Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Confidence" by Mark

I am writing this on Tuesday night because I think I think better at night. If I wait until Wednesday night Lucy will have already written something beautifully spiritual about a normal everyday occurrence. She is so good.

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

Prayer, Please!

This blog is not just an opportunity to share with you what daily life with Fishers of Men is like, whether here at Refuge Ranch or on an Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade. It is also an opportunity for you to become an integral part of the ministry at a moment's notice through the power of prayer. Can I just say that we are really busy living right now? Does that even make sense? Family life with 12 children, leading Fishers of Men ministries and involvement with our local church all result in lots of life happening around us. Please keep in special mind the following prayer requests in the coming days:

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,
Julie Zaragoza

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Following God into the Future" by Ashleigh

Robert Frost once wrote the following in a poem entitled "The Road Less Traveled",

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

I have always really liked this poem and particularly this phrase as I thought it was a good description of the Christian's life. After all we are told that narrow is the gate that leads to life and few there are that enter it. It doesn't make sense to not follow the crowd most of the time. It doesn't seem logical. Often it seems contrary to what would appear to be in our best interest as we see it. Moving to Mexico two years ago was a less traveled road to be sure. Most people my age were finishing college, dating, looking at career choices, getting married and starting families. Me...I left the country! :)

Now, ask me if I have regretted that decision? The answer is a resounding "NO"! It's not been easy but I have never once even thought that it wasn't where God had called me to commit two years. That is His grace providing for His calling. It's easy to trust God looking into the past with 20/20 vision and the ability to see not only the outcome but God's fingerprints all over each event, moment and person.

So, where am I going with this? Some of you are probably wondering, "What's your point, Ashleigh?" Well, my point is, when God leads it doesn't often make sense to our human brains. As my two year commitment with Fishers of Men came to a close I spent much time in prayer and counseling with people I love, love me and love the ministry. I can confidently say that God is leading me to move back to the states for a season. It's been a very difficult decision as my heart is here and I feel that this is my home in so many ways. Although I don't know what the future holds I am confident in this, the God I trusted when I came to Mexico is still leading and still trustworthy. The future is hidden from my sight but I am trusting in the knowledge that God sees it all. I am also praying that this truly is just a season of life and that God calls me back to Mexico in the future.

I feel kind of like Abraham and have been thinking about him a lot these last couple of weeks.

Hebrews 11:8 says,
"By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going."

However, I will readily admit that it puts my faith to shame knowing that Abraham picked up and left his home and country and didn't even know where he was going. I know where I am going. I have friends there, I have family there. I know where to go to church, I know where to shop (and what you can get), I know the language, I know respectively where everything is at in the general area of Wayne county, Ohio. Abraham just left! Yes, he had the promise that he would receive an inheritance when he got to where he was going but Hebrews makes it clear that he only really saw the fulfilment of that promise from a distance.

Hebrews 11:13 says,
"All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth."

I told the staff and the family a week and a half ago that God was calling me back to the states for now. I was concerned at how the children (particularly some of them) where going to take the news. I so badly did not want to be just another person that abandons them "proving" that they "are not loved". So far they are all seeming to be handling it very maturely which has just been another little confirmation from the Lord that I am heading in the right direction and He is leading the way. :)

Logistically, my friend Danielle will be coming to Mexico in two weeks and we will both go on the crusade April 13-17. She will stay at the Ranch with me and help me finish packing and then be gracious enough to travel back to the states with me on April 22nd. The time will pass quickly but I am looking forward to enjoying every minute and memory I have left here at the Ranch!

For instance, for Joanna's birthday she requested cheesecake. I have had several young adults at church asking me to teach them to make cheesecake so that they could sell it as a fundraiser. So, I figured this was the perfect opportunity. I had Julie call and let Adrian know that I would be making cheesecake on Sunday night and that if they wanted to learn that this would be their only opportunity. He rounded up five of them and came out to the Ranch after church. Here are a couple of pictures of that.

Jessica and Adrian working on cheesecakes

Me instructing Adrian on how to make the crust

This is just one of many memories that are full of laughter, friend and fun!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Living in the Temporary...by Lucy

Temporary doors (shower curtains) in our home

Temporary bathroom ready to use!
Temporary bed ready for Aaron in his room

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...

We have been living in temporary quarters for 5 months, with the hope of moving into our "real" home. We have dealt with temporary problems that at times felt overwhelming. The immovable rocks were blasted, and drainage pipes put in. The temporary bathroom situation of toilet and sink here, but showering up in the school, will be remedied soon enough when Mark has time to finish our shower here.

