Tearing down the bricks with His perfect love

IMG_5925cropAs I dragged a cussing, kicking, screaming Katherine out my classroom door this past week, my heart broke. Again. I wanted to stop class and just hold her close, show her that she’s loved so dearly. But I couldn’t. There were 25 other little boys and girls waiting for attention and direction. Even more than that, I knew Katherine wouldn’t accept my words or hugs or love. Not right then. Not with all that hate and hurt boiling over. So I left her outside with Toni and walked back into the room, feeling frustrated and defeated.

A few weeks ago, I watched as Arisleyda tried to reach out to Katherine in line before school. Arisleyda welcomed her to class and tried to hug her tight. But Katherine recoiled like an angry snake, took three steps backwards, and refused to make eye contact with Arisleyda for most of the day.

Why does this smart, independent, beautiful girl so staunchly reject the love of others? Why does she use that sweet mouth to hurl such dirty and hateful words at her teachers and her classmates? Why does she continue to add bricks to the wall of animosity she builds around herself? Why doesn’t she understand that spurning others isn’t the answer for protection and safety?

Katherine’s not the only one rejecting love. There are so many hurting babes in my class this year. Estaylin, Brayan, Carla. The list could go on. They’re all building up their own “hate walls” as quickly as they can stack the bricks. They’re sabotaging themselves from experiencing True Love, and they don’t even realize it.

As a whole, I’ve felt crushed and discouraged this year. How can I possibly love all of them? How can I conceivably be consistent and fair and patient when all they do is lie and fight and curse and steal from each other? I don’t have enough time and energy and strength to handle the issues these five-year-olds are bringing to school.

But then, as He often does, my Jesus gently reminded me of a very important truth. When I actually stopped to listen, that truth resounded so loudly and obviously in mind. And I wondered why I had forgotten yet again to live by it.

The Truth ironically came from the mouths of my precious, rotten little students. Desiree and Arisleyda were repeating the Bible verse before story time. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Could the most well-known Bible verse in all of history really be the answer to tearing down the walls these children have constructed over the few short years of their lives?

“For God so loved that world that He gave His one and only Son…”

Duh. Of course I don’t have enough time and energy and strength and patience to love these kids perfectly. God first loved them. Not me. He sent His only begotten Son to die. Not meHis precious blood paid the price, and His perfect love is the only gift that can tear down the walls.

This simple truth seems to be the theme of so many of my posts. Christ is the answer. It sounds so cliché. But He’s the answer for the sin problem that controls the lives of these children and their parents. He’s the answer for me when I feel like I can’t go on another day dealing with the ungratefulness and whining and selfishness I see in my students. He is the answer.

So, for this moment, I’m going to rest in the truth. I’ll do my best this week to “take every thought captive”, to share Christ’s perfect love with my broken sweethearts, and to rely wholly on Him for strength in the middle of the storm.

Here’s to another week of watching Him tear down the bricks.


The reinforcements have arrived!

Meet Arisleyda, my new Dominican co-teacher.


Arisleyda has been a part of the Freedom family for several weeks now. She has quite literally been an answer to prayer!

Already, she’s been a huge help to me personally. I have learned that life in a kindergarten classroom is non-stop. I must be on my game at all times. Even though kindergarten is only half-day, I am absolutely exhausted each afternoon. To be able to share the teaching load with someone else has been tremendous. Arisleyda helps me remember the little details. She’s already giving ideas for how to teach certain concepts even better. And she is learning to continually assess the kids as they start to gain understanding.

Arisleyda has been a big blessing not only to me, but also to our kindergartners. Our students are so starved for attention, and Arisleyda has jumped right in to invest her love and time with these kids. She actively seeks out ways to pull in those children that seem to “fall through the cracks”. She desires success for each one of them. It’s been encouraging to rejoice together when we see little “a-ha” moments.

Today, Arisleyda was sick, but she still came to school. She didn’t show it to the kids. After teaching a mini-lesson on Spanish syllables, she walked over to me, sweating from her fever and asked if she could go find some medicine to help with her cold. She didn’t complain and still gave to the kids even when it was uncomfortable for her. I’m so excited to continue building a relationship with her as the year goes on.

Pray that God continues to help us work well together as we strive to give Jesus to our sweeties!

Two More Weeks?!

Two more weeks until this first quarter of the new school year is over. *Gasp* I feel like it’s been one big dream.

The last couple of months have honestly been a bit of a struggle for me. It’s been difficult to find a connection with several of these sweeties. I want them to love learning and to have fun discovering new things about their world and their Creator as they walk through this year. It’s hard to stomach the fact that they don’t always enjoy being with me. I know building relationships takes time and that each class is different. I’m learning to let the Lord be my strength. I just want Him to fill me with His love and patience in each moment.

Here are (most of) my Kinderkids this year. Even though there may be some tough cookies in this crowd, they are adorable!


