Heartwarming Videos

Last Saturday night, after we returned from a long day in San Pedro, which consisted of spending quality time with loving sponsors, we all sat around in the living room, not aware of the special treat that we were in for. Allison turned on the television and on came a video of a little Sarai on her birthday from years ago, dressed up in a full, pink, princess costume! We watched four videos, all of which were from many years ago, and every single person’s face in the room lit up as they watched themselves and each other from different birthdays− all the girls completely dolled up in costume, looking unbelievably adorable in each video. Jenci, with her cheeky smile, watched with laughter as she saw herself (at about four years old) running and talking in the video, looking quite the same as the cute girl that was smiling at us from the television screen.

One of the fun birthday activities that the video showed was of Jenci’s pirate themed party in which each of the girls had to attempt to bite one of the apples that were hanging by string on the swing set. Cracking up at all the attempts from the girls (both the babies of the group at the time and our university girls), we did not expect anyone to be able to bite onto the apple long enough to actually successfully take a bite out of it, but then little Ruby had her turn, and she surprised us all. She was so innovative and determined; there was no question in her eyes that she was going to do it. After less than half of a minute, she had nudged the apple in between her cheek and shoulder and was eating it in full bites until it was down to the core! Sweet, little Ruby was beaming at us from the screen, so proud of herself.

The most important parts of these videos was not just how adorable or excited the girls looked in them− though they certainly were incredibly cute. The amazing part was to see how connected as a family they were and how they have grown up so much since then and are still that tight knit group with double the amount of girls. It was simply heartwarming to watch! Each girl brings something different and just as special to the family. Whether it be Jenci with her silliness, Ruby with her cleverness, or Ruthy with her ability to make everyone laugh uncontrollably. Every single girl has such a loving heart, not only in general, but especially with one another in order to make up a loving family, and what a special family it is.

A Night at the Museums

Dress rehearsal, layers and layers of makeup, last minute fixes to their costumes, and of course hours and hours of practice to have everything perfect for the big day. The summer dance recital was “A night in the Museums” in one of the fancy theaters in San Pedro Sula. Several of the girls practiced two hours a day apart from their dance classes up to the big day and so their skills progressed accordingly. By the night of the performance they had all adrenaline build-up that was proper for such a big night.

Cute elephants, beautiful giraffes, stately Cleopatras, daring acrobats, cheeky dolls, floral damsels, and cool police officers occupied the stage. The ones of us not on the stage were trying to keep up with the baby chatter on our laps: “When is Nahomy coming out?” “Is that Paola?” “I see Michelle!!” “Look! Look!” The little ones were as enraptured by the fascinating costumes, the drama, and of course the talented dancing as the grown ups were. The dancers performed two nights, and both nights for a full house. We even had a team visiting who joined us the second day to enjoy the production.

While the girls spent every spare moment in the weeks up to the show perfecting their moves for the big night, the aftermath has shown to be as beneficial. The girls saw that their work paid off and they witnessed the more proficient dancers demonstrating the next level of dance for them. They saw how much more there is to learn, and were on the challenge as soon as we made it to Burger King for a late night dinner after the recital. Once again we are witnessing how dance and gymnastics are improving their physical well being, their self worth, mental health and their zest for life and new challenges. We are already looking forward to next dance season.

The girls would never be able to have such opportunities as dance lessons without the help of sponsors like yourselves and the dance studio’s discount to our ministry. With more girls ready to start the 4 and 5 year old classes and some girls’ wish to take gymnastics, we are in need of more sponsors! The girls enjoy doing their part to help fundraise for their costumes by hosting lunches for any mission teams passing through town, which saw over 50% of funds raised for the summer presentation! If you or a dance studio is interested in sponsorship, please contact us or go to our donation page on our website. Thank you!

Buying Property

Walking in the door after church, and already being fifth in the line for the bathroom - or even tenth in the line - is a very common occurrence in this house. With 23 girls to one bathroom, the girls have plenty of opportunity to practice the virtue of patience (and as many opportunities to ask for grace). And unfortunate is the girl who is not able to hold it, because with our lack of water these days, pants are not easily washed.

