December 2021

¡Feliz Navidad! I’d like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas coming up soon! May you have a blessed time celebrating our Lord’s birth.

November was a pretty hectic month for the Talita Cumi kids as they wrapped up their school year. Luckily, with all of the busyness, we were able to squeeze in a group shot of the children.
When the boys would finish with their homework, I would take them to the park to play soccer, basketball, and climb trees. The boys could burn off energy while the tías “aunties” who work at the home could have a couple of hours of quiet time to relax and prepare dinner.
The women and girls at the home threw a little celebration for the men and boys for International Men’s Day which falls on November 19. The aunties and some of the girls baked bread and had some very kind words to say about the men who serve and work at the home. It was a pleasure to receive their encouragement. 
While most of the children’s education is done virtually at Talita Cumi, a number of kids are able to take workshops and educational courses outside the home. At the local Christian university some of the children graduated from a workshop called “Strengthening Social Skills.” The kids were so thrilled with their achievement and we’re quite happy for them too. 
Please keep the children of Talita Cumi in your prayers in the coming weeks, that they can enjoy their time off from school and have a special time celebrating Christmas. Please keep Nicol in your prayers as well. She will be moving into Ruth’s House, the transition house for the young women of Talita Cumi, in mid-January.

I’ll have much more to share in the next update. Things will be quite festive and lively over the next few weeks.

May you have a blessed Christmas.

November 2021

I’d like to thank all of you who have been praying for Ruth’s House. Nicol’s transition from Talita Cumi to Ruth’s House will be in January. In the meantime, I’m excited to share with you a Ruth’s House video that you can watch. Feel free to share it with churches, friends, and family to raise awareness about the ministry and raise funds for Nicol and the future young women at the transition house.

Thank you for praying for my devotional times with Lider (16 years old) and Juan Pablo (14 years old). As I mentioned before, we are going through the book of Proverbs. We recently touched on Proverbs 6 and how we should be industrious and hardworking like ants who lay up provisions for the future. We also learned from Proverbs 9 what it means to fear the Lord and why fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.

Juan Pablo (far left) and Lider (second from left)

As many of you are aware, I taught English to university students at El Alfarero (The Potter) for about three years. I moved over to Talita Cumi and Ruth’s House full time in July. One of my former bosses at El Alfarero, Pavel, expressed his gratitude for my years of ministry and presented me with a beautiful plaque at the El Alfarero café. I’m thankful for his words of encouragement and I look forward to introducing the boys and girls of Talita Cumi who’ve turned 18 years old to the community at El Alfarero.

We’re expanding the silk screen printing shop at Talita Cumi and a group from a high school recently came and did some painting; for example, a large heart on a brick wall. Next month I’ll send along a picture of the completed print shop.

Please keep the children in your prayers as they near the end of their school year in late November and early December. The kids have been working very hard and could use a break. Please continue to pray for Ruth’s House and Nicol’s transition coming up.

Thank you.

Blessings,

Derek

October 2021

It’s been quite the eventful month since my return to Bolivia. The kids were excited to see me, and I’m delighted to begin this new chapter of ministry focusing exclusively on Talita Cumi and Ruth’s House.
 
At the children’s home I’ve started a new tradition of bringing the older boys Lider (16 years old) and Juan Pablo (14 years old) to my home for weekly devotions on Saturdays. Free from the distractions and noise at the children’s home, we’ve been able to dig into what it means to grow into a wise man of God. We’re making our way through the book of Proverbs, a book geared toward encouraging young men to be responsible, industrious, and fear the Lord. Please keep this special time of discipleship in your prayers.

Another special moment occurred a few weeks ago when I was able to visit Cristian who used to live at Talita Cumi, but ran away and consequently was placed in a new children’s home. Once you’re a part of the Talita Cumi family, you’re always a part of it, so we seek to make sure he’s taken care of in his new home and that he knows we still love him.

Ruth’s House, the transition house for girls aging out of Talita Cumi, is marching forward nicely. Nicol is on track to move out of Talita Cumi on December 1. She has been facing some challenges from her mother and other family members who have been pressuring her to move in with them. Needless to say, this would be a dangerous and tragic option, so we’ve been coaching Nicol on how to stay strong and continue with her plans to live at the transition house and pursue her education. Raquel, the guardian of Ruth’s House who will be living with Nicol, has been inviting her to her home for overnight visits so she can get used to the new surroundings. She has also included Nicol in ministry outreach in the countryside, which Nicol has really enjoyed. Thank you again to everyone who has been praying for Ruth’s House and for Nicol. Please continue to pray that she remains firm in her decision.

Recently I was able to get my Bolivian driver’s license and I hope to purchase a vehicle soon. This will give me more options to take the kids out on special trips and will help facilitate my work for Ruth’s House. This past Sunday I drove the younger boys to church in the Talita Cumi minivan. 