Dynamite blasting the rock in our way
Drainage pipe ready to go

We seem to live our lives in the "temporary" realm though, always waiting for something better, something more "real" and permanent to take its place. The problem is that sometimes we forget that we should be looking forward to something better. We get comfortable in our temporary quarters, our temporary situation, and comfortable is nice. We don't have to worry about the unknown when we are comfortable in our little temporary spaces. Sometimes we think we are finally experiencing the "real thing" (like the COKE commercial says), when that is only an illusion. Everything here is temporary!

Temporary flowers that will soon be gone
Amanda, Joanna, and Aaron temporarily enjoying each other's company

A temporary sunrise that is over way too soon

I remember telling myself this multiple times when my kids were babies, and we were awake in the middle of the night (one more time). "This too shall pass. It won't last." And that was so true. I am now the parent of a 16 year old son, and a daughter who just turned 14 yesterday! A lot of temporary times have past, with more to come. But I have to keep in mind to enjoy each temporary thing God has given me, yet continue to look ahead to eternal things.

Joanna will be temporarily 14 for the next 365 days.

Each child at Refuge Ranch will be here only temporarily. Eventually each one will move on, whether it is to college, a new job, a new husband or wife and family, or whatever is next for them. It doesn't matter. What matters is how we spend our time in the "temporary." Someday everything will be permanently fixed in heaven and hell. We must use each temporary moment here getting ready for our permanent home. Preparing the children here is crucial. Doing ordinary "kid" things with them, sharing the love of Christ through everything we do, helps them see that their pasts are only a temporary part of who they are. Hopefully they will see that this (as great as living at Refuge Ranch is!) is temporary too, that God has something even better prepared for each of them.

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

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Thankfully life has hit somewhat of a "normal" plateau! No guarantee how long this will last, so we will enjoy it while we can! What is a "normal" plateau at Refuge Ranch and with Fishers of Men? It means we get to do a regular school schedule complete with Brain Breakfast each morning (activities to get our brains going at the beginning of the school day), daily reading time, regular bookwork and extra classes like swimming, piano and art. It means I get to do my one-on-one time with each of the kids at their scheduled time throughout the week. It means we have a break (for three weeks) from any EMMC's, which means Victor is more readily available to help out around the ranch, run errands and jump in with parenting, rather than preparing for, recuperating from or being on an EMMC. It means we don't have any major church events, meetings or other events breaking up our schedule.

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.

So, while we enjoy a stroll across the "normal plateau", I thought it would be a good chance to take a walk down memory lane and share some of my favorite pictures from the past. Enjoy!

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.

Diana reading to Josiah - 2006

Grandpa Claassen with Caleb and Josiah - February 2006

Our star soccer players ready for soccer camp - Angie, Josiah, Martita and Fidel! July 2009

Angie and Ruth - December 2005

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Unispired Latenight Ramblings" by Ashleigh

As the title suggests I am feeling rather uninspired to be blogging today. That is the only thing about having a specific day in which you are responsible to blog, sometimes it just doesn't line up with wanting to actually share anything. :)

To start off, the Marshall's were sorry that they didn't blog on Wednesday. They were working their tails off trying to get the apartment in some kind of working order for Lucy's mom, sister-in-law and niece who arrived today. I am happy to announce that they slept in the apartment last night for the first time! :) Mark was able to get the toilet and the sink in the bathroom working (barely, after many complications). They will still need to share the shower with us, in the other part of the basement, for a little while longer, until they get theirs finished. But, praise the Lord they are in!

In many ways FOM is a very unique ministry. I have the opportunity to watch the changes in each of the children. I was thinking back on this week and what all it held. Many things that came to mind actually were attitudes that had to be dealt with, complications in school with older children not understand basic logic/problem solving (because they were never taught it before) and even a few moments where someone stepped a little deeper in their expression of love to someone else. Each of these is a miracle (yes, even the attitude). When the children first come they so often are on a survival mentality. Preferences are a non-issue and have never even been awakened. What is an attitude anyway? It's when someone doesn't like what is happening. When things aren't going their way. James 1 says that fighting and quarreling come because we don't get what we want. God wants me to be grateful for the attitudes. It's part of the growing process for the children. You can't skip over that stage of life. They are no longer just surviving in life but now have the opportunity to thrive!

It's easy for people (including myself) to get entrenched into the day to day aspects of life and forget where these kids come from. At times they seem "normal" and unscarred by their past. Praise the Lord for that! However, reality usually isn't far in coming. My deepest prayer for each one of the children as I have been living with them is that they will choose to believe (aka - live out of) the knowledge of the TRUTH! That is the only thing that will set them free from their past. They have to grasp the truth of Christ with both hands and not let go. But then again, so do we. Isn't that right?

