Why can’t kids just go home?


Questions swirled this week as to why children must be in state care. Many proclaimed, “They must be placed back with their families”. “It’s the only logical response, send them home. “ “Children are always better off with their families”…….

I was up early this morning thinking and this came to mind…..

Hi. I’m now 15 but when I was four and my sister was six we were taken off the streets where we had been abandoned, rescued by a pastor. The pastor had a rehabilitation center for drug and alcohol addicts, but he picked us to prostitute us on the streets. It wasn’t for some time until someone else rescued us from the pastor and we were taken to a great place where we could grow and thrive.

I never knew my family nor have I ever met a family member. I grew up in a great home but at age 7 was forced to join a group of boys who offered me protection and love. That led to seven years of sexual abuse and rape, and then I made some poor choices that I should have gone to prison for. But a judge locked me in the government home before I was transferred to a home where boys like me are given forgiveness and hope.

The situation in my homes life was horrible. Homes, because I was bounced from house to house, as my father and mother fought over me like I was property. Finally, no other family member would have me so an uncle took me in. He abused me until I fled and ended up on the streets where some friends offered me hope and I ultimately ended up at the Youth Ranch.

The abuse in my home grew intolerable, and let the judges kept sending me back to my family. Finally, I fled and ended up in a street gang. In the gang I found love and attention that I’d never found anywhere else before, but that stopped when I got locked up. While I was locked up I realized where my life was headed and after almost a year was offered a chance to move to the Ranch where I am so happy to be alive and loved.

I do have a mother but she cannot care for her children. When I was two weeks old she wrapped me up and took me to some nuns and handed me over. “I don’t want him” was all she said. The nuns raised me. My mother still says that she does not want me. I try to visit with her but she doesn’t care if I am alive or not. I have no other family who could take me in.

I never knew any family other than the other children that grew up at the orphanage where I lived. When I was ten I was told that all children had to go to other homes. One day I was given away and ended up at the Youth Ranch where I discovered that I truly do not have a biological family, but I do have a family who care for me now.

I was sexually abused by my mother, an uncle, cousins, and my brother for seven years until one day I dared to speak out and seek protection. I was taken to court where they believed me and after a long trial some of my family were convicted for their crimes. I lived at the Youth Ranch and that were I became strong, learned to thrive, and discovered who God had made me.

I delivered my first sibling when I was seven-years-old. My mother is a severe alcoholic who spends her days on the streets and in bars. Soon I helped to deliver two other siblings, because my mother didn’t trust doctors or midwives, so I was her midwife. After a while it became clear that we could no longer live safely with her so we were moved to an orphanage. Later I chose to live at the Youth Ranch and I began to overcome the trauma of what I had lived as a child.

I was abused and neglected for as long as I can recall at an orphanage before being rescued by Human Rights. I was not sure what would happen to me and I was very scared. A man came and told me he could take me to a safe place, but I didn’t believe him. I couldn’t trust anyone and just wanted to die. Because I had no family police and a judge forced me to go with him, but soon I realized I truly was in a safe place at the Youth Ranch. I now realize God put me here to help me grow into a positive young man.

I wanted to see if I did have family, and so one day I ditched my life and ran away from where I was living. After months on the streets I found an aunt and a brother, but both said I was not wanted and that they couldn’t care for me. So I sought a new place to live and now I’m fifteen and have found my true home at the Youth Ranch.

I was on the streets because my mother didn’t care for me or feed me. If I wanted clothes, or I wanted food, I had to work or steal to get them. I preferred to work. I’m only eleven, but I have already had nine jobs. If you tell me how to do something, I can quickly learn how to do it. My mother gives her children away and she cannot care for them, so now I have a home that provides for me so that I can be a normal child.

I lived with my mother who was very poor. She couldn’t care for all of her children, so as soon as we were able to work we learned to work in coffee plantations. At age fourteen I had worked for seven years, but had never been to school. When my mother moved and abandoned me I was given the opportunity to move to the Youth Ranch. I’m now in seventh grade and I’m loving school and life.

My mother’s new boyfriend threw me out on the streets when I was age 7. I lived on the streets for many years before coming to the Youth Ranch. I wanted to go to school, learn new skills, have a family, and always have a meal of good food on the table. I’ve found that at the Youth Ranch. I’m now deciding what I want to be as an adult and I’ll soon turn 21! I go back to visit my mother regularly and check in on her. I’ve forgiven her and now help her and my step-siblings who barely survive.

Before I came to the Youth Ranch I was miserable and hated life. I attempted suicide at least ten times because my life made no sense. I do have a family but only my mother and brother care anything about me. They allow me to visit once and awhile, but they don’t really care if I come visit or not. I am now making important life choices and I want to go to the university and have a formal degree.

