Tuesday, July 29, 2014

One Family's Refuge Ranch Adventure: Guest Blogger - Dyan Current

Our Family, the Current Family, ready for a wedding in Mexico that we attended with the Zaragozas!

Our family was privileged to spend two weeks at Refuge Ranch this past June. It took about two minutes to fall hopelessly in love with every member of the Zaragoza family. During our stay, Refuge Ranch became home to us. The five of us kept busy helping out as staff at the Ranch while there. 

During the majority of the week, Don and our 12 year old sons, Don and Darrel, did LOTS of manual labor. They cut and bent rebar, dug footers for the new home, cleaned the trash bins out and hauled the trash to the dump...and got lots of blisters on their hands! Don actually wore through a BRAND NEW pair of LEATHER gloves! 

Don and the boys digging footers for the new main house!
Cutting rebar...
...and now to bend the rebar!
Our sons were excited to see their arm strength increase....all their buddies were at sports camps all summer....but the boys certainly did not miss out on strength training! They also did not miss out on soccer camp! During every break time in school...and after school, you could find a majority of the boys around the yard playing soccer! 

Don, Leo and Miguel practicing their soccer technique.

Danielle, our 7 year old daughter, and I did not partake in too much manual labor but we were exhausted none-the-less by evening time! Well, at least I was!!! Danielle doesn't get exhausted too often! Every morning after the kids were off to school and the house quieted down a bit Julie would give me several projects to work on throughout the day. Since she knew I love to organize she gave me the challenge to organize the family's toys, movies and school files. I also worked on weeding the small garden that is by the kitchen. Danielle and I worked on the kids 'TV watching' chart....a clever idea to try to control how much TV the kiddos watch. 

David was thrilled because his name got included on the new TV chart....
and Mommy Julie is thrilled because the chart is so much better now!
The first week that the Current family served at the Ranch, most of the Ranch staff was on an Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade, so I even got to help cook!
I had brought a few crafts to do with the kids during our stay. Once I got those out several of the kids would ask each day "When is activity time? What will we do for an  activity today?" I had been so happy with myself to think of a few crafts to bring down....and then quickly noted that if ten children or so (some of the kids are just 'too mature' to do crafts!) want to do a craft EVERYDAY...that will eat up a LOT of supplies!! I sent out a facebook plea to my friends asking what I could do with my meager supplies I had left! We ended up painting rocks with nail polish (a big creative hit!), making play dough, painting metal washers with nail polish...and making duct tape crafts (with fun patterned duct tape that I had brought down.) Several of the kids thrived during this craft time. Lots of creativity! 

Fidel, Ruth and Danielle working during craft time!  To say that the kids loved this time is a huge understatement!

Alejandro really blossomed during craft time!  It served as a great motivator for him to hurry up and get his school work done, helped keep his endless energy directed in healthy ways and gave him an opportunity to truly shine!
Julie mentioned while we were there that she was just grateful that her kids had someone else to love them and whom they could depend on because she and Victor just can not do everything on their own with such a houseful of kids. 

SO....it's not about the bending rebar or making play dough. What this 'mission' was about was LOVING. This big, beautiful, real family let us into their lives. We all fell in love with each other even with our messed up morning hair or when milk was spilled all over the breakfast table or a kiddo had a melt down..we still loved.

Danielle and Angie

Miguel, Josiah, Darrel and Don playing an incredible board game!

Ana and Danielle
Darrel and Josiah discussing Nerf guns....serious conversation!

Joce and Don making quesadillas for the family!

Joce and Dyan

I would encourage you to come see Refuge Ranch. Come serve. Come love. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Wanting to Be Like Daddy

I first began writing this blog on August 7, 2013, two days before Danny was hospitalized for his heart surgery last year. Obviously, during his month long hospital stay in intensive care, I did not finish working on the blog nor publish it, as all of our attention was focused on our next 15 minute visit with Danny and the doctor's reports...and hoping, praying and striving to bring Danny home! The blog lay there awaiting its final revision and finishing touches when Danny passed away on September 8, 2013. Next Tuesday, July 8, we will celebrate the 10 month anniversary of Danny's passing and, today, I finally had the valor to finish this blog. The tears flowed, several times, but I thank the Lord and praise Jesus for the four years we shared with Danny, for the love given and the love received, for the lessons imparted and the lessons learned!

