Saturday, February 26, 2011

Quiet at the Ranch...by Lucy



The Zaragoza family left for a vacation in the Acapulco area on Wednesday. It has been very quiet since they have been gone. Not that nothing is happening here, but without 17 more kids making noise, it is just much more peaceful. It doesn't take a half hour to get everyone to the table after the call is made. I don't have to be in school (Aaron and Joanna are waiting for books to begin their 12th grade and 10th grade years), and I can do laundry whenever I want. Well, almost whenever I want! As I am writing this, I am waiting for the water truck to come so I can continue doing my laundry that I had planned for the day!

Water is something I will never take for granted again after living here. I had plans for my day to do laundry that doesn't normally get done (blankets, small area rugs...), but that all changed after I found out that our water supply is low. What if the water truck doesn't make it today? I'd better not use the last of our water on laundry, in case we need it later to take showers, or to do dishes from a meal, or to drink! I figured it was God's way of telling me that I needed to blog today! I can't remember the last time I blogged.

Just for this week, while the family is gone, I am enjoying the quiet time. We usually don't realize how much we need to slow down and de-stress, until the moment is upon us. We usually know things aren't quite right, feeling unsettled and knowing we need a break, but don't know just how much until we are in the midst of it, and we sigh, and we smile, and our bodies relax, and we rest. Ahhhhh! The joy of just being still.

God calls us to be still often (Once a week at least!). One of Satan's ways to get us away from God is to get us so busy with the everyday "stuff," that we lose our focus. We forget why we are doing the things we do. We forget Who we are doing them for, and just what He really wants from us. We are to be glorifying Him in everything we do which is difficult when we can't see beyond the task at hand.

Last week, while Mark and Joanna were gone on crusade, Aaron and I started a puzzle I received as a gift through the Upper Deer Creek work team. I've always enjoyed working through a puzzle. I have a process that must be followed. Outside pieces first, separate the colors for the inside, and pick a section to work on. Sometimes the puzzle pieces come together quickly, and at other times, I just sit and look at the pieces, trying to picture how they will look when they are put together. I have to be quiet, and work slowly, sometimes just sitting and analyzing the pieces, looking for how they will fit together. I do have an advantage however. I can look at the cover on the box to see what the picture should look like when it is completed. Puzzles are a lot like life. We don't see the whole puzzle when we are going through our lives, and sometimes that is good. God doesn't show us everything all at once because we can't handle knowing every step that leads us closer to Him. But if we can keep our eyes on Him, we will know what the completed puzzle should look like in the end.

This week I am looking toward the completed puzzle, and ordering my steps to be in line with His. The puzzle will come together one piece at a time, in His perfect time, and all I really have to do is be still at this time. Thank God for stillness this week. Thank God for His perfect timing.

Be still and know that I am God.--Psalm 46:10

The completed puzzle to remind me to be still

Monday, February 14, 2011

Our New Family

Another week begins at Refuge Ranch, but with a larger family! We praise and thank the Lord that our new children arrived on Friday with their Grandma. The kids immediately started playing with each other, while Grandma remained very aloof and separated. At about 3 p.m. we began the process of saying goodbye. Grandma did not say much but her tears revealed the great love that she has for the kids. This is the love that has motivated her to do the right thing for the children - allow them to grow up in a two parent home where they will learn about and live in the tangible love of Christ.
The kids' Grandma saying goodbye to Miguel.

The children handled goodbye with surprising resilience. Five year old Carolina broke down a bit after Grandma left, but I enjoyed the opportunity to snuggle with her for a bit.


A few hours later we took this first new picture of the family - all 19 of us!