I was arrested and heading for prison for having impregnated my thirteen-year-old sister. I lived alone with her and my father when this happened. But a wise judge saw through the situation and through some quick thinking and fake DNA tests she tricked my father into confessing. My sister was sent away to another home and my dad was sent to prison for a long time, since he’d also been raping two of my cousins. At fourteen I was lost and hopeless until the judge sent me to the Youth Ranch. Now I’m rebuilding my life.

My mother died when I was born and I lived on the streets with my alcoholic father and brother. I spent a lot of time in jails and at the government orphanage before a judge allowed me to move to the Ranch. Here I’ve found love and acceptance, a father who guides me and corrects me, and a real opportunity to thrive in life. I love living here more than on the streets or in jail. My only family now is my brother who still lives between jail and the streets.


A quick trip into town!



“It’s just a quick trip into town…..!”

This morning we headed out early to a Christian businessman’s group for a Bible study. As with most days, we were out before 7:00am, and rode the motorcycle the twelve minutes into town. 12 minutes. 12 minutes is not an easy ride in Guatemala, and this morning we decided to orally document the obstacles we faced, recording the short but dangerous journey into town.

The boy, whoever that may be, who rides shotgun on the bike knows what to lookout for. We’ve developed a system of warnings. A “Ho” from me means bump, speed bump, or danger. However, a “Hurrah” from me means we’ve about to hit something or be ready to jump off. A pat on my right side, or on his right leg means, “notice something to the right”. The same is true for the left side. A tap on my back signifies “look at someone ahead” or “remember something important”.

Riding a motorcycle anywhere is an adventure, but in Latin America it’s quite a chore and you have to constantly be watching out for dangers ahead. Remember that when you pray for a missionary’s safety, travel safety even short distances can be quite stressful and dangerous. Here is our log from this morning.

Rolling down hill in front of Youth Ranch Home
Cows in the roadway
Dog chasing on [R]
Other motorcycle passing quickly on [L], no warning
Truck turning into dirt roadway on our side of road
Minivan (bus) passing quickly on [L]
Minivan stops suddenly in lane to pick up passengers
Passing minivan, truck with no lights
Car doesn’t stop when pulling out. Quick brake
Blind curve [L]
Car parked at flat tire repair in curve, in lane
Dog crossing the road, (hard brake)
Stop at red stoplight, car passes on [L] and runs light
Two cars run red light in our direction
Minivan stops in the roadway to pick up passenger w/no warning
Car turns [L] with no warning, hard brake pass on [R]
Truck in roadway in our lane
Backhoe working with tail in our lane
Blind curve [L] with small dirt landslide in our lane
Children crossing the road
Three adults crossing the roadway
Blind curve [R] two stray dogs in roadway
Obstacles in [L] lane, car veers into our lane
Dog in roadway
Two motorcycles merge on highway and don’t give right away
Truck in [R] lane unloading
Two cars in [L] lane blocking lane
Three speed bumps
Truck blocking roadway
Lady crossing roadway, (hard brake)
Dust in roadway raised by car
8 cows in city street
Hole in city street
Water on roadway, no warning
Car in our lane
Car blocking our lane
Car changing tire in our lane
Forced to pass truck on [R]
Dog in street, (hard brake)
Car doesn’t stop at stop sign
People in roadway
Arrive at destination

Now. Our next challenge. We don’t have a Go-Pro so we are going to try to record a trip through town with an iPhone, so you can experience it live!!

Spending God’s Money

“You spent money on what?”, he screamed at me over the phone!

One of the challenges for people who raise funds for ministry is the delicate balance held as ministry money is managed. I deal with this daily. Let me see if I can put this balancing act into perspective.

I run a household….(more commonly referred to as a mega-household), multiple ministries, and my “personal money”. I don’t receive a salary, however, I do have some money designated to my needs and other money “exclusively for Mark”. But the lines are blurry because I live at the Youth Ranch Home. 90% of the food that I consume is bought, cooked, and eaten along with the boys. I don’t pay rent or electric because that’s all part of home expenses. I even use ministry toilet paper, toothpaste, and soap which could be considered graft and fraud….any lawyer want to correct me?

Each day I must decide where to spend ministry money. Every penny is thought out. But when it comes to traveling to Guatemala City, do I use my funds, or ministry funds? When I invite a boy out to eat, is that personal or ministry? Is it a wise use of a $30 donation to purchase a fan to cool down my loft, or is that money better spent buying a boy a pair of shoes? Do I splurge and buy the boys ice cream on Sunday, or instead buy cement blocks to complete a boy’s room….or help Henry (our builder) put another sheet of sheet metal on his house….or help the Ortiz brothers buy food for a week for their mother…..or change the oil in the pickup truck….or purchase another four laying hens…..or pay the internet bill….or……

Some days I find myself stuck. Some days I can’t make a decision like this by myself and I have to call for help from a board member. I’ve tried to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” However, often this doesn’t help much either. Jesus didn’t have internet or a pickup truck. (Not sure he had toothpaste or toilet paper either?) Any theologian want to help with this? Many decisions lead to 1. Invest, 2. Survive, or 3. Help someone in need. But often for every donation we receive, there are a couple dozen great choices on where to spend it. Is purchasing $30 of dark chocolate to keep me sane for the next ten days a “wise investment”, a “mental health need”, or “an obvious waste of ministry funds”?

