Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Miracles...by Lucy

Danny helping out when a work team came
Playing with toys!
Joanna gets a hug from Danny
Danny and Ana go f0r a ride
Helping Mark fix a broken chair
Playing in the "Ball Pit"
Danny getting a piece of gum from Grandma and Grandpa
Mark and Danny reading "Green Eggs and Ham"
Caleb, Ana, and Danny playing with balloon swords

Julie has done a lot of research about Danny's heart condition. She has contacted numerous hospitals and doctors for him. When (and if) they look at his paperwork, usually they are amazed at what Danny has accomplished in his short life thus far. Julie has checked out blogs about other children with the same heart problems. Most of these children have spent most of their lives in the hospital. Most don't have the energy to get up and play. Most never leave their beds. Most of these kids with Danny's heart problem don't get to enjoy life the way "ordinary" kids do.

I've been thinking about Danny's life. We keep praying for a miracle to happen in Danny's life, but it is happening every day, minute by minute, second by second, step by step. Everything about Danny's life is a miracle. When Victor and Julie first heard about Danny when he was about 18 months old, he had no name. He wasn't walking yet. I'm not sure if he was speaking. Danny is now 3 years old and thriving! Here are the miracles we get to see every day in Danny's life.

1. Danny woke up this morning!
2. He went to the bathroom by himself (He's a big boy now!)!
3. He ate his breakfast with no help.
4. He climbed up into his mama's lap for a hug.
5. He ran and played soccer with the big boys.
6. He breathed in the air which is thinner up on this mountainside.
7. He went to preschool.
8. He read a storybook with Mark.
9. He helped Joanna do the dishes.
10. He said the prayer for our meal.
11. He helped make pizza.
12. He danced while Angie played the piano.
13. He laughed at something funny Aaron said.
14. He went for a walk with his dad.
15. He picked a flower for Rosa.
16. He rode his tricycle through the kitchen.
17. He rode the horse with Joanna leading.
18. He played in the rain puddles.
19. He asked me for cookies in English.
20. He enjoyed life!!!!!

As you can see, Danny is a pretty busy guy. He doesn't do each of these things every day, but he is free to be a little boy, to laugh, to run, to play. Danny is not lying in a bed in a hospital somewhere waiting to die. He is living life to the fullest. I think that as I've watched him grow, the thought that comes to my mind is this: Maybe the miracle that God wants us to see in Danny's life is that despite the problems with his heart, if God wishes, He can keep it beating. He can awaken Danny every morning to a beautiful sunrise despite the malfunctioning human heart beating inside him. He loves Danny even more than we all do. And daily miracles are what He does best!

"You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the people."
Psalms 77:14

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

El Chilar EMMC by Becky Shanahan

The following journal is from Becky Shanahan, who went with us to El Chilar, Oaxaca on an EMMC. She posted this on Facebook and when I read it I thought that it would be a great way to share about our trip in the blog. I have added some photos but the rest is as Becky posted it.--Mark

Becky made a lot of new friends in El Chilar

This was easily one of the craziest and most amazing weeks of my life.

Last Sunday we (I traveled to Mexico with 2 ladies from church, Robyn and Nora) left Lancaster county to fly down to Mexico City. I took about 12 hours to get to Mexico because of all the driving, flying, and long layovers and delays. Flying into the city was amzing: Mexico City is the 3rd largest city in the world, and completely engulfs you. There's traffic 24/7, and even at 1 in the morning, we passed a flower shop that was open for business. It took almost 2 extra hours after landing for our contacts to find us because of the multiple airports in the city. The 3 of us joined Arian, Veronica, Candy, and Armondo in a older van and began our trip to our hotel. We stopped at a gas station for hot dogs and bottled water (tap water will make you sick) and were surprised to see that our hot dogs came with mayonaise packets and smothered in spicy salsa. We eventually added 3 young guys to our van, and another girl not long after. So our 15 passenger van now had 11 people and everyone's luggage. Thankfully the van has jumpseats so you could comfortably fit 4 people to a row.

