Friday, October 21, 2011

Journey

Lucy and Joce making cookies for everyone

Aaron, Miguel, and Fatima after a soccer game

Joanna and Aaron fight for the ball in a game of soccer


Victor and Mark baptizing Ana in the Pacific Ocean


Lucy, Mark, Joanna, and Aaron sitting in front of our home

In 3 days, my family celebrates our 2 year anniversary of living in the country of Mexico. There have been some really rough days, and there have been some awesome days. God has been there with us every step of the way. As our 2 year anniversary approaches, we need to let you all know that God is calling us back to the U.S. I believe it is taking more faith to return to the U.S. than it did to move here. When we moved here, we knew where we were moving too. We knew (somewhat) what our jobs were going to be. We knew we would have food on our table and a roof over our heads. As we plan to return, we have some ideas of what we are being led to, but nothing concrete as of yet. I have found that the faith needed to return is happening one step at a time. It felt like we were taking a step in the darkness, but once we took the first step, God illuminated one more part of the journey. When we took another step, He illuminated one more step in front of us. As we continue to make plans to return, it is becoming more and more clear that it is His will that we are following. Joanna and Aaron have matured greatly in their faith during this part of our journey. Joanna is a writer, and has written about her personal journey, so far, and I have been amazed by her perceptions about it. We decided that the best way to share about our time here is to have Joanna be our spokesperson, so here is her story, her journey.

Joanna and Ruth play in the dirt!
Joanna translating for Cirino and a work teamJoanna and Angie play a game during youth groupJosiah following Joanna's instructions in art class to make a pillowJoanna playing with an airplaneJoanna hugging CarolinaJoanna and Kayla help Ana ride SonyaJoanna helping to paint the new room
Joanna with Danny

For those of you who don't know, on October 19, 2009, my family and I drove away from our house that had a "for sale" sign in the yard, beginning what I thought would be a five day journey down to Mexico to live for at least two years.

We drove past trees with leaves that were changing colors. We drove past my old school, where, at the time, most of my friends were.

Well it has been almost two years, and I have to tell you that I was wrong. I thought the journey would only be five days, but it has been much longer. These two years have been a wondrous journey. I have had boring days. I have had exciting days. I have met amazing people with amazing stories. I have learned a second language. People from all over have come to support the organization of Fishers of Men. I have met Americans from what seems like every state. I have met Koreans and Canadians. I have eaten things I would never have eaten in my little state of Indiana. I saw the ocean for the first time, climbed a mountain, laughed, cried, saw an ash cloud from a volcano, played "futb├│l," smiled, hugged, offended, made-up, been a clown, and loved every second of it.

I will never forget my adventures here, and God has blessed me with a TON of memories.

As I write this, in September of 2011, I know that God is calling my family back to the U.S.A. . I don't know why, but I'm anxious to find out. What I do know is in Jeremiah 29:11 God tells us his plans are to prosper us. Not my plans. His plans. I also know from Deuteronomy 31:6 that the Lord is always with me, and will be at my side every step of the way! He will never leave me!

I know his plans are to prosper me, and not to hurt me, but that doesn't mean they'll be painless. What I have to remember is that I will weep and mourn, but my grief will turn to joy. (John 16:20)

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Free" - by Julie Zaragoza

When I was growing up in Southeastern Michigan, a visit to the local county fair signaled the end of summer and the beginning of fall. One of our favorite activities at the fair was collecting all of the "free" stuff possible - free rulers, free flyswatters, free pencils, free fans, free pens, free cups, free anything! We would head back home with our free plastic bags full of free stuff! Interestingly enough, my parents paid an entry fee in order for us to enter the fairgrounds and collect our "free" stuff! So much for free!

Me (Julie) at the fair just a few years ago:-)

Reflecting on my relationship with Jesus Christ and the motivation for the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades (EMMC), I am reminded that salvation is a free gift from God!

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
and all are justified freely by his grace."
Romans 3:23-24
However, is our salvation truly free? The Lord offers it to us free, there is nothing we can do to earn it, or loose it! But, is salvation free? Of course not! Let's read the rest of Romans 3:24 - "through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Our salvation cost Jesus Christ His life! Our salvation cost God Almighty His Son! That certainly is not free!

 Becky (on left) praying with some women on a crusade to receive their free gift of salvation.

In these leaner economic times, I have tried to find creative "free" activities to do with the kids. On the days that I really just want to jump in the van and go to the movies or buy some new books to read, I keep reminding myself that making a difference in the kids' lives can be free! Kisses are free; reading old stories is free; a good game of soccer is free; listening is free! However, are these things truly free? Reading old stories requires books; a good game of soccer requires a ball; listening requires time and energy; giving hugs and kisses costs the risk of being rejected. Are these actions truly free? Not really. They can cost some money, a bit of time and quite a bit of energy.

A "free" bike race!