I’m grateful for your prayers and support. Blessings.
 
Grace be with you,
 
Derek

September 2021

I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to all of you that I saw and spoke to during my seven week stay in the United States. It was a pleasure spending time with so many of you, and I hope to return next summer for another visit.

Praise God, Ruth’s House, the transition house for young women aging out of Talita Cumi, is moving forward nicely. I’d like to thank all of you for listening to the needs of the new project and giving generously. The ministry is on firm financial footing for year one and the board of directors and I are finalizing our five year budget projections and plans for the future. We estimate that we’ll need to raise about $108,000 to provide a home for nine girls over the next five years. If you would like to help contribute toward that goal, please visit our website.

Nicol, the first girl who will participate in Ruth’s House, recently spent one night at the guardian Raquel’s apartment to get accustomed to what the permanent change will be like come December. Raquel said that Nicol felt awkward at first, but then warmed up and engaged in conversation with others. I believe that this is a good sign of things to come.

I’d like to thank every individual, life group, and church that invited me to speak about Ruth’s House and Talita Cumi. It was a joy to see all of you and I’m thankful to God for your donations and prayers.

Please keep the following prayer requests in mind:

1. Inocencia (the director of Talita Cumi), Raquel, Nicol and I need your prayers as we work together to launch Ruth’s House by this December. One of the next major agenda items is to find a place for Raquel and Nicol to live.

2. Please lift up the children of Talita Cumi. I will be returning to the children’s home soon (I’ve had to quarantine for 10 days per COVID protocol). I’m excited to disciple the older boys and share Jesus with the younger ones as well. May the Holy Spirit bring healing and salvation to the children.

I spoke at many life groups.
I spoke at The Bridge and Nueva Vida. Alex Rivero prayed over me.
I also spoke at Gold Coast Christian Church with Tim Kanter.

Grace be with you,

Derek

August 2021

It has been a pleasure to be back in the United States, sharing with many of you about the transition house we are launching to disciple and accompany the young women who have aged out of the Talita Cumi children’s home.

I’d like to thank all of you who have expressed interest in helping to see this new ministry flourish. Since my arrival in California a few weeks ago, there have been some exciting developments.

First and foremost, we have officially launched the Ruth’s House website where you can gather more information and donate via check or PayPal. All of the Ruth’s House team are either volunteers or missionaries with raised support. That means that 100% of the donations go to support Nicol (the first participant who will transition from Talita Cumi to Ruth’s House this December) and the future girls who will age out in the coming years.

If you would like to partner with us in this mission, please visit our website at TheHouseOfRuth.com to learn more and donate via PayPal.

Or make out a check for “Ruth’s House” and mail to:

861 Paseo Tosamar
Camarillo, CA
93012

The children of The Bridge and Nueva Vida have been collecting offerings for Ruth’s House for a few months now.

I’ve also been sharing with numerous life groups. This one has members from The Bridge and Nueva Vida.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about the transition house, please respond to this email. I’m in the U.S. until August 24 and I’d be happy to meet with you.

Thank you.

Grace be with you,

Derek

July 2021

I am making my way to California to spend seven weeks with family, friends, church, and supporters. I’m interested in seeing as many people as possible, and I have an important request for all of you.

As you are aware, I am launching a new ministry called Ruth’s House that will help young women 18 years of age who are transitioning out of the children’s home Talita Cumi. Ruth’s House will guide these young women into a life of spiritual and financial independence and provide the necessary resources to attend a university or institute. I’m hoping to share this vision with as many people as possible: either individually, at church, or most especially in small groups like Bible study groups. If this is a possibility for you, please respond to this email and let me know. I’d love to speak with you.

Praise God, the board of directors of Ruth’s House has already approved the live in guardian for the ministry. Raquel is a Spanish missionary who has lived in Bolivia since 2014 and has played a crucial role as a volunteer at Talita Cumi since 2018. She is trained in Christian counseling with a special emphasis on girls who have been the victims of sexual abuse. She personally knows all of the girls of Talita Cumi, an invaluable strong point that will help make their transition from Talita Cumi to Ruth’s House a smooth one.

The first girl who will live in Ruth’s House with Raquel is Nicol. Nicol just turned 18 years old on July 4th, so by law she needs to move out of Talita Cumi by December of this year. Nicol is a friendly, independent-minded young woman who loves art, enjoys drawing, and is currently taking a party decoration course at an institute. Nicol is behind in her studies, so her main educational goal for 2022 will be to finish high school.

Nicol (18 years old)

We are nearing the point of launching our website for Ruth’s House. I will let you know once it is up and running for those of you who would like to learn more and donate if you feel led.

