Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Beginning of Something Bigger: by guest blogger - Joanna Marshall

What a joy to have another guest blogger this week!  My heart sings to see those that the Lord calls to Mexico,obey His call and then share His marvelous works with others!  Today's blog touched my heart in a special way as Joanna's story reminds me so much of my own journey of God's call on my life to Mexico.  How rewarding and enriching to see the next generation (I don't feel old enough to be saying that!) of those whom the Lord is raising up for His service around the globe!  Enjoy Joanna's journey!  -  Julie Zaragoza

I barely remember the first time I met Victor and Julie Zaragoza, because I was so young. I met them in a little country church called Shiloh Christian Church. When I first met them, they had only one son, Josiah. I don’t remember what Victor preached about. Presumably, they were at my family’s church to tell us about their call and their dream for their ministry. I remember thinking that Victor talked really fast and I thought that Julie being able to speak both languages was absolutely amazing.

When I was in second grade, my parents left with a group from my church in February to help Julie and Victor build a house where they would be able to adopt children. My parents made the decision to leave my older brother and myself in the U.S. with the thought that we were too young to bring on a mission trip that would be mostly construction. However, on the way back, my mom told my dad that when they went back to Mexico they needed to bring my brother and me.

It wasn’t until after fourth grade, when I was ten years old, that I made my first trip to Mexico. The flights were a bit crazy and we did not arrive at the Ranch until the following morning when I got to see the one story house that my parents had helped build on their trip. At that point, it had 2 bedrooms and the Zaragoza's had six kids (I think). That week was spent shoveling sand into buckets that could then be dumped into a concrete mixer to pour the foundation for the building that is not part of the school. That week, I fell in love with the people at the Ranch.

After that trip, my family decided that we were being called to Mexico to live there more permanently. (There is more to that story, but this is growing long quite quickly).

My family made one more trip to Refuge Ranch in the summer after my sixth grade year, when I was 12. On this trip, which was also with a work team from my church, we helped build a retaining wall so that the dirt didn’t wash out from under the foundation we had poured two years before. This time, the Zaragoza’s had 11 kids, a 2 story house, and the foundation we had poured was now the school building for them.

When I was 13, my parents sold our house and we made the long drive down to Refuge Ranch and stayed there for 2 years. During that time, I went on my first EMMC. I fell in love with all of the Zaragoza’s, the land, the language, the culture, and the people here.  I watched in amazement as God allowed the Zaragoza family to grow from 12 children to 18 children during those 2 short years.

Now, three and a half years later, I am back in Mexico. I am 19 years old. Over the past week and a half, while I have been in Mexico, God has been moving in my heart and confirming what I have known since a young age. I am called to do foreign mission work south of the United States border. Even though I may have ignored Him during some years of my life, it is abundantly clear, and I cannot deny, that if I am to follow Jesus, it will mean living in a country that is not my own.

While on this trip, I went on an EMMC, and I was able to work with Dr. Ellie, a gynecologist. I watched nursing students put I.V.s in and learned a lot about the medical/physical side of things. While on crusade, Victor preached about being called by God. God showed me His mercy and forgiveness as I realized that I had nearly forgotten what His voice sounded like. God turned me around and pointed me in the direction of his path.

Pictures from Joanna's time in Mexico:

This is Joanna (on the left) with Jamie Musselman, one of her best friends, who,
due to Joanna's influence, is currently serving here at Refuge Ranch since last October. 

Ruth coloring.

Joel getting ready to clean teeth on the crusade.

The evangelistic clown team on the crusade with Victor in the background.

Joanna with two little somebodies!

Jamie with a little somebody, too.....David!

