Learning Rocket Science

From an interesting article I recently read:

American Christians are astounding in their generosity. Tens of thousands of churches pour resources into feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and building houses and orphanages. Hundreds of thousands trek to Africa, Asia, and Latin America each year on short-term mission trips desiring to offer their help.

But here’s the problem: Poverty, whether here in America or abroad, is one of the oldest and most complex problems plaguing the human race. It is tangled in social, cultural, economic, political, ethnic, geographic, and spiritual factors that challenge even the most skilled experts. Simple solutions just don’t work, and well-meaning amateurs can not only waste valuable resources but even cause unintended harm in their efforts.

Read the whole thing here at Christianity Today: Solving Poverty Is Rocket Science

The article really sums up why we are seeking more training in community development, as well as why we are moving slowly as we implement projects in the neighborhoods where we work!  And above all, recognizing the truth of this quote, also from the above article: The most powerful tool we can offer is the human transformation that comes from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, something no government or United Nations agency has to offer. This is why the church is potentially the most powerful change agent of all.

Categories: Mission, Vision | Leave a comment

Las Colonias

We work in the colonias on the outskirts of La Paz, which are only a short 5 miles away from the ranch. We haven’t shared much about these colonias outside of the fact that we work there but with the encouragement of a friend we wanted to give you a small picture of what life is like in these colonias.

The colonias are the closest part of the city to the ranch and a major focal point for the ranch’s ministries and the location of the ranch’s church plant. It is a noble place, as locals call it here, where many dwellings do not have electricity or running water from the city. Most people rely on water cisterns being filled by traveling water trucks which come by every other week or so and if you don’t have electricity you use candles or flashlights if you can afford batteries. Some people in our church read their Bibles at night by candlelight. It is a noble place as many people work an assortment of jobs to make ends meet. They work as tradesmen, street performers, taco venders, store clerks, maids, repairmen, and various other miscellaneous jobs to support their families. They are hard working people.  Some  people “buscar” or look for the trash and leftovers from the city alongside the roads or wherever they can get it so that they can sell it for scrap or reuse it in the home . Some even work in the trash dump where they have a chance to sort through the entire city’s garbage looking for food, things to recycle for money, or whatever else they can repair and reuse. One of our friends in the colonias says those who work in the trash dump have a good job as they are able to choose first from the city’s supply of leftovers and have a wide variety of things to choose from. It is a noble place and there are a lot of hardships and vices to be overcome, but it is first and foremost a noble place where God is at work and where God’s Kingdom is breaking forth on earth as it is in heaven. It’s an honor to work alongside Him and His people in these noble colonias.

Here are some pictures of the places we work….

The colonias on the outskirts of La Paz near the ranch. A view looking toward the city near the ranch.

The colonias on the outskirts of La Paz near the ranch. A view looking toward the city near the ranch.

A view of the colonias from the surrounding hills.

A view of the colonias from the surrounding hills.

A local soccer field.

A local soccer field.

A local store front we frequent.

A local store front we frequent.

Local park and view of where our community of faith meets on Sundays. We meet outside near the blue house.

Local park and view of where our community of faith meets on Sundays. We meet under the tree near the blue house.

First street outside the local DIF building where we do alot of work.

First street outside the local DIF building where we do alot of work.

The local DIF building where we host ESL classes and run many of our summer day programs. We have an excellent partnership with the local government.

The local DIF building where we host ESL classes, assist in medical clinics, and run many of our summer day programs. We have an excellent partnership with the local government.

Some typical local houses.

Some typical local houses.

Many houses use whatever material they can find to construct their property.

Many houses use whatever material they can find to construct their property.

Inside a local house.

Inside a local house.

Many people raise various animals to supplement their food or to sell.

Many people raise various animals to supplement their food or to sell.

There are many dogs both strays and pets throughout the colonias.

There are many dogs both strays and pets throughout the colonias.

Visiting with some of our friends in their small store they recently started.

Visiting with some of our friends in their small store they recently started.

