Saturday, November 16, 2013

Does God Have a Belly Button?

Recently we decided to have a family worship on a Sunday morning. (We had been doing a Bible study with another couple then, but it got moved to Tuesday morning.) After worship, we were going to visit our friends, Rod and Ceci, so I was busily baking a coffee cake to share before we got started with worship.

I was interrupted when the doorbell ran. Rod wanted to know if they could come by and visit us. There was no electricity in town…and quite honestly we have one of the most comfortable houses in town because we've been able to make some modifications, like insulation in the "attic."

Half an hour later, Rod and Ceci were comfortably sitting in our dark living room. As I served hot coffee and coffee cake, the doorbell rang again. And a little later it rang again. Our “family” worship turned into worship with four of our friends.

Clay told the story of the first sin from Genesis and then we talked about what it means. What do you like about the story? What do you not like? What can we learn about God? From there, we tried to answer their questions about who is God, and why He created us.
“Did Adam and Eve have a belly button?”
          “Does God have a belly button?”

“If Eve sinned by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, does that mean that knowledge is sinful?”

So many verses…

“Be perfect as I am perfect,” but yet I’m a sinner, saved by grace!

 So many Bible stories…

          The Flood, God chooses Abraham, Jesus’ command to love the Lord and your neighbor...

                   “Do you sing to the Virgin Mary?”
                             “No. She’s dead.”
“If God spoke directly to Adam and Eve, can he still talk to us today?”

“Should we worship individually or corporately?”
“Does the Bible tell us how many minutes we should pray every day?”

I think the best part was listening to them confer in ZK, discussing what they believe. And then, asking us what we believe and what the Bible says.

I can only pray that God brings more of those “interruptions” into our lives.

November Thankfulness

As always, the month of November is a great time to reflect thankfulness. And we have so much for which to thank the Lord!

We started a list of answered prayers from this past year and we want to share a few highlights…

  • We started praying almost a year ago for the house that we would rent in Pine Hill. We prayed for 2 bathrooms, space for a schoolroom, a fenced in “private” yard where the kids could safely play, a tree for a tree house, and a house that would provide a place for the kids to play during the rainy season.
  • We prayed that our neighbors would accept us into the community.
  • We prayed for friendship among the ZK people.
  • We prayed for open doors to be able to share the Gospel.
  • We prayed for language helpers who could help us learn ZK
It’s truly awesome to think about how God answered these prayer requests. Our home is a place of refuge and a warm place to welcome people in out of the rain and cold.  Few homes have more than one bathroom in Pine Hill, and although it may seem trivial, God found us the perfect home with two bathrooms! And we have plenty of room for the kids to play, inside and outside. There’s even a tree house out back!

Our neighbors have been amazing. They take care of Rex when we are gone for a night or two.  They bring us handmade tortillas and tamales. They smile at our attempts to greet them in the ZK language…

You know you have a friend when they come to check on you when you’re sick.  Our language helpers, Rod and Ceci, have become friends. They have invited us into their home and they are concerned for us. They want to see us be successful in the ZK language too.

This Thanksgiving season, we are far from our friends and family in the US, but we are surrounded by God’s love.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pretty Light

"Suni nø syøngu! Suni nø syøngu,” the women exclaimed as Clay went back to check on the “light” that he had installed at our neighbors’ house.

Electricity is relatively new in our village…it’s only been about 18 years. Many homes have one light bulb crudely hung in each room. And there are few windows. You can imagine how dark the homes are and how difficult it is for the women to prepare food or for the young people to do their homework.

Clay came across an idea on the internet that is a simple and cost-effective solution to alleviate the darkness. It requires using a recyclable 2-liter soda bottle.

First, Clay scrubbed it.


Then he filled it with water and a few drops of bleach, then sealed it tightly.
Next, he cut a hole in the neighbors’ roof that was just big enough for the soda bottle. After placing the bottle in the hole, Clay sealed the edges to keep the water out.

During the day, the sunlight filters through the water and is dispersed throughout the whole room. When our neighbors’ daughter came home from school that day, she wondered how her dad had installed another light bulb.

Clay went back to the neighbors’ house today to see how the “light” was doing. The room was brightly lit and the ladies were very grateful for their “pretty light.”  Our neighbor Felix enthusiastically proclaimed, “Buen hecho, güero!” (Well done, white guy!)


Please pray that we can share boldly about the Light that shines in the darkness!








“Land of the Snail”

Recently we took a trip to El Caracol, or the Snail. We’re not sure why it’s named that, but the kids had fun trying to guess—because  you can find snails in the river or because the road is windy like a snail shell?  (It took 3 hours to get there, but it’s only about 16 miles away as the crow flies.)

The kids had a blast! They of course made new friends…some human…others of the bird variety!



They chased ducks and chickens. They climbed trees. They ate oranges and mandarins. They picked a coconut, cracked open cocoa. Ellie inspected the beautiful flowers.

You've heard that chocolate is a fruit because
it grows on a tree, right?
Well, this is what it looks like!

The cacao beans, before they've
been cleaned. The white covering
is edible so sometimes the best
method to clean the bean is to suck
on them...thought you might want to know!

Clay worked hard to cut a coconut out of the tree!

The pastor's son chopped off all of the outside shell of the coconut.

My little flower lover!
Her middle name is "Flor,"
which means "flower."


They played ball…sometimes with a real soccer ball….sometimes with a homemade variety that was covered in a plastic bag.


They made tortillas…


While the kids played, Mom and Dad visited the church.

The Bible talks of the church being like a body. When one member hurts, we all hurt. This church in El Caracol is hurting…and I hurt for them. 

