A letter from Mother - by Connie Newcome

O, Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder... consider all the worlds They hands have made......

That song permeated my brain for a few minutes this morning as I came to work for the first time after our Guatemalan trip. The wonder and beauty and diversity God has established in His creation is mind boggling.

I actually didn't take that many pictures. A picture cannot capture it. The varied undulation of the slopes..the steep valleys which merge into the coast of a town on a lake surrounded by mountains,  which nestle little towns within theirsomewhat rugged terrain. A volcano here and there, highways snaking around these mountains in their serpentine fashion with busy cars and busses transporting natives to work and back. The people, who, like mountain goats, traverse up and down to get almost anywhere...the flat places are noticably rare.  The shanty dwellings interspersed with one another indistinguishable as to where one begins and ends.

The resourcefulness of the native people as they work their plot of ground and raise stunningly gorgeous crops on small plots, some of which have to be on 45 degree terraces is very admirable to those of us who are used to tractors, equipment, and machinery to make the work lighter. Centuries of survival have given these people wisdom about how to get the most out of the least.

Guatemala reminded me a lot of Haiti...it is poor, somewhat trashy, but a notch up from Haiti in many ways.

We worked at Eagles Nest, an orphanage on top of a mountain, about 3 hours from Guatemala City. (3 hours on a good day...it took us about 6 hours going up there!)  A beautiful setting. Go to www.eaglesnestint.org to learn more about this orphanage. Larry and Claire Boggs are the missionaries largely repsonsible for this work. They began as missionaries to Guatemala about 40 years ago. God gave her the ministry of looking after orphans. They helped adopt out about 1500 orphans..3 of whom came to two couples on this team. When adoptions were closed by the US from Guatemala, they had to change their plans. Now they have an orphanage, a school for these kids and about 200 local children, and it is run by Americans. A very nice setting and quite organized with a good staff.

illi and 3 others from our team when up to Hue Hue (Way-way) to put a roof on a church. They built the trusses up there and got it on with the tin over it in four days! Incredible! THe place where they went was truly very primitive with no accommodations for tourists...it was REAL Guatemalan life...no running water and no electricity. They stayed at a hotel about 6 miles down from where they worked. The 6 mile 5,000 foot drop of hairpin curves took them anywhere from a half an hour to an hour to negotiate!!! Their truck spun a bit when there was an oil slick one day! It was around 12,000 feet elevation. a came back burnt and he is still peeling!

When they got there they realized they were missingspecial screws they needed. Somewhere one box had been lost...perhaps going through customs? These special screws are not even sold at Lowes or Home Depot. They didn't want to go back down the mountain to see if by some remote possibility they could find them so they went to this little place on the mountain on the far chance they would have some. Sure enough...they had thousands...what a God thing that was!!! Larry testified that the God was the same up there as he is to us down here and he was so encouraged.

The people up there are so poor they can't send their kids to the free school because they can't afford the pencils and paper. They did bring coffee and snacks to the workers and when they were done with that roof there was some tears. It was reported that the coffee was amazing.

Eagles Nest is basically a time share that went belly up and was purchased for this ministry. Thus it has some very nice features...separate apartments, some convention meeting places. They rent out the property for churches, reunions and other uses which helps to fund the orphanage and school. Teams come to work there year around. We painted the apartments. That was the biggest project.Some of the gals on the team played a lot with the kids which is always a thrill. We saw some very cute babies!

I was sick a couple of days so I read the book, No God but One by Nabeel Qureshi. A very good follow up to his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. After I got better I did a lot of painting from ladders as many people get dizzy on ladders.

The weather was so beautiful. Flowers were blooming along the walkways. A foursome group of ladies from TX came while we were there and we got to know them a bit. One of them is a regular for many years.

While there I was thinking if I would come back again? It occurred to me it would be a great place to bring my grandchildren who would like to come. If they are old enough and the details could be worked out it would be a clean, safe place to get some first hand mission training. They would love the babies and the boys could play basketball and soccer with the kids.

Next year we plan on going back to Lifeline, at least one more time. i don't know if we will go to Guatemala too. Play it one year at a time. illi is considering whether or not to work with refugees this year when we go to France. It would be off of an island in Greece.

Well, I could say much more...maybe another time! Love, Mother

Have Your Way, Lord, Have Your Way - By Julie Casey

In the morning, when I rise,
May your hope lift up my eyes.