I see the Lord’s hand guiding this process and I am grateful for your prayers. I look forward to seeing you in the States.

Please contact me if I can share with you, your Bible study, or someone you know.

Thank you.

June 2021

I’m pleased to announce that plans for the transition house are progressing nicely. Last month the ministry was approved by the state of California as a non-profit organization. The official name of the ministry is “La Casa de Rut,” or in English, “Ruth’s House.” 

I chose the name Ruth’s House because it evokes themes of love, dedication, accompaniment, and worshiping God in unity. Ruth told Naomi: “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) Ruth’s House will not only offer a physical place for the young women from Talita Cumi to sleep and eat, but a home where they will be guided spiritually, emotionally, and relationally as they pursue their educational goals. This guidance will be done by a live-in guardian based on the Titus 2 model of an older, mature Christian woman guiding younger women.

A board of directors for Ruth’s House has been formed which includes me and:

Alex Rivero: Executive Pastor at Nueva Vida/The Bridge. Nueva Vida is my sending church.

Amber Schlosser: Director of Development for My Refuge House, an organization that restores survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and abuse in the Philippines. I used to work with Amber at Salem Media Group.

Gretchen Wagner: Missionary who served 40+ years reaching the unreached in Cochabamba, Bolivia and South Asia.

Jennifer Fowler: U.S. Board Member of Talita Cumi, and my mother.

Warren Nelson: Vice President of Pacific Southwest Association of The Gideons.

I am excited with the team that will be leading Ruth’s House through the initial launch and hopefully for years to come. Each one brings a distinct God-given skill set that will serve the young women and the ministry well. 

Please pray over three very important decisions that must be made regarding Ruth’s House. The first is a place for the young women to live. I am hoping to find a place close to Talita Cumi.

The second is the raising of funds. I’m thankful for those of you who reached out to me after my last newsletter expressing an interest in donating. This month we should have everything in place to begin receiving donations. I will let everyone know once that component is up and running.

The third prayer request is for the live-in guardian. I believe that this is the most crucial part of the entire ministry, so please pray for wisdom and discernment as the board and I seek to find a woman to guide the girls.

I’d also like to ask for your help in the immediate. I need someone who would be willing to volunteer his or her time this month to help me launch a website for Ruth’s House. I already have the domain name reserved and a significant amount of the content, but I need someone who has expertise in WordPress to help me create a professionally polished website. If this is something that you can do, please respond to this email. Thank you.

We’ve had a number of exciting days at Talita Cumi. I’ll leave you with a few of the highlights: 

We recently had a garage sale that featured baked bread products, chocolates, and drinks, and also arts and crafts like bracelets, purses, pillows, and necklaces, and items like coffee cups, water bottles, and t-shirts from our new silk screen printing workshop. All profits go to each child’s personal account. 

A fellow missionary and I treated some of the older girls out to a coffee shop with its own art gallery. The girls loved it.

I treated a few kids to ice cream in celebration of our first place win in a competition.

Thank you for your prayers. I will be returning to the U.S. in July for a visit. I realize that COVID might be a complicating factor, but I’d love to see as many of you as possible.

May 2021

I would like to bring you up to date on a very new and thrilling ministry development.
 
Approximately a year and a half ago the Lord opened my eyes to a serious, unaddressed need in the lives of the children at Talita Cumi: those who age out of the children’s home at 18 years old lack a comprehensive transition plan. Returning to their families is not an option and few foster families are willing to take them in. We struggle nearly every year to find a safe and loving home for the children to live. As a consequence, too many children leave Talita Cumi (and children’s homes in general) and lack firm spiritual, emotional, and financial support to survive in the real world. Too many of these young adults make poor decisions that perpetuate their poverty and put them back into abusive relationships. The Lord placed this burden on my heart.
 
After careful consideration, prayer, and conversation with my close confidants, pastor, and ministry partners, I’ve decided to launch a new ministry that will provide a transition house for girls who are leaving Talita Cumi. Starting in 2022, eight girls will leave the home over a five-year period.
 
My mission is to provide a safe and loving home for young women who have graduated from Talita Cumi and guide them in Jesus Christ to become spiritually, emotionally, and financially self-sufficient and independent while they pursue their educational, relational, and career-related goals.
 
It is my sincere hope and prayer that those of you who are supporting me with offerings and prayer will join me on this new journey. You are the body of Christ to me, and without your partnership I would not be able to launch and sustain this project.
 
This coming July I will step down from my responsibilities at El Alfarero (where I teach English) and I will be serving more actively at Talita Cumi while working to launch the new ministry. This project involves several parts, and I have a few key prayer requests that I’d like to share with you:
 
1. I am currently applying for a non-profit 501c3 designation in the United States so that I can start to raise funds for the project. Please pray that this paperwork process goes smoothly and quickly.
 
