Friday, June 22, 2018

More Than You Can Ask or Imagine


In my early teen years, between accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior and perceiving His call on my life, this verse became a favorite: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

More than I could ask or imagine...now that’s a lot…because I can certainly imagine some incredible things!

Quite honestly, much of what the Lord has done up to now I have dreamed about, prayed about and imagined, but He blew me out of the water less than two weeks ago.

You see, I found myself seated dead center in a church pew on a beautiful Mennonite high school campus in Eastern Pennsylvania.  Might not sound like a “more than you can ask or imagine” scene, but what catapults this ordinary moment into the realm of the extraordinary, into the “more than you can ask or imagine” category, is the fact that it was the graduation of my eldest daughter, Angie.  That still may not seem like a “more than you can ask or imagine” event, but, do you know the whole story?

Angie front and center during her graduation.
Angie started kindergarten at age 11, when she became my daughter.  I am known for dreaming big, but God beat me on this one!  It honestly never occurred to me as I taught her her first math problems and the letters in English, surrounded by mounds of dirty laundry that needed to be washed by hand or with the generator running, while carrying infant Caleb on my hip and distractedly thinking of what to make for dinner for our family of seven on a mountaintop in Mexico, that someday I would see her in a cap and gown in the United States after just listening to her give a half hour Senior speech in English.  The distance traveled between these two scenes was certainly riddled with rocks of resistance, stones of suffering, mountains of mercy, puddles of praise, chasms of challenge and journeys of joy, but that all formed part of the “more than we can ask or imagine.”

2006... Caleb as a toddler and my mom trying to rescue me from oodles of laundry! 
You can see evidence of homeschooling all around!
2018 Angie and I at graduation
2004 Angie and I (and Caleb in my tummy)...
we had been mother and daughter for just a
few weeks



















As I flew back to Mexico from that incredible experience just last week, and was reflecting on that verse, I knew that several daunting situations awaited me at the Ranch…each of which seemed so far away from the “more than I can ask or imagine” description.

You see, in my weak human mind, and lazy and selfish heart, “more than I can ask or imagine” means something positive, something I want or desire, preferably the way I want it or desire it to be.

What if the “more than I can ask or imagine” can’t be seen or perceived or understood by me……at least for now…maybe not here….maybe there (in Heaven)…but maybe never.   (“All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”  Hebrews 11:13)

Is knowing that He said He can do it, and having even seen that He has done it before, enough for me to believe He can, and will, do it again?

Can I trust His “more than I can ask or imagine?”

You see, less than two months ago I became the mother of two precious children, seven year old Harumi and five year old Crhistopher.  It now appears that my time for mothering them has already come to an end.  Certainly not my idea of “more than I can ask or imagine.”

The day Harumi and Crhistopher came home.
While I was in the U.S., the kids’ grandparents showed up at the Ranch, as far as I was concerned, from out of nowhere!  They drove from the state of Oaxaca, 9 hours away, as the grand finale and final intent to a search for their grandchildren that had lasted over a year!  I now know that the kids’ mother had run away with them and simply disappeared from her parents home, whom had helped raise the kids since birth and whom arrived at my home toting baby pictures, photos of birthdays and kindergarten graduation certificates.  Since the moment the mother disappeared with their treasures, the grandparents had been looking for them!  Through an anonymous phone call and social media they had tracked the kids down to our town, drove to city hall and inquired about them.  Having signed guardianship papers at city hall only 6 weeks previous, local authorities knew exactly where the children were…with me!... and brought the grandparents to the house.

So, less than three days after the “more than I can ask or imagine” moment at Angie’s graduation, I was signing guardianship of my two children back over to their mother. 

I suppose this is part of the “more than I can ask or imagine”, too, even though my heart doesn’t feel like it, I choose to believe it!

Pastor Ruben and I with Harumi and Crhistopher during their dedication at church.
My specific call and purpose from the Lord is to love and provide a family for children who need such.  For the six or so weeks that Harumi and Crhistopher needed a mom, that is what I was, with every intention of it being lifelong.  However, that doesn’t seem to be a part of God’s “more than I can ask or imagine” plan for this situation.

Harumi on vacation
Crhistopher on vacation





















Despite that fact, there are glimmers of “more than I can ask or imagine” in this situation.  Had the kids not been with me, their grandparents, who love them deeply and have everything needed to raise them, may have never found them!  It was only due to the fact that we had recently signed the guardianship papers that the local authorities could reunite grandparents and grandchildren.

