Wednesday, September 29, 2010

by: Angie

Today's blog was actually written by our eldest daughter, Angie, 17 years old, and posted on her own blog:

While she doesn't post very often (the kids only get 30 minutes a day on the computer), I asked her permission to copy one of her blog entries here to share with you. Of course, she wrote her original blog post in Spanish, but I am going to translate it into English. Then, at the end of today's post, I will copy her original post as written by her in Spanish. Now, those of you who may know some Spanish, or are learning Spanish, and will try to read her original post in Spanish: a warning! Youth today in Mexico are like youth today in the U.S. - all grammar rules and correct spelling fly out the window when writing facebook entries, text messages, chats and the like! It actually seems that they use a whole new third language! I sometimes have to read their messages out loud, phonetically, to figure out what they say!

Here at Refuge Ranch there is a different person assigned to care for the younger children during the day each day. For example, I am in school with the older children on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, teach piano and violin lessons (15 of them!) on Tuesdays and care for the younger children on Thursdays. So, Angie's blog was originally posted on a day that she had taken care of the younger children - her own siblings, along with Cirino's two children, Bernabe and Berenice, and Mia, the daughter of some crusade volunteers. In the blog she makes referance to losing her cell phone! That is true! She had had it with her and had handed it over to four year old Ana who then laid it the grass somewhere! I was very impressed with Angie's mature attitude - she insistently looked for the phone, but never got mad at Ana! She just kept saying: "It is only a cell phone. People are more important." Wow! "Only a cell phone"?! It had been a Christmas present and would take her a long time to save up enough money to replace it. However, I truly believe the Lord rewarded her correct attitude. The cell phone was found, outside, the next day, but in perfect working order. (Since then, one of her older siblings was playing around with the phone and has permanently messed it up.....but that's another story!)

So, enjoy Angie's blog! (By the way, the picture was taken by Angie! She is a very creative photographer!)

"Today, Thursday, was a beautiful day. I had an awesome time playing with my siblings. Well, the truth is, we did lots of things: like go to see the horse, pick pears, and play in a ton of overgrown plants. That's where I lost my cell phone.....FOREVER! Ha, ha, ha! But, that doesn't matter, RIGHT??!!

After all, I give thanks to God for the lives of my little siblings and for Mia's life.

Thank you, Jesus, for everything you give us. I LOVE YOU!"

eves fue un dia muy
Me la pase super bien jugando
con mis hermano.
BUeno la vdd hicimos muchas
cosas. Como ir a ver al
caballo, ir a cortar peras, y
jugar en un monton de
plantas, lo cual perdi me
celular para SIEMPRE...
Bueno que importa NO??!!

En fin le doy gracias a Dios X la vida de todos mis hermanitos y x la vida de

Gracias Jesus x TOdo lo que nos das..
TE AMO....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Josiah's Baptism

We thank the Lord for all that He is continuously doing in our children's lives and are especially grateful when He gives us a glimpse into what He is doing and when His moving results in outward actions and obedience.

About a month ago our church held baptisms during the regular morning service. There were 28 people that had gone through discipleship classes as part of their decision to be baptized. Four of the church elders got into the swimming pool that had been purchased and set up just for this occasion, while Victor and our lead pastor, Ruben, stayed on the platform. They would ask those being baptized if they have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and would then pronounce the baptism as the elders carried out the actual baptism.

After the original 28 were baptized, Victor felt led to open the baptism up to anybody else feeling the call to obey the Lord in that way. Almost immediately Josiah came and sat next to me. I looked at him and he had tears in his eyes and slouched way down into the chair. He told me that he wasn't sure if he should be baptized or not. The last several times that our church has had baptisms he has expressed an interest in being baptized, so this desire was not new. I encouraged him that he could be baptized if he wanted to, but that he didn't have to feel like he had to be baptized in that moment.

