Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lessons Lucy

As I have looked back over the past couple of weeks and the pictures that have been taken, one thing that struck me were all the lessons learned (whether we were in school or not!). Some lessons seem simple, while others are harder for us to understand and retain.

Princesa is a puppy so she behaves like a puppy. She is often being told "No!" for something she has done wrong. She sometimes pees in the house, chews on shoes or socks, or tears up a roll of toilet paper left within her reach. Life is full of temptations for her. But she is learning what "No," means, and she is praised when she does something well. She is learning to be a good dog.

God often has to tell us "No." He disciplines us because He knows it is the only way we will learn what He expects from us. He disciplines us because He loves us and wants what is best for us.

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." --Hebrews 12:11

Uh I in trouble again?

In preschool, we were learning about the letter "L." One thing we did was go for a hike looking for leaves (because leaf begins with "L," you know!). We studied our leaves, made leaf prints, created lions from paper plates, did a page about "L," and made lemon shakeups as a snack. But do you think Ruth and Bernabe will remember the letter "L" on Monday when we have class again? Probably not. It takes repeated lessons with the letter "L" before it eventually sinks in...Oh! This is "L!"

That's what it is like for someone learning about Jesus too. Sometimes we are afraid to share about Him with others because we think it won't make a difference. And maybe it won't right away. But if they learn about His love over and over, eventually it sinks in, and a light bulb in their brain lights up, and they see Him in someone and they say...Oh! That's Jesus!

"One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see!"--John 9:25b

This photo isn't from preschool, but when you invite one child into your home, many will follow!
They all are eager to learn. Teach them well!
Bernabe and Ruth looking for leaves
Ruth found one!
"L" is for Lions!

Aaron taught a science class last week on semi-solids. The kids mixed cornstarch and water together. That was it, but what resulted was neither solid nor liquid. You could touch it and it was solid, but if you tried to pick it up, it became liquid in your hands. The kids really enjoyed putting their hands in the goo. It felt nice...interesting...weird...and fun. But when the experiment was over, there was nothing to do with it, but throw it away. It was quite a mess!

It made me think of lukewarm Christianity. Maybe someone who talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk. They are neither hot nor cold. They might be nice, interesting, a little weird, or fun. But in the end, they are not useful for much except making a mess! It is hard to show someone who Christ is when you are not sure yourself. See what Science can teach you?

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth."--Revelations 3:15-16
Joce enjoying the mixture on her hands
See the mess it makes?

Joanna is teaching about perspective in Art class. Where do the shadows fall when the light is coming from this point or that point? How does a box look when it is sitting on a table, like a square, or much more? Her students are learning that looking at things from a different perspective really does give them a different view of them.

When we are Christians, we look at everything from a different perspective than the world does. And when we look at other people from God's perspective...Wow! Does it change our view! Adding perspective to their drawings gives more detail and another dimension to their art. Adding God's perspective to how we see others allows us to look beyond the surface and see the promise each person holds in God's eyes.

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."--1 Samuel 16:17b

Josiah drawing his cross. Now he has a new perspective about it!

Here's one more lesson from the past few weeks. Quite often you will see little girls running around here dressed up as princesses. It makes them feel special (which they should because they are!). They behave differently when they are princesses. Their eyes shine, they smile more, and they treat others as if they have some great gift to bestow on them (Not that they aren't perfect angels all the time anyway!). They are learning to be princesses.

Doesn't God say that we are though? We are joint heirs with Christ. He expects us to behave that way, with eyes shining, faces smiling, and with the best gift of all (Jesus) to give and share with others.

"I am a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God to declare the praises of Him who called me out of darkness into His wonderful light."--1 Peter 2:9

Ana with Princesa
Later that same day, Ruth in the same dress, is one tired princess after fulfilling her "princess" duties
Ruth, Ana, and Berenice spread the joy of being God's princesses!

No matter where we are, may we all continue to learn truths from His holy Word. May we continue to accept His discipline when necessary, and may we continue our study of God till we see Him in those around us, and really know it is Him. May we see others from God's perspective and see the hidden potential inside each one. May we not live our lives as a "semi-solid," but fully solid in the truth that He is God, Jesus is His son, and we are His children. And finally, may we realize that we are princes and princesses in God's royal family, with a gift to share with the world!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

EMMC to Guadalajara: Part Two

The second half of the crusade to the Guadalajara area was held in a small town, Milpillas, several hours outside of Guadalajara. We went from a very urban feel to an entirely rural environment.
This is the view from the church where we worked the last three days of the crusade.

This is the inside of the church where the crusade was held.

