Teach, Pray, Love: A Week in Peru

It has been well over a month since Ellie, Sandi and I returned from our week in Trujillo, Peru. Enough time to recalibrate to North American schedules, people, problems and routines. But thankfully, any time I travel outside my “normal”, normal gets redefined, and that is a good thing.

Something I’ve learned about life (now that I’m solidly in my late thirties) is that things that matter the most are in the context of a relationship. A week is a short time to spend in another country, yet our week in Peru was meaningful because of the threads of relationships that brought us there and were strengthened.

I told you how Sandi, Ellie, and I were invited to come to Peru to train staff at an orphanage about educating children with special needs. I typed that story into cyberspace and our people responded. Within 24 hours an entire Amazon.com wishlist of Spanish books and games were ordered by you to fill our suitcases. The principal at the school where I work, Sandi’s son’s 2nd grade teacher, childhood friends, aunts and uncles, and many others responded. My college roommate’s dad donated a laptop in a shiny new case for Alex, the orphanage director. Glenwood Community Church  generously supported us financially. Evergreen Public Schools equipped us with quality, current information for some of our training sessions. Dozens more of you called, texted, emailed, prayed, and encouraged us. All of you sent us to Peru for Spring Break.

Here is who you impacted by your kindness to us and our Peruvian friends:

My daughter. Oh, Ellie. You exceeded all my expectations of how a nine-year-old girl going to a foreign country with a distracted mama would respond. Hours and hours spent on airplanes and airport benches. Dozens of not-like-home meals. Many, many happy voices and questions (some in Spanish) surrounding your introverted self 14 hours a day.

scooters

You flew your little kite outside at the orphanage, and when one of the children accidentally tore off the strings, you just wrapped up what was left and tucked it in your backpack without a word. With head held high, you tried the cow heart kabob and the ceviche nestled in an octopus broth. You didn’t forgot to put the toilet paper in the waste basket or rinse your toothbrush with bottled water. You held strong in the Lima airport until our 2:00am flight with only the tiniest of meltdowns at 10:30, followed by a cheerful second wind. You didn’t whine or complain, and you never demanded my attention. You went with the flow until mid-week when you saw that I could finally look up from our piles of notes and PowerPoints, then quietly asked if the two of us could spend some time together. I was so proud of you.

My teammate, Sandi. If I liked Sandi before Peru, I consider her a dear sister now. Sandi’s quiet, thoughtful observations were so timely and helpful. When she opened her mouth to speak, it was with wisdom and love. She delighted in having a nine-year-old companion as part of our team and watched out for Ellie like a mama bird (even more so than Ellie’s actual mother did).

Sandi is that rare combination of exemplary competence with humility and flexibility. She is a natural leader who took the co-pilot or the passenger seat without a fuss. She listened more than she talked. She remained unflappable when plans changed or were not announced until moments before an event. She generously poured out encouragement on me. She made a room full of exhausted workers cry from her empathetic stories of working with adolescents with special needs. She broke a toilet seat our first day in Pablo and Sarah’s home. And admitted it.

Sandi and CT girls

The whole Cenepo-Torres family. Every minute we spent in this family’s presence was life-giving. So much laughter, love, and steadfast, faithful living. Pablo and Sarah wear many hats and serve, give, and pray without ceasing. The word “yes” is almost always on their lips. They open their home to visitors from Peru and around the world every month. Just a week before our arrival, they hosted 14 children from the orphanage for an extended Easter holiday weekend.

dinner table

Our trip overlapped by a few days with our now-North Dakotan friend, Brian Martin

Sarah seamlessly manages a myriad of practical details when hosting visitors, and somehow attends to each person individually. After watching Ellie quietly acquiesce to every appointment of our full week, Sarah made sure we squeezed in a trip to the ocean. She was so right – boogie boarding with the girls on the South American side of the Pacific Ocean was Ellie’s absolute highlight of the week.

boogie boardingbeach - hannah gabriella ellie

The four Cenepo-Torres daughters are delightfully unique and flourishing under their parents’ love, education, and discipleship. I LOVE these six Peruvian-Americans and am grateful for their presence in Peru and their friendship with my family.

see saws

Alex, Nancy, Paola, and all of the faithful, hardworking staff at Hogar de Esperanza, the orphanage I visited four years ago and have been supporting through prayer and email conversations. Alex initiated and organized this whole endeavor. He reached out to workers from other local orphanages, and for the first time a large group of workers from multiple institutions came together for two days of trainings while we were in the country.