Whatever may come, I am sure of one thing: It will be more than I could ask or imagine, and my God, the God of “more than I can ask or imagine”, will be glorified and His purposes will prevail, as He holds our hearts during the painful, confusing parts of “more than I can ask or imagine”.

Monday, May 7, 2018

All in a Day's Ministry

It has taken me over a week to even begin to digest all the happenings of last Wednesday and Thursday, April 25 and 26, 2018, even just enough to be able to share with you in a coherent way!  I will try, despite the lump that still wells up from my heart to my throat. 

Overwhelming….those days were, simply put, overwhelming!  Overwhelmed by: God’s goodness, His faithfulness, His generosity, the confirmation of the call, His presence in the midst of great joy and great trial, a funky mixture of fear and security, of responsibility and rest, a strange trust while feeling like you are jumping into the unknown….again!

The summary: on the same day, we brought home the new 15 passenger van, signed guardianship papers for two new children, continued to enjoy the weeklong stay of a 9 member work team from Michigan and faced continued challenges and consequences stemming from the past.

Now, piece by piece: We praise the Lord continuously for His faithfulness and generosity expressed through you by providing for the purchase of a 2014, 15 passenger van for use on both the crusades and for the family at Refuge Ranch!  After just a few months since we found the vehicle that met our needs, the Lord made it possible to bring the new van home!  Driving to church on Sunday with all of my children in seatbelts, without the fear of the van breaking down at any moment, not having to listen to every gear shift, roar of the motor or other sounds and questioning what may be happening, and not having to shout over the shake, rattle and roll of the suspension and other various sundry parts of the old van, was priceless!  I cannot wait for our crusade team to enjoy their first crusade in a trustworthy vehicle!  They will arrive so much more rested and ready to serve!  Thank you, for your prayers and for your giving!

My first trip in the van with some of the kids to a children's event at church!  Wonderful....just wonderful!

As for the children, it gives me great joy and pleasure to introduce you to my new daughter and son!  Harumi (ha-roo-mee) is 7 years old and Crhistopher (I did not spell his name wrong.  It was spelled that way on his birth certificate, so we are stuck having to teach it to him that way and use it that way ourselves!) is 5 years old.  They are originally from the State of Oaxaca, but were currently living with their mother in our same town.  The Lord knows their circumstances, even better than I, since at times it is difficult to sort out the truth.  It is, for me, a great honor and privilege that He has chosen me as their adoptive mom, knowing that, from my mother’s womb, He created me for little ones such as these!  What a peace to know that where He calls He will provide the love, wisdom, strength and resources to raise them up to His honor and glory!

Me and my kids....Crhistopher and Harumi!
In the Lord’s perfect timing, our family’s annual vacation was scheduled for this week!  So, we LOVED travelling with a safe, well-running and air-conditioned van and are now fully enjoying getting to know each other in a relaxed and beautiful environment before jumping into school and daily life together.

The work team that the Lord sent last week was such a blessing and balm for our souls during such tumultuous days.  They just kept on keeping on plastering the walls of the new house, which is now more needed than ever, as well as doing other home improvement projects on our current home.  In the midst of all the work, they took plenty of moments to hand our family encouraging notes, smiles and lots of hugs!  So, their presence strengthened the physical aspect of the ministry, as well as our souls!  Thank you!

Whiteford Wesleyan Church Work Team
Finally, we know that sin can have long lasting consequences, and Thursday afternoon felt like Exhibit A in a court of “Proofs of the Consequences of Sin.”  I cannot go into details, but would be negligent in sharing about the wonderfulness of Thursday, new children, a new vehicle, and a work team, without sharing the opposing bookend of fear and brokenness that the enemy wanted to use to kill and destroy.  After my feeble human heart cries and trembles in facing such circumstances, it does eventually remember God’s truths that stand as a rock in the midst of the storm:  He will never leave us nor forsake us; He sends his angels to protect us; He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world; we are to love our enemies and conquer evil with good.

My kids (the ones that live at home) and the new van!  Many more blessings than I can count!

 And, that was, all in a day’s worth of ministry!


Monday, March 26, 2018

Oh Ye of Little Faith


“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” (Ephesians 3:20)

“He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (John 21:6)

When I gave my life to the Lord, and especially as I seek to serve Him as a missionary, I would hope that the faith and abundance displayed in these verses would characterize my living.  However, more often than I wish to admit, Jesus’ admonishment of, “O ye of little faith” seems to better describe me.

