Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Those of you who only know me as a presenter in the states might think I cry through my days…but I don’t. God has carried me through many very difficult things, sad and heavy circumstances, horrific cases of abuse and despair I never imagined I would encounter without so much as sheading a tear. That’s why when the lady fixing my hair yesterday asked what was wrong and I had to close my eyes to hold the tears back, I knew I was stressed.

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She didn’t ask me again what was troubling me after she saw the tears, instead she took off into a speech of encouragement…

“Worry, (pre-occupation literally translated from Spanish) is just that. Worrying before the problem. Occupying yourself with something that might happen but hasn’t yet. You, my friend are a child of God. You don’t have the right to worry. You don’t get to carry your burden. That’s pride and ego.

You Must trust, rest, obey, abide…that’s what you are called to do.

Worry is not part of your job description and you don’t have time for it. It’s sin so repent and step back into the arms of your God. Rest Mija (daughter), God’s got this!”

 

But things got worse as the day progressed and by nighttime I could barely hang on. This was more than emotion, I was in terrible pain. I took some meds and tried to sleep but I got no relief from the intense neck pain. I cried as pain gripped me with the intensity of childbirth. When I got into a position I could finally lay still, I was determined to trust, rest, obey, abide. In an act of worship I played over and over the song Oceans (Where feet may fail) by Hillsong United and quoted the Psalms.

 

The hardest battles are fought here, in the night.  In the deep quiet places when our souls cry for attention.

“When you speak to the soul, it naturally turns to prayer

because in the soul God is always present.”

I know in my soul this is war and I cry for “The spirit to lead me where my trust is without borders… to let me walk upon the waters wherever he may call me.  To take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will made stronger in the presence of my savior”

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For those of you who enter into intercession on behalf of New Hope Girls and it’s staff

THANK YOU for struggling with us.

 

Paul pleaded for “prayer helpers” everywhere. He begged the Romans, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me; that I may be delivered” (Romans 15:30-31). And he asked the Thessalonians, “Brothers and sisters, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25).

–“struggle with me as a partner in prayer; wrestle for me in prayer.” Paul was not asking for a quick mention to the throne. He was pleading, “Fight for me in prayer. Do spiritual battle, both for my sake and the sake of the gospel.”

THANK YOU FOR STRUGGLING WITH US!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Life entering in…Full of Hope

Feeling emotional today.  Super tired, sure that has something to do with it.  Feeling so grateful.  So in awe of my God.  I was with Eneroliza all night helping her give birth.  What an honor to be part of a miracle in the rawest moments of a woman’s life…

There were moments when she would cry out and think she was going to die…they all do that.  That’s when I know they are close.  When they are sure they cannot go on, they can face no more.  When their body begins to shake without control…that’s a sign that we are in transition and the baby will be here soon.

I whisper to her—“Every pain brings your baby.  Stay centered. Trust that you will not die. But instead you will bring forth a new life.  You are strong enough.  Your strength comes from the Lord.  Don’t focus on the pain…focus on your breath.  Breath.  Breath in and out.”

When you’re at the end of yourself…and breathing takes all that is within you.  That is the darkest moment before the birth–just breath.

She finds rest and closes her eyes and breaths.  We rock and hummm and breath in and out, the waves of fear roll out to sea and the her strength comes in the moment she needs it most as her entire being focuses on only one thing…pushing that baby out.

There is deep mystery in childbirth.  No amount of study or science can take away from the awe of a new life entering in—breaking through.  First breath.  Full of hope.

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What an analogy for our faith walk….

 

We have experienced transitions like this

Full of

Anxiety, Panic, Despair

Overwhelming FEAR

We have felt labor pains like this…

Pain that takes you to the end of yourself

Leaving you shaking like a limb in a hurricane

unable to breath

WE ALSO KNOW

Rest and strength in the middle of a bloody mess

Divine focus 

Fear overcome

New life entering in

Breaking through

First breath 

Full of Hope

God really is strong in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12: 8, 9) and if we seek Him, we really do find Him—even in our toughest moments.

The tough things in life teach us, train us and tenderize us. They make us wiser and more equipped to love others like they really need to be loved—with empathy and honesty.

When we’re most acquainted with our needs, we are most drawn to God’s provision. When we feel our tears, we can better feel the pain of others.

–excerpts from A Holy Experience


 

 

Breakthroughs

When you are in the darkest of valleys the smallest flickers of light refresh the soul!

Most days we walk into the girl’s house faced with a wall of drama. Some days we can hardly bear it and dread opening the door. We spend hours counseling girls about behavior and heart and much of that time is often spent trying to discern the truth.

