting some lovely folks from the church we would be serving in. We attended their church service on Sunday morning, and were encouraged by the uncompromising focus on God’s Word and prayer throughout the service. This is a large, thriving church community with many programs and activities. Yet, none of that got in the way of prayer, worship and preaching of the Word on Sunday morning. Children stay with their parents in the sanctuary, and have the option of completing a small booklet with activities relevant to the same message being preached that morning. I loved this, and so did our boys, who have been accustomed to worshipping with us since they were very small.

After service, we were happy to lead a Sunday school class in Spanish for the three Central American Spanish-only speaking foster children whom families in the church had recently taken in. Normally, they would put the children in the regular English class, but since we were visiting, they asked if we’d be willing to work with them. It was not even a question for us. We worshipped, prayed and brought a drama and the Word to them in Spanish, and had a blast with our sweet group of 5 children, including our boys.

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Ricky teaching the Spanish-speaking children during their Sunday school hour

That same night was the missions conference kickoff. After dinner in the church fellowship hall, we received the children for our first evening with them. It was a blessing to get to know them, and they seemed to take to us well.

 

Our initial nervousness about our program translating well to English–or to ‘American,’ for that matter–began to fade away. They were laughing and listening. We were encouraged by kind words from the adults present in the session.

GRACE UPON GRACE

During our second day, we were blessed by another friend of ours who lives in the area. A mother to 9 children (5 adopted), she and her husband have visited us in Puerto Rico with different combinations of their children several times. On this day, she wanted to treat us and our boys to a day at a local farm/market/petting zoo. She bought us all-day passes to feed the animals, play in corn (see photos below) and enjoy all the fun attractions, not to mention fresh-baked donuts and crisp Fall weather!

We had a great time before heading back to church for dinner and our second evening of service.

The children received us happily on our second evening with them. (Phew, they liked us!)

We shared briefly about Puerto Rico, and the kind of mission work we do on the island as we led worship and taught the Word. On this night, we were able to show them a short YouTube video posted to our channel for the children we serve on the island. We closed with one of our funny skits about faith. Bet you didn’t know Abuela Jenny and Abuelo Paco spoke English…with an accent, of course!

FEED MY SHEEP

On our third evening with the children, Ricky continued a four-part message about guarding your heart in these troubling times, based on Proverbs 4:23. It was nice to bring a more in-depth teaching based off the one he presents in the Puerto Rico schools when asked to teach about bullying.

Our time with the children would fly by as we quickly realized that perhaps we had prepared too much for each evening. We are used to moving from one dynamic to the next in Puerto Rico, but these children’s attention to Ricky’s message was encouraging, so we did not want to cut it short for the sake of a drama. We still had another night left with the children where we could have some fun with them.

FEEDING THE MULTITUDES

Wednesday night is the church’s usual AWANA (children’s evangelism program) night. We were told that it is the most packed night of the week, as children from the surrounding low-income community attend. It was pizza night, and many of their parents also came for the blessing of feeding their family free of charge.

Before beginning, church leaders let us know that we would not have a time limit. They expressed a great deal of appreciation for the program we were bringing, and wanted to allow the children to enjoy everything we had prepared. It was great to be able to introduce them to Pablo De Los Santos (our sassy puppet reporter), and to present our most popular skit with Jenny and Paco, while keeping the evening centered on worship and the Word.

We had a wonderful time with all the children and parents present on this final night of service, and it was a great way to close out our time and participation in the missions conference at this local church.

REFRESHED THROUGH YOU

We cannot say enough about how blessed we were by this church and its congregants.

But, we can try.

I’m always careful about giving thanks in a way that brings attention to the individual (or group of individuals) doing the blessing, since I know this is not why they do it. However, the moving kindness we were shown bears mentioning, as does the gratitude we have for the opportunity to serve the body of Christ in this way.

We’d love to extend our humblest and warmest thanks to our friend who reached out to us with the invitation, the church leaders, the missions committee and all of the individual congregants who took part in flying us out, housing us, providing a car for transportation, feeding us, encouraging us and showing exceptional hospitality and love toward our little family.

We want you to know that we came back to the island refreshed and encouraged to continue our work. Thank you for the coffee, the conversation, the prayers, the offers to take naps in your homes, the hot chili, the warm cider, the hayride (with real hay!), the farm tours, the candy apples……the fellowship.

Thank you so much for the fellowship.

You have replenished us greatly. Words are not enough, but they are all we have, so: THANK YOU.

You have left an indelible mark on each heart in this household.

MEETING THE NEED

We are grateful for your response to our ministry’s needs-registry from our last post. Your contributions are a great blessing to the ministry and those we serve, and we greatly appreciate your willingness to provide for one or more of the ministry’s physical needs.

