Monday, December 16, 2013

Pasantes Especiales/Special Interns

These two young men helped us launch an internship program this year, and we are so proud of their work.  Justin and William are on the soccer team in Los Guido that is part of our SI-CR sports ministry.  They had both dropped out of high school, which is pretty common, but makes future job possibilities bleak.  Both of these guys had demonstrated leadership qualities, and at the beginning of 2013 we were in need of some extra help in our ministry sites.  Hence the idea to start a program to help young people finish high school (or go to trade school) while gaining valuable resume experience, give them an opportunity to be discipled, AND provide real help in our ministry sites. 

We weren't sure how it would go, but we're happy to report that it has been a good year. William and Justin have truly been a support and blessing to the sites they've been a part of, and we are all very grateful for their willingness to be guinea pigs.  Of the 4 young men who started the program in January they are the only two who finished the year.  William successfully completed a certificate program in basic electronics and Justin took a giant leap forward toward being a professional soccer player as he played regularly for a local second division team.  They  also served in our sports, social services, and micro business ministry sites.  They were a tremendous help!

As is usually the case, this program would not have been a success without God's faithful hand and many hours of hard work by our incredible co-workers.  All of our staff invested in some way in these two lives.  I (Jeff) enjoyed getting to know these two guys who are both filled with potential and have many challenges to overcome.  Throughout the year I had the privilege to laugh, cry, and pray with them.  We had several heart-to-heart conversations as we rode the roller coaster of life together, and as I tried to learn the balance between loving mentor and stern boss.  What a privilege it was to watch as both took significant steps forward in their faith journey.  In the midst of the business and the to-do lists, working with William and Justin was a reminder of why we do what we do.  They are two lives in the midst of transformation.  Yet a funny thing often happens when we seek to serve and see lives transformed, as God often does a work in our own lives.  As I sought to mentor and to teach I found myself being the student, as I learned much from these two young men.  Thank you William and Justin for being good teachers!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

That Explains It

Sawyer has hated church for as long as I can remember.  It's boring.  It's loud (he plugs his ears most of the time during worship).  It's hot.  There're too many people.  This has created problems for us, his missionary parents.  How embarrassing that this cute little blondie-foreigner cannot sit still on a chair in a crowd of people and ends up kicking them, or shouting out at the quietest moment, or in some other way is at best a distraction for sweet old ladies that want to worship and learn, or for other families whose children sit still and entertain themselves. . . or actually listen and sing and pray at all the right times.   So often one of us has ended up pulling him out and sitting in a side room with him.  Torture for him.  Torture for us.  Is he going to hate God because we make him go to church?  Hate us because we whisper threats to him, hoping no one around us speaks enough English to understand?

Some Sundays are okay.  There was the one that I let Sawyer play his harmonica down between the chairs during worship.  He played his heart out.  Many have been the kind where I wonder, "What must they be thinking about us?"  Crazy gringos.  Horrible parents.  Wild, naughty child.  All in Spanish, of course.  This kind of thinking, naturally, does a lot for feeling nourished.

We love Sawyer.  He is funny, smart, quit-witted, kind.  He is creative and imaginative.  He loves to 'fix' and invent things.  He loves puzzles and figuring out things.  When he focuses, there is no stopping or deterring him.  He needs to be told 138 times to get his socks and shoes on. . .  He loves sports, climbing, anything active.  He also loves music and God, just not-so-much in church.  He makes huge messes looking for one tiny lego piece, and then can't understand why he should clean them up.  He loses all his glue sticks and colored pencils within a week of getting new ones.  His teacher staples a note or homework list in his agenda book and sometimes they are lost by the time he gets home--and he doesn't even ride the bus.  I finally patched his school uniform pants; now the patches are getting holes.  He's an encourager and an optimist most of the time, but is easily frustrated and hurt by things that seem trivial.  He will grasp any concept that he is taught, but has a hard time remembering rules and manners.   He's loud, but hates a noisy environment.  Loves to entertain, but feels better alone or with just a couple of people.  He will throw himself on the floor playing and not get hurt, but then flip out when someone touches him.

For the last few years, we have had meetings with Sawyer's teachers and the school psychologist regarding his impulsivity and the things written above.  Every time they said to wait on evaluating him because maybe he would mature (and he has, some), maybe he just needed an iron fist, maybe he was just a normal-active little boy.  This year, his 1st grade teachers (who were angels!) finally agreed that maybe it was time to evaluate him. They were amazing, for the record. They knew all the tricks for getting him to listen, cooperate, excel and thrive.  They were patient, but firm, and loved Sawyer very much.

So we took him to a psychologist who met with Jeff and I, then met with Sawyer a couple of times.  Long story shorter is that she told us that he has ADHD.  We were not extremely surprised and were actually kind of relieved to have answers, thinking, "that explains it. . . ."

I can't say that a whole lot has changed so far.  The psych actually said we were already doing a lot of the things she would have suggested to us, and so were his teachers.  We are not medicating him at this point, and hope that it won't be necessary in the future, either.  We have cut him back almost completely on screens (computer, video games, etc.) because we learned that the visual stimulation in screens short-circuits the brains of kids with ADHD, making things like tics worse (which Sawyer has sometimes in his eye), and also aggressiveness, even if they don't watch or play violent things.  She also said kids with ADHD in particular NEED contact with nature and outside play, which was great to hear since we've seen how much having a yard helps him.  I also picked up some massage techniques from a special ed teacher I met here that make Sawyer melt like butter.  Massaging his hands and fingers is currently making church (and other crowded places that don't interest him) much more pleasant for both Sawyer and us.  Honestly, it's really bizarre how well it works to relax him.

There's a lot more to research, like diet, weighted vests, supplements. We need some new strategies in our bag of discipline tricks.  Because of some of his extreme sensitivity to certain things, I also suspect that Sawyer has some sensory processing (integration) issues, though there is debate as to whether it is simply part of ADHD (and other disorders) or if it is it's own special thing.

Do I like labelling children?  Not especially.  I hope this doesn't put Sawyer in some kind of box.  Will it help us to know how to help him, and give us more understanding?  Absolutely.  Will it help him at church, in school, in life?  I hope so.  Now that we know a little more about how Sawyer's brain works we can find ways to harness the positive things and teach him how to cope with the challenges of ADHD.

And we can pull him out of church without feeling so frustrated.  Maybe church, in the traditional sense, will never be Sawyer's favorite thing, but now we know that it's okay to give him some help to get through it.  I know he loves God.  Thankfully God understands and loves Sawyer, too, and isn't offended if he plugs his ears during worship!  Hopefully the worship team understands, too. . . .