When we moved to Pucacaca, Peru, we were struck almost immediately by how many children live here. Not only were there tons of kids, but they seemed to live practically as orphans – always without an adult, often as young as two or three! So many kids without parents, without much hope, without Jesus! We had been living here in Pucacaca for nearly 3 months and every day the kids came to our door, asking to play with our kids, asking about rosaries, about Jesus. We had never been to a place where the teenagers outnumbered even the elderly in attendance to Sunday services or Thursday night Mass. The obvious hunger for something more was almost tangible. They needed something and we began to feel that this something could be found if WE were willing to allow Jesus to bring His love to the area through us!
“If we are who we should be, we will set the world ablaze.”
+ St. Catherine of Siena +
Hogar Ezequiel opening ceremony!
To be completely honest, the thought of working with kids, especially teens, in mission had been far from our minds in Mexico. We thought we had enough kids of our own. To our shame perhaps, we tried to keep our home lives and our ministry separate, not often inviting children to spend time with us inside our home. We needed time to ourselves after ministries were over, and kids are so energetic! Our kids could go to school with the other children and we would focus more on the parents at the church or at their homes. But that life is so far from us now – not only in distance. Here, especially after the loss of our precious son Ezekiel in September, everything seemed different. We were different. We are different. We felt a deep urge to reach out to these kids. We felt the great worth of each and every child or youth who knocked on our door. But what could we do?
We needed a way to reach the youth in our community and at the same time still care for and love our own precious children. With that thought on our mind, we began to throw around ideas of what we could do. That is when God inspired us with the idea of the Ezekiel Home! We are sure it is from the Lord, because neither of us can remember who thought up the idea first!
The fact of the matter was that since we moved to Pucacaca, children have been hanging out at our door and playing inside as often as they get the chance. So why not just make it something official? Instead of letting them come in and try to find something to get into, we can provide organized programs that are fun, educational and interactive. All while spending time with them, getting to know them, loving on them and showing them they were created good by an all-powerful God who is so incredibly in love with them and that they are worth more than money could buy!
Not only that, but the activities would be in our home, or with us always present, which has the added benefit of keeping our minds more at ease in regards to the inherent struggles missionary families face of trying to minister when needed without sacrificing family life.
So far it has been hugely blessed, though a little chaotic. We didn’t know just how many kids would be coming! We began with a blessed opening ceremony. Our dear pastor, Padre Leopoldo, came and blessed the house, we played games, went over our schedule, answered questions and gave out treats!
The first day of the new schedule included two hours of outside fun. We played volleyball, matanza (the Peruvian version of dodgeball), tug of war and freeze tag! I am now being reminded of just how out of shape I am!!! We then had choir practice and taught the kids songs that we sing in Mass.
Day two included an hour of arts and crafts where we made posters that read, “If you are who you should be, you will set the world ablaze.” (St. Catherine of Siena), then had story time, and lastly a class for altar servers which is kind of a mix of altar servers and boy scouts.
We also have indoor games (ping-pong, board games and lego building), guitar class, and an exercise class given by one of our fellow missionaries, Russ Gunter, English class, a class to teach the older kids “magic” card tricks (another missionary Noah Cantrell is AMAZINGLY talented at this), a children’s Bible story class (taught by the ladies mission team here: Andrea, Randi, Dulce and Candice) and a drawing class.
Every week day includes three hours of fun with the kids, beginning at 3 o’clock with the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and on special days Mass, prayer meetings, Bible studies, and rosaries. New classes will be added as soon as we fix up our extra room so we can accommodate more than one class at a time. Our days are so full, but incredibly blessed. Pray that we have the strength to keep up with it and that we never lose our focus on our goal: to bring the love of Jesus to the children of Peru!!
P.S. A note on the name of our project: As many of you know, we experienced the tragic loss of our son Ezekiel (18 months old), our youngest child at the time, on September 8th, 2014. He was born while we were on mission in General Cepeda, Mexico, just two months after we first went into the field. He died while we were on mission in Juarez, Mexico. He was a missionary for his entire life.
What you may not know is that we gave him the name Ezekiel because of a passage that kept coming to us in prayer while I was pregnant with him. The passage was Ezekiel 47. It describes the prophet Ezekiel being shown the temple of God by an angel. From the temple flowed a stream, which the angel had the prophet pass through a number of times. First the stream was at his ankles, then his knees, then his waist and finally it was up so high he could not pass through it without swimming. Everywhere this river went the ground was made fertile and the trees bore much fruit. The waters were made fresh and every good thing could be found in abundance.
We believe walking in this stream is like our spiritual lives and once we give all our control over to the Lord by going out into the deep and allow Him to be in charge, He will, like this stream, bring the river of life where it needs to be. We thought the birth of Ezekiel, and joining missions was our “going all in” but we see now that it wasn’t until his death that we were really willing to give it all up and cling to the confidence that our God is in control. Through our “yes” to His will and not our own, He can do great things.
We pray that the Ezekiel Home will be the spring of God showering his graces upon this town and renewing the face of the earth! Our little man is still a little missionary. 🙂 St. Ezekiel Kiehl of Mexico, pray for us.
(If you haven’t read Ezekiel 47 yet, READ IT!!)
We would like to invite all of you to prayerfully consider joining us in this mission. We need your support in prayer first of all and also in other concrete ways. We are putting a list of needs for the Ezekiel Home. Please pray and give if you feel God asking you to help change the lives of children in Peru!
Things we need for the home:
- For people to pray, pray, pray
- Monthly donors to help with the cost of food, water, cleaning supplies, toilet paper and other consumables.
- One time donors who can help with house repairs (we would love to fix up a currently unusable part of our home to make a new classroom, see picture above), guitars for guitar class, chess sets for Chess Club, choir shirts, gowns for altar servers, art supplies, sporting goods, scrimmage jerseys.
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