If I may wake to troubles deep,
I am at peace secure in Thee.

Have Your way, Lord, have your way
In my heart Your kingdom make
As I walk each step I take

One thing, I pray, Lord, have Your way.

In everything
In all of me
Take it all
Lord, have Your way.

-Eddie Kirkland, “Have Your Way”

It had been a long day. I woke up at 3:45 am, met our team at our church, traveled with them to the airport, where we flew from Winston-Salem, NC to Miami to Guatemala City. What should have been a three hour bus ride from Guatemala City to Eagles Nest turned into an almost seven hour bus ride. In our humanity, in our American-ness,it could have been an opportunity for irritation and complaint. Instead, it afforded our team members with divine appointments with seatmates and flight attendants on the plane. It allowed us to view the beautiful Guatemalan countryside at sunset. It offered the opportunity to pray as a team for the driver of the tractor trailer that had overturned and delayed our travel. It graced us with sweet young ladies popping out of the home in the dark for hugs and introductions and greetings and suitcase abductionsto our rooms! Have Your way, Lord, have Your way.

Santi in Tx.jpg

The next day was Sunday, and our team truly got to meet the children who reside at Eagles Nest for thefirst time. Only four of our 14 team members had visited Eagles Nest before, yet we were all eager to meet the children, the staff, and get started with forging relationships. What a beautiful way to start our week: hugging, laughing, and playing with the young children on the playground before the church service. It was such a joy to greet faces familiar to me from my trip last year and be introduced to new ones. What a blessing to worship in the church service with songs that we sing in our church service in Winston-Salem but to sing them in Spanish. It truly felt like a taste of what we will experience with the unity of the body one day in heaven. Have Your way, Lord, have Your way.

Erick and Ingrid.jpg

As a speech-language pathologist, I had hoped and literally prayed daily for the past year that God would be able to use the skills that He has given me to work with the children in the special needs class and in the home this year. On Monday, I got to follow along with children from Eagles Nest and the school to speech therapy sessions in Pana. It was such a pleasure to speak with the physical therapist and speech-language pathologist that I met last year, but also a thrill to see the progress that the kids had made in a years time. In some ways, I felt really inadequate to help them. My Spanish is limited, and my experience working with non-verbal, moderately to severely motorically-challenged kids even more limited. But God is so gracious. He kept reminding me through the week that others were literally to follow behind me to provide therapy and tools for these kids in their own unique way. He had equipped me for a different purpose. Katty, the special needs teacher, was quick and eager to learn from my ideas. Ingrid, a delight of the week, enthralled me with her tenacious effort to follow my directions for mouth exercises and vocal productions. Ingrid also humbled me with her compassion as she wheeled her chair over to hold her brothers hand and share her stickers with him as I provided therapy with him in the home. I needed no Spanish or special skills to pray for Angel as we held hands and practiced walking.Turns out, the lessons werent so much for the children there. The lessons were for me. Have Your way, Lord, have Your way.

There are so many moments of the week that were special to our team and to me. One team member had a heart for partnering the men of our team with the older boys at the home to share nightly discipleship studies. The mothers on our team hosted a dinner with the beautiful Eagles Nest Mamas to share our gratitude for the efforts and love they provide at Eagles Nest on a daily basis and to encourage them with scripture and fellowship. We participated in a fun evening of devotions and games and dessert for the families who have children who participate in the Manna program. All interspersed with simple, tender moments of just playing and snuggling with the little ones, playing kickball and other games with and getting teased by the older children, painting fingernails and applying fake mustaches and tattoos with the older girls, pickaxing trenches, and painting railings. Our purpose was so much bigger and conversely so much simpler than one of benevolence and good will. Our purpose was to walk a week of life together with the children and staff of Eagles Nest. Have Your way, Lord, have Your way.

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Some of our plans turned into learning experiences. Perhaps converting about sixty Guatemalan shoe sizes to US shoe sizes to buy shoes for Manna program kids in the US, loading all those shoes over to Guatemala, re-converting them back to Guatemalan shoe sizes, and then finding the right child to go with the right size shoe was maybe not the *most* efficient way to accomplish our goal! But it was definitely an entertaining rainy afternoon watching Pastor Job and his loyal assistants trying to make sense of the shoe chaos. All the shoes got distributed. Physical needs that we cant really imagine as Americans were met. My new shoes are so beautiful,said a four year old to me. Have Your way, Lord, have Your way.

