Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Joy... by Mark ---Pics added Friday by Lucy!

Mark and Danny with the stroller Aaron fixed with duct tape!

Mark and Berenice playing after "comida" (supper)
Mark on the February EMMC playing a clown and painting faces
Aaron and Mark (Two kids playing together)
Mark pretending to ride a roller coaster with the kids
Mark with Lolis and Martita after playing some soccer with the kids

Wow, it's Wednesday evening and we haven't posted anything yet. I normally talk about construction or site projects. Today I am thinking about some of the more important things here at Refuge Ranch, the people. More specifically I am thinking about the kids. I get a great deal of joy interacting with the kids.
Monday mornings we have Chapel before school. I have the privilege of leading Chapel, and we are learning about different characteristics of being a good Christian. This week we took a break from the list of characteristics and we dedicated our apartment. We started in the Zaragoza living room as we do normally, singing the Mexican and US national anthems, reciting the pledges to the Bible, Christian flag, Mexican flag, and American flag. Then we took a field trip. When we got to the front of the apartment we stopped to talk for a minute. I used some chalk to write above the door 20+CMB+10. This seemed very unusual to the kids. The 20 and the 10 are for the year 2010. The letters are an abbreviation for a Latin blessing "Christe mansionem benedicat" or "Christ bless this house." After I translated the Latin to English, and Angie translated the English to Spanish, we went inside. The lesson I tried to convey to the kids is that we want to keep the Lord in all we have and do. Jesus has gone ahead of us to prepare a home for us, but we have to live somewhere until we go to live with Him. We dedicated our apartment so that all who live, visit, or stay here will be blessed with the grace, love, wisdom, and peace of Christ.
I guess I said all that to tell you about another activity that happens in our living room. Last week we had our first Sr High youth meeting. Lucy and I had been wanting to find a way to be more connected with the older Zaragoza girls and also help Aaron and Joanna build their relationships with the kids. Angie, Diana, and Martita join us for the evening each Tuesday now. O.K. this is only the second week and Diana wasn't here this week, but it seems to be going pretty well. We play games to help us get to know each other better, talk about a lesson, then eat snacks and play games. It is really fun to see them play Wii games together.
The other kids I have been thinking of are the youngest ones. Cirino's daughter, Berenice, has really brightened up lately. Since we eat meals together, that is when I get to really interact with the youngest kids. Yesterday we "danced" together. She stood on my feet and held onto my hands while we walked and danced around the room after supper. Tonight I read a book with Cirino's son, Bernabe. There are a lot of evenings when Danny comes and finds me to take me for a walk. We usually wander around and see what the other kids are doing or find a toy to play with.
I have spent most of these first six months here working on our apartment. Now I am beginning to look into some of the things that have been waiting for me. I get great satisfaction from working with my hands. However, I get the blessing of great joy when I spend time with the kids.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ashleigh: by Julie

OK, it's my turn now! Our ministry and family entered a new era last Thursday - an era without Ashleigh! Ugh! Wow! How can I share what the last two years of life with Ashleigh have meant in a blog that doesn't break the world record for the longest blog ever? I still remember that day towards the end of the summer of 2007 when I checked my email real quick on our family computer downstairs and had received my first email from Ashleigh. I had no idea who Ashleigh Weis was, but had received an email from her expressing her desire to serve in a mission setting. She offered to do ANYTHING we needed - from office work, to changing diapers to making a hot cup of tea when I needed it! Guess what? She has spent the last two years doing just about everything - from making pizza sauce and homemade granola, to hugging me when I needed to cry, to running to the store and teaching preschool and English classes. When I received the original email my first thoughts were: "Either this is a great Christian young lady with an incredible gift of service and great faith or she is a total lunatic!" I mean, really, who offers to move to a foreign country to help out missionaries that you have never met in a language that you don't speak? You know who? Ashleigh!

And are we glad she did! Ashleigh watched our family grow from eight children to twelve! She watched the house grow from one story to two! She was there when Fidel slept in a bed for the first time ever! She watched the basement nearly triple in size! She blazed the trail for future staff members, both national and international! She was there when Pati passed away and when Marshalls arrived! She watched our oldest girls change from young girls into beautiful young women!

The Zaragoza Family when Ashleigh first arrived!

