Making disciples in our homeschool

It has been ages since my last post.  Despite my long silence, God has been busy at work…in my life, my husband’s, in the lives of my children…and I am sure in yours. There is actually much to write about and share and record.

This fall, I am left with three (out of 5) children to homeschool.  Although I have shared the joy of seeing two children accepted into a university after years of homeschooling, I have yet to share what it’s actually been like and how they’re actually doing.

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Suffice it to say the girls are doing quite well adjusting to the demands of university.  Midterms were just over and my oldest shared with me how she didn’t have a midterm exam (total of 4 math and computer science courses) that she didn’t enjoy writing.  She was telling me how she’s considering adding a classics minor to her comp sci major since she missed having arts classes and she already had 6 credits of Greek from last year. My second daughter who is more emotional was all stressed during midterms. She’s been texting me her exam results recently and I don’t believe she’s shared any grade lower than an ‘A-‘ yet. She was also very ecstatic to share that she got an ‘A’ in her very first major paper. She told me while she was working on this paper (on democracy) that she had no idea what she was writing about. For children I hardly assigned grades to as we avoided grades as much as we could in our homeschool, these girls still can be grade conscious!

But I’m not really here to share how they’ve been doing academically. Even while their dad reminds them they’re in ‘uni’ primarily to study, oldest reminds him they are followers of Jesus first. Here’s a short testimony oldest shared after one term as a freshman last year:

When Dad first asked me to share something about how I’ve seen God at work these past four months, I couldn’t help but laugh a little. It’s only been one term, but I feel there are so many things to share, so many stories to tell that it’s hard to know where to start. But if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that in these past four months, God has shown himself to be a most wonderfully faithful God.

In the summer before I left for Montreal, there were three prayers in my heart.

The first one was a prayer for His guidance and protection.

Most of you know that I was homeschooled before starting at McGill. I was very sheltered. I was used to being at home with my family 24/7. I wasn’t used to hearing foul language on a daily basis or seeing people my age drunk in the streets late at night, barely able to get back to their dorm rooms by themselves. Back then, I’d get nervous ordering something for McDonald’s or taking public transit. I’d find it exhausting if I went out – I preferred to stay at home with my brothers and sisters.

And now I was moving across the country on my own to a city I’d never visited, to study in a school known internationally for both its high standards and its parties. I was talking to my grandmother in the Philippines over Skype on Christmas day, and it’s funny because she admitted to me (with much laughing) that before I had left for Montreal, she had told my dad to buy a roundtrip ticket; she didn’t expect me to last. She told me that she was so pleased with how I had done. All I could say in reply was that God was faithful.

Every single day I was away from home, I knew His eyes were on me and His arms were around me. He kept me safe walking home at night in downtown Montreal, He gave me wisdom in learning to fend for myself as I did my own chores and cooking and grocery-shopping, and most of all, He gave me peace. I remember during my first week, I came home late one night to find the house filled with people partying, obnoxious foul music blasting from stereos in the living room (which I lived just next to), and the smell of alcohol permeating through the house. I remember making a beeline to my room and locking my door. For the first five minutes, I felt pretty terrified and lost. And then right there and then, I went on my knees and asked God for protection. As soon as I did that, a wonderful, glorious feeling of peace warmed me from tip to toe, and I slept soundly that night even with some people banging on my door from time to time and with some amount of sadness in my heart as I felt for the people right outside my room who did not have the peace I had, who were empty, and who were thus trying to lose themselves in alchohol in order to forget their emptiness. I remember saying a prayer for all of them before falling asleep.

My second prayer was one for Christian community.

Even before I left for Montreal, I knew that I was exchanging my close-knit community of family and church family for a larger, much more secular one. I knew Montreal, a city so full of students who are in turn full of ideas, to be a city of art, culture, politics, and high-brow intellectualism – in other words, a very humanistic city. I was excited to engage this culture, but I was also nervous to find fellow Christians who would keep me grounded, who would do life with me as followers of Christ in the city of Montreal, who would pray for me, encourage me, exhort me, rebuke me if need be.

God answered my prayer by allowing me to join one of the student minstries on campus and leading me to a wonderful church to become a part of. I cannot begin to explain how the people I’ve met through Power to Change and through People’s Church have blessed me. Throughout the four months, these people showed me Christ’s love and joy in small and big ways. I joined a small group of seven girls – every week we’d meet, and over tea, we’d share how the Lord had been at work in the past week, we’d study scripture together, we’d pray together, and most of all we’d prepare for the next week – we would ready our hearts and minds and pray that we would bring glory to our Lord in the next few days, that our lives in the next week as we attended classes and interacted with fellow students would be a pleasant aroma to Him. And it didn’t stop there. Throughout out the week, I’d meet up with these girls – we’d check up on each other, asking how we can pray for each other and for any of the particular people, non-believers, that we were hoping to share Christ’s love with.