We arrived at our hotel at 2 am, exhausted for the nonstop travel. The frontdesk man didn't have our room key, but we found that the door could be pushed open and since we were only there for the night we didnn't really need a key anyway. Adrian told us someone would be back around 6:30 (4 1/2 hours later) to pick us up for breakfast at their headquarters. The room was small but very cute, and thebathroom had a shower, the toilet had a seat, and there was free toilet paper-things that seemed like luxuries by the end of the week. And by the way, you NEVER flush your toilet paper in Mexico, it always goes in the waste paper can. Anyway, I was asleep within 10 minutes of getting to the room.

My alarm never went off in the morning, I woke up at 6:30 and panicked. Thankfully, Mexico time is a little more relaxed than here-so we ended up having plenty of time to get dressed before our ride came. I didn't have time for a shower though, I just used some deordorant and dry shampoo and was set for the day. Mark and Lucy, 2 American missionaries who work for the Fishers of Men organization, came for us and we left for Refugee Ranch. It was a short drive, but they had time to tell us a bit about what to expect this week. The organization has 2 missions: one is Refugee Ranch, an orphanage. The couple who started Fishers of men have adopted 13 children, and have 4 of their own. The wife, Julie, takes care of the kids, their education, and making sure the kids know that they have a mom who loves them. The husband, Victor, leads the other half of their organization-the medical crusade we would be going on. We would be traveling to a small village town to set up a make shift medical center for dentistry, gynocology, ophthalmology, and other services like hair cutting and massage therapy.

Breakfast consisted of the freshest cantaloupe I've ever had and eggs. If you sat out on the porch to eat, you could view an active volcano, Popocatepetl, which they locals called Popo. After eating, we loaded 25 people along with all of our equipment and luggage into a truck and the 15 passenger van and headed off on our 7 hour drive south to El Chilar in Oaxaca (pronounced Wa-haca). I sat in the front of the truck between Victor, who was driving, and Richard, a 66 year old doctor who was coming along. Richard and I had a lot of fun trying to talk but couldn't really understand each other well. I thought he was asking me if people had to wake up early to use the bathrooms in Pennsylvania, and he also thought I had 3 children. I was pretty tired and kept falling asleep, but it's hard sleeping in the middle of the truck with no headrest. About 5 hours into our trip we were joined by a car with 2 men from the town who had driven out to meet us, and Victor asked if I wanted to move to their car and I jumped on the opportunity to be somewhere a little less cramped. A hairdresser from the over-packed van also joined us in the car. I did manage a bit more sleep in the car, but the roads got bumper as we got further south into the country. Also, Mexico has developed a clever way for cutting down on speeding-topes, or speed bumps, are EVERYWHERE. They work well, but they are so annoying! Especially in vehicles with bad shocks.

We arrived in El Chilar mid afternoon, and the cook, Rosa, immediately got to work on our lunch. Her kitchen was a completely enclosed bamboo house with a wood fireplace for cooking. How she managed to feed us all under those circumstances amazed me. She made a variety of traditional meal for us through-out the week: tamales, fish, chicken corn soup that was made with maize (HUGE corn kernels) and topped with radishes and luttuce, tacoquitos... Everything was pretty spicy to begin with, but we also had pepper sauce with every meal for extra kick if you wanted it. I loved the spicy food actually-I had a cold for most of the week so it definitely helped clear my sinuses so I could breathe. Plus it all tasted great. After eating we were taken to our house for the week. It was probably one of the nicer houses in town honestly, although very primitive by American standards. The house was made for cinderblocks and plaster are far as I could tell annd had a very simple set up. 4 rooms, 2 on each side, with a hallway down the middle. No doors, except for the front and back doors. When you went out the back door, you found a sink with running water, and around the back of the house was a bathroom stall and a shower. All the water was gravity powered from a water tank on the roof and was room temperature. Our shower didn't have a light, so we would set a flashlight on the opening for a window if we needed light. We weren't alone in the house either-we shared it was geckos, slugs, and huge spiders that were nearly 3" across. Robyn came to my rescue several times a day with flipflops killing these massive spiders for me. I made sure my bags were always zipped. I avoided the shower for 3 days, knowing I wouldn't be able to straighten my hair if it got wet-but eventually I couldn't take the nasty dry shampoo anymore. So I had my crazy poofball curls for the second half of the week.