Back row: Martha (13), Angie (17), Lolis (13), Jocelin (9), Fatima (10), Diana (16), Martita (16)
Middle row: Josiah (9), David (1), Julie, Caleb (6), Ruth (5), Victor, Daniel (3), Fidel (10)
Front row: Ana (4), Miguel (7), Leonardo (9), Carolina (5)

The overwhelming sense this weekend is that the kids were very anxious to have a family and a normal family life. (Did I just say a "normal" family life? We aren't very "normal", but we do have a good family life!) They were all thrilled to sleep in their own bed (except for one year old David who is sleeping with his oldest sister until he gets a bit more adjusted). All five kids had previously shared one bed. The new room addition is not quite ready, so the two older boys are temporarily sharing other bedrooms. Lord willing, the new room will be ready in about two weeks so that Leo and Miguel can move in there and we hope that David will be adjusted by then and can join them in the new bedroom.

Leo and Miguel immediately began calling me Mom; the girls don't know quite what to call me and kind of grunt at me when they need something; David doesn't like me! David will be two next week and his entire world was just turned upside down! Fatima, the eldest, at 10 years old, has acted as the children's mother for quite sometime. So, David prefers to be attached to her, if at all possible. We assumed that it was going to be difficult for her to give up her role as mother, but she has thrown off that responsibility no problem! In fact, she has been getting a bit irritated by David's clinginess and is more than ready to simply be a girl again. David basically cries anytime he sees me come near. He fell down on Saturday and Martha brought him to me to comfort him. Well, bringing him to me only made things worse! Thankfully, last evening he and Carolina and I sat down by the cows and horse awhile together as the sun went down. Then, when I went to read to and pray for David and Fatima at bedtime, David did not cry when I came near him and did not push me away when I touched him. Little by little!

David and I before he realized that I was going to be his Mom!

Update: Tonight David let me touch him and caress his cheek without him crying! I cannot accurately express how difficult, sad, painful it is to have a son, a precious child, that refuses to be comforted by you when you are supposed to be the one to comfort him! It is all in Jesus' time, but... Fatima is torn: she is tired of being mom and more than willingly hands David over, although he doesn't want to be handed over to anybody....especially me! However, she also is torn by hearing David cry when one of us is taking care of him. So, pray for Fatima - she so desperately wants to be a little girl, but doesn't know how to be one, yet doesn't want to be an adult any more either!

Fatima and Diana - new sisters!

Victor and Angie left on an Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade early Saturday morning. So, they were with our new children for less than 24 hours. I am so thankful that my parents are here during this initial adjust time as our previous 12 children love and feel very comfortable with Grandpa and Grandma, which has helped me be able to concentrate a bit more on the new kids. We all went to church yesterday: Grandpa and Grandma, 16 kids and I! We then went out for tacos afterwards and nearly filled up the restaurant ourselves!

Once again tonight I was pleasantly surprised by the incredible silence and sense of satisfaction of having blessed 16 kids (Angie is on crusade) before they went to bed: bedtime stories with the younger ones, Bible stories with most, prayers of blessing and kisses for all, glasses of water and chocolate milk upon request and even two cool cloths on foreheads! Thank you, Jesus!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Welcome Home!

Today we get to say "Welcome Home" to five new children who, Lord willing, will be joining the Zaragoza family in just a few
short hours!

Our five new children with their grandmother

We first met these five precious children at the beginning of January when a friend of ours here in Mexico, Irma, brought them out to visit. She had shared with us a bit about their life situation. The children currently live in Mexico City with their Grandmother, who is not their biological grandmother. (For clarity's sake, I will refer to their Grandmother by her name, which is Luz.)

When the children's mother was young, her own mother was a prostitute and unable to properly care for her. So, Luz took her in and raised her as her own daughter. Luz' own life, from very early on, was very rough and difficult. She was orphaned at a young age and raised by other family members and separated from her own sister. Her two biological daughters were taken away from her by their father due to lifestyle choices that Luz had made. She then took in two other young girls to raise, including these children's mother. Now, as adults, both of these girls hold lots of bitterness due to their own life circumstances and have made many of their own poor choices and unloaded this bitterness on Luz.

