Dear Supporters, Prayer Warriors, Friends and Family,
Ted and I have been in Guatemala for a month now. Many changes are taking place at the house and we are working hard to complete the many tasks before us. Currently, we are expecting Josh and Jamie Stoneman any day now with a crew of 11 to serve at Casa Agua Azul. I would like to share with you some of the inner stories of the house and we ask for your continued prayers for our children, our staff and the inner workings that come with caring for abused children.
This October started out in a whirlwind of challenges, has been filled with many joys, and ends in more challenges.
Casa Agua Azul as with any house or family it is not without challenge. Perseverance, patience and keeping our hearts dedicated to our mission to provide a safe house for abandoned and abused children is foremost in our mind. Casa Agua Azul's purpose is to provide a stable long term home where the children are loved, cared for and educated to become well adjusted and productive members of society. Creativity and faith in a loving God whose love never fails keeps us going.
Three of our boys lost their grandmother, she was the only one in the family that showed them any form of love. After Jerry our house father shared the loss with the children, we gathered the other children for a time of prayer. All the precious hearts gathered at the table, the bonding and love for each other was beautiful as we prayed to the Spirit of God which came in great peace, quietness and stillness. The moment was one to cherish. Then we all went down to the water front. Ludwin our carpenter had made a small wooden cayuco to place beautiful flowers in, to release their loved one to God. The three boys along with one other paddled out in the big cayuco and set the small, flower-filled boat into the current and returned. We served cookies and lemonade ending the day together.
A couple days prior we received a child at 2 a.m. in the morning. Jerry heard commotion outside the gate but put it off thinking it was noise from up the way. Finally he recognized someone was outside the gate. He went out to find a crowd. We live in a small indigenous village. Many villagers circled around the police officers outside our gate and in the hand of one villager was a gallon of gasoline not meant for good. The police came in an unmarked car to drop off a new child and our neighbors were concerned seeing them as strangers . The mayor then alerted the village with the conch horn and many of the village men gathered believing someone was taking one of our children. They came out to protect us saying, ”no one will steal our children.” How is this for feeling loved!
Unfortunately, after a a couple of days and observing the new child's behavior, we had to return him to the officials so they could place him in a home that could care for his specific needs. Often a child can be dangerous to the rest of the house and that was the case. The child has altered personalities. He is a very smart 12 years old. His demeanor is also cool as a cucumber and goes with the flow. His manners are excellent, very personable, and he is a hard worker. At first we thought he was a good story teller but it turned into delusion with defiance and aggression towards others. Your heart goes out for the one that has been so hurt and damaged but at the same time you have a precious group who is healing and coming in to the light. To allow a child with this type of special need to continue going from house to house becomes a severe danger to others. It took three trips to the officials to alert them of the danger this child presents to others and the security required to keep him from harming others along with receiving the help he needs.
Experiencing first hand the situation opens your eyes to the global situation and the evil which has plagued the earth, taking captive the minds of once innocent people and children. I believe the only understanding of the damage done to a child to this degree that exists is to see though the eyes of God. Evil exists to a great measure and to understand evil one must believe God and accept evil as evil, apart from God.
The authorities refused to release us from caring for the child despite the danger to the rest of the group. For two days Ted and I housed him on our mission vessel until we are able to come into an agreement with the law and be released from legal responsibilities. What a catch 22!
Another event happened with good intentions. We purchased baby chicks for the children and they have been so excited to care for and love them. One of our children had placed them in a bucket in the evening trying to protect them from the bigger chickens. Then he decided they would need water and he placed water in the bucket with the baby chicks. In the morning Jerry goes out and finds the chicks in the bucket . It was the concrete bucket and had concrete dust in it. When the water was added the concrete became mortar then started to harden and the chic were covered . Jerry quickly washed them and their feathers were all crusty. The chicks did not look to good, we lost one and Jerry washed them again. Thank God the next morning they are fluffy yellow again and running around the yard as happy chicks again!
To end the month we took all the children and staff aboard Vientos Azul, the catamaran, down to Livingston which is the port town at the mouth of the Rio Dulce River. There was 29 of us in total! It was a fun day; many have never been to Livingston, the beach, or on a sailboat! The day was greater than we could imagine. We are so grateful for such a lovely trip, as the next day is court for 4 of our children. The judge ruled for them to live with their grandmother and our car came home empty, along with our hearts. We may not agree with the decisions of the judge and we do present our case before the judge. During the time the children stay with us, we learn about the family and situations they have come from. Romans 13:1 gives us our instructions, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
The children are precious and it is important to remember our job is to love and care for them. Casa Agua Azul is a safe refuge standing in the gap. The children ultimately belong to Jesus and our trust is in Him. It is hard to let them go as we all have fallen in love with each one of them. As we see them grow, heal and come to life, we can know when they leave that Jesus has come into their hearts and will care for them.