Would it be fair to say that we all live what we truly believe? Or rather, that our actions tell the world what are belief system is? Isn't that why a believer in Christ can shine a light without saying a word? So then I ask you, "What would those that live around you say you believe?" Do you trust God with money, family, future, plans and goals? I mean really? Howe quickly does your blood pressure rise? How often do you lay awake at night and can't sleep because of something you are think about? How often do you you let something consume your thoughts because you are worrying? Do you really trust God with those? Here is a little logic test. If someone asked you to drink arsenic would you do it? Of course not. You know (and trust) in the proven results that it is deadly. Take that into the spiritual realm. To not trust God is poisonous and deadly to our souls and our relationship with Him. Yet, how often are we guilty of worry, an obsession with something that happened or might happen, allowing something else to consume our thoughts other then Christ! We cannot live fuller in Christ if we continue to consume the poison!

I'll be the first to shout GUILTY! Not only guilty but guilty on all accounts. But the Lord is ever so loving and faithful to open my eyes to this and continually draw me closer to Him. He is taking me on a life journey in learning how to trust Him deeper. That is what I pray for the kids. With my whole heart I cry out to God that they would understand this and grab onto the power that lies within it. It will be their only way to true freedom. He has called all of us precious, acceptable, worthy, loved, completely redeemed, sanctified, more then a conqueror and so much more. We have, through Christ, direct access to the God of heaven and earth, the mind of Christ and the power to do all things. Not only that but we cannot be separated from God's love, be charged or accused or be condemned. Can you imagine what any one of the kids could do if they fully believed half of this list? How about you....do you fully believe this list? Do you trust that what Christ says is true? Does your life display it?

Why do I share this with you? It is sometimes so hard to know what to type without disclosing personal and private information. But in giving you a glimpse (as I have tried) of my heart's pray for them I pray that it helps you in knowing how better to pray for them and feeling more connected to the spiritual needs of the children. But not only the children. This would also go for each one of the staff members here. (For that matter, it would be a good pray for any person you know living on the earth!)

Have the courage to radically believe God. The little taste I have had in my short life has already told me it more then worth it!

(I guess I found something to say after all!) :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Hodge Podge of Real Life by: Julie

I am so glad that life provides such normal moments, such "unnormal" moments, high moments, low moments, fun moments, sad moments, moments of excitement and moments of drudgery that challenge us to infuse them with the purpose of Christ. In all these moments we have the opportunity to witness, experience and depend on Christ's power. Today's blog shares some of those moments of drudgery, AKA "laundry", some of those moments of excitement and some of those simple moments that fill your heart with warmth and remind you of the most important treasure in life...people!


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!

The guys showing off their rings in a manly way!

Then there are the sweet moments in life!

Pure Sweetness
A rainbow anyone?

Bath time is one of my favorite times and Saturday night proved no exception! Ruth, Daniel and Ana had a blast in the tub together. (It is rare for me to bathe more than two at a time because the bathtub is not exactly a "tub built for three", but they were in a really great mood and even helped me bathe one another!) After I downloaded this picture onto my computer I noticed the different shades of skin color among the three! Is there anything more beautiful?! And they are all siblings! I am so thankful God was so creative when he created each one of us in a unique way and then brought us together as a family! Wow!

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.

True Treasures
"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

Relationships are true treasures because what we invest in relationships will pay eternal dividends. Here is a picture of three of my treasures! Friday night I guess I took a little too long putting Ruth, Ana, Jocelin, Josiah and Fidel down for bed. I had left Caleb and Daniel with their Daddy while I put the others to bed and when I came to get them....well, let's just say Victor had done a good job of putting them to sleep...including himself!

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!

Please pray for the Lord's provision and that His name would be glorified in all!

Friday, March 12, 2010

"A Project with a Purpose" by Ashleigh

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

Guess We'll Have to Go Through It...by Lucy

We try so hard to make plans that fit our schedule, but God sits on His throne and laughs at us sometimes, I think. There have been times when I have been so stressed about getting the apartment finished. We hope to at least have the bedrooms finished so we can sleep in them when we have family coming to visit in 1 1/2 weeks.
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

Different Kinds of Harvests

When I was growing up we would go and visit my grandparents on their respective farms in Iowa and Minnesota. There was lots of grown up talk that I didn't understand about the soybean harvest, the corn harvest, the hay harvest. I thank the Lord that my grandparents raised my parents in the faith, and that my parents, in turn, raised my brother and I to love the Lord. Now, we have lots of conversations about soul harvests!

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.

Victor sharing the Gospel with a local gang member. Notice the beer bottle to the right and the lit marijuana joint between the gang member's fingers. We praise God that he is now a member of a new gang - God's gang!