I think that one of the greatest fears we face in ministry is that we will make a bad financial decision and be judged for that. When we lose money due to circumstances out of our control, we feel guilty, and that “we have failed the Lord”. When we spend money on something personal, we feel “we are cheating our supporters” or “misappropriating funds for personal use”. Today I am sitting at a cheap hotel on the beach, a much needed day of rest. And yet, I keep thinking of other ways I could be spending the money that will go to paying for food and a hotel room for the night.

I recently shared these thoughts with a friend and he gave me a simple response.
“Live humbly and share your life and love with others. When you feel God is leading you to help others, do so. You feel guilty about the 10% you spend on yourself, when you should feel honored for the 90% you spend on others. Don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself once and awhile. Instead, be proud that you have dedicated a major part of your life, love, and resources on helping others in need”.

What I have said for years is that I am simply a conduit through which believers can invest in the lives of other people. I’m blessed to be given the opportunity to pour so much into the lives of young men in need. And I’m blessed each and every day with the resources that God trusts in my hands. I am so thankful for every person who joins this journey with the Lord and I and as we face each day’s challenges, and as we show HIS love and HIS hope through our lives.

“You spent money on what?”, he screamed at me over the phone! “       Yes, I spent $30 on dark chocolate and as of now, everyone at the Youth Ranch Home are still alive and well….but when the chocolate runs out…..you may have to have me institutionalized….and that won’t be as cheap as chocolate!”

Mark W. Wakefield is the International Director of Zona Juvenil Ministries. He is a motivator, an author, and the father to (today) twenty-two boys ages 8 through 24 who call the Youth Ranch Home in Western Guatemala, their home.



One of my most important jobs



One of the tasks that God has given me is to get to “read” young people. Let me explain.

Each week I spend time with young people all across Guatemala. Juvenile courts call, prosecutor’s offices, lawyers, orphanages, and other associations contact me, asking me to sit down with young people. What I do in the time I have with these young people is absolutely not possible, if not for God’s guidance, the Holy Spirit’s speaking, and His gifting in my life.

I’m blessed to spend time with these young people. In a short period of time (literally minutes) I must build rapport and trust, listen carefully to what is important to this person, and ask questions that help to paint a picture of who this young person truly is. Every time I’m going to sit down to interview a young person, I beg God to guide and lead, because there is no way my mind can figure them out with it’s own power.

Why do I do this? I interview and “read” kids because most are terribly lost. They are tormented by secrets and sin. They have suffered unmentionable abuse and are tormented by those around them, many who do not love them or care at all what happens to them. They truly want to know this life means something. They want to have hope and yet they feel so hopeless. They want to sense real joy, but they suffer in deep despair. They have known nothing but lies, and they don’t know who they can truly trust.

So, in the time that I am with them I must somehow show them that I DO KNOW JOY, I HAVE THE KEY TO HOPE, and that I am going to be TOTALLY HONEST with them. Most don’t know what to do with that or how to respond, so I must simply express confidence and COMMUNICATE CLEARLY THAT LIFE CAN BE MUCH BETTER THAN WHAT THEY HAVE EVER KNOWN.

God’s hope, Jesus light, and His perfect plan for their lives must shine through. What I do is like speed dating. You have three minutes to make an impact. What for me is an impossible task, God makes possible in seconds. Sadly, most of the kids I interview I will never see again. Many I cannot help or take home with me. But it is my hope that in the short time I am face to face with them, I will in some way convey HE WHO IS HOPE, HE WHO IS JOY, HE WHO IS THE TRUTH AND THE WAY TO AN ABUNDANT LIFE.


Mark Wakefield Personal Financial State of Affairs



I wanted to take a moment to share with you my personal financial state of affairs for 2014-2016, in part because I receive a lot of questions about how our finances work with Zona Juvenil Ministries, the Youth Ranch Home, and Mark Wakefield’s finances. And I’d also like to ask you to prayerfully consider supporting me personally, or the Youth Ranch Home and boys this year.

My personal income for the past sixteen years has varied between $7,000 to $20,000. Most of this is from donations given by friends and family. Some is from other sources such as small jobs, books sold, or selling my toenail or hair samples (just checking to see if you are paying attention!)


In 2014 my personal income was just over $10,000, a majority of this given by one church in North Carolina. When Bob Carey took over our US financial management team, he only gave me funds directly designated to me personally, so all other donations went to the ministry fund. In 2015 he did the same thing, so my income was just under $10,000. This being said, I still live here at the Youth Ranch Home, eat the same food as the boys, and my biggest expense is returning to the US each year to share in churches and with friends and raise support and awareness for our home. And for the first time in a very long time, at the end of 2015 we actually made budget with funds given to ZJM, so this was a huge boost for us.