Our days began at 8 am with a devotional before breakfast. Several people on the team at least somewhat biligual and would translate the devotionals for us, but for the rest of the day we were pretty much on our own. The people in El Chilar knnew almost no English whatsoever, so my high school Spanish came in very handy. After breakfast, we walked to the town's covered pavilion that became our medical center. There were chairs and machinery set up for cleanning teeth, checking eyes, cutting hair, all out in the open with children and wild dogs running around. Dogs are everywhere in Mexico-it was so strange to see these dogs who would follow you around, yet they won't approach you to be pet. They just wander around looking for scraps to eat and actingn like they own the place.

Nora offering massages and prayers

Nora ended up setting up a station for giving massages. Nora would pray for the people as she massaged them, and afterwards the people would tell the evangelists that even though they couldn't understand what she was praying, they would feel heat in their chests as she prayed, and it gave the evangelists a chance to talk to them about the Holy Spirit working in them and the people were so much more open to what they were sharing because of what they had experienced. Meannwhile, Robyn and I spent our days with the kids. I did a lot of face painting, and stole the idea from Nora to pray for the kids while I was painting their faces. I don't really know what impact that had, other than I know that I had tons of kids coming back to have their faces painted and sometimes repainted once I started doing that. We also colored, blew bubbles, played soccer, and frisbee with them throughout the day. The days were very long and hot, and I always looked forward to our lunch/dinner breaks around 3 to rest a bit before heading up to play with the kids for a couple more hours. Robyn and I also taught lessons to the kids-through an interpretor. My lesson had to do with how we are like sheep and Jesus is our shepherd, and we played a game with the kid that day where we put blindfolds on some of the kids and tried to lead them through a maze by listening for their "shepherd's" voice.

The kids of El Chilar chasing bubbles with Robyn

With q-tips for brushes Becky painted a lot of faces and made a lot of kids smile.

The children listening to the lessons prepared by Robyn, Becky and Nora

On friday we were in the middle of a lesson when Adrian came up to Robyn asking if she was ready for something, I didn't really know what he was referring to, but he was carrying a box that said something that looked a bit like papayas (it actually said papayos, or something close to that) He asked if I wanted to come to and I said of course! Well, the word meant clowns, not papayas. He has asked Robyn to dress like a clown along with some of the girls for a special treat for the kids. I guess I kind of volunteered myself too, and soon I was given clown clothes and Veronica was putting on my full clown make-up. All of the clowns headed back to the pavilion, and we played games with the kids, put on a skit, and had another lesson for them about salvation. The skit was a cool play on words-Mark had to explain it to me because it was in Spanish. One of the clowns wanted to write a letter to his girlfriend in America, and asked annother clown to write it as he dictated. He had bought a soda and chips to send with the card, which were sitting next to it. Everytime he told her to write baby, she would take a drink of his soda (thinking he said bebe-the Spanish word for drink) and everytime he said comma, she would eat a few chips (coma means eat). So he ended up with a very short note because of all her eating and drinking, and no chips or soda left! It was cute.

Saturday morning we drove back to the Ranch, and I got a chance to spend some time with the kids there. One of them, Danny, broke my heart. He remembered my name from Monday and kept yelling "Becky!" and wanted me to pick him up. He the happiest, snuggliest 2 year old I've ever met. But he also has heart problems. Danny's hands and feet are freezing cold to the touch because his poor little heart can't beat enough blood. Eventually, sooner than I want to think about, he's going to outgrow his heart. Learnning that made me want to hold him that much longer. I wish I could do something for him, but the family has no choice but to put the whole situation in God's hands-that a hospital would sponsor a surgery to extend his life be maybe a few years, that he will get healed, or to accept that maybe God will take him back sooner than they would like. The whole thing breaks my heart.