The Mexican mountains saying goodbye to Joanna....and ready to say hello again in the Lord's timing!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

From a First Timer....the Catemaco Crusade Experience

Welcome to our guest blogger....Sydney Butikofer from Iowa!  Sydney, a college student, was one of the U.S. volunteers on the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade (EMMC) to Catemaco, Veracruz during the first week of June.  It is always refreshing hearing from a "first-timer" about their experience in Mexico with Fishers of Men!  I believe you will be refreshed and, Lord willing, even challenged to follow in Jesus' footsteps, just as Sydney did!
I had an incredible and life-changing time in Mexico serving on this medical mission crusade, as it was my first time being out of the country and working on the team. We went to Catemaco, Veracruz, a city known as the capitol of witchcraft in Mexico. Included on our team were family doctors, dentists, nurses, evangelists, and a surgeon. I had the opportunity of assisting the surgeon. We even got our own operating room, which was very cool!
Each morning started out with a time of worship for the team followed by a message and breakfast. After breakfast, everyone set off to their own tasks. I, along with two other college girls, got to assist Dr. Karkow with the surgeries he performed. We removed many moles and cysts, along with other minor skin operations. Once we were done working for the day, we would go back to the church and hang out with the people there. I absolutely loved spending time with the children (even though they liked to make fun of my poor Spanish).
During our time there, over 1,100 medical services were provided for the people. Everyone who was seen then sat with a member of the team and had the Gospel message shared with them. Even with witchcraft being so prevalent, God worked in the hearts of the people as over 250 people accepted Christ, including some witches. It was so humbling for me to see how grateful the people were, especially since most of them had never had this kind of medical treatment before.

My favorite story is of one girl who, after surgery, told Dr. Karkow he was the best, to which he replied, “I’m just a sinner. It’s God who’s the best.” This is so true! God really used this trip, others on the crusade, and the people of Catemaco to open up my heart to a whole world of His people.
 Below, I have include a couple of pictures. 
Our surgical team: me (Sydney), Devin, Dr. Karkow, Katie, and our amazing translator Diana

Katie, Devin, and me spending time with some of the children of Catemaco.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

In the Meantime....

Victor, my husband, is on an Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade this week leading an international, interdisciplinary, multilingual team of over 30 volunteers as they share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in cooperation with a local body of believers in Catemaco, Veracruz, the Mexican witchcraft capital of the nation. 
Here is some of the international flavor on this crusade: Dr. Bill (seated) with three American pre-med students listening to a patient's needs (seated in the white blouse) while our second eldest daughter, Diana (standing in white), translates.

In the meantime, back at the Ranch....I, Julie, am.....hmmm...I think I just am!

Me....just being.  (I had Alejandro take this of me just a few minutes ago as I worked on this very blog.  No staging here...this is real life in central Mexico on a Tuesday afternoon at 5:30 p.m.)

Victor and the team, in the power of the Holy Spirit, are pushing back spiritual darkness with the light of Jesus Christ in a town full of witchcraft and evil practices.
The team hard at work on the crusade in Catemaco, Veracruz

In the meantime, back at the Ranch, we are.....catching mice!

I hate mice! The first night Victor was gone, Caleb and I saw three mice in the living of whom scurried into my bedroom! So, yesterday, our eldest, Angie, went to the store and bought three sticky mice traps. (I don't know how to set those springy mouse traps.) Last night, I went into the bathroom...and a mouse ran into the corner. I quickly set one of those sticky traps by the door with some peanut butter in the middle of the sticky stuff and, within 5 minutes, we had our first mouse! Problem...what to do with the mouse?! The kids were already in bed, but Josiah heard the little commotion and came to my rescue, discarding the mouse while I looked the other way while standing on a chair. Two more mice promptly fell in another trap within 20 minutes. Martha, Jocelin and Josiah rescued me from those mice by discarding them while I hid on my bed. BUT...I still heard another one rustling about in the night. The hunt continues!

Insert imaginary picture here: just use your imagination for the mouse scenes. I thought I would spare you any actual pictures!