The struggle was on - a spiritual struggle! It was quite amazing to watch! While others came forward to be baptized, Josiah continued to struggle. His face would contort from tears, to confusion, to almost anger-like frustration, to tears, etc. It is hard to explain. By then, people were moving about as others came forward to be baptized. Josiah stood up and pulled me by the hand towards the pool. Then he pulled me towards the back of the church. He would say: "I want to be baptized." "I don't know if I should be baptized."

I truly felt that he needed to follow the tug of the Holy Spirit to be baptized, but it needed to be done under his own conviction, not mine. So, it was very hard to encourage without manipulating, yet not be so laid back that he would interpret it as a lack of support. I finally just prayed silently: "Lord, if his is Your will, just give Josiah peace and firm decision." At this point we were standing way in the back of the church. Almost immediately Josiah's face relaxed, he grabbed my hand and we took about five steps forward. Then he stopped and stood still. He did not say anything, but maintained his eyes directly up front towards those being baptized. After a minute or so, he kind of nodded his head and pulled me forward a few more steps. This process of moving forward, stopping, resolutely looking forward, nodding and moving forward again happened time after time until we were next to the swimming pool.

By this time, the lead pastor was praying for the over 35 people that had been baptized and was about ready to move into the final part of the service, when Josiah said: "Yes, Mom." I had alerted Victor to Josiah's inner struggle, so I signaled to him that Josiah had decided to be baptized.

Up to now, Victor had not gotten wet. In fact, neither he nor Josiah had brought along clothing to change in to. However, as soon as Josiah said he wanted to be baptized, Victor started taking off his shoes and socks, handed me his keys and wallet and rolled up the legs of his pants, climbing into the pool, and Josiah after him.

It was a beautiful moment watching father baptize son and knowing that this is yet another step in our Heavenly Father's marvelous plan for Josiah's life. It is such a special honor when the faith can be passed on like this. My own dad baptized me in a pond when I was 16 and Victor has already baptized Angie, Diana and Martita. Praise God!

After church Josiah came up to me and said: "Mom, thanks for supporting me." I asked him if he felt better after being baptized. His face was full of peace and with a huge smile said: "Yes." I commented to him that the "weirdness" he felt before was the Holy Spirit telling him to be baptized. He answered: "How was I suppose to know? I had never heard him speak before!"

May Josiah continue to be sensitive to the moving of the Lord in his life!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hotdog Lucy

Ruth helps me pat out the crust for pizza.

Joanna, Ana, and Ruth cover the pizzas with cheese, the most important part!

This past week when I made pizza, we were out of ham. We usually make a couple ham and pineapple pizzas because the kids like them a lot. I had pineapple though, so Victor said to make a hotdog pineapple pizza (We always have hotdogs handy!). Hotdog pineapple pizza? I wasn't too crazy about the idea myself, but I made it. What's your guess? Did they like it? Of course! They probably covered it with ketchup before eating it (They love ketchup...on pizza!)!

A few weeks ago when I made pizza, we were short on gouda cheese, which is what we use here because it's usually easy to find and fairly inexpensive when making lots of pizza. When I saw how little we had, I panicked. I started doing the math for how much cheese each pizza would get. There was no way that there was enough. I started praying and searching for anything else I could use. I found some American cheese slices left over from another meal, and we had some Oaxaca cheese still frozen in a large chunk, that I knew wouldn't go through a cheese shredder, but we'd try it. The older girls got busy thawing the frozen cheese and then pulling it apart into long strips (It pulls apart like string cheese.). I got busy making pizza. By the time I finished with the tenth pizza, we had discovered that we liked the combination of cheeses on the pizza. Also since we were short on cheese, the family got to try a dessert pizza since I had apples to use, and it required no cheese! A win/win situation!

Victor and I mixing the granola ingredients.

Mark enjoyed testing the granola!