The church building where the crusade was held was very typical of many of the churches in which we work. It was one large rectangular structure made of brick with a bare cement floor. The roof was made of tin, which makes for lots of noise during a rain! Obviously, the congregation was working on finishing the building because there were piles of bricks and dirt in one corner of the building. There was a bathroom which was a small room with one toilet and one sink, but no running water and no door. We used buckets of water to flush the toilet and an old, rather tattered sheet for a door. All the crusade activities were held in this one room - registration at the door, along with vital signs and a waiting area; evangelism under the windows; pharmacy along the side wall; gynecology near the pulpit area roped off with blankets and tarps to create a private area; optometry next to pharmacy and dentistry opposite from gynecology. The "kitchen", hair cuts and children's ministry were held on the dirt road outside the church building.

The Highlight of the Entire Crusade!!!!!
Martita and Martha leading neighborhood children in a prayer to accept Christ.

One of the last days of the crusade I was inside the church building when Victor signaled to me to step outside. When I walked out, this was the scene before my eyes! Martita (in the red shirt and ball cap) and Martha (in the green shirt) had spent over an hour talking to a group of neighborhood youth and sharing the Gospel with them while sitting on the sidewalk. This was the culminating moment as they led several of them in a prayer to accept Christ! Wow! There is nothing like watching your own children lead others to the Lord! This was especially meaningful because it was Martita and Martha! Both of these precious young women have the hardest time reaching out to others, thinking about others and putting others first. These are the moments that we must remember and cherish! Thank you for your prayers and for your generous financial giving that has provided for us to be able to be a family for Martita and Martha so that they have the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ that has transformed their own lives with others!

I held twice daily kids' clubs at this second location, also. This setting was a bit more challenging than the first for several reasons: 1) The club was held outside on a dirt road with a dirt pile for construction right next to us, so when the afternoon winds came up we had an interesting time trying to do crafts and regularly got dirt in our eyes. 2) We had small group of pre-adolescent boys who enjoyed showing off their knowledge of choice words and their total lack of respect for females. These boys came everyday and stayed all day long! I kept praying: "Lord, could they at least go home between clubs? Just let them go home for a few hours and then they can come back." But... they didn't go home! We would finish the morning club and they would hang around for hours upon hours until the afternoon club and then would hang out some more until we would leave the crusade site in the evening. I am so thankful that God's word promises us that His word never returns void, but accomplishes His purposes.
"As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
Isaiah 55:10-11

Lots of seeds were planted and only the Lord knows the fruit that will come from them. I commented with a friend today that sometimes I can't wait to get to heaven to see how all the seeds we have planted in our lifetimes have grown, but on the other hand, I'm glad I won't know until heaven if those seeds bore fruit or not. If they did, I will rejoice alongside Jesus. If they did not bear fruit, I won't even know because there will be no disappointments in heaven.

Kids Sleep in the Darndest Places!

I told you the best word to describe this crusade was "exhausting". Even Daniel agrees! He fell asleep on my back as I have one of the kids' clubs!

Here Caleb is wiped out in the port-a-crib that we had along. This may not seem amazing to you, but take a look at the picture below and see where the crib was located as Caleb snored away!

Here is the port-a-crib in a corner formed by the waiting area on one side and the pharmacy on the other.

"Necessity is the Mother of All Invention!"

That saying is so true on a crusade!

Lacking in someplace to which to tie the tarp to create shade for the volunteer giving free haircuts, we pulled up the pick up truck and tied the tarp to it.

On the day between the two crusade locations we took some time off and spent the evening in the local town square. Some of our younger children enjoyed some big slices of pizza....sitting on the sidewalk!

The church where we worked had no kitchen facilities, so we pulled up the white van and hung tarps between the van and the church building. No kitchen is operable without counter space, so a slab of wood resting on the tire will do just fine!

The counter worked just fine for Josiah to be able to take his turn at washing dishes! How do you get that big cooking pot clean? You use it as the tub for washing the rest of the dishes and by the time the rest of the dishes are done, the pot has nearly cleaned itself!

A rinse basin anyone? Fidel discovered that a 12 gallon pail does the trick just fine.

More Clowns

The last day of the crusade we held, once again, the evangelistic clown show in order to share the Gospel with as many local children as possible in a fun way.

Josiah - he was born to clown!

Ruth follows right in Josiah's footsteps!

We were so proud of Lolis for her willingness to participate as a clown on her first crusade! She did a great job!

Caleb, usually the shy one, practiced hard and did a great job with his part in the skit. He really seemed to enjoy it, despite talking all the time about how nervous he was!

Erika did a great job as the lead in the evangelistic skit! She is a natural at clowning and drama!

