Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Realities

It is 6:45 a.m. here at Refuge Ranch and I just opened the curtains of my office to let the sunrise in is really foggy today! Wow! Too bad homeschoolers can't call fog delays!

Like many of you, our family is in the midst of the throes of celebrating this Christmas season. We, along with the staff from Refuge Ranch, trekked to the Christmas tree farm last Friday and cut down two trees - one for the house and one for the basement where we homeschool and our staff lives. After choosing the trees and cutting them down, we had a cookout, played on a swinging bridge playground and went through a labrynth formed by pine bushes. Now, before you all say: "Ahh, what a time of beautiful family unity", let me give you another take on holidays here at Refuge Ranch.

Before I begin, here is a misclaimer - this Thanksgiving and the first preparations for Christmas have gone better this year than any year previous, but they are still not anywhere near "easy" nor fully enjoyable. Read on to find out why!

There are many days that, praise the Lord, I nearly forget each of my children's pasts, where they have come from and what they have suffered. The Lord has done, and continues to do, a miraculous work of restoration in each of their lives. I know only bits and pieces of their abusive childhoods. Even they themselves are not consciously aware of all that they have suffered, but are discovering new scars as they grow older. These scars and memories seem to most rear their ugly heads during family festivities - birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, tainting each one of these events and threatening to steal the joy that the Lord has prepared for us!

For example, just last week, in order to celebrate Thanksgiving, we spent two entire days preparing for the event and, at the last minute, Victor and I were showering and getting on our Sunday clothes for Thanksgiving dinner. One of our daughters came in and, in a tone of voice that teenagers seem to have perfected, said: "Why are you getting so dressed up? What's the big deal?" when she had been a part of the preparations and knew exactly what the "big deal" was. That same child then looked at the thank you notes that I had handwritten for each member of the family and staff and left at their place settings and said: "What are these for?" but with a voice full of mistrust, insecurities and judgement. Ugh! It is so much easier to reject love and inclusion rather than go through the work to learn how to receive and give love.

So, Friday we took off for the Christmas tree farm! In past years this usually means that upon arriving at the farm the older kids disappear between the pine trees, trying to deny the fact that Christmas is coming, while Victor and I do our best to pick out the tree, only to get home and hear complaint after complaint about how ugly the tree is! This year two of our oldest daughters shouted at us from across the tree farm that they had found a tree! My heart lept, I mean, really lept, for joy as Victor and I went to "inspect" their find! Mind you, I didn't care what that tree would have looked like - they had shown an interest in participating in this family tradition and I was going to encourage that as much as possible - the tree they chose was the tree that was coming home with us! (They did do a good job of picking it out - it is gorgeous and it is even more gorgeous because they picked it out!)

Upon arriving at home, I had the help of the youngest children in doing a fine job of "sorting" Christmas tree ornaments as they spread them all over the living room floor. The older children's absence was notorious as they sought refuge in their bedrooms. Soon, one of the girls came back and, praise the Lord, joyfully and energetically helped me string the lights on the tree. Slowly, each one of the kids showed up and began to at least hang around the edges of the living room and even began to participate in small ways. One helped hang up the stockings around the living room window (the fireplace does not have room for 13 stockings!). Another found a broken ornament and fixed it for me voluntarily, refusing to hang it on the tree, but it was a huge step that this individual was even present in the room as we decorated the tree and an even bigger step was taken by offering to fix the ornament!

These attitudes are the ones that we confront as we do advent devotionals, wrap Christmas gifts, plan Christmas dinner and especially on Christmas morning! Why?

The other day one of our kids said: "I hate Christmas." I nonchalantly responded, "Why?" This person answered back: "Because it's about family." I gently reminded this individual that Christmas is not about family, it is about Jesus Christ, God Almighty, taking the form of a human being and coming to earth to save us from our sins! Lord, help us focus on this!

Why is Christmas and family so painful for our kids? For some, our family traditions are acute reminders of all they did NOT have as younger children, reminders of what "should have been" and never was. For some, while they love us, the Christmas season and birthdays are a blatant reminder to them that they would really like to be celebrating these days with their biological families, but that that is not possible. For others, Christmas meant a time of heightened drunkeness as their biological parents sought refuge in alcohol, resulting in more family violence and abuse than the rest of the year. So, while for me, Christmas lights are a reminder of peace and joy, for several of our children, Christmas lights are a reminder of conflict, drunken rages, and physical and emotional abuse. Lord, have mercy!