We have said that ideally, I need around $1,400 a month, as I do try to save some money for emergencies (like the medical issues I’ve had these past few months), I pay my travel, sometimes I take rest days, and some personal items. Also I am paying the internet in the home, and my personal cell phone. We have also opened a savings and retirement program for the long term, now with a financial service in the US.


We have been praying about this and I’d like to ask you to prayerfully consider two things:
1. I am trying to invest a little money each month in a retirement plan, but this is nearly impossible with my current income. We would like to know that I at least have $1,400 a month in income.
2. I have been offered an amazing life insurance plan, where I pay in $4,500 a year for fifteen years. After the second year, my life insurance policy will be $250,000 no matter how I die, for example a catastrophic toenail fungus (still paying attention?) We feel that this move is very wise, as it would provide for the boys and home should something happen to me.
For the past six years a church in Greensboro, North Carolina have served as my primary financial supporters. They committed to help for “a year or two”, and this has continued much longer than we all anticipated. But now they are going through a financially burdensome time, and they will no longer be able to continue supporting me as they have in the past. We are praying for friends who will come alongside me in the task that God has called me to.

If you are interested in investing in my life and this ministry, please contact me via my Facebook or personal email, zonajuvenil@hotmail.com. Or I can call you as I have a great long distance plan. You can also contact Bob Carey via his Facebook, his cell phone (704) 974-7691.

Thanks and many blessings,

Mark W. Wakefield
Youth Ranch Home
Zona Juvenil Ministries
Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Be Quiet. Be Still



(Mark 4:35 – 41  NIV)
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”

The wind heard his words but couldn’t imagine stopping. He had work to do. His task was very important and he was the guy for the job. He would prove to be successful. There was so much he had to accomplish and so little time. So he blew even more forcefully making everything he encountered react to his strength. “See how important I am”, he shouted arrogantly.

The waves continued to crash. He couldn’t stop moving, however making it clear it was not his fault. Al contraire, the entire ocean was pushing him around, and the wind was not helping either. The waves would stop, but nobody else was cooperating, so he would continue. He was powerless to do anything but to go with the flow.

The rain continued to pour down on the boat. All she could do was fall, as she was really powerless. How could she just stop? Not possible! She wasn’t strong enough, nor brave enough. She didn’t have what it takes. Depressed and drearily she continued to rain down.

The boat heard Jesus voice as well, and continued to splash through the water. It fought the tides around it, crashing into waves and pushing along in spite of really not making any progress and putting itself at risk. It would continue to fight everything around it and prove it was stronger than they. Nobody could tell it what to do. It was in complete control of its own life and destiny.

The disciples meanwhile, along with others on the boat, continued to run around squealing and begging any God available for help. Some prayed to the sea gods for mercy. Others hid in the hull praying that the wind god would stop pitching a fit. Others just ran around in circles tugging at masts, and pulling on ropes, hoping their effort would make a difference in the storm. Their screams and pleas couldn’t be heard due to the noise the wind and waves were making around them. Only their lips could be seen moving, but no voice was powerful enough to drown out the intense storm.

Jesus again shouted, “Didn’t I say stop! Be quiet. Be still.”

The wind was not moved by His voice. You can’t just stand on the deck of a sinking boat and yell at people. Who did He think He is? It’s laughable for Him to think He can just boss others around. “Fool, sit down and ride out the storm!”

The waves heard Jesus’ voice but was immediately annoyed. It was not easy to stop when so much water was behind you pushing you around. He would like to be still, but other idiots were making life impossible for him, and until they stopped he had no choice. Most problems like this in life are other’s fault. If they would just change, life would be different.

The rain giggled at Jesus’ voice. “Ohhhhh….now he’s mad!” And she joked that he thought himself “tough stuff and powerful”. She would continue to fall, as this was all she was made for in this her miserable and dreary life. He could say all the words He wanted to, but they couldn’t change her miserable existence.

The boat laughed. “Words can’t move me. I’m a large boat and I’ll do what I well please. I’m not going to be manipulated by your ‘strong’ words and ‘deep forceful grown-up voice’. If you are so powerful, then come and stop me! I dare you to.” It continued his course tackling each wave with more and more force. He would win this battle!

The disciples and others on the boat continued their panic. Some cursed God saying He was not fair or loving. Others prepared to die, lost and hopeless of making it out of the storm alive. A number of disciples were angry. They had wasted their time following Jesus, and he’d led them to their deaths here in the middle of the sea. Jesus was not really powerful, just full of easy tricks he could work on people, but never on nature. They were all going to die!

Jesus stood on the deck shaking his head. They just didn’t understand. It was frustrating that everyone just continued their course, making the storm worse instead of trusting in Him. If they would just follow two simple instructions: 1. Be quiet, 2. Be still. It wasn’t that complicated! It’s not that hard! Two simple instructions and yet everyone were still panicking like the demons in the pigs.