The crusade may have been exhausting, but I am so thankful for my children. In both of the following pictures, Ruth and Ana made me laugh and lightened my spirits as we faced so many other challenges!
Ruth getting her bangs cut!

Ana can always find a reason to skip! And even if there isn't a reason, she will skip anyway!

Friday, May 21, 2010

EMMC to Guadalajara: Part One

We arrived this past Monday night at 10 p.m. from a 9 day crusade to Guadalajara, Jalisco and its surrounding areas. Last February I asked Emy and the Marshalls to describe their crusade experience to Acapulco in one word. They came up with quite inspiring and deep words. Well, if I had to describe this crusade in one word it would be: exhausting! I first was disappointed in myself for labeling a crusade with such an "unspiritual" word, but then I remembered that there are passages in the Bible where Jesus himself invited his disciples to come away from the crowd for a time of rest and renewal. We have been enjoying such a time of rest of this week here at home as we get back into our routine. Certainly, crusades always make you appreciate the little things in life: more than one bedroom for 15 people, beds, enough tables and chairs to eat at, warm water in which to bathe, no mosquitoes at Refuge Ranch, etc.

When I began to think about why this crusade was so exhausting I discovered that the main reason is that we have three more children in our family since the last crusade that we did together. Last summer we went to Oaxaca on crusade, but Pati had not yet passed away, so Joce was not a member of our family, and neither Daniel nor Lolis had arrived. The crusade experience can be somewhat tiring in and of itself due to the long work hours, uncomfortable living conditions, unfamiliar surroundings, etc., but doing all of that while caring for twelve children takes crusades to a whole new level of exhausting. I am comforted in the fact that it appears that I was not the only one who found the crusade exhausting! Check this picture out!

Rosa, our cook, catching some shuteye in the most comfortable place available - on top of boxes and bags in the pharmacy area!

We ministered in two very different locations during this crusade and today I will share some highlights with you from the first location where we spent three days working.

This is the church with whose leaders we partnered for the first part of the crusade.

It is located in a HUGE housing development designed to give people the opportunity to become home owners. However, the development reminded me of the housing projects in inner city Chicago, but rather than high-rise buildings, these were sprawling everywhere! There were literally thousands of tiny box houses in row after row after row. The homes consisted of a tiny living room, kitchen and dining room area with one or two bedrooms set behind that and a small bathroom squeezed between the two. For every two or three occupied homes there were several unoccupied homes which local vandals had taken upon themselves to completely destroy - breaking all the windows, removing entire doors from their frames and gutting the homes of the pre-installed sinks and toilet fixtures. Graffiti decorated every available surface in the entire complex; the streets were full of young men with nothing to do; and the air carried the sound waves of loud urban music most of the time.

The church is located in one of these "homes." The living room serves as the sanctuary while the two bedrooms serve as classroom space. Our family also stayed in one of these homes that the owner is currently not using. It was a one bedroom home that was completely empty, so Victor and I and the four smallest children spread out on the floor in the bedroom while the other nine children (Erika was with us also) created what appeared to be a huge patchwork quilt with their sleeping bags on the floor of the kitchen/dining/living room area. We literally were always stepping on somebody or somebody's sleeping bag to get from one place to another!

The living room area where nine of the kids slept the first four nights.

Morning devotions with the crusade team

Each morning the crusade team and our family had devotions outside of the church before eating breakfast and diving into the day's work.

I (Julie) worked with the local children using songs, games, puppets, crafts, music and Bible stories to share the love of Christ with them. Above you can see us playing a parachute game with a beachball and sheet in the street. They loved this game! I held one kids club mid-morning and another one mid-afternoon. Here in Mexico there are not enough public schools for all the children, so school is held in shifts. There is a morning shift and an afternoon shift, so I held two clubs each day in order to reach the kids who weren't in school at that particular time.

The kids really loved the puppet shows as we started out our club time together. It was amazing and encouraging to hear how they interacted with the puppets. Kids' club attendance ranged from about a dozen to over 30 kids. We had a small group of young girls, 9/10 years old, that would hang around at the crusade site literally all day. They were hungry for some love and attention and enjoyed helping me prepare craft items, as well as helping take care of Daniel and Ana.
Angie, like last year in Oaxaca, set up her work area to do fancy hairdos for the girls and give them play crowns as she transformed them into little princesses. She even designed her own evangelistic flier to share with the girls how they could become true princesses of the King of Kings! After the first day, many of the local neighborhood girls wouldn't do their own hair, but would show up at the crusade so that Angie could give them a fancy hairdo!

When things got busy Angie "employed" her helpers, Erika and Lolis, in order to keep up with all the girls wanting their hair done!