I share this so that you can pray, and pray with a passion, this Christmas season. Please pray that the Lord would continue to fully restore our children's hearts and lives. Please pray for love, patience and perseverance as Victor and I and the staff seek to lead our children in a Godly celebration. Please pray that the Lord would pour His joy and peace upon our family.

(I have not included any pictures in this blog so as to protect the identity of the children as to who participated and who did not. One of our biggest challenges in sharing with you through the blog, the newsletters and the prayer calendar, is being specific enough so that you can share in our joys and trials, while protecting the privacy of each of the children. Thank you for your patience, understanding and sensitivity!)

With much love,
Julie Zaragoza

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Thanksgiving" by Ashleigh

There are so many things that I can be thankful for this year. One of the most recent would definitely be the visit I had with my brothers here in Mexico! Here are a couple of pictures from their visit.
Ana and Daniel

Stephen and Me

Stephen and Daniel at the hacienda

Daniel and Stephen helped me paint Rosa's room while she was gone on crusade. They played numerous games of soccer with the kids. We went to the hacienda and played games with the older kids. They helped me with my preschool classes, etc.

I said goodbye to them on Tuesday at the airport and then got back to the Ranch in time to help start the Thanksgiving activities. On Tuesday afternoon we spent some time learning about Thanksgiving. Aaron prepared a history lesson and some fun facts about Thanksgiving to share with everyone else. Lucy and Julie worked with the younger ones with a craft and I took the older ones and challenged them to think of things that they are not currently being grateful for and picking something specific to work on becoming more grateful about.

Wednesday was baking day and this year ( mainly because we had more help) the kids participated. Julie made deviled eggs with Aaron, Josiah, Jocelin, and Fidel. Lucy made rolls with Ruth, Caleb, Martha and Joanna. I made pies with Angie, Diana, and Martita. Everything was made successfully and the kids really enjoyed it.

Thursday Lucy and I finished up the rest of the menu and Magda made the mashed potatoes. At two o'clock we all sat down to a feast! The kids seemed to be much more involved and excited this year then last year. I believe it is greatly attributed to the Marhsalls being here, their participation with the preparation, and deeper understanding of what the holiday is all about. This was Magda, Erika, and Rosa's first Thanksgiving dinner and although some of the food was very different for them they said that they liked it! :)

It is getting late this morning I need to get going. Today we are headed out to get the Christmas tree! :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Count Your Blessings by Mark

Johnson Oatman Jr. wrote the hymn, Count Your Blessings, which I have been thinking about quite a bit lately. If you are reading this from the United States, you are probably getting ready for Thanksgiving. We are also getting ready for Thanksgiving at Refuge Ranch. The kids are learning about what the holiday is all about. Aaron presented an American history lesson with details about the first Thanksgiving. The preschoolers have been building a turkey shaped piƱata, which will be opened on T-day. The elementary kids made turkey shaped napkin rings with their thanks written on the tail feathers. The older kids have written about what they are thankful for.

Of all the “stuff” with which I have been blessed I have to say that the people in my life are my greatest blessing, other than the gift of salvation of course. Last week I joined an amazing group of people who do indescribable work. I went on my first EMMC. I have heard about these trips and I have seen pictures, but to experience it first hand is overwhelming. Doctors, dentists, hairstylists, and opticians all working for Christ, dedicated to helping people because Christ first loved us. This group is more than a team of professional caregivers. They are a close-knit family who loves every person who comes for aid. I was also amazed at how included I felt in the family. I could probably write every word I know in Spanish on one piece of paper, and still have room to write all my medical knowledge, but I felt very included. I am looking forward to building these relationships in the future.

Gabrial and Mia Clowning in Tabasco

EMMC in the state of Tabasco; the hands and feet of Christ

While I was gone, two of Ashleigh’s brothers were visiting. I got to spend a couple of days with them when I got back. We had a great time together and I wish I could have been here the whole time they were, but I would not trade the EMMC time. They have returned to the States and will be spending Thanksgiving with their family and friends.

I would like to add a challenge for you with this verse: Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2 NIV). As you gather with your family and friends for the holiday, give up the stress and enjoy each other with an attitude of thanksgiving. As you return to your life’s routine be thankful for all the people in your life. The relationships we have with each other may be the most overlooked blessings we have. Count your blessings.

