Backup. [Jan ’15 Support Update]

I’ve sat down six times in the last two weeks to write what I knew needed to be written– this. My semi-annual support update. And yet each time I’ve deleted my words and walked away from my computer feeling defeated.

This update has been tougher to write than most.

By this time in the school year, I wanted to be able to write beautiful stories about all of the great things God is doing in the school right now. I wanted to write you and say that students are coming to know the Lord in droves, that they are making wise choices, and that they’re all working furiously to finish their high school educations… but unfortunately that’s not where we are right now.

The state of the school is difficult to put into words. In fact, the only metaphor that I can use to explain what’s happening within these walls is to say that we are walking onto a battle field every morning… No. Actually we’re in the middle of a full scale war.

Last semester was heart breaking. I watched as students walked away from God, throwing classroom doors through walls on their way out.

I listened as my co-workers sat across from me, crying out to God, begging Him to please give us a bit of relief from the onslaught of spiritual and emotional attacks we were experiencing.

I cleaned up shards of glass and furniture that was broken and wiped a student’s blood off of a concrete wall.

I stood frozen in time at a student’s candle light vigil and watched as bandanas were pulled over faces and war cries were made to avenge Johnny’s death.

These images and sensations washed over me every time I pulled out my laptop and tried to explain what I am doing in these walls everyday.

But to be entirely honest, on most days I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.

I feel unqualified. Confused. Weak. Ineffective. Exhausted.

I feel like we’re losing battle after battle and somedays, when my faith falters, I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to lose the war too…

But yesterday God reminded me that it’s not what I’m doing within these walls that matters– It’s what He’s doing. And even though I may not always see it in the midst of the fight, He is doing great things.

Yesterday when I walked into our Thursday afternoon staff meeting, one of my students was sitting in my usual spot. No one else in the room seemed phased by the fact that Raul* was joining us, so I pulled out a chair and took a seat.

“Now that you’re all here, I want to tell you something.” He proceeded as soon as I sat down. Thinking he was joking around, the majority of our staff let out a little giggle. “God’s been talking to me.” He said, unphased by the laughter.

Confused, I glanced over at my principal whose eyes were fixed on the small 18 year old boy next to me.

“He’s been saying things… Telling me that I need to talk to the kids in this school and show them that they can stop doing what they’re doing.

I get it; I used to be just like them. They don’t care if they do their homework. They don’t care if they hurt people. They don’t have anything to lose. But God has been telling me that I need to tell them my story. The story of how He saved me from myself. “

As the words came out of his mouth, I sat there stunned, mentally cataloging the change I’ve seen in him over the last two and half years– specifically since he gave his life to Christ the summer before last.


This is the kid who threw his binder at my head his first year and came to cooking class kicking and screaming. (Literally.) The kid who tried to throw a computer at me when he got frustrated by his writing project. Wait, wait, wait… The same kid who literally had to be carried out of my classroom IN HIS CHAIR because he refused to leave the room when I tried to send him to the principal for threatening another student. The kid who has probably made me lock myself in my classroom and cry more than anyone else in my teaching career.

Yes, this was the kid sitting next to me, telling my peers and I that God had changed him and that he wanted others to experience that kind of change.

I could hardly believe it.

Yet there he sat, requesting a day in chapel to speak to his peers.

“I know you guys have had it hard lately.” He continued. “I don’t say much and neither do you, but I can see it in your eyes. You’re tired and hurt and need backup. And God has called me to back you guys up– to shine light into this school through the trials and tribulations He’s brought me through. So if you need me to set someone straight, let me know. God’s given me a pretty good story and I’ve got your backs.”

As he slumped back in his chair and carefully folded his hands on the table in front of him, he started to get blurry.

Per usual, tears were welling up in my eyes– but for the first time in a long time they were tears of joy and relief, not of sadness or fear.

I could tell you a million different stories about Raul’s time at DSS, but the thing that struck me the hardest (other than the obvious calling that God has put on his life) was the fluidity with which he spoke.

Three years ago, Raul came to us as a 15 year old with a second grade reading level. He struggled to communicate basic ideas, and yet there he was next to me using the word “tribulation”… in the right context… in a complete thought… that actually made sense…

That, in itself is a miracle.

Not only is God working in my kids’ lives spiritually by drawing them to Himself, but He is working miracles through the rigorous, individualized academics provided within our walls. And that is why I continue to walk onto the battle field everyday.

Thank you to everyone who continues to support my students and I as we engage in this crazy fight. Sometimes it’s dark and difficult, but the fruit is always beautiful.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can get involved at the Street School through prayer or volunteer work, feel free to shoot me an email at and I will gladly get you in the loop.

Or if you feel called to partner with me financially as I continue to walk in faith and raise a chunk of my own salary, you can do so by clicking here and simply writing Leyba Support in the comment section.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for making life change possible.


*Students name has been changed to protect their identity.

Butterfly season

I seriously believe that every person who has been in ministry work for a while has had the “I quit” moment.