HdE - alex

These people may have different titles, but every one of them has a heart like Jesus – broken and swollen with compassion for hurting, abused children. The kids they care for are not easy. Yes, they are cute, but the trauma they experienced left them with lasting damage that presents in developmental delays, emotional and behavioral struggles, and learning problems. This can also be true for vulnerable children here in the US, but in Peru, they don’t have the social services and educational supports families here can access.

These workers are in the thick of dark, hopeless stories, yet they persevere because of the love they have for the children and the strengthening love of God. They were eager to learn new strategies to help their children make progress physically, emotionally, academically, and spiritually.

HdE workers

What we actually did during our week in Peru was in the context of these relationships, which is important, because our Peruvian friends are the ones who will actually be carrying on the work and applying the skills we taught to their context.

HdE - CTs and kids

The week skipped along, with Pablo as our guide and interpreter.

Two days we spent at a local orphanage where Alex had gathered representative workers from the various orphanages to come and share their experiences and learn new skills. The participants included caregivers, tutors, social workers, psychologists, and directors.

group shot

Sandi and I presented a trauma-informed approach to caring for and teaching children in their settings. We talked about developmental milestones, making observations, and determining measurable goals for the children in their care. We gave them ideas for teaching academics, social skills, and communication to children with special needs. We filled their notebooks with positive behavioral strategies. They shared their struggles and we listened and cried.

teaching

The next two days we spent at Hogar de Esperanza. Sandi and I enjoyed meeting with a rotation of one or two caregivers at a time, and helped them apply their learning from the previous days to their actual reality with the children they care for.

The orphanage staff we talked to described their children with deep affection. Many have worked with the same kids for years, yet the problems that brought the children to the home and cycles of trauma and confusion that continue impact their functioning. It was a privilege to hear their hearts, offer strategies when we could, and join them in prayer.

We gave them a huge suitcase filled with books and games in Spanish and the laptop, all donated by YOU, our friends and family. Thank you for giving these children quality materials that will be used to enhance their learning and social skills.

gifts

Finally, Sandi and I met with a couple families from the area who have children with special needs. In one family’s home, we gathered close and demonstrated some ways the parents could increase the communication of their nonverbal son who has autism.

family

Pablo and Steve were our fearless interpreters. These two guys are missionary-pastors and we stretched their brains and language skills with all of our special education jargon. Pablo gained a new appreciation for his amazing wife who, he came to realize, educates and parents their daughters using many of the evidence-based, effective techniques Sandi and I shared with our audiences. You rock, Sarah!

pablo and sandi

We left Trujillo on the day of Peru’s presidential election, going our separate ways. Sandi headed to the mountains, where she met her husband and son for sightseeing in and around Machu Picchu. Ellie and I flew home to our grateful boys.

jack and jenae

At home, I slowly eased back into life with my little family. I returned to my job in a bright, modern elementary school filled with highly trained teachers and staff, and multiple levels of support for children with special needs. I filled out our licensing paperwork for foster care, thankful that even though this system isn’t perfect, at least it is something. I opened the same Bible that was read by the Cenepo-Torres family in Peru and prayed to the same Father who hears our prayers and knows what we need even before we ask Him.

I continue to teach, pray, and love those God has placed in my life. I believe these are things He created me to do. I am grateful for the days Sandi and I did so together, with our friends in Peru.

sarah jenae sandi


Epilogue:

A couple days after we got home, I spent an evening with Jack, and John spent the evening with Ellie. I asked Jack what he wanted to do during our special time together. After a quick stop at McDonalds for a Happy Meal, he asked, “Could we go to a gas station, get a treat, then sit on a park bench together and hug?” So we did.

park bench

From Bystander to Responder: An Invitation


heidi and familyThis is a guest post written by my friend Heidi Kellar. Heidi and I have been working with a team of friends to raise awareness about the largest humanitarian crisis in our world right now. Read her thoughtful words about her journey from ignorance to action. Then join us on June 4th for a family-friendly, interactive experience about the Syrian refugee crisis


That would be me, right?

Ever since the fourth grade, my mind has been intrigued by what some might say is a strange topic: the Holocaust. I read any book I could find, studied it in college, and even made a special visit to the world-renowned Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London.

I am equally appalled and enthralled. Appalled, obviously, by the extent of the atrocities committed by ordinary men against the Jewish people.

Enthralled by the heroics of those committed to rescuing those in need.

