Saturday, July 31, 2010 Lucy

For those who have been blessed to join us this summer at Refuge Ranch, I wanted to share some of the changes that have taken place here. I thought I would start with the birds because the last group that was here got to see only little beaks peaking out of this nest in the warehouse. They are almost ready to fly away. I think Rosa is happy about that since they are very near her cooking area. I'm afraid one of them may fly right into one of her cooking pots!
This furniture includes desks and chairs, tables and toys for the preschool/kindergarten area when we get the new school space cleared out. We plan to use it in the old school area so they can have more space for creativity and play...and maybe make a little more noise! Right now it is in the hallway to the staff area/school area. This is where we used to keep the medical supplies for crusades, but those have all been moved to the warehouse, and are on organized shelves and boxes ready to be used. When we get to move this furniture out of this space, it will become a staff lounge for Rosa, Magda, and Erika. Many who visit Refuge Ranch will also be able to enjoy this space since now there is also a window to allow more light inside!
These are pictures of our new living room furniture. After using the lawn chairs for 9 months, they were getting a little threadbare, and needed to be replaced. We found a good deal on these, so now in the evening, we sit in the lap of luxury. Notice that Aaron is doing what he does best...sleeping! And Joanna and Angie are playing a game during youth group. It makes movie nights so much more enjoyable.

These are pictures of the old school area which we are still using since we don't have the new area ready yet. It has been opened up and we now have a new door to enter in so we don't have to disturb staff when they are resting or sick. It has been newly painted, and Cirino was working today to break through the concrete to make a doorway inside from the old school to the new school. It will be so much nicer than the cramped quarters we were working in before.
The ramp was put in this summer along with the concrete floor inside the warehouse. The doors were put up last week, and really help keep out the cold (Yes, I said "Cold!...It is not 90 degrees here during the summer like some might think!), and the rain. We now eat inside the warehouse which has much more space than the kitchen that we outgrew long ago.
I wish I had a picture of Rosa working in her new kitchen. She was sick the day I took pictures. She is so much happier working here in her own kitchen inside the doors of the warehouse, rather than outside in the cold and rain. The giant table was purchased for her to work on, and also for Victor for when he butchers the family steer (something I am not looking forward to!) soon.
Mark and John have worked all week trying to get the new school area ready to move into soon. They have tiled and grouted, along with some other work teams here this summer. Then they moved on to electrical work so we have more lighting in the new school. We also have a new door and window to this space so it is much brighter. The only holdup there is that we are still suffering with some leaks in the roof, but someday when it stops raining, that won't be a problem either!
Ruth is holding Estrella (called Squeakers by me) who has grown twice the size from when we first found her. She is a little bundle of energy that has added much joy to the lives of the cat lovers in our family (Joanna and me!). Okay, I've seen Mark and Aaron cuddle her too...sort of! Ruth is also getting ready to start kindergarten, and boy is she excited. She is coming up to school for Julie to give her work to do even though she hasn't technically started yet! Now that is dedication!

I wanted to say thank you (again) to everyone who felt called to come and serve here this summer. You will never know how much we truly appreciate the time and energy you sacrificed to help Refuge Ranch become even more of a place for people to meet God and grow in his love. Some day you may meet up with one of the kids here at Refuge Ranch, and they'll say, "I remember when you came, and served." How will that feel? Won't God be smiling then, just as He is now!

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to Got the Father through him. --Colossians 3:17

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


After an incredible week with a work team comprised mainly of members of Mayfair Plymouth Church in Toledo, OH, but also from McCord Rd. Christian Church, Toledo, OH and Community Bible Church, Strawberry Point, IA, our family enjoyed a visit from some of my (Julie's) relatives.

Left to Right: Julie, Grandma Claassen, Uncle Tom and Aunt Joan, Aunt Sher and Cousin Kara

Victor and I decided to take the family on a road trip for a few days to the state of Michoacan to be able to spend some concentrated time together as a family, after a busy week with the work team, and to give the extended relatives a better chance to get to know our kids. We spent two nights at a water park and enjoyed fun and special times together.

Jocelin, Aunt Joan, Daniel, Aunt Sher, Ana and Caleb swimming in one of several pools fed by natural hot springs. Aahh!