I peeked through the cracked open door to spy on Ana and Danny’s activities in his bedroom. The sight before me warmed my heart and marveled my mind. Danny was lying on his back on the floor, scootched up under his tricycle, yellow construction worker hat on head, wrench in hand and a very serious look on his mechanic’s face. Ana sat patiently next to him, with the toolbox at hand, waiting for his next request. He glanced up at me and responded to the questions in my eyes: “I’m fixing my bike like Daddy.” He was positioned just like Victor when he works on our vehicles and, since the tricycle is Daniel’s preferred form of transportation, well, he was just keeping it all tuned up and ready to roll!

Mechanic Danny and Assistant Ana

A few days later, bath night rolled around. Feeling relaxed, and with time to spare, I poured a generous amount of shampoo into the bathwater, much to Danny and David’s delight!

Bubble bath time!

I pulled out the long mirror and two popsicle sticks and announced that I was going to teach them how to shave. You should have seen their faces! Mom, teaching them how to shave? Daddy does that! I filled their cheeks and chins with bubbles and showed them how the popsicle sticks worked like razors…and they took off with the idea!

These two situations made me reflect about wanting to be like Daddy. It was so clear how much Danny desires to be like his Daddy (Praise the Lord he even has a Daddy to want to be like!) and it made me wonder how much I want to be like my Daddy! My Heavenly Daddy!
Do I strive to imitate him as Danny did? Is my striving to imitate him a source of joy for me? Danny’s imitation of his father is a game, it’s play, it’s fun and enjoyable. Have my efforts to imitate my Heavenly Father become burdensome, religious, cold and robotic or can being like my Father be as fun and free as child’s play? He did tell us that to inherit His kingdom we need to be like children.
“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive 
the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17
If you noticed in the video, David didn't imitate Victor, (Victor doesn't shave his arms!) but he did imitate Danny. There is a point where David turns and looks at Danny and then proceeds to copy him as he learns the finer art of rinsing one's “razor”. (Granted, this is after David spends over half of the video just looking for his “razor”, which he had dropped somewhere into that sudsy abyss!) You see, sometimes Jesus just seems too far away to imitate, so we need others to whom we can look..earthly fathers, spiritual leaders, friends, who can reflect Jesus for us until we can see Him for ourselves. Just as Paul said to the new believers in Corinth:
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” I Corinthians 11:1
Danny’s imitation was so imperfect, but gave Victor and I so much joy. Is it truly “perfection” (a lack of errors) Christ is seeking? No! Christ calls us to completion and sanctification, but not in order to gain his love, nor approval, nor appreciation, nor in order to be a delight to him.  We are already that!
“For the Lord takes delight in his people.” Psalm 149:4

“He brought me out into a spacious place;
 he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19
Is it possible that God smiles while seated on his throne as he watches our simplistic, and childish, efforts to be like Him…no matter how imperfect, but with a heart that desires to be like him?  Just as Victor and I smiled at Danny's efforts to be like his Daddy?  Could it be that it’s not so much the actions that come oh so short of his perfection, but the heart behind those actions that matters?

Oh, to be like my Heavenly Father!

All of the hoping, praying and striving for Danny to come home while he was in the hospital worked...Danny went home! To be with his perfect, Heavenly Father! The One who loved him from before conception and will love him through all of eternity! Thank you, Danny, for being a special little boy who wanted to be like his Daddy and who reminded me how much I want to be like my Daddy, too! Say hi to Jesus for us (or Lord, say hi to Danny for us)...hugs and kisses sweetie and we'll see you in the Lord's perfect timing!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

EMMC to Michoacan by Guest Blogger: Dr. Bill Karkow

Welcome to this week's guest blogger, Dr. Bill Karkow!  Dr. Bill serves on the Fishers of Men Board of Directors and has participated on numerous Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades in his area of specialty, surgery.  From June 9-14, Dr. Bill accompanied the Fishers of Men team to the state of Michoacan to serve the Lord.  Here's his story!
On June 8, 2014, Fishers of Men set out on another medical brigade. This time was my 5th as a surgical team member, but the first for Dr. Thomas Miner – family practitioner from Dyersville, Iowa, for my student Mia Carnes from the University of Dubuque, and for my daughter Katie – a pre-med student at Iowa State University and her cousin Ashley Ambroson. Now, the first rule I learned for short-term missionaries is, “Be flexible”. True to form, FOM changed its destination to a small town near Morelia, the capital of the state of Michoacan, with one week’s notice, due to communication and support problems that arose with the original plan to go to another city.

