Friday, January 27, 2012

God is Faithful - by Diana Zaragoza

 Our second eldest daughter, Diana, has her own blog:  For the last month or so I have wanted to republish her most recent post.  When I went to copy it here today I had to laugh because my most recent post was about God's faithfulness and this blog post from Diana has the same theme!  It is so neat when God weaves things together!  He certainly is faithful!  Enjoy Diana's blog post and I encourage you to follow her blog yourself!  (At the end enjoy a few pictures of Diana throughout the eight years she has been our daughter!)

Hello brothers and sisters,
I ask an apology for not writing sooner. What happens is that it takes me a  long time to write because I have to think in English.

I want to tell you that many things have happened. As you know, December 10th was my birthday, and like every year, many thoughts come to mind. I remember my past and everything that happened to me. I know that my birthday should be something to rejoice, but there is so much I have to heal. For example, I do not like the idea of having to spend a weekend with my birth mother, I hate having to look into her eyes and see the pain she has in her heart. I hate having to remember everything I saw, heard and lived with her. My mom (Julie) told me I have to allow God to restore my life and heal the wounds in my heart. But guess what? I did not listen to her and I thought she was crazy. But, she is right! Time is passing, and I am realizing that while I'm stupid and I keep resisting for God to heal my heart, Satan is having a party.He is making fun of me,  of my pain and I'm sure he is saying, ¨ If I could not see her prostituting on the streets, taking drugs, drinking beer and dead, I´ll see her suffering every time she remembers her past. Where she came from and what her God allowed to happen¨ I can hardly recognize that God allowed everything that happens, because He is faithful and I know He has something wonderful for my life. Satan can no longer harm me because I am a child of God. He is my Savior, my Refuge, my Strength, my Life, my Lord, my all.  The Bible says ¨I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right,  And that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. Psalm 119:75¨   

   Don't  you think it is wonderful that God loves us so much that in His loyalty He  afflicted us so that we can grow? I think so. God is so great that he knows what is best for us. He loved me first, so I must love my mom. He  forgave me first, so I must do the same thing to her. God died for all people, He loved the whole world.He makes the sun rise for fair and bad people. He sent his Son Jesus to pay for the sins of all people.  So why not love those who hurt me? It is very difficult to accept that I have to love and forgive my mom, but  I know is the right thing to do.  I do not promise that I will not think about my past. But I do promise that I will not let Satan use my past to hurt me. No, not anymore. I ask you guys to pray for me and my family. God is good with us, we are great here at the Refuge, but we (all of us) need God to heal our hearts, so that we can be and do what He wants us to be and do.
Love you guys lots, God bless you and your families.


Diana age 9 - the day she joined our family in March 2004

Diana is very creative! This is one of my favorite pictures from several years ago when Diana rigged up a metal washtub hanging from a tree to read a book to Josiah!

Love her kisses!

                                                            God's princess Diana...and ours too!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

God's Faithfulness

This past weekend, Victor and I had the opportunity to attend a retreat sponsored by the association to which our church here in Mexico belongs.  I thank the Lord for the beautiful, encouraging and refreshing fellowship we experienced with believers from Canada, the United States, all over Mexico and even Bolivia!

One of the moments that most stands out in my mind occurred during the opening worship service.  The worship team began singing a Spanish worship song, "Tu Fidelidad" ("Your Faithfulness"), and my mind was flooded with memories! 

 (This is a portion of that song during the retreat this past weekend.  I didn't upload the video because we sound wonderful, but because it is heartfelt worship to the Lord with my siblings in Christ!)

That song was the very first Spanish worship song I ever heard!  I was 17 years old and spending one month serving at Mission Mazahua here in Central Mexico with Norberto and Lisa Cortes.  I was sitting in the dining room of their home, a converted mill at an old ex-hacienda, diligently transferring addresses and contact information of donors from 3X5 cards into Lisa's computer.  One of their children came along and put in a worship tape (no Cd's then!) of Marcos Witt, a pioneer in Latin American worship.  The sounds of "Tu Fidelidad" floated through the air, and I was hooked....on Jesus, on Mexico, on worshipping Him in Spanish, on serving Him...on life!

