Roman is a cute “little” 13 year old boy who is learning first grade material. Unlike many of our students, he does not have a discernable handicap, other then the environment in which he was grown up. Dad works in the fields, Mom has some cognitive problems herself, and for some unknown reason, the family just never got around to sending him to school until last year, when he was 12. At that age, he didn’t stand a chance in a public school, so was accepted at New Life.
During 2012, Roman was in a classroom with much younger children--appropriate to a first grade class. He was such a behavior problem that the administration was considering asking him not to return to school in January (almost unheard of at Nueva Vida).
Judy Kerschner, the administrator, and Marisol, the director of the school and I discussed this, and we decided to see what would happen if Roman only came to school when I was there to work with him. He would earn the privilege of coming for breakfast and going to recreo (recess) with the other kids. Not an ideal solution, but surely better than not going to school at all.
We were uncertain how his family would respond to this plan, but they agreed. In fact, Dad even brought him to school the first day and explained to me they would not have the money to buy his school supplies until the following week. Could he come to school anyway? (Of course!)
Well, Roman has proven to be quite the math whiz, mastering both the concepts of addition and subtraction. He is learning to read using both phonics and sight words, and is so proud of being able to read even simple sentences like the one he is showing off in the picture above. (It translates: “The strawberry is red.”)
His behavior continues to be a challenge at times. Given his small stature (even by Guatemalan standards), it’s sometimes hard to remember that he is thirteen. I remember my own sons being somewhat a challenge at this age, and in some ways what he does is “typical” teenage limit testing. Unfortunately, he still is in a school with much younger children who can be negatively impacted by his misbehavior. Pray we can help him learn some self-regulations skills.
I was very concerned about what would happen while I was in the States. Brian Taylor, a young man from California who is volunteering at the school, is working individually with the kids while I am gone. He struggles with Roman, though, and I wasn’t sure how things would go. (Not a criticism of Brian in any way—he just hasn’t developed the “mean teacher voice” I have cultivated over the years!)
The week before I left, Roman’s dad came to school. Roman had been absent the previous week, and I had just talked to the director about sending someone out to check on him. As it happened, Roman had to have his appendix removed, and would be out of school for about a month—returning about the same time I will. Am I glad he had surgery? Of course not. But I am thankful that God timed his need for surgery as He did. I look forward to having him back. (I’ve always loved working with the “bad boys.”)
Please pray for his speedy healing, and especially that he will not contract any post-operative infections. These are all too common in the unsanitary living conditions of the poor in Guatemala.
What does the future hold for Roman? I don’t know. I imagine he’ll work in the fields like most of the men from Santa Maria do. But he will be able to read, write, and do basic math. Hopefully this will prevent him from being taken advantage of by those who prey upon the limited skills of the rural people and exploit them financially. Maybe this will help him learn to value education, so he will not wait until they are twelve to send his own children to school.
Most importantly, though, he is learning about a Father who created him deliberately and has a purpose for his life. He is hearing of the Son who came to save him from himself, and the Holy Spirit who can empower him to be the kind of man he was created to be. And he knows They love him, because he sees this love in action within the walls of the school each day. If you ask me, that’s more than enough.