The Zaragoza Family Now

However, we aren't the only ones who changed and grew in these last two years! Ashleigh did too! After Ashleigh left last week, Lucy made the comment that Ashleigh had observed that her first and last meals at Refuge Ranch were the same! That was a total accident! Talk about the Lord providing bookends to Ashleigh's time here! Well -that meal was pozole. Pozole is a Mexican soup made of hominy (like exploded corn kernals) and pork. You put oregano, onion and radishes on top. I think that was a little much of a culture shock for Ashleigh's first meal in Mexico (Oops -sorry Ash!)! However, by the end of Ashleigh's time here, she was requesting pozole before she had to go back to the U.S.!

Ashleigh's first Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade was quite miserable! She had stomach problems all week, was exhausted, could speak almost no Spanish and basically spent her time on the crusade just trying to survive- physically, emotionally and spiritually! Now, Ashleigh has gone on two crusades just this year and absolutely thrives while on the crusades! In fact, on her last morning here at Refuge Ranch, we all went around the breakfast table and shared something about/with her and Rosa, our cook at Refuge Ranch and on the crusades, shared that she felt that the Lord had a special call for Ashleigh's life in regards to the crusades!

Victor and Ashleigh had their share of frustrations with each other as the got to know one another and adjusted to each other's cultures and expectations. They did learn to love each other just as they are! By the end of Ashleigh's time, they had formed quite a bond with each other and Victor even cried when Ashleigh shared that she would be leaving.

I think our culture of sharing just about everything we own with whoever needs it was something new for Ashleigh and took some time to get used to. By the end, Ashleigh was giving away her favorite possessions left and right - her overstuffed lounge pillow, a favorite pair of sandals, MP3 speakers and fragrant candles!

Besides being a great practical help at Refuge Ranch, the Lord sent Ashleigh right when He knew that I needed a best friend close by!

We continue to pray that the Lord would guide Ashleigh into "his good, pleasing and perfect will" for this time in her life. However, our prayers are a bit biased as we pray that Mexico and Fishers of Men will once again form a part of that perfect plan in the not too far future!

Ashleigh - I love you and I miss you dearly!

Julie and Ashleigh last Thursday - the morning that Ashleigh left to follow her Heavenly Father as He continues to lead her into His perfect will!

"A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."
Proverbs 18:24

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sisters... by Lucy

Ashleigh with the girls in the aprons she made for them
Ashleigh with Aaron and Joanna and the photo boards she made them
Ashleigh and Joanna making pizza
Ashleigh teaching some youth from church how to make pizza
Ashleigh and Ana after swim lessons
Ashleigh helping Mark cut tile for our new home
Ashleigh goofing off with John and Ariel
Ashleigh serving in the kitchen on the EMMC in February
Ashleigh and Angie at the Hacienda
Ashleigh and I celebrating our birthdays with Aaron, Joanna, and Mark (taking the picture)
Ashleigh on the zip-line at Los Manantiales
Ashleigh and Mark enjoying their coffee on our campout
Ashleigh playing soccer with some of the kids
Ashleigh teaching Angie and Diana how to make pie
Ashleigh with her brothers, Daniel and Stephen in front of El Popo
Ashleigh throwing Ana high into the air, which she loves
Ashleigh and I making Italian sauce (50 jars!)
Ashleigh and the preschool class, Ruth and Bernabe
Ashleigh and Aaron at the Hacienda
Ruth and Ashleigh run at the Hacienda
Ashleigh and Danny playing at home

Ashleigh left for the United States yesterday. It was a very difficult day for those of us here at Refuge Ranch. We will all miss her a great deal, even though we know she is following God's will for her life right now.

We have been teasing her for quite some time that we were going to do a blog about her, and she was adamant that we were not. But now that she is not here, she can't do anything about it, so here goes!

Ashleigh became like a little sister to me when our family moved here. She was fun to tease, and could dish it right back out to you. She was like part of our family. She shared holidays with us, and movie nights and game nights, and she went out with us to Cuautla when we needed to have "family time." Our kids became very close to her, and she helped us all to adjust to the different culture with her words of wisdom and experience. She was our interpreter on the many outings to the tile store or local restaurant.

Ashleigh is young, but has had many experiences for her age. She taught me about cooking for a large crowd (which I'm still not really sure about!), and how to make great pizza in a tiny oven. She taught me about dealing with experiences that would normally leave me so frustrated, I would want to cry. One day she went to Office Max to get something for Julie, while I waited in the van. We ran some other errands, then went back to pick up the stamp she needed. They had not understood what she wanted, and we had to wait another half hour for it to get done. Ashleigh came back out to the van, and said, "I've just had another opportunity to smile," and proceeded to relate the story to me about why we were going to wait for the stamp. If that had happened to me, I might have been in a foul mood the rest of the day because things went wrong. But I couldn't be upset because Ashleigh made it into something different, "an opportunity to smile."