Victor and the team, through the truth of Jesus Christ, are leading person after person to the throne of grace to have their sins washed away.
Leonel (on the right), who is the youth pastor at our church, our daughter Martita's boyfriend and, Lord willing,  our future son-in-law, sharing the Gospel with a young woman during this crusade to Catemaco, Veracruz.

In the meantime, back at the Ranch, we do some washing, too! Dishes, lots and lots of dishes. Oh, and clothes too.....and sheets, and towels and rags! Oh, and faces and hair and fingernails and hands!

Victor and the team begin each day with group devotions where they hear the Word, sing His praises and join in one Spirit.
The team during morning devotions on Tuesday morning.

In the meantime, back at the Ranch, we do family devotions too! We hear the Word, sing His praises and.....well, let's just leave it that! The 'joining in one Spirit' part becomes a bit more complicated when the youngest kids fight over the couch during worship time.

Insert your multi-media imagination of three children trying to scramble for the same overstuffed chair and then having to sing a worship song with grumpy faces because somebody else got to the chair before them.  Sitting in the right chair is, after all, one of the most important things on the face of this earth!

Victor coordinates the team as they each carry out their God-ordained and God-given talents, abilities and assignments: from surgery to dental to pharmacy to counseling.

Dr. Leslie, one of our faithful Mexican dentists, working on a patient just yesterday!
In the meantime, back at the Ranch, I check the job chart for the fifth time in one day and look for the child who is supposed to be washing dishes. OK, got him....where did the dish rinser go? Oh, she got tired of waiting for the washer. Finally, good, let's see, we've got the dish drier, the dish putter-awayer, the dish rinser....where did the dish washer go? (hint: “dish washer” refers to a child who washes dishes, not an electronic home appliance)
Our 'job chart central' on the refrigerator.

So many times in our lives we can see where the Lord has placed others and desire their place of service, the way the Lord uses them, their circumstances. We can even get jealous about suffering, thinking that another person's suffering requires less suffering than our suffering!

Oh, for the ability to be content. Oh, for the ability to trust: to trust that God has truly created me...for this...right now. Oh, for the ability to believe that He truly is working out a purpose and good through all things. Oh, for the ability to see the ordinary as extraordinary and the mundane as holy.

Oswald Chambers' words recorded in “My Utmost for His Highest” speak to that need: “It does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours of every day as a saint, going through drudgery, and living an ordinary, unnoticed, and ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God – but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people – and this is not learned in five minutes.”

Oh, for the ability to do drudgery for Jesus! And, oh, for the ability to see that drudgery as He sees it...and, suddenly, well, at least ever so slowly, we realize that it isn't drudgery!

OK, let me give it a try. My new opening sentence: Julie, home at Refuge Ranch this week, is leading a multi-age, multi-colored, bilingual group of 15 children and youth, while also coordinating a multi-faceted staff, as they work jointly towards the carrying out of daily tasks resulting in the teaching, forming, healing, inspiring, loving and shaping of the next generation of followers of Jesus Christ!

So, do you have some mice to catch this week? Then, let's catch some mice for Jesus! (And, in the meantime, wash some dishes, and mop some floors, and check some homework, etc..:-) )

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fishing for a Family

Our family recently returned from one of our favorite vacation spots on the Pacific Coast. A Christian acquaintance of ours cuts us an incredible deal to rent her place on the beach....just perfect for our family!

Within a few minutes' drive from the bungalows sits a salt water lagoon, one of our kids' favorite places to explore with its bathtub-like warm water, seagulls, crabs and shells galore! Since my brother introduced the boys to fishing last year, the lagoon has become a favorite fishing hole, especially for 15 year old Alejandro!

Alejandro fishing at the lagoon...first with a fishing pole and then the local way...with a stick, fishing line and a hook!

This year, Alejandro spent some time fishing with the poles involved, just a stick, fishing line and a hook, which they send out into the water with a whirling movement reminiscent of David slinging the pebble at Goliath. One one excursion, we arrived at the lagoon and began to lather ourselves in sunscreen. Alejandro, stick and fishing line in hand, turned and said to me, with a disappointed tone in his voice: “There's nobody else fishing!”