In college, a professor assigned the book Conscience and Courage by Dr. Eva Fogelman. In this book, the author, a psychologist, researches and reports on the lives and motivations of those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. She draws conclusions more holistically about what it takes for people to stop being a bystander during tragic events. If any book spoke to my heart and mind at that formative stage of life, it was this book.

Conscience and Courage

Here are a few of the quotes that I underlined in 2002 about the individuals and the types of people who responded during the Holocaust (all emphasis mine).

“[The rescuer’s] humanitarian response was derived from an inner core of religious values…She asked… “What if this was my child, my mother, or me needing shelter? What would Christ have done?” (p. 173).

“Similar to their World War II predecessors, today’s rescuers are not larger-than-life heroes, but ordinary people who see inhumanity and feel a personal responsibility to address it.” (p. 314)

“Modern-day models of moral courage display a willingness to see what others choose not to notice. There is a determination, some would say a stubbornness, to pursue truth no matter where it leads.” (p. 317)

My young college self read these lines and brazenly thought, “I would have been a rescuer. I would not have sat by and let my fellow man be treated so terribly. I would have pursued truth no matter where it led, darn it!”

That would have been me. Right?

Reality

Fast forward about fifteen years. I am no longer that dreamy-eyed college student. Three young children, a part-time job, church leadership responsibilities, a Mt. Everest laundry pile in my living room, a never-finished sink full of dishes. You get the idea.

Plus, when I do get a chance to relax and sit down with the paper on Sunday morning, I am more interested in the sports page and the grocery sales. The World News page is just not that interesting, okay?

This is why it took me four years. Four years to notice the largest humanitarian crisis in our world right now. In fact, the largest number of refugees in human history are right now struggling to escape to safety, struggling to wake up in a place where they do not fear death daily.

It took the image of a little boy washed up on a beach to wake me from my apathy.

refugee boy picture

A little boy who looks so much like one of my own. A little boy whose family were desperately trying to escape violence to travel to their relatives in Canada. A little boy whose father gave a heart-breaking message to the world at Christmas.

I wept. I wrote a passionate Facebook post. I sat on the bathroom floor on the phone with a friend, praying for an hour one Saturday morning. We sat with other friends over dinner to ask and pray. What can we do? What can we do?

Would we see inhumanity and feel a personal responsibility to address it?

Would we display a willingness to see what others choose not to notice and pursue truth no matter where it leads?

 Would we ask, what would Christ have done?

In the meantime, life marched on. Dishes and laundry piled. Children argued. Every-day duties summoned. Still vaguely sad and convicted about the Syrian Refugee Crisis, I felt my lens zoom back in to my own “problems”. This would still likely be true if God had not intervened, using some fellow ragamuffins like myself to compel me to action.

Loaves and Fishes

Courtney, another busy mom in our area, also felt heartbroken and drawn towards action. And at six months pregnant with her fourth child, she had even more of a reason to keep her head in the sand.

But Courtney felt a personal responsibility and bravely called a meeting in January. A half dozen of us met late one night to begin the process of asking, what can we do?

Nobody present had much money. Or time. Or resources. Or connections. But we each had a little bit. Could it be used to help somehow? We didn’t know.

Do you remember the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand hungry people with only two small loaves of bread and five fish? Do you remember who gave him those fish? A young boy. It was his lunch and it would have been so easy for him to take that lunch and feed himself with it. It wasn’t enough for more people anyway.

But, thankfully he didn’t. Instead, he gave it to Jesus. And Jesus – the Provider, the Bread of Life, the one who could have ordered that bread shower down from heaven to feed everyone (after all, God had done that before!) – took that little boy’s lunch. He gave thanks. And he multiplied it to feed all of the hungry people with plenty of leftovers.

The six of us didn’t have much more than our lunch to give, but we decided to gingerly offer it up. Offer it up to the One who multiplies.

And it worked! Through teamwork, prayer, meetings and effort, we eventually decided to host an event for families.

The purpose is, first of all, to help others see the inhumanity behind the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

Second, we hope to help people feel a personal responsibility to address the needs.

Third, we want to invite people to offer up a small loaf or fish so that together we can watch it multiply. 

Are you willing to see what others choose not to notice?

Will you pursue the truth no matter where it leads?

After all, today’s rescuers are not larger-than-life heroes, just ordinary people offering up the little they have to the One who provides.

If you are interested in joining us, please consider attending our Syrian Refugee Awareness Night next Saturday from 4-6 at Compass Church. Please read the invitation below and invite friends!

