I (Pete) am pretty pumped because we recently finished a new challenge course at the ranch in time to run kids from the Easter camps through the course. It was a great experience for them and for me. For them…it was something they have never done before (literally) and for me…it was my first time running groups through a challenge course in Spanish! The course still needs a few touches and we have plans for more elements to come but enjoy this virtual tour of the challenge course with pics of students going through the course.
I (Pete) recently got back from a great visit to Mexico City to participate in the National Youth Specialties Mexico Conference. It was a great experience and I wanted to quickly share some of the highlights of the trip.
First, the workshop on developing a spiritually transformative environment for your camps and retreats went really. Before the workshop I was wondering who would really come and as the time for the workshop to start passed it was only myself and my co-worker in the hallway. I looked to him and said, “Well at least we will have two people!” …but this is Mexico…and in good fashion…we quickly over 60 people in attendance. We made a number of contacts, people were engaged, and a highlight for me was watching my coworker be able to answer questions about camping ministry even though he has no “formal” training. He knows thing he doesn’t know he knows simply by being part of our community. It was cool watching this light bulb go off in his mind.
Other quick highlights were that I got to talk with Mark Matlock, the current head of YS in the US, for about an hour. I had attended a number of his events as a youth pastor and some of his other
trainings, and it was fun to connect with a familiar face and chat-up the nature of youth ministry. I was also able to meet 5 potential interns who are looking to come to the ranch this summer. It is exciting to see the ministry of the ranch extend beyond the city of La Paz into the interior mainland. These kids are excited to come to the ranch and participate in our internship program. If they all come we will have a Venezuelan, a Colombian, 2 Mexicans, and a Mexican kid who was adopted by US parents who now pastor the oldest English speaking Church in Mexico (141 years old)….talk about cross-cultural…as we will throw these kids into the mix of kids from the US as well as kids here from La Paz.
And last but not least. The conference shared the same expo building as a Lucha Libre event! I got to watch my very first lucha libre match, which was definitely a cultural experience.
I (Emily) have been absent for a while from internet land. Sometimes, I find myself in moods where I don’t know what to share. There is too much…and I feel overwhelmed often. And then I am jumbled up. But in the past few weeks, at the end of each week, I have been reflecting on my favorite moment of the week. And I try to pay attention. So, I thought I’d share something that made me smile last week.
In kid’s club (which is going WELL, by the way…I’ll maybe figure out a way to condense all of that into an update soon), we are going through the Bible, focusing on what each story teaches us about God as we go. So, each week we review together. The kids have gotten good at telling me that God keeps His promises! I love it. We emphasized that characteristic about God when we studied the flood, and, more specifically, the rainbow afterwards and then moving into God’s promise to Abraham.
Well, fast forward a few days to horse ministry (also going WELL…I am learning so much from Cher Gatto and others who have been doing this ministry faithfully for so many years)…and some of the kids who come to kid’s club every week also come to horse ministry every week. Last Friday we actually had a cloudy day here! It was AMAZING. I loved it. It didn’t rain, but toward the end of horse ministry, a rainbow appeared in the sky! I didn’t notice it at first, but some kids did…and they yelled to me as I was working in the arena with a horse and child…”Emily…a rainbow…because God keeps His promises!” That made my whole week worth it.
Sometimes it’s the little things!
I (Pete) am flying out today to Mexico City to participate in the “Cumbre Nacional de Lideres de Jovenes” or the National Convention of Youth Leaders of Mexico. It’s going to be a great time as I will be able to connect up with an old friend and co-worker Scott Hill. I will also be meeting with 5 interns who live in Mexico City and who will be joining us this summer in our intership program. It will be a good time to meet them and their families personally. May, one of our Ranch staff, will also be coming with me and participating in the conference and meeting our new interns. …BUT here is the real kicker….check out the picture and see if you can recognize one of the workshop speakers…that’s right I have the opportunity to present a workshop at the conference…and I’ll be giving the workshop in Spanish! The theme is “Developing a spiritually transformative environment for your camps and retreats.” I am excited about this opportunity to share about something I am passionate about and for the ability to be able to do it Spanish. It has been a long-hard road in learning Spanish and I have much, much more to go but it is nice to feel confident enough (with quite a bit of preparation!) to be able to give a workshop. If you think about it pray for May and myself this weekend as we connect with youth workers all across Mexico as we seek to grow in our capacities as youth workers.