Monday, November 23, 2009

One-on-One Time

Throughout the week I spend a half an hour of one-on-one time with each of our kids, from Ruth on up. Mondays are for Ruth and Angie; Tuesdays include Caleb and Diana; Wednesdays are Martha (plus bathtime); Thursdays are Josiah and Martita; and Fridays are for Fidel and Jocelin. The younger kids get their half hour right after dinner and the older kids spend it with me after the others have gone to bed.

The kids choose what they want to do with me during their half an hour. Activities can range from soccer to chess and from Barbies to Skip-Bo.

Since Ruth turned four years old a couple of weeks ago, I have started spending specific one-on-one time with her also. So, today she choose to play school. Despite the fact that I was at school from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., she and I went back up to school after dinner, but now SHE was the teacher! She invited Caleb along, so he and I sat on the student side of my desk (where the kids sit when they have questions or need my help) and Ruth sat where I normally sit during a school day. We had a blast!

It was hilarious to be a part of her role play! It was incredible (scary?) the number of things that she tried to do just like Ashleigh and I do during a school day. (Ashleigh is Ruth's preschool teacher.)

Here's a sampling of Ruth's comments as she "taught" Caleb and I:
  • First, she gave Caleb and I paper and pencil and we had to copy a flower, just like hers. It had to be a circle, with petals, a stem, one leaf, water at the bottom, two eyes, a smile and a tongue sticking out! When I asked her if I had done a good enough job to earn a sticker, she got out the stickers and stuck it right on top of the picture Caleb had drawn. He and I looked at each other because covering up the picture with the sticker seemed a little strange to us. Then Ashleigh walked in and I told her about the sticker situation and she started to laugh and brought me one of Ruth's preschool papers. During preschool, Ashleigh plays "Bingo" with the kids and has them put stickers on top of pictures to cover up the spaces that she calls out. Hence, the logic behind covering up the picture with the sticker! When Ruth gets a sticker it is to put ON TOP of the picture!

  • Then she got out the scissors and we had to cut the paper into pieces! (She and Bernabe do lots of cutting with Ashleigh in preschool.)

  • A few minutes later, Caleb was not cooperating and Ruth promptly turned and in her bossiest voice pronounced: "Here you do what I tell you!" (Oops, have those words come out of my mouth? I think Josiah got to hear those just today!)

  • Soon, Ruth got out the flash cards. (We use lots of flash cards for English vocabulary, math facts, etc, just ask Lucy who spends several hours a day doing flash cards with all of the kids!) Well, Ruth pulled out some multiplication cards, showed the top one to me, pointed to the number three and asked: "What animal does three say?" Now, that question may seem illogical, but our reading curriculum and English curriculum use animals to represent each of the phonetic sounds. So, as the kids learn to read, if they can't remember what sound a letter makes we ask: "What animal does this letter read?" They say the animal name, which then reminds them of the letter sound. So, not yet putting this all together and not fully understanding Ruth's question, I responded, "Three." "No," she said. "What animal does three say?" I said, "Tiger...t, t, t." (We were speaking in Spanish so "tres" makes the "t" sound.) "Yes!", she said and went to the next flashcard. "What animal does four (cuatro) say?" "Canguro (Kangaroo)", I obediently answered. "C, c, c, canguro!" Needless to say, my teacher Ruth was very proud of me for answering correctly so quickly!

  • A little while into our playtime, Ashleigh walked into the school area and began asking around about who had drank part of her Coke! She had left her bottle of Coke on her preschool bookshelf and it was now uncapped and partially empy! Ruth, with no qualms or embarassment said: "I did!" Ashleigh and I looked at each other with a puzzled look in our faces and then burst out laughing as we both realized that the Coke drinking was part of fulfilling her teaching role! Several times a week Ashleigh or I will drink a Coke to get us through that afternoon slump, so, in Ruth's estimation, if you are going to be a teacher you need to drink Coke! (Another oops?!)

