Friday, March 30, 2012

Letters from Sponsors

One of the greatest parts of sponsorships is the communication between sponsors and children through letter writing. The students send a letter to their sponsor at the end of every term. They love getting letters back from their sponsors!

Sponsors have such a great opportunity to impact the lives of these children. The letters communicate to the children that they are loved and cared for by someone half way around the world. It's a way for the sponsor and child to build a relationship. It's a way for the sponsor to encourage the child. The children just light up when they receive a letter from their sponsor.

Timothy reading a letter from his sponsor.

Trevor reading a letter from his sponsor.

Even more than the letters, the children cherish the photos their sponsors send. These photos give a face for the children to see who it is that is paying their school fees.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

VBS January 2012

Every school break, Vision of Destiny invites the students in 1st-7th grade to come to school for half the day for a "camp." Usually there are activities such as Bible stories, music, drama, sports and games, etc. It is usually facilitated by one of Vision of Destiny's staff.

This past January (which means I should have posted this a while ago), we had an exciting change! Instead of it being facilitated by a staff member, we had four young ladies (Faith, Emily, Lindsey, and Bethany) visit. They were amazing! For the week, they planned an entire VBS- complete with Bible stories, new songs, arts and crafts, new games, and time to hang out and play with the kids.

This was an exciting time for the students attending. Most of our visitors come when school is in session. This means that our younger sponsored kids get a lot of visitors- translate that to a lot of attention, being held and played with, etc. Our older students attend other local schools so rarely get to meet visitors. This time was a great time for our older students. It was their turn to get attention. Time for them to get to be known and feel special and loved on!

The VBS was a hit, a total success! Check out the pics below to see some of the fun that was had by all that week......

Friday, March 23, 2012

False Teachings

Our school is located in the middle of a slum..... a slum where there are many different religious beliefs: born agains, Muslims, Catholics, witchdoctors, and pastors with some pretty wild teachings.

The students at Vision of Destiny are 21% Muslims. Of the rest, I'd say about 80-90% either attend no church or one of these churches with far out teachings.

Let me tell you about one of the "churches" here where a large majority of our students and their families attend.... I won't give you the name of the church or the pastor's name, just some of the beliefs coming out of this church......
- The pastor is considered to be Jesus Christ.
- The water from the church is blessed and has special powers (it's considered to be the blood of Christ).
- Using said water will bless you and give you whatever you want.
- Using said water can heal you.
- If one of your relative dies, you should keep no photo of that person. It will harm you. You have to burn these photos in order to be safe.
- In order to be prayed for by this pastor, you must pay a fee.
- Much of this prayer involves vomiting, foaming at the mouth, and rolling around in dirt.
- Most of the branches of this church hold services only during the night (beginning around 8 p.m. and going to the early morning hours).
- The list could go on and on, but hopefully you get the picture.

This church has a huge following, mostly of very poor and illiterate peole. The pastor has created a belief in his followers that if you go to him, you will get what you want, you will be blessed, you will be healed, miracles will happen. I won't dispute that miracles do happen in this church. I've heard several testimonies, but the focus is on the pastor, not on Christ. Do you remember the story of Moses? When Moses turned the stick into a snake, other magicians did the same. So, even false prophets might have power, but is it the power of God? I would say no.

Many of our children are subjected to the teachings of this man. As I sat at school yesterday, I listened to a six year old girl pretend to be him and praying like him. Her prayer was this, "In the name of Jesus you die, you die, you die." She was praying for a fellow student.

The school has a chance to be a light shining in the darkness. Every day our students have a Bible lesson (yes, we've had to work with teachers on teaching in truth and grace and not with threats and harshness). During this Bible time, the children get to hear stories taken directly from the Bible (in a story format that a young child can understand) and get to hear the truth of Jesus.

In many ways, it has been easier for our Muslim students to grasp the truth of Christ than our "Christian" students coming from these false churches. It seems that for the Muslim students the gospel is so easy and simple to comprehend. For the students attending churches with untrue beliefs, it seems to be harder. It seems they have so much more confusion in their minds to sort through. It seems the process of knowing what it is that they believe has been harder for them.