The system in Guatemala has changed since we started. It appears through our current experiences that the courts are pushing the children too quickly to rehabilitate the family unit. When they are unable to reconcile them, the courts place them up for adoption. In the beginning of this year, there has been talk in the NCFA (National Council for Adoption) of opening up international adoption. At this time we have not heard of anything officially.
In closing, we experienced a car mishap after having the oil changed at the garage. While driving into Guatemala City the oil plug came out draining all the oil at a very inopportune time and place. Needless to say motors without oil are not good. We are faced with a giant garage bill or buying a new car. The good news is that no one was hurt. We have also have found a great mechanic and the option of another car. Pray for wisdom! Jesus promises to provide for his children.
Psalms 82:3 " Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless: Uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.”
Thank you for your love and support!
Catamaran: Viento Azul
Date: Sept. 25, 2019
Temperature: 82 Degrees
Starting the day with sunny and clear skies. Sailing Vessel Veintos Azul departs Islamorada through Snake Creek Bridge at 11a.m. Sorry to all who were held up in traffic, but it was for a good cause! The winds are light out of the east 10 -12 knots. Four souls on board: James, Steve, Ted and Gail.
We are successfully out of the channel on a five day tour to reach the mouth of the Rio Dulce which empties out into the Carribean Sea by the port town of Livingston, Guatemala. Ted and Steve dive in as we drift on the calm seas under sunny skies, a beautiful September day in the Florida Keys. The grass on the hulls mixed with a few tiny barnacles are in need of being removed. Clean hulls glide through the water at a greater speed. Every little bit counts and adds up. Durning this time, we noticed our cockpit cushions have been left in the warehouse. With so much going on from Hurricane Dorian hitting the Bahamas and everything else that in entails to prepare for a journey, you're going to forget something. In this case, we decided it is better to live with cushions than without. After a few phone calls, Carem comes to the rescue, meeting us at the docks at Post Card Inn, cushions in hand! Now we are ready for our journey.
The day was quiet and calm as we dodged many lobster pots which decorate the Florida Keys waters this time of year. Heading downwind, our preferred wind direction, it's a good time to fly the spinnaker and enjoy the ride. When sailing, a quiet day is a good day. Dinner closed the evening as we got ready for night watch. The sunset on the horizon mirrors that of a rainbow tonight, and all is well aboard Veintos Azul.
The new day dawns with surprises and mystery ahead. Sailing is an adventure and a dream of so many under the right conditions. Today we pray for the right conditions!
6:19 a.m. The ship on the horizon has finally met our path too close for comfort. Standing watch through the wee hours of the morning makes for tricky eyesight. The lights from the ship became very confusing -- this is where radar and ASI come in handy. The stars overhead are still in full brilliance and a sliver of the moon is resting in the east close to the horizon. Soon the sun will appear and take over the night sky and it will be day.
Five hours later, all crew are joined together after catching up on our sleep. The fishing lines go out in hopes of a great catch. A nice current from the Gulf Stream favored us last night, giving our speed over the ground increase. Today the 85 degree sea is still calm with light winds 7- 8, moving us at 5 knots, a slower ride than we are used to as we travel towards the Gulf of Mexico. We are looking at two more nights out before we are close to Canacun. Currently we are 50 miles from the Jordan Knoll.
NO fish today. Steak is on the grill. The current has changed against us, holding us back to the creeping speed of a walking pace towards Cuba before we will angle arcross closer to Mexico. No sign was out at Jordan Knoll which is somewhere in the ocean off of northern Cuba as we passed by. Way in the distance we are able to see some land of Cuba.
Sunset tonight is spectacular with a fireball of yellow bursting into orange on the horizon beneath cumulus grey clouds over the vast deep blue on the edge of the Florida Straits. We are close to entering the eastern edge of the Gulf of Mexico, Western Caribbean. All is calm, and then suddenly a moment of excitement, pow! Our red and white spinnaker blew out from a gust at 8:30 p.m. Ted, Steve, and James race to the forward decks, retrieving the sail out of the water and untangling the lines. Tangled lines or a sail in the prop on such a dark night as this would not be a good situation unless you like night diving. All is well -- the spinnaker sail and line are all on board and the jib sheet now is rolled out to keep us moving down our way. We divide the night in two hour shifts to keep watch for lights on the horizon of ships passing, watching the weather and staying on course. It is also a beautiful time under the stars and a time of personal reflection as the stars declare the glory of God. Veintos Azul spent some time surfing down peaking waves tonight and the sound was delightful, peaceful and serene, sailing us into a flat calm morning.