I will miss the way she sings when she pricks her finger with a needle. I will miss the way she called Mark, "Mark Anthony," whenever he was teasing her. Mark Anthony is her uncle, and that is what he was called when he was in trouble. I will miss her coffee addiction that she shares with Mark. Now he will have to drink coffee alone! Unless he gets one of our kids hooked on it! I will miss watching her with the kids when she was in charge when Victor and Julie had to be gone. She could be stern when she needed to be, but loving and giving the next minute, laughing and hugging them close. I will miss our talks about life and God. I will miss singing with her and going shopping with her (It just isn't the same with Mark!). I will miss making American meals with her when we were craving something more familiar. I will miss her smile and beautiful eyes that reflected the love of our Savior.

But despite missing her here, I know we will be together again, whether here in Mexico, in the United States, or in Heaven. And that is the joy we can all have when we love Jesus and allow Him to be Lord of our lives. We are never really apart when we have that bond that reaches beyond borders and barriers. Praise God we are His children, and I can call Ashleigh my sister!

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-5

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Crusade pics and Thanks" by Ashleigh

I always forget that the pictures load backward from how you enter them. So, these are actually from the end to the beginning but I didn't think you all would mind and since they take a while to load I didn't want to do it again. :)

Last week I had the honor and privilege to be on another crusade to the state of Guerrero (south of us).We actually worked in two different locations and the second one was Fidel's home town. He came with us on this crusade to be able to go back to his old stomping grounds. I don't actually know how it went for him as he is rather quiet and I didn't want to pry. I also figured since he probably would only open up and say anything one time it would be better if that was to his parents.

Also, my friend from Ohio came down and went on the crusade with me. She is a home health aide in the US and loved the opportunity to give shots and flush out ears and things that she would not legally be able to do in the US. :) The needs are great and we will take what we can get!

In all seriousness if you have not been on a crusade before you should seriously pray about coming for one. If you are willing for God to stretch you outside of your box and deepen you understanding of His heart for the nations a crusade is an incredible experience.

There are so many wonderful unique and amazing people that make up the core of our crusade staff. For instance, Becky goes on all of our crusades, is bilingual (Spanish/English), has an amazing passion for evangelism and is gifted in sharing about God's love to people. I watched her run after a lady last week, with great concern, who she thought had not heard the gospel.

Mariela and Martha both left a week early because of the great need for dental cleaning and dental prosthetics that were needed in that area. They sacrificed two weeks of their time to remote missions. Most of these people don't have steady jobs so they are able to consistently do crusades.

Dr. Escamilla is a retired military colonel who firmly believes in the power of God's healing. It is not uncommon to hear him tell someone to take a prescription and "in the name of Jesus" you will feel better. His own wife was healed of cancer. He has seen God's power first hand and is readily willing to share it with others.

Vero and Adrian are a young dating couple in the church who have been involved with the crusades for several years. They prep, pack, set-up, organize, facilitate administration, load and unpack when we get back, as well as a slew of odds and ends. They are both in a local seminary but are on a slower pace so that they can still be committed to the crusades. They both have a unique passion for ministry and evangelism that is almost nonexistent yet within the Mexican youth (as I have seen).

I don't have to mention Rosa as she is amazing here at the Ranch as well as on crusade. For instance, this last crusade we had to cook for aprox. 40 people over a wood fire outside for the week. That was our kitchen. And she doesn't just get by with it, she still is an amazing cook! She is a dear and treasured member of the team and I am confident that anyone would tell you that.

There are many MANY more. I wish I could tell you all about each one of them but that would go on forever and something tells me that might get boring. :) However, there is one more person that I have to tell you about. Her name is Norma. She is the local missionary contact for the location that we went to. She has been working there for 4 years be herself. There are several christian families now but in many ways it is still a discipleship relationship. She sees her family once a year at Christmas when she goes to visit them. They never comes to see her. They live north of Mexico City and it would be a good 12 hours of driving and possibly more. From what I gathered, they are not very supportive of her ministry. And yet, despite the challenges of being alone and having overwhelming needs all around you Norma can make you laugh faster then anyone else. She has a joy that can only come from Christ. If you think of her keep her and her ministry in your prayers. Pray that God will use the crusades to open doors for her and expand her ministry.