Over the years I have sung this song numerous times, but it seemed to "hit" me once again during this retreat.  Here I was, singing "Tu Fidelidad" once again in Mexico, 18 years after hearing it for the first time, but now smack dab in the middle of all the Lord had only planted in my mind so many years ago!  During those 18 years I graduated from high school, graduated from college, made numerous short term mission trips to Mexico that confirmed the lifelong call God had placed upon my life, went through thousands of flashcards to memorize Spanish vocabulary (knowing that my future life and ministry would come to depend on my ability to communicate in Spanish), met my husband, got married, started a Spanish-speaking church in Indiana, foster parented six children in two years, had Josiah, left all that behind to follow God's call to Mexico, began Fishers of Men and can now look back on the last 8, nearly 9, years of ministry here in Mexico and see His faithfulness in transforming an overgrown hillside into Refuge Ranch, growing the crusade schedule from 1 to 11 or so each year, raising up staff to support the ministry, providing for each and every one of our needs, loving, forgiving and teaching us in, and despite of, our humanness!

Singing "Tu Fidelidad" this past weekend seemed almost like a bookend experience enclosing my life from the first time I heard that worship song to now, actively living out day by day what used to be only a dream!  God is truly faithful!

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, 
according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus 
throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."  
Ephesians 3:20-21   

Below you can listen to the original version of the song sung by Marcos Witt.  Here is the English translation of the words:
"Tu fidelidad es grande - your faithfulness is great
Tu fidelidad incomparable es - your faithfulness is uncomparable
Nadie como Tu - Nobody like you
Bendito Dios- Blessed God
Grande es tu fidelidad - Great is your faithfulness"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade Calendar

New beginnings!  What a gift from God!  January always feels so fresh, hopeful, forward-looking!  I am even more grateful for the new beginning of each day!  There are days that, as they draw to a close, my thoughts become:  "Tomorrow is a new day!"  Thank Jesus for his mercies and compassion that are new each day! ("Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23)

We also praise the Lord for all that He has done in the past!  Having watched Him work, move and save gives us hope that He will continue to do so, and even in greater ways, for we know that He is capable to do "more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20).

In 2011 the Lord allowed us to visit 24 different communities throughout the country of Mexico, bringing physical hope and healing through the loving touch of the volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses and others, while giving spiritual hope and healing through the loving touch of Jesus Christ.  In these 24 communities, Fishers of Men volunteers, by the grace of God, ministered to a total of 8,235 individuals!  One of the identifying factors of the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades (EMMC's) through Fishers of Men is that we share the gospel individually with each crusade attendee as they wait for their prescription to be filled.  In this way, we assure that every single person who attends a crusade hears the Gospel message, while also attending personally to their spiritual and emotional needs.  We do not attend to them in group medical appointments, (Can you imagine that?  Ten people seeing the doctor at once when each of their situations is unique and needs a unique approach and treatment plan?) and we have felt called to not attend to them in group spiritual appointments either.  Of those 8,235 individuals attended to, 2,456 prayed to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

If you want to "see" more about the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades just click HERE for a short description of the EMMC's and some accompanying pictures.  I would also encourage you to visit our website: to watch either of the two videos along the lower right hand margin of the home page:  "Introduction to Fishers of Men", which lasts less than 3 minutes, and/or "Music Video of the Ministry" which features the original Fishers of Men theme song with accompanying ministry pictures.

We know that the Lord has great things in store for this year as well, and we want to invite YOU to be a part of that!  Following is the 2012 Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade calendar.

1) First, please keep each of these crusades in prayer as we prepare for them, travel to the crusade location and minister to the local people.  Please pray that the Lord would touch hearts for salvation and transform lives both for the here and now and for eternity!

2) Secondly, please prayerfully consider the possibility of financially supporting Fishers of Men in order to help us effectively carry out each of these crusades.  Crusade costs range from $1800.00 to $2800.00 per crusade, depending on the crusade location and length of the crusade.  You can give right now by going to the Fishers of Men website and clicking on the PayPal Donate button.

3) Thirdly, we would love to have you along on a crusade!  If you are a doctor, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, therapist, or work in any other medically related profession, we would love to have you along!  If you are a mother, student, teacher, pastor or any other non-medically related profession, we would love to have you along!  In other words, if the Lord lays the burden on your heart to come to Mexico, love its people, and share His grace with them....we would love to have you!  Please contact us at: to let us know so that we can help you plan an incredible experience witnessing God work firsthand!

Thank you for partnering with us in filling up Heaven just a little bit more!


*      Acapulco, Guerrero
January 23-26
*     Acatlan, Puebla
February 21-25
*     Puerto Vallarta and Colotlan, Jalisco
March 12-20
*     Janitzio, Michoacan
April 23-28
*     El Chilar, Oaxaca
June 18-23
*     Tijuana, Baja California
July 23-28
*     Zapotitlan Tablas and Olinala, Guerrero
August 20-25
*     Guanimoro, Michoacan and
San Felipe, Estado de México
September 3-8
*     Cancun, Quintana Roo
October 15-20
*     Loma Bonita, Oaxaca and Covarrubias, Veracruz
November 26-December 2

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Christmas with 18

I have a proposition for a new reality show….”Christmas with 18!”  I praise the Lord for the Christmas season that He gave us this year!  It certainly beat last year when I was in bed for an entire month over Christmas and New Year’s with Hepatitis A!

