It’s that time of year again. Here in the next week or so we will start to see the sweet pictures on Facebook and Instagram of kids heading out the door on their way to school. For some it is their first day of preschool and for others it may be the first day of their last year. Some go to public schools while some study at home. Regardless of the age or location, one thing remains the same, it can be a scary, exciting, and challenging time for the kiddos and the parents. But this time can also be used to have some powerful conversations with your child.
So here is my back to school advice….I don’t have much….just one lesson, one tip, one challenge for you.
Focus on the people they are, not the places they will go. In 1990, Dr. Seuss wrote the national best-seller “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” This is a great book that has some profound lessons for each us; but more essential than our child’s journey is their identity.
Undoubtedly there is excitement in the places they can go and it can be healthy to challenge them toward future goals, but there is much more fulfillment in helping them answer the question, “Who am I?”
As parents we have a duty to bless our children for who they are – a child of God created with infinite value, dignity and worth – not for what they may or may not do.
You see when we accidently or unconsciously build a link in our child’s mind connecting their acceptance or approval with their performance (or the places they may or may not go) we miss the mark.
So before your child heads out the door this school year bless them!
Remind them that they are chosen, loved, and accepted….fully and unconditionally.
Remind them that your love is in no way tied to performance….performance in a class room, performance on a ball field, performance in life.
Enjoy the school year!
(If you want to know how Liz and I practically do this with our two boys click here.)
Day 5: July 15th / 10:45pm local time.
Every night this week, all 61 of us gather outside in a little pavilion, sing a few worship songs, and “download” our experiences for the day. But tonight was different.
Tonight I sat on a concrete floor and listened for over two hours as student after student got up and spoke.
Tears flowed as I heard our young ladies hurt for the local women they served at House of Hope.
Tears flowed as the young men spoke about the mantle of leadership they inspire to hold within their schools and at church.
Tears flowed as adult leaders continually praised the students, many of them they have known since preschool.
Tears flowed as student and adult spoke about how God had used them even in the mundane.
I ended the night by quickly reviewing our theme for the week, “It’s not about me” and then I reminded them of the 2 previous questions we have discussed:
- What breaks your heart?
- What does love require?
Our last question this week was: “Where are my feet?”
You see this week many of our students have talked about what they wanted to do in the future. Tonight I wanted to remind them that it is important for us to remember that we don’t have to wait. For all of us, our feet are currently resting within the exact geographic circle of God’s calling on our lives. In the future God may call you outside that circle but it is where He has us for now. Our obedience to Him only matters in the present!
There are many more stories to hear about this week. Find one of our students, sit down with them, and ask them to share. You’ll be inspired…..I was.
Day 4: July 14th / 10:30pm local time.
Today was our last day of service. Our students have been working extremely hard this week and it showed this morning. However, as expected, these young men and women rallied and finished their last day with the same energy and enthusiasm as day one!
Tonight during our download time we paused to thank the Loftsgard Family. Marilyn and her husband Eric are missionaries in Nicaragua. They have been serving the people of this country for over 18 years and have been partnering with Kingsland for over a decade. They have seen dozens of our teams come in and out of here and always welcome us with open arms. This is probably why so many of our students through the years refer to their family as “our” missionaries!
This week Marilyn has been our hero. From buying bottled water to translating to keeping us on task, Marilyn was the key to our success this week. She made all the pre-trip arrangements and her attention to detail and has made our stay so much easier! We could not have done any of this without her!
But even more admiring is her patience and grace with us. She handles our complaints, questions, and comments with such poise. I can see why the people of Nicaragua love her so much!
We were also blessed to have Marilyn’s daughter Leah serve with us. Leah was our point person at House of Hope and showed our teams what true service and unconditional love is all about. Seeing a family so united in service is humbling.
Tomorrow we take a day to enjoy the other parts of Nicaragua. Weather permitting we hope to tour a volcano, take a boat ride around the lake, and enjoy some time in the local market. Our team is definitely looking forward to tomorrow!
Keep your prayers coming!
Day 3: July 13th / 10:30pm local time.
Today was great but tough!
Our middle of the week fatigue kicked in today. It was hot and many on our team had to work outside. However I was amazed at how our team rallied around our mission, motto, and each other.
Highlights of today include:
More mowing with a machete. Why you ask?? Tesoros de Dios was recently able to buy the small field adjacent to their facility. Horse therapy is a large portion of their rehabilitation so they plan to use this field to expand this part of their treatment. As you can imagine, they do not have a lot of full time help to clear a field so our teams have been a huge blessing to them in this area. Who know removing stumps was part of ministry!?!?!
Home visits. Today portions of our team got to visit the homes of some of the special needs families that attend Tesoros. These families cannot make it to Tesoros on a daily basis so on these days the staff comes to them. Our team got to help assist in the home therapy and pray for these families.
Watercolor Painting. This afternoon our girls at House of Hope got to simply sit down and spend some quality time with the residents. We bought a few sets of water color paints and while the boys entertained the kiddos, our girls bonded over the simple idea of art. I loved the smiles and giggles of the group. For a moment, they were all simply girls (of all ages) having fun!
After our day of hard work, we passed on the hotel chow and treated the students to a night at the mall. They had to order their own food from the food court (that was funny!) and spent a little time shopping. I am continually impressed with how they represent our church!