It seems for many of our girls a lie seems safer than the truth. They are afraid of telling their truth and therefore often the consequence I use is requiring them to say out loud the truth and confess it to another as they “practice telling the truth.” I have a couple girls who have lived with us since the beginning and we are STILL working on telling the truth.

Well, Monday we had a breakthrough. We sat with the girls to speak with them about their mischievous behavior over the weekend in the house and Lupe told the truth….all the things she had done and participated in. All of them. Out loud. While I was sorry she had done all those things I was so proud of her for telling the truth.

Light broke through. A victory!

The following day, met with new drama, we were talking with a different group of girls and all clues pointed to Lupe as the offender. She denied, but I didn’t believe her. Then Marie saved Lupe but telling the truth. She confessed. Out loud. To another. While we were sorry for what she had done, we cheered “you told the truth!” “For the first time,” she said.

Light broke through. A victory!

Lord we trust your word that the truth will set us free. We KNOW this is an important victory toward the freedom of these girls. Give us the strength to pray, love and support them on their journey.

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Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death…I will fear no evil for thou art with us.

Thank you for bringing us out of darkness and into your marvelous light!

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

Experiencing God

It was that kind of day, when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed for no good reason in a wicked mood.  Walking up the hill toward the school–the sound of the girls squeals irritated me instead of making me feel loved and appreciated.  I walked in, sat down in the rocking chair and picked up the daily devotional book to begin our normal morning routine when I heard a little voice call out, “I want to pray.”

“Perfect!  I replied…because I’m in a terrible mood and I might be forced to eat you for lunch if someone doesn’t pray for me!”  She began to pray for me, the other staff and each girl.  As she finished  another voice called out asking to pray, then another and another….  The atmosphere was transformed.  I was transformed.  Then they broke out in song.  I closed my eyes in worship with them letting the spirit lead me to the next girl that would choose a song.  We could have gone on forever, but decided to dedicate some of our day to “school,” –but now I was ready to face the day.

–as told by Greici

Our recent observation has been that our girls don’t need more information about God, but more Experiences with God….

We are thankful that as we are sensitive to the Spirit we are being led into prayer and worship with our girls growing and experiencing God with them…

Friday during class the girls began to get restless and even lay on the floor, so Annie suggested a worship song.  They entered with ease into worship and then laid hands on one another in a time of ministry and prayer.  God is doing a mighty work in our little school/ house and it is amazing to see the body of Christ grow and mature before our very eyes as we Experience God Together.  –Annie

2014–It’s all about You!

When I taught second and third grade I would often begin the year with an, “all about me”  project.  Students would reflect on their likes and dislikes and create some type of presentation based on themselves. 

I began this year, 2014 ALL about Me.  I reflected on all the pressure, exhaustion, stress, and all the races with no finish lines I had signed up to run.  I was feeling so sorry for myself, I was even pulling my friends into my All about ME project.  What a miserable start to a new year.  So I’m taking a re-do and asking those closest to me for forgiveness.

  • Instead of focusing on me…I choose to focus on thee.

  • Instead of putting my head down and trudging ahead …I choose to keep my head up allowing You to light the path for my next step.

  • Instead of reflecting on all that is hard and wrong and messed up…I choose to think on all that is pure and right and praise worthy.

  • Instead of reflecting me…I choose to reflect Your light from within.

  • I choose love, I choose Joy, I choose peace, I choose self control, I choose kindness and tenderness….

I CHOOSE YOU LORD!

2014—It’s ALL  about YOU

A Look back at 2013

2013 was year of great blessing, hard lessons, intense intercession, relationship building, healing and breakthrough.  We are deeply grateful for your loving support of Nueva Esperanza-New Hope Girls,Inc.  We cherish your prayers, sponsorships and friendships.

We began the year with a fast inspired by Jen Hatmaker’s book 7.  We lived on 40pesos or $1.25 a day for the month.  We discovered on many levels how fortunate we are and were inspired to take a step of faith in feeding ALL our girls breakfast and lunch before the finances were raised…God provided for our girls!

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In February our staff began a year long commitment to become certified Montessori teachers with full scholarships!

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Joy traveled to the states in partnership with Dare for More ministries and Mercy Jewelry as they inspired women to Dare for More in their spiritual walk believing in His Amazing Grace as they answer the call to be His hands and feet.   Dare for More has become New Hope’s biggest vendor of bags and we are so grateful for their faithful support of our ladies in the workshop!999291_10202226027074933_23433426_n

After literally years of praying for consistent house help in our safe house…God began to grow our staff and provide us with women who have a heart for prayer and love for our girls.

