God in All Things

One of our foundational family scriptures since before we were married has been:

As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:15

As we live out what the Lord has shown us this scripture means, we are blessed to see how He fully takes charge of our calendar. We believe in God’s promises, so we step through each door He opens, no matter where on the island. In so doing, we have been able to see how beautifully the Lord works even times of rest into our very busy schedule.

God rested on the 7th day of the creation, and He has been faithful in giving us a ‘7th day’ each week to refresh, recharge and regroup. Several times in scripture, we read about the importance of rest, and we continue to trust in the Lord to determine when that time is for us, as He (and not we) is the God of our days. Between traveling to and from different sites around the island, filming and editing for YouTube, taking care of all the administrative, logistical and coordinating duties of the ministry and homeschooling, we still make time come together as a family daily in prayer of thanks and praise to the One whom we serve, and whose rest is perfect. He knows we need rest before we realize it. And He is faithful to give it, as He is in all things.

SCATTERING THE SEED

As summer heated up on the island of Puerto Rico, so did our summer schedule. As I mentioned in my previous post, this was the most fruitful summer of the ministry’s history. We are grateful to God for using the children, youth, and adults we meet to share the information of our minsitry with others. They do this by way of social media, and by passing on the postcard they received from us to day camp directors, church leaders and group activities coordinators. We make sure to update our social pages regularly so that those who are interested in bringing our presentation have plenty of information and clarity about what we offer.

In July, we visited the municipalities where you see a red star below. Many were visited more than once as we ministered in 7 day camps, 10 churches and 2 community centers across the island throughout the month.

TIMES HAVE CHANGED

When I was a kid, summer was about playing with the neighborhood kids (or alone) in the backyard, kickball games that lasted till dusk, sweating drops of hope that someone with a pool would invite you over, getting creative with the backyard hose when they didn’t, and finding things to do on rainy days. It was glorious.

We now live in times where children are not always safe outside on their own. This and other changes in the family structure have led parents to seek out programs, camps and sports to keep their kids entertained and active during the ‘school’s out’ season. Churches on the island, as well as communities and private schools offer many options in the area of summer programming.

We are happy to go to day camps where children and youth are gathered to bring them worship, the Word and some laughter. Below, some photos of our family doing just that during the month of July…

gathering TOGETHER

In churches, the camps mentioned above often end in a ‘culminating’ service where the families join the children.

We love to be able to minister to a congregation where several generations are present, as the message we share is edifying for children, youth, parents and grandparents alike. We let the churches know beforehand that though the photos online may make the ministry look like a children’s ministry, we are actually a ministry aimed toward families, and that a Word-based, Christ-centered message will be preached. We want to encourage churches that families can and should learn from the Word together, as the body of Christ.

Below, some photos of church services where God sent us to do just that…

NOT CAST OFF

We were invited to Cidra, a municipality in the southeast part of the island, to bring a presentation to a group of seniors who gather weekly at a community center for games, socializing, health check-ups and other activities. It was a joy to spend time with them, and it gave us a chance to remind our boys that their ministry, when it comes to seniors, is just to be themselves, as the older generation gets much joy out of having small children in their midst. We’ve told them, “Your simply being children blesses them. It’s a special treat when they get to interact with children or watch them play, and this is how you can bless them and bring them joy: by being yourself.”

They applied this knowledge as we ministered to the group of seniors in the photos below and, just as we predicted, the seniors received us with great joy and gratitude.

CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME

Below, some photos of an activity we did with a group of children and youth who live in a government condominium complex in San Juan. Their social worker wanted to do something special for them before they headed back to school in early August, and she invited us to be a part of this day in their community center.

more will be given

We have seen and experienced the joy of service being its own wages. The Lord has multiplied our work in Puerto Rico, and given us more and more opportunities to serve in farther reaches of the island. Thank you to those of you who have reached out in different ways to show support for this ministry and love towards our family.

We always like to use this part of the blog to let you know how you can be a part of this mission in Puerto Rico:

  1. Liking, following and sharing our posts on social media with those who you think might be interested in our ministry’s program,
  2. Contributing one of the ministry’s current physical needs, available on our registry page HERE,
  3. Making a financial donation directly to the ministry (no amount is too small), by clicking on the image below…
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We thank you for your prayers, encouragement and generosity. Thank you also for keeping up with us! May the Lord bless you richly!


Also in the month of July, we were invited for an interview on a morning radio show. Below, a video we posted to YouTube of the segment, which was a lot of fun for us and our boys. Enjoy!

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Is This Thing On?

I hope that posting the account below does not keep me from abiding by the scripture:

Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips. (Proverbs 27:2)

The phone rang as I stood at my kitchen counter on a Sunday afternoon squeezing limes for limeade (it’s been a scorcher of a summer in Puerto Rico, mi gente). The gentleman on the other end apologized if he was a bother, but said he felt a burden from the Lord to reach out to us.

“I’m the man who played the piano in the church where you were this morning,” he began.