The house we live in has served us well, but it is safe to say that we have outgrown it. In fact we have outgrown most every rental house in existence in Honduras.

It has been a dream since EFP started 12 years ago to have our own property and a house to fit our needs. There have been ups and downs along that road when we have thought that something was right only to have it fall through in the very end, but we always knew that it was in God's hands and that we could peacefully wait on his timing.

Just a short ride from where we live now, sits 11+ beautiful acres of farmland and lava rock.  With enough land to fit our vision of a homesteading pocket neighborhood and school, with lake access for adventures and fishing, this property will serve us more than we could have ever imagined. We have been looking at it for a few years, even though it has been too expensive for us. A couple of weeks ago, the owner dropped the price. With our savings from earlier fundraisers along with some recent generous donors we now have all the funds to buy the property. It all came together over two weeks, so we ourselves are quite overwhelmed. Sunday we signed the purchase agreement! It is still crazy even thinking about it, but so amazing and a dream come true. It will still be a couple of months of paperwork just to finalize the purchase, and after that construction permits, but eventually we will be able to build.

We cannot wait for

  • The girls to have room for a desk and personal items in their rooms.
  • Playroom with space for acro dance, ballet practice, and general play.
  • Wells on site to allow for toilet flushing, hand washing etc.
  • A school building with a classroom for each class.
  • Safe outdoor areas for the girls to play.
  • Room to house other forever families when needed.
  • Large garden and some farm animals.
  • And plenty of other things.

So, please come alongside us in:

  • Praising God, our Father who made this possible for us.
  • Finding construction teams for the buildings.
  • Donating items for a container to be shipped.
  • Fundraising for all that needs to be done in the next few years.

And who knows, with everybody's help maybe the girls will never have to be more than third in line for the bathroom in the future.

Last week’s field trip was to the fire station - and we might have to go again.

What kid is not in wonder over real life heroes like firefighters? The EFP girls are no different, and last week they were able to get a close up look at the life of a firefighter when we went to the station for a visit.

Ruby, Adrian, and Ana

Ruby, Adrian, and Ana

We saw their techniques for getting ready and rushing out of the station as fast as they can when they are called to a fire, and we heard about each part of their job - from hosing down the fire to administering basic first aid to the injured. Ruby and Ana tried on the fireman's suits; they went through the obstacle course and learned how to work the fire hose in the awkward outfits. Their biggest take away from wearing the suit was: “It’s REALLY hot!! And heavy! And hard to move in.” Their eyes were shining as they spoke about it. The other girls tried on the firefighter helmets and were standing on each other’s toes trying to take in all the action. They learned some first aid and what information to report to doctors to prepare them for an incoming patient.

While first aid could be taught at the Learning Center, we prefer taking the girls on field trips. Five fully armored firefighters next to a huge truck are a lot more interesting to listen to than a guy in a classroom. They will remember this lesson, and as Denia said: “It was good because I have an idea of what a firefighter actually does - just in case I would like to do that some day.” We are looking forward to learning even more about firefighting sometime in the near future as we were invited back for another lesson.

Papi Dios

Addison was crying at this point: “But I want to keep God as my father!!” The talk had turned in the direction of “What if Belkis ever got married.” Belkis immediately assured her, that not even an earthly father would change her relationship with Papi Dios.

Addison and Belkis

Addison and Belkis

Addison is one of the girls that have created a strong bond with Papi Dios. At two years of age, she would casually mention things that Papi Dios had told her in their conversations. She would even refuse to sing certain songs because Papi Dios did not want her to. Aracely and Denia too would from a very early age relate talks they had had with Papi Dios.

Denia and Aracely

Denia and Aracely

We know the loss it is for kids not to have a Father in their lives, and we will not diminish that. We would wish for every kid to have a good father figure. Being that it is not always possible, we are amazed at how God has taken the girls in as his own in such a particular way. They are his kids and he cares for them. Papi Dios is real in their lives. He is part of numerous everyday conversations between the girls as a Father that both cares about them and instructs them. We are seeing the words of Jesus come alive:

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matt 19;14)
Estrella loves quality time

Estrella loves quality time

Love Never Fails

Wonder if I am actually loved? Wonder if I can truly be loved - being who I am? The thought does not depend on whether one is worthy or not - it is simply a common fear in humanity. Yet the sense of not being good enough has way too favorable conditions if your own biological relatives have abandoned you. For too many of the girls this is their daily reality.