Dani, Dr. Escamilla, Ashleigh

Becky sharing the gospel with three ladies

Dr. Escamilla praying with a patient

Vero and Fidel

Dani with a new found friend!

For those of you who are keeping track of time realize that this will be my last post for Fishers of Men for now. I will be flying back to the states tomorrow morning with my friend Dani. However, I wanted to thank each one of you for your prayers, concern, love and blessings over the last two years. I know that I didn't fully understand how important each of those were before I came to Mexico. Know that you greatly impact the ministry and the lives here as you support in prayer, notes, and gifts. May God bless you multiply times over for your love for Fishers of Men!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mispainted Nails and Excess Lotion

Throughout the week, I (Julie) set aside a half an hour for special one-on-one time with each child.

Mondays: Angie and Ruth
Tuesdays: Caleb and MarthaWednesdays: Diana and Lolis
Thursdays: Martita and JosiahFridays: Jocelin and Fidel
Ana and Daniel don't get specific one-on-one time with me, yet, because they get more time alone with me as I get them ready each morning, do baths and get them ready for bed at night.

During each child's time they choose the activity that we will do together. During a single week activities can range from soccer games to playing with Barbies, from bike riding to laying on the bed and chatting, and from building robots to coloring.

Last Monday, after supper, Angie and I prepared to spend our time together. She asked me if I wanted my hair trimmed. She is a good hairstylist, and I had been meaning to have her trim my hair for some time, so I said: "Sure!" Well, that little trim turned into a full half hour visit at Angie's Spa right in her bedroom! It was great! I got my hair cut and braided, my toenails painted and an incredible face and neck massage! The whole time we chatted, laughed and enjoyed one another's company.

Well, while I was enjoying the pampering, Ruth came into the bedroom, anxious for her time with Mom to start! She observed closely as Angie lathered her hands with lotion and continued my face and neck massage. Ruth noticed my newly painted shiny toenails and asked if she could paint my nails during our time together. So, Angie's time with me drew to a close and Ruth gladly took over! Let's just say that the two spa experiences were slightly unique!

First difference? Ruth decided that the fingernails on one hand should be blue and the nails on the other hand should be a deep purple. "A rainbow!"

Then, Ruth grabbed the lotion, lathered it onto her hands and continued my face and neck massage. She had watched Angie massage around my eyes and decided to do the same. The difference? Ruth asked me to close my eyes, filled her hands with lotion and started massaging my eyes! I gently, yet quickly, asked her to stop, as my eyes were going to start stinging soon if she didn't get the lotion off my eyelids! With my eyes still closed (to prevent the lotion from getting in my eyes), I asked her to please wipe off the lotion from my eyelids. There was a moment of silence and she sheepishly continued: "Mom, I can't! My hands are filled with lotion!" That crisis past, we enjoyed the rest of our time together!

Thinking back on my Monday evening adventures, I was reminded of our relationship with the Lord! Ruth wanted so much to be like Angie, to do the same things as Angie, just like Angie does them! She tried her very best, but while her attempts resembled Angie's efforts, the results were not quite as effective. We are much the same.

We see our Heavenly Father through His Word and want so much to be like Him. We try our best, but our efforts seem so feeble and our results barely reflect the perfection of our Lord! His perfect love vs. our selfish attempts at the same! His holiness vs. our constant struggle with temptation and sin! His wisdom vs. our limited understanding! His strength vs. our weakness!

Yet, despite the fact that Ruth's attempts paled in comparison to Angie's expertise, Ruth will keep trying! She will spend time with Angie: watching her, listening to her, learning from her and, someday, I will be able to visit Ruth's Spa and come out with matching nails and eyes that aren't stinging from excess lotion! Like Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:12-14, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

If I concentrate on all the bad decisions and missteps I have taken in life, much like Ruth's mispainted fingernails, or if I concentrate on all the eyes that I have made sting with an excess of critical words, like the excess of lotion on Ruth's hands, I will become so down and distressed that I will not be able to press forward toward the goal that God has set before me - becoming like Him! "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:29)

Just as I enjoyed my multi-colored nails and the feeling of Ruth's little hands massaging my neck, so our Heavenly Father rejoices in our daily hunger and desire to be more like Him! As we spend more time with Him in prayer, reading His Word and stepping out in faith to obey Him, we will become more and more like Him and people will no longer say: "Look at Julie!" They will say: "Look at Jesus in Julie!" and, eventually, simply, "Look at Jesus!"