This year I had a special desire for the kids to be able to purchase Christmas gifts for one another, but that desire required money!  God was so faithful in providing a special Christmas offering from a supporting church that allowed us to carry out this small adventure!  (Thank you McCord Rd. Christian Church family!) 

So, one evening we had a name draw where each child drew two names of their siblings for whom they were to buy a gift.  The next day, while Victor was on crusade, I set out to the dollar store about 30 minutes from Refuge Ranch with all 18 kids.  We divided up into teams and the kids set out to find the perfect gift for their siblings.  I could not have asked for a more wonderful day with them!  They took care of each other, hid from each other in the aisles so that the other person wouldn’t see the gifts that had been purchased for him or her and had great fun!  I gave them each a $100 peso bill ($10 U.S. dollars) to spend on gifts for their two chosen siblings and it was so rewarding to watch them use their math skills to make sure they didn’t spend more than their allotted amount.  They each went through the checkout line on their own!  By the time I got to the cashier she said:  “They left the mom until last!”  I think we gave those employees something to talk about over dinner that night!  We had a great lunch at KFC (the cheapest fast food for so manyJ) and headed home to wrap, wrap and wrap!  The kids wrapped their own gifts for one another and put them under the tree.  The excitement level was at a max!  It was breathtaking!

 Angie and David wrapping their sibling gift exchange gifts!

 Four year old Daniel with the gift for Lolis that he picked out and wrapped all by himself!
 Lolis working diligently on wrapping a gift for one of her siblings! Wow!

Eight year old Miguel on the way to the Christmas tree with the gifts he purchased for two of his siblings!  This was the first Christmas that he has truly celebrated!

 In our family, due to each of our child’s unique circumstances, days that are normally “happy” present a unique challenge:  Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day (grateful to having me as their mom, yet secretly wishing that it wouldn’t have been necessary for me to be their mom), etc.  So, to watch the kids allow themselves to laugh, give and receive was truly indescribable!  Praise the Lord!

I spent the entire week before Christmas wrapping gifts with each of the children.  They were thrilled to get a sneak peak at their siblings gifts!  On Christmas Eve day we had a great family dinner (the day for the traditional Christmas meal here in Mexico...and I didn’t even burn the ham!), then had some fun devotions with the Legend of the Candy Cane story and ended with our own fireworks! 

 Sparkler designs by the kids on Christmas eve!  Great fun!  (Our dog, Alpha, who normally is not allowed in the house, found his way in during the fireworks!  He hated them:-)

The Christmas tree and stockings ready to go on Christmas Eve!  (Oops, it was actually Christmas morning, I guess, because it was after midnight before everything was ready!)

Christmas morning came with a gorgeous sunrise, clear blue skies and….warmth!  For my first 7 years in Mexico I missed snow, but I have truly come to enjoy 75 degree Christmas days!  It only took us a little over 2 hours to open the Christmas presents….taking turns of course!  What a huge blessing!  Thank you Grandpa and Grandma Claassen, Great-Grandpa and Grandma Blom, Great-Grandma Claassen and Upper Deer Creek Church!  You gave our kids a blessed Christmas!  For six of our children this was their first Christmas!  It was not only their first Christmas with us, but literally the first Christmas they had ever celebrated, despite several of them being 11 years old!  Thank you, thank you and thank you!  

  Our Christmas present from the Lord, a gorgeous sunrise!  Thank you, Jesus, from whom all blessings do flow!

 After eight years of living in Mexico, I am finally starting to get used to the thermometer looking like this on Christmas morning!

Martita opening her new guitar!  Now how are you supposed to disguise this gift!  It was incredible to watch Martita enjoy Christmas!  Praise God!

 Two year old David got a new guitar too!  He LOVES to worship!  Watch out Michael W. Smith, David Zaragoza is on his way!

 The beautiful simplicity of Caleb, his favorite present were the plastic model animals!

 Our Christmas afternoon pinatas!  Great fun!

And now, a special Christmas gift for you!  A video of Joce playing the piano on Christmas morning before we opened presents!  She had asked for weeks if she could serenade us before our present opening ritual/adventure/tradition/chaos :-)  What a joy to be her mother!  