He expressed sincere gratitude for our ministry, and particularly for the simplicity of the message preached, stating that such a simple, straightforward Word-centered message is exactly what the church needs today, as he expressed he sees the church getting further and further away from the Word in everything they do. I shared with him that the messages Ricky preaches have developed out of our time visiting many churches over the years, and understanding that sadly, there is a great void where the Word of God once was. Many times, we see that programs, celebrations and other activities bump out God’s Word as central to worship services and other gatherings.

The gentleman on the line stressed, “Please, do not get tired of doing what you are doing. Even if you have to go to different places and say the same thing over and over again, it is important work and you will be blessed for it. God will never forsake those who are willing to obey and serve Him.” He echoed the Apostle Paul’s words beautifully…

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:1-2)

He assured me that he would continue to intercede for our family. I made sure to let him know that no, he had not been a bother at all, and that in fact, God had used him mightily to encourage me that afternoon.

Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad. (Proverbs 12:25)

Anyone in full-time ministry has moments when you wonder if you are reaching anyone…moments when you truly go, <Tap, tap> “Is this thing on?”

In fact, it is not uncommon for people to think that our ministry in the churches is based on an old lady character; that I am the one running the show and that my husband and children are just tagging along. Even after Ricky preaches a 40 minute sermon, I will often have people approach me to congratulate me on my ministry.  Other times in churches, they will introduce the ministry as just “Doña Jenny,” and I have to explain to the congregation as I step up to lead worship that they will certainly meet Doña Jenny…at the end of the service.

Here’s a little secret: We actually wish we didn’t have to bring Doña Jenny to the churches. But, living in a world of celebrity pastors and evangelists (and Ricky not being one), we need a sort of ‘Trojan Horse’ to get us in the door. We know that without Doña Jenny and Abuelo Paco, we would not minister in half of the churches that invite us on the island.

So, it is refreshing to get encouragement from congregants in the churches we visit. Those who are most sincere are those whose words are tempered with the humble understanding that while they want to encourage us, they know the glory belongs to the Lord, and that we are only instruments of His grace.

SUMMER PLANTING

This was, far and away, the busiest summer for RAME Ministries since we began this journey in 2014.

Our summer months in the past years consisted of a lighter schedule, visiting group homes for children, adults and the elderly. But, summer 2019 saw an unprecedented flurry of phone calls from churches and other groups asking us to bring the program to day camps around the island. Our calendar quickly filled up with these visits, in addition to invitations to minister at special summer church services geared towards families.

In the month of June, we had the pleasure of ministering God’s Word in 16 summer camps (church and/or community),  and 11 church services in the municipalities where you see a red star below. Some municipalities were visited more than once throughout the month.

RAME JUNE 2019 MAP

SUMMER HARVEST

The wonderful thing about summer camps is that, like the schools, we are ministering to mixed groups of young people, some who are churched, others unchurched. We make sure to always bring them a message that draws them towards God’s Word for the answers to their questions. Below, some photos from the camps we ministered in.

SUMMER FRUIT

I’ve mentioned before our amazement at how our time in the public schools has opened the door to minister in many churches on the island. Likewise, when congregants in the churches hear about our ministry in the public school system, they are inclined to share our information with everyone they know so that the ministry can reach more people in more places. We have received beautiful messages and comments on Facebook from teachers, congregants, pastors and others, and people continue to share our information with their friends and family all over the island and beyond. We are endlessly grateful for the people of Puerto Rico, who have offered our family so much love, gratitude and encouragement to continue in this ministry that the Lord has given us. Below, some photos from the churches we visited in the month of June.

A NEW THING

God continues to expand the reach of the ministry in unexpected ways. We love ministering and meeting so many people of all ages and backgrounds each week, while also getting to laugh and fellowship in the love of the One who sent us. We are looking forward to what new thing the Lord will show us in this season of service. We do not tire of praying, studying, trusting, creating and fine-tuning as the Lord surprises us and blesses us with new abilities in ways that only He can. Our boys are excited to help and participate within their capabilities during live events, as well as on our YouTube channel where they feature quite often.

If you would like to support the continuance of this work with a monetary donation, please know that no amount is too small. You may click on the image below to make a contribution to RAME Ministries:2019

Thank you for keeping up with us! May the Lord bless you richly!


Before you go, we’d love it if you’d hop over to browse our ministry’s registry, where we have a list of physical needs available for purchase and shipping directly to us here in Puerto Rico. Thank you to those who have donated already! We have received the items and have already put them into use! Click below to check out the registry: 

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Takin’ it to the Streets

I won’t ignore the big elephant in the room.

Those of you who have been following news out of Puerto Rico (which at this point has become national news) know that Puerto Rico is currently experiencing a political crisis after masses of people took to the streets in response to the convocation of several well-known Puerto Rican musical artists. The protests were purportedly for the governor’s resignation. The public pressure worked and the governor resigned last week after several nights of protests turned to violence and vandalization in the walled city of San Juan.