Friday September 27 is an uneventful flat calm day. Dolphin are sighted off starboard aft but they did not want to come visit us today. Usually they like to swim over and play as the bow of the boat breaks through the water. At 5 p.m. we are just rounding the curve of Cuba. 22'01 N : 85'.07 W The sky is darkening ahead with a threat of rain. Rain it did, causing a glassy sheen on the water. Not a wrinkle to be found in the waves, clear and smooth, yet rocking and rolling. James ran up to the trampolines to try out some catamaran surfing, with a smile from ear to ear! The rain showering down is bouncing off the water, causing a dance between the seas and the sky. A good 45 minutes later, the weather settles in as the dark of night comes upon us. Throughout the night, the the dark clouds burst, and we heard the sheet blocks banging back and forth, pounding on the coach top. Tonight becomes an active night, adjusting sails and course with the wind changing her directions as she pleases.
Saturday morning rolls in with increased speed of 9 plus! We are making headway off the coast of Cozumel with more rain is in sight. Midday, the Mexican current reduces our speed to 4.5. Writing, reading, storytelling, knot tying, celestial navigation and polishing the stainless becomes our entertainment, occupying our minds wave after wave. Still no fish, but fortunately the rain has dissipated and it's a beautiful sunny day with a few ships passing by here and there. A sweet bird comes to visit and rests on the life lines in the early evening. Looking out to a ball of fire setting. It is an array of light radiating out into a vortex, shooting rays towards heaven. In an hour, it continues to change from one beautiful display of color to the next while the water appears now as a deep steel blue color with an icy gloss, shining deep within itself. Ted and Steve are looking at the stars, holding up their phone star app, and a sea bird actually lands on Ted's outstretched hand!
We have set the ship's clock back two hours to meet the west, and it is now Sunday morning. Last night was an intense night. Waves were breaking, slamming the hulls and and shooting water into our hatches and the cockpit. Veintos Azul took the waves well. I felt like I was on a carnival ride from the steep, short 4-6 foot waves moving us in a rhythmic new dance. The wind peaked to 20, and thunderstorms were lighting up the sky off our starboard hull. The good thing is we are on a reach. Going directly into the sea is a totally different story.
18'17 N: 87' 13 W
Dolphins appear this morning, a blessing to our day! Our speed is up to 6 knots as we are near Banco Cinchorro (Mexico). 50 miles ahead is Turneffe Atoll (Belize). Fish are on today, 3 barracuda and 1 faithful bonita, still none for the grill. The seas have settled in, and the ride has mellowed out as the day increases along with our speed, now 8 knots. We are 20 miles off the coast of Belize. Land is in sight and refreshing to see after the constant deep blue. The water has gone from thousands of feet to 18, which is giving my joggled brain relief as we pass by Northern Cay and San Bore Cay where the light house stands in the distance. Tonight, 180 degrees on the horizon, is a strobe of thunderstorm activity sending light signals around the boat. It is mesmerizing to watch. The stars are crystal clear above and magnificent to ponder on the flat sea as we continue with 129 nautical miles to reach Livinston, Guatemala. As we approach South Water Cay at 1 a.m., we decided to tuck away behind the island to spend the night to rest, which was interrupted by an electrical storm, which we were happy not to be sailing in. God is good!
September 30, 2019, Monday morning. 16"31 N: 87' 58 W Our speed is 5.6 and the sea is flat calm. Our calculation is that we will make our destination of Livingston close to 8 p.m. The sea and her conditions are forever changing. At times you may be able to walk to Guatemala as fast as Veintos Azul and at other times you need to hold on tight or you'll find yourself tossed into the sea. The sky will be sunny clear, and the next moment threatening black, then starlit skies and sunsets of beautiful colors. The sea has remained flat calm today as we motor our way to Livinston, since the wind has died off. Seven miles out, the strip of lights ahead is crossing over Livinston with the moon directly ahead. Many ships are passing by from Puerto Barrios headed out to sea. Next are the shrimp boats trolling closer to shore, and our final hurdle will be crossing over the sandbar. For now, we will set our anchor down at 8:56 p.m., having arrived! Thanking God for a safe voyage! Our Guatemala amigos Jerry and Otto will join us tonight aboard and keep watch over Veintos Azul. The waves are building so we decide to relocate, pulling up the anchor we cross over the sand bar into the mouth of the river. Off the City Pier and Buga Momma's home to the finest coco chino in down town Livingston we drop the anchor again for the night. In the morning we will check in and head up the Rio Dulce inland 22 miles to town.