Now, being the expert fisherwoman that I am (ha ha ha ha!), I assumed that a lack of competition would be good news!  However, Alejandro quickly clarified his dilemma, “Mom, I was going to ask the other guys for bait!”

Alejandro had gone fishing with no bait! (That's a whole other blog and spiritual lesson!)

Always trying to teach our children the purpose of family, I calmly responded, “Alejandro, therein lies one of the benefits of having a father. Ask Dad and he can get you some bait.” At Victor's suggestion, Alejandro inquired at the little restaurant to see if they had any bait available. They ended up giving Alejandro some bait for free and he happily spent the next few hours fishing!

Thankfully, the spiritual lesson has lasted much longer than those few hours!

As an adoptive mom of 18 children, I have witnessed first hand, and felt in my heart firsthand, the difference between those of our children who fully embrace their place in our family and those who do not.

Alejandro, a work in process like all of our children, and each of us, still remains a bit rougher around the edges than most. He joined our family over three years ago at age 11. By the time he reached our doorstep, and our hearts, he had lived in at least 7 different living situations in those 11 years, including on the street, in a stranger's home, at various motels and in an informal halfway house for adult male alcoholics. Alejandro readily identifies Victor and I as his parents, yet, he hasn't quite internalized what it actually means to have a Dad and Mom. For example, if you have a Dad and Mom you don't have to finagle bait from strangers; you can ask Dad and Mom and they, within their capabilities and considering what is healthy and best for you, will actually give you the desires of your heart!

I began to wonder if we don't do the same with our Heavenly Father. We are adopted, too, you know!

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry,Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” Ephesians 1:5

WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD! But, do we really embrace being God's son or daughter? Do we enjoy all the benefits of being a child of the Creator, Owner and Sustainer of the universe on a daily basis? We marvel at what life might be like as the child of a famous actor or actress, of the President or some rich oil tycoon, but I am the daughter of the CEO and CFO of the universe!

As an adoptive mother, I find nothing more heartbreaking, and at times frustrating, than to know how much I love each of my children, to know that I have fully accepted them as sons and daughters, and then to watch them reject that love, or that position, and the needless suffering they endure simply because they refuse to fully accept their adoption and live in the abundance that sonship or daughtership affords!

The Zaragoza Family March 2015
Front row:  Carolina, David, Ana, Ruth
Middle row: Fatima, Miguel, Victor, Julie, Caleb, Jocelin
Back row: Fidel, Alejandro, Lolis, Martita, Martha, Angie, Diana, Leo, Josiah
With Jesus in Heaven:  Danny
Alejandro's fishing incident illustrated this reality in a very small, and actually quite insignificant, way. However, upon returning from vacation, our 17 year old daughter Lolis upped the stakes by deciding to permanently return to her hometown and extended biological family. While we would not normally allow a child to make such a decision, Lolis had begun to act in ways hurtful to her life and health in order get what she wanted. So, through the guidance of both our Heavenly Counselor (the Holy Spirit) and the advice of our family's earthly counselor, we felt peace that loving Lolis meant letting her go! So, on Monday, March 16, Victor and I and Martita (Lolis' older biological sister and our third eldest), accompanied Lolis back to her hometown. We reassured her time and time again that 'once our daughter, always our daughter'; that she can count on us throughout her lifetime. However, sadly, she will not enjoy the benefits of her daughtership until she fully accepts the fact that she is our daughter!

As an adoptive mom, I know that my Heavenly Father understands me! How sad and frustrated He must feel at times! He knows how much he loves us and He knows all that He has prepared for us and yet then watches us suffer, stumble and endure times of  great lacking and suffering, not because He is incapable of providing for us or sustaining us, but because we have rendered ourselves incapable of receiving all He has for us due to the fact that we have not fully embraced our sonship or daughtership!