Enjoying a homemade icee on a hot day with friends.

Enjoying a homemade icee on a hot day with friends.

Categories: Culture, Marquez de Leon, Mexico, Mission | Leave a comment

Orientation Week

We had an amazing week of intern orientation this past week. We had our interns from the US alongside some of our Mexican interns living and working together in their preparation for this summer’s work. The ranch will have a total of 11 interns this summer: 4 from the US, 5 from Mexico, and 2 missionary kids. We had a full schedule and here are some of the highlight pictures…

Team building time in the cascada behind the ranch.

Team building time in the cascada behind the ranch.

Climbing in the arroyo behind the ranch.

Climbing in the arroyo behind the ranch.

Helping with the graduation party for ESL

Helping with the graduation party for ESL

Giving of certificates at ESL

Giving of certificates at ESL

Taking culture and language classes at El Nopal.

Taking culture and language classes at El Nopal.

Visiting a local church.

Visiting a local church.


Prayer Hike through the mountains and colonias around La Paz.

Prayer Hike through the mountains and colonias around La Paz.

Here is a copy of our schedule from this past week if you are interested to see all that we did. It is truly a blessing to be able to do something like this with youth from Mexico and the US:

Summer 2013 Ranch Intern Orientation

Saturday, June 8th

8:30am                 Leave for Cabo

12:17                      Arrive in Cabo/Lunch in Cabo

4:00                        Return to Ranch

4:30                        Un Trabajito

5:30pm                 Dinner at Ranch, Get to Know You Activity

7:30pm                 Ranch Rule of Life, Worship, & Debrief

Sunday, June 9th

6:30am                 Wake Up/Morning Devotional/Breakfast

9:30-11:30am     Church in Marquez

12:30                     Lunch at Ranch

2:00-5:00pm       Beach/Huddle Time-Our Prayer For You

6:30                        Dinner at Ranch

7:30pm                 Ranch Rule of Life, Worship, & Debrief

Monday, June 10th

6:30am                 Wake Up/Morning Devotional/Breakfast

8:30-10:30am     El Nopal: Cultural insights, vocabulary and a visit to the Market