About three months ago, the children's mother took off with a man and left the kids with Luz. Luz has not heard from her, nor does she know where the children's mother is. Luz works all night, every night, cleaning offices in Mexico City. The children, the eldest of whom is 10 years old, stay home alone all night. She also works two days a week cleaning a house. Her salary of $75 U.S. dollars a week barely covers rent, electricity, water, food and clothing! Our friend Irma and her family members regularly stop in to check on the kids and take them meals.

Fatima-age 10

Besides the economic barriers to raising five children on her own, Luz faces many of her own emotional and spiritual issues that prevent her from being a loving and effective parent. Irma shared with Luz about Refuge Ranch so that she would know that if they day ever arrived in which she felt incapable of meeting the children's needs, that there existed a healthy and good option for them! About two weeks ago, Irma went to see Luz. She was very frustrated and overwhelmed with raising the children and even more desperate because several of them had set their apartment on fire the week before while playing with matches! On her own initiative, she told Irma that she needed to find a place for the children to live because, in her own words, "I know I am hurting them and I don't want to hurt them anymore."

Leonardo - age 9

So, this past Monday, Grandma Luz and the kids came to visit! Victor and I had a long and wonderful conversation with her here in the office while all of the kids played together outside. As soon as the three of us sat down, Luz repeated the same thing: "I know I am hurting them and I don't want to hurt them anymore." She then shared more of her own story with us and emphasized how much she loves her grandkids, but does not want them to repeat the same mistakes or have the same life she has had, her daughters have had and everybody she knows has had! She wants more for them! She is now a Christian and wants them to know the love of God and become all that God wants them to be! She had already spoken to the kids about the possibility of them coming to live with us. It impacted me that she had told them that they would finally have a Dad and a Mom! She clearly understands the heart of our ministry and family!

Miguel - age 7

The eldest, Fatima, who is 10 years old, was the most resistant to coming, of course! However, after our meeting with Luz on Monday the Lord did a marvelous work! While we were meeting, Irma had been playing soccer with the kids. Upon finishing the soccer game, Irma told Fatima that it was time to leave and Fatima said: "No, not yet!" Irma told her, "Don't worry! Soon you will be living here!" Fatima quickly responded: "Well, let's live here now!" So, when Luz came out of our little visit, Fatima went up to her and asked her when they were going to move in! Luz told Fatima that that was up to the kids and Fatima said: "Then, let's move in on the 11th!" Hence, the kids are moving in today, by Fatima's choice!

Carolina-age 5

This is a bittersweet day as it is going to be extremely difficult for Luz to leave the kids here. However, she is convinced of her decision and that it is the best for the children. After hearing her story, the children's mother's story and their current living situation, we agree! Luz is more than welcome at our home and, Lord willing, will continue to play an important role in the children's lives! How involved she will be with them is totally up to her! We are completely supportive of her continued presence in their lives.

David-will be 2 on Feb. 20

The sun has now peeked out over the top of the mountains and it is time to get our 12 children up for the last time...tomorrow there will be 17 to wake up! Our children are very excited! This may be hard for some to understand, but each time a new child joins our family, our children get very excited! They welcome the new children with open arms and hearts! For our adopted children, they know what it means and feels like to come into a family and they can't wait to give that gift to other children. Even for our biological children it is exciting! Just a few minutes ago, Caleb, who is 6 years old, came into my office and his first words were: "The new kids come today!" Then he asked, "Are they going to be our brothers and sisters forever?" I said "yes" and a huge smile filled his precious face! Praise the Lord!

Of course, this will take some adjustment for all of us and we ask that you pray us through this adjustment!

So, Welcome Home, Fatima, Leonardo, Miguel, Carolina and David!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Upper Deer Creek Work Team Video

A new week here at Refuge Ranch! After a work team has left Refuge Ranch, it almost feels like the beginning of a new era with all the changes that the work team effected! Last week's team from Upper Deer Creek Church in Galveston, IN was no exception!