I also had the opportunity recently to make Ashleigh's famous granola. I gave Victor the ingredient list Ashleigh had given me to make the amount necessary for the Zaragoza family, and sent him to purchase the items needed. When he came back, he had double of everything! We had to find a huge bowl to stir the ingredients in. We chopped lots of nuts, stirred lots of oatmeal, and melted lots of butter, honey, and brown sugar, plus other secret ingredients, to make the yummy granola. Did I mention that this process started at 4 p.m.? Once it was stirred together, I had to bake it in small batches in the oven. Seven batches later, around 10 p.m., I was finished. Mark enjoyed some as a snack before he went to bed. Was it worth it? The smiles on the kids' faces told me yes!

Rosa frying empanadas, one of my favorite meals!

Stuffed Chilies in Walnut Sauce with Pomegranate
made by Rosa (Yummy!)

Why am I sharing these food stories? I think about how hard Rosa works to fix meals for a group of our size (On average, we feed 25 people at every meal!). I think about the amount of food it takes to feed a group that size, and the expense. And then I think, "Wow! We have never had to go hungry! There has always been enough for everyone, usually with leftovers (And believe me, this bunch can eat!)." Despite our doubts sometimes about how to make something stretch so there's enough, or what we can substitute when we're missing something, or how much work we have to put into it, God always provides exactly what we need.

When the Israelites needed nourishment, God provided manna. When they needed water, He provided it from a rock! When they needed to learn patience and obedience, He gave them 40 years in the desert to practice. When we need food, sometimes He gives us hotdog pizza. When we need hope, He sends someone to encourage us. When we needed a Savior, He sent His son, the Bread of Life, all we really need.

"Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Youth Group by Mark with Lucy's pics

For the last few months Lucy and I have been leading a Refuge Ranch Youth Group. We don't really have a name for our group so we just call it youth group. Aaron, Joanna, Martita, Diana, and Angie are the youth of the group. We try to meet every Tuesday evening when the dishes are done. Sometimes about 7 or 7:30. Other times 8:00 or so. We try to have fun with games, Bible lessons, discussions, prayer, and of course... snacks. Lucy loves to make desserts and we love to eat them, so it works out very well.

On this particular evening, we met in the dark because the electricity went out. Maybe our lesson should have been about being the light of the world.

It seems that many of the photos of our games involve blindfolds. Here Angie is directing Diana out of our bathroom. They were partners guiding each other through an obstacle course. Our first series of lessons was about friendship and this was a lesson in trust.

Joanna waiting for direction from her friends.

A couple of weeks ago we were talking about the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit and the blind fold came back out. This time we each had to listen to our partner while every body else tried to distract us with other noise and shouting. Sometimes we are easily distracted by the world.

Joanna and Angie playing the mirror game.

Aaron ready with his Bible for a "Draw your Swords" Bible race. They all seem to enjoy racing and reading scripture.

The race is on. Diana and Angie searching for a Bible verse.

Aaron trying not to get "sin" on his size 15s. The goal was to walk the path without getting "sin" (foot powder) stuck on his feet. None of us made it. We all had at least a little sin.

After walking in sin we each put a nail in a cross and talked about what Jesus has done for us.

Diana crossing the "sin" via the cross as a bridge.

We started the youth group as a way to get to know each other better and have a time of Christian fellowship. There have been a few weeks when we did not have youth group and I think we all missed it. We have a lot of fun and learn something at the same time. I am impressed with the kids when it comes to sharing prayer concerns and time to pray. One of the things we had to do to keep the meetings from going too long, was to pray in pairs at the same time rather than going around the room for each person to pray. This is probably because of how emotionally and spiritually mature this group is and are becoming.

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Daniel's Journey - Just the Beginning

A little over a year ago Daniel became a part of our family. That, in and of itself, was quite the journey. We had received a phone call from a local missionary from a small town where Victor and the EMMC team had held a crusade some time before. She explained that she had a little boy who had been a product of an incestuous relationship. He was the youngest of four or five children born to a young woman forced into a relationship with her step-father. The young mother had escaped that hellish life and had given the other children to the local government's social services division, who then placed them in other homes. Maria, the local missionary, became aware of the young mother when a local neighbor shared that this young woman, as well as her tiny son, were both ill. Maria met them and took them to a local government doctor. Upon leaving the doctor's office, Daniel's mother pushed him towards Maria and told her to take him. Maria balked and offered all kinds of assistance to enable Daniel's mother to carry on with her life and his, but she refused, adamantly declaring that if Maria did not take Daniel she would throw him away. So, Daniel went home with Maria, her husband John (a Canadian) and their daughter Hannah.