This moment comes when our work begins to feel pointless: So-and-so relapsed back into drugs. That kid got thrown into jail. My favorite woman at the shelter decided to run back to her abusive husband. The orphan I had been nurturing back to health for months died in my arms. These are all real stories that I’ve heard come from the mouths of my friends in ministry, and regardless of your ministry platform, I can guarantee that if you’ve seen these things, or things of that nature, that you’ve had that I quit moment.

Serenity is the 21 year old house mother at a home for women trying to escape homelessness, drug addiction, and domestic violence in Oklahoma. She spoke about her experience last weekend at Nomads saying,

I’ve had women break my heart. In fact, the first woman that I took into the house was also my first heartbreak when she chose to prematurely leave the program and return to life on the streets. I wanted to quit then, but I continued on. A few weeks later, I had a woman pull me into an alley and dig into every insecurity that I’ve ever felt. You’re too young to do this. You think you can run a home? You couldn’t even finish college. You’re stupid. You’re worthless. You’re… You’re… You’re… That day is the day that I tried to quit. I got into my car and instead of driving back to the [mission agency] headquarters, I started driving to Arkansas, where I’m from.

But as I was driving, it hit me. I was leaving everything and going to nothing. I had sold everything I owned. There was nothing left in Arkansas for me. My home was here now. My support system was here. And so I turned around and drove to my friend’s house at the headquarters, sat on his sofa, and cried for the afternoon. Eventually my ‘I quit’ turned into ‘I quit for the day. I don’t quit, but I can’t go back today.’

You see, I can’t quit. I can’t go back to living my old life. I am broken for these women now and there is nothing that could ever fill my heart like the calling that God has given me to live in this home with these women, even when they break me in turn.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had my fair share of “I quit” moments. Things around the school seem exponentially more difficult than they have during any other fourth quarter I’ve ever seen. And I know that it’s spiritual warfare.

As a staff we are intentionally praying for and with our kids more. More of our kids have come to know Christ than I’ve ever seen in one school year and even more still have begun to seek Him. Students are asking for Bibles to read at home and asking to attend church with us.

These kids are thirsty for God.

And in turn, the devil is pissed.

It’s not something that I can put into words, but I can feel it in the depths of my soul whenever the ish hits the fan.

Part of our jobs is to be close with our students. And I’m not talking “I know each of your academic goals and reading level” close, but the kind of close that happens when you get crying phone calls at 2 am from a teenager and end up on their sofa eating Popsicles and processing life together.

My kids are my life and in turn, they know about my life.

They know my insecurities and weak places. They know where I struggle and stumble, and therefore they know just where to stab me when they are angry.

Because of this, I’ve gotten fairly wounded by the ones that I love as of late. I’ve spend my fair share of time crying in the hallway or in my coworkers’ classrooms.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that my students are the ones attacking me; to be honest, I don’t think they mean to hurt me. But I know the enemy does.

And so with every stab wound, he throws in some salt– the same salt every time. No one likes you. You’re stupid. You’re a b****. How did you get to be a teacher? You’re worthless. You’re too young to do this. God? He’s not using you for anything. You should just give up.

Last Thursday, as I sat in my empty classroom after school and sobbed, I was close to giving up and letting the darkness win. But God has created me to be far too stubborn for that nonsense.

So instead, I quit for the day and after work I bought a floppy sun hat, a pair of gardening gloves, a shovel, and absolutely went to town on weeding the garden of the house that I am currently staying at.

As I yanked plants out of the ground and cried, I also prayed. For my kids. For my coworkers. For my sanity. For protection from all of this insanity.

As I was nearing the end of my weeding mania, I sat against a fence post and took a break. Right then, a gross looking lime green caterpillar crawled onto the fence beside me.

I don’t understand how something so funny looking and gross can turn into something as beautiful as a butterfly. And then my English-teachery brain made a connection:

I love my students, but sometimes they are gross kinda like the caterpillar. No, they don’t ever look that weird (thank goodness) but because they’re still growing into butterflies, their actions and words are weird and gross sometimes. Sometimes they’re pokey and hard to hold onto, just like the creepy wormish thing crawling next to me.

But eventually that weird worm will turn into a butterfly and will be something that will take my breath away. And I know that God will do the same thing with my kiddos.

The darkness will not overcome us. They will grow into the magnificent young men and women that God is planning for them to be and I will be able to say that I survived working with a bunch of gross caterpillars while I sit and bask in the sunshine that will be butterfly season.

Like Serenity, I can’t quit. I love my weird little worms far too much. And in the most beautiful way possible, they’ve ruined my life. I can’t go back to living life without a parade of teenagers following me everywhere. I can’t go back to “normal” because God has called me to something so much more beautiful.


*Ps. Prayers are seriously SO appreciated right now. I know that God is bigger than all of the devil’s tomfoolery, but the onslaught of it is annoying. Prayers for protection and the mending of relationships within the school is also much appreciated. xo, Lou

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