Before I share our end of evening discussions I want to highlight the young men on our trip. Back home these guys are labeled by the sport they play, the activities they are involved in, or the school they attend. Many times this causes them to put on a certain “persona”…..this quite often progresses into manhood as most of us know! However the other leaders and I have been continually impressed with how they have let their guards down. They give piggy back rides until they are exhausted. They play soccer, duck duck goose, and color with kids. To the moms and dads of the young men on this trip…give them a big hug when they get home. You should be proud of them!
We ended our night by asking question #2.
I reminded them of our motto: “It’s not about me” and of the first question I asked them Monday night: “What breaks my heart?”
We then introduced question #2: Once I know what breaks my heart; What does love require of me?
We discussed that once God puts a cause on our heart, once our heart breaks, love requires us to act. When we do – it will cost us.
It will cost us money.
It will cost us time.
It will cost us convenience.
It will cost us our reputation.
Ultimately it will cost us some life….
The problem with this is that we are by nature life preservers. We don’t like giving these things up. However when we decide to move in the direction of what breaks our heart, we have to let go of the things we are trying to preserve.
What does love require of us? The answer, some of our life……
Keep your prayers coming! Tomorrow is our last day of service. We desire to honor God by finishing well!
Day Two: July 12th / 10:30pm local time.
Day 2 was amazing! Our kids woke up tired but were immediately energized when we made it to our job sites.
Just a snapshot of our day:
- Mowing a yard with machetes
- Making home visits to shut-ins from the local church
- Playing with kids at House of Hope while their mothers made crafts to sell
- More sanding and painting
- Digging up tree stumps
- Listening to the testimony of a 27 year old women who had spent over seven years of her life as a prostitute. Watching as a few of our girls surrounded her after her story and prayed for her.
- And more stories of service and love.
After dinner tonight we spent the evening in worship at Centro de Fe y Vida Nueva. This event was unique but powerful. The local congregation made us feel extremely welcome. The music was beautiful and the message (shared through an interpreter) was strong!
Each of these leaders are the epitome of “lead by example.” From sanding and painting to simply playing a late night game of cards, these leaders are authentic and available! I am blown away by their love for this group of students. They took off work not to watch their kids serve, but to serve with them! This is a beautiful picture of the Empowered Homes core value our church shares. The kids and I are blessed to have them.
Keep your prayers coming!
Day One: July 11th / 8:45pm local time.
Today was our first day of service.
After a brief night’s sleep we were up and at it first thing this morning.
Our teams worked at all three sites. From helping special need families to serving women rescued from human trafficking, our students did amazing today.
Parents – your kids amaze me!! What excites me most about them is their attitude! As we mentioned yesterday, our theme for this week is “It’s not about me!” And our students are beginning to identify with it. We have no A/C, no warm water, limited food options, but our team smiles and continues to serve. Their hard work is inspiring!
This evening after dinner we reviewed our day. A few students shared what they have learned. A common theme was how love bridges every gap…even race, culture, and language.
After our stories we sang a few worship songs. I then informed our group that I was going to ask them 3 questions this week.
3 questions to help us reflect on our experience here.
3 questions to write down and ponder when we return to Katy.
3 questions to truly seek to find an answer to.
Tonight was the first question.
I simply asked our group, “What breaks your heart?”
We read from Nehemiah and discussed how he wept at learning about the conditions of Jerusalem. How his heart was broken and how he was determined to take action. We discussed how that throughout scripture devotion to God is measured in terms of devotion to others.
I reminded our students that people were constantly amazed at who Jesus spent time with and the people he chose to serve. You see in these people’s mind there was God and then there was an order, a hierarchy based upon ascribed value. However Jesus reminds us that we were all made in the image of God. There is no order, there is no first class or second class there are just people for whom He died.
Tomorrow our groups will rotate and head to a new site. There they will learn new things and serve new people. Pray for those we will serve. That they would see Jesus and His love by our actions.
I then I challenge you to ask yourself, when you look around this – world what breaks your heart?
Travel Day: July 10th / 10:45pm local time.
One international flight from Houston to Nicaragua.
9 adult leaders.
52 high school students.
The chance to get out of our comfort zone.
The chance to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus.
This week our group has adopted a simple motto: “It’s not about me.”
You see this is true for each of us. As long as I am all about me I can never be about something else. And honestly, if we are left to ourselves we only live for ourselves.
Isn’t it strange, I can fill my life up with stuff and yet I can remain empty – however when I empty myself out for others I become full….I find purpose…..because purpose is always found across the border of “what’s in it for me.”
House of Hope – is a vocational rehabilitation program for women and their children leaving the world of prostitution and human trafficking. They also host construction and medical mission teams and sell products made by survivors online. House of Hope started in Nicaragua and recently opened a second location in Honduras. We will be painting, cleaning, playing with children, leading arts and crafts, and serving the many families who call the House of Hope home. http://www.houseofhopenicaragua.com/
Tesoros de Dios – translated as “God’s Treasures,” it is a ministry in Managua, Nicaragua, that serves over 100 children with a variety of disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Hydrocephaly, Autism, Brain Damage, and others. Through programs offered and family support, the center provides tools to help the children reach their fullest potential physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. We will be painting, making home visits, and completing miscellaneous projects. http://www.tesorosdedios.org/
Centro de Fe y Vida Nueva – is the largest Baptist school in the middle of town. We will be helping in classrooms (English, arts and crafts, etc.) in the mornings along with some home visits to elderly with their youth, outreach, and some painting/miscellaneous projects in the afternoon. We will also have the opportunity to worship there on Tuesday night.
We appreciate your prayers for our team….and more importantly for those we serve.
We also invite you to adopt our motto this week: “It’s not about me.”