Of course, as soon as Maria told us about Daniel, we said: "Yes, we would love to have him!" I remember checking email every 10 or 15 minutes that day as Maria had promised us a picture of Daniel. Everybody wanted to meet their new little brother! When the coveted email arrived, we all gathered around the computer. These are the first pictures that we saw of Daniel just a little over a year ago.

We immediately began preparing a room for Daniel, moving Fidel upstairs with Josiah and Caleb downstairs to share a bedroom with Daniel. The crib was moved in and the small clothing hung in the closet. By that weekend, Victor and I were ready for the trip to Veracruz to pick up our Daniel. Then...the phone call! There was a couple interested in adopting Daniel and we needed to wait to see what would develop with that situation. Our family gathered on our driveway, in a circle, in tears, and prayed that God's perfect will for Daniel's life would be done.

Then we waited...and waited...and waited. Then, about a month later we received another email from Maria. The couple had backed out, were we still interested? Of course! I didn't even finish reading the whole email before I ran down the stairs yelling: "Daniel is ours! Daniel is ours!" Within a few days Victor and I were on our way to pick up Daniel in the state of Veracruz.
Daniel and I had spent a total of about an hour together when this picture was taken.

We knew that Daniel had a heart condition. Maria had taken him to a local government doctor who tipped her off that he had a serious heart condition. The doctor even questioned Maria's intelligence at taking Daniel in: "You should really check these kids out before you take one in and just take in a bunch of problems." That same doctor also declared that Daniel would never walk. By the time we went to pick him up in Veracruz he was walking and, if any of you have met Daniel in person, you know he has no problem walking or running now.

Soon after Daniel arrived we made an appointment with a military pediatric cardiologist here in Mexico City. (Military care is some of the best medical care here in Mexico.) We met the cardiologist at his office. All he did was look at Daniel's chest x-rays and listen to his heart with the stethoscope and immediately said: "We need to go straight to the hospital and get some more tests done." At the military hospital, two pediatric cardiologists did an ecosonogram on Daniel's heart (like an ultrasound). Through that test, it was discovered that Daniel was born missing his right heart ventricle. This prevents proper oxygen flow as his blood is not being oxygenated correctly. That would explain several of Daniels symptoms: blue fingernails, toenails and lips and his getting tired while doing simple tasks like eating and walking.

The doctors also discovered a second defect, one that has actually saved Daniel's life. He has a hole in the wall of his heart. This hole is what is allowing the slight circulation of oxygenated blood through his system. If it were not for this hole in the wall of his heart, Daniel would have died shortly after birth. To me, that hole is a testament to God's greatness, His infinite goodness and the huge and special plans He has for Daniel's life. I can imagine the scene in heaven as the Lord supervised Daniel's development in-utero. I am convinced that Daniel's first defect, the lack of his right ventricle, is a result of living in a fallen world, full of sin and imperfection. But, God, in His sovereign power, saw that defect and took his index finger, poked a hole in the wall of Daniel's heart and said: "OK, that should do until Daniel can get the medical care he needs. Through this I will be glorified and through Daniel's suffering many more will be able to spend eternity with me here in their real home."

Daniel's First Visit to a Pediatric Cardiologist

The doctors ordered a heart cath to be done in order to measure the pressure in Daniel's neck veins and see if he is a candidate for something called the Glenn Procedure in which a neck vein is connected directly to Daniel's lungs in order to provide for the proper oxygenation. Without surgery, the doctors told us that Daniel has 3-5 years of life left. At that point, he would basically suffocate because his heart would not be able to provide sufficient oxygen for his body to function.