  • However, the following situation made me laugh the most. As I mentioned, we started out our time sitting at my desk. Since my desk is located near a sky light, there is not a light in the ceiling near my desk because during the daytime the sky light provides all the necessary lighting, while there are regular ceiling lights throughout the rest of the schoolroom. It was already dark outside as we spent our time together, so the area around my desk was quite dim. A few minutes into our playtime Ruth announced, "Let's move over to Caleb's office (his work area for regular school) because this dark scares me." We had to move our "class" because the teacher was afraid of the dark! (Joanna reminded me that we, as Christians, should also flee from the darkness and into the light - God's light! Wow! What you can't learn from a four year old and thirteen year old!)

Sometimes it is really hard for me to carve out the time for the kids because I am tired, or would rather get some more work done or because Barbies or soccer do not naturally appeal to me. But, I cannot express how meaningful this time is for the kids our how important it is to my parenting them and connecting with them. So, next week I just might have to go to "school" again!

In Jesus' school of life,


Friday, November 20, 2009

"Basement Friends" by Ashleigh

Rosa: This is the best picture I had of Rosa. People in Mexico don't smile for pictures. So even though she looks serious know that she always has a ready smile. :)

This past week Rosa and Mark have been gone on the crusade. While Rosa is gone Magda attempts to take over the huge responsibility of cooking for all of us as well as all of the laundry. Lucy and I have tried to help as much as we can to lighten her load. It also provided the opportunity to cook some american foods. :) However, we all are very greatful when Rosa returns and resumes the cooking responsibilities.

Rosa has been a wonderful addition to the staff here at Refuge Ranch and I have been increadibly blessed to have had the privilage to get to know her. She is quite and very attentive to what is going on around her. She makes the perfect live-in grandmother. :) She is a wonderful example to all of the children on being a hard worker and taking the inititive as she is never found not working throughout a day. If she isn't cooking, she is helping with laundry, mopping the floor, or cleaning the bathroom.

As I am getting better in my Spanish I have also had the opportunity to sit and chat with Rosa and sometimes Magda in the evenings. On ocation we are all making cups of hot tea or coffee at night and conversation will just start about something that happened that day. It is a little blessing that I am so greatful for to be able to connect with them even in little ways.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Toilet Paper Tactics

By Lucy

When we first crossed the border into Mexico, one of the first things Victor did was buy a roll of toilet paper. He tossed it to us, laughed, and said, “You will need this in Mexico.”

I am learning just how true that is. Whenever I leave Refuge Ranch, I always carry my own roll of toilet paper with me. It is useful for blowing your nose, wiping grease off of your hands, silly pranks (as you can see by the picture), and yes, for going to the bathroom. In Mexico, most public bathrooms do not have toilet paper. If you’re lucky, someone will be standing outside the bathroom with some, and you may purchase a couple of pieces from them. Also, the toilets do not have toilet seats on them. The first bathroom I visited also had another difference. The toilets didn’t flush! After using a toilet, you went outside where there was a bucket of water, and “flushed” the toilet with the bucket of water.

Toilet paper seems like such a minor thing, but when you don’t have it, you realize how important it is, and how useful! It may seem like a major hassle to carry it with you, but when you look at the bigger picture, it is just a minor inconvenience. It’s very different from back home in Indiana, but I am learning like Paul, “to be content, whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11. And like the Boy Scouts, I’m learning to “Always be prepared!”

Just a note to Mom and Dad: After toilet papering Ashleigh’s room, I folded up all the toilet paper for another use. I knew you would be proud!

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Interpretation of Interpretive Dance

"Then maidens will dance and be glad.
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow."
Jeremiah 31:13
These verses, along with many others in the Bible, talk about dancing before the Lord or dancing for joy. For some, the pure joy of what the Lord has done for them leaves only one option - to dance before Him!
Last fall, our oldest girls and I started a liturgical dance team at our church. It was such a joy to dance with them, especially knowing where they have come from and what they have suffered throughout their short years of life. Living with them as the Lord restores their hearts and lives is a privilege and honor, but that restoration is not always an easy or pain free process. So, trying to explain what I feel as I watch them dance with joy before the Lord is truly beyond words. While their joy is expressed through dance, my joy is expressed through tears of gratitude.
Since last fall, another young lady has taken over the group and I have stepped down (to care for the rest of the children!) and Angie has moved on to being a Sunday School teacher. However, Diana, Martita and Jocelin continue on the dance team, as well as Erika, the daughter of one of our staff members (Magda). In fact, Diana has taken quite a bit of leadership within the dance team, learning and teaching new routines. The younger girls on the team really look up to Diana and Martita and the dance team has given them another purpose to live for, an opportunity to express their worship and gratitude, as well as opportunities to show responsibility, discipline and to serve as role models for other young women and girls. Praise God!
The following video was taken by a proud Grandfather (my Dad) about a month ago as he and Mom were visiting here. I pray that you may worship the Lord as you watch this short video and thank Him for all that He has done.