12:00pm               Lunch at Ranch

1:00-2:30              Workshop: Ranch Life

3:00-4:00              Un Trabajito

4:30-6:00              Workshop: Ranch History, Mission, Vision, Culture

6:30                        Dinner at Ranch

7:30                        Ranch Rule of Life, Worship, & Debrief

Tuesday , June 11th

6:30am                 Wake Up/Morning Devotional/Breakfast

8:00am                 Prayer with Jazmin & Walk Up Mountain

9:30-10:30am     Workshop: Spiritual Formation

10:30-12:30pm  Solitude

12:30pm               Lunch

1:30-3:00pm       Workshop: Spiritual Formation/Process Solitude

3:30pm                 Leave for El Nopal

6:00-8:00pm       El Nopal: Spanish/cultural lessons

8:30pm                 Dinner on Malecon with Pizza

9:00pm                 Ranch Rule of Life, Worship, & Debrief on Malecon

Wednesday , June 12th

6:30am                 Wake Up/Morning Devotional/Breakfast

8:00-9:00am       Un Trabajito 

9:00-11:00am     Team Building with Enrique

11:30am               Leave for El Nopal

12:00- 2:00          El Nopal: Mexican cooking class/Lunch

3:00-4:30pm       Un Cafecito/Marquez Expectations

5:00-7:00pm       ESL Graduation Party @ DIF

8:00pm                 Dinner at Ranch

9:00pm                 Ranch Rule of Life, Worship, & Debrief

Thursday, June 13th

6:30am                 Wake Up/Morning Devotional/Breakfast

8:00am                 Ranch Day & Crew Day

5:30pm                 Leave for El Nopal

6:00-8:00pm       El Nopal: Spanish/ cultural lessons

8:30pm                 Dinner at Ranch

9:00pm                 Ranch Rule of Life, Worship, & Debrief

Friday, June 14th

6:30am                 Wake Up/Morning Devotional/Breakfast

8:00am                 Leave for El Nopal

8:30-10:30am     El Nopal: Cultural insights, vocabulary and paseo

12:00pm               Lunch at Ranch

1:00pm                 Flex Time

4:00pm                 All Ranch Meeting/Dinner/Marquez Day Camp Orientation

10:00pm               Ranch Rule of Life and Worship

Saturday, June 15th

6:30am                 Wake Up/Morning Devotional/Breakfast

8:00am                 Work Crews: Kitchen and Food Purchase Training

12:00pm               Lunch at Ranch

1:00-3:00pm       Work Crews

4:00pm                 Fun Night Out


Categories: internship, Mission, Ranch | Leave a comment

Life or Death

Wordle: LiveA few weeks ago, I read Deuteronomy 30:11-20 and was really impacted by the entire passage (you can read it all here).  The last verses, especially, reminded me that running after anything other than God is really running after destruction.  “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.  For the LORD is your life…”

In all honesty, the past month has been difficult for me.  I have been really, really missing friends.  You know, the kind that you just call up and freak out with when you discover a dead cat on your entry mat in the morning; or the kind you call and cry with when that very same day, you accidentally drive over another cat and have to watch it suffer and die.  Yeah, that was a bad day.  I miss my friends who have known me forever and heard me vent about a million things and still love me, even when we disagree with each other.  Yep, I miss you all.  To the point that sometimes I want to forget it all and move back.

I clearly need God to remind me that He is the one who blessed me with all of my friends, both the old ones and my new, beginning friendships here.  He is the one equipping me to submit to a new culture and discover a new way of friendship.  He led me to remember that He alone is my life.  Not friends, not family, not activities…those are incredible blessings, but they should not be the source of my life or my contentment.

With the little phrase “For the LORD is your life” as a recurring prayer, I had the opportunity to share the message at horse ministry a week ago.  I spoke about this Deuteronomy passage, (but only after seriously considering something else because “Deuteronomio” is hard to say in Spanish).  Seriously.  We talked about choices, played some fun games with silly choices, and then talked about the most important choice we ever make…Life or Death.  God or something else.  I was speaking to myself as much as anyone else there.  But then God did something that made my loneliness worth every second.  One of the adults who had come with some children was crying after the talk.  He told me it was a beautiful talk and that he wanted life but didn’t know how to draw near to God.  Miguel, one of our Ranch staff, was sitting with us, and he started sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Others in our community joined in, answering questions, and we were all soon rejoicing with our new brother in Christ.

We sang this song as a prayer.  And the Holy Spirit encouraged my heart.

Renuevame Señor Jesus, ya no quiero ser igual (Renew me, Lord Jesus, I don’t want to be the same)
Renuevame Señor Jesus, pon en mi tu corazon (Renew me, Lord Jesus, put your heart in mine)
Porque todo lo que hay dentro de mi (Because everything there is inside of me)
Necesita ser cambiado Señor (Needs to be changed, Lord)
Porque todo lo que hay dentro de mi corazon (Because everything there is in my heart)
Necesita mas de ti (Needs more of you)

Categories: Church, Mission, Ranch, Stories | 4 Comments

Disappearing Walls

Children's time at Sunday morning gathering.

Children’s time at Sunday morning gathering.

We have an amazing team of co-workers here in La Paz, both Mexican and American.  A few months ago, a Bible study was started in Marquez de Leon, and we now all meet together on Sunday mornings to worship God, learn more about Jesus, and enjoy one another’s company and encouragement.  It’s a joy to be a part of this community of people!

We also have a lot of short term teams from the US who will sometimes join us for a week at a time.  We want to be considerate of all those involved in our Bible studies, and so a few days ago, Pete and Pete Gatto took several of the guys in the study out for coffee to talk to them about whether or not they enjoy having the short term teams join in the Sunday morning study or if it’s overwhelming or distracting.  The Peter’s’ were not expecting the answer they received.