We are more than happy to create a family, to disprove the girls´ conviction; be the family to tell them who they are in Christ: that they are loved; that they worthy. When Ruby had been in the States for an extended period of time, she talked excitedly about new friends, old friends, new gadgets, and fun experiences. When she calmed down about the wonders of the States and was asked what her favorite part about Honduras was, she didn´t hesitate: “My family - they love me for who I am.” It is a joy seeing how God works through Allison´s family to show the girls that they are loved. Not only Ruby, but every single girl at EFP is loved for exactly who she is by her Mom, Allison, by her sisters, and by staff and volunteers supporting EFP.

Even so, we still see the fear of not being wholly loved to a greater or lesser degree in the girls. They may become distant, moody, or hide themselves in fear of being intimately known. We are all entirely dependent on the Father of love to teach us to be loved, and to love others.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4;18)

The Father is Love. He is the one, who enters our lives and the girls´ lives to perfect us in love and remove all fear. He is the one who can overcome past rejection and abandonment. Where He enters there is no fear, because He perfects us in love; perfects the girls in love.

There is nothing that matters more than for the girls to know Him and be transformed by His love. Will you pray with us,

  • that He will break down the fear of rejection and the fear of being unworthy, so every one of the girls will know His love.
  • that He will guide and teach Allison and every person surrounding the girls to show our love for them in a way that will make them recognize it.
  • that the Father´s love is what runs all of EFP.

“Love (...) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”         (1 Cor 13;7-8)

Dancing Your Way to Self-esteem

Yolani doing one handed cartwheel

Yolani doing one handed cartwheel

“What did you do when you couldn’t do a one handed cartwheel? Did you give up and decide that it was not for you?” We were in the middle of a discussion about the value of not giving up when school work was hard. One by one you could see the lightbulbs going on in their heads. They had all been practicing for hours a day to learn every new move they were presented with in acro dance. The thought that the same tactic might be worth while when it came to school work was novel, but it had them thinking.

Ballet class

Ballet class

We are so thrilled that the girls are back in dance class. We cannot express our gratitude of the combined generosity of our sponsors and dance studio for making this happen!  After the first acro dance class, they came running out: “Can we do that every day?” Never minding the answer, they certainly are doing acro everyday; before classes, in between classes, whenever they can get around to it in classes, and after classes. Seeing their energy, investment, and most of all the joy and confidence they gain from it makes it all worth the long drives to San Pedro Sula every Saturday for classes. Even after a jazz class, a ballet class, and an acro dance class Paola and Denia had stars in their eyes on their way into the contemporary dance workshop they had a chance to participate in. They cannot get enough.

Gaby with the product of her first drawing class

Gaby with the product of her first drawing class

Whether it is arts, sports, dance, or music, we see the value of signing them up for lessons and encouraging them in pursuing their passion. It affects their level of joy, energy, self-esteem, courage, and playfulness. They are making new friends and enjoying every single bit of both lessons and practice times. The conversation about school work we had last week is only one of many bits of everyday life that prove how important it is to their well being and positive development. So even though our couches are held together by duct tape, we lack ceiling fans in some rooms, and it is a challenge finding the money every time anyone needs new shoes, we cannot regret for even a moment prioritizing lessons that encourage their passions and build up their self-esteem.

Nahomy in acro dance class

Nahomy in acro dance class

The Ant-like Figures and Nonsensical Ornaments Books Contain

“I can’t do it!!” Ana declared.

There was no doubt she meant it. She would shut down and sit immovable refusing to try again, to look at anyone, or to speak to anyone. It generally happened during reading or math and it easily took an hour before she was willing to talk or work again.

