Juggling balls. All day long, juggling balls. But, we made progress. Please help us pray about two little Honda CRV’s. Both are nice, and not too high of miles, identical in every other way. But one is $900 cheaper and already here in town with ttl on it. We urgently need another vehicle as……..the transmission is messing up on the Nissan Pickup truck, and tomorrow it goes to the shop. So, we would have 3/4 vehicles in the shop! Ha! Good grief!
The guys are loving the new Blackstone griddle. They made hamburgers, omelettes, quesadillas, and this morning pumped out pancakes in record time!
It was a calm morning to/during/and back from worship. But honestly, I was nodding off during the Bible study. I’m exhausted! Tomorrow begins another busy week. We have a few major projects we are behind on, and some new things on the horizon. I’ve spent part of this afternoon calling through some of our families to check in on them and make sure they are well. We want to make sure they have what they need for the week ahead.
It was a long day of surveying work, but we helped the crew complete the job. It took seven people, three of the engineering crew and four boys, plus me working some of the route, to measure out the entire land.
Now they are going to propose future roads, and present us with plans for all the levels so we can create a master plan for the entire land!
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.
“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!!
“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 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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
(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”