Besides fun in the sun, and beneath the clouds (it's rainy season, after all), the trip itself provided some neat chances for bonding and loving each other. Aunt Joan got to sit in the backseat of the van between Lolis and Jocelin. Verbal communication may be limited due to the Spanish/English language barrier, but physical communication is not. Both of the girls slept A LOT on the trip to Michoacan and used Aunt Joan as a pillow! While that may not seem like much, it was neat to see the girls snuggled up to Aunt Joan like that, considering that they are both so needy of that kind of loving touch. They got their fill of snuggling that afternoon, and maybe even made up for lost snuggle time!

Lost snuggle time? That's right! Lolis did not have a mother from birth until just this past December when she became a part of our family. Whenever I hug or kiss our kids, I try to hug a little longer and give an extra kiss to make up for the hugs and kisses that they missed out on during the first part of their lives. Extra snuggle time? Any child that loses their mother at age 7, like Jocelin did, could sure use some extra snuggle time!

Snuggle time? Whatever! On the other hand, if you want to show Fidel how much you love him, don't snuggle with him! PLAY SOCCER and Fidel will feel loved for a long time!

For me, one of the best times on this mini-getaway was spent with my older girls and my cousin Kara. The room we rented for the five oldest girls and Kara was a suite, complete with a jacuzzi. Well, my girls had never been in a jacuzzi before! So, we filled it with hot water and four of us got in. Then, the other remaining three got in and we added bubbles!

After this picture was taken, things got pretty crazy! The jacuzzi was definitely not built for 7 and anytime one of us wanted to readjust our leg position, it required a total readjustment of legs, feet, knees and elbows! We'll be laughing about this one for a loooong time!

While the girls and I were slipping and sliding and laughing our heads off, Victor won his nomination to the Hall of Fame of Husbands and Fathers! He played Play Doh (including making fake nails, earrings and bracelets) and read books to the three littlest Zaragoza's: Ruth, Ana and Daniel, so that I could spend quality time with the older girls in the hot tub! Go Victor!

So, besides enjoying some real bubbles in the hot tub and watching Ana and Caleb blow bubbles in the swimming pools, there were bubbles of joy in my heart at being able to spend time with my family after having spent a great week watching my brothers and sisters in Christ serve Him here at Refuge Ranch!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Plan Lucy

Toledo work group helping Mark to get some tiling done last week

Well, we woke up this morning planning to grout tile that we have finished. We still have some of Julie's family here this week to help out, so we were hoping to be moving some things from the old school to the new school tomorrow. But apparently, God had other plans for us today. Mark opened the bag of grout after we had swept the area clean, and it is the wrong kind! So on to Plan B...which is...keep tiling until we get the right stuff! But it did mean that I have a little time to blog now.

This kind of thing happens often here at Refuge Ranch. We wake up thinking that this is how our day is going to go, make our plans, then find out that won't work! Either we don't have what we need to complete the project, or someone gets sick or is going to be gone, or another project comes up that becomes the priority for that day...the list is endless.

Here is an example. Mark planned to do some construction work or car work one day, but then we found out that Rosa was going to be gone, Magda was in Mexico City,Victor and Julie had a meeting they needed to go to, and there wasn't much in the frig or in the cabinets to eat. I needed to be in the school so that left Mark to fix lunch. No problem. There are always plenty of eggs. He could do eggs and potatoes without much help. There is the second plan. Later I found out we had about 6 eggs. We were feeding about 20 people so Plan C was to make more potatoes! We added some cheese, a little bacon we found, and there was lunch! It worked out fine, but you get the picture. Plans are constantly changing here.

The Zaragozas have been gone on a family outing for a few days so Joanna was put in charge of the horse. That was great because she loves horses. The first day when she went to saddle the horse so she could ride it and give it some exercise, she set the bridle out to put on after the saddle. When she finished with the saddle, the bridle was gone (Maybe 7-8 minutes had passed). She looked around, and Alpha, the dog, had chewed it in two! On to Plan B...walk the horse. Not nearly so much fun as riding her, but it got the job done, and Joanna learned some lessons about Alpha and about improvising!

So today, we had a plan. Our plan changed. Who knows why? But we are learning to be flexible, and "go with the flow." Changing plans don't bother us nearly as much as it used to as long as we remember who is in control of the situation. Plans change, and it makes life more interesting. When God throws a curveball, we've learned to stop complaining that things didn't go as we planned, and question what else God has in store for us. What else is going to happen today that will show us more of His glory? What else is going to happen today that will allow us to share His love with someone else? Only God knows! And that is all we need to know!