Jency and Ana making their own phone

Jency and Ana making their own phone

Ana was 13 when she first came to live with us. She has not had a chance at going to school before that and had to start with kindergarten at age 13. It has been an effort for her teaching her brain to make sense of the ant-like figures and nonsensical ornaments books contain. Learning a completely new skill at that age is hard. Seeing everybody around you reading long books, while you yourself are struggling with just recognizing each letter is discouraging. The feeling of hopelessness has without a doubt been real. She has been going to the Learning Center for over a year without ever really believing she would get the hang of it.

Mariela, Michelle, Ana, and Jaxon performing their own song about the Learning Center 

Mariela, Michelle, Ana, and Jaxon performing their own song about the Learning Center 

This summer we had a good friend and teacher visiting from the States who worked with her for a few weeks. Ana put an effort into following the daily lessons, but it took all of her energy. By the end of two weeks, her efforts paid off. Ana read a real book; an easy read of course, but nevertheless an actual book. What an achievement; her eyes shone with joy over her accomplishment and we were all inwardly jumping with delight for her.

Ana

Ana

This year she is in first grade. Once in awhile we still hear an “I can’t do it”, but the defiance has gone out of the sentence. After reminding her of her feats over the past months, she seems to have a little light in her telling her, that she might be able to make it. Whenever the “I can’t do it!” is said now, it simply means: “I need a 10 second break, and then I will try again.”

A Girl with a Vision

With a cheeky (and exhausted) smile, Gaby said: “I think you are tired now, we should stop.” It was the fourth day in a row she had been struggling with homework until around ten at night. Even when exhausted she kept her spirit up, took a deep breath, vented through joking, and kept going, determined to catch up with where the others were.

Gaby started in a new school last week. Since they are following different systems, she has some topics - especially in math - that she needs to catch up on. On top of that, she has encountered a few mean girls. Regardless, she is resolved to do well in class, and she knows that it takes work.

Gaby was not always fond of school. Over the years she has been fighting both the concept of school and her different teachers. The development she is going through is beautiful to watch. She dreams of becoming either a veterinarian or chemist to create her own line of beauty products, and with a vision comes her dedication. Few things are better than a young person, who has a dream and the dedication to make it happen.

Every Child Deserves a Loving Family

The EFP vision has always been about family - every child should have the chance of growing up in a loving family with lasting bonds. Naturally that has meant, our focus has been on quality over quantity - we cannot alone give every child in Honduras a family, but we can make sure that Allison’s girls grow up in the love and care of a mother and siblings.

Our hearts break for the amount of children in Honduras, that do not have a family. UNICEF estimates that there are over 170,000 orphans within Honduras (counting both children with no parents and children who are not able to live with their parents). For as long as orphan care has existed in Honduras, orphanages have been the way to deal with it. While the thought of raising children in a family should not be novel, it has not been the way to do it until now.

DINAF, the new child services that took office last year, have their focus on arranging for children to grow up in families or smaller group homes. They have made it a goal to have 100 children adopted in 2015 (the number of adoptions in 2014 was 38). Apart from the adoptions, DINAF is working with at least two ministries (and more coming) trying to place children in good and caring foster families. The ministries find the families and do inspections and check ups allowing DINAF to reach even more children with their limited budget.

We cannot be more thrilled about more Honduran children growing up in a loving family. Every child deserves a loving family. Not just the girls of EFP.


Say Happy Birthday to Me

“Say Happy Birthday to me!” was Gisselle’s merry greeting from the beginning of the day. The confidence and sense of security with which she said it was like a warm hug. She knew it was her day, and she knew she was getting a cake. The only question was “Are you going to bake my cake?”.

It is such a different attitude from the one at her first birthday here shortly after arriving two years ago. She had just moved in and was getting to know the family and the house. She was scared and confused by the move and was trying desperately to figure out how to function in a new household. Even when held in the arm, she started crying when the whole family shouted “Happy Birthday!!”

This year nothing could ruin her day. She knew that everything was for her benefit because her family cares about her; the Minion cake, the Frozen balloons, the homemade cards and small gifts her sisters had for her. The joy in her eyes was worth gold. It is a treat watching her grow up; grow in security, grow in love, grow in joy, grow in self-confidence.