Syrian Refugee Night Info Sheet

Want to know more, but can’t attend on June 4th? Check out the website my sister-in-law, Heidi Dryden created with loads of information, videos, and interactive websites you can view with your family: Syrian Refugee Awareness Night.

Three Amigas go to Peru

Lately I’ve been hearing Dora the Explorer in my head, flashbacks from when my daughter was small and she shouted to the television screen which item from Dora’s backpack was needed on her altruistic Latin American mission of the day. Dora was such a helpful girl, and she was always so well prepared with her carry-on luggage.

This time Ellie is rehearsing Spanish words and phrases for her own adventure. In April, she and I will be traveling to Peru with my friend Sandi. We are visiting dear friends of ours, the Cenepo-Torres family, and spending our days at an orphanage where Sandi and I will provide training for the staff about children with special needs.

Like most things in my life lately, it all came about rather unexpectedly.

Our family traveled to Peru in 2012 and stayed with our friends. We strengthened our relationship with Pablo and Sarah Cenepo-Torres and their four daughters, met many of their friends, and became acquainted with their ministries in Trujillo.

C-T car

Traveling Peruvian-style

We got to know Alex, Pablo’s brother, and visited the orphanage where he was the director. Shortly after we came home, I became more involved with the orphanage through updates via email and Skype conversations with the board.

Over the last four years, it has been encouraging to see how God continues to meet their needs, and to see the staff and administrators persevere and undertake the mission of caring for the children amidst many barriers and difficult circumstances.

HdE

A few months ago, Alex reached out to us asking for advice about educating and caring for children at their institution who have special needs. He explained that these children were receiving very little through the public school system in Peru. By spending individualized time with one of the young men, he recognized the boy’s untapped potential. He rightly ascertained that these children could learn and make progress, if they were given the right opportunities and specialized training and attention. Alex rightly saw these children as image-bearers of God, highly esteemed and loved by their creator. He wanted to do more for them, but didn’t know how.

Alex was singing my song. Having just gone to Kenya earlier in the year to provide training and awareness to teachers and parents on the same topic, I asked my Peruvian friends if they would be interested in something similar. The suggestion was warmly received and we began making plans.

I wanted to go with at least one other team member and started having conversations with some of my special education friends. One evening in January, I sent a text to one of my favorite Speech-Language Pathologists, Sandi Taylor.

texts

Sandi came to York Elementary to share the full-time caseload of students with me when I went part-time after having my first baby. Sandi and I worked together about six years before she moved on to a high school in the district. She is incredibly smart and responsible, a warm and loyal friend, and is a phenomenal SLP. She lived in Africa a couple years before becoming an SLP, and has a tremendous heart for vulnerable children, and a keen sensitivity to other cultures.

I was thrilled when Sandi replied to my text within minutes. After our phone conversation a few hours later, I had my second team member.

By the end of January, we added my daughter Ellie to our team at John’s suggestion. Ellie thoughtfully considered the invitation, asked a few insightful questions, and the next morning she said that she wanted to go – to help the children at the orphanage in any way she could, to get to see her Cenepo-Torres friends again, and to travel with me and Sandi on a special trip just for girls.

Ellie Abi Hannah

Ellie with her friends Abigail and Hannah during a Cenepo-Torres visit to the US in 2008

Abi Ellie

Abigail and Ellie in Peru 2012

C-Ts Drydens

Cenepo-Torres family and some Drydens in Washougal 2015

As emails fly back and forth across the continents, once again, I am surprised and grateful for this opportunity to use my professional expertise in a context that is so close to my heart. I also have to laugh at God’s creativity in bringing the three of us amigas together for this trip. These two special ladies came into my life at nearly the exact moment, almost 10 years ago: I began working with Sandi because of the birth of my daughter Ellie.

Like Dora the Explorer, Sandi, Ellie and I are preparing for our South American adventure and want to pack wisely. We asked our Peruvian friends if there were some items we could bring to help the orphanage staff in their efforts to support the education of the children. They responded that they are always in need of books, flashcards or other teaching materials, and games. The language difference makes it a little more difficult to find some items, but I put together a list on Amazon.com with some ideas.

If you are inclined, we would love your help in packing our backpacks! We leave on April 2nd and would like to bring some quality books and games for our friends. If you’d like to add an item to our luggage, you can order from this link, and ship to my address or ship to yourself and pass it on to me or Sandi by the end of March:

Amazon.com Wish List Peru

Alex, the orphanage director, also needs a new-used laptop. His current one is nearing the end of its life. If you have a used laptop you are no longer using that we can bring down to him, our luggage will happily accommodate.