Some of our plans were totally scrapped. Hurricane Earl precluded our excursion activities forcingus to spend more time playing games with the kids and rocking babies. Our team members didnt mind this a bit and were more than willing to roll with the punches.We were all safe and for the most part, dry. And grateful for Gods design for us to be in relationship with His children. Have Your way, Lord, have Your way.

Coming home, for the second time from Eagles Nest, I again feel like I have left half of my heart behind. Its such a strange dichotomy to be so thrilled to see your family again, but to also desperately miss friends, young and older, that have remained behind. Through the wonders of Facebook, and the good old-fashioned mail system, I know that I will be able to continue these Eagles Nest relationships throughout the year. I am constantly reminded, though, that God has called me daily to the moment-by-moment ministry right in front of me. Homeschooling. Meeting the needs of my husband and sons. Teaching a sixth grade girls Sunday school class. Working with the ESL ministry at church. Getting to know the cashier I talk to every week at the grocery store. Listening to and praying with a young employee recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Lord willing, I will be back next August at Eagles Nest to serve as the Lord allows. But until then, as I walk life here at home, have Your way, Lord, have Your way.

 

 

PJ's Visit to Eagles Nest

Hello friends! My name is PJ Condit and I’m from Round Rock, Texas and I serve at Community Christian Church (CCC). We were blessed to visit Eagles’ Nest this summer to spend a week serving alongside all of the great people that the Lord has brought together to serve the children and community there.

Last summer was the first time that CCC sent a team to Eagles’ Nest…we were thinking we would send a team every 2 years…but the team came back and said, “We are going back next summer!” This trip was my first time to visit Guatemala and my first time to see the orphanage, school, and church at Eagles’ Nest.

God assembled a team from CCC with many different talents – JD and Lacy came to provide dental services, Heidi came last summer and came again this summer to teach Lego robotics, and Kim brought some great curriculum to share with the mamas in the orphanage to help equip them for all the different experiences they have in raising up the kids at Eagles’ Nest.

I’ve been able to travel and see some awesome parts of the world. From age 5 to 10 I lived in Holland and my family took vacations and trips all over Europe. I’ve seen the UK, Norway, down to Greece, and everything in between. But none of that prepared me for were richly blessed by God’s creation and in meeting new people! It reminds me of Proverbs 11:25 (one of my life verses!) – “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed!” Thank you Lord for this great promise and the satisfaction we receive in serving others and giving ourselves away.

We were greatly encouraged to see all of the ways that EN is serving the community, beyond the orphanage and school. The Manna feeding program was a great chance to see the life-impacting ministry of EN. The meals that are provided for the neighborhood kids are changing lives and bringing nutrition to children in need. I pray that those children will see God’s provision for them!

The church gathered on Wednesday evening and I was able to share a few words with the church with Larry Boggs helping out with translation! I shared a few verses from Ephesians 2 about how Paul longed to see unity in the church… “for Christ himself is our peace - He has made us into one!”

Since I preach most Sundays, I wrote out my message before we left Texas, so that when we came home on Friday, I would be ready to preach on Sunday morning! The last scripture in my sermon notes was Matthew 13:44 - “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” God did an amazing thing…on our last day at EN, a family from Solola brought a baby girl to the orphange who had been found in a field! At that moment I hadn’t thought about my sermon notes, but when I came home and prepared to preach, I saw what God had done!

Baby Andrea was that treasure in the field! And praise God for the outreach of Eagles’ Nest that Andrea now has a family of 50 brothers and sisters, mamas and papas, and even Churro the beagle, to help show her the great love of God.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure in a field! God saw His treasure, you and me, helpless and homeless, and He sold all He had, gave His very life, to make that treasure His own. As Andrea grows up and learns the story of her rescue, I hope that she makes God her treasure! May you also pursue the Lord with every ounce of your being! For you were found and bought with great love!

Shalena Rude

Psalm 40:5 Lord my God, you have done many things— your wonderful works and your plans for us; none can compare with you.  If I were to report and speak of them, they are more than can be told.