Knowing what a difference relations during the early years make through your entire life is a constant reminder of why family matters - and what a joy it is to have so much of it.

Summer Schooling

"Is it our turn now?" and "When are we going to school?" are shouts heard pretty much every time a group comes back from the Learning Center. The younger grades love coming down to do math. The older grades might be a slightly less enthusiastic, but they are all working hard, and with the intensity of the lessons, they are quickly developing their math skills.

While enjoying the holidays, we are determined on giving the girls the best education and the best chances for their future. The first week of July we had a teacher visiting to assess every girl's levels in math, reading, and writing. It is great having something to go from and be able to work with them in the areas they need extra help to get them up to speed on everything. So, that is what we are doing.

First through 5th grade are all busy with fractions in some form while middle and high school are working hard on getting a grasp on geometry. Everyone is challenged to the maximum, and with the intensity of the classes and their own dedication, they are taking huge leaps. It is amazing seeing the light in their eyes when they grasp a new facet of a subject and start doing it all on their own.

Thank you for all of you who make it possible for the girls to grow, learn, and thrive the way they do.


The Joy of Following Your Dream

The stars in Yadira’s eyes when she talks about nursing classes lighten the entire day. Yadira is so good at caring for people. The love and patience she has with Allison’s toddlers and the kind manner with which she cares prove what a brilliant nurse she will be. And there is nothing she would rather do.

After helping Allison for a year with the babies, Yadira started taking nursing classes on the weekends all the while helping Allison the rest of the week. She has been studying for half a year now and has a year to go. It is no doubt tough - studying is hard work, and every skill to learn is a challenge - like finding people’s veins for taking blood or muscles for injections.

She only needs to be reminded of why she is doing it, and she pours her energy back into the work. When the babies have a fever she takes the chance to practice what she has learned. Last week she started doing her mandatory practice and did her first hours with Elvira (who is nearing the end of her medical degree) on her shift at the hospital. Things just got real and despite tired hours of studying, the stars in her eyes are as bright as ever.

Having a shot at living your dream is not a given in Honduras. If you do not have wealthy parents who can support you, there is really no way of finding the money to go to college. We are so blessed to be able to stand by these girls as they tackle what the world throws at them and see God work miracles through them and let them flourish. Thank you all so much for standing with us and supporting them to make their dreams come true!


Adoption

This past week we have spent painting the entire house. We have to admit that it was long overdue. The real reason for us finally taking the initiative to do it though is a longer story.

Allison’s girls have always been hers. She did not need to adopt them, as none of them would be going back to their parents and the chances of any of them ever being adopted were slim to none. That is what allowed her to create this wonderful family and give the girls the security of knowing, that someone loves them and will stick by them - that they finally found their home and forever family. You would think that was that, but...

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The Honduran child services, IHNFA has been abolished over the last year and an all new organization, DINAF put in its place. DINAF has shut down most of the public orphanages and wants to focus on having all children adopted instead, placed in foster care or smaller group homes. That is great news for the Honduran children, but for Allison’s family, it has been a bit of a threat as some of the girls would go directly on the adoption list with Allison having no chance of adopting them.

As several people in Honduras are in the same predicament, DINAF has agreed to give a 90 day window for anyone who has had a child in their care for more than a year to adopt them. It does give us a bit of extra work and expenses, but it is thrilling to know that Allison might be able to adopt her own children.

So, apart from health checks, birth certificates and the like, the application has to include pictures of the entire house. This was of course the initial offset to this week’s project, but adoption or not - it is amazing living in a house with neatly painted walls. Love looking around our single colored rooms and the sense of tranquility it spreads.

Another thing we need is an American adoption agency to write a letter for each girl stating that if Allison should ever choose to return to her home country with her adopted kids, that the agency would take care of check ups statewise. We cannot afford international adoption for all of the girls, and we have no reason to either. Allison has no plan of moving back as both Allison and the girls’ home is here. Nevertheless, we still need the letters, so if you know of a company that would write such letters for the girls for an affordable amount of money, please let us know.