Like I said, it was such an amazing week. I'm so much more aware of how rich I am, of the opportunities I have here, of everything I take for granted and expect. I'm planning to take another trip down to Mexico in April and I'm already looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Happy Birthday Rosa

Dr Escamilla leading Feliz Cumplianos for Rosa

There have been a lot of birthdays around here lately. Last week Julie wrote about the five year olds. Yesterday was Fatima's birthday. But the one on my mind is Rosa. She is our cook here at the ranch and she travels on almost all the EMMCs. Last week we were in El Chilar, Oaxaca and Rosa was with us. On Monday we made the 7 hour drive and as soon as we got there she got busy preparing our meal.

The typical meal schedule in Mexico is slightly different from that in the US. The main meal is served in the afternoon around 3:00. In the late evening, after working, we have sweet breads and coffee. Last Monday evening instead of the usual sweet breads we had birthday cake for Rosa's birthday. Those of us who live at Refuge Ranch and/or travel on EMMCs love Rosa a great deal. She has known Victor for many years, since he was a young man. If you have ever come to Refuge Ranch or on an EMMC, you have seen how dedicated and hard working Rosa is. You also know that she is a great cook.

Last week in El Chilar the temperature had to have been in the 90s during the day and Rosa was working in a kitchen cooking over a wood fire. I have no idea how hot it must have been in that little bamboo room. By the end of the week she was not feeling well. I am obviously not a doctor and I don't know the full situation, but part of the problem was related to dehydration. She ended the week resting and then went to her home in Mexico City for a few days. We are praying that she will be back in action in the next day or two.

Rosa is one of the most gracious and Godly people I know. She works very hard here, not only cooking but keeping things clean and looking nice. Whenever I thank her for the meals she always says, "Thanks to God." If only we could all work so hard to the glory of God.

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you" Philippians 1:3

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Same Age Day" - A New Zaragoza Celebration!

This past Thursday was a very unique day for our family and, I believe, a unique day compared to other families! It is the only day of the year in which Carolina, Ruth and Ana are all the same age! For one day out of the year we have three daughters the same age…a truly unique experience! Hey, this could make a great riddle! How can three sisters that are not triplets have the same age, but only one day out of the year, yet have different birthdays? You can if you’re part of an adoptive family - especially the Zaragoza family!

You see, Ruth and Ana are exactly 9 months apart. Ruth was born on November 10, 2005. Ana followed exactly nine months later on August 10, 2006! We added another five year old to the family this past February when Carolina, whose birthday is August 12, 2005, became our daughter. So, when four year old Ana turned five this past Wednesday, Carolina and Ruth were already five years old. Then, Carolina turned six on Friday! So, that means that on Thursday, and only on Thursday (August 11th of each year), all three girls were five years old! (Actually, each year they will all be the same age from 6:20 p.m. on August 10, when Ana was born, until 9:10 a.m. on August 12, when Carolina has her birthday!)

Our three five-year olds (for a day): Ana, Carolina and Ruth on their "Same Age Day"!

This seemed to me to be a very special occasion so we had an impromptu “five” celebration where each girl got five chocolate chip cookies while I read them their bedtime story – a special longer-than-normal story. Lord willing, August 11th will be a special day for my little girls throughout their entire lives when they can celebrate the unique and special relationship that they have as sisters – a God-given gift! We'll have to come up with six of something then seven of something then eight of something - you get the idea! (I can just see them flying from all parts of the world to be together, just the three of them, when they are adults on their "Same Age Day".)

This is just one of the many unique situations that our family experiences due to our unusual composition. It also served as part of a lesson that the Lord has been teaching me ever so gently. In a recent counseling session with one of our teenage daughters, the counselor made a comment that, at the time, I found rather hard to fully comprehend. She encouraged me to not try to make my current family into the image that I have of a “family” which comes from my experience of having only one sibling throughout my growing up years. While there are certain goals that I have for my family: love and respect one another, encourage one another, be more Christlike individually and as a family each day, there are many things that will look very different from one family to another...and very different in our family.