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We studied together Mark Batterson’s book, The circle Maker and then culminated with a 21 day fast drawing  some prayer circles of our own.  There is no greater uniting force that prayer and we were blessed to see God’s hand at work.

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We lost a dear friend Megan Garven in an accident.  Inspired by a challenge created by her parents, we  took 25 girls to Sweet Frog (her favorite) in honor of her 25th birthday!

This summer our girls were able to attend their first overnight camp provided by Grace Church in Sarasota, FL.  What a thrill for us all!  They planned, prepared and staffed the entire week and it was dream come true for all involved…And while the girls were at camp some talented guys were building us a new kitchen!

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Most of you now know the miracle story of Amanda Metzler, former second grade teacher to my son Isaac, joining our New Hope team.  I’m certain it has been perhaps her most challenging assignment yet, but she has brought with her New Hope for our academy and our girls are beginning to truly learn English from a loving life role model in her own little classroom rented next store which we refer to as, “Casa Amanda.”

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Hope Aglow made more beds for more girls so we could fill our safe house to full capacity and added beds for visitors in “Casa Amanda”.

God sent us another co-laborer, Gail Leroy.  She formerly worked with Compassion Intl. helping with their sponsorships and now she will be managing all of our DR sponsorship correspondence.  I can’t think of a better fit to meet this need.  She walks alongside, supports and encourages –She is a true blessing to our staff.

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The ladies in the workshop received some much needed storage space, introduced a new product line of laptop bags and our prayers for industrial machines were filled bringing us one step closer to our dream of launching a leather line of bags and accessories! We have joined with Opportunities and Hope Aglow who now sell our bags in the states and we look forward to growing opportunities for more women in our community to work with dignity.

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We ended our year with a PJ party full of special food, new PJs and backpacks.  So much fun!

To those of you who came and saw or served alongside us this year…THANKS!

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We never cease to be amazed by God’s goodness, love and mercy for us.  His great provision and loving kindness inspire us to give more and love more.  To YOU who gave much, loved much and prayed much….THANK YOU!  We look forward with great anticipation to the year ahead because we know that God has great plans for our future and look forward to sharing it with YOU!

“I think you need to say Thank you!”

Delia and Greici received full scholarships to become certified Montessori teachers!  They have been traveling four hours round trip each Saturday over the last year to participate in the program and we are delighted at the prospect of offering this quality education to our girls.  They are in their final month now and we are feeling both relieved and overwhelmed.  Relieved that the pressure of homework, study and travel will be lifted, but overwhelmed by all that is required to implement their training because we have so far to go.

As we traveled this week to visit highly functioning Montessori schools, we began to share our mixed feelings with the director of the certification program, Marta Vicente.  She knows New Hope Girls Academy well and introduced Montessori methods to our girls and staff in our first year of classes.

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She was not empathetic to our fears and concerns, but instead challenged us in our lack of faith and gratitude.

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“You haven’t even been open three years!  God is in this work.  You began with two girls and now you have eight in the safe house.  You began with no training and now your teachers are finishing their first year of certification.  God sent you Amanda, the best teacher Santiago has to offer.   There are many reasons to say THANK YOU.  I think you need to say THANK YOU.”

Most everyone looking in from the outside can see God’s hand all over New Hope, guiding protecting, providing.  So much grace. So much love.  Those of us on the front lines sometimes focus on the how long the road ahead is and forget to be grateful in the journey and for all that has brought us this far.  Truth be told, Marta is right; we just need to say Thank You, everyday and out loud so the world can hear.  So we can hear…just how good our God has been to us!

May we become, “The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. 

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When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows.  How can this not be the best thing for the world?  For us?  The clouds open when we mouth thanks.”—Ann Voskamp

“This is where you live.”

In my wildest dreams I never could have imagined all that could go wrong in 7 days.  Brawling girls, bloody machete fights out our front door, suicide threats, runaways, breakdowns and conflict everywhere….

The truth was ALL HELL HAD BROKEN LOOSE!  Literally.

I had found myself, our staff, and our girls in a wild storm of conflict trying not to get swept away with doubt, anxiety, fear and despair.

I called in the prayer troops and met with our staff several times over the following days.  We were struggling to find unity on some important fronts, so I took two days to fast and pray.

God gave me the gift of clarity…

“You can’t solve your problems based on any past learning or experience.  Your culture will let you down.  Your training was upside down from my kingdom.  You must depend on me!  You cannot attack your problems the “American way” or the “Dominican way”.  It MUST be My way.  “The Jesus Way.”