We did not have the heart cath done because we felt we needed more signatures from Daniel's birth mother that would legally protect us in the case of Daniel's death during any of these medical interventions. We also began to contemplate the possibility of Daniel being attended to in the United States due to the superiority of medical care as in comparison to Mexico, as well as the level of compassion given during care, which also greatly lacks in Mexico, especially for abandoned Indian children like Daniel. However, traveling to the U.S. would require Daniel having a Mexican passport in order to apply for a U.S. medical visa. Only Daniel's mother, who lives in a small indigenous village in the foothills of Veracruz, can apply for his passport. The last time that we had tried to have contact with her, her new husband's family had her in their hut, lying down, surrounded by local witches trying to heal her because her contact with Christians (us) had prevented their previous spells from working! So, the possibility of Daniel's birth mother applying for his passport seemed like a near impossibility.

During this past year, a generous donor gave us $1000 to pay for the trip back to Veracruz to get the signatures we needed from Daniel's birth mother, as well as to apply for his passport. However, there was always something else going on. Then, a few weeks ago, the local missionary, Maria, called us and said that she had recently seen Daniel's mother. She had a newborn baby with her new husband and was doing very well. They conversed about Daniel and Maria shared the need for Daniel to get a passport in order to get the medical care that he needs. His birth mother was very willing to sign any documents needed, so we immediately made plans to travel to Veracruz.

Victor, Daniel and I left on Sunday evening, August 8th to drive partway to Veracruz. We arrived at the missionary's home around noon on Monday. Daniel's birth mother, her new husband and baby arrived shortly after - praise God!

Local missionaries, Maria and John, who first took Daniel in over a year ago,
with their two daughters.

Daniel's birth mother, her new husband and new baby.

As I try and recall the next few days, everything is kind of a blur - not due to the speediness of everything, it was actually quite the contrary. We were either sitting still waiting for some secretary, some government official, some kind of transportation, some office to open, somebody to return from lunch or we were literally running to get a copy made before the office closed, to find the person to sign a certain document before they went out to the field to work or some other "urgent" situation. In the meantime, the sweat rolled down our arms, legs and foreheads due to the heat and humidity and the mosquitoes feasted on us. Exhaustion, as well as homesickness for our other children, set in as one day stretched into two, that stretched into three, that stretched into four. During the whole adventure, I found it very challenging to see God at work. Of course, looking back, I can see many times when the Lord was obviously opening doors and moving hearts in order to get all the multiple documents that we needed. Daniel's birth mother and her husband were incredible as they came down from their village three days in a row in order to be able to sign, sign and sign more paperwork.

Finally, on Wednesday afternoon we filed the application for Daniel's passport. The documents were pre-approved and we set out for home. We drove part way and as we pulled into the hotel parking lot that night, Victor turned off the Ford Focus and it refused to start again. (It had been acting up during the entire trip.) So, the next day we contacted a pastor friend in that city who helped us find a mechanic and then lent us his own vehicle so that we could get home. We HAD to get home that night (Thursday) because the next day was my last day to renew my visa or I would have been in Mexico illegally and would have had to pay a fine. (I couldn't renew my visa before going to Veracruz because I needed my original documents in order to travel and take care of Daniel's paperwork and when you renew your visa immigration keeps the originals while they approve your new set of documents!)

So, after four days and an unexpected additional $1000.00 in expenses, we got back home, renewed my visa and waited to hear if Daniel's passport had been officially approved! On Wednesday, August 15th we got the news that the passport was approved and it finally arrived at our home on Friday, August 24th!

I titled this blog "Just the Beginning" because we had been looking forward to/working towards Daniel's passport for an entire year. It almost felt like the passport was the goal and I had nearly forgotten that the passport is really "just the beginning". When we finally had the passport in hand, this feeling came over me like: "Duh, Julie, this was just the beginning! Now the real adventure begins of trying to get Daniel medical care in the U.S.!" I realized that I have NO idea what the future holds or what "getting Daniel medical care" really even means for him and for our family. Good thing God is already there!Daniel needs open heart surgery, so we are now in the process of contacting every pediatric cardiologist/hospital/children's hospital with whom we can find a personal contact in order to send them a packet of information about Daniel and his medical issues, asking them to consider providing Daniel's care free of charge.