This same week that we had such a unique experience as our “same age” day, I ran across a note that I had scribbled in the margin of my Bible next to Psalm 129 when I had done the “Stepping Up” Bible study by Beth Moore. Psalm 129:1 reads: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain." The note that I had scribbled next to it read: “God is a custom builder who can make my house according to His will, but it won't necessarily look like anybody else's house." I love it when things we read may not make sense at the moment, but days, weeks, months, even years later the Lord truly opens our eyes and we have an "Oh!" moment! Thus the need for daily devotions, so that God has something to draw from to give us those "Oh!" moments!

How perfect to remind me that it is truly the Lord who has built, and will continue to build, our home and it certainly looks like no other! That is just fine! Not everybody gets to celebrate a “same age day”!

P.S. You get a bonus video today! Angie accompanied the Sunday School kids as they sang a special music number on Father’s Day. That song has now become one of Ana’s favorites. Ana has a great voice (in our estimation, and we aren’t at all biased:-), although she usually doesn’t like to sing in front of people. I caught the girls on video the other day and the mistake they made towards the end made the video even more precious watching the two of them interact! Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

School...by Lucy

School...it's what I do. My days tend to revolve around school. I haven't blogged for quite a while because it is hard to type when your desk is surrounded by 3-4 kids, each needing your attention for school. "Lucy, can I read to you?" "Lucy, I don't understand my math." "Lucy, I need to do a time test." "Lucy, can I get a drink of water?" "Lucy, can you help me with this experiment?" "Lucy, I need to practice my English words." "Lucy, I'm tired." "Lucy, what is this word? What does it mean?" "Lucy, will you check my book?" "Lucy, I need to take a test." "Lucy, I need a new science book." "Lucy, the computer isn't working." "Lucy, I'm done with school!"

Wow! I'm tired just thinking about the day ahead! I have struggled with writing a blog for a while because doing school is how I interact with the kids, and not all of them want stories about their education in a blog! For some, school is easy. They zip through their work quickly and are on their way to the outdoors to play, or to the computer to chat with friends, or to their room to listen to music, read a book, nap, or just be alone. For others, school is hard. It is a chore. We teach in both English and Spanish. That adds more stress for those who struggle, and makes their work take even longer. Some of the kids are behind where they should be in school. Some never attended school until they became part of the Zaragoza family. Some just have trouble focusing on their work while they are in school! For whatever reason, school can be HARD!

But I've learned in my own life that HARD is good! When we struggle and persevere through the "hard stuff," we come out victors on the other side. The rewards are sweeter when we've struggled to attain them. When we persevere through something we are learning even if it is hard, we tend to retain it better. Those answers become more ingrained in our brains. We don't forget the "HARD stuff." Why? Maybe because we don't want to have to repeat it! Maybe because when something is hard, we have to find other ways to learn it, or we find keys and patterns to help us remember it. Maybe because when you have to go over and over and over something till you "get it," it finally sticks!

Here at the ranch, one thing that happens in school is a lot of translating. They read something in English, then are required to translate it to Spanish so we know it is understood. I have to do a lot of translating from Spanish to English to make sure I'm understanding what they're learning and to make sure I'm grading correctly. It's HARD! But HARD is good! I'm learning! And so are the kids here at Refuge Ranch! It is exciting to watch them persevere through the HARD stuff, not only in school, but in life! God is so good! And life is HARD, but HARD is GOOD! Because God is GOOD!

So my challenge to you...Persevere! Don't give up in whatever you are struggling with today. The rewards when you persevere will be so much greater. And all the glory will go to God because perseverance isn't natural. It comes from Him! Glory to God!

"We also rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us."
Romans 5:3-4

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Las Tres Amigas (Instead of Los Tres Amigos)

Today's blog is a bit unique in that it is not specifically about daily life and ministry here in Mexico. However, I truly feel led to share this part of my personal life with you and trust that the Lord will use it in your own lives!

I want to share with you about Julie, Julie and Julie.