I began to consider all that we faced and ask what the “Jesus Way” might look like in each situation, refusing to lean on my own understanding.  The Kingdom principles are like God: always good, always enough, always rooted in love, mercy and justice.

We must ask ourselves:

  • Are we being faithful with even the little morsels God has put in our hands?
  • Are we praying for the work of our hands or the work of God’s hands to prosper?
  • Are we loving with the love we have received from our heavenly father? –The kind of love that bears each other’s burdens and covers a multitude of sins.
  • Do our faces light up when we walk in the room at the sight of the people we see there?  Or do we focus on the messes instead?

Praise God that He sees me and loves me with all of my mess. His love enables the cleaning of my mess as He rejoices over me with singing.

Lord help us to walk in your ways with your love…only love, only grace, only you.

In this time when doubt, anxiety, fear and despair pushed to consume me, I kept holding onto God’s word to me and pressing in in the ways I knew to.  Then I was reminded of a word picture given to me a few years back…

I was in a storm- a wild raging windstorm.  I couldn’t see or even get my feet underneath me.  I walked with my head leaning into the storm fighting the force of the wind, until I hit a pole.  I grabbed it a hung on for dear life and prayed out loud.  Lord come!  Help me!  Get me out of here!  And God replied, “This is where you live.”  When the storm settled and I could see my surroundings I looked up to notice that the pole I was holding onto was actually the cross.

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When All HELL BREAKS LOOSE… “This is where you live.”

New Opportunities

We received a big fat NO this week!  It was heartbreaking and left us trying to figure out what to do next.  I was sharing all the details with the lady cutting my hair today  (this is where I receive some of my most valuable therapy) and she began to give me a talk, a lesson—no a sermon, because she spoke with the conviction and heart of a pastor and I hung on every word as she spoke to me through the salon mirror and continued to trim my hair.

“ The problem is that you don’t know what the word NO means.  Do you know what the word NO means?  I was afraid to answer because she had just told me I didn’t.  NO means New Opportunities.  You see nothing gets past our God.  He’s bringing about His perfect will in HIs perfect time and He’s preparing you for the next challenge.  Get ready– because this won’t be the last NO.  You see, He holds us in His hand and while we think we know how He is going to work something out… He is the only one who sees the whole story.  But don’t you worry—He’s holding you and you are holding him.  You carry the power of His word.

Do you know what I mean when I say power of His word?  I didn’t answer, I just looked at her wide eyed.  It’s your weapon to fight the worst kinds of evil and it’s the promises that give you the strength to stand against the worst kinds of evil.  Because if you write His words on your heart then you know who you are and no one can mess with you.” 

 

As she was finishing up my hair,  I began to reflect and her definition of NO and God’s word to me, to these girls and New Hope.  The words of the song that so often plays in my head began to permeate in a new way.  “I know who goes before her.  I know who stands behind.  The God of angel armies is right there by her side.”

The answers to all our questions, the solutions to all our problems are the same—Jesus.  And every NO is a New Opportunity to cling more tightly to Him.

A New Creation

I realized I owe you all an update on the culmination of our 21day fast with prayers for Greici and one of our struggling girls.  Let me just say that we truly felt the fruit of your prayers!  Perhaps not in the ways we expected, which confirms God’s hand in it, but in the most marvelous ways.

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As Greici struggled with this girl—Let’s call her “Marie,”  I saw God soften her heart and watched her respond with the softest touch, tear filled hugs, sweet words of encouragement and affirmation with a confidence that had been missing for a while.  There were times when she would say a loud—“Someone is praying, I can feel it.  I can feel God moving in me.”   I wish all of you who were covering her in prayer could have seen it.

Greici and I have worked together for nine years!  We’ve even began to look like one another and have the closest connection I have ever felt outside of marriage– I feel it, she says it.  We only move if united and while we respond from two entirely different worldviews and cultures we seem to see the same solutions to the challenges set before us.  I wish that kind of partnership for everyone in ministry.

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But for the last while things had been cloudy and it left me missing my partner.  Well, dear prayer warriors…I am pleased to announce she is back!  She is back, and not just to her old self, but better than ever—A New Creation!

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And as for Marie, she is fighting an internal battle and everyone around her can see it.  She wins some and looses some, but we know who wins in the end!  We continue to praise God for the clear vision He has given us for her future and can’t wait to see her someday speaking before a crowd using her testimony to show others just how big, powerful, faithful and amazing our God is!

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you

will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

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