    Preparing to arrive in Guatemala, I didn’t have much in the way of expectations. Just a God given excitement and an unruly desire to squeeze some babies.  Being mine and my husbands first mission trip, the first full day was more than we could have dreamed.  After our beautiful tour of the orphanage grounds, we got straight to work, and after deciding that laying brick wasn’t my thing, I was more than relieved when Pedro let us ladies loose on the kiddo’s.  I mean that is, after all, what I had my heart set on.   We have two kids of our own and I knew that all of my extra ‘mom’ love would be something that I would hone in on while at the Nest.  That same day, while carrying formula into the orphanage, the feeding center caught my attention.  I was taken a back to hear that these were children from the surrounding community and to hear how far they had walked to eat one meal.  My thought quickly turned to “Thank God for Eagles Nest and this meal.”  and this is where I also met Norma.  A young girl, feeding an even tinier girl.  Something about that image and hearing how this 12 year old took care of this 2 year old tugged at me. Little did I know that right then, God was forming a place for Norma in my heart.

    I had written in my journal “It is very exciting to know that God has so much more planned for the next 7 days.” but I had no clue just how much God would show up and show out.  Day 3, I got pulled away to take updated photo’s of each child which was great because that also gave me time to break away and spend time with some of the mommas.  Maria was special. Hearing a few other stories from different mommas, each one was very different but yet had small similarities.  She was very open about her life and graciously let me pray for her.  Thank God for our amazing interpreters.  After that, I could expect a big squeeze and 2 smooches on the cheek from Maria each time I saw her. I have to say after being home for 3 months, I still miss that girl and her warmth.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever know how much that prayer meant to her nor will she ever know how much her sweetness meant to me.

 

    The day came when we were to hand out shoes to children in the community and also to the orphanage.  I was dead set on seeing Norma again and fitting her for shoes myself.  By then, I knew what God was up to, he used me to speak to Norma.   I asked her many questions about herself, what she wanted to be when she grew up, how many siblings she had ext..  Norma grew emotional when talking about her dream, and knowing she would only have a 6th grade education.  We spoke about going back to school a little later in life, and I told her that I would pray for her and that she should pray for her dream too.  She agreed to let me pray over her right then.  I told her that Jesus loves her, I love her and that Grecia (the interpreter) loved her. I told her that she was very special to God and that he knows her by name..”That’s how special you are!”  I can only hope that God instilled his love, patience and perseverance in her that day. 

 

Ohh but God had even more in store than I could imagine.  Sitting in church Sunday morning, after a beautiful worship service where we sang2 songs in English (how awesome), Pedro announced that we were going to have a couple testimonies.  I thought I was off the hook when he called up Todd, who shared such awesome wisdom, but God wasn’t letting me off that easy.  I stood up there, Spanish Bible in hand (that Claudia lent me) and cried my way through my personal life testimony.  Listening to Job’s service through an interpreter I didn’t think I would get much from it. Boy was I wrong. God just kept tugging and tugging at me and soon I was being called to get baptized with sweet Wendy and Marvin. After the service I couldn’t help but think “Oh what did I just get myself into” but He was in control more than ever. By far one of the best experiences I’ve had and I cannot thank Pedro and Job enough for providing endless opportunities for God to move. AND to watch these children get baptized was just as good as getting in the water myself.  I told Marvin “We are brothers and sisters in Christ now!” and his response will forever stick with me: “We are all family here.”  Yes, Marvin. We are!!  God is ever present in this place. Thriving, growing and prospering.  Felis, Pedro, the mommas and countless others that make this place run on a daily basis are nothing short of God given and we thank our Lord for each and every one of them!

I started to ask myself, what is God’s love?

God’s love is:
 
A man playing the saxophone who isn’t ashamed to fall to his knees, surrounded by people, in prayer to an amazing God.
 
The smile’s on the towns people’s faces and the friendly “Hola’s” that flow from their mouths.
 
The excitement that bubbled out of a girls face when we visited her home and gave her sandals with sparkles on them.
 
A momma working day in and day out, not only to care for her own family but to help provide a stable living environment for these sweet orphaned children.                                
 
The pride on a dads face when he talks about taking his daughters out to the fields to work, even though he gets ridiculed by family for not having a son.
 
The smile I saw on Pedro’s face as countless kids swarmed him with happy hugs and “Papa’s”.
 
God’s love is a women with a calling to take in orphaned babies in a foreign country. To not only love them but show them GOD’S love and for her daughter and son-in-law to uproot and continue to fulfill that calling on their family.  People who do not have to love these children, but choose to because God first loved us.