May we step forward in the freedom found in His perfect love! His grace, mercy and forgiveness are big enough to take care of some mispainted nails and excess lotion as we learn to be more like Him and have the privilege of giving this world a makeover!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 Lucy

Easter Sunday was a very difficult day for me. I know that it was a couple of weeks ago, but I wanted to write and let you know my thoughts about it. I'm not sure why, but it seemed to be harder for me to be away from home on Easter than on Christmas. I think one reason I struggled was because I felt like we truly celebrated Christmas, while Easter went by without much notice. I missed the music, the sunrise service and breakfast, the fellowship, and the worship. I think mostly I missed the JOY I feel on Easter morning when I am greeted by people saying, "Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!"

When you don't understand much of the language, going to church can seem overwhelming. It is probably the hardest day of the week for me. Relationships are built on communication, and our communication is still very superficial "table talk." I long to meet with people on Sunday that I have relationship with, that I can communicate with. Instead Sundays often feel empty to me because I feel nothing because I can't understand the message being presented. I long to know why people are going forward for prayer. I find myself going through the motions, but feeling no emotion. I have to force myself to go, to try to break through the language barrier, to build relationships with other believers here.

I have thought often, since moving here, about the different exchange students and people of other nationalities who have attended my home church. I wonder if they struggled to build relationships at Shiloh the way I struggle here because of the language barrier. I wonder if they wanted to give up and not go back because it was so hard. I hope they didn't give up. I hope I didn't discourage anyone from feeling the love of Christ there. Fellowship with other believers is so important. We have a common bond that hopefully pulls us together, despite the language barrier. That bond is stronger than anything that should be able to keep us apart. It is the love of our heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ.

I pray that this experience will make me stronger in my faith. But not only that, I pray that I will be sensitive to new faces at church, and help, rather than hinder, their fellowship with other believers. There are much bigger obstacles than a language barrier that keep people away from church, away from fellowship with other Christians. May we all look for ways to bridge those gaps and cross the boundaries to find fellowship with one another.

"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His son, purifies us from all sin." 1 John 1:7

Monday, April 12, 2010


Life lately has seemed to emphasize uniqueness! The uniqueness of each day! The uniqueness of each individual! The uniqueness of each situation! The uniqueness of culture! Thankfully, we have a God who, while He made us each unique, He never changes! He provides a solid rock on which to stand and His unchanging Word with which to guide our lives! Only with that security, that unchanging assuredness, can we effectively face the uniquenesses that life throws our way!

Unique Individuals
Just yesterday I was laughing with my mom, who is here visiting for 10 days, about one of those differences. When Martha joined our family nearly six years ago she spoke no Spanish nor English, only Mazatecan Indian dialect. As she learned to speak Spanish, and then English, she had a real hard time putting the endings on words. We believe this is connected to a learning disability as she seemed to not even hear or distinguish ending sounds. We thank the Lord that this is a much lesser problem now. However, we have the total opposite situation with our two year old, Daniel. Due to the abuse, neglect and health challenges he has faced in his two short years of life, he is somewhat delayed in his speech development. The other day, as I washed his face, I said the word "soap" in English. He repeated it right after me, bathing me with spit in the process as he emphatically pronounced the "p" at the end of the word! When he calls out for Martita, all he says is "Tita", just the ending of the word! So, put Martha and Daniel together and the words will be pronounced correctly!

Josiah and Caleb form the same kind of team when they eat! We tease them that they help us save money because we can buy one sandwich for the two of them. Caleb will eat the meat and vegetables and Josiah will eat the bread and cheese!

Of course, each child has his or her own talents and abilities. Angie is a great organizer, guitar player, hairstylist and the family fashion consultant! Diana does a great job translating, helping to lead the dance team at church and playing piano and violin. Martita is very creative with hands-on projects like sewing, cooking and candle making. She is also a very effective communicator through writing. Josiah has an insatiable mind always wanting to learn more about the world around him and invent things. Fidel would be happy using a soccer ball as a pillow! Ruth tumbles, turns and runs everywhere she goes! Ana delights us with her songs! Some of the kids are still in the discovery process, including Lolis and Jocelin. Up to this point, their life has been concentrating on survival and they have not had the time or emotional energy to discover the person that God has created them to be, so we are helping them through that process as they learn, grow, mature and enjoy living in the safety of God's grace and their family's love.