Pablo airport

Finally, please pray for us, that our words and actions would bless, empower, and impact a group of caregivers and educators who carry heavy burdens with few resources. The name of the orphanage is Hogar de Esperanza, “Home of Hope”. Our desire is to fill their hearts with hope by giving them tools and information to make a difference for a challenging group of children in their care.

HdE wall

¡Gracias!

Love, The Three Amigas

Thankful Thoughts 2015

You know it’s getting close to Thanksgiving break when you start talking smack to a 5th grader about how your stuffing tastes better than his mom’s stuffing, instead of giving constructive feedback about his production of /s/ in the word “stuffing”.

stuffing

It’s Wednesday morning, and the kids and I are lounging around in our PJs. Ellie is snuggled up on the couch with Calvin and Hobbes, Jack is listening to a Christmas station on Pandora and playing with Snap Circuits. John’s working a half-day from home. I am sipping some eggnog coffee and having some Thankful Thoughts before the potato peeling begins.

Here is what comes to mind:

  • 15 years of marriage to a guy who gets better every year, who says and does hard things because they are right and good, and who adores me with a steadfast love that is more than I deserve. He is strong, smart, funny, thoughtful, trustworthy, and kind. Love him.

John and kids

  • Thousands of hugs and conversations and poignant and mundane moments with Ellie and Jack. These two color my days, shape me, delight me, and send me running to my compassionate Father.

kellars and mud

  • Our four parents who have learned the art of parenting adult children well. They give generously, encourage without criticism, love unconditionally, and are transitioning to a new stage of life with humility and grace.

_DSC7898blueberries

  • Our neighborhood elementary school. Five mornings a week I drop off my kids at its front door knowing that they are being received by a caring and competent staff. I am thankful that they welcome me in, too. Spending a few hours cutting and copying paper, stapling and removing staples, helping 2nd graders read and practice math facts, and sitting on uncomfortable cafeteria benches unexpectedly delights me every week. Ellie and Jack get their brains and their hearts filled up in this building – what more could I ask for?

Gause

  • Andy, Heidi, Elias, and Johnny, who moved to Washougal! We love having our family close enough to pop back and forth for bonfires, Saturday breakfast, tool swapping, kid swapping, and Angry Orchard brother counseling sessions.

Johnny

  • A new baby in the family! I’m so excited about the new niece or nephew growing in my sister.
  • My friend Tanya, who nagged me every Tuesday at work for four months before I finally agreed to exercise and hold her accountable to exercise three times a week. I hadn’t exercised regularly in almost 20 years, and while I was perfectly satisfied with the size of my jeans, the flesh underneath was rather wimpy and squishy. We started last April, and thanks to Jillian Michaels being “totally committed to making me stronger” and imploring me to “show up for my own life”, I have miraculously kept up with at least a twice weekly 20-minute exercise routine (stunning, I know). I still hate it Every Single Time, but I like that my abs and thighs can theoretically pass the “quarter test”. Thank you, Tanya, and thank you, Jillian.

ripped in 30

  • Speaking of friends, this hard core introvert is bowed-down thankful for the many relationships that enrich my life – too many to describe here. I think of my friend who lives five minutes away and, according to the children at our kids’ school, is my twin. Sometimes my house is a wreck, my face is without makeup, and my attitude is stinky, but I am just glad she’s coming over. She gives me “parenting fail” high-fives, and we laugh and intellectualize and agonize over the same things. Our husbands and kids are kindreds too, and every last conversation we have inevitably turns toward Jesus.
Heidi and Jenae

After nagging me for three years, John and the Kellars finally got me backpacking. Thankful for friends who wear you down for your own good.

  • These two families who fill up their vans and drive over to our house two Sundays a month. The six of us adults and our 10 kids eat dinner together, clean up together, pray together, disciple each other, drink tea together, and laugh together.

life group

  • I have brothers and sisters scattered across the globe who have richly colored my heart. Pablo, Sarah, Johny, Rosadite, Liz, Mercy, Lorna, Janet, Bassam – you are my heroes and sometimes I can’t even believe the grace that has allowed me to share a bit of my life with yours. jenae and mercy

A friend said something like this to me this week: “wouldn’t it be nice if we could just know that everything will turn out ok?” I have been painfully reminded this year, this week even, that the future we imagine for ourselves is uncertain, and each day is a gift. I am thankful for the hope I have in Christ, and that God has given me eyes to see his good gifts and people to share them with. I am thankful for the heroes out there who live life well, no matter how many days or dollars or healthy cells they have.