Daniel and I about a month ago during an outing with a work team.

Daniel has been doing incredibly well this past year. He walks, runs, talks a ton and is a real jokester! However, several symptoms that had greatly reduced or disappeared seem to be reappearing. When Daniel arrived, he had a lot of sleepers in his eyes. An exaggerated amount of mucus in the corner of his eyes all day long. Each time I changed his diaper I would have to clean out his eyes. He had no other cold or sinus-like symptoms. Although this has not been confirmed by a doctor, I assumed that this is somehow related to his heart condition. The sleepers had completely disappeared for several months and are now coming back again. Daniel also had never complained about being tired. When he first arrived, he would have to rest as he ate or played in order to catch his breath. He quickly gained strength and no longer needed to rest. Since we have returned from Veracruz, on several occasions, while playing, he has actually stopped and said: "Mommy, I'm tired.", even touching his chest on one occasion. I am confident that the Lord has sustained Daniel while He knew that getting him the necessary medical care was impossible. Now, it is our turn to move forward in seeking out medical care for Daniel.

There are many instances in the Bible when God asked individuals to perform certain acts. He expected them to do what they were able to do and He did what they could not do. For example, Jesus told Peter to come to Him as He walked on the water. Peter had to get out of the boat himself and then Jesus did what Peter could not do: make him walk on water. Jesus asked his disciples to feed the multitude. He asked them to bring to Him what food they could find. They brought Him the food and then Jesus did what the disciples could not: He multiplied those loaves and fish enough to feed well over 5,000 people! God commanded Moses to raise up the staff and then He did the impossible: He parted the Red Sea for His people to be saved. So, we know that God will do the impossible in Daniel's life, but He is asking us to look for the doctors and nurses through whom we trust He is going to work

We covet your prayers through this entire process. We know that the Lord is All-Powerful and can heal Daniel with one word. We also know He may heal Daniel through the wisdom, ability and expertise that He gives to doctors and nurses. Finally, we also know that He is sovereign and that His ways are not our ways and that He could choose to heal Daniel by taking him home to heaven. Obviously, that is not our desire, but we must pray "Your will be done."

As we pray for Daniel's healing, in accordance with God's perfect will and whatever will bring Him the glory, we are looking for the hospital and doctor that the Lord has prepared for Daniel. So, if you have a personal contact with a pediatric cardiologist or hospital, or know somebody who does, we appreciate any leads that you can share with us. Feel free to write us at:

Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us and we pray that your relationship with Jesus Christ will be deepened and strengthened as you pray, watch and participate in Daniel's miracle!

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More Than Just a Crusade: as told to Julie by Victor

A crusade requires so much more time than just the week that Fishers of Men spends in the local community. First of all, the crusade schedule is worked out during the fall of the previous year. For example, we are now starting to work on the 2011 schedule. Then, the actual preparations for a specific crusade begin several weeks, if not months, before the crusade takes place. Just yesterday, medicines were being sorted and travel routes planned out for the upcoming crusade on September 20 to the southern state of Chiapas. The most recent crusade to El Chilar, Oaxaca was no exception to these preparations.

Two weeks before the crusade Victor, Mark, Adrian and Jhon (yes, that's how he spells it), spent the entire week prepping the three vehicles scheduled to go on the crusade: the two 15 passenger vans and the truck. Of course, they set out counting on changing some oil and maybe some spark plugs, but as they dug into each vehicle they kept discovering more and more work to be done! They worked diligently and the three vehicles were declared "crusade ready" by the end of the week.

