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.
|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!|