One of the reasons that we like to participate once a year in a crusade is that it gives our kids the opportunity to continue to build relationships with other quality Christian adults. Here Fidel and Amado, a paramedic, enjoy breakfast together.

One of the highlights of our first location was Diana's opportunity to work as an assistant to the gynecologist, Dr. Nelly. She loved it! Diana has always been interested in studying to be a veterinarian, but this experience opened her eyes to other possibilities, like gynecology. This is another reason why we like our family to participate once a year in a crusade is because it opens the kids' eyes to different career and ministry opportunities and is an incredible way for them to witness how people can use their careers to serve the Lord! It also gives them opportunities to continue discovering their own talents, gifts, abilities, likes and dislikes. It was fun because several times throughout the day Diana would come up to me and say: "I am learning so much!"

While Diana enjoyed working with the gynecologist, one of Josiah's favorite jobs was working with the optometrist.

Since Diana was working with the gynecologist and Josiah was working with optometrist, Ruth decided to try her hand at medicine and "assisted" Dr. Eli, a general physician. If you asked four year old Ruth what she was doing she would say: "Helping the doctor." This was serious business! In fact, when I went to take this picture she was looking around, slightly distracted, but as soon as she saw me with the camera in hand, she quickly "went back to work" and paid attention to what Dr. Eli was doing!

Not to be left far behind, two year old Daniel did his part to help out by setting up chairs for kids' club. He actually tried to carry this chair on his own, but one of the neighborhood boys quickly jumped in to help!

The highlight at both locations was the last day of kids' club when several of our kids and other crusade staff dressed up as clowns to entertain the kids and share the Gospel with them. Erika (Magda's daughter), Lolis, Josiah, Caleb, Ruth, Ana, Mia (another volunteer's daughter), and Vero, Adrian and Amado (crusade volunteers) did an incredible job leading songs, several hilarious skits and a very impacting evangelistic skit about a broken heart. Erika and Josiah, especially, are naturals at clowning!

Thanks for "listening" to my stories and I look forward to sharing with you about our second half of the week!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Red Lucy

My blog is not about the calf, but because I asked for prayers for him, I thought you would like to see that he is up and about with no problems! I don't know how long Cirino will have the splint on the calf's leg, but he can get up and down and hop around without falling over.

Last week while the Zaragoza family was gone, we took part of Tuesday to go to the open market, not because we needed anything, but just because we had a little extra time to do so. I am at the school most of the day on Tuesdays since Julie does piano lessons all day so I don't get to go to market very often. Anyway, we went without a list or agenda.

One of the first areas we passed through is used clothing and shoes. I like to stop and look to see if I can find some good buys (It is like a big garage sale!), but I was looking at clothes. Aaron and Mark got a little bored, so they started looking at the shoes. Normally we don't look for shoes for any of us here in Mexico because everyone here seems to have very tiny feet! So if you see a large pair, you check them out. We have never found a pair of shoes that would fit Aaron since he wears a 15! Aaron spotted a large pair of work boots that looked like they were brand new. Could they fit? No way! Well, maybe we should just check and he could try them on...They fit!!!

Now let's get this straight. We are in Mexico where the largest men's shoes we have found might fit Mark's size 11 feet. These are top-of-the-line Red Wing work boots that look like they've never been worn (well, maybe once!). Mark is thinking, "Well, we can't afford more than 500 pesos for them (That is about $45 dollars). Mark and Aaron nonchalantly put them back down and walk over to the vendor, expecting to haggle over a price. We didn't want to look too eager to purchase them, you know! He asked the price, and the man said 100 pesos (Not even $10!). We couldn't believe it, and there was no haggling! Aaron had a pair of work boots for about $10!
Size 15 Feet

This is Aaron's size 15 foot next to my size 10 foot!

Why am I sharing this story, you might ask? Well, here is the amazing thing for us. We have never bought Aaron a pair of work boots before because even in the states, we just could not afford them for the little bit of time he would wear them. Here in Mexico, he could use them, but there was no way (we thought) that we would ever find a pair, and still be able to afford them. So we have never prayed for a pair of work boots for Aaron. But God knows our needs, and He has provided (in a big way) for them through a pair of Red Wing work boots for Aaron so he can continue to do God's work here at Refuge Ranch. God is so good! All the time! Every time I see those boots on Aaron's feet, I will remember God's goodness and know that we are truly blessed and highly favored!
Aaron has been working to get wood moved before the Shiloh group comes to pour concrete!

You can see that Aaron has been working hard and could definitely use a pair of work boots!

I certainly won't hesitate to pray for the needs of my family, and I already know that they are taken care of before I even pray. Remember that the next time you have a need. Pray and expect God's provision! He may even surprise you with something better than you could have ever imagined!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7