Then, the opportunity presented itself for us (Victor and Julie) to go to Veracruz with Daniel in order to get his passport and the signatures needed from his birth mother in order to move forward with his heart surgery. We are learning to take advantage of these opportunities in the moment the Lord brings them along. So, we set out on Sunday afternoon for the eight hour drive to Veracruz, one week before the scheduled crusade. What we had expected to be a two day trip turned into four and a half days, complete with the Ford Focus breaking down and returning home in a vehicle generously lent to us by a pastor friend in Cordoba, Veracruz! (Watch for the upcoming blog entry later this week sharing more about those adventures....and the results!)

We arrived home Thursday evening and then left early Friday morning to head across Mexico City (the world's largest city and over a three hour drive) to go to the Mexican Immigration office in order to go through the yearly ritual of renewing Julie's visa. (Is anybody else anxious for a border-free, paper-free heaven? The only "immigration" question there is: Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour? Praise God that, in His mercy, I will pass that immigration test!) OK, so the whole visa application deal was quite the adventure, but, praise the Lord, Julie's visa was renewed! Then, we went and picked up the Karkow family at the airport. They flew in from Iowa to participate on the crusade.

On Saturday we sent Mark Marshall and a friend from church back to Veracruz to return the borrowed vehicle and bring home our Ford Focus. I, Victor, spent the day making last minute contacts with crusade volunteers to coordinate their arrival the following day.

Sunday - the day the volunteers arrived! Since the Oaxaca crusade was to the south of Refuge Ranch, all of the crusade volunteers descended upon our home late Sunday afternoon. Volunteers from Iowa, Mexico City, the State of Mexico, Michoacan and Guanajuato. All 30 volunteers, plus our family of 14 and Refuge Ranch staff enjoyed a supper of roast chicken while we prayed fervently for.....the white van whose transmission decided to burn out earlier that afternoon! Many have already heard the miraculous story! The transmission was declared "dead" by Mark Marshall, our in-house mechanic. Not knowing how to rebuild a transmission overnight we decided to pray! The Lord placed in my (Victor's) heart the impression to add a few liters of transmission fluid and go out on for test drive. Mark, Adrian and I drove the van to Cuautla and back (30 minutes south and downhill from here) and the van ran PERFECTLY! Praise, praise, praise, praise our Almighty Father who does things greater than we could ever ask or imagine! Had the van not been running, that would have meant leaving 15 of the 30 team members behind! However, the Lord knew what was coming in El Chilar and knew that all 30 team members were going to be needed!

This is the last stretch before reaching El Chilar, Oaxaca! The picture was taken by those riding in the black pick-up truck, which followed the white 15 passenger van, which followed the red 15 passenger van, which followed the local missionary's vehicle who led the team to the crusade location!

This is the community plaza/basketball court/covered area where the crusade was held. Those sitting on the bleachers in the background are waiting to be seen by the crusade volunteers! People came to the crusade from 12 surrounding villages! Some of them walked over 8 hours through the hills to get to the crusade! Several people, even entire families, arrived the night before and spent the night on the bleachers to be first in line to get their appointment number the following day! The crusade volunteers attended to over 250 individuals everyday! The total number of people attended to during the crusade was: 1048! Every single one of those heard the gospel on an individual basis and over 200 prayed to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior!

Several of the crusade volunteers, besides their "regular" duties, were willing to dress as clowns and help out with the children's ministry. Here they are praying with a group of local children.

All of these people seated in plastic chairs are waiting in line for.....a haircut! In these indigenous communities, not having to pay $30 pesos (roughly $3 dollars) for a haircut means being able to buy tortillas or oil to feed their family. We had ONE hairdresser on this crusade! Do you know how to cut hair? No license required, just a good pair of scissors, willing hands and plane ticket to Mexico!

This is the heart of the crusade and the reason for all that we do! Here an entire family prays together to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior!

Dr. Bill Karkow from Iowa performed many minor surgeries throughout the week. He was a huge blessing to the team and the Lord knew that this was the crusade on which he was going to be needed! He even operated one night until 1:30 a.m.! Here he is assisted by his daughter, Kirsten.

Louaine Karkow, a registered nurse, did the intakes for all 1048 of those patients! That included their blood pressure, weight and other important information.