Guatemala 2016 - By Stefan & Audrey Elmer

Hop on over to view this amazing blog and scroll through these amazing pictures that Stefan and Audrey took on their trip to Guatemala in January with FRC - Lynden.

Thankful for their hearts and the love they have for the kids at Eagle's Nest! 

Check out their amazing pictures here!

My Experience at Eagles Nest - By Jordan Cook

I’ve been involved with Eagle’s Nest since first taking a trip there with my youth group in 2013. I then interned for two months over the summer of 2014, and was able to spend a week over Christmas there with my parents last month. Throughout the time I’ve spent at Eagle’s Nest, I’ve been blessed to develop lasting friendships with workers and children. My Spanish is much better now than it was in 2013, and I’ve been able to talk to the kids about a lot more than what their favorite color was. I’ve gotten to know each kid’s heart, their personality, and their dreams. I’ve been able to watch some of the most incredible transformations take place in the childrens’ lives at Eagle’s Nest, from hitting milestones like walking and talking, to seeing kids learn to trust that they’re safe and loved here, and that they can be kids again.

 
 

One thing that never fails to blow me away about Eagle’s Nest is how willing they are to meet the needs of every child that comes through their doors. Whether a kid is going to be there for a day or for years, that child won’t leave without feeling deeply loved. I think the only word that gets close to describing the love I’m talking about is agape, the Greek word meaning the highest form of love. The love that drove an all powerful God to give of himself, in the form of his son, to reconcile us to him, so that we can be restored in every way, physically, emotionally, spiritually. That’s the love I want every kid at Eagle’s Nest to experience through their own personal relationships with Christ. It’s that same love that compels us in the United States to give financially, or to travel and meet the kids in person.

 
 

Eagle’s Nest is a living, breathing testament of what we as Christians and the church body have been called to do. Give food, clothes, and shelter to those in need. Take care of the orphans and the widows. Spread the gospel. Eagle’s Nest is doing this. And Eagle’s Nest is raising up kids that will one day be the adults giving food, clothes, shelter, and sharing the gospel with those in need. That’s the part that makes me the most excited.

I’ve been able to see God at work in each kid’s life, especially during my last trip over Christmas. I discovered that most of the girls have learned the sign language alphabet so they can communicate more clearly with Jeni, who is partially deaf. It’d be an understatement to say my heart melted when I watched Christina sign words back and forth with Jeni one afternoon. My parents and I sat down with Anayancy, the older boys’ house mom one evening, and she told us how great the boys are doing. She said Ever is becoming a strong spiritual leader in the youth group and in their home, where he leads most family devotionals. Nahum is starting to take an interest in God after wanting nothing to do with him. Eliseo is helping lead the youth group. Juan Carlos is a great young man with a kind and caring heart. I watched Eliseo share the gospel through a skit involving two puppets during the youth group Christmas party, and it was incredible. He’s so talented! These young men are becoming leaders and I’m so proud of them.

 
 

Another thing that made my heart melt during the trip was to watch and listen to every kid pray for Papa Pedro and Mama Felis every chance they got. I heard it before meals, before activities, before bedtime. The last night of my trip I tucked Valerie into bed and told her goodnight and she said wait, we have to pray. So I prayed a simple prayer, thank you for today and thank you for our friends here, amen. And Valerie added on, thank you for Papa Pedro and Mama Felis. (In Spanish of course, she can’t speak English.) I’m not writing this to glorify Papa Pedro and Mama Felis, but to thank them, because they have answered the call that God has given them, and they have become parents to a lot more kids than I know they ever dreamed of. Papa Pedro and Mama Felis have also given me the opportunity to become Hermana Jordan to a lot more siblings than I ever dreamed I’d have, and I truly can’t say thank you enough for that.

If you’re reading this and you want to get more involved in the ministries going on at Eagle’s Nest, I urge you to do it! You’ll be making a real and true difference in the life of a child, and I bet more than anything, that child will end up making a difference in your own life. I’m so excited to see more and more people using their own talents to pour into the kids’ lives at Eagle’s Nest. Whatever you’re passionate about, whatever you’re good at, there’s a place for you to pitch in here at Eagle’s Nest.