We continue to serve faithfully on the island and are encouraged by those who believe in this mission and want to be a part of it in any way. To make a one-time or monthly donation to RAME Ministries, you may click on the image below: 
donation-button

We are grateful for your friendship and support. Thank you for reading. May the Lord bless you richly!


Below, a recent video from our YouTube channel where we lead a local church in worship. Enjoy! 

Standing in the Gap

A rooster has taken up residence on our front lawn. He is punctual, crowing each morning at about 6:45am, waking our boys whose bedroom faces the front lawn. A rooster’s crow is loud, confident and unmistakeable. When a rooster crows, he is making a statement, whether to claim and protect his territory or simply proclaim the time of day.

In God’s Word, a rooster notably crows immediately after an important occurrence: a disciple’s categorical denial of Jesus.

Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:34)

A situation at a public school in September served to remind us of the importance of our adherence to and identification with our Lord and Savior, even in the most challenging and frightening circumstances. It is not a question of whether our faith will be challenged or questioned, but rather when our faith will be challenged or questioned. A social worker for a school we were serving at informed us that she and her husband lead a local church. She was happy to bring our program in, knowing we would be sharing God’s Word with the children. However, after the first session with the students, we were called over to a table at the back of the classroom. The social worker and another teacher expressed that there had been a colleague of theirs who was uncomfortable at the reading of God’s Word to support our message, and also that we had prayed in the name of Jesus before the group.

We asked if she had sent out permission slips for the activity to parents in order to give them the freedom to decide whether their children would participate (as some social workers do in order to cover themselves). The social worker replied that she had not, because as she put it, that gesture alone would have insured that the whole idea would have been shot down before we even had a chance to set foot on school grounds. She had been willing to take a chance in faith. But now, her eyes expressed fear and apprehension.

To the credit of these two staff members, they treaded very carefully and approached the topic delicately, knowing that, as believers, they were being put in a tough spot by another colleague, and that they were asking us to compromise our teaching to please everyone.

Ricky gently reminded the women that the ‘values’ we seek to teach children in school are not arbitrary, and that as followers of God’s Word, we could not remove the biblical aspect from the program. The only way to do that would be to pack up and leave, which we were respectfully willing to do if it came to that.

The social worker was downcast, and expressed dismay at the idea that playing reggaeton music in the schoolyard is regularly done as part of school-wide activities, and never draws criticism from anyone.

So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. (Ezekiel 22:30)

Ricky saw an opportunity and told the women: “If these children are not being taught the Word at home, not being taken to church, and now we–even we as believers–are afraid to offend with God’s Word, what are we really doing for these children that the world isn’t already doing for them?”

Ricky surprised me by punctuating his statement with, “This is exactly why my children are homeschooled. Because even believers in the system are too fearful of man’s law to stand in the gap for these little lives.”

The teacher had to step away for a moment, and we were alone with the social worker. Ricky encouraged her, “God has you–a believer in His Word–here in this school for a reason. But His Word never indicates that this life is easy for the believer. If you are facing opposition, then you are doing something right. It’s when everyone is happy with you that you need to start worrying.” 

Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake. (Luke 6:22)

Her face had changed, “You don’t need to say anymore. You’ve convinced me.”

Her rooster had crowed.

She immediately realized how she had almost given in to the temptation to sin. She expressed how easy it is to proclaim our faith where it’s accepted, but the moment we face opposition, we can become just like Peter, who predictably denied Christ when the heat was on.

But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.  And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:54-62)

She went on to tell us that as the new social worker at the school, she had come in the morning after decorating her office door with Bible verses, only to find it vandalized. She didn’t enter into details, but expressed that she was certain it was not a student who had done it because she had placed the verses very high up on the door; too high for a child to reach.

She told us that at the end of our first presentation, one teacher who was exiting with her group expressed dismay at our program. While everyone has a right to their opinion, we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have a duty to the Lord to hold His name up high, unashamed and prepared to suffer rejection, loss and other forms of persecution for our faith. The social worker gathered her strength, and went on with the planned presentations for the rest of the students.

As we left the school, the social worker helped us carry some equipment to our car. It had been a wonderful day of encouraging one another in the Lord, and she asked if she could pray over our family before we left. We gathered with her and the other teacher who had sat with us earlier as she prayed a blessing over our family and ministry.

UPON THE HILLS

One social worker on the island had hosted us at her school in the mountains of Comerío right before Hurricane Maria ravaged the area and shuttered the school forever. She called this year to invite us to minister where she is currently working. Up the steep hills of Barranquitas we went in the early morning to arrive at a small school with a majestic view and bring the Word to the sweet children there.

