These first pictures may confuse you because if you thought "hey, that looks like the shelter not school" you would be correct. We have been extremely encouraged to have connected our ministry with the shelter to our service at the school in a few ways this past semester. To begin, each year the Secondary students at school participate in Spiritual Emphasis Week. As part of the week this year we divided up in groups and went out into the city and served in different ministries. We were able to add the shelter into this group. It was so exciting to take a group of students to work along side us at the shelter for a couple days. The guys lead by Gerald did some needed maintenance work around the grounds.
We all played games with the girls and children and spent time listening to their stores and encouraging them. It was a special time for us to be able to have extra time with the ladies and children at the shelter hanging out and just being with them. It was very eye opening for our students to see those who live in such conditions and without hope. We had several opportunities to debrief with our group and discuss the joy and hope Jesus gives us that we are called to share with others.
Another really cool thing was that Maddy was able to visit an orphanage on one of the service days and was greeted by two little girls we had known a few years ago at the shelter. The older sister, Genesis, recognized Maddy! It was a surprise and a blessing to hear how well the sisters are doing since they were taken away from their mom a couple years back.
We also enjoyed participating in and leading small groups during the retreat part of Spiritual Emphasis week. All Secondary Students and many teachers loaded into two chicken buses (old decked out school busses from the states) and headed to the coast for a few days. And by coast I do not mean long stretches of beaches with waves crashing on the shore and ocean breezes. I mean a hotel off the highway near the coast but way to far away to feel any breeze. But it was warm, with a swimming pool and away from the busyness of school. It was a great time to get to know the students on a different level. And for them to slow down and listen to a great speaker who shared straight from the Bible. We heard many positive comments about the speaker and the small group sessions. We have been so amazed at how God is working in the lives of the students to draw many of them to himself.
(play "Find all four Lastrapes" in the photo below. This is the entire Secondary group from school who participated in Spiritual Emphasis Week.)
After we returned from retreat the Senior High girls decided they would like to have a drive to collect hygiene items for the shelter. It was made a school wide event and the class with the most donations earned a pizza party. The drive was a huge success and provided around 15 boxes filled with shampoo, soaps, lotion, toothbrushes and toothpaste, toilet paper and many other needed items for the ladies. Sarah and two other teachers from school were able to take all the Senior High girls one Monday morning to the shelter to play games, and have a spa day. It was adorable watching the girls from upper class families dote on these sweet girls who have literally nothing. A couple of the girls were stretched out like they were in a real spa with a student painting each hand and another painting her toes and still another behind her combing and braiding her hair. I tear up just remembering the love that was expressed that morning. God has truly done a great work in the lives of our students as well as the lives of so many at the shelter. Love truly is the greatest of them all!
As we look toward to next school year Sarah been given the job of school chaplain for the entire school from Pre-K through Seniors. It is a big task as she will be preparing four elementary chapels a week as well as a secondary chapel, which also includes coordinating monthly service projects all over Xela. She will also be leading an Advisory class, which functions as a Discipleship group. Her goal is to continue only part time at school so that she is able to continue to keep up with ministry at the shelter.
Gerald will continue as the High School Bible teacher, teaching Old and New Testament Survey, Systematic Theology, Church History, World Religions and Apologetics. As well as the Senior Community Service class which focuses on ministry projects and preparation for Summit Camp. As well as continuing with his Advisory class of 7&8th grade boys moving up from last year.
As you can see our plates are full to overflowing with ministry but our cups are also full to overflowing with blessings as we have had the tremendous opportunity to blend shelter ministry with school ministry!
Please pray for us as we both have been given heavy responsibilities for the spiritual growth of the our school. Sarah is feeling a heavy burden and truly covets your prayers as she embarks on the role of chaplain.
Pray for our health as we attempt to keep up with the fast pace, that we would also find some times of real rest and keep stress levels down.
Pray for both Maddy and Coleman as school merges with ministry. That both would be able to focus on their studies and have understanding especially in the area of Math.
Gerald and Sarah Lastrapes
Along with their two children are missionaries in Guatemala. They will be sharing stories of discipleship through prison and shelter ministries.