Tuesday, March 30, 2010
This week is a very important week to me as a Christian. Holy week in the United States is very different from Holy Week in Mexico. Yesterday for chapel we talked a little bit about Palm Sunday and how the people of Jerusalem were so happy about Jesus coming to be their king. The kids were not as familiar with this story as a lot of kids in the US are. In the Christian churches in Mexico, much of what we Americans think of as Christian tradition does not exist. Mexican culture and tradition is so steeped in religious ritual and idolatry that anything which resembles that kind of activity is not present in the Christian Church. So yesterday the kids got an American culture lesson with their weekly chapel. We talked about how we remember Jesus' triumphal entry by waving palm branches and how confident the people were that Jesus was a new earthly king.
You see, every week we talk about a positive character trait. This week's trait is "confidence." We can be confident in many things, but the Bible verse that goes with confidence is Phil 4:13, "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." This has been my "life verse" for the last couple of years as we have prepared to move and are now living here at Refuge Ranch. I have been very confident about specific things. Confident to the point of arguing my position, and then learning that I was wrong. (Husbands take note, you can admit it.) The crowd in Jerusalem was wrong. They had their minds so set on an earthly king that they missed who Jesus really is. They knew what they wanted so they created it in their minds. It was reasonable that this great man could be their savior from the Romans, so they celebrated His arrival.
Being confident is about being faithful. Our confidence comes from our faith. If we are faithful to God, our strength comes from God. I know this because I have seen it. I did not move to Mexico with my family because I thought we could do it. We are here because God gave us the confidence to pick up our feet and take a step.
I have seen your faith too. Julie's blog from the other day asked for prayers. I knew things had been a little tense and a little busier than "normal" but I do not always know exactly what is happening. This is not a new thing. It is just more noticeable because I don't understand every thing that is being said around me. Tonight, however, I noticed a difference. The tension was less, the laughter was more. Julie's faith to ask for prayers turned into your faith to pray, which turned into answered prayer. These things I can say with confidence. Keep up the good work, you are good and faithful servants.
Monday, March 29, 2010
1) Decisions regarding Daniel's medical care:
- The Lord has provided the $1000.00 we need to return to Veracruz to get the last remaining paperwork from Daniel's mother before we can move forward with his needed medical care - open heart surgery to resolve a missing heart ventricle. But, how to move forward with his medical care? That is a decision that needs to take shape in the coming weeks. One big question is whether we pursue treatment in the U.S. or Mexico. That decision has many factors including the impact on our family life and the documentation needed to get Daniel into the U.S. What kind of treatment is best for him? Please pray for wisdom as we contact hospitals in both the U.S. and Mexico and pray that God would clearly show us the path to take.
2) Our Family Life
-We had a family pow-wow and prayer session yesterday because Satan is on the loose and seems to be attacking freely! Caleb was quite ill last week, after having been sick just three weeks previous, and several of the older girls haven't been feeling well. The teenage years are difficult anyway, but especially so when you are dealing with pasts like our girls have and having to continuously adapt to an adopted family. Victor and my marriage has never been what you could call an "easy" marriage. He is a former gang member and I am a pastor's daughter. We grew up in totally different cultural settings in two different languages, yet both have strong personalities and are quite headstrong. Please pray that we do not allow Satan to distract us from the tasks at hand through stupid and petty arguments and that the Lord can continue to mold us into the people He wants us to be. Pray that our marriage, as God has designed and planned for marriage to be, can reflect Christ's relationship with His bride, the Church.
The Bible tells us that Satan is prowling around looking for someone to devour and he seems to be getting some bites in around here lately! It is so much more enjoyable to write a blog entry about something funny that has happened or a recent personal or ministry highlight, but we feel a strong need right now for increased prayer support and we implore you to go to your knees on behalf of Fishers of Men, the Zaragoza family, our staff and volunteers.
Thank you for going to battle on our behalf!
In the Lord's service,
Friday, March 26, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
We are finally in our new home! It isn't finished, but we are in it! We have temporary beds, temporary doors, temporary places to put things...
Dynamite blasting the rock in our way
Temporary flowers that will soon be gone
Living in the temporary! Preparing for the eternal!
May we use our "temporary" moments to prepare for eternity.
Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away.
I Corinthians 7:13 NLT
Monday, March 22, 2010
What is a "normal plateau"? It means that "all" we have to deal with is trying to parent 12 children in a way that honors the Lord and that can help them restore their pasts into the glorious futures that God has prepared for them. (In case you haven't thought it through, this is no small task. Just last week, while Victor was on a three day crusade, I dealt with one child who no longer felt life was worth living, one child caught taking something that belonged to someone else and lying about it and one child who refused to talk to me for three days for fear that I would abandon that individual like his/her birth family did. This is "normal" for us.) A "normal plateau" means that "all" we have to deal with is continuously working towards balancing ministry needs and responsibilities with family needs and responsibilities, as well as working towards greater unity among a staff that crosses cultural and language barriers.