Now I need to get back to helping Mark with the tiling that we can still do. As you go through your day, look for the ways God throws a kink in your plans, and where He is leading you with Plan B. Whose life can you touch today because your plans changed?

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

Friday, July 16, 2010

Here by Popular Demand..........Zak

It is our final day of work here at refuge ranch and there is still lots to be done. The major projects are to finish the tiling of the new school room and to finish all the painting. Our hope is to get as much of each done as possible by the end of today. It is always difficult to say goodbye especially when it seems like you are just getting to know everyone. However, being my third time to refuge ranch I know that the relationships that are built are not forgotten and continue to build each time that we come together. While it seems that everyone is sore all over from a hard week of work, I know that today will be one the most productive days because the goals were set so high. Since we heard Becky's testimony today we are a little later getting to work but it was well worth it. Because of this I am going to keep this short and ask that everyone pray for strength, energy, and safety today and tomorrow as we fly home. Love and miss you all ( mom, Jules), see you all very soon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Getting Over the Mid-week Jim

The roads of Mexico are littered with "topes", which is the Spanish term for speed-bump. I suppose it helps enforce speed limits and safe driving... as long as they are noticed before you're on top of them. I was driving a 15-passenger van this morning and, well, I hit one a little bit too fast. The passengers in the far back of the van went flying into the ceiling; it was not a pleasant experience for any of us, to be sure.

Getting over the hump is seldom easy. The incredible excitement of arriving at Refuge Ranch and jumping into a week of work projects carries us only so far. A few days into the actual work (painting, roofing, tiling, sorting, cleaning, moving, re-arranging, lifting, carrying, wiring, re-building, etc.), the muscles start aching and fatigue starts building. This is the place where we begin to feel spent, both physically and mentally. This is also the place where we are reminded that none of this is possible without the strength of the Almighty God, made alive in us through Christ.

This is not an uncommon phenomenon. It might be a little more obvious to us here on a mountainside in rural Mexico, but it happens back home just as much. When we rely on our own strength, our own adrenaline, our own talents and abilities, we take Christ out of the picture. Our lives become stressed, tired, fatigued. I guess that's one of the greatest gifts that God has for us while on a mission trip- an opportunity to rely on Him more fully than we would otherwise.

As you read this, think of the places in your life- wherever you might be. Are there places where you might be holding on just a bit too tightly? I know that has been true of me this week (my driving, among others). But God is great enough- and loving enough- to open our eyes to these areas in our lives where we need to let go and allow His strength to be made perfect in our weakness. It is my prayer for myself, for all of us here at Refuge Ranch, and for all reading this, that God's strength and love will permeate and overshadow our lives today.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2 Timothy 1:7 - Titus 3:4-7

John and Victor are becoming buds!

Tons of shoes! Joanna and Andi sorted them.

The pet of the day.

Ladies who are sorting here and there.

Victor and Julie giving Victor's testimony. They are so loving to each other.

Grandpa with Daniel. He loves his Papa!

Grace and Fidel schooling the other team!


I swear we are working :)

Good morning! The last four days here and been nothing short of PHENOMENAL! I have been tested in many ways that I feel like I could never have done with out the support of this team and God. I miss my girls like crazy but all these children, both young and old are amazing and temporarily take my mind off of them. It is just amazing the joy that radiates from their faces and attitudes when they have experienced so much in their young lives, things that you and I could never imagine. There are so many things I am grateful for since coming here - clean water, four walls on my house with doors and windows that close completely, a washer and dryer, and good traffic laws (I have promised John to never be a back seat driver again - well at least not for a long time (: )

Every morning we eat together and follow with a devotion that is lead by a new person each morning. (I have tomorrow, pray for me!) The food is so good. Rosa is the cook here and I am trying to find a way to bribe her to come back to the states with us! We each learn of our daily chores and hear of the projects that are to be completed during the day. It is really amazing the energy the group has shown and the amount of work that has been accomplished. In the afternoon, the kids come home from VBS and help complete the jobs and then we have dinner.

Saturday and Sunday were great for relaxing. Saturday the plane was wonderful and a first for a few of us. Smooth sailing through the different check points for John and I; but, Brighton and the Sattler family got pulled for their luggage to be checked. It was a nail biter for me but alas nothing happened and all our items arrived safely.