Local townsfolk lined up waiting for the crusade to begin as Vero and her helper  (in orange shirts, lower right hand corner) begin registering them.
Rising at 5 AM, we drove for 7 hours to arrive in the early afternoon at a small church, outside which people were already gathering. By the time we had set up various stations to see people, there was a line of roughly 20 prospective patients waiting to see us. So, by the time surgical instruments had been sterilized, my first patient was ready to be seen, and I began the first of two operations that afternoon. Mia served as my first surgical assistant, having had the most preparation as part of a course in surgical assistance. She was very interested in coming because her father is a Mexican immigrant who has run a successful restaurant in Illinois for many years. But, Mia had never been to her father’s home country, and, in fact, had learned Spanish, not from her parents, but in school, like the immigrant children of old, who made every effort to adapt to their new surroundings.
Dr. Bill and the surgical team: (left to right) Angie as translator, Mia, Dr. Bill, Katie and Ashley.
With Katie and Ashley watching and serving as circulating nurses to open sterile packages, Mia and I began the first of what would ultimately add up to 45 separate operations over 4 days. Katie’s Spanish was the strongest of the three students, but even her school-Spanish could not keep up with the flow of rapid conversation and local accent. However, Victor Zaragoza had planned for this by sending his two eldest daughters, Angie & Diana, along with us to serve as translators. On rare occasion, even they needed help with some medical terms, at which point we turned to Dr. Gisela Kovacs for assistance.
Angie translating for the surgical team.
Meanwhile, Dr. Miner began seeing family practice patients alongside Dr. Gisela Kovacs, Dr. Ricardo Escamilla, Dr. Martin Cortes, and Dr. Isabel, while in other parts of the church sanctuary, Dr. Victor, Dr. Leslie and her daughter, Carolina, and Dr. Diana, along with another local dentist, started seeing dental patients; two physical therapists, Lupita and Alejandra, treated musculoskeletal complaints, a beautician, Rosi, began cutting hair, Isabel, an optometrist, performed eye exams and handed out free glasses while Becky, as well as a local pastor and another visiting pastor, shared the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Also during the week there were special moments dedicated to evangelize the local children through clowns and other activities.
Dr. Miner seeing a patient while Diana translates and holds the patient's young child.
All of the dentists working in a row!
The physiotherapists at work.
Isabel working with a patient to find her prescription in order to give her a free pair of eyeglasses.
Free haircuts!
Vero sharing Jesus with the local children.
Children's activities on the street.
Another rule of FOM is, “Even if you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, we will provide free care, but in return, you must give us the chance to share the good news.” But our goal is not merely to make new converts, but to make disciples, which requires ongoing commitment by the church which hosted us to follow up with initial declarations of faith, and help these new believers grow in knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ. So, while we were working in our various specialties, Victor, Adrian & Vero, Joel, Ari, Jesus, two other pastors, and a host of local church members helped to coordinate, answer questions, and solve various problems. (For example, I ran out of gauze midway through the week so they bought some more). Those individuals served as our pastors both spiritually to encourage us and physically to meet our own needs and shepherd us together as a team to worship, eat, and take us to various homes for the nights. And as the word went out, day by day, more people came to see all of us as they overcame their skepticism, so that by the third day, I found myself doing 23 operations. In truth, I could not keep up such a pace for long… By the end, I was about ready for that lonely mountain, followed by the boat on the Sea of Galilee, and you would have had to paddle me to wake me up, something I don’t think they did to Jesus.
An overview of the sanctuary that housed a portion of the crusade: intake, general physicians, dentistry and optometry.
Dr. Bill and Mia at work.
During breakfast one day, I was introduced to a visiting pastor, Mr. ‘Pakistani’, about whom Victor joked that he was ‘not a terrorist from Pakistan’. In truth, Pastor 'Pakistani' had a compelling story of our Lord’s grace, growing up in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, leaving home to try to make a living selling belts, trying and desperately praying for a number of years for guidance from the Lord, not finding a church for some time that could serve as his spiritual family, eventually returning to his place of birth, and against much local opposition, sharing the gospel. I learned of the corrupt cronyism between local government authorities and Catholic priests, even to the point that in certain areas, any who were Christian were at various times denied work, driven from their homes, having to leave possessions behind, and even being beheaded. However, the pastor emphasized that persecution cannot prevent the word of God from causing people to turn to Him in faith and, for every believer killed, 5 more would spring up where he once stood.
Pastor Patishtan sharing with the crusade team.
Pastor Patishtan shining with the joy of Jesus!
We tried to give what we had, but as in any work of man, our efforts frequently fall short. Dr. Miner does not speak a word of Spanish (we finally got him to say “Bueno” to just about everything!), and even in the best of hands, it is not ideal to get a patient history second-hand through a translator. For example, he thought a patient had a symptom for a few months, and later he learned that it had been going on for 15 years, and then got worse just the past few months. Without an accurate and detailed history it is difficult in some cases to arrive at the proper diagnosis. And in my case, a patient with an axillary lipoma – a fatty tumor, came back the day after its removal to complain that she still had the pain that prompted her to see me, but now the pain was 5 cm anterior to its original location, along the course of the axillary nerve. In such a case, having nothing more I could think of beyond pain medication to offer, we prayed with this lady that our Father, who knows all things, would relieve her of her suffering. Our abilities to help the body heal pale in comparison to our Creator.
Victor leading a local woman to pray to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