Diana Karkow, a pharmacy student, did a great job attending to the crusade pharmacy and getting each patient the meds they needed!

Kirsten Karkow was a hit with the local children!

Daniel Karkow, between Louaine and Dr. Bill, fit right in with the crusade volunteers and environment, jumping in to help out wherever needed. Here, Louaine, Daniel, Dr. Bill and Kirsten pose with Dr. Gisela and Becky, two of our bilingual volunteers who helped translate throughout the week for the Karkow family.

We praise the Lord for all that was accomplished during the crusade! Thank you for all of your prayers, for your financial support and for coming to Mexico when the Lord calls you! You are truly a part of the team that, together, makes this ministry happen!

As a family, we read our after-supper devotions from a book produced by Voice of the Martyrs called "Extreme Devotion". A recent devotional especially touched my (Victor's) heart, as it was a reminder of a situation that we face frequently. While we are always grateful for all that is accomplished in the ministry, we live with a constant sense of "We could do more, if we only had the tools." Our dentists even tease me that sometimes they feel that all they have to work with are their own fingernails (this is a saying in Spanish), referring to the fact that they have to make do with the most basic of equipment.

We would like to share that devotional with you:

"The smoke of the train wreck was thick as cries of agony came from the sea of passenger's bleeding, broken bodies among the ruined cars. Among the wounded and dying walked a surgeon who was unharmed in the collision. His luggage, though was lost in the confusion, and he cried out, "My tools! My tools! If only I had my tools!"

With medical instruments, the man could have saved many lives. With his bare hands, he stood virtually helpless, watching as many died.

Today's persectued church is like that surgeon. They have the knowledge and the willingness to save many lives caught in the wreckage of Communism or Christless Islam. What they lack are the tools.

"Hear the cries of your brothers and sisters in captive nations!" wrote Pastor Richard Wurmbrand when he first came to the United States. "They do not ask for escape; they do not ask for safety or an easy life. They ask only for the tools to counteract the poisoning of their youth-the next generation-with atheism. They ask for Bibles. How can they spread the Word of God if they do not have it?"

Christians in restricted nations cannot provide these tools for themselves. They count on Christians in free nations to help. "Give us the tools we need," one of the Christians told us, "and we will pay the price for using them!"

Chalk for a teacher, needles for a nurse, patience for a parent, and a tractor for a farmer. Every person, regardless of calling, uses tools. It may be as complicated as a computer or as primitive as our hands, but our lives change drastically with those tools. As Christians, we know our spiritual tools because we read about them in God's Word, the Bible. But what about those who never read about the tools or compassion, forgiveness, love, sharing, and all the gifts and talents that God offers? You cannot keep these spiritual truths to yourself, hiding them as a miser hoards gold. Willingly share your tools freely with others in need.

Just as persecuted church is like the surgeon in this story, so are the Fishers of Men volunteers. They have the knowledge, language skills, medical skills, ability and willingness to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the most needy here in Mexico. However, at times they lack the tools to do so in the most effective way possible. That is where you come in to play! We depend on your prayers, your financial generosity and your obedience when God calls you to come to Mexico, in order to provide the tools that the volunteers need to share about Jesus Christ! Thank you for your faithfulness! We look forward to doing even more together to continue furthering the Kingdom of God here on earth!

(Note: Voice of the Martyrs (check out their website at has published a list and map of restricted and hostile nations around the world. Restricted nations are places where actual law makes Christianity and sharing one's faith illegal, punishable by prison or death. Hostile nations are areas where local tradition and culture make it dangerous to be a Christian. The Mexican state of Chiapas, the location of the next Fishers of Men Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade, is included in the Voice of the Martyrs' list of hostile areas. Many local Christians in Chiapas have been run out of their villages and local pastors murdered because they follow Jesus Christ.)

So, give us the tools and we will commit ourselves to faithfully use them to the best of our ability and work passionately to further God's kingdom!
To God be the glory!