As an adopted daughter of God, watching Lolis and Alejandro not fully embrace their earthly adoption has spurred me on to more fully embrace, and enjoy, my Heavenly adoption and all of its incredible, literally out-of-this-world benefits!

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are a child of the King of the Universe! Embrace it! Accept your son or daughtership! Enjoy having God as Father! Approach the throne of grace with full confidence! Let's not loose out on being coheirs with Christ by asking strangers for what our Father is fully capable and willing to give us!

If you have never prayed to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and is the day! It would be an honor and privilege to help you become a son or daughter of God! If you would like to belong to an eternal family, then I invite you to pray the following prayer (or you can do so with your own words):

Dear God, on this day I come before you desiring to be your child. I know that I have sinned and that my sin has separated me from you. However, I understand that you sent your only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross to pay for my sins and then brought Him back to life winning the victory over sin and death. Please forgive me for my sins. I accept your gift of forgiveness. Please come into my heart and life and be my Father! Thank you because I know now that I will spend the rest of this life enjoying a relationship with You, getting to know You and depending on You, and I will spend all of eternity with You in Heaven. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Shake, Rattle and Roll!

This year at Refuge Ranch started with a whole lot of shaking and rattling and we are ready to God's grace, in His strength and according to His will in 2015!

The Lord truly blessed our family and the ministry at Refuge Ranch with the visit of an incredible work team from Pennsylvania, here from January 10-17.  The team consisted of 10 high school seniors from Christopher Dock Mennonite High School and six adults, including fearless leaders Jen and Beth, as well as Dave Moyer, his machines and guys!

Six years ago, the Lord led Dave, owner of a construction company in Pennsylvania, to invest his knowledge, time and resources in the lives and ministry of Refuge Ranch.  The land, and our lives, have not looked the same since!  Through connections at Volvo, Dave gets three huge earth moving machines which he and his guys use for the whole week to move tons and tons and tons of dirt, transforming our land to better enable us to transform lives!  That's where the shaking and rattling came from...the machines working actually make the windows on our current home rattle and you can feel the earth shake!

The youth on the team worked incredibly hard and painted the outside of our current home, as well as the other building at Refuge Ranch, which houses staff rooms, our school, the medical crusade warehouse and our dining room.  I thought those buildings were white, until they got painted!  Now they ARE white and look beautiful!

After that, the team finished pouring the last portions of the cement footers for the main house and even helped tie the first rebar footers, as well as bending lots and lots of rebar for the foundation.  It was amazing!
Bending rebar
Tying the first rebar footers for the new house!  (Notice: my Mom makes a great rebar supervisor! :-)
The new house with all the footers poured and the first rebar being laid.
In the two weeks since the team shared their lives with us, the Lord has revealed to me a parallel of the work done that week and the shaking up that He is doing in my own life.  On one of those first afternoons, our kids stood horrified as they watched Dave and his guys tear down the three trees standing in our playground area, dismantle the slide and swings and turn the only grass on our property into a dustbowl.  One by one, our children came to me with reprimanding voices, tiny hands on their hips, demanding to know what was going on and why I was permitting such destruction!  I calmly explained the vision of the new park: at least 5 times as large as the old park, totally flat and with sufficient room for the slide, swings, and teeter-totter, as well as new playground equipment and a soccer field, all with nice grass!  They stopped their complaining, but by no means were they convinced of our seeming madness.

You see, I have a very clear vision in my mind for what the new park will look like, and the utter confidence that it will come to be, so watching trees go and grass disappear do not bother me, nor does putting up with lots and lots of dust or the lack of a playground for now.  I can clearly see where we are heading and understand the reason for the apparent destruction.  Our kids don't have that same vision...they just have to trust!  Where the kids see destruction, I see construction!