As girls who were experiencing God’s love and grace every day as we navigated the first term of our first year of university, we were so excited to share this love with others. Christ’s love was so important to us; it was the one thing we clung to in the face of so much unfamilarity, so much uncertainty, not to mention so much stress (especially during exam season). It was Christ’s work on the cross that buoyed us up and gave us joy and peace despite everything, and we wanted so very much to share this with our friends and classmates whom we saw were using either alchohol, good grades, or (most oftenly found) a combination of both to fill up the emptiness in their lives. I’ve seen a drunk classmate barely able to walk and yell proudly “I’ve had five shots and I’m still standing!” I’ve seen a sleep-deprived classmate who’s worked herself off for the past few months get her midterm mark and I’ve seen it eat into her and make her consider hurting herself or worse. And my heart has gone out to these people (so many of them), crying out “God loves you. He loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you a terrible death on a cross.

And finally, I come to my last prayer. My last prayer in the summer before I left went something like this: “Lord, I have no idea what the next four months will look like. But please use them to draw me closer to You, to experience You anew, to know You more intimately.” And this is what He did. He did it by answering my first two prayers, by showing me that He is a God who protects and guides, who I can rely on and trust completely. He showed me that He is a God who gives love and joy to His people so that His people can share His love and joy to other people. And finally, He taught me that He is a God worth pursuing. In fact, He is the only thing worth pursuing. He is the only thing that can fill us – no amount of partying or drinking or even good marks or a degree or a high-paying job can fill us. God, in all His glorious love for us, (He an infinite Being who loves and cares for us limited, fallen beings), He is the only One who deserves our lives. To God be all the Glory.

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discipleship group

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power to change family

When she came home in May after her freshman year, oldest had it in mind to volunteer at a summer Christian camp in Northern BC with some good friends from school.  My husband was hesitant after her already being away from us for so long.  He suggested she find a summer job to help pay for her upcoming tuition.  I knew she somewhat had her heart set on the camp but advised her to listen to her dad; the Lord would make it clear if He wanted her to go to camp as she honoured His desire to obey her dad. So she spent time job-hunting that first month of her summer break.  An interview to work under an IT manager in a marine research centre in the Vancouver Island got her excited. Unfortunately, a more experienced candidate who didn’t need to be trained ended up with the internship. The odd jobs in the area had either strange work hours or were too far away that commuting would just eat up her day’s wages.  By June, the Lord had changed her dad’s heart and she was on a 19-hour bus ride to Northern BC.

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Here are portions of her email updates while she was away at camp for 8 weeks:

…As for me, I am learning so much here at camp and feeling generally useful and happy (spending May at home with family was wonderful, but I was getting pretty restless as I may have mentioned in a previous email). A lot of the staff here did some bible school, and I have never met so many young people who know the Bible sooooo well. It is absolutely mind-blowing. And so I’ve become inspired to study the Bible more AND live it out! The community here is very tight-knit; we live so closely with each other, and because things can get very stressful and tense, I’m learning how important it is to rely on God’s love and grace even while living with fellow Christians…

…Ministry-wise there is so much to tell that I can’t narrow it down. But if there’s one way I can express it…I was reading a psalm recently that started by simply rejoicing about all the works God had done (“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.” Psalm 9:1-2). I’ve read similar verses like that before (I’d read that same psalm in previous devotions), but this time as I read it, all the different ways I’d seen God at work in the hearts of campers came flooding into my head. It was such a timely thing, since I was at a low point when I was feeling tired and empty. And then sometime during the week, I see God’s hand and it’s amaaaazing and I realize why I’m here at camp!

I had a very similar conversation at the end of this week with —-  who’s one of the younger volunteers… he told me of how he’d had a point in the middle of the week where he was asking himself what in the world he was doing here at camp when he was just mostly doing dishes and cleaning bathrooms and shadowing difficult kids (to prevent bullying, etc.). And then he told me of how he’d seen God at work in the heart of his particularly troublesome camper on the very last day of the week. He had such a huge grin on his face and he said simply, ‘That’s my God!’

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It was very encouraging for our family to witness how the Lord used this time to continue His work in our daughter’s heart. We are thankful for how He has raised Christians everywhere to join Him in his kingdom work. I happened to receive a thank you note from the camp director for our daughter when she was already away and what he wrote there really made an impression on me,

In a way it is strange to thank you for work that You and I are both commanded to do. “Feed my sheep.” “Tell the story.” “Let your light shine before men.” But I have also been blessed by your presence at camp this summer – each of you.

My prayer for you is that you are continuing in the things you have learned, and that you are growing in grace and love. Remember always that the Scripture is not just religious words. It is spiritual food, for your spirit and soul. And according to Paul, the purpose of all Scripture is “that the man of God may be complete (perfect, entire, wanting nothing), thoroughly equipped (completely trained and ready) for every good work (2 Tim 3:17).