As a parent, one of our goals is to help each of our children become all that God wants them to be and this includes giving them opportunities to develop their talents and abilities. Hence, Angie teaches the preschool Sunday School class at church; Diana, Martita, Lolis and Jocelin form part of the liturgical dance team at church; nearly all of the kids take piano lessons; Diana takes violin lessons; Angie will be restarting guitar lessons soon.

Our two newest adventures involve Ruth and Fidel. Four year old Ruth began gymnastics classes last week in Cuautla, about a half an hour from Refuge Ranch! We spent the next 36 hours listening to Ruth talk non-stop about her teacher, her classmates, her class, etc. (She isn't at all like her mother now, is she?!)

Ruth on the balance beam

The gym where Ruth began gymnastics last week

Fidel will be joining a soccer team the first week of May. The team forms part of a professional circuit, so Fidel has great aspirations!

Fidel playing soccer here at home

Unique Days
While we strive for a routine here at Refuge Ranch, each day ends up being quite unique! Take today for example! Parts of the day are the same as always - breakfast at 8 a.m., then daily chores and chapel at 9:30, like very Monday. School this morning and swimming lessons with Ashleigh this afternoon, like every Monday. That is about where the routine ends and the uniqueness starts. First of all, Magda is not here today, but we have two visitors - Grandma Claassen and Ashleigh's friend Dani. Victor is off to have a meeting with two other pastors from the church we attend in order to resolve some major moral issues that we are facing with our senior pastor. (Please keep this in prayer -that the situation will be resolved in a way that glorifies the Lord!) Later this afternoon, all 20+ volunteer Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade members will convene at our house and spend the night here as they prepare to set out on a crusade tomorrow to the state of Guerrero.

Unique Crusade

Victor will not be joining the team on this crusade as he needs to stay back and help resolve the issues happening at church. We thank the Lord for the team that He has brought together for the crusades and the ways in which each of the members has grown and matured, to the point that they can carry out a crusade without Victor, when necessary. Our son, Fidel, along with Ashleigh and her friend Dani, will be forming part of this crusade team. Fidel was especially interested in this crusade as the team will be ministering in his home town. Please join us in prayer that this would be a special time for Fidel to see old friends and have the opportunity to share the Lord with them.

There is always a twinge of concern in my heart when one of the kids heads back to their old stomping grounds. Their perspective of their previous life is not always very accurate. For example, when Fidel came to live with us Victor literally took him out of the local jail cell to bring him home. He was six years old! However, talking about the experience a year or so ago with Fidel, he told us that he had been living at the policemen's house! He was totally convinced that the jail cell where he was being held was actually the guest room at the policemen's house! There are moments in each of our children's lives in which their previous lives seem more attractive to them than the life they are living now. (Like the people of Israel in the Old Testament telling Moses they would have been better off staying in Egypt as slaves!) That thought process may seem difficult to comprehend, considering that the kids have come from situations of abuse and extreme poverty. However, when your parents are making you do chores, study, give your best, respect others, etc., a life of complete freedom on the streets can appear more attractive. (Satan is an expert at disguising, lying and making slavery look like freedom!) So, we pray that this crusade will help Fidel to see the reality of where he came from and all that the Lord has given him and that he will come home even more emotionally bound to our family.

Unique Culture
A little over a week ago, our family participated in a unique cultural activity. The Saturday before Easter, the day before Easter, is called "Sabado de Gloria" (Glory Saturday) here in Mexico. I have absolutely no clue as to why, but the tradition is to get each other wet that day! Our kids look forward to Glory Saturday each year so that they can douse buckets of water on each other! (Not exactly my idea of fun, but live and learn!) Well, Victor and I decided to prepare some water balloons and have a water balloon fight with the kids. As you can see from the pictures, the water balloons quickly digressed into buckets of water!

Unwilling family members were carried outside by their father where their younger siblings greeted them with buckets of water!

Diana - a very wet princess!