I encourage you to continue to scroll down the page and read Ashleigh Weis' blog from last week.  Although Ashleigh is no longer on staff, she visited our family near Christmastime in order to attend Adrian and Vero's wedding.  As a friend and fellow missionary with whom I shared life for two years, I so appreciate her perspective.  What I find so ironic, and encouraging, is that when she posted her blog I already had this blog written and waiting in the wings to post.  You will discover that we both share about our family's unique emotional situation during traditional celebrations - something that we both desire to see restored in these precious children's lives.  Well, each year, each celebration we get to see a little bit more of that restoration that has taken place.  God is soooo good and what a huge privilege, honor and joy to be a part of that restoration process day in and day out, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year as my precious children's mommy!  Thank you, Jesus!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"Christmas Time at the Zaragoza House" by Ashleigh

Hello it’s me again! :) I asked Julie if I could blog again and share some of the things that I noticed about the Zaragoza family while I was in Mexico for Adrian and Vero’s wedding. She was very obliging and now here I sit typing.
Most of you know that I lived at Refuge Ranch for a little over two years. Most of you have also probably read in past blogs and emails that Christmas time in the Zaragoza house are often not quite as merry as you might find them in your home. Christmas time is family time. For children who have to face the fact that they don’t have biological family who want them this unearths feelings and hurts that get buried during the everyday monotony. They have to face the fact that they didn’t have Christmas before living as a Zaragoza. They missed out on years of “normal family things” and Christmas is one of them.
My first year in Mexico I got the whole family a gift thinking that it would be easier and less expensive since I really had no idea what to get each person. But as we lived day in and day out during the month of December and I watch many of the children not be able to embrace the festivities my heart began to pray for a way to help the kids engage in the joy of Christmas. I didn’t want them to miss more years before they embrace the joy and lived fully in what God was giving them now. A perfect example of this was while we decorated the Christmas tree that first year I was in Mexico there was one who adamantly refused to put a single decoration on the tree. There was no way they were going to participate in decorating the tree at all. My heart hurt for the pain that I know was causing this even if they didn’t understand the connection.
The following year I knew something had to change. I wanted my gift to be filled with meaning. I realized that it would probably not be received well but I had to start somewhere. God gave me the idea of giving each of the children a Christmas ornament of their own to put on the tree. Something to help them “own” a piece of Christmas. I didn’t want to just go out and buy some snowman ornament. That would be to easy and cheap on a significance level. I wanted this gift to be heavy with significance and love. While out shopping I found this little stand that was selling clay Christmas ornaments that were simple and really pretty. I bought enough for all of the kids and hand painted each one with their favorite colors giving them unique patterns. I also applied glitter for the younger kids to make them sparkle. I did some research and purchased a CD online with the families favorite Spanish christian artists singing Christmas songs. I was really excited! This was turning out good! 
One of the Sundays before Christmas I put the music in after we got home from church as we were preparing/eating dinner. By the end of dinner all of the older kids disbanded to their rooms making comments about how the music was depressing and they didn’t want to hear it. Now, I will admit, for someone who usually listens to Christmas music in July while I am canning that was hard to take! Christmas music is exhilarating to me!
When I gave them their gifts there were several disappointed faces in the group. That was the last things they really wanted to get. Many of those ornaments never actually made it to the tree. They were taken to their rooms and eventually lost, hidden in the back of some nook or cranny or broken. Some of the younger kids played with theirs until they fell and broke as well. To tell you the absolute truth that doesn’t bother me one bit. I had made a little dent in something and I wasn’t giving up!
Last year I was living back here in the states. I went shopping and found ornaments for each of the children. I wrapped them all and wrote out a note for each of them. I boxed them up and sent them praying that the box would make it all the way to the Zaragoza family. God answered that prayer and I was very thankful.
This year I got to take the ornaments down! I picked them out, I wrapped them up and I had the kids open them one by one so that I could get pictures of them (which you will get to see in a minute). There wasn’t one face that didn’t smile. Not one! That surprised me! What a journey these young hearts have been on and what changes God has worked. It may seem like a small thing but when it is a natural response you know it is where their hearts truly are right now. They are learning to smile more, embrace family things, enjoy Christmas and in the process are being transformed into the likeness of our Savior. On top of all of that I heard several of the older girls humming Christmas songs as they were on the computer or working around the house. The very same one who thought it was depressing three years ago was humming “Silent Night”. It was springing up from within because they were choosing to allow God to replace pain with His joy. 
Now for the promised pictures.

















Angie (not wanting me to take her picture)