It was not an easy decision for us to send our daughters across the country when they could continue to be with us during their college years. My husband especially struggled with this.  But the Lord spoke to him through Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Our children are the Lord’s. And in Matthew 28:18-20, he commands and assures us at the same time. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” 

And when we had a quiet send off for the two girls with some special friends, our dear brother family friend prayed this way,

As we send you, we anoint you both with the Spirit of the Lord so you both will go in confidence that God goes with you and ahead of you. And when God calls He will fill you with wisdom and understanding how best to use your gifts for the needs of the people around you. As you both have blessed our community, go and bless the people of Montreal. Don’t hide your light and gifts under a bowl but let them shine in Montreal that people may see God’s good works and glorify your Father in heaven. 

This is why we homeschooled.  This is it!  It is tempting for me to keep our children like little nice projects I’ve been working on or hold on to them like trophies on a display shelf for all to see. But that is not really what it is all about. I get caught up with the piles and packages of curricula, the best ideas and philosophies for educating, the glossy pictures of our little activities and projects, our pretty organised school rooms.  None of these are inherently wrong. As parents, we only want the best for our children. And in all our good intentions, we desire to find what best suits their needs as we teach them at home so we can help them discover the gifts God has bestowed on them.  And as the Lord created us intelligent beings as Adam, we long to understand, to know, to think, to discover, to judge, to learn, even to create in our homeschool. But may we do all these while constantly gazing on the One who holds our very being and who, indeed, owns ALL.  May we not lose sight of His call to us because it has always been quite simple:  to go and make disciples (our children first) and to not only teach them Jesus’ commands but actually to teach them to obey what Jesus commands (and we all know that requires we model that with lives surrendered to Him). And His promise is that He will be with us.  As my daughter shared,  He was with her in her first year at university. He was with her during summer camp.

And He has been real to both our girls daily as they began school this fall.

Older daughter writes:

…Have been really humbled recently. Since stepping into an official student leader role this year, I’ve spent the past few weeks really testing my heart and trying to discern my motives behind everything I do (school and ministry). It’s crazy how much God has taught me as I’ve looked into His Word, prayed, started meeting up with my discipler again, and discussed ministry, discipleship, and leadership with good friends. I found some pretty nasty things in my heart at the beginning when I did a heart scan, but my true desire is that my life and my ministry will be pleasing to God and glorifying to Him. And so I’ve been asking Him to mold my heart into one more like His, and He’s been faithful in doing so day by day!

…It came to the point that I said to myself that there’s no point in serving/doing ministry if it was my glory that I was seeking and not my King’s. And as I’ve realised that, I’ve started to ask Him for wisdom as I do serve.  My discipler asked me how I wanted to grow this year through our discipleship sessions.  Last year, I had said apologetics which has been so useful in discussing with non-Christians.  As I focus on discipling the first year girls in my group, I want to take a look at how Jesus himself did ministry, how He discipled, and how He made all of it a way of life!

Younger daughter asks for prayers:

Also, I’ve sent my testimony to CU20 for evaluation to see if I can join the worship team, and I’ve decided I want to attend more of the P2C international student meetings. Most of the students are Chinese, and many do not believe in the afterlife or in Jesus, even through they’ve been coming to P2C IS for years now. The leaders of the ministry are sometimes discouraged with the lack of fruit in their work. Please pray for encouragement and always, always, the right perspective that this is for God, and not for us.  He wants these people to come to Him even more than we do, all in His timing and in His way. So please pray that we will never forget the glory of the Gospel, that the joy of knowing Christ would bubble over into serving Him and sharing His news with the people around us.

About a month ago, both daughters had the opportunity to join the Power to Change fall retreat in Ontario.  Oldest was requested to share a short testimony to some 300 students from 5 different universities in the east coast.

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Her younger sister got to video the 4-minute testimony and shared it with us.

I thank the Lord for how He has, indeed, chosen us to be part of His work here and now…and how He has used our obscure, struggle-filled homeschooling as a place to nurture true disciples for His kingdom. It is always scary to be His follower (just look at what happened to his first disciples) but as my daughter says, He, for all he’s done for us, is the only one worth pursuing. Only He deserves our lives.

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4 comments

  1. Virgie N. Gula

    Hi Winnie! Thanks for sharing. Reading your thoughts and stories always encourages me. I always end up thanking God for His enabling presence and work in you all! He walks alongside you and your beautiful family in a manner He does best — active, fun, faithful, very personal, encouraging, equipping, and much more!

    You and Benjie have trained / are training your children well. God bless you immensely!

  2. Toni

    So encouraging and inspiring… thank you, Winnie.

  3. Winnie

    Thanks, Toni. I know the same Lord at work here in BC and MTL is also at work there in AB! Special we can see a glimpse of that in the lives of our children…and those the Lord brings our way that we have the opportunity to point to HIm.

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