2. Please pray that we can find a house to rent close to Talita Cumi.
 
3. Please pray for a Christian woman or family who will feel led to live with the girls and love them as their own daughters.
 
I’ve been asked about whether a transition house is in the works for the boys. At this point, no, because there are far fewer older boys at the home than girls and the oldest boy at the home now doesn’t turn 18 until late 2023.
 
Thank you for your partnership and helping to make this moment possible. I look forward to sharing new details with you as the process unfolds.
 
Blessings and grace be with you,
 
Derek

The children made a sign and cards for me for my birthday.
A few of the children are learning how to use Adobe Premiere in our new serigraphy (silk printing) room. The children will learn how to print logos on items like coffee cups and t-shirts.
It has been raining a lot lately.

April 2021

The biggest news of March was the 20th anniversary of Talita Cumi. It was a delightful night full of worship songs, special messages from children and adults, a skit, a dance, and a quartet from the children, and people from the U.S. joined us via Zoom. One of the most pleasant reflection points was considering how many people, by the grace of God, have given so much to the home in its 20 years: the numerous aunties, directors, volunteers, short term missionary groups, long term missionaries, board members, donors and prayer warriors. Talita Cumi exists by God’s mercy and it was astonishing to consider how collaborative the effort has been. My sense of the home now is that it is on track for more profound spiritual growth for the children and more exciting educational opportunities as well. For example, the home recently built a serigraphy room for the children where they can learn and develop the skill of silk screen printing: putting logos on hats, t-shirts, and coffee cups.

The children continue to learn by Zoom, and are receiving a burdensome amount of homework. Fortunately, we’ve been able to take them on trips to the river and the park on the weekends so they can run around, explore, and enjoy nature.

My ministries at El Alfarero (The Potter) continue to march forward virtually. I’m currently team-teaching a course called “Transformational Discipleship.” It’s a two-month course that I teach every year. It focuses on what it means to be a disciple of Christ and how to disciple others. It also includes a rigorous, inductive study of 1 Thessalonians, which is one of my favorite components of the class.  

In the spirit of the 20th anniversary celebration, I’d like to thank all of you who continue to pray and support the children’s home. Thank you, and grace be with you.

March 2021

February was a month of settling back into a more normal routine. 

As I mentioned before, El Alfarero has launched a missionary school called Ayla that equips Latin Americans for the missions field. As a part of the students’ education, they are required to take English classes. I’m currently teaching six students who recently finished their first of five modules. I am pleased with their grammatical advancement, but I’m even more glad for their deepening spiritual formation. I asked the students to reflect upon how the biblical sections in the English curriculum have changed their walk with the Lord thus far. Here are a couple of responses:

“My relationship with God has diversified because now I try to understand his Word in another language, but I want to continue to feel in my heart the same sense that I have when I read it in my native language. Biblical texts have been key because I delight in reflecting on the message they present about Jesus and the attributes of Our Father.” (Cindy from Columbia)

“I thank God for this ministry that not only deals with the intellectual part, but is also reflective on the spiritual part, incorporating verses in its teaching. One of the passages that touched me the most is that of Psalm 1 because I want to continue to be a blessing for others, my family, and the pastors and missionaries that we support.” (Yvan from Bolivia)

The children at Talita Cumi are in full school mode. Most of their schooling is via Zoom and they work on their homework in the afternoon with on site educators. Their education spans from English and French to mathematics and natural science. Some of the girls are going to a nearby institute to learn the art of tailoring, like Ana in the photo below.

My time with the older boys has grown and intensified, not just through extracurricular activities like sports, work outs, and shared meals around the dinner table, but also through devotionals, mentorship, and other intentional one on one chats. I find that one of the greatest struggles the boys have is knowing how essential a relationship with Jesus is to their lives in the here and now. There are numerous frustrating moments, but also miraculous breakthroughs.

For example, a nine-year-old boy recently shared with me how sad he is about the death of his mother. He told me that when he’s sad, he prays to God. I prayed for him and reminded him of Jesus’ love. A 13-year-old boy recently insulted one of the younger boys in a most destructive way, but then of his own accord sought forgiveness not only from the boy he hurt, but also from others at the home. These unexpected heart inclinations of seeking help from God in prayer and seeking reconciliation through forgiveness remind me that the advancement of the kingdom of God is often invisible to our eyes and so often blessedly inexplicable: “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.” (Mark 4:26-27) 

Please continue to pray for my English students’ language studies and that one day they would proclaim the gospel with all conviction and boldness in other areas of the world. Please pray for the salvation of the children and that all of the workers and I at the home would be given spiritual wisdom and boundless patience to love the children.