Lives were ruined. Puerto Rico’s first family had to be separated from their children, who were taken oversees for their own safety as hateful remarks and actions were hurled against several generations of the family, both online and in person. The first family has essentially been exiled from the island…

…all because people took to the streets and made a lot of noise.

…all because people followed some idolized artists who wrote some profanity-laced songs, created catchy hashtags, tweeted some incitations, and, as has been revealed, came in with agendas of their very own.

The images remain which have defined this movement, or ‘revolution,’ as some have taken to calling it. They are images of revered artists atop high vehicles, riding above the masses of people, waving down to their fans, pounding their chests and making gestures of thanks for everyone who came out in support. Sadly, I’m not certain most people who were present knew exactly what they were supporting. I would even venture to guess that many who joined in the the marches and protests now regret their participation. While many refer to it as a ‘historic moment’ for Puerto Rico, I believe it will go down as a stain on our ability to honor democracy and its precepts.

GO.

As believers in a greater hope, and armed with the knowledge that this earth is not our home, we as a family continue to serve on the island of Puerto Rico by ‘taking to the streets’ in a very different way.

God’s Word is very clear about Who is really in charge both in heaven and on earth, and what we are supposed to do when we do take to the streets:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Nowhere in God’s Word are we commanded to ride atop a vehicle waving down at adoring fans, while decrying our government system and all its ills. We are commanded to go where people are, to share the truth of God’s Word and teach hearers how the Word in all its justice, mercy and humility, applies to everyday challenges and experiences, including the new challenge we now face as an island.

In obedience to Lord, in the months of April and May (please forgive my delay in posting), we ministered God’s Word in 19 schools, 10 churches and 2 day camps in the municipalities where you see a red star below. Some municipalities were visited more than once.

APR 2019 VISITS

We are grateful for the opportunity to plant seeds of righteousness to groups of students, youth and faculty when we bring our program into places of education and enrichment across the island. Below, some photos from our time in schools and day camps in April and May…

TRAIN UP A CHILD

An oft-used scripture among believers when referring to the next generation is:

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Many have a wrong understanding of this scripture. As believers, we tend to ascribe to the popular belief that if we put our children in Sunday school, make them memorize and recite Bible verses, teach them that Jonah’s disobedience made him end up in dire circumstances and that David was a mighty warrior, they will be sold out for the Lord in their adult lives. So, why do so many young people turn from the church at the first taste of independence? After all, Proverbs 22:6 is a promise against this, no?

Well, the promise contained in Proverbs 22:6 has more to do with the seed planted in a child’s heart. When we plant seeds of truth from God’s Word in a child’s heart from the time they are young, this seed will remain.

In essence, the Word will not depart from them. 

While the child may depart from God, what was instilled in them as children will remain and will always be available to take root and produce fruit in their lives. One Bible commentator writes of this verse:

Good impressions made upon [children] will abide upon them all their days. Ordinarily, the vessel retains the savor with which is was first seasoned. Many indeed have departed from the good way in which they were trained up…But early training may be a means of their recovering themselves. At least their parents will have the comfort of having done their duty and used the means.

The last part is important to note: If our children do not turn out as we had hoped, we as parents can have the comfort and peace of knowing that we did as the Lord commanded. We can lay our heads down in perfect peace if we have been faithful with what our Master put into our hands for a time. Though this may sound like a sorry consolation prize to some, those of us who know peace can testify that you cannot put a price on peace reigning in your home and in your heart.

I read recently somewhere, “Whoever has your children has their ears.” Your child’s heart is a precious pearl, and there is a thief who wants to steal it. Each influence that our children are under is a planter of seeds; whether seeds of righteousness or seeds of confusion and dissent.

Below, some pictures of churches we visited in the months of April and May where we had the opportunity, through God’s Word, to encourage families about the importance of leading their homes in God-honoring justice and righteousness…

HEART ACTIVISM

Puerto Rico is an island with a long history of political activism. However, self-seeking passions and ideologies can lead away from paths of righteousness, and we have seen how even those who profess faith in Christ can twist God’s Word to create a defense for the behavior we have seen in Puerto Rico in recent weeks.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)

We, as a family and ministry, are committed to making a change that’s much more quiet, yet much more powerful. This change begins inside our home and spreads out toward those we minister to when we leave our home. Our commitment to the hearts of the people in Puerto Rico is ever stronger now, and we have learned that that the harvest is plentiful, the laborers indeed very few.

If you would like to support this work with a donation, please know that no amount is too small. You may click on the image below to make a contribution to RAME Ministries:

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Thank you for keeping up with us, and may the Lord bless you and your home richly!


Below, our latest YouTube video, a ‘public service announcement’ to let schools, churches and other groups on the island know that RAME Ministries would love to spend some time with them…

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Coat_of_arms_of_the_Commonwealth_of_Puerto_Rico_(variant).svg

“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! 

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.