Once again he raised his voice and spoke.

“You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he rebuked the winds and the waves.”

But this time something different happened. One by one, they calmed down. Each focused on being quiet and being still. And there was a strange calm all around as each realized they had followed his instructions. They had listened to His voice and responded accordingly.

“They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’”

He did have power!
His voice had made a difference.
He was the Christ and He had control over the winds and waves.

When they just obeyed, they changed.
And as others obeyed, they also changed their behavior.
Each realized the impact they had on those around them.
Their actions were met with other’s reactions.
As they thought about it, what they had been doing seemed ridiculous.

It was silly to think they were in control.
Why hadn’t they listened the first time.
They simply suffered longer than need be.
When they next storm hit, they would react differently.
They would follow his commands the first time.

“I won’t sin this way again”
“I won’t fall into the same paths or habits”
“I promise to respond differently and listen more closely”
“I’ll be still more often.”
“I will learn to listen to Your voice more carefully”
“I realize I’m not in control….You are.”
“I want to be a better disciple”


A Romeoesque View of the Gospel

Maybe one of the greatest blessings I receive is that of perspective. One of my “perspectivators” is Romeo, my fifteen-year-old wonder kid who has truly lived it all, and lived to laugh about it.

When Jesus was born, the social and political scenario was tragic, and traumatic for many. He was born into the humblest of settings, and few had a clue what impact his life would truly have. These past few days at the Youth Ranch Home, we’ve been reading the first chapters of the Gospel of Luke, and this has led Romeo to have a ton of questions……actually….Romeo always has a ton of questions.

Romeo lives life to the fullest, especially now that for the first time in his life he is living in a real house, eating real food, in a stable situation. First time ever!! He has been accustomed to being constantly on guard on the streets, scolded by abusive drunk male relatives, abandoned, beaten, and constantly told he is not worthwhile. How does Romeo deal with this? He “self-corrects” and “auto-scolds” himself. This gets pretty funny.

“Mark, you should give me the cereal you won in the food basket. Romeo would like the cereal, and I’d hide the box in my room so nobody steals it from me. I’d heat up milk in a pan to eat with my cereal.” Then, he continues his monologue with the correcting. “No Romeo, you can’t have the cereal. The cereal is for Mark, so he can get a bigger belly…” Then he breaks into his habitual laugh, happy he’s cracked himself up. “Romeo is not worth a box of cereal….or milk”, then his laughter continues. These monologues continue all throughout the day.

I love Romeo! Sometimes, especially when he’s in a vehicle, Romeo talks NONSTOP! And I’ve learned that if I look at him and raise my eyebrows (thanks mom!), he will auto-correct. “Ok, time to shut up Romeo. You are talking too much Romeo. Nobody wants to hear your rambling, Romeo”. Then the laughter!

But with all of that trauma comes the reality. You know how most kids have some pretty strange fears? There are things that most children will be afraid of, but most of the time they are things that doubtfully will actually happen. That is not the case with Romeo. His fears are always present, and most for good reason. I mentioned we would spend Christmas Eve up on a hillside, watching the fireworks displays explode over our city at midnight. Romeo contemplated and then expressed his fear. “Would you leave me up there, abandoning me in the dark? I hope not, because the last time that happened I was really scared. When I was ten my brother and I were out, and a guy picked us up. He and some other men took us up a hill and tied us up, and then asked our family for a ransom. But my dad didn’t have much money, and he told the men he would not pay the ransom. They were going to kill us, but decided instead to just leave us tied up on the mountain, and we were finally able to escape the next day”.
How do you respond to that? I told him I was not going to kidnap him, tie him up, ask for a ransom, and then leave him tied to a tree in the night, abandoning him. He happily came along to see the fireworks.

“Do you think my brain is messed up because I didn’t get breast milk as a baby? (Romeo’s mom died during childbirth). Hans says the lack of breast milk messed my head up. He said drinking powdered milk as a baby killed my brain cells. No, Romeo! You are not brain damaged because you didn’t get to suckle.” Then the laugher at his own humor. “I’ll make up for it when I have a wife. When she’s pregnant I’ll drink her breast milk and get smarter”. Laugher!

Romeo wonders why Jesus mom didn’t die during childbirth. He wonders if Mary and Joseph had fresh eggs and cow milk in the stable. He asked if Joseph decided Mary was ugly, and he went out to find himself another woman. Was Joseph sober or drunk the night Jesus was born? Did Jesus ever have his own soccer ball? Did Mary ever abandon Jesus? What would have happened to the world if a mule in the stable accidentally kicked baby Jesus in the head?

“I know what Jesus felt like when those bad guys came to find him in the garden and drag him off to trial. The same thing happened to me”.