Here at Refuge Ranch we try and save the water from the washing machine that is spun out after the wash and rinse cycles. Rather than sending the water down the drain, we store it in several large barrels and use that water to wash off the patio, keep the dust down on the driveway and other uses in order to not waste water, since we pay about $90 a week for water to be delivered to the house. So, we used the recycled water for our Sabado de Gloria waterfight! Needless to say, we all smelled a bit like fabric softener! Since it was Saturday, bath day, we all got a nice hot shower that night. It was like going through the rinse cycle before the wash cycle! This may all sound very weird, but it was great fun, culturally appropriate and a great family bonding time! Watching Victor douse Lolis, and vice versa, was incredible! Lolis has spent the first 12 years of her life running from her own biological father's druken abuses. To watch her run from her adoptive father's playful bucket of water was truly refreshing (in more ways than one!)! A joyfully wet Lolis!

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8

In the midst of parenting twelve children from different backgrounds, of different ages and different personalities; in the midst of partnering with staff who speak different languages and come from different cultures; walking through days that present different challenges and surprises, I am oh so very thankful for a God who is the same! He is my rock, my never moving point of reference! May He be the same for you!

In the mist of so many differences and uniquenesses, I am so thankful that the Lord not only provides a solid center, but also serves as the unifying force among so many differences. I am repeatedly amazed that He could make a family out of 14 people that are so different and aren't even related by bloodline! Only God can do something like that and His Word explains it!

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men." 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

I am so thankful that you have that same Spirit and that even as we serve Him in different countries, in different cultures, in different languages, in different ways, we are truly one in Him!

In Christ,
Julie Zaragoza

Thursday, April 8, 2010 Lucy

Aaron and Joanna have taken on some teaching duties since we moved here to Refuge Ranch in Mexico. Joanna is teaching Art, and Aaron is teaching Science.

Joanna has always loved art and being creative. She started out her time teaching by doing some origami projects. Paper is always available and fairly inexpensive, so there was not a lot of preparation involved or expense necessary to begin. She started simple with little boxes and finished with frogs. In fact, on the way to the EMMC we helped with in February, she made 100 frogs to hand out to the kids. They were gone after the first stop. They loved them! She also did a cooking art class where they made rainbow cupcakes, using different colors of batter. They were beautiful, and didn't last long!

Martita mixing the cake batter for rainbow cupcakes.

Josiah mixing colors into the cake batter.

Joanna with the rainbow cupcakes.

Now she has moved on to weaving pillows, something her favorite art teacher at Pioneer Elementary, taught her. She had to save cardboard, find plenty of scissors, and locate some yarn. Thanks to some donations made by teachers at Pioneer Elementary, she was able to start this project last week.

The kids are excited about making pillows. This past week, I have seen them carrying their "works-in-progress" around, waiting for a chance to work on them. Some have had to start over after misunderstandings about the process, but have continued on their way with better instructions from Joanna.

Angie beginning her pillow.

Lolis is halfway through!

Aaron has had different challenges teaching Science. Items needed for science projects that we used to find in the stores in the U.S. are sometimes hard (or impossible) to find here in Mexico. He has had to be a little more creative because of that. Each week, he builds a science project around what he has available. He is even gathering supplies to build a trebuchet (like a catapult) with help from Joe Bean, who built one for a science fair project.

A few weeks ago, he had them all take diapers apart to figure out how they work. He also built boxes for them for an "egg drop" experiment (Some of you may remember that from Pioneer too!). The kids named their eggs, packed them in the boxes, with whatever they could find to soften the blow when they were dropped to the ground, and waited to see what would happen. Only one egg ended up breaking during the experiment, and some of them still have their eggs on their school desks.

Aaron dropping someone's egg from our roof.

Erika and Fidel are happy that their eggs survived!

Aaron showing the kids how to make Alka Seltzer Rockets!

This week, Aaron walked down the hill, picked two lemons, and demonstrated that a lemon, with the peel on, will float, but if you remove the peel, it will sink (The peel acts like a life jacket for the lemon because the peel is full of air pockets.). He shared that Jesus is like our life jacket, and without Him, we are sunk! I thought that was pretty cool!

It will be interesting to see what Aaron and Joanna come up with next. They seem to be enjoying these teaching experiences, and I think they are learning a lot themselves. Sometimes they are probably wondering how their teachers were able to get their point across so clearly (especially with the language barrier here!), or were able to make a project appear so simple to do. They are learning the importance of a teacher's role in the lives of others. They are learning patience and flexibility. They are learning creativity. But most of all, they are learning how to use their God-given abilities to honor God, and seeing the difference that can make in someone else's life.

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 4:10-11