“If we are who we should be, we will set the world ablaze.” St. Catherine of Siena
We were struck almost immediately after moving here to Pucacaca, Peru by how many children lived here. Not only were there tons of kids, but they seemed to live practically as orphans. So many kids, always without an adult, often as young as two or three! So many kids without parents, without much hope, without Jesus! We had been living here in Pucacaca for nearly 3 months and every day the kids were coming to our door asking to play with our kids, asking about rosaries, about Jesus. Never had we been to a place where the teenagers outnumbered even the elderly in attendance to Sunday services or Thursday night Mass. The obvious hunger for something more was almost tangible. They needed something and we began to feel that that something could be found if WE were willing to allow Jesus to bring His love to this area through us!
To be completely honest the thought of working with kids and especially teens in mission had been far from our minds in Mexico. We have enough kids of our own we thought. To our shame perhaps, we tried to keep our home lives and our ministry separate, not often inviting children to spend inside our home. We needed time to ourselves after the ministries were over and kids are so energetic! Our kids could go to school with the other children and we would focus more on the parents at the church or at their homes. But that life is so far from us now, and not only in distance. Here, especially after the loss of our precious son in September, everything seemed different. We were different. We are different. We felt a deep urge to reach out to these kids. We felt the great worth of each and every child or youth who knocked on our door. But what could we do?
We needed a way to reach the youth in our community and at the same time still care for and love our own precious children. With that thought on our mind, we began to throw around ideas of what we could do. And that is when God inspired us with the idea of the Ezekiel Home! We are sure it is from the Lord, because neither of us can remember who first thought up the idea! The fact of the matter was that since we moved to Pucacaca, children have been hanging out at our door and playing inside as often as they get the chance. So why not just make it something official? Instead of letting them come in and try to find something to get into, we can provide organized programs that are fun, educational and interactive, all the while spending time with them, getting to know them, loving on them and showing them they were created good by an all-powerful God who is so incredibly in love with them and that they are worth more than money could buy! Not only that, but the activities would be in our home, or with us always present, which has the added benefit of keeping our minds more at ease in regards to the inherent struggles missionary families face of trying to minister when needed without sacrificing family life.
So far it has been hugely blessed, though a little chaotic. We didn’t know just how many kids would be coming! We began with a blessed opening ceremony. Our dear pastor, Padre Leopoldo, came and blessed the house, we played games, went over our schedule, answered questions and gave out treats!
The first day of the new schedule included two hours of outside fun. We played volleyball, matanza (the Peruvian version of dodgeball) tug of war and freeze tag! I am now being reminded of just how out of shape I am!!! We then had choir practice and went over songs with the kids that we would use in the Mass.
Day number two included an hour of arts and crafts where we made posters that read, “If you are who you should be, you will set the world ablaze.” (a quote by St. Catherine of Siena) then story time, and lastly a class for altar servers which is kind of like a mix of altar servers and boy scouts. We also have indoor games (ping-pong, board games and lego building) guitar class, and an exercise class given by one of our fellow missionaries, Russ Gunter, English class, a class to teach the older kids “magic” card tricks (another missionary Noah Cantrell is AMAZINGLY talented at this), a children’s Bible story class (taught by the girl missionaries here, Andrea, Randi, Dulce and Candice) and a drawing class. Every week day includes three hours of fun with the kids beginning at 3 o’clock with the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and on special days Mass, prayer meetings, Bible studies and rosaries. New classes will be added as soon as we fix up our extra room so as to accommodate more than one class at a time. Our days are so full, but incredibly blessed. Pray that we have the strength to keep up with it and that we never lose our focus on our goal: to bring the love of Jesus to the children of Peru!!!!!
PS Just a note on the name of our project. As most of you know, we experienced the tragic loss of our, at the time, youngest child Ezekiel (18 months) on September 8th, 2014. He was born while we were on mission in General Cepeda, Mexico, just two months after we first went into the field. He died while we were on mission in Juarez, Mexico. He was a missionary for his entire life. What you may not know, is that we gave him the name Ezekiel because of a passage that kept coming to us in prayer while I was pregnant with him. The passage was Ezekiel 47. It describes the prophet Ezekiel being shown by an angel the temple of God. From the temple flowed a stream, which the angel had the prophet pass through a number of times. First the stream was at his ankles, then his knees, then his waist and finally it was up so high he could not pass through it without swimming. Everywhere this river went the ground was made fertile and the trees bore much fruit. The waters were made fresh and every good thing could be found in abundance. We believe walking in this stream is like our spiritual lives and once we give all our control over to the Lord by going out into the deep and allow Him to be in charge, He will, like this stream, bring the river of life where it needs to be. We thought the birth of Ezekiel, and our joining missions was our “going all in” but we see now that it wasn’t until his death that we were really willing to give it all up and cling to the confidence that our God is in control. Through our “yes” to His will and not our own, He can do great things. We pray that this Ezekiel home will be the spring of God showering his graces upon this town and renewing the face of the earth!!!!! Our little man is still a little missionary:-) St. Ezekiel Kiehl of Mexico, pray for us.
If you haven’t read Ezekiel 47 yet, READ IT!!!!
We would like to invite all of our readers to prayerfully consider joining us in this mission. We need your support in prayer first of all and also in other concrete ways. We are putting a list of needs for the Ezekiel Home. If you feel God is asking you to help out changing lives of children in Peru please donate @ https://www.familymissionscompany.com/portfolio/jonathan-and-teresa-kiehl/
Things we need for the home:
- Pray, pray, pray
- Monthly donors to help with costs of food, water, cleaning supplies, toilet paper and other consumables.
- One time donors who can help with house repairs (we would love to fix up a currently unusable part of our home to make a new classroom, see pic below),
guitars for guitar class, chess sets for Chess Club, Choir Shirts, Gowns for Altar Servers, art supplies, sporting goods, Scrimmage Jerseys.