But then, I realize Romeo is capturing so much more about life, Jesus, and love. Two days ago he was reflecting on his life, and he said, “This is the first Christmas in two years I’ve not been in prison. It’s nice not to be in prison for Christmas. And I now know what Christmas means. I never really knew anything about Jesus before, and now I’m glad that I do.” Aha!! It’s working. Romeo is learning and growing and slowly learning to trust.

I think most of us need to reflect a little more about life, love, and Jesus. We need to be a little more Romeoesque in the way we read the Bible. We need to recognize our traumas, and how God has brought us through it all. We need to stop and reflect not only on what we’ve not received, but on the spiritual milk God is constantly trying to get us to consume. And we need to “auto-correct” when we get off track or talk too much instead of listening. We need to enjoy our life of liberty and freedom in Christ, and remember we were once prisoners to sin. And we need to trust Jesus more, especially when trusting him means getting over our fears of bad things that have happened in our past.

How We Teach Journeying With God To The YRH Boys



I want to share with you how we teach boys to trust God to lead them to family, and how a true “faith journey” is undertaken in real life, on real roads, with real risks. And how we live out our trust in Jesus, and live out Psalm 23, and how we take real steps and drive real miles with God as our guide. Let me explain.

One of the jobs that I must carry out is that of private investigator. Many young men we encounter have just enough information about a family member to leave them with what I will call “curiosity hives”. They will break out in these terribly itchy welts of curiosity that drives them mad, until we are able to dig around and discover the truth about family. Anyone who knows someone adopted knows exactly what I mean.

CURIOSITY HIVES:    I had been promising the Sasaki brothers, Moises (15) and Jesus (16), that I would take them to visit their mother and father in a village in the Northern Part of our department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. They had never really lived with their adoptive parents. They knew parts of the story. They had lived in Mexico, their father was Japanese, their mother Guatemalan. They lived in an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico. Their parents had lived in the US. They also knew their mother acted strange, and they had only seen her a few times during their lives. For Christmas, they asked that I take them to a far off village named San Miguel, to try to find their parents. “Curiosity hives” had broken out.

IMG_4979GOD, GUIDE OUR PATH: I mapped the roads I would take. I called the only two contacts I had for that region. I was actually fearful (thus the reason I asked my Facebook friends and prayer partners to pray). There were dozens of extreme dangers that we could encounter in this far-away place, where nobody ends up by accident. On Friday we took off in our Hyundai 4×4 SUV, a truck made for journeys to the end of the world. The dirt and muddy roads wind endlessly through dreadful mountain passes, most of the time only one lane, meaning passing large trucks can only be done in tiny stretches. God guided us and we kept stopping to ask people on the road the way to San Miguel, until we arrived. Once in town, they quickly recalled the way they had journeyed the last time they had visited their mother, miraculously finding her home.

GOD, LEAD US TO FRIENDLY NEIGHBORS: The moment we entered and she began to talk….or yell….or bicker with them, I knew what they meant by “strange behavior”. In about three minutes, I knew my education was going to pay off, and I was ready to make a blitz-diagnosis. Elena was between the age of 50 and 55 and manically schizophrenic. As soon as I had a chance to exit her home, I took it. She kept saying that a neighbor named Alejandro had tried to murder her, and had stolen all of her possessions, so I went to find this man. I found his son and smiled as I greeted him. I told him we were on a journey, and that I wanted to talk to them about Elena, and I knew she was crazy. “Boy do I know she’s crazy, because I’m a psychologist”, I exaggeratedly exclaimed! In a few minutes we were friends and he was chatting away. I explained that we were smart enough to know he was a friend and not an enemy, and ultimately the two days we were in town, Alejandro Jr. helped us find more family. That is how God works.

GOD, GRANT US DIVINE WISDOM:   I found their Japanese father, whom can no longer live with an aggressive manic wife. He has lived in this town for nearly ten years, but he speaks only Japanese, and interacts with no one. He has no friends, and won’t communicate with anyone in town. I told him I had brought his sons and he could not have cared less. He waved me off, and walked away. He never even looked at them. I quickly determined that it was of no use for them to stay in the house trying to communicate with their mother. She was ranting about how everyone was trying to murder her, steal from her, and take away her children. Her home was the closest to a “Hoarders” episode I’d ever encountered in Guatemala. So I decided to let Jesus know it was time to leave. I made up a fake text message from a friend of his, reentered the home, and told him he had a text message. He read my note which said, “Let’s bail and reorganize”. We were quickly able to do so. We left the village and went to another town to spend the night in a hotel. I explained what my diagnosis was. Both boys wanted to return the next day to see if they could find more family.


GOD, BLESS US IN WAYS WE DON’T EXPECT.:   We returned early to the village. But we could tell we were being stared down by many people. In the villages people are suspicious of strangers and we were easy targets. We headed for the village park, and about a block from the park I noticed two bright smiling faces. They were Pepsico salesmen, and both were huge fans of my radio and TV shows, now off the air a decade. They stopped us and started up a conversation. I spoke with one for a long time and found out about the village, where I could feed both boys who were starving, and about the surrounding region. The brothers spoke to the other man, who told them about how they could get legal information on their parents, and how properties were registered in that village. In half and hour, we had answered much of the list of questions we had formulated the night before. And these guys asked how Pepsico of Guatemala could, and further help the Youth Ranch Home.