P.S. Juan Carlos is the Crepe King and everyone needs to eat his crepes when they come to Eagle’s Nest, they’re worth as much as the plane ticket costs!

5 Reasons I love Eagle's Nest - By Caitlin Kolstad

My name is Caitlin Kolstad, and I just returned from my third mission experience at Eagle's Nest. Our church has been very involved in this ministry, and I feel a personal calling to make a difference there as well. Here are my top 5 favorite things about Eagle's Nest:
 
1. The Children - Our kids are very gentle and loving. They treat everyone like a long-time friend. It's obvious that they are grasping what real love is.

2. The Culture - The Guatemalan people are very sincere and hospitable, and it is a relationship-based culture.  They don't focus so much on tasks, which means you get to know people    quickly.

3. The Staff - The staff raises our kids to be respectful and grateful for what they have.  They are dedicated, fun, caring and honest.  You can tell that their hearts are really into what they are doing.

4. The Environment - Eagle's Nest is the perfect place to raise up our kids.  It's safe, fun, and action-packed.  There's never a dull moment.  Plus, the inspiring surroundings are a great way to make sure our kids know how much they matter.

5. The School and Church - Eagle's Nest is so much more than just a place - it's a community.  Our kids are given the chance to learn, grow, and follow Jesus.  They are so engaged at school and at church.  I love watching them connect with God, they really express their hearts in all they do.

I know it won't be long, and I'll be back in the place I love. I may only be 14, but I already know God has plans for me in this ministry.  I hope you will check it out and get involved, too!

Sincerely,

Caitlin Kolstad

The Gift of Future - By Robert Williams (guest contributor)

This past July 2015, my family and I had the pleasure of visiting Eagle’s Nest for the first time as part of a mission trip organized by Austin Christian Fellowship (ACF). My family and I are new to the world of mission service, but we feel changed by the experiences and are hoping to continue making up for lost time.

Even before returning home, we were thinking about when we could return. With work and school schedules, there are always dozens of impediments—real and imagined—that seem to stand in the way. I needed a bit of a push and one found me: expiring airline miles! Couldn’t think of anything better to do with those miles than using them to come back and serve at EN, so that’s what I did. Now, I’ve just returned from 16 terrific days at the Nest, this time on my own.

Figure 1: The breathtaking view of Lake Atitlan from Eagle's Nest.

Visiting and working at EN as an individual contributor provided a totally different perspective than that of mission group member. Working mostly as Pedro’s sidekick and filling-in wherever needed, such as assisting with logistics of other visiting teams, the experience was closer to that of a staffer than a visitor, which I loved. It also gave me the chance to get to know some of the kids and staffers a bit better and appreciate their lifestyles, wants, needs, struggles and dreams.

In particular, I got to spend a lot of quality time with some of the teenagers living there, a growing age group in the children’s home that is presenting EN with some new challenges. Since EN’s inception, its main objective was to serve as a safe, temporary place for housing and educating orphaned or mistreated kids while the government and private parties worked to find more permanent circumstances for each child, such as adoption.

However, since the Guatemalan government suspended all international adoptions in 2008, EN has had to face the new reality that it will likely be the permanent home for many older aged kids until they turn 18 and go out to live on their own, which for many is a scary prospect in and of itself.

Teen Life at Eagle’s Nest
As the father of two teens, I was naturally drawn to try and understand teen life at EN, and to do a little comparing and contrasting. At some level, kids are kids, no matter where you go. All kids need and appreciate love, and some kids are good at giving it back. Kids seem to have boundless natural energy and motivation for stuff they love (like, say, soccer), while having no energy at all or perhaps boundless creativity at avoiding things they don’t (like, say, chores). And no matter where you go, teens are very clever at inventing ways of pushing rules and boundaries, especially when it comes to...let’s call it...”matters of the heart”.

Many of us adults remember teen life as an awkward time of trying to “figure things out”. Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? As the adolescent brain blossoms, one gains new perspective on one’s sense of time and place in the world. I’m not a psychologist, but I can imagine for a child who has suffered mistreatment or abandonment, the teen years might be an especially painful time to reconcile those experiences and resulting scars with questions of identity and future.

For the kids at EN, though most have lived through drama and trauma few of us could ever imagine, they are at least fortunate to live in a safe and supportive environment surrounded by maternal, paternal, and familial love, in such amounts again that few of us could ever imagine. And though nothing could ever remove the sting of child maltreatment, there’s no doubt that life at EN is itself a beautiful blessing for these kids, a credit to the vision, service, and love of Larry, Claire, Pedro, and Felis.