Such the case has proven true regarding the need I recently shared with you for more reliable transportation for both the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades and my family here at Refuge Ranch.

The ministry has been suffering a lack of decent vehicles for passengers, for both the crusades and the Ranch, as well as a vehicle apt for carrying all of our equipment for the medical crusades.  However, the decision was made to first share the need for a newer passenger vehicle, as it is utilized both for the crusades and for Refuge Ranch, besides the fact that caring for our human cargo is a higher priority than caring for physical cargo.  And, asking for two vehicles at once seemed a bit overwhelming and imprudent.

Therefore, just a little over a week ago, we shared with you that we had placed a deposit on a 15 passenger van with donations from our Mexican crusade volunteers, but that over $18,000 was still needed to bring the van home!

Today, it gives me indescribable joy to share that:  THE LORD HAS PROVIDED ALL THE FUNDS IN ORDER TO FINALIZE THE PURCHASE OF THE 15 PASSENGER VAN!



But, we aren’t quite ready to make the same declaration as Moses in the following passage:

 “Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more,  because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.”  (Exodus 36:6-7)

Because, you see, we believe that the Lord is already providing for the cargo truck needed for the crusades!

The truck that we use to carry all of our medical supplies and equipment to the crusades broke down on crusade in February.  In fact, the vehicle is still four hours away from the Ranch where it broke down!

We have knowledge of churches and individuals that were/are still in the process of praying about and considering giving towards the transportation needs of Fishers of Men.  We encourage you, if that is the case, to please follow the Lord’s leading so that the ministry can be well equipped to carry out God’s will here in Mexico!

We are actively seeking the appropriate vehicle for the crusade equipment and will keep you posted as the Lord leads that search!

So, please join us in prayer:

1) thanks to the Lord for His provision for the passenger van

2) guidance in finding the right vehicle for the crusade equipment

3) we can sell soon, and at a good price, the broken down crusade vehicle and the bus (which Mexican laws prevent us from using for our family and crusade) so that we can apply these funds towards the purchase of the cargo truck

4) those who have felt the Lord’s leading to give would do so to provide for the purchase of a reliable cargo truck for the crusades

Thank you for walking this road with us, for praying, for giving and for rejoicing in all the Lord has done and will do!

Friday, March 16, 2018

New Wheels for Fishers of Men

Taking the good news of Jesus Christ to towns and villages around Mexico requires....wheels!

Taking my children, the children of Refuge Ranch, to church each week requires....wheels!

We have the need, and opportunity, to purchase a set of new-to-us wheels (no worries...they come attached to a 15 passenger van)!

The need? 

Our current vehicle is a 1996 Ford Club Wagon 15 passenger van with over 280,000 miles on it.  None of the doors open from the outside (we open the sliding window, put our hand through, open the side door, get in, open the front passenger door, lean over and open the driver's door).  It has only a few seatbelts and has begun to suffer many mechanical problems that make us question the wisdom of pouring more resources into such a vehicle.

The opportunity?

A 2014 Ford 15 passenger van with only 22,000 miles on it!  And...all the doors work!  And...it has 15 seatbelts!  And...four new Michelin tires!  And...it runs smoothly!  And...it is new enough that it would circulate everyday in Mexico City in order to pick up work teams, go on family outings, take to purchase equipment for crusades, etc. (In Mexico, emissions laws determine that vehicles older than a certain year are restricted from entering city limits one day of every week.)



After test driving the vehicle, and talking to the dealer, they allowed us to reserve the van with an initial payment of $2600.00 dollars.  OUR MEXICAN CRUSADE VOLUNTEERS CAME TOGETHER AND DONATED THAT INITIAL PAYMENT!  We rejoice in watching how the Lord has given them sacrificial hearts and hands to help meet this need, since they experience the need for more reliable transportation on EVERY crusade.  Many crusade trips turn into much longer travails due to vehicle issues, not to mention the unsafe conditions of our current van.

So, the van is ready to come home to Refuge Ranch as soon as we pay it off!  The dealer has given us until the first week of April with no interest to finish purchasing the vehicle.

The total cost, including one year's worth of insurance and registration fees is:  $20,850.00.  Of this cost, our Mexican volunteers have given, so far, $2650.00.

Therefore, the outstanding balance needed to bring the van home is:

$18,200.00

Let's enjoy watching more and more of the van turn blue with your support!


You may give your designated donation towards this opportunity online at:

www.fishersofmenmexico.org

Or by mailing a check marked "van" to:

Fishers of Men
P.O. Box 940
Shelbyville, IN 46176

Let's get the wheels rolling so that the Gospel message can keep going!



Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Fishers of Men Ministries needs a new set of wheels!  We currently have a 1996, 15 passenger van with over 250,000 miles on it that provides transportation for both the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades and our family here at Refuge Ranch.  Actually, that vehicle is in such poor condition that we are not even using it at this moment!  Currently, a borrowed 1997 van provides transportation for both the crusades and the family.

Our current van would require a new transmission as well as other mechanical repairs in order to make it safe enough to trust with the lives of our children and crusade volunteers.  Last month, I had to stop several times on the way home from church to add transmission fluid to the van just to get home.  The year and condition of the vehicle just does not make it a wise choice to keep pouring financial resources into it just to keep it running!

As you have realized, we use one passenger vehicle to cover both the needs of the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades, as well as the family here at Refuge Ranch.  Depending on where the Lord has called us to go, the crusade team alone travels an average of 12,000 miles a year, besides the miles driven to meet the needs of the family at Refuge Ranch.

Therefore, Fishers of Men is seeking to purchase a new, 19 passenger, Mercedes Benz Sprinter passenger van.



This vehicle would provide the strength needed to carry our crusade volunteers to the towns and villages to which the Lord is calling us to in 2018, and beyond.  Strength for trips that require strenuous long-haul driving, mountain curves and even dirt roads with more potholes than road.

This vehicle would provide the safety needed (individual seatbelts for all passengers, as well as a vehicle that will not breakdown in the middle of nowhere) to trust with the lives of not only our crusade volunteers, who leave their families on a regular basis to serve the Lord, but also with the lives of our children here at Refuge Ranch, and those who are yet to form part of our family.

This vehicle would provide the legality required to assure that Fishers of Men meets all government stipulations regarding the transportation of personnel, since the Sprinter is the only vehicle recognized by the Mexican government to meet the standards set for such use.

If we divide the cost of such a vehicle by its expected usage over the next 5 years, thereby still retaining resale value that would allow Fishers of Men to maintain using top quality vehicles to transport its most precious resource and responsibility, its people, the cost comes out to only $1.00 per mile to provide the ministry with new, safe, legal and trustworthy transportation!

That means that:

for only $63 you sponsor one round trip for our family to attend church on Sunday morning
your $194 donation provides the mileage required to prepare for a crusade as we purchase supplies and pick up donations around the Mexico City area
$96 supplies the mileage for an average family outing
In return for your sacrifice of $1500 you will have provided transportation for our volunteers for an entire crusade!
For every dollar you give YOU LITERALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

You may give your designated donation to “TRANSPORTATION” online on our website:


www.fishersofmenmexico.org

Or mail your donation, marked “TRANSPORTATION” to:
Fishers of Men
P.O. Box 940
Shelbyville, IN 46176

Thank you so much for your support and generosity!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

VERY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT

Greetings from Refuge Ranch here in Central Mexico….my home and the center of Fishers of Men Ministries!

I never imagined that I would one day sit down to write a blog/letter/post such as this, but the Lord knew and is in our midst;  never-changing, always redeeming, never leaving and always loving.

We are only a few days away from the one year anniversary of my husband, Victor Zaragoza’s, agreeing to go to the United States at the request of a group of five godly men in order to spend, at that point, an undetermined amount of time in the United States for counseling and restoration for habitual sins that were affecting our marriage, family and ministry and had not found healing through less extreme means.

After six months of therapy and discipleship, Victor returned to Mexico this past April, yet not to our family nor to the ministry, as time was needed to give him the opportunity to live out in tangible ways what we hoped had been accomplished in his heart and mind during his stay in the U.S.

Sadly, now, six months later, a lack of fruit of repentance, sufficiently changed attitudes and transformed behaviors has revealed Victor’s continuing choice to not submit to the Lord’s leadership in his life. 

Therefore, I have made the decision to get a divorce, with the understanding of my Pastors and family that this is a necessary step, and with the permission granted by God’s Word, thereby ending our 18-year marriage, much of which was marked by abusive behaviors that placed both myself, our children and the ministry in spiritual, emotional and physical danger.

Those who know me, know that such a decision was only reached after gut-wrenching prayer, fasting, consideration, godly counsel from my pastors, leaders and family, and after years of marriage counseling, waiting, and forgiving time and again while hoping for a transformation.

I would ask for your fervent prayers for myself, my children and grandchildren as we seek the Lord’s comfort, healing and restoration.  And, of course, continue to pray for Victor.