  • They prepped and wired all the buildings at Refuge Ranch for new 220 power! (Please continue to pray that the Lord would light a fire under the Mexican contractor to get the power up the hill so that it can be connected to the buildings! We can't wait!)
  • They painted the laundry room and installed shelving so that, as soon as the 220 power is available, we can move our laundry facilities off the patio and into the laundry room!
  • They re-cemented the patio around our current home so that it would be nice and wide and flat for the smallest kids to be able to ride their bicycles and tricycles! (Our previous patio was stone, so it was very uneven and had cause many skinned knees and, living on a mountain, flat places for bikes and trikes are rare, so the patio now provides a place for the smallest of our budding bicyclists!)
  • Surprise project - after receiving news of the possible addition of a sibling group of 5 children to our family, the team obeyed God's prompting and added on a bedroom to our home! (Please pray for Cirino, Mark, Victor and Adrian as they now need to finish up that room!)
  • They renewed and developed incredible new friendships with each of us: our children and staff! Thank you for impacting our lives with your love, hugs, service and smiles!
Each time a work team visits Refuge Ranch, we like to make a video summary of the pictures and happenings of that week! So, below, you can enjoy the video created of last week's work team! We praise and thank the Lord for each one of their lives and for every individual who played a role in making this work team's visit possible!

video

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday

I wanted to wait until this evening back at the hotel before I posted for tonight because I wanted you all to be able to see the last few pictures we could get. So much progress was made this week it is amazing. We came thinking that we would have several small projects that we were hoping to get done and we ended up with building an addition on the house! I am thrilled to be able to share with you that the walls are up, two windows installed and a roof completed! There is still quite a bit of work for Mark and Cirino (among others) that needs to be done to finish it off. I wish that every one of you could have seen several of the kids thank us with tears for helping to build a room for their new "brothers and sisters". They are so loving and welcoming to new kids because they want them to have what the now have, a family they can call their own.

John and Ted working on welding the frame for the roof.

The guys working until after dark to finish up the roof.

Leigh and Grant - Ok, I don't actually know what is happening in this photo but it was so great I just had to put it in!

Soccer!

The group!

Thank you for your prayers for us this week! We only have one more prayer request. We all fly home tomorrow and it would be great if we all are able to get where we need to go by time time that our flights say we should!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thursday - Things are going UP!

Lots have been happening around here and things are starting to really take form! As you will seein the pictures the laundry room is painted and the shelves are being put up as I type. The concrete on the porches have been poured and are smooth for many little running feet and trycicles to ride on. We also have walls going up for the spontaneous addition project. *sigh* I think there is a general level of contentment on the progress that is being made! :)
Jean - One of our wonderful photographers for the week.

Shelves up in the Laundry room.

Leigh holding the last shelf together as it is assembled.

Victor, Mark and Adrian helping put the walls up for the addition.

Alejandro and Cirino finishing up the concrete for the front porch area.

Ted, Kathi and Alejandro working on pouring the concrete for the side porch this morning.

Things are progressing but it seems we have blinked and there is only one day left. I know that most of us would love to stay longer and help more but God knows the time we have and the projects that are needed. There is still a little under and hour and a half of work left in today and I can promise you that every minute will be used to further the project. This is one increadible team. They work together so well and each one adds so much to the group. I am so increadibly grateful that I had the honor to come down, serve beside them and get to know each one of them.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wednesday

Yesterday was a highly productive day for our team as we got a great amount of work accomplished! I am excited to be able to share with all of you some of the changes in plans that we have had. To start off let me first share some pictures of what was accomplished yesterday.

Emy, Andrea, Ashleigh, Grant and Leigh on the roof finishing off the the sealing of the roof.
Jean working on painting the trim in the laundry room.
Kathi painting in the laundry room.

This is where the story starts. Yesterday morning after breakfast Julie asked if she could talk to the team after devotions. We all gathered around several tables and Julie and Victor began to share with us the likely possibility that they will be expanding their family in the very near future. They have been aware of 5 siblings who would possibly need a home and have been praying for a little over a month that things would be very clear as to how the Lord was leading. I am sure as this develops Julie will be posting some more of the details but as she told us during our meeting it is very unlikely that this will come to nothing. In the end it is really only a matter of timing of when they can come.