Finally, I’m thankful for Ree. Because of her, my stuffing is going to be awesome tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What Legos and the Virginia Reel have to do with Justice

Last week we concluded our fifth summer of justice-related book clubs for kids and moms. Each summer I have met new people, discovered a new author, strengthened ties with the larger, global justice community, and been witness to God’s work in the world and in our family.

Last year I shared how I came to start leading book clubs for moms and kids around the topic of justice. This time, I want to process how I see the book club facilitates developing a heart and mind for justice in a child and a family.

~ A circle of moms, daughters, and sons: When we gather at a local park on summer mornings for book club, we form a large circle-ish shape. The moms sit on blankets with their littles and bigs huddled next to them or on laps. I love seeing all their faces – most of whom I know well. Some are friends of friends. Some of their children I already know and love, and all are loved intimately by God.

I heard an interview with Atinuke, an author of books we read last year. She said that her name means: You were loved before you were born. This is what I know about each child and mother in that circle: You were loved before you were born.

We gather together around a common purpose and each of us approaches the learning and activities differently. Each mom brings her own experiences and talents, each child brings her and his own readiness, attention span, and personality. We form connections with each other and to the larger world around us. Seeds are planted and watered in moms and kids, and the One who loved us before we were born will grow those seeds in time.

Juliette

~ Books: Together, we read a book throughout the summer, one that was carefully chosen to stimulate our heads and our hearts. Our “head and heart” books have been vehicles for discovering different places, cultures, and perspectives that a child growing up in the sheltered environment most of us live in needs opportunities to explore.

readingSnow Treasure Ghana PosterNaomi Reflection

Justice Heroes: Each time we gather, we learn about a real justice hero – men, women, and children who have stood for justice and acted with courage and compassion in their time and place. These are people who were not bystanders, but acted in the face of injustice, and we are inspired to do the same.

~ Action: Sometimes we read, talk, and listen, and our heads and hearts get smarter, but then we keep that smartness to ourselves and never do anything with it. At book club, we encourage the kids to do something. So, they become abolitionists. They use their words and actions to raise awareness about modern day slavery, and support International Justice Mission, a global organization that protects the poor from violence in the developing world.

They write thank-you notes to encourage the rescuers, office workers, survivors, care providers, and investigators on IJM’s Ghana Team. They are encouraged think creatively about acting justly now as children and as grownups.

IJM letter

Together as families, we challenged ourselves to read 1,000 books and raise $1,000 for IJM by September! As of this week, we are very close to meeting our goal.

Counting books

~ What Legos and Dancing have to do with Justice: Engaged brains and happy hearts facilitate learning. But a lot of the content related to global justice issues is complicated and sad or frightening.

So we play with legos, or more accurately, use legos to teach about justice.

IMG_4853

Telling the story of IJM’s casework on Lake Volta using Legos

We dance. I am so grateful to have a friend to whom I can say, “Hey, you know that one part in “The Year of Miss Agnes” where the village has a dance? Do you think you could teach our book club girls “The Virginia Reel?” I wish you could have heard the peels of laughter in the park that morning (scroll down to hear a sample).

~ Widening the Circle: We teach our children that being an abolitionist means speaking up on behalf of those who are oppressed. So the kids sent letters to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. They answered questions and tried to speak up when a grownup asked them about the book club. They tell about slavery in Ghana and what our book club is trying to do about it.

And the circle widens. Five-year-old Genevieve’s grandfather in California received a letter from his granddaughter and shared it with his co-workers at an auto shop, who were encouraged by the little girl’s initiative and responded with a donation to IJM.

Genevieve

Ripples of relationships from each book club family grow ever wider, and more come to know about modern day slavery through the words and actions of small children.

Together, we grasp the outstretched arm of God who hears the cries of the brokenhearted and uses his children to bind their wounds and set captives free.

boys circle 2

We clasp the hands of those that go before us,
And the hands of those who come after us.
We enter the little circle of each other’s arms
And the larger circle of lovers,
Whose hands are joined in a dance,
And the larger circle of all creatures,
Passing in and out of life,
Who move also in a dance,
To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it
Except in fragments.
(The Larger Circle by Wendell Berry)


Thanks, Katie Jenks and Shawna Demaray for the photos and video!