One of our Mexican brothers shared that he loves hearing the testimonies of those on the teams; that he loves singing with them; that he enjoys hearing what they are studying at their churches with the realization that we are all studying many similar passages of Scripture.  Our brother feels that a short term team’s presence on Sunday morning is a unifying presence.  He said there’s a wall in the north that prevents us from knowing each other, but that in the body of Christ, there is no wall.  When we share and learn together in humility and in love, the divisions between us disappear, and we are all blessed.

We agree with our friend and brother, and we feel the blessing it is to be able to worship with a person who shares a different culture, a different language, a different perspective.  Our understanding of God grows bigger when we are able to learn from one another.  The teams that have joined us have come with an attitude of learning and of love, and they are willing to listen.  We appreciate their attitudes, and we hope that we can consistently have the same attitude.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:27-28

Categories: Church, Marquez de Leon, Mexico, Mission | Leave a comment

A Brief Update!

We have had an incredibly busy month! It’s been full of new work, some travel, and lots of learning, as always. In a nutshell, here’s some things we’ve been up to in the last month. Pictures will follow once I get organized enough to download them to the computer from our various devices! Stories will also be coming; they are in my head, but getting them into the blog has been on the back burner. These weeks have been so busy we haven’t had much time to pause and record. 🙂

1. Started ESL classes at the community center in Marquez de Leon.
2. Traveled to Tijuana/San Diego to take care of a car permit issue and pick up a second car for work! God blessed us with an amazing trip and an amazing ministry that helps find cars for those working in ministry!
3. Hosted, planned, helped lead 4 short term trips.
4. Began planning for 3 different Easter camps that we will help facilitate for Mexican churches at the Ranch in the next 3 weeks!
5. Solidified some job descriptions/roles for our team at the Ranch.
6. Started leading a children’s Sunday school in Marquez de Leon.
7. Continuing to get to know our neighbors through playdates, dinners, walks on the Malecon together!
8. Learning to live without the guarantee of running water for the past 2 weeks. (We should be back in business in the next day or 2…our landlord is installing a cistern for us!).

As I said, I will post pictures soon! We have gotten very busy and I am working toward getting caught up in our correspondence, this blog, and emails. Thanks for your patience and prayers for us and for your willingness to stay in touch with us!

Categories: Family, Marquez de Leon, Mission | 2 Comments

Bienvenidos a La Paz

We’ve been largely absent from the land of internet the past month.  Our move to La Paz went smoothly, and we want you to know how much we appreciate your prayers!  We moved into our new home a few days before Christmas, and are slowly making it feel like our home.  Pete worked on the Ranch for the first time today; he came home thrilled and is so excited for everything to come.  I am planning to go into Marquez de Leon next week and begin volunteering with the local social workers.  I want to get to know them and those they serve and what programs they have and how they run before I voice any ideas of my own…that will be a ways down the road!  Pete and I have a lot to learn, and it feels so overwhelming most of the time.  We go to bed looking at each other and we often voice the thought, “What in the world are we doing????”  Is that too honest?  Sometimes I feel a scary pressure that tempts me to gloss over the hard parts and the uncertain parts, you know?  Probably like most of us do, no matter where we are in the world.  Being that it’s a new year and all, and being that we just moved to this place…this city we’ve been talking about and dreaming about and praying about for more than 2 years…I figure it’s a good time to think about goals.  And then I get slammed back to square one by God…He keeps reminding me…over and over and over again…in a very clear way, that He wants my faithfulness and obedience.  God’s ways, God’s timing, not my own.  Pete and I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that God called us here, to La Paz, to the Ranch, to Marquez, and we are simply obeying.  The details of getting us here were amazingly worked out by God; so we have to trust in this very beginning part of ministry here that God also holds the details to what ministry will look like.  We advance prayerfully, in step with the Spirit, every day asking God to give us wisdom and patience as we seek His will and His timing for what our day to day life will look like.