With love, from a very grateful mother and servant of the Lord,

Julie Zaragoza

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Opportunities for Worship" by Ashleigh

Listen...can you hear it? It is a quiet yet very persistent calling and it is coming from the general direction of the house. You can't hear it? Oh, well then I guess it is not intended for you. Maybe that's mine name that is being called...yes, it's clear now and I know what I am hearing. However, I think I am going to ignore it just a little bit longer. You see, there are seven crates of tomatoes calling my name and they would like to be turned into pizza sauce and other yummy things by this evening. They want my time and my attention and they really can't wait.
The truth be told, I am really rather excited to start today. I know it will be a long day full of work but that doesn't bother me. So often my days are filled with continual interaction with people and projects that demand my time that the day will be over before I blink. It is then that I think to myself, "Did I stop even once and admire Popo (the volcano) and praise God for His majesty?" Sadly, the answer is often "no". Today, I plan on putting on my music and worshiping while I work, maybe meditate on some scripture, and throw up a few prayers while I'm at it. I have the sneaking suspicion that the kids will leave me alone as they might get roped into work if they come near. :)

Psalm 29:2 says, "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name, worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness." How often do we run about our days and never stopping to worship? Be intentional today to make room for some worship time, it's worth it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Marshall and Monarch Migration South by Lucy

Photos from our trip to Refuge Ranch

We have been here almost 3 weeks now, and I wanted to share a little about our trip down here in October. We were traveling at the time of the year of the monarch butterfly migration to Mexico. If we had come by plane, we would have missed them, but we drove, so they became part of our story. While driving through the mountains, we saw hundreds of them. I wish I had a picture to share of that, but we were traveling too fast and there was no place to pull off to get pictures. Some of the butterflies were killed by the traffic. The others just kept moving south, soaring on the wind as they pushed onward. I felt like there was a lesson in the butterflies for us.

You see, the timing for us to be in Mexico has been long, and at times, rather difficult. We have known since 2006 that God was calling us to here to Mexico, but it needed to be in His perfect time, not ours. So for 3 years, we have been preparing. Mark was in school, and just last May graduated with a degree in Bible and Ministry. We talked with Aaron and Joanna, and gave them time to adjust to the idea of moving (which was actually one of the easier parts), and we began learning Spanish. We spoke to churches about God's work in Mexico, and maybe the scariest thing of all, we put our house up for sale, sold a bunch of our "stuff," and quit our jobs.

At times, we wondered and questioned if God were truly calling our family to Mexico. After all, it was a pretty crazy idea leaving the security of jobs, home, and family. But every time we doubted, God sent someone to us to confirm the call.

The last week before we moved was the toughest. We started the week with cold rainy weather, and needing to turn on the furnace. We woke up Monday morning to a very cold house, and a strange sound coming from the furnace. It wasn't working! That really wasn't a problem though because Mark is a handyman and can fix anything! But after spending the whole day working on it, he found a large hole in the heat exchanger. That is a BIG problem if you don't know anything about furnaces (like me). We needed to replace the furnace in a house we were moving out of in a week! The cold weather continued as we made plans to replace the furnace, and continued packing. Of course, we questioned, "Why? Why us? Why now?" But we praised God that it didn't happen after we moved when no one would be there or know about it.

On our last Saturday, we had family and friends over to help move some big things out of the house. About an hour into our day, our friend, Mark Musall, fell about 15 feet from our porch roof while helping move a mattress. 911 was called and he was lifelined to Fort Wayne where they found he had a fractured vertebrae, some cracked ribs, and a partially collapsed lung. Once again, we asked, "Why? Why him? Why now?" But we praised God that they expect a full recovery for him, although it will take time, God's time.

We truly felt all of this as a time of testing for us. We wanted to be with Mark as he recovered from this accident, but God told us it was time to go, so we went. We left the following Monday morning, leaving the house, furnace, and Mark in God's hands, fully knowing He would make everything right in His time. (Mark is home now and working a few hours a day as he recovers.)