GOD, LEAD US TO FAMILY.:   A man had walked past the house the day before. He was maybe in his seventies, and wore a nice hat and a big smile. Now I know he was probably an angel. (No, a real one!!!) He stopped and started up a conversation and I obliged, shook his hand, and spoke with him. He told me to come visit him the next day and he would like to talk to me. I agreed. Alejandro saw me speak to him and said his name was Mr. Francisco. He was one of Elena’s brothers, so I did want to talk with him again. The next morning we returned to find Mr. Francisco. Alejandro was glad to see me and meet the boys. He smiled and offered to take us personally to Mr. Francisco’s home. He dropped us off and returned to his business. However, it ends up, Mr. Francisco doesn’t even exist, or at least not anymore. The man I saw could only be described by family as the boy’s grandfather, a man who had passed away forty years earlier. But the family called Mr. Angel, a younger man, and he was Elena’s uncle. He quickly remembered the boys, and we began a conversation that led them to know more about their family and give them a contact in that village.

GOD, GIVE US THE ANSWERS THESE BOYS WANT:   Mr. Angel quickly spoke of the boy’s family. He told them that they were not real brothers. One was taken from a young indian woman who had become pregnant. She now lived in a far-away village. The other’s father was probably a man in town named Juan. He was going to check for us. The boys giggled as they discovered they may not really be brothers. Their sister was from another family as well. Their adoptive mother, Elena, could not have children, so people came by and “gave her children they could not take care of because they were too young or not married”. He smiled as he pointed out little characteristics in the boy’s faces that reminded him of their birth mother or father. We learned so much about these boys, and helped fill in so many blank spaces.

GOD, BLESS THESE BOYS.:   One of our concerns has been that the boys knew their mother had quite a bit of property, and a number of houses in town. The boys knew they had an inheritance, and in her raging, she said she wanted to give them what was theirs. So Angel explained how much property she had, and what it was valued at. These two boys could be very wealthy! The more we talked, the greater urgency we all felt to try to save these properties and have them transferred to the boys so that nobody will steal them from them. As we returned back towards our city, they sat in shock to know that God had truly cared for them, and that they could ultimately have a very nice inheritance to help them through school and beyond.

GOD, NOW WHAT?      But now we have more questions. We are not sure how we can help their aging parents. We don’t know how we can get their mother medications, and even if we had medications, how could we get her to take them. Should one of the three children try to go and live with her? Should we move legally to protect her land and houses so that she doesn’t lose them in her madness? Should we try to find her a facility in which to live, probably in Guatemala City? How do we help their family, while helping them to advance in school and life was well? Should we continue to seek out their birth parents, or just be glad that we know more?

GOD, GIVE US PEACE:   Both boys are processing the events of these past few days. And we are praying together that God would guide and help them to understand that HIS INCREDIBLE HAND WAS IN IT ALL.

That is how we teach our boys how to follow God’s lead, and allow Him to guide our paths to discover, learn, and adventure.

Some Stats on the Youth Ranch Home Facilities

New Youth Ranch KitchenIMG_0376

I’ve been continually asked about our home, and what our physical structure looks like, feels like, and is in comparison with an American home. So here it goes.