While we may be enjoying a stroll across the "normal plateau", I can assure you that God continues to work. Especially in the lives of the children at Refuge Ranch, this sense of normalcy is what helps them to be restored to a life of stability, rather than the roller coaster life caused by abandonment, alcoholism and abuse. Even learning the lesson of living each day, of keep on keeping on in the midst of routine and responsibility, can be a difficult lesson to learn when they are used to depending on extreme emotions to survive. While we may be enjoying a stroll across the "normal plateau", I can assure you that we need your daily prayers to have the wisdom to handle even "normal" life. I can assure you that we need your continued faithful and generous financial support to continue "normal" daily life on the mission field, so that the Lord can continue to make an extraordinary difference even in the midst of "normal" days.
Ruth - June 2006-seven months old
Fidel - our budding soccer player - July 2006 - soon after joining our family.
Josiah and Martha -July 2004 -two months after Martha became a part of our family.
Grandma Claassen and Ana - October 2006
Martita and Lolis - this is our oldest picture of Lolis because it was taken the day we met her for the first time and the day that she and Martita were reunited after a two year separation! December 2009
Caleb and Jocelin - June 2006
Ana and Martha on vacation - October 2006.
Julie and Martita - the first picture she asked to take alone with me - October 2008-eight months after her arrival.
Grandpa Claassen with Caleb and Josiah - February 2006
Friday, March 19, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
Laundry, laundry, laundry! If Eve would have only known what her sin was going to mean in terms of sentencing all of us to loads of laundry and endless folding! Seriously, how many hours are "wasted" around the world each day simply washing, folding and putting away clothing! Not to mention money for water and soap, or parental stress caused by changing fashions! Even in this, the Lord must have a purpose! (I have yet to discover it, but He MUST!)
At our house here at Refuge Ranch, I have a theory regarding laundry. Our laundry reproduces itself! Seriously! It has to! That is why we are literally never done with the laundry! Our clothing is never all clean, all folded and all put away! (I know, part of my problem in life is having unrealistic expectations, right? After all, there are 14 of us in the family!)
BUT, to my surprise, my theory was proven correct this past weekend! On Saturday morning, Erika (our staff member Magda's adolescent daughter) and I took all of Daniel's clothing out of his closet to refold and put away. Lo and behold - I discovered that clothing does reproduce itself! Check out this picture as proof!
For as many times as I have folded, put away, refolded and reorganized Daniel's closet in the last 8 months, I NEVER realized we had two of the exact same outfits! I was amazed! Shocked! Horrified! Our clothing was reproducing itself before my eyes! Actually, it was quite comforting because there is now a true explanation as to why our clothing is never all clean, folded and put away!
Joanna Marshall did suggest a solution to our 'clothing reproduction' problem. We really need to start separating the male clothing from the female clothing in the dirty clothing bins!
Yesterday at church over 15 youth and young adults made a commitment before the Lord and our congregation to remain sexually pure until their wedding day! It was a beautiful promise ring ceremony in which each individual brought their own rings, Victor and I shared with the congregation the purpose of the ceremony and then we placed the rings on each of the youth's hands as they signed a purity commitment. It was incredible to watch because many of these young people are newer believers who have not lived pure lives and are now committing to doing so. Others are much younger and want to live their lives for the Lord from now on. It was an especially meaning ceremony for us because our daughter Martita participated. Angie and Diana had done their own promise ring ceremony shortly after Martita joined our family several years ago. At that point, Martita was very new in her faith and, due to her past, did not feel worthy or capable of making such a commitment to purity. Praise the Lord that all of that has changed, by His restorative power, and she made a commitment to sexual purity yesterday before the Lord, our congregation and our family!
Martita hugging Victor after he placed her purity ring on her finger. May the Lord, in His grace, grant us the opportunity to one day witness her place this same purity ring on a Godly man's finger as part of her wedding ceremony. All in His time!
Some of the girls showing off their rings and purity promises after the service! Several of them do not have their parents' support in this decision and one even said she felt like it was her wedding day!
Then there are the sweet moments in life!
Bonus picture: You have been a part of transforming children's lives through your prayers, giving and participation in Fishers of Men. If you doubt that, just compare Daniel's smile and eyes in the picture of him in the bathtub (right and above), with his facial expression and eyes in the picture of him on the left, one of the first pictures we ever received of Daniel.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." Matthew 6:18-20
And, finally, an opportunity to witness a miracle! Victor leaves on a three day crusade tomorrow to the state of Tlaxcala, to the northeast of Mexico City. As of this morning, the Fishers of Men bank account had a balance of: $1.04! We praise the Lord because this is simply an opportunity for him to shine forth with His miraculous provision! Several years ago, Victor organized an EMMC to the state of Chiapas and literally had only enough money to get the team to Chiapas and purchase food for the week. He went, not knowing how he would get the money to get the team back home. While he was gone on the crusade, the Lord provided $500 in an amazing way. Just enough to get the team home!