Now what does all that have to do with Monarch butterflies? Well, they don't question how long or hard the trip south is going to be. They just hear God's call, and they go. Now that is faith! There is definitely a lesson in it for all of us, and I pray we learned it well. I know there will be many other trials as we walk the path He has put us on, but I will remember His butterflies, and have faith.

Jesus said, "Don't be afraid. Just believe." Mark 5:36b NIV

Monday, November 9, 2009

Awesome Opportunities

As many of you know, just a few weeks ago Victor returned from a two week trip to the United States to begin promoting the Yahweh Rapha Medical Center project that the Lord has led Fishers of Men to launch. He travelled with several other people from Mexico. Dr. Ricardo Escamilla is a retired Mexican military colonel and doctor and volunteers as our medical director for both the crusades and the hospital project. Dr. Gisela Kovacs is a Mexican doctor who volunteers on many of our crusades. She was raised in the U.S. and is bilingual, so she travelled with Victor as his translator. Finally, Francisco Martinez is the Mexican architect who is volunteering his time and services to design the medical center project.

Yahweh Rapha Medical Center Promotional Team

L to R: Victor Zaragoza, Dr. Gisela Kovacs, Dr. Ricardo Escamilla, Francisco Martinez

The Lord truly blessed the team's time in the United States as they visited different churches and made many connections that we trust, in the Lord's time, will bring fruit to make the Yahweh Rapha Medical Center project a reality.

Thanks to connections through several Fishers of Men supporters, the team was able to visit The Toledo Hospital and share with many people there, including administrators and board members, the vision the Lord has given us for the Yahweh Rapha Medical Center. The Toledo Hospital is already saving medical equipment in excellent working condition to be installed in the hospital as soon as it is built!

The promotional team on their visit to The Toledo Hospital

The team also visited the Medical Mission Hall of Fame founded and directed by Dr. Larry Conway where used medical equipment is also being held for the medical center project.

Among the unique opportunities that the Lord provided during the team's visit, was that of a television interview for channel 24 news in Toledo, Ohio.

The team being interviewed for the local news

The story that the news team chose to highlight was that of a member of Julie's Dad's church (Dave Claassen pastors Mayfair Plymouth Church in Toledo, OH) who collects scrap metal to help support Fishers of Men after being inspired by the story of our daughter Martha. It was the perfect story to share as Martha's story shows the beautiful integration of the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades (EMMC) and Refuge Ranch. Martha joined our family here at Refuge Ranch as a direct result of an EMMC.

The story also illustrates how your support directly impacts and affects the lives of hundreds of people by making the crusades possible, which affords many the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and, on several occasions, has given a child the opportunity to become a part of our family. Your support also makes daily life at Refuge Ranch possible, which results in children's lives being transformed one day, one hour at a time. Now your support, and that of so many others, will make the Yahweh Rapha Medical Center a reality and thousands of more lives will be changed here on earth and for eternity. Thank you!

Click on the following link and enjoy watching the TV interview for yourself! We praise and thank the Lord for each one of these opportunities and pray that His name would be exalted and glorified and His kingdom would continue to grow here on earth!\news\lists\videos&id=363652

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"Contruction Experience" by Ashleigh

I thought you all would enjoy a photo blog about the cement pour that we had yesterday to finish the roof of the basement. I do not work much with the construction aspects of the ministry but my knowledge has definitely increased since living here. I couldn't even begin to tell you how large amounts of cement is poured in the United States, this may be similar...and it may not be. :)

The first thing to arrive at a little before 7am was the pump truck. The cement trucks dump the cement into the pump truck which them pumps it to the location you want it.

This next picture is of the man who was overseeing all of the work. He controlled not only where the "arm" (I really have no idea what it is really called) of the pump truck but also the flow the cement that was being pumped.

This man was directing the end of the "arm" of the pump and making sure that it was spreading evenly.

Mark Marshall was running a vibrator through the poured cement to make sure that their was no air pockets in the cement. Victor was also on the roof moving the small generator around behind Mark since that is what was powering the vibrator.

We hired several men during the last couple of weeks to help with getting ready for the pour. John (in the white shirt) is one of our core Crusade staff down here. Because of all that he and his wife do for the ministry they are not able to hold full time jobs. It was nice to offer him the opportunity to work for several weeks with the construction. In this picture John and Cirino are leveling the poured cement.