TEAM recently asked Emily to write a blog post on community development for one of TEAM’s main blogs. We thought you might like to read what she wrote. The post is entitled Learning Rocket Science and is an edited version of something Emily wrote awhile back that caught they eye of those up in the main office. We as a community and a mission agency are seeking best practices in regards to community development and the post is a reflection on the struggles that we face in our community development efforts. Enjoy!
Here is the link to her post on the TEAM Blog. CLICK HERE
We spent time with May, one of our coworkers and member of our community of faith, this past Saturday at his house. May had invited his neighbor’s kids to come over and spend time with our girls and play. It was a beautiful time as we played games, ate a little snack, and shared a small bit out of God’s word from a children’s activity book which May chose. Here are some pictures of our time and the fun which we had.
It has been amusing and a blessing lately to hear how our girls are expressing their faith in God these days! I am often challenged by them! (Please forgive us for bragging a bit on our kids, there are just as many, if not more, moments of utter meltdowns and temper tantrums, but who wants to relive those???)
There is a lot of construction going on in La Paz right now…the city government is tearing up old roads and putting down new roads. For good reason, as there are potholes of death here! Apparently, the new roads are, in theory, able to withstand the extreme heat and hurricanes and somehow prevent potholes. Well, the result is, we are now living in a giant maze. It feels like the streets that are open and closed change every day, so I’ve been driving down some different streets lately. The girls and I had to find a new way home this past week, and we drove past a beautiful house. I said to the girls with longing, “Girls, that house is beautiful, don’t you think?” And Ava immediately said, “Yes, Mommy, but not as beautiful as the gold houses in heaven.” True, Ava!
The other morning, the girls woke up and stayed in bed singing together…”Our God is greater, our God is stronger, our God is higher than any other.” Over and over and over again…because they couldn’t remember the rest of the song. Annoying, but seriously, how can you stop them from praising?
Again, another rather interesting moment…the girls went out front and starting shouting, “God is the king of us.” No joke…in our front yard and at the top of their lungs. We had to have them quiet down a bit, while still encouraging them that what they were saying was true! I seriously have no clue where they got this idea. I promise I am not a sidewalk evangelist!!!!
And then, what has really touched our hearts lately is the generosity of Ali. She received a Rainbow Loom for Christmas from Pete’s sister. Ever since, she has been making bracelets and selling them (thank you to all our very kind friends here who have bought one from her, lol). The other day, she opened up her wallet and gave all the money to Peter Gatto for the Ranch! Every last peso.
As we encourage our kids, I have to remind myself daily that these are the things I want to cultivate in them…a love for God, a desire to praise Him, a compassionate spirit, generosity, and prayer. It makes the task of parenting simpler and harder all at the same time. Simpler, because it’s really God doing a work in them, not us. Harder, because I know we are called to teach and set examples. And I am so often tempted to focus on other skills…academics, sports, whatever else, above their spiritual lives…because that’s what I’m tempted to do in my own life.
What do you do to help your kids (or students or grandkids or nieces/nephews, etc.) love Jesus more? Any good ideas to share with us as we are on this journey together?
We had a great Christmas vacation with Pete’s entire family. It was the first time we had all been together in two years and although it was a short experience it was packed full of adventure. The girls made a cheer all on their own that went like this…”We are adventure girls. We never fear. We climb mountains. Yaaaa!!!” They certainly deserve the label of adventure girls. Here are some of our pics of our time together.
God has done many amazing things over the past year and it has been an honor to serve him through the ministries of the Ranch. Here is a short highlight video of some of our ministries and activities. A big thank you to everyone who offers up their prayers and financial donations to us personally and to the Ranch. Your support makes a difference in the lives of many individuals.
We recently got back from almost three weeks of travels to Norfolk, VA and to Merida, Mexico. We traveled to participate in our church’s mission conference in the US and to Merida, Mexico to present a workshop and participate in the Christian Camping International Mexico Conference. Merida and the camping conference were a great experience and we were blessed to meet other people throughout Mexico who share a similar ministry and learn from each other. We were also blessed to catch a day after the conference to see the town of Merida. Here are some pictures of our time at the conference and in Merida.