Education and Training: The Gift of Future
As I learned more about the histories of some of the teens, I began to appreciate and think of how EN has really provided for them the priceless “Gift of Now” – a safe, loving life, here and now, that might have been denied them otherwise. And as these kids grow up, it’s equally important and apropos that EN work at providing them continued, high quality education and training they’ll need to become independent, successful adults – in short, the “Gift of Future”.

Unfortunately, due to checkered past circumstances causing them to miss school, all the teens at EN are two to three years behind where they should be, relative to US standards. These deficits are common challenges for all the EN kids, but the differences start to compound as the kids get older and have a lot of ground to make up. Further, EN’s school, Colegio Nuevo Dia (CND) only goes up to sixth grade. There are plans to try and raise money for a junior high at some point, but for now the teens have to be sent to private junior high and high schools, causing additional financial burden and logistics challenges.

And what about life beyond high school? Over dinner one night, I asked a group of four of the teen boys what they wanted to be when they grew up, I heard chef, architect, lawyer, and doctor, all of which require at least undergraduate level studies or higher. Like most kids, there is a need and a love for learning here like anywhere else.

Figure 2: Dinner out with Pedro and some of the teenage boys.

Considering the kids’ past circumstances, it’s a wonder and a blessing to hear that they even hold such ambitions. The challenge for EN leadership and friends is to keep stoking and feeding those flames, and to find creative ways to meet those needs. There is also a lack of success stories – there are no role models for these kids to look to of others who have grown directly “up-and-out” of EN and gone on to live productive, professional lives. It just hasn’t happened before, since others were either adopted or otherwise returned to families or relatives. It really hit me that these are truly new problems EN hasn’t had to deal with until recently.

Doing My Little Part
During my visit this time, I had the great fortune and delight of finding two ways to help a few EN teens take steps along their education and training paths. Like a lot of things that happen at EN, these efforts were more fortuitous providence than the result of any preplanning. I didn’t know or expect what I would be doing when I scheduled my EN trip, but it was fun to just open my eyes and ears, read the signs, and take it from there.

“Robots”?
The first opportunity revealed itself at a meeting with school directors when I overheard mention of “the robots”. Turns out EN/CND had been donated a set of six FIRST Lego League (FLL) Mindstorms robots and a game field a few months ago by a mission group  from Community Christian Church (CCC) in Round Rock, TX, near my hometown of Austin. FLL is a Lego-sponsored annual competition for elementary and middle school student teams who build and program robots to accomplish challenges on a theme-based game field. I knew a little about FLL from both of my kids having participated in it a few years ago.

Heidi Frock from the CCC team introduced some of the CND school kids to the robots in August and gave them some orientation and training on how to program them. Unfortunately, I learned as I started poking around that momentum had waned since then and these little educational gems were just sitting on an office shelf. This is not unusual. As any well-meaning parent knows who has either participated on an FLL team or purchased one of these Mindstorms robots for their kid knows, it can take a bit of parental nudging to climb the learning curve and build the confidence necessary to get from “Ugh” to “Fun!” Also, since the CND school year runs Jan-Oct, the kids were now on vacation and there was no effort in place to continue any attention around use (or play) with the ‘bots.

When my daughter, Rachel, a high school junior, heard about it, she started pestering me about helping jumpstart their robotics efforts. Rachel is a project leader for one of her school’s Vandegrift ViperBots FTC robotics teams, as well as a veteran FLL participant. Rachel wanted to think up a way she and her team could maybe help remotely mentor the EN/CND kids as part of their community outreach efforts.

Pedro and I decided on a plan for me to work with Rosita and Diana, two 15-year-olds living at the EN children’s home, to try and pick up where Heidi left off, with the goal of building experience and competence of two student-coaches who could help train others when the new school year begins. After making my way through Spanish-language Windows and Mindstorms software—challenging enough in my native English—I got the girls fired-up and programming a ‘bot to do one of the fun field challenges: throwing a ball into a soccer net.

Figure 3: Diana and Rosita and their soccer-playing robot.