FULL CIRCLE

The first public school that we ever ministered in on the island is now closed. A displaced social worker from this school, where we ministered again last Spring, brought us to her new school to minister to her new students. As an offering, she took us out to Subway for lunch after we were finished with the students. Gestures like this are always appreciated, as not having to think about putting together a meal after a day of serving is a great blessing to our family.

In several ways, school closings have allowed us entry into more schools because while a social worker or principal may be prevented from bringing us back to their school because of faculty backlash, if he/she ends up at another school, it has been common to hear from them for an invitation to their new place of service. We are blessed to see administrators caring not only for the academic success of their students, but also for their hearts, understanding that:

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. (Mark 7:21-22)

CURTAIN CALL

As the photos show, we serve in all types of spaces in the public schools and beyond. But one public school that brought us in this year had a beautiful theatre space, a rarity in the public schools. It was a treat for us to enjoy a spacious dressing room, since we are used to cramping into a corner of a classroom or behind a bookshelf to transform into our different characters.

We were sad to hear that after this year, the theatre teacher will retire and that there is no one set to take her place. When this happens with, say, a librarian or other “special” teacher, the space often becomes no more than a storage room, or general activity classroom. We were blessed to bring the Word and some laughter to the children in this lovely space.

RETURN TO THE COUNTRYSIDE

As city-dwellers here in Puerto Rico (we live in the San Juan metro area), we look forward to our regular drives out of the hustle and bustle of the city into the area of Arecibo, to a remote retreat center where we are carrying out a year-long residency for a private school. We are the invited guests for each grade’s retreat this school year. This time, we got to enjoy time with the 3rd graders, who we had met at their first chapel activity in August.

MEETING THE NEED

We are grateful for your messages asking what the ministry’s physical needs are. Currently, the ministry has some physical needs that we are now able to present by way of an online ‘registry.’ Items in the registry run as low as $7. Each item links directly to an online store where you can purchase the item and have it sent directly to us in Puerto Rico.

We’d like to thank those of you who have already purchased some of these items. Your contribution is a great blessing to the ministry and those we serve. If anyone feels led, please take a look at the registry. We greatly appreciate your consideration of providing for one of the ministry’s physical needs. The image below links right to the registry: PHYS ITEM DON WOOD

To support out ministry financially, you may click on the image below: 
donation-button

We’d like to thank you, once again, for your generosity, kindness and prayers towards our family as we serve on the island of Puerto Rico. We are grateful for your friendship and support. May the Lord bless you richly!

 

A Spirit Not of Fear

How old is too old? As a society, we should be concerned with honoring the elderly and treating them with the respect their years have earned them. Sometimes, however, we may go too far in this endeavor, and actually deprive an aging person of hearing the soul-saving message of Jesus Christ…all because we don’t want to offend them.

We once served in a local church that was celebrating El Día de Los Abuelos (Grandparents’ Day). The pastor of the church had received our ministry’s information, and invited us to be a part of this service honoring grandparents. A perfect venue for Abuelos Paco and Jenny, we accepted the invitation, knowing God’s Word would be preached during our program.

After the service ended, a church leader expressed dismay at how strong the biblical teaching had been, and how they had preferred the parts where we made the congregants laugh. It seemed that perhaps they had expected a ‘lighter’ program geared towards the elderly, and were taken aback by the evangelistic Word-based message that continues to be the center of our ministry.

I worry that many of us are buying the lie that we can still honor our elders while withholding truth from them.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that we should badger an aging person (or anyone, for that matter) with a message that we have already shared and which they have rejected. The Word speaks clearly on how to deal with anyone who rejects the truth of the Gospel, Jesus said to His disciples:

And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. (Matthew 10:14)

As a family and ministry, we trust that the Gospel seed is planted in the open hearts of those listening, regardless of their age, and that the Lord will bring someone else along to water the seed as He Himself gives it increase. Instead of being discouraged, we take this type of feedback as impetus to continue forward in this important mission.

NOT ASHAMED

On the contrary, we will often find spiritual boldness in the most unlikely of places…like a public school.

Because of a school librarian who expressed no fear in bringing the Gospel message to her students, we spent an entire day, doing five functions in her public school library in order to reach every one of the children from Kindergarten to 5th grade. If she received any backlash, it has not shaken her, as we have been invited back by to her library for late October.

TRANSFORMED

A nearby local church was holding a children’s service based on Romans 12:2, which is a big one for us, and the inspiration for Super Paco:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

The pastor of this church was so moved when hearing about our ministry’s history and our efforts in the public schools that he led the congregation in a special prayer at the end of the service, asking the Lord for protection over our family, boldness in serving and more opportunity to bring the light of the Gospel to children on the island.