It is a professional frustration to see conditions for which I had neither the time nor the facilities to properly treat. And we knew that once we were gone, people would need to turn to other human agencies for help with their health needs. But one of our pastors reminded us that Jesus did not heal everyone in every town through which he passed. So, although we did only small operations, and limited medical treatment, Dr. Miner and I agreed that the Lord can use even the small efforts of our entire team as an opportunity for hearts to hear about the eternal life that He offers without cost. 
The surgical team at work.
And once again I experienced what I wish everyone could experience, working with brothers and sisters as a team toward a common goal, with love and fellowship, everyone willing to lend a hand in gratitude for the greater gifts Jesus has given us at the cost of His own life. The closest I ever expect to experience heaven on earth, while in my present body, are times like these. Under what other circumstances can a person in this world leave his own country with a poor grasp of the language, with confidence that a family he has never met and cannot even talk to, is willing and ready to provide him a bed to sleep in, food, water, towels, and other such things to meet his needs, all on the basis of being brothers and sisters in faith? The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of this world. Maranatha!

While Dr. Bill was more than busy in surgery, our "All Terrain" team made a house call to see a sick, elderly man.
The "All Terrain" team on their way to the house call.
The man lying in bed surrounded by religious relics in which he and his family had placed their hope.
The team first attended to the man's physical needs, including placing an IV with the needed solution and medication.  The placement of the IV was a miracle in and of itself as the man was extremely thin and his veins difficult to work with.  However, part of the team prayed as the other part of the team worked and the IV went in on the first try!  Now, that's teamwork!
The team then went on to attend to the family's spiritual needs.  Their spiritual hunger was more than evident as the home was filled to overflowing with spiritual relics in which the family had placed their hope.  Much like the Apostle Paul's visit to Athens, when he identified the peop0le's spiritual hunger by their worship of even an "unknown god", Victor and the team were able to readily identify the spiritual need of this family and tell them of One True Living Hope, for now and eternity, Jesus Christ!  We will pray for the local pastor and believers as they continue to minister to and guide this family in God's Word!

Eight family members of that patient prayed to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior....
One True Living Hope!
To God be the Glory!
Remember, this is just one Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade!  Stories, adventures and conversions like this happen on nearly a monthly basis as Fishers of Men carries out approximately 10 of these crusades every year!  Thank you for your generosity and prayers, which the Lord uses to make His work here on earth possible!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spilled Medicine and Free Insurance