I have been pondering this quote by Henri Nouwen recently (especially in light of the fact that God seems to be reminding me…more than I can honestly say I’d like… of the wisdom in being present, being truly with God and therefore being with others, not just doing stuff).

“Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate.  Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken.  But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering.  What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.  As busy, active, relevant ministers, we want to earn our bread by making a real contribution.  This means first and foremost doing something to show that our presence makes a difference.  And so we ignore our greatest gift, which is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer.”

Guadalajara was a blessing, because a lot of things happened that reminded Pete and I that hospitality-the act of creating a safe place where people can be themselves free from the fear of judgement, and that friendship, and that life together is where people can encounter Jesus in our lives.  Nothing spectacular, but everything amazing…because Jesus is there.  Our neighbors asking us about the Bible and Jesus because they said after observing us for 7 months they had decided we actually live what we say we believe so they wanted to know more.  Brenda’s gift of a bottle of perfume before we left for La Paz.  Dinners with friends…friends who laughingly didn’t mind eating at the early hour of 8 because they know we’re still adjusting.  🙂  (Yes…we laugh, too, because it’s a bit too embarrassing to say we still like to eat dinner at 6.)  A parting blessing from our church in Guadalajara…words and prayers said over us both that blessed us greatly.

So…welcome to 2013, welcome to La Paz.  We remember what we have learned.  We feel overwhelmed by what lies ahead.  We lean heavily on prayers…ours and yours.  We ask God for wisdom. We trust Him.  And we live our lives generously and freely, inviting anyone and everyone to the banqueting table of our King, which quite often happens to be our tables, our lives, as we live out in community the salvation we’ve been so generously given.

Categories: Mission, Vision | Leave a comment

We’ve been BRANDED!

It’s official! We have officially been BRANDED with our sending agency’s (TEAM) new logo and websites! Check them out.

We love our mission and the people involved. They do a lot of work for us and are a tremendous resource for us from medical needs to education issues for our children to professional counseling and simply being a kind and listening ear. Some sending agencies often get a bad name for whatever reason perhaps because they can be seen as bureaucratic obstacles to get to the field. Perhaps this is true with some agencies but certainly not with TEAM. TEAM isn’t perfect (what agency is) but they strive to set up their missionaries for long term success and effectiveness in the field. Just ask several of our coworkers here in Mexico who have worked as missionaries for 20+ years with TEAM. We absolutely love our mission and the support and care they provide!
Check out these new sites…really…and no they didn’t pay us to say these things…we really do love our mission!

TEAM Mexico: This is our ministry area’s specific site. It’s a great way to see what we as an entire team are up to here in Mexico.

TEAM: This is the broader TEAM site and is a great way to see what TEAM as a whole is up to around the world.

Categories: Mission | Leave a comment

A Precious Gift

She came to our home one day about 3 months ago asking for anything we could give: clothes, food, a job she could help me with to earn a little bit of money. This wasn’t surprising; people come by our home every day asking for help of one kind or another. Because our God has been so radically generous with us, we feel called to give more than we feel like it…clothes, food, as many odd jobs here and there that we can think up, a kind word, a conversation, purchasing a handmade napkin while commenting on how beautiful it is…but this time was different for a reason I cannot explain. Brenda and I started to get to know each other. We became friends. Slowly, during the past 3 months, we have had more and more conversations. She cleans our home, and she does an amazing job. We pay her the going rate for housecleaning, and we give her food. We gave her a chance. In Mexico, you don’t have people clean your home without references. But how are you supposed to get references if no one gives you that first chance?

She’s given me a chance too…a precious gift of friendship. She comes on days she doesn’t clean and we talk. She tells me her story.