Sunday, after breakfast, we had our own small worship service. We were singing in English and Spanish simultaneously. It was beautiful. We heard Victors testimony. It was nothing short of miracle after miracle to get them to the place they are now. I would encourage all of you to hear this if you can. (Ask one of us when we get home, we were all listening in anticipation of what would happen next - I think it should be a movie.) Ask to know about it. It just told us of how we just need to listen. LISTEN to what God is telling us. It is just jaw dropping and inspiring. Nothing is too hard or too tough to change. Not a thing.

In the afternoon, half of us went shopping and the other half went on a hike to see a ruins site. The pyramid (Tepaztonga?) was large and the hike was so hard but so worth the time and effort. I would like to take the time to thank my husband for being so patient with me when he could have been hiking a lot faster! Ben and Pastor Dave were so funny to watch. It felt like we were hiking up a waterfall. It was so beautiful. Just like the Popo , the volcano that is on the horizon line to the east of the ranch, (Poe Poe not poo poo) being at the top of the mountain next to the pyramid ruins - just breath taking and a sure sign that God does exist, that kind of beauty just does not happen on its own. It is not a scientific oops. It was God's creativity to show that he is with us even when we don't feel like it. We went out for dinner that night and had a great time trying to communicate with the kids. Most the time it just turns into a guessing game that only ends in laughter and a nod and smile. We are lucky to have Joanna and Becky to help serve as translators.

The last two days have been a lot of work. Together, we have painted and primed the new school room and warehouse and, today we will paint the school rooms blue and lay tile. A few of us have sorted medical supplies with the help of John and Danielle, two helping hands with medical backgrounds. A few more of the ladies have sorted clothes for future children to join the Zaragoza family and future crusades. A lot is being accomplished and we have three full days left. God is working in big ways! I would like to take a second to thank the Zaragoza and Marshall families as well as their other helping hands for the selflessness they show every day and their devotion to fulfill God's calling. What a testament to us all.

We closed last night with an intense soccer game with Fidel and Grace being star players and Joanna and Martita serving as goalies. Other people were slide tackling, doing backward somersaults, and throwing them selves when the opposite team would score yelling "PPOORRKKAAYYY" or "WWWHHHHYYYYY." The on lookers would cheer and laugh and the silliness. Pastor Dave took some adults on his prayer walk, where they saw Popocatapetl (the volcano) with the snow cap out of the clouds. Again, breath taking. It was a perfect end to a beautiful day.

If I may get personal, I would like to give a few shout outs.
1. Hey David! We surely miss you here. You love for God and your contagious good attitude - we wish you were here. However, you and I know (as well as everyone else) that you need to be home resting. The Lord has big plans for you and you need to be ready and rearing to go when that time comes! We love you!
2. HELLO REAGAN AND RYLEE!! Mom and Dad miss you so much. There are lots of kids here about your age, Rylee. Being away from you is making me so sad, but in just a few days we will have lots of stories to tell each other. I know you are having a blast with Aunt Nichole and Uncle James. Have fun at VBS tonight and enjoy your time with "grandma" Janel :) Love you so much!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

We had a beautiful sunny day here at refuge ranch! For which we were very thankful! We had guys up on the roof, putting some sealing down, to prevent the leaks coming in on the warehouse. Many people painted the warehouse area, and what will be the expanded classrooms. There were bins, bags and suitcases full of clothes that were sorted and moved into the warehouse. The curriculum purchased is all sorted and ready for classes. The younger Zaragoza children got to have a ride on their new horse Sonia.

Sealing the roof

Sorting bags of clothes

Painting...where are his shoes?

Sorting school books

Yes, that is Pastor Dave doing electrical work!

More painting

Ruth riding Sonia

Ana and Sonia

This evening we gave all the family and friends here at Refuge Ranch the many gifts purchased by our Mayfair family. What fun we had watching them all open the goodies. We all got pretty crazy shouting "yeah" "ohhh" and clapping, which was fun seeing everyone so silly! Victor even kissed Zak!Doing "the wave" during the excitement of gift giving

Lolis is all smiles

Josiah reaching in for a surprise
Danny with his Mr. Potato Head

Our group came back this evening (after the kids rode in the back of the pickup truck to our motel), and had a time of sharing our highs and ah ha moments. God is Awesome!

This is such a beautiful place, filled with beautiful, loving people. Thank you all who helped get here financially and for all who have prayed and are continuously praying for us. For that we are grateful! God is So Good!

Joyfully Serving Him,
Tracy Cox

PS to John & Jan: Thanks for the update on Tessa!