The little stuff (or maybe it’s the big stuff after all)

Sometimes I feel like I only write about the big things going on in our lives – the difficult struggles, the huge joys, the deep pain, the answered prayers. I thought I’d just share some little stuff from the week – things that have made my heart happy in the midst of the ‘daily grind’.

The kids are starting to lead out in prayer! I almost cry when I hear one of their little voices sounding out the typical “Señor Jesús, Te damos gracias…” that starts their conversations with Jesus. Marcia, Sonia, Chiquito, Nika and Yeanny have all volunteered this week.

Yeifrey has been exceptionally “roller-coaster-y” recently. I feel like I walk on eggshells with him – that he may explode at any moment. This week, I’ve really seen him searching for some extra love and attention. Each day during writing practice, he grabs my arm and says, “Miss Angela, please just stay…”

Sonia led her entire small group during center time today! We were short-handed when we first started centers, so I just gave her the little worksheet and told her what I wanted. I asked her to explain to the others how to match the color names to the crayons. I’d look up every once in awhile to check on them, and they were staying on task better than any group so far – without a teacher there! Sonia is one smart little gal. So proud of her.

I’d be lost without my helpers in the classroom. Our Dominican teacher Mery seems to know the days I have no strength. She leads the kids with confidence and creativity and energy. Kurt interacts and plays with the kids – he’s recently taken on the task of helping struggling students learn to write their names. Gabe has been great about doing whatever I ask him to do. And Katie fills in all of the gaps to keep things moving throughout the day. Prepping notebooks and pouring juice and dishing out hand sanitizer and talking with kids in the corner aren’t the most splendid of ways to spend one’s time. But in my mind, those humble jobs are the very ones I imagine Jesus rewarding someday as we stand before Him.

Recently, I’ve just really felt the presence and closeness of the Lord in the classroom. I don’t know who all is praying for us, but I can attest that God has been helping me personally as of late. Days are still chaotic, emotional, and draining. But through the struggles, I can feel my Savior’s gentle leading. He is so very faithful – even in the little stuff.

Diego

Diego is a small batey consisting of just a few families. Scarlette and Chiquito, two of the children who live here, attend our pre-school. Part of our team recently spent some time with the Diego kids – we taught a Bible lesson, sang some songs, and played pelota in the dirt path. It was refreshing and enjoyable to get some focused moments with the sweet people who live here. Neat to see relationships blossoming.

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Leyton in Diego2

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Fall in the Dominican

Here we are.  Experiencing our first autumn in our new home.  It’s hard to think about fall without apple cider and pumpkin carvings and laughter with extended family.

We’ve exchanged the rich hues of autumn leaves for miles of sugar cane. We’ve replaced cooler temperatures for muggy weather and power outages. We’ve traded time with friends for conversations with neighbors who don’t always understand our American way of life.

While there is nothing quite as exciting and satisfying as living where God has called us, we still miss the people and relationships (and even the changing of the seasons) that we’ve left behind.  But one thing that has eased this transition for us has been the kids.

The precious kids.  We have loved getting to know the little boys and girls in our pre-school along with their families who live in the four bateyes we are currently working in.

Case in point – Reina Belle.  When Ang first met her, Reina Belle could only be described as “feisty” and “strong-willed”.  She was openly defiant when asked to do something.  After some tough love and a few times in the Silla de Desobediencia (time-out chair), there has already been an amazing change in her attitude.  Every morning, she climbs up on the truck with a big, ornery smile to find “her” seat near the truck cab where the wind whips around in her face.  When Angela or Katie kneel down to talk to her, she generously lavishes them with kisses or tickles. She raises her hand often to be called on as the ayudante in class. Reina Belle loves to have help writing her name at the top of papers.  She does not want us to write her name for her – instead she makes Ang wrap a big hand around her little one, guiding her pencil as they say each letter together. While she is still the “feisty” Reina Belle, we have come to love the “smart” and “fun-loving” and “teachable” parts of Reina Belle too!

Then there is adorable Yohan.  This three-year-old’s squishy, dimpled smile is completely contagious. His laughter can be heard across the truck as we travel to Lima for fun-filled days of learning – sounds that are far cries from his first week of school. At the beginning of the year, Josh spent a good deal of time outside the classroom with Yohan as he struggled to “learn the ropes” of Toni’s class. Now he is mastering his reds and blues and 123’s, all from some teachers who understand the life-change a quality education can bring. Even more importantly, he’s already learning about the God who created his beautiful little smile and infectious laugh. It is exciting to think about the opportunities Yohan could have after twelve (plus) years in our school.

Chiquito is another new four-year-old who is still getting used to the classroom setting.  While he is slowly coming out of his shell, he doesn’t smile often or raise his hand to be called on.  One day when Angela asked for an ayudante, she decided to look past the sea of waving hands and picked Chiquito to be her helper.  There are no words to describe the joy that filled Chiquito’s countenance as he realized it was “his turn”.  A giant, sheepish smile enveloped his entire face as he slowly walked to the front of the room.  (Ironically, he missed the answer to the question because he was so excited to be the ayudante.)  Now, he yearns for his teachers’ approval on his worksheets as he practices his letters and numbers. What a difference a bit of love and recognition brings into the life of a boy like Chiquito!

There are more stories, more kids, and more families.  And here we are on this tiny tropical island, overlapping a bit of our lives with theirs.

It is absolutely breathtaking to watch the seasons slowly change from one to another, and we miss seeing those transformations take place.  But we are relishing in the fact that God is gently changing little lives from the inside-out. We love seeing these miracles in action!

P.S.  The three children above (as well as several others) are not yet sponsored financially.  With a $50 monthly gift, the lives of these boys and girls can continue to be changed!