"This is love: not that we loved God,
but that he loved us
and sent his Son
as an atoning
sacrifice for our sins." I John 4:10

Giving a "free" gift to somebody else many times requires sacrifice on our part, whether that be sacrificing money, time, energy or emotional resources. That is called LOVE! As we give out these "free" gifts, the Lord can use them to bring true freedom to that individual's life!

The phrase, "There is nothing free in life," while not a Bible verse, does appear to be a true saying. Everything has a cost, whether that be money, time, effort, or emotional energy. However, our sacrifices can provide free gifts to others!

Your sacrifices have helped us grant our children freedom from hunger, (several can recall fighting over a single egg to share between themselves for dinner), freedom from the fear of being abandoned again or left to fend for themselves, freedom from physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse as they now live in a safe environment, the freedom to be a kid, grow up, be loved and love!

The free gifts at the fair cost an entrance ticket. Our free salvation cost the blood of Jesus Christ. Transformation for our children requires the sacrifice of our financial resources, time, energy, emotional involvement, the risk of rejection. Salvation for many Mexicans in the poorest areas of the country requires the sacrifice of money, time and energy in order for an EMMC (Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade) team to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to them!

A free doctor's consultation in progress on a crusade, along with a few extra smiles and lovin' on.

 Free haircuts available and in progress on the EMMC's.

So, who out there is willing to pay the price? Who is willing to "purchase" a free gift for somebody else with your money, time and energy? Who is willing to give a whole lot of freedom to another by giving up a bit of your own freedom to do as you wish with your resources: money, time and energy? Now, aren't we glad that Jesus Christ paid for our free gift of salvation? I sure am!

"And walk in the way of love,
just as Christ loved us
and gave himself up for us
as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Ephesians 5:2


Here are a few "free" smiles for you to enjoy!

Ana

Diana and Martita

Josiah - Ice cream makes us all smile!

David and me

  Fatima

Carolina

Daniel - it is truly a daily miracle that we can keep enjoying his smile!

Fidel and Me

Ruth with an electrifying smile after an electrifying ride down the slide at a park!

 Miguel - our clown-in-residence who makes us all smile!  Hope he made you smile too!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

One of these days....by Mark

Have you ever had one of those days? You know, the ones when every thing goes well and you feel completely blessed and led by God. Well, today was not one of those days for me. Today was one of these days. One of these days are the days that aren't as perfect as those days.
The problems really began yesterday, when I was working on the red van. It carried over to this morning when I had to get a broken bolt out of a hole with out damaging anything else. I got it out but discovered I had damaged the threads when I drilled it yesterday. By this time, it was time to take a break and teach English class.

Most of the time, English class goes very well. Of course, the kids complain about having to go to class when they have other school work, but they come, and we learn. I learn a little Spanish, and they learn a little more English. Today the plan was simple. It was test day so we were going to do a little review and then take the test. The review was not going well, only Leo was staying with me. Fatima and Lolis both seemed to be in another world, and Miguel was some where in between. This is when I fell apart. I got up from the table and told them to go back to class, and I left. I went for a walk up the mountain. I know what you are thinking. That is ridiculous and unprofessional. How could he do that? Well, you are right. It is ridiculous, but I am not sure it was all bad.

As I walked, I came to a stone, flat and large enough to sit on, so I sat. I sat and I thought, "This is ridiculous!" But as I was sitting there in the sunshine with a cool breeze, slowly I calmed down. I have never just gotten up and left anything, but today I did. I really felt like a failure. There is no excuse for just leaving the kids in the middle of class. I kept sitting there, talking to God, and trying to understand what I was doing. The longer I sat, the more I looked around. I was sitting in some tall grass that had gone to seed with a reddish-gold soft fluffy head. There were bees buzzing on some flowers near by and ants working busily on the ground. I began to think about how easy life would be if I were an ant. They pretty much live by instinct. Go look for food and leave a trail for the others to follow if you find it. Or if you find another ant's trail, just follow it to the food. Seems simple enough. But God did not want me to be an ant. (If He had, I would not be writing this.)

It is interesting to me how many times I have to learn the same lesson over and over and over again. Thoughts about being an ant are like thoughts I had as a child. Maybe everybody has days when they just want to get up and leave. I don't really recommend it. It is probably better to ask God for help riding it out until an appropriate time to fall apart. Falling apart is wonderful. Well at least feeling put back together is. Somehow God was able to take the mess I had made and encourage me to get up and go back down the hill. I got up slowly (partially in reluctance and partially because my feet were asleep from sitting on the rock) and turned back toward the Ranch. I was still really questioning what I was doing and how I was going to do it, but I started walking.

A little ways down the path, God said, "I'm with you. We are in this together." Why do I have to keep learning the same lesson? When I got back down to the school, I called my English class outside so I could ask them to forgive me. I think they were a little surprised, and after we talked a little, we went back to class. I don't know what they were doing while I was gone, but after a short review, they said they were ready for the test. Leo got 100% and the others all got 97.5%. What a good class, if only the teacher could keep his head on straight.

I have chosen you and not cast you off; fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you.
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:9b-10