New Beginnings

Week 2 in our brand new school building is almost complete! What a rollercoaster! So many emotions over the last 14 days.

I’ve felt excitement. Finally – my very own classroom! A place to store school supplies! Running water! Real bathrooms! Two to three extra hours in my day since we don’t all have to run the bus route!

I’ve felt anticipation.  I get to start fresh with a brand new bunch of kiddos. Hoping to hone my lesson plans, activities, and discipline strategies throughout the year. I can’t wait to see what all we’re going to learn and experience together.

I’ve felt sadness. I don’t know if I should admit this, but I think I have a slight case of the “kindergarten blues”. I see my big guys and gals from last year walking down the sidewalk to their new first grade classroom, and I feel like I’ve lost a little part of my heart. They’re next door to me, yet it feels strange not to be involved in their lives on a daily level.

I’ve felt inadequacy. My personal standards for where I want to be as a teacher and where I actually am are not aligned. I know I sometimes put undue pressure on myself to be perfect, but there are so many areas in which I can improve. I desire to give these students who have been entrusted to me the best possible chance at success. I want them to be able to grow in their knowledge of the Lord and His love for them. I don’t want any of my shortcomings to get in the way of that.

I’ve felt anger. There have already been some intense experiences in the timeout corner. The other day, Carla gave me the best cussin’ session she could muster as I wrestled with her in the corner. Yudeison and Fernando and Daidon have each taken their turns screaming at the top of their lungs after I sent them to the corner. While there are moments I find it hard not to take it personally, I’ve felt myself getting getting angry because these little souls are rebelling against the holy God who created them.

I’ve felt pride. I love hearing Fabiola and Carla and Yeny belt out our very first sight word we’re learning. And today before leaving, I looked over at Daidon and saw his dark eyes locked on mine, waiting for me to call his name to get in line instead of running around the room.

I’ve felt guilt. I haven’t been spending much time with my babies or my husband or Yuleisy.

I’ve felt absolute exhaustion. The busy pace of life and the amount of energy it takes to keep up with 5-year-olds (and my own little men) is incredible. Doing this craziness on minimal sleep hasn’t helped exactly. My fuzzy brain feels like it’s running on empty, and patience has run thin.

I’ve felt encouragement. Our two short-term teams so far have done much to pour into my life already. Encouraging letters and emails, patience and cooperation in the classroom – how I love sharing life with others.

I’ve felt peace. In the middle of the daily struggles and the busy schedule and little annoyances, I’ve felt the Lord’s presence as another year begins. I want to learn to constantly take hold of the comfort that the Holy Spirit offers. It’s by His strength and grace that I’m able to take part in His awesome plan for these precious ones.

Here’s to another year!

Practicing letter matching in centers
Sonia and Miss Angela
Time out
Story time

Last Day

Yesterday was the last day of my first year teaching Kindergarten here in the DR. What a blessing these kids were to me. As a teacher, I went into the year excited about all the things I would get to teach them. But in reality, they were the ones who taught me. This group of kiddos will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m so excited I get to watch them grow up. Still praying for their little souls.


It’s Crunch Time!

Wow. In less than a month, the school year will be over. (That’s not gonna be emotional at all. Ahem.) Summer will begin, along with the race to get our classrooms ready for the 2014-2015 school year. Since we’re moving to a year-round school schedule, there isn’t going to be much of a break. Just two weeks of in-service and preparation before moving our classrooms from Batey Lima to the Freedom property! Yowza!

School in progress – February 2014

This is an exciting time in the life of our ministry. Classrooms are going up, academic standards and objectives are being developed, first-year teachers are preparing (and preparing some more), and new enrollments are being added. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the craziness of it all. I quickly become overwhelmed when I think of all that must be done in the next 6 weeks. I’ve been trying to stay focused on the bigger picture and remember that this busy time is only for a season.

My two goals for the next couple of months:

1.) Remember that it’s “people over program”. As I work with Mery in preparation for her upcoming year in first grade, I don’t want to forget about her. Each meeting about lesson plans is another opportunity I have to develop our relationship. And as I spend these last weeks with my kindergartners, I want to find time to just be with them, showing them how valuable they are in the Lord’s eyes.



2.) Allow God to be glorified through every aspect of this process. When big “life” stuff happens, I often run to my Jesus for strength and comfort. But when the little, everyday annoyances come knocking, I generally tend to let the frustration fester. I know I’ll be up late laminating and planning lessons. I know I’m going to be frustrated at the scarcity of time. Through the coming days, I want to keep my eyes fixed upward instead of on the circumstances around me.

With that said… It’s crunch time, people!

My Savior Does the Calling

IMG_0223cropIt’s been almost a year since my first day as a kindergarten teacher. I’m finally starting to feel comfortable in a class with 30 little balls of energy. I’m learning what makes these kids tick. And I’m beginning to see some of the ways in which God has gifted them.