Friday, March 12, 2010
I have been planning on sharing a story with all of you for quite some time now but it hasn’t work out. There has always been something that just happened and was time sensitive to share with all of you. So, this story kept getting pushed back.
It all started over a year ago now. Pati, Jocelin and I were the only ones that lived in the basement at the time. (Hard to remember what that was like!) :) Pati came home from market one day with a twinkle in her eye. She showed me the tablecloth that she had bought to sew as a surprise for my mother. I wasn’t allowed to breath a word of it to mom and so I didn’t. Pati started working on it diligently at first. It was a rather overwhelming project and at times it got put to the side as life would get crazy.
When I returned to Mexico after my brothers wedding I spent several weeks cleaning out Pati’s room and organizing things after she passed away. It felt like I was just a bit closer to her for a little longer. As I was going through a stack of things I ran across the tablecloth. I asked Julie if I could have it and she said “yes”. I spent several days debating what I should do with it. Pati had only finished one clump of flowers out of 12. I had toyed with the idea of making one myself but didn’t know if I wanted to tackle a project like that. Plus, Pati had chosen very Mexico colors like florescent pink! It was very Pati but didn’t exactly flow with the colors in my mothers dinning room. :) However, I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to just throw it away. So, after thinking about it for several days I decided to finish it.
Looking back my decision was very much led by God. I spent 5 months working on it almost every evening. Many times as I would sit in my room and work on it I would listen to audio sermons and lectures that my brothers had given me. It was a blessing to my soul that was greatly needed at that time and I can now see how God was ministering to my spirit.
I had to really push to get it done by the time that I went home in February so that it would be ready to give to my mom. Right before I left I had Lucy get a picture of me with it so that I could post it here. My mother loved it (and cried when I told her the story just like I thought she would). :) Much thanks goes out to Rosa who was the patient teacher and showed me how to crochet the edging around it to finish it off.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Mark has diligently been working on the tile floor, which is a slow monotonous project. Our bedroom floor is finished, except for grouting. Aaron and Joanna's floors are close too, but we don't even have bathroom tile yet.
Cirino and Alejandro have been busy digging a long deep trench for pipes to connect us to water so we will have a working bathroom soon. As they have worked on that project in the hot sun, everything was going well until...they hit a rock! Not just a little rock, but veins of lava rock (which are harder than any we have come across so far), that travel just under the dirt. No amount of hammering will move it.
Cirino rented a backhoe. It helped and removed some pretty big rocks, but could not budge the large veins of rock in our way. They tried to go around it. They tried to go over it. They tried to go under it (Anybody familiar with this song?). So now, we must go through it!
How? With dynamite! While the family is gone to church on Sunday (Where else would we be safe?), Cirino and his brave helpers will blast the rock, in hopes of removing it without doing damage to vehicles, windows that we just put in...
Sometimes in our lives, we run into situations (like a rock wall!) too big to handle. We find that we can't go around them, over them, or under them. We must go through them (just as God planned), and let Him blast the rocks out of our way, in His time. Those situations tend to bring us closer to God (just as He planned), to strengthen us in our faith (just as He planned), and to help us to rely on Him more fully (just as He planned).
One day, I was feeling overwhelmed by all there was yet to do to finish the apartment. Ashleigh said to me, "You are finishing each day exactly what God intended you to finish. That is all you need to do." I try to remember that now as we wait to see what God will do Sunday with the giant rocks in our path. And I will try to remember it each time I come up against a "rock" in my path that I somehow must go through.
Monday, March 8, 2010
In just this past week, Victor and I have had the honor to be a part of several different kinds of harvests. The first type of harvest happened during the most recent Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade (EMMC) to the state of Guerrero. Victor, as director of Fishers of Men, has the primary responsibility of scheduling, planning, preparing for and supervising the carrying out of the EMMC's. However, the Lord gave Victor a special blessing on this crusade by giving him the opportunity to personally share the Gospel with several gang members. It was a true joy for Victor as he could use his strongest spiritual gift, evangelism, and also see the marvelous way in which the Lord could use his own horrid past to bring others to the Lord.