Julie (Lambers) Faulkner and I spent our junior high years at Bedford Junior High School in Temperance, Michigan and became the best of friends...the kind of best friends that last forever! At the end of eighth grade, Julie told me that she would be going to a private high school! Devastation for a 13 year old! Very quickly, the Michael W. Smith song “Friends” became our personal theme: “Friends are friends forever if the Lord is the Lord of them.” That has proven true!

Julie and I with her daughter Justine when I was in Toledo, OH this past May!
Her WHOLE family came to visit me at my home church!

While our lives separated a bit while we went to college, got married and had our first children, the Lord, in His grace and mercy, has seen fit to draw us closer together once again. Julie is now a Godly wife and mother of three beautiful daughters in central Ohio. Two of her precious daughters are biological and she and her husband, even though they could have had another child (it would have been risky for her health as her second pregnancy was very difficult), believe in the Lord's mandate to care for the orphan and decided to adopt. The Lord brought them another gorgeous daughter into their family! She and her family just finished spending this summer at an orphan ministry in Monterrey, Mexico! Who would have dreamed when we were two awkward pre-teen junior high buddies that some day we would both be ministering in Mexico to abandoned children with children who are adopted! Not me! But God did!

Julie and her family on the way to their summer of service in Mexico.

You can check out her family's blog at: http://back2backer.wordpress.com/

Julie (Beam) Kurrle and I became friends during college at Anderson University. While we knew each other and shared an apartment with two others gals our senior year, our friendship was not the deepest or closest, we simply had other "best" friends. Not long after college, Julie married Norberto Kurrle and they soon moved to Paraguay as full-time, and if I know them, lifelong missionaries. Reading her blog now makes me laugh because so many of their experiences could have shown up on our blog! She and her husband have a beautiful little boy, Timothy, who already has my approval to marry our little Ruth someday:-)

Julie and her beautiful family

Then, over a year ago, the Lord stirred their hearts to begin the adoption process in Paraguay. Once again, their conviction to adopt was born directly in the Word of God and his mandates for us to care for the orphans! Just a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to open my email and find a picture of Norberto, Julie and Timothy with their little girl that they had just met for the first time! Please pray fervently with me as the adoption is still in process. Just yesterday, their lawyer met with the judge who could have moved the process forward a giant step, but decided to contemplate the situation over the weekend and let Norberto and Julie know on Monday if she will allow the adoption to move forward. She has a reputation for being a tough judge. Please pray that the Lord would soften her heart towards this adoption.

You can keep up with the Kurrle's by following their blog at: http://kurrles.blogspot.com/

It is incredible to me to see how the three of us share so much more besides our first names! We have one common love above all other loves – Jesus Christ! We share a heart for Latin America! Our hearts beat with a passion for adoption!

Last week I wrote both Julie and Julie asking their permission to share a bit about them. You can see so transparently who they are by the responses they gave to my request:

Julie, I am honored and will pray that all the glory goes to God. That is fine! I love watching him continue to weave our stories together, as you and your faith are a huge encouragement to me. Tomorrow we are leaving for the states. These past 2 months went by SO fast! Much Love, Julie

Hi Julie,
Great to hear from the busy mama!!! I would be honored to have you link us on your blog. Julie, I have been mutually encouraged and inspired by your zeal for the Lord and passion for the orphan. God has formed a bond that the miles cannot separate.

Would you have people pray for our adoption process? Our attorney went before the judge yesterday on our behalf and we will have to wait until Monday for her response. She is a difficult judge and soon we will need to have our interview with her to share why we want to adopt. We just want to be salt and light!
We are praying for little Daniel as well.
Love and blessings,

At the time that I became friends with both of these precious women, our friendships were born out of finding ourselves in similar circumstances and sharing a common love for Jesus Christ and a desire to do His will. I never imagined where we would all be today and that I would still have the incredible privilege of having these women in my life!