As you know, we are seeking to put up a boarding school. This will benefit the students in so many ways. But, one that I can see that will be one of the greatest is getting to live, see, and hear truth daily. It will be less conflicting and confusing to the children to see, hear, and live out only one version of a gospel, rather than many different versions.

Pray with us:
- that during the time we have with the children before switching to a boarding school that we can be as bright of a light as we can in the few hours a day that we are with them
- that all of our staff and teachers will know and live out the true gospel before these children
- that in spite of hearing so many different things, the truth will stick in the minds and hearts of VOD's children
- that these children will grow up and become a light in their community (they already are sharing truth with others as young as they are- for example, Jackie asked a boda boda rider who is Muslim, if he knows that Jesus Christ is the Son of God!!!!!- pretty bold for a six year old!)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Our Battles Are Not With Flesh and Blood

I am very convinced that whenever there is something good happening, the devil fights it with all he has. I am especially convinced this is the case when the lives of children are concerned.

At Vision of Destiny, we really are fighting for these children, not just their physical well being or just providing them with free education. We are fighting to see that these children grow in the knowledge and love of Christ. We are fighting to see them grow up knowing that God loves them, that they are precious to Him, and that He cares for each one of them. We are fighting to bring change to their lives. Change from lives that see drug abuse, alcoholism, extreme poverty, prostitution, death, etc. to lives that have hope that they can do all things through Christ.

Part of this fight deals with the mundane details of making sure worksheets are available, staff is paid, toilets are cleaned, and really importantly that there is a facility from which children can study.

As you know, Vision of Destiny began in the sitting room of my apartment and then moved to a rented facility in October 2009. The facility has served its purpose but time seems to be running out on it.

You see we signed a rental agreement with the landlord (who happens to be a Catholic nun- no disrespect to Catholics or nuns, but she doesn't fit the picture you would think of as a kind person devoted to caring for orphans). This rental agreement was signed for a period of three years and a fair rate. Since that time, she has always grumbled about she's getting little money, she could be getting more, threats to increase the rent.

Rent was due again on March 1st of this year for most of the remainder of the three year rental period. Two weeks before the rent was due, we received a letter through her attorney that rent was being increased more than double (about 120%) and that if we weren't willing to pay that we should vacate the premises by March 1st. Wait a minute!!!! What???? We have an agreement. That agreement also states that if either party wishes to terminate the rental agreement that three months notice should be given! Two weeks notice!!!! Seriously?

So, a lot of phone calls ensued. We finally were able to meet with her over the issue (luckily she and I both came with a witness). We pleaded. Where was that money to come from? These children don't pay school fees? Where was the school to go on such short notice? We finally came to the conclusion that we could pay the usual rate for the next 6 months. After that rent would increase. She even mentioned the amount to which rent would increase, saying the family had agreed on that rate.

Fast forward to the day of paying rent. David takes the six months rent and goes to pay her. She counts it and begins complaining that this isn't the right amount. She was adding to the amount that we had agreed. David looked at her witness that had been in the meeting who was also with her to collect the money wondering what trick this was. Luckily, her witness was like no, this is what you agreed to. She still insisted that it couldn't be! Finally, she accepted it.

But, then began telling David that this was too little money. The property needed to be developed. They were planning to take off part of the property and construct something else. Plans to tear down the current building and put up another one. Of course any way it goes, rent will increase. She also informed him that she was not committed to the price we had agreed to rent increasing to in the meeting. What will rent end up being?

Rent is really an expense that Vision of Destiny could totally do away with. Vision of Destiny purchased 8 acres of land about an hour outside of the city. We are desiring to build the school on this site. We would like to begin construction soon and be able to move the children as soon as possible- hopefully as soon as the 2013 school year! This would do away with rent! It would do away with anxiety over what happens to the children in case the landlord decides we can no longer be in this premises or if the rent is beyond our reach. It would also give us a chance to impact the lives of the children in a greater way through a boarding school. (Another post on why boarding coming soon!)

So, please be praying with us:
- a change of heart in the landlord
- funds to come in for construction
- children to be on our own land soon
- peace in the midst of it all for all the leaders and staff of Vision of Destiny