We’ve worked with these boys and girls for months.  So why did I wake up every morning last week so stinking anxious about stepping foot in our classroom?

With the arrival of Semana Santa, we’ve been emphasizing Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. God’s been pounding me with the fact that these students are more than just little people learning to count and add and write. These children have never-dying souls that will one day bow before a risen Savior. As of this moment, they’re objects of God’s wrath. Cute as they are, they deserve an eternity separated from Him.

I don’t want that reality for any of these precious ones.

Each time I opened our Bible story book last week to share another aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice for mankind, I felt tense and unsettled. I wanted to communicate perfectly in Spanish. I felt a weighty responsibility to help each child fully understand the extent of Christ’s love. I struggled with the desire to make the kids sit and listen longer so I could be sure they knew each facet of this inestimable story.

And then I remembered. I remembered how Christ called me years ago. It wasn’t forced. It was gentle and beautiful and intimate and sweet. And it took time. I didn’t rush forward the first time I heard the Gospel at church. I didn’t respond immediately to a Sunday School lesson or a camp speaker. My parents played a huge role in helping me comprehend the height and depth of the love of Christ. But in the end, it was me and Him. My Savior called. And I answered. I’ll never forget how He made Himself so real to me that night as I lay in my bed with my face buried in my pillow.

God’s been calling people to Himself for years. If He chooses to use my jumbled Spanish to impress Himself on one of these kindergartners, then to Him be the glory. But these are His stories to write – not mine. I’m not saying I’m devoid of responsibility. But I am saying that I can’t save them. Jesus is the One who gave His life. He’s the One who does the calling.


March in Pictures

Here’s a look back at March in pictures.

A chilly morning truck ride to Lima for school*
Harvest season has been in full swing for several months now. Carts line up at the weigh stations in the morning, waiting to unload their sugar cane.*
My college roommate came down for a week!
Kindergarten learned about outer space and made name rockets.
Lots of visitors this month. Scott even came out for a day of fun!
We wrote letters back to a class in the States who sent down some Christmas goodies for our room.
Our love for reading is growing!
Stacy brought a super cute mosaic craft for the kids.
Recess fun – Estefani and company
The class hasn’t stopped asking for Chicka Chicka Boom Boom since Brett’s glorious rendition of the book.
The students continue praying each day. Edward’s sweet smile never goes away, even with his eyes closed!
The kids are beginning to control their bodies – an accomplishment that will never be seen on a report card, but it’s such a huge deal!
“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” with Katie and Anllelo
Beautiful, giggling girls from 3 different bateyes.*
My two cuties enjoying a Sunday afternoon at home. *
And last but not least… my two cuties enjoying a Sunday afternoon at home. And yes, one is pantless.*

Beautiful reminders of God’s faithfulness and blessings.

*Photo credit: Rachel Roberts



Oh, Albel.

At the beginning of the school year, the mention of this kindergartner’s name brought some mild feelings of frustration rolling my direction. For me, Albel was not an easy kid to love. I didn’t feel like I had a “connection” with this lanky, big-eyed boy. He wouldn’t respond positively to me, and that bothered me. It didn’t help that he was always picking on other kids or disrespecting visitors in the classroom. I often found him getting under my skin as he talked over me during our whole group teaching times.

I can’t pinpoint any certain day or momentous event where things changed.  The pace has been much more gradual with Albel. But slowly – ever so slowly – we’re seeing tiny glimpses of transformation in this little man’s behavior and in his desire for academic success. He listens more quickly when we correct him. He frequents the time-out corner less. He’s taken some serious pride in his writing notebook. Now he’s one of the first to finish copying his letters each day. While nothing will truly be changed for Albel until he’s walking with the Lord, outward signs of growth are being seen by the Freedom team.

You know, God’s been doing something in my own life as well. I’ve recently been reminded of a simple yet profound truth. God created Albel in His image. He is valued and loved. Whether or not I ever personally see Albel change, I have the opportunity to guide and direct him in my class this year. Whether or not I ever find that “connection” with Albel, I can do my part to help this boy understand how important he is in the Lord’s eyes and that He sent His own Son to rescue Albel’s little soul.

Albel the Wiseman – Christmas 2013
Alfredo and Albel – Independence Day Parade – February 2014
March 2014

Independence Day – Dominican style

Thursday we celebrated Independence Day here in the Dominican Republic. Mery (my Dominican co-teacher) planned the activities for the kindergarten class. She’s getting ever closer to having her own group of kids next year.


The highlight of the day was the parade through Batey Lima. The kids were adorable in their little campesino and padres de la patria costumes. Several parents came out to watch as we marched through the streets of the village. It was fun learning a little more about this nation’s history and culture.

Chrislin – PK3
Vickiana – PK3
Albel, Alfredo, Javier – K
Rosa, Bergica, Sonia – K
Getting ready for the march
Pre-school cuteness
Mery and her costumed kindergartners