One day during the crusade, Victor suddenly began to smell the odor of a marijuana joint, having recognized it from his own marijuana smoking days. He began to walk around the crusade area when his sight rested on a tattooed man standing on the fringes with, sure enough, a lit marijuana joint dangling between his fingers. Memories began to course through Victor's mind as he was transported to the streets of Mexico City, surrounded by similarly tattooed fellow gang members, passing a marijuana joint among themselves and drinking in a futile attempt to fill the gaping emptiness inside. Brought back to the moment by the Acapulco heat, Victor approached the young man. He quickly reverted back to his old way of greeting with a series of hand slaps common among gang members. Victor's vocabulary and manner of speaking immediately changed, almost like a second language from years past. He could easily identify with each experience and feeling expressed by the gang member, having lived the same life himself.

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.

"What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." I Corinthians 3:5-7

This past Saturday night Victor and I had the opportunity to plant a different type of seed and, by the grace of God, bring in the harvest, too! As members of Iglesia Cristiana de Paz, the church we have been members of since our arrival in Mexico nearly seven years ago, we try and seek the Lord's will as to how to be involved in our local congregation, while balancing that involvement with the call the Lord has placed on our lives here in Mexico to lead Fishers of Men. One of those opportunities took place this past Saturday night. The high school and young adult youth groups held a campout here at Refuge Ranch. About 30 teenagers and young adults descended on our property at sunset. The guys set up the tents while the girls made hotdogs for supper.

The youth group enjoying some ice breaker games.

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.

Me (Julie) sharing with the girls around the campfire at about midnight!

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: fishersofmenmexico@gmail.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

"A Little Video" by Ashleigh

I wondered if I should post again about the crusade or not. It is still so all consuming in my mind and heart. I know that there was two other posts about the crusade but it seems to be the one thing weighing on my heart today. So, you all will just have to bear me as I share a little bit more.

I will admit that I have been a skeptic in the past. Not that the crusades were ineffective or unimportant. But I always wondered about the long term strength that is brought. This is purely based out of a very western American perspective. If we evangelize anyone we fully expect for there to be only a few people who truly start to follow the Lord. When groups of children pray to receive Christ it's a given that only a percentage will actually grow. It's different down here and I was foolish to think that because the western culture has hardened its heart to God that this was the norm. My eyes have been opened.

Last fall FOM did a crusade to Michoacan last fall in October and we found out that the missionary who is there full time called a nearby seminary asking for help because there were 340 people who wanted Bible studies. When was the last time that happened in the US? There are many, many stories just like that. Full of hearts who have been captured by God.

I wanted to remember this crusade as my first crusade. (Technically, I have gone on one other one but it was three weeks after getting here and I was very sick. So, I don't count that one). I put together a little video of the crusade and that was the main thing that persuaded me to to post again about the crusade. So, here it is. To view it in full screen (which I recommend) click on the little box on the bottom far right that has the four arrows pointing to the corners. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Seven Words to Describe an EMMC...by Lucy

Tonight we sat with Victor and Julie to talk about the EMMC from which we just returned yesterday. Julie asked each of us to describe in one word a Fishers of Men Evangelical Medical Mission Crusade. These are the words that came to mind...awesome, humbling, challenging, rewarding, team, indescribable, and life-changing (I cheated by hyphenating two words!). I struggled today to decide what to write about and came to the conclusion to let the pictures speak.

Mark's first time helping with a baptism of one of our team members.
Moses and Dr. Escamia lead a gang member to Christ.
A young girl prays to receive Christ as her Savior.
Yes, that's me doing something besides holding a camera!
The sunset over the Pacific Ocean
Victor sharing his testimony with a gang member.
Waiting for new glasses!
Emy swings Mia around in arms of love.
A family prays to receive Christ after receiving other services.
Moses, the local pastor, and Victor pray with a gang member to receive Christ.
Mark and Dr. Escamia pray for healing.
Joanna does some face painting during the children's ministry.
The clowns...Aaron, Mark, and Mia
Victor shares with those on the "outside," and brings more gang members into the Body of Christ!
Mark has the kids pretend to ride a roller coaster with him.
Aaron got to go pick coconuts to share with everyone.
Free pancakes, anyone?
Ariel works on a boy's teeth.
Ashleigh worked hard helping to prepare food for 35-50 hungry people every day.
A beautiful child of God!

Teresa helped by taking blood pressure, pulse, and weight.
Can you find Emy in this picture?
Toothbrushes for everyone!
Haircuts help to offer a fresh new start.
Another beautiful child of God.
Dr. Escamia gives a checkup.
Ariel and a happy patient
The doctors pray before the work begins.

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--