Diana and Rosita were both super-enthusiastic working on this, appreciating the attention and opportunity to do what researchers at MIT have heard some kids call “hard fun”— experiences that appeal to students’ interests and enjoyment but also challenge learners to stretch and grow in new ways. The girls’ rapid success and enthusiasm was so infectious and inspiring, it led Pedro and I to sit down with the school’s assistant director, Jorge Luis, and discuss where we should go from here.

After about an hour of whiteboarding and discussion, it was decided: CND will start a new, formal class in January for robotics! Expected schedule will be 3 days/week for 30 minutes, each. Expected participation will be (3) sixth graders, (3) fifth graders, and (3) fourth graders, all in the same class. Jorge Luis will lead the class, with Diana and Rosa acting as coaches.

The objective will be to support students’ personal growth and skills attainment, particularly in problem solving and teamwork. One tool for this is to create “certificates of achievement” as the kids attain different levels of competence.

It has been previously mentioned to the local governmental education representative that CND is planning to provide robotics training, and the news was favorably received. We  hope to build on this goodwill so that the robotics program becomes a point of pride for EN/CND, demonstrating to the government and to other local schools the possibilities and benefits of a robotics program.

Crêpes de Charlie
The second education/training opportunity I found myself engaged in was both well within and well without my comfort zone: starting a new business (within) of making dessert crepes (without). One day while Pedro and I were out running an errand with the teenage boys, we stopped by a well-known crepe-making stand on the side of the highway. Coincidentally, Pedro and I had been talking about different kinds of businesses that might do well in Sololá, the town where EN is located. As the six of us were munching on our delectable, gooey treats, it hit us: “Hey, Charlie, crepes!” “Charlie” is 16-year-old Juan Carlos’, a charming young man who told me just a few days prior he hoped to one day be a chef, specializing in desserts.

We sat there and toyed with variations on the idea, and by the time we drove home, we were committed to a plan: the next day we would find a recipe and ingredients and do some practice. If all went well, we would plan on serving our inaugural customers by the next day—an incoming mission group from Oregon. Well, let’s say our first batch wasn’t our best, but with a few online tips and a bit more practice, Charlie was making some darn tasty crepes. We went out for resupply of ingredients, came back, and prepped a batch to store in the fridge overnight. We were ready.

The next day, Charlie and I walked our materials over to the pavilion, and setup our production line in the kitchen. Charlie managed the burners and the cooking, and I was his sous chef for prep, finish, and service to the customers. I’m very proud to say everything came out beautifully! We didn’t know what we were doing, but with the planning and practice we had done, and a little luck, the customers were all smiles and rave reviews, wiping Nutella and mascarpone from their satisfied mouths. The next day, Charlie prepped and served another batch completely on his own to an invited guest list of EN staffers, as his personal gesture of appreciation for the positive impact they have had in his life. By the time I had to leave, Pedro and Charlie were well on the way to figuring out the economics of the budding business, with proceeds split by EN and Charlie.

 
 

Figure 4: Charlie and his sous chef with their inaugural product serving.

This was one of the most gratifying and rewarding experiences of my life. One of the most impactful things in my history was the opportunity to start a computer programming business with my father when I was 15. This is something I had an interest in doing, but wouldn’t have known how to begin. It took an adult role model to lead and show me what was possible, to not be afraid or intimidated by the risk of unknowns or the voices of naysayers. Once on the road and moving, one sees the possibilities open up before you. And as Emerson once said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

From that early experience, I learned the value of work (for me, hard fun), and the gifts of self-esteem, self-confidence, and eventual independence. It was my distinct pleasure and privilege to have played the adult mentor role this time, and to have hopefully played a small part in sparking a little entrepreneurialism and growth in the eyes these well- deserving, high-potential kids.

So Much More
There is so much more to do and so many more victories to savor. If you were touched by anything in this story, I hope you will consider reaching out, sharing your gifts, and serving in your own way. Eagle’s Nest is a unique and magical place, but far beyond that, it is a community of warmth, love, and grace—a community that needs you and your gifts. Come and serve. Sponsor a teen’s junior high or high school education. Help Pedro and Felis plan and raise funding for a junior high school. Whatever you have to offer, lean in and make it happen today.

About the Author
Robert Williams is a management consultant and entrepreneurial leader specializing in software products and growth initiatives. He resides in Austin, Texas with his wife, Irene, and two kids, Rachel and Ethan. He can be reached at raw@alum.mit.edu.