With this information they also shared with us about the need for bedrooms for 5 more children! Each bedroom already has a minimum of 2 children and several rooms have 3. One idea that they had was to turn the patio into a temporarily constructed room for the 3 boys (in the set of 5 siblings). Since they had several people knowledgeable about construction they opened the dicussion up and asked if the guys would help toss around some ideas for them so they can have a better idea of where to start. With that Grant prayed for this transition for the family and then Ted led the way out to the patio area to talk over ideas. As Ted shared last night on the way back to the hotel he just felt that God was saying "Get it done!" As they talked about ideas it was decided that this was now the number one project for our team and that were in Mexico for such a time as this. Many of the plans for the day were put on hold and there was an emergency run to Home Depot for supplies. Gravel was dumped and leveled with help from many of the children. They are very excited about the idea of having new siblings.
Tom showing Lolis how to level the gravel.
Martha, Diana, Fidel and Josiah shoveling gravel.
John dumping one of the first wheelbarrows of concrete while Ted supervised.
Andrea hauling concrete.
Larry leveling and smoothing the concrete.

Last night they finished pouring concrete before dinner and had the supplies bought for the temporary walls! Today we are pouring more concrete to make the patios around the house smooth and even so they are easier to walk on. They also are finishing up painting the laundry room so that the shelving can be installed! Blessings are overflowing down here! No one is sick, the work is progressing beautifully and quickly. Thank you all so much for your prayers. We feel them!

Last night was also our night to give the family and staff gifts from brothers and sisters in Christ. As always it is a great joy and honor to be there and experience it. For many here on the team it was a first time and a memory that will last a long time.
Lucy with her new baking pans.
Ruth with her new Cinderella dress.
Ana with the comforter that she had requested.
Ana wearing her crown.

There are exciting things happening down here and lives are being changed. As many of you know it sometimes seems that the lives of those who come on the team are even more impacted then those who are here at the Ranch. We are grateful for this opportunity to bless, encourage and physically support these dear brothers and sisters in Christ. I can't wait to share with you tomorrow more about what God is doing! :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tuesday

Good afternoon to all of you back in the cold northern states! We are all praying that you all stay safe during this round of severe winter weather. We also thank you for your continued prayers for us. I am posting quite a few pictures today because they say that a picture speaks a thousand words. So if that is the case then I don't have to type as much and it would equate to a really long post, right? :)

Ashleigh, Ted, Leigh and Danielle before our evening devotions last night.

Each night when we return to the hotel for the evening we gather in a room and share about our day, things that we saw, things the Lord taught us and things that touched our hearts. Grant comes prepared with a passage of Scripture to share as well and we usually spend a little bit of time discussing the passage as well.

Emy helping prepare the gift bags for the children for tonight.

Aaron slicing oranges and mandrines for fresh squeeze juice for breakfast! It was wonderful!

Andrea, Daniell, Leigh, Mark, Lucy, Larry and John discussing work projects and how best to takle them!

Josiah watching Emy and Danielle haul buckets of sealer onto the roof.

Lucy making sugar cookies for the group! We were very grateful!

Angie helping with the cookie making process.

Today was market day in Mexico. Most of the group went to market as it was their first experience with the authentic Mexican way of life. Jean was our gracious photographer for the even and I wanted to share a couple of pictures with you of what they saw.
Radishes heaped on a table for sale.

An assortment of dried chile peppers.

Emy, Lolis, Andrea, Leigh and Danielle in the driveway.

Mark holding the ladder for Ted who is working on the electrical wiring!
Grant painting the laundry room.

Danielle with Berenice (Cirino's daughter)
Larry, Daniel and Leigh

Well, thank you for taking the photo journey with me today. I am hoping to get an update on where are projects are and give you and update on our progress tomorrow.