This school year, we have 118 students at Instituto Vida Abundante.   Our students come from very difficult family backgrounds.   20-30% of our students have lost one or both of their parents.   The majority of the remainder live in a single-parent home.  

Our students range in age from 11-19.   Each student has a very special life story.  

Within our own home, we have 5 children.   Our children come from various family backgrounds.   All 5 now live in a two-parent home.    Our children range in age from 3-almost 15.   Each child has a very special life story.

Life stories.

The work of God in one life.  

I love to hear their stories.   I hate to hear their stories.   

People ask me how I handle the weight of their stories.   

I don't handle it.    I grieve.

I weep with them while simultaneously reminding myself that God is not done.

Alex and I feel like the students at IVA are our second family.   We treat their stories and their lives in the same way we treat the stories and lives of our own children.

We listen, we hug, we love, we give it to God.

We pray, we cry, we laugh, we give it to God again.

We sigh, we grasp, we smile, we give it to God yet again.

If we took every heartache completely upon our own shoulders, we would fall under the weight. Instead, we see each one as a distinct child of God.   We honor the work that God is already doing in their lives.   We help bear burdens where we are able, we listen with every ounce of care that we have and we cast the rest on Jesus.

My children and the IVA students are not extensions of me... they are separate, unique, individual.   My mistakes will not be their mistakes and I have very little fear for their future decisions... because those decisions are theirs.  I am not reliving my life through them, nor do I wish I were their age again.    The lives they will live are theirs.   My job is not to shield them from difficulty, but to walk right through it by their side.    My job is not to sugar coat the ugly, but to point them to the Beautiful One who makes the ugly into something worthy.    

This week in our missionary women's Bible study, I was promptly reminded of how Holy Week speaks directly into the stories of our children, students and my very own story.

Jesus suffered.  His story included the very ugly. 

People walked beside them as far as they were humanly able.  And then, He was alone to live His story... the greatest story.    He gave it all into His Father's hands. He did exactly what He had been sent to do.

And then Sunday came.

Life came forth from death.   Jesus lives.

Jesus brings light from darkness.   His resurrection gives us hope that our stories are not in vain.  He makes beautiful things from our dust and dirt.    

Because of this Hope and my absolute certainty in it, I can continue to walk beside our children and students, hear their stories and not get lost in the suffering.     

Hope lives.

Jesus lives.


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