I realized that many times recently I had come into devotions or near to the throne of God with the same reprimanding voice and my not-so-little hands stuck firmly on my hips as I demanded that God explain to me the apparent destruction He was allowing in certain areas of my life.  All I could see were trees toppling and grass disappearing and seeming nothingness replace what had appeared to be green and growing.  Then, one day, He gently reminded me:  He has a vision of what is coming!  He knows that to bring to completion those good and perfect plans for my life, there are other things that need to be removed, changed, and transformed first.  To my eyes, and my heart, it looks, and feels, like a whole lot of destruction.  Pointless and painful destruction.  Just like my kids felt that we were destroying their play area, I sometimes feel that God allows things to enter my life that threaten to utterly destroy me.  But, just as I, their mother, tried my best to comfort them that I have a greater, more beautiful plan in mind, and nearly begged that they trust me, my Heavenly Father knows that He has a greater, more beautiful plan in mind, and begs me in His Word to trust Him!

I know, by faith, that our main house and the accompanying playground will one day be finished, yet I really have very little power to fulfill such a promise.  My Heavenly Father promises to finish what He has started in my life, but, unlike me, He has the power to fulfill that promise!

In the meantime, construction, whether on the land or in our hearts, is just plain messy!  But, bring it on...there's some building going on around here and when the dust settles the playground, the house...and I...will be just beautiful!

"...being confident of this, 
that he who began a good work in you 
will carry it on to completion 
until the day of Christ Jesus."
Philippians 1:6


Enjoy these pictures showing part of the transformation process at Refuge Ranch!  I assure you that similar transformations are simultaneously occurring in the lives and hearts of our children....just can't take pictures of those processes!

The playground and new house area in May 2014...less than a year ago!

The playground and new house area being transformed by Dave and his crew: January 2015.

This is Refuge Ranch in 2008.  In this picture we weren't even using the second story of our current home yet.
This is Refuge Ranch today...literally TODAY (I took this picture this morning!).  The new house construction is on the left (incomplete in this picture), with the new parking area, the graveled ramp up to our current home..and the school/staff/warehouse/dining room building is just off camera to the right.

This is what transformation looks and sounds like!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Two Ships Passing in the Night

This past Sunday night Victor and I acted like two ships passing in the night!

My ship came into home port at 10:30 p.m., along with our five eldest daughters, Angie, Diana, Martita, Lolis and Martha. Victor's ship left home port the same night, but at 3:00 a.m. So, we shared the same dock (our bed) for about a total of three and half hours!

You see, the girls' and my ship had spent the weekend, literally, in the port of Acapulco, Guerrero!

Acapulco, Guerrero
The Lord gave me the privilege of helping lead a pastor's wives' conference, alongside of missionary Barb Conner, on Friday and Saturday. Some thirty pastor's wives from Southern Baptist Churches throughout the state of Guerrero attended the two day event where they learned about the importance of supporting each other through regular times of meeting for prayer, Bible study, fellowship and accountability. This greatly excited me as this embodies exactly what the ladies of the staff here at Refuge Ranch and I do each Friday morning. I would be hard pressed to fully explain all that those gathering times have meant for my own heart and life, my marriage, my parenthood and the ministry here! So, I enthusiastically supported all that Barb shared to encourage and train the ladies in that area.  In addition, I had the opportunity to share a session regarding finding one's identity in Christ (a lifetime message the Lord has placed in and on my heart) as well as a time of testimony of the Lord's working in my life and family.

My five girls and I with fellow conference leader and missionary, Barb, as well as the women's leaders of the state of Guerrero who organized these two events so wonderfully!

Then, on Sunday, the Lord gave me the gift of leading a one day conference for young ladies entitled: “The Power of Purity: God's Plan for your Sexuality”...another one of my passions (no pun intended!)! Forty-seven young women ranging in age from 12 years old through their mid 20's attended! We had a good time and I pray that the seeds planted may grow into strong and fruitful commitments to purity throughout those precious girls' lives.