  • The Youth Ranch Home has one main house where up to 25 boys have lived at a time.
  • The main house is around 3,200sq/ft. The first floor has a kitchen/dining area and five small bedrooms for a total of ten boys.
  • The second floor has beds for six more boys.
  • The boy’s rooms are around 60sq/ft. and have a bunk bed and small closet.
  • The second floor has a living space that will be converted into our small home-school house. There is also a living area where the boys pile in to hang out.
  • The new boy’s rooms will be slightly larger, allowing for about 100sq/ft. of space, giving older boys more freedom, space to grow, and increased privacy.
  • Our guest rooms each have a private bathroom and shower separate from the main house.
  • Our main house has three toilets and two showers.
  • Our new kitchen design will create approximately a 376sq/ft space for the boys to work and cook.
  • Our current kitchen is part of our dining area, and our kitchen area is under 120sq/ft.
  • We do have electricity** (weak and irregular), flushing toilets** (sometimes the boys flush), hot water** (kinda hot…sometimes), a washing machine for bed clothes** (when we have enough water and electricity), and toilet paper.
  • We do not have air conditioning or heating, as it is really not necessary, and we have a dryer but not the electricity yet to use it.  We don’t have cable TV or cable internet in the home.
  • Our home receives 12,000 gallons of water a month, (500 gallons a month per boy or less than 17 gallons a day per person), not taking into account water for the farm animals and crops, which takes up about half our monthly water allowance.
  • In an average American home, showers are typically the third largest water use after toilets and clothes washers. The average American shower uses 17.2 gallons (65.1 liters) and lasts for 8.2 minutes at average which means our boys don’t have the luxury of a shower a day.
  • There are a number of areas of our home that are not yet finished. We urgently need closets built, dry wall installed, and bookshelves.
  • Our current projects are the completion of a water recycling project, four rooms and a bath for older boys, and a new kitchen that will meet standards and codes.
  • We are hoping to raise money for our new kitchen ($9,800)* (already raised $3,000!), we need to pay off our laying hens ($950), complete the older boy’s rooms ($12,500), build the aquaponics complex for food production ($2,500), and the water recycling project lacks about ($800) to be completed.
  • The road running to the Youth Ranch Land is narrow and dirt/mud and about 650 yards in length. We hope to have the city help us gravel the road this year, but we must first level it ourselves.
  • Our roofs are tin and that makes it loud when it is raining hard, but makes a wonderful roar to which one can sleep. 
  • Our rainy season begins around Mother’s Day (May 10) and ends around Halloween. In a good rainy season, it rains every day and this helps our crops, but creates lots of mud.
  • The boys have orange trees, lemon, lime, apple, guayaba, nispero, and blackberry bushes. We are working on planting more coffee, avocados, raspberry, and strawberry. We have about 140 coffee trees.
  • The garden has hot chilis, bell peppers, tomatoes, and carrots.
  • I hope this answers some of your many questions, and allows you to know a little more about the facilities, and why I am working so hard to fundraise while in the US. God has slowly provided the things that we need to make our home safe and functional for all of the Youth Ranch Boys.

If you have any more questions about our facilities or how you can help us complete construction of our home, I’m in the United States until November 22, and I will have this phone number on me: 615-803-1699.  or my email is zonajuvenil@hotmail.com   

About that 041 marker.

Sunday church with some of my boys.
Sunday church with some of my boys.

About passing that 041 marker

I just sped past a mile-marker. Mom says the mile-marker was 041, but it doesn’t feel like it. I really don’t slow down to look at any of those mile-markers. Honestly, I ignore them because staring at them reminds you how old you should feel, not how old you should live. I don’t want to act “over the hill”…..I’d prefer just to look over the next hill. I don’t stop and wander around the mile markers. Some people stick around the date like it’s a national holiday. Some celebrate their aging an entire week, and then begrudgingly crawl as they pass trying to “act their age”. Forget that!

I’m blessed. I live and incredible life and a journey that teaches me so much every day. I’m blessed to father incredible sons. Not many men get to father twenty+ boys, and certainly not sons who can teach me so much about life. Many of my boys have lived so much, suffered so greatly, and “been-there-done-that-and-survived” for so long, you would think they had seen the 041 markers! I laugh uncontrollably most days, and mostly at others. I’d say at points my laughing at the boys is what makes our house so much fun. They are hysterically funny at times, and I am always on the lookout for that next “oh-my-gosh-record-it-for-YouTube” moment. I am challenged daily to love more, forgive more fully, and take on each challenge as a new way to grow in HIM.

My life is not perfect. While traveling the US I must confess that I stand in the hot shower a little longer. I’m amazed that when I turn a shower on…..water comes out willfully. I don’t have to beg, cuss, or pray to get water to come out. And it comes out HOT! I’m so used to fussy lukewarm water I really have a brilliant understanding of what Revelation 3:16 means now. If I could take anything home, it may just be the water……but then TSA would object.

My house has bugs, flies, and other annoying pests (not referring to the boys!) I get used to some of that, but I don’t think I’ll ever find the flies normal or acceptable. We’ve been praying for an improved and safe kitchen. (That would be improved and safer for the boys, not the flies.) Living in an agricultural community brings some interesting challenges. But I’d rather live nowhere else, with all of them boys. They need to grow up on a farm. I think it makes them better. They may not get it today, but when they pass 041 they will be so thankful they did.

I guess what holds me up many days is the fact that I have more friends than flies. I’m blessed with friends galore. Some are normal, but most are odd and hilarious. They give me people to laugh at. Like I laugh at my boys, I travel and laugh at my friends and family. People really are hysterical if you just stop and listen carefully to them. I’m pretty sure God laughs at me, and sometimes HE sets me up to be the blunt of his jokes….pretty sure! But HE loves me and that shows through all the poking and prodding. God loves me enough that HE cares, and HE provides for my every need.

So, zooming past the 041 marker everyone was so helpful in pointing out (thank you very much), I’m blessed and honored to be able to serve HIM. I’m blessed to be a father and have a “cool-enough-for-a-reality series” home that provides me with tons of excitement, more blessings than I deserve, and enough chaos to keep my ADHD exhausted! I am thrilled to be used by God and honored that HE cares enough to laugh at me. I hope that if you are near the 041, or past it, that you feel the same.

Youth Ranch Home