     Throughout the 17 years that Victor and I have served the Lord together, He has provided in many ways and in many situations.  His provision has ranged from the powerful and miraculous to the small and sweet, yet no less miraculous.  However, His provision on June 5th tops our list of "God's Creative Ways to Provide."
     The clock had nearly reached its 10 o'clock p.m. mark when Martha, our 16 year old daughter, came into the kitchen to inform us that she had accidentally spilled all of her seizure medicine in her sock drawer!  After coaxing the little glass bottle, we produced the two precious drops needed for the night dose and the one little droplet for the following morning.  (Sigh of relief!)
     The next morning, I began to search my office for her prescription so that Victor could purchase the needed medication.  As I ruffled through papers, I ran across the insurance policy for our bus.  A neuron in my brain clicked, setting off a tiny little alarm that recalled Victor recently mentioning that the policy was set to expire in May.  So, I took the envelope to him and, sure enough, the policy had expired six days earlier on May 31.
      Seeing that we planned on using the bus in less than 5 days to get God's team of volunteers to the crusade in Michoacan, we needed to purchase bus insurance ASAP.  The problem?  We did not have the money to pay for the $500 policy.  (I don't know if that is cheap compared to U.S. insurance or not, but the deal is, cheap or not, we simply did not have the $500.)
     I suggested Victor start by simply calling the insurance company, while I continued to look for Martha's prescription, and that he inquire about a 6 month policy or even a one month deal.  Although we had no money for the insurance, we needed the insurance, so, when you need insurance, what do you do?  You call the insurance company!
     Victor called the company, obediently gave our policy number, and was then politely informed that our policy had been cancelled shortly after it was drawn up due to a lack of payment!  Mind you, as Victor is being told this astounding news he has the actual payment receipt in his hand!  We had paid!  The payment stub was right there!  Somehow, someway, for some reason, the agent with whom Victor had dealt a year ago had not recorded the payment and the policy had been cancelled.  Technically, we had been driving our bus around for a whole year, confident that we had insurance, when we really did not!
     After a bit of conversation, the befuddled agent on the other end promised to look into the fumble and get back to Victor soon.  I emailed her a copy of the policy and the payment stub and Victor walked out the door, with the prescription I had found in hand, to go and purchase Martha's medication and run a few other errands, as we waited for the phone call from the insurance agent.
     I continued with my morning's activities when, about an hour later, Victor called me on his cell phone.  He excitedly exclaimed:  "Guess what?  The insurance lady just called.  They still aren't sure what happened, but considering the fact that we paid for a year's worth of insurance that we technically did not receive, they offered to give us an entire one year insurance policy for the bus for free!"  We just laughed and laughed!  The company representative did explain that, had we had an accident during the year we thought we were covered, but technically weren't, the same error would have been discovered and they would have covered the accident.  So, we technically didn't have insurance last year, but we would have been covered had an accident occurred, but since we really didn't have insurance they decided to give us a year of coverage for free!  (Did you follow that?)
     Victor met the agent later that afternoon and picked up our policy for one year of free bus insurance!
     In all the insurance excitement we temporarily forgot about the medicine, but then, before he hung up, Victor continued, "And you know what happened with Martha's medicine?  As I was leaving the house to go and purchase the medicine, two of the volunteer crusade nurses were arriving at the ranch to sort medicines for next week's crusade.  I asked them if they knew, by chance, if we had any of that specific medicine on hand.  They started to giggle and said that a member of their church had given them eight little bottles of that medication the Sunday before because her doctor had suspended her prescription!"  The nurses handed over the bottles of free medicine to Victor!
      I must admit that when Martha told us that she had spilled her medicine in her sock drawer the night before we were rather irritated.  However, I must also admit, that later that afternoon I thanked Martha for spilling her medicine in her sock drawer!  (You should have seen her face when I thanked her!)  Because of her spilled medicine, we ran across the expired insurance policy, which led to a year's worth of free insurance, and God even threw in the free medicine that we needed to boot!
     God certainly took the opportunity of spilled medicine in a sock drawer to remind us that His creative provision has no limits!  Truly, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him"...even in spilled medicine!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

This week....

This week both aspects of the ministry of Fishers of Men: Refuge Ranch and the EMMC's (Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades), are hoppin'!

Victor and the volunteer team, including five volunteers from Iowa and our two eldest daughters, left on an Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade on Monday to a small town in the state of Michoacan, near that state's capital of Morelia.

Refuge Ranch always ends up short-handed during crusades because half of the ranch staff go on crusade! Well, not this time!  The Lord sent a huge blessing in the form of the Current family who will be serving here for several weeks!

Enjoy the following photo journal of:

This Week With Fishers of Men...

On the Ranch...
The Current family, Danielle, Dyan, Darrell, Don and Don, starting their journey to Mexico from Indianapolis, IN last Saturday.

Don and his boys clearing rocks from the construction site of the new house so that Cirino, our mason, can mark the foundation.

Dyan and Danielle making new coupons for our TV watching system.

Caleb, Miguel, Don and Darrell repairing the road leading up to our water tank. (Stay tuned for the next issue of our Friday Fiesta newsletter to find out more!)

Don and Dyan seasoning chicken for dinner...for 25 people!

Ruth and her duct tape purse that Dyan and Danielle taught the girls how to make!  They also brought the really cool duct tape with which to make the purses!  The kids went through 17 rolls of duct tape in two days while crafting!

Leo, Josiah, Darrell and Miguel playing a board game.

On the EMMC...
Vero at her “desk” (aka the brown boxes) registering patients in the “waiting room” (aka the sidewalk).

Dr. Tom, from Iowa, and Dr. Gisela examining a patient....for free.

Getting free eyeglasses!

A BUNCH of dentists working all in a row! This picture really impressed me! (Remember...I'm (Julie) at home on the ranch while Victor and the team are on crusade, so they send these pictures to me.)

Dr. Bill in surgery.
Free haircuts!

And, then, the reason for all of the above...

Victor leading a local woman in prayer to accept Jesus Christ.
Each and every one of these patients, and all of the patients who receive medical care, dental care, surgical care, eyeglasses or a haircut, hear the Gospel message presented to them in an individual setting during their visit to the Crusade.

Thank you for your prayers and your giving that make weeks like this possible!  May God's Kingdom come here on earth....and may He use each of us to make it real for others!