The Purity Conference

The young ladies hard at work looking up Bible verses about finding their identity in Christ.
"If you know you are a Princess of the King then you will act like a Princess of the King and will look for a Prince of the King that will treat you like the Princess of the King that you know you are!"
During some time off on Saturday afternoon and evening, my girls and I had a great time at the beach, going to dinner and visiting one of the most popular tourist sites in Acapulco, La Quebrada, where divers free dive off of very high cliffs into the Pacific Ocean.

My girls and I modeling our life jackets before our trip on the banana! (Lolis was taking the picture)
Bananas away!
My beautiful daughters at La Quebrada!

Victor's ship, while in our home port all weekend attending to our other 12 little sailors, set sail at 3 a.m. Monday morning, along with all of the other Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade volunteers' boats. They soon traded their ships for a plane as they boarded a flight at 7:30 a.m. Monday morning to Ciudad Juarez for this week's crusade.

Ships ahoy....I mean, take flight!

The Crusade Team at the Mexico City airport ready to go!

This is the first EMMC that has required our team to travel by plane! For some team members, including our own Refuge Ranch staff member ,Vero, it was not only their first time going on crusade by plane, but the first time they had ever even flown! The Lord, in His faithfulness and mercy, provided tickets at a price that made flying even cheaper than having made the 24 hour drive with two crusade vehicles. Each of the volunteers paid for a portion of their own ticket and Fishers of Men, through generous donor contributions, covered the remaining portion, as well as other crusade costs.

Victor on board!

The Crusade Team deplaning in Ciudad Juarez.

Thanking the Lord at the airport in Ciudad Juarez for a safe arrival.
Arriving in Ciudad Juarez, the Fishers of Men team joined forces with the local pastor, Joel, and his wife, Amber, as well as other believers from the Villa Esperanza Church, as well as with Canadian volunteers with the organization Christlike Ministries. So, a three nation effort, Canada, United States and Mexico, has joined forces for something greater than even NAFTA! They have joined forces to share the Good News of Jesus Christ through meeting the physical needs of the people so that many may come to know the Lord in a personal way!

The crusade flier that was distributed locally to invite people to take advantage of this week's crusade and Sunday's special evening tent service!

After getting back into home port, I spent Monday cleaning deck here at home and reorganizing my ropes and supplies, as well as attending to our sailors, before we started our home port routine of school and chores on Tuesday.

I thank the Lord Jesus for being our anchor wherever He sets our sails and we thank you for providing the financial support to keep these ships in “ship shape”: fueled, loaded with the necessary provisions to carry out the mission with which the Creator of the Seas has entrusted us and conditioned to make the sailing as effective as possible!  (Remember: if you would like to financially support this "float" you may do so very simply on the home page of our website: by clicking on "donate" and using the secure PayPal system to make a one time donation or set up a monthly contribution, which greatly helps our budgeting and administration.)

Thank you for your prayers that sustain our float during stormy waters, that encourage during rough seas and that celebrate with us for each stretch of calm, each port visited and each mission completed!

While Victor and my ships rarely “pass in the night” like this past weekend, and is not something we relish, it was actually a privilege this time around because it was done in obedience to the Master Mariner...our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Friday, October 24, 2014

God healed me....and I didn't even know I needed healing!

A week ago last Sunday, God performed a miracle in my life! A true I didn't even know I needed...and I continue to be in awe! Oh, ye, of little faith, I have even waited 10 days to share this miracle publicly in order to make sure that it really was a miracle! Lord, have mercy!

On Sunday evening we arrived home from church as normal, around 6 p.m. A bit later, one of the physiotherapists (massage therapists) from the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade volunteer team arrived at the Ranch. She had offered to come out and give the ladies of our staff free massages!

So, later that evening I went to the other building on our property, up to one of the extra staff bedrooms off of our classroom area. There the therapist had set up her massage table. Relaxing music floated through the air, dancing with the sweet aromas of therapeutic oils.

