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Dispatches From Afar

Some of you may have been wondering why my posts have been so few and far between these past few weeks, and in that October, November and December tend to be some of my most prolific months in terms of blog posts, your wonderment would be well-placed. Well that's because I've been here:

in the rolling mountains and valleys of Central Pennsylvania
 hunting wild animals to survive the Winter

Ok, not exactly.

Since just before Thanksgiving I've been in Pennsylvania and I expect to be here at least until the end of January. A month ago Eastern Mennonite Missions, my home congregation and I began talking about the future, about the work in Los Laureles thus far and about how to best serve the community there while at the same time being the best stewards of the resources entrusted to us that we can. It was decided upon by all of us that it would be best that I take a short sabbatical for a time of rest, renewal and discernment for the future direction of our work in Los Laureles. That means that for the weeks ahead I will be in meetings both in Lancaster and at Frazer Mennonite Church and also spending time with my family in Williamsport. To be honest, I'm happy to be here - I knew I needed a break, renewal, a time for re-focusing, but was unsure of how to suggest it. I'm excited to be here with my family for the holidays, it's been a long time since I've spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's with them. I miss Los Laureles terribly, I miss my kids, the life there; at the same time I know that this time of rest and refocus is essential if I want to best serve the community, if I want to faithfully follow God as he leads in the unfolding of the work there.

Regardless of my location over the next months I will be blogging both about my time here and what's happening in Los Laureles. This past Saturday the elementary school there celebrated the 6th grade graduation of 32 students. In years past the majority of those students would have immediately begun working or looking for spouses as 12-15 year olds; 2 years ago we began offering scholarships to some of the graduates so that they might continue their education in a private, Christian high school and thus give opportunity to break the cyclical povverty so endemic in that community. The first year there were 15 graduates and we were able to offer scholarships to 7, last year there were 12 graduates and we added 7 more scholarships to the existing 7. This year of course with 32 graduates we will have to seriously screen our applicants for the most deserving and needy as we obviously cannot afford to send all 32 to high school. Please be praying for us we go through this process and that funding come in to continue this project.

When I say 'we' I refer mostly to Girlfriend, she's still there, doing a lot of the legwork with the projects in Los Laureles as I'm gone. She, along with some of the youth from the Mennonite Church were there in attendance at the graduation ceremony serving as "Godparents"  for some of the graduates. She sent me some photos that she took along with some commentary. This is what she wrote:

This event has been one of the most difficult to be able to take good photos, or even passable photos...

Everyone there interfered in the photos, either in front, behind or to the sides. They all wanted to pose for a shot or at least impede that the photo be taken without them.

Ok, in the end I managed to take a pair (yes, a pair) of normal shots. And here I leave you a few so that you can see little, or almost nothing of what went down.

Just look at the formality of the "President of the Community", worthy of admiration, especially for his age. 

Anuar with his Godmother dancing the Waltz 

Abel with his Godmother... 

 This photo was supposed to be of Abel and his mother but Naomi decided to invite herself at the last second.

Anuar with his Godfather, "The Dawg" 
(Girlfriend's brother, Rafael)

Lauro with his "Fairly Oddparents"
(as opposed to his Fairy Godparents)

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