Didn’t finish school beyond 6th grade because she had to take care of multiple younger siblings. Pregnant by 14 because that is the story in her neighborhood and her family. That is what she knows and what all the other women she has told me about do (sisters, cousins, friends, neighbors). Now, four children later, the money she makes cleaning for us is about all she gets each week. She lives in a home made of laminate sheeting. Her sister who lives there, too, is terrified the roof will fall down in rainstorms. Her brother is in jail. He gets out in December. And more…

What does she want? More than anything, she wants to be able to provide for her children. She wants her daughter to finish school. So she swallows her own pride and asks for help. She’s proud she has a regular job now. She brings her kids with her when she comes. I read them stories. Her family laughs because her 4 year old son has memorized Oso Pardo (Brown Bear, Brown Bear), but he repeats it with my accent!

Today, she came with her 8 year old daughter. We sat and had coffee and oatmeal cookies. We talked, and then she asked me about heaven and how it seems like heaven has to be where we all go when we die because hell is on earth. So we talked and talked about Jesus, about life, about what Jesus came to do…to give us life and life to the full. About God’s mercy. About our choice to believe in the King of Kings. We read Scripture. I gave her a Bible. She’s never read the Bible. She told me she’s never heard that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. She has more questions.

If we believe God, if we follow Jesus, we have to believe that the most precious gift we possess and can give is the Gospel. The Good News that Jesus is Messiah and that God’s Kingdom is near, and that we can know God through His Son Jesus. That Jesus is life and peace and joy and hope. In situations where it seems hopeless, we have an everlasting hope. I believe that with all my heart. I also believe that we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I leave Guadalajara in 3 months. I desperately pray for my friend. That she would believe. That her daughter would believe. That there would be a community of Jesus in her neighborhood to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That God would send more workers and that believers in Mexico would boldly share the Gospel with people who have never heard it clearly presented before. I also pray for wisdom. In terms of helping my friend economically, educationally, and practically, I am often at a loss. And a whole community of people like her? The community of Marquez de Leon where we will be starting a church/community center is full of similar stories. God gives wisdom to those who ask. We are looking at more training, specifically in how to help without hurting in poverty stricken areas, but we also (firstly) desperately need prayer for wisdom.

Categories: Mexico, Mission, Stories | 12 Comments

Tea with Yoli

One block away we have a neighbor named Yolanda; Yoli for short.  She turned 80 years old this past spring and she lives alone; she’s never been married.  The first time we met her, Kylah and I were playing outside, and she called us over and beckoned us to walk with her for a bit.  Well, she ended up inviting us into her home and gave us a grand tour.  Her home was the first Mexican home I had been invited into.  It is decorated with home made tablecloths, curtains, pillows, very traditional furniture, and lots of saints.  Yoli has a tiny kitchen with pink tiles decorating the walls and in her laundry room she still uses a hand-cranked washing board.  That first visit with Yoli opened the door for many more.  She typically walks past our house on her way to the neighborhood tienda each afternoon, and if she notices we are home, she will stop by to visit us.  We have had many wonderful conversations about God, Jesus, and what it means to be at peace.  One of Yoli’s favorite things to do is to teach my girls Spanish.  She is delighted by the girls and likes to sneak them treats when I’m not looking.  I don’t think she has stopped by our home without bringing some sort of chocolate candy or vegetable soup for me or crackers to share.

Yoli visiting our house

Yoli visting our house

Yesterday, the girls and I decided to drop by Yoli’s house to say hi.  We had been gone for 2 weeks, and I wanted to let her know that we were back.  Seconds after calling out her name, she started telling us, “Me voy, me voy.” (I’m coming.)  She was overjoyed to see the girls, invited us right in, and we sat down at her tiny kitchen table while she pulled out a toy tea set and began playing tea with the girls.  She poured water in the tiniest tea pot, gave each of them a little cup (that held about one swallow of water), and opened up a brand new package of chocolate chip cookies she had bought just for our next visit.  It was the sweetest time, and while I wish I had a camera, it was one of thost moments that would have been ruined with a picture.  A moment I didn’t want to stop because it was such a gift. A moment that reminds me why we are in Mexico…to love people, to share our lives with them, and to testify to the full life of peace and joy that Jesus offers to those who believe in His name.

Categories: Mission, Stories | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.