I am fully committed to continue to carry out the Lord’s good will and work through Fishers of Men Ministries, both the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades and Refuge Ranch.  I felt the Lord’s call on my life at age 13 and specifically to Mexico at the age of 16, much before meeting Victor and becoming husband and wife.  Therefore, my call and commitment to the Lord and, specifically, to His work in Mexico through Fishers of Men remains steady, firm and lifelong.  The Lord has provided an incredible staff at Refuge Ranch, excellent leadership for the crusades, a Board of Directors and passionate volunteers, as well as each of you, to continue to grow and minister His love and hope to Mexico!

In order to clarify, a daughter organization grew out of Fishers of Men several years ago here in Mexico.  A body of believers began Fishers of Men Pacific (Pescadores de Hombres Pacifico) following the pattern of our Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades.  While we share a common love for Christ and for spreading the Gospel, as well as a very similar style of ministry and nearly identical logos, we are independent organizations and do not share leadership nor finances.  Victor has recently been involved with their organization, so I find it necessary to explain that any communication from him or photos that appear to be related to Fishers of Men MEXICO is not so.  He is no longer associated with Fishers of Men Ministries, commonly known here as Fishers of Men Mexico. 

Thank you for your continued prayers for the ministry and, especially, for your continued and generous financial support during this difficult and tumultuous time.  Such support allows me to concentrate on loving my children through these days, as well as leading the ministry and its volunteers.

Following Christ in a sinful world where He lovingly allows each of us to decide whether we want to live in accordance with His will and way or not, does not always pan out the way we had expected.  My heart is grieving, the tears are many and frequent, the hurt is oh so real, but I choose to trust daily that the reality of Christ’s love and Word is even more real! 

May you find, in the midst of your own challenges and turmoil, the same hope, security and love that I have found through God’s Word expressed through the prophet Isaiah when he wrote:

“But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
 For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you.” Isaiah 43:1-4

Lastly, I would request that any contact with my children be limited to expressions of support and care and that any questions regarding what I have shared here be directed to me.  Thank you!

In Christ,

Julie

Monday, May 15, 2017

Zaragoza Family Update

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As you may recall, last October a team of five Godly men, composed of Pastor Kirk Hanger (the founding pastor of our church here in Mexico), Pastor Ruben Bonilla (our current pastor), Pastor Dave Claassen, Elder Dan Claassen and Elder Adrian Tovar, formed an intervention team that confronted Victor Zaragoza with unrepentant sin present in his life and encouraged him to spend a time of restoration in the United States, under the leadership of Pastor Kirk and his wife, Marilyn, while working with a Christian therapist. 

Victor’s visa allowed him to stay a maximum of six months, which has now expired.  Therefore, he returned to Mexico on Monday, April 24th, where the restoration process continues.

As a part of this process, Victor is not living at the Ranch, but rather with his parents, while maintaining communication and visitation with the children.  He will also not be attending our same church.

As far as the crusade ministry, according to the decision of the Fishers of Men Board of Directors and the intervention team, Victor has agreed to not be in charge of nor participate in the crusades.  Adrian Tovar will continue to lead that portion of the ministry.

So, Julie Zaragoza, under the leadership of the Fishers of Men Board of Directors, now holds the position of General Director of Fishers of Men Ministries, Inc., which includes both Refuge Ranch and the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades, with Adrian Tovar serving as the Crusade Coordinator.

We thank the Lord that in these last 6 months, both ministries of Fishers of Men have continued to fulfill God’s plans and purposes!  At Refuge Ranch, the construction of the new main house continues to move forward!  In the last 6 months, we have poured over 60 columns and the entire first floor and are now working on all of the first floor headers!  Of course, the focus of Refuge Ranch is not on building a house, but the lives of our children.  Each of the 13 children at home, and the four children that live elsewhere, continue to grow, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually!  As for the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades, we finished out the 2016 calendar as planned and, by God’s grace so far in 2017, we have held five crusades and a two day volunteer training retreat.

We continue asking for your prayers for our family, for Victor, and for the ministry as we walk through this next stage of life, seeking the Lord’s full restoration in each of our lives, in our family, and His continued grace and power in the ministry!

In Christ,

Julie Zaragoza – Fishers of Men General Director
Bob Siler – Fishers of Men Board President
Don Current II – Fishers of Men Board Treasurer
Ashleigh Weis – Fishers of Men Board Secretary

Jen Yoder – Fishers of Men Board Member