As the massage began, I adjusted my earphones to listen to Dad's last sermon before retirement, which he had preached earlier that morning, at my home church, after nearly 40 years of pastoring there. I secretly hoped that that massage would reach all the way to my heart, because it really felt like it needed a massage!

As the message, and massage, continued, the therapist commented: “Julie, do you have problems with your hips?” I thought for a second and then replied: “Yeah, I guess I do, especially with my right hip.” A few seconds later I asked: “How can you tell?” “Oh, I can tell all right!” was her quick response as she continued to work silently and methodically.

Do you know when I realized, though, that I really had had problems with my right hip? As soon as I got off the massage table.....and my hip didn't hurt! A bit later, I walked upstairs....and downstairs....and upstairs....and downstairs....and upstairs (etc....) to put the kids to bed and my hip didn't hurt! The next morning the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., my feet hit the floor....and my hip didn't hurt! After devotions and 30 minutes on the hip didn't hurt! My hip didn't hurt during my stretching exercises and I could sit Indian style on the floor....without pain! I went to school and after over an hour of sitting at my desk and attending the kids' questions, I got up....and my hip didn't hurt! I ran up to my office to make a photo copy for school without holding onto the railing...and my hip didn't hurt! I slept all night and didn't have to change positions to accommodate...a hurting hip!

In each of this instances, I was not thinking, “My hip should be hurting.” I did not even expect my hip to hurt, because I really had ignored the pain problem, but once I put weight on the hip and it didn't hurt my brain said: “Hey, that was supposed to hurt and it didn't!”

As I thought more and more about this situation, I realized that my hips, particularly my right hip, had been hurting for months! However, the pain had gotten increasingly worse so gradually that I hadn't even realized how bothersome it had become! (Like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot of water.) I also realized that I had excused the pain as a possible inherited arthritis, like my Grandma, or maybe a different congenital hip condition, like the one with which Josiah had been born born. I assumed that the pain was something I was going to have to learn to live with and knew that God would give me the strength to do so. Now that the pain was gone, I remembered that on many occasions I had had to pray for strength to be able to go up our house steps just one more time! I thought it was just exhaustion, but it had been pain!

The Lord certianly used the therapist's hands during the massage, but He did the miraculous healing! A simple massage session (I had had massages with this therapist before) feel wonderful, but they don't heal! Jesus heals! (The Lord has used this same therapist to heal people on crusade. Our staff has witnessed the elderly arrive totally dependent on a cane and then leave the crusade, leaving the cane behind!)

I have been quite stupefact for the last 10 days....marvelling at life without hip pain, marvelling at the stupidity of living with unnecessary pain, marvelling at the fact that I hadn't even considered the possibility of trying to get rid of the pain, marvelling at the fact that I hadn't even realized how bad the pain had become until it was gone, marvelling at the fact that the pain crept in so slowly and subtly that I hadn't even fully detected it!

How dangerous it can be to become so used to living in a state of pain that we don't even realize we are in pain! Wow! When pain becomes normal!

What happens when emotional pain becomes normal? What happens when we no longer even consider forgiveness because we assume that cold, stony portion of our heart is simply just that way, when we could be living in total and utter freedom?! What happens when loneliness becomes a friendly ache, rather than an impulse to seek friendship with God and others?! What happens when abuse becomes normal and we don't even consider seeking help and healing because we can't even see the abuse because “that's just the way life is”?!

What happens when spiritual pain becomes normal? When “losing your first love” is a part of Christian growth? When the big, dark, vacuum of a whole in our heart is deemed an irremediable human condition?

So, how are you healed of a pain you don't even realize you have?

You depend on God to reveal and heal!

Ask Him today: “Lord, I come to you this day asking that you would reveal any pain present in my life that You would will to heal! Reveal it to me so that I can then go to You as the Great Physician to heal my soul, my heart and my body in accordance with Your perfect will.”

One thing is if the Lord chooses not to heal and quite another is not even realizing we need healing! Let's just not get used to the pain!