I am sure that my parents prayed all the way through my childhood, teenage years and into young adulthood (and maybe even now:-) that God would provide Godly friends for me…and was that prayer ever answered! (There are so many other friends that could be added to this list, but these two women stood out because of our unexpected commonalities!) I know now that those girls were not just Godly friends for that season of life, but that the beating of their hearts became part of my heartbeat and we continue to beat for Christ, spread across thousands of miles, but beating all the same…hearts for Christ, hearts for the lost and hearts for the abandoned and orphaned. I truly marvel at God’s sovereignty! What richness and true treasure has He provided for me through the longevity, depth, realness and incredible similarities, and rich differences, in these friendships!

At the time, my friendship with these two seemed the most natural and logical thing for that point in life – girls who had similar personalities as mine, shared my commitment to Christ and some of the same classes in our schedules! Now I know it was so much more than that! It was all a part of God’s intricate threadwork in His tapestry of my life! I can't wait to see how the masterpiece turns out! Thank you, Jesus, for Julie and Julie! Bless their living and their loving and thank you that we will have all of eternity together!

Extra note: If you would like to know more about how the Lord's heart beats for orphans and how your heart can begin to beat in sync with His, please visit: http://www.icareaboutorphans.org/
I truly believe that the Lord can, and wants, to touch many of your hearts to foster parent and even adopt! Remember: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." There is Somebody and somebody waiting for you!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back in the Saddle by Mark

With a title like "Back in the Saddle" you might think this is going to be about a horse, but I am only going to mention the horse a little bit. After being away from Refuge Ranch for a month and even longer from blogging, everything I have to say is about getting back into a routine.
While we (The Marshalls) were in the United States last month several people commented that we had not blogged for a long time. Thank you for noticing. I always wondered if anyone really reads these, but now I know so you may get a lot more ramblings from me now. The reason for the title of this rambling is that as I was coming inside to write, Joanna was leading Sonya (the horse) with Fatima riding. It is pretty cool to see the kids interacting with each other and the horse. But that is not what this is about.
The most exciting thing we have done since we got home happened last night. We have all gotten back into the routine of life here at Refuge Ranch. Aaron and Joanna working on schoolwork, Lucy teaching school, and me getting the cars and trucks back in shape and ready for the EMMC next week. But last night we got back into doing youth group with the oldest kids here. In July, Lolis turned 14 years old so we welcomed her into the group for her first meeting. One of my favorite games to play with a group is called "This is the salt." It is especially fun when you play it in more than one language. If you are not familiar with the game, everybody stands or sits in a circle and one person starts with a salt shaker and a pepper shaker. Passing the salt to the right and the pepper to the left he says, "this is the salt" to the right and "this is the pepper" to the left. Each person responds "The what?" and he says, "The salt" to the right and "the pepper" to the left. The salt and pepper go around the circle and each time it is passed the questions and answers are repeated all the way back to the person who started them. It gets challenging when they meet in the middle and pass each other. And it was even funnier to listen to last night because we played in two languages. Most of us were switching back and forth from English to Spanish or Spanish to English. We laughed a lot too during the whole game.
As we moved into the Bible study part of our meeting, I showed some pictures of fires and fire damage. We talked about the fact that fire can be either good (used to cook, heat, light or power) or bad (extremely damaging).
Then we related the fire to ourselves and how what we say can be like fire, either destructive or helpful and encouraging. There a many times when we don't realize the power of our words. But if we think about how it feels when people speak nicely to us versus when some one is harsh, we begin to realize the importance of what we say and how we say it. We all remember times when we were hurt by something somebody said, as well as times someone's words were great encouragement.

I tried to get the kids to look into their mouths and down their throats with a mirror so they could see from where their words come, but nobody would open their mouth for the mirror. They were all smart enough to know that what we say comes from the attitude of our heart and they did not want to look goofy trying to see down their throats. We can learn a lot about people simply by listening to what they say and how they say it. The same goes for how people can know what we are truly like.

The challenge for the week is based on Ephesians 4:29:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Our challenge is to say something nice to everyone at Refuge Ranch everyday this week. Join us if you are up to the challenge.

Do it God's way - Watch what you say!