And I chose this picture as the last one of the "finished" pour as well as Lucy photo journalizing the monumental event with me. :) I figured all the Shiloh people would appreciate it!
So, that is what happened yesterday. If I remember correctly (which may not be) the forms have to sit for two weeks before they can start taking them down. We are all excited to see the progress that has been made toward the finishing of the Marshall's apartment and the laundry room for Refuge Ranch! Thank you all for your prayers for provision and safety!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Limited or No Connectivity" By Mark

A view of the roof from Josiah's fort

We have been having trouble connecting, and staying connected, to the internet. We are relying on a wireless signal from the Zaragoza house. The router is in an upstairs window and we should be in range, but the concrete seems to block the signal. This morning I was thinking about
that message we get, “Limited or No Connectivity.” I was working with the entirely Spanish speaking crew cutting, bending, installing, and tying rebar for the concrete roof. I know enough Spanish to be able to ask for help or ask if I am doing something right. I do not do so well if the answer is very involved and includes long explanations. If the answer is yes, no, good, or involves pointing or hand gestures, I am ok. The most interesting thing I have noticed about our communications is that a lot of men do not talk while they work. Even when using hand motions, there is little or no talking if there is a language barrier. Sometimes I speak English and point or make gestures. This is like “Limited or no connectivity.” There is probably some frustration on the part of the other workers. I am guessing that is why they do not talk to me in Spanish. They just don’t want to waste their time, since I would not understand anyway.

I am glad I don’t get this “Limited or No Connectivity” message when I pray. God is always listening and always understands. There are definitely times when I sense a better and stronger connection, but those are the times that are like taking my laptop down to the Zaragoza’s house. When I remove the walls that separate me from God, I discover that He is always there. He did not build the wall, I did, or I let it happen. While I have been working on this cement roof project, a lot of the work is solo quiet repetitive work, and I find my mind wandering, and thinking about other people. It gives me the opportunity to pray for people. Even though I do not know what they need specifically, I can lift them up and ask for God’s encouragement and blessing on them.

As you pray today, remove the walls that give you “limited or no connectivity.” Remember too those who still have “limited or no connectivity” with the God of all creation. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NIV

Monday, November 2, 2009

"2 o'clock Conversations" by Ashleigh

Ashleigh & Ana at bath time

One of the daily responsibilities I have here in Mexico is putting Ana down for her nap. Every afternoon at 2pm I hunt her down, pick her up, and head toward her bedroom. Julie and I played a little game with her almost a year ago now. Since I put her down for her nap and mom puts her to bed we have slightly different routines. When I started putting her down for naps I would just sing a collection of songs depending on what came into my mind at the moment. However, Ana really loved "Amazing Grace - My Chains are Gone" and started requesting it. I also notice that she did NOT like it when I sang "Jesus Loves Me" I shared this with Julie one time and Julie informed me that she sang "Jesus Loves Me" every night to Ana when putting her to bed. We got to thinking that she like me to sing "Amazing Grace - My Chains are Gone" and she liked Julie to sing "Jesus Love Me". Julie tested the theory several nights later by trying to sing "Amazing Grace" and it proved correct. Ana had a fit! Her routine was being messed with! :)

More recently Ana asks me as soon as I pick her up, "Are we going to sleep?" (In Spanish) It's so cute...she knows what time it is. :) Most often, she doesn't have a problem with it but every once in a while I receive whimpers and little imploring murrmurs about how she doesn't want to go to bed.

Today we had an expanded version of that conversation. It went something like this (All in Spanish):

Ana: "Are we going to go to sleep?"

Me: "Yep"

Ana: "ok....Will you sing 'Amazing Grace?'"

Me: "Yes, if you want me to sing 'Amazing Grace'. Do you?"

Ana: "Yes"

Me: "ok"

It was adorable! When we got to her room I wrapped her in a blanket and started singing "Jesus Love Me". She stopped me at the beginning and said, "No, Amazing Grace". I said ok and started with "Jesus Loves Me" again. She started to giggle and stopped me again to request "Amazing Grace". It was great! I played with her for a bit and then we settled into the actual version of Amazing Grace and it wasn't long before she was out. :) She is a little person but has a big personality and is always ready to laugh.