As the Lord continued leading and guiding the conversation, Victor was able to share the hope, forgiveness, purpose and love that he had found in Jesus Christ. When asked if he wanted to pray to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, the gang member answered affirmatively and Victor led him in a prayer of salvation. As they prayed, the gang member repeated Victor's words with great passion and forcefulness, as if they required great work to say them. As soon as he said "Amen", he sighed very deeply and commented: "Wow! I feel totally different! It is as if something came out of me!" Satan and his demons cannot stand against the power of the Lord Almighty! He didn't light the next joint, asked his buddy to get rid of the rest of the alcohol they had brought with them and said he was exhausted and was going home to sleep awhile.
Throughout the remaining time of the crusade, several other gang members came to Christ, including one that had arrived at the crusade armed with a pistol under his shirt. The local missionary has a good relationship with the gang members and they respect him, so we look forward to some excellent discipleship taking place.
Also during the crusade, Victor had the opportunity to reap a different kind of harvest. The seeds for this harvest were planted by Mark and Aaron Marshall who dressed up as clowns and blessed the children with their smiles, juggling, skits and other antics. The Lord used them to prepare the children's hearts for the gospel message. Victor commented that when it came time for him to share the Gospel with the children and invite them to pray to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior, their little hearts were very prepared, open, willing and had already understood the essence of the Gospel message.
After our own youngest children had been put to bed, Victor and I headed out to the campfire to meet up with the youth and our own five oldest girls: Angie, Diana, Martita, Lolis and Martha, along with Erika, our staff member, Magda's, daughter and Aaron Marshall.
The youth leaders had planned this campout specifically at our place wanting Victor and I to speak on purity. The Lord's view on sexuality is so neglected in churches and, sadly, the dating and relational habits of Christian youth are almost no different from those that don't know the Lord. This is a topic that both Victor and I are very passionate about. The Lord, in His grace and mercy, gave me the opportunity, which I chose to take and obey, as a young lady to make a purity promise to Him and my future spouse. The day of our wedding, I gave Victor my purity ring as a symbol of having saved myself for him. Victor's story, as many of you know, is quite the opposite. As a gang leader in Mexico City, Victor had many intimate relationships before coming to know the Lord. Our Heavenly Father has so blessed our marriage, but we are passionate about teaching, and showing, others to live their lives fully committed to the Lord, including their sexuality.
So, Victor spoke to the group as a whole and then, at about 11:30 p.m. we divided into two groups. I spoke alone with the girls and Victor with the guys. It was a wonderful, intimate, fun, blessed time! We hit our pillows at 3:00 a.m. with grateful hearts for the opportunity the Lord had given us to share with such a great group of young people who are truly seeking to live in a way that honors the Lord in midst of a society that seems bent on offending Him at every turn. It is also always a great privilege to be able to minister together as husband and wife.
It is not very often that you can plant a seed and receive an almost instantaneous crop! However, the next morning at church, the youth leader approached me, herself a young woman, saying that several of the youth members were interested in taking place in a purity ring ceremony. I agreed to meet with them after the service that morning. As soon as church let out, the youth leader came up to me with .... 16 other young people, both girls and guys, who want to participate in a promise ring ceremony at our church! Praise the Lord! I immediately got our senior pastor and we shared with him what the Lord was doing in these young people's lives.
So, this coming Sunday, March 14, 2010, these nearly 20 individuals will present themselves before our congregation, publicly declaring and signing their commitment to live sexually pure lives. Our pastors will then place their purity rings on their fingers! Praise God!
Please keep this group of young people in your prayers as they declare war on Satan and his lies regarding God's plan for sexuality! May they stand strong in the Lord! If you feel so led, at least four of the youth came up to me after church and expressed their lack of finances in order to purchase a ring for the ceremony. While the rings need not be expensive or elaborate, I encouraged them to buy a ring with some silver or gold in order to symbolize the purity of their promise and also a ring of some value in order to make it something of worth and valuable to them, just as they are of great value to the Lord. So, if you feel led to help purchase one or more purity rings for these young people, many of whose families are not yet believers or are just starting to walk with the Lord, please email me at: email@example.com or mail a donation marked "purity rings" to Fishers of Men, 1039 Compton Ct., Toledo, OH 43615.
Thank you for the seeds that you have planted through your prayers, giving and participation in Fishers of Men! Thank you for the seeds that you have enabled us to plant! We thank the Lord for the harvest that He has provided! May the seeds planted in each one of our own lives continue to bear more and more fruit for the honor and glory of the One and Only Jesus Christ!
"But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." Matthew 13:23
Friday, March 5, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
There are so many stories to tell. My mind is still processing everything we experienced. Watching Mark, Aaron, and Joanna serve in all the ways they did was amazing for me as a wife and mom. Emy and Teresa jumped right in despite the language barrier, and we were truly part of an amazing team. We worked together to serve God's people and we give Him all the glory for the transformation of lives that took place during this last week. I know that my own life will never be the same.
And we, who with unveiled faces, all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
--2 Corinthians 3:18--