The pastor’s daughter has been rebellious.  She has drifted away from God and from the church body. That in itself is a difficult situation in a small village. The people of the village are watching the Christians to see how they handle life’s situations. And the Christians feel the pressure, the judgment. 

Add to this already difficult situation that the daughter is now 5 months pregnant and has been kicked out of her home and was originally advised that she should have an abortion so that no one would know. (The story of David and Bathsheba comes to mind…committing a sin to cover up a previous sin.)

We spent two days teaching about what the Bible says of grace and forgiveness.  We listened. We prayed.  We encouraged reconciliation between the father and daughter. And also between the father and his wife.

When we left El Caracol, we left with heavy hearts. Now, all we can do is pray.
Please pray with us for the church in El Caracol, that they will know God’s love and the grace that He readily extends to those who love Him. Also pray that as Christians, we would be quick to offer grace and forgiveness, and that we will resist the temptation to judge others.




Cooking Class

            In our village, most of people love eating pizza and pies and breads…all things that require an oven to make. People have asked often if I can teach them how to make pizza or cake. The problem is that most homes don’t have an oven. They have stove tops or open fireplaces.

            Recently, my friend Cecilia asked if she could come by when I was making pizza so she could learn. (She knows that we eat pizza most Fridays!)  When she showed up, she was accompanied by her brother and her niece. They all wanted to learn how to make pizza! Luckily, I had been experimenting…

            Once upon a time, in a land far away...also known as Idaho, friends taught us how to make pizza on the grill. So I decided to teach my friends how to make personal pizzas on the comal, or flat grill that’s placed over the fire or on the gas stove. It was the same idea as cooking on the grill. My new cooking class was amazed at how quick and easy it was to make pizza! And they could even do it on their stoves or over the fire in their home.

            After tasting the pizza, they got to talking amongst themselves. What kind of cake do you know how to make? What about pie? As I listed off the things that I could teach them, we decided on apple pie.

Step 1
Slicing the Apples
            The next day, my three students showed up, ready to see what it takes to make an apple pie. We peeled and cut the apples. We measured and mixed the flour and other ingredients. I showed them how to roll out the pie crust and then let each of them have a turn too. Theo was a good sport! He jumped right in too!


    There are moments when I’m amazed that I’m the one teaching cooking. I mean, my sister is the one who studied culinary arts. And my old college roommates can attest, I wasn’t really into cooking back in the day. Or my Iowa neighbor Linda is quick to remind me not to forget the eggs! (Do you know what rhubarb muffins look like if you forget the egg? Yeah, I do.) But, here I am…the expert in pizza and apple pie. (Is there anything more American?)

    So, we sat and waited for the pie to bake…and then to cool. It was a fun hour and a half of building relationships. We talked about what else I could teach them to bake…and then what they could teach me to cook. Often the three of them would discuss plans, ideas, and events in the ZK language…and Clay and I would listen.

Some things we could understand. Other things we couldn’t. It felt like we were just eavesdropping. But the great thing was that they know we are trying to learn their language and they want us to understand. They were okay with letting us listen in on their conversation. I think that may be the beginning of a great friendship!
The pies turned out perfect!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Granny's Visit


       It's always a treat when we have family or friends visit from the States! This year, instead of showing my mom around the city of San Cristobal de las Casas, we got to introduce her to our home in the rainforest, complete with "organic" umbrellas! Yes, the leaf is really that big! And the locals do use them to shed rain or to shade them from the sun.

Granny with our neighbor girl

After a week in the village, we took a vacation to the Mayan ruins of Palenque and Toniná.

Ryan and Ellie, conspiring.

Toniná from a distance

The beautiful clouds at Toniná

Waterfalls anyone?

                                      Misol-Ha...scene from The Predator


   Agua Azul...

You'll have to ask Granny who this guy is!

Agua water? But not in rainy season.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


God is often reminding me of perspective. I know. I’m a slow learner. He has to keep showing me.

Recently, my family took a weekend vacation to see the Mayan pyramids in Palenque and Tonina. We complained on our trip of the inconveniences of the teachers who are striking in Mexico. They have closed roads and highways which has caused gas trucks not to be able to deliver fuel. And of course, the general annoyances of not being able to travel where we want and when we want…ugh! They have even taken over the toll booths on the toll road and we had to pay them instead of the federal government. (It was a lesser amount, which makes many people happy to support the teachers.)

On our way home, we were stopped in a small community by a group claiming to support the teachers. In all reality, they were Zapatistas who were taking advantage of the situation. They were charging 100 pesos to get through and if you didn’t pay they were threatening to spray paint your car. And to keep you from trying to drive past them they employed spike strips.

I will be honest. I was very angry that they were taking advantage of us and everyone else who was trying to travel on that road. I’m not happy about how the teachers are protesting either. (I understand that it’s the only way to have a voice in this country that’s full of corruption. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Or agree.) I have been inconvenienced. And I have had to pay. But in all reality, even the 100 pesos is less than $10.

The anger. The injustice. The frustration. I’m American! They can’t do this to me.

And then I read the news reports about the mall shootings in Nairobi.

It’s wrong! It’s evil! They can’t do that to innocent people!

When I read of some of our colleagues who were in the mall, trapped for hours, fearing for their lives…it made me reconsider the “dangers” and “frustrations” that I have been experiencing.

An American family (our colleagues), were separated. Mom and 4 kids were able to escape after 4 hours of hiding in a storage closet. But Dad and teenage son were still trapped. They were eventually reunited and everyone is safe.

It makes my frustrations pale in comparison. And then I’m reminded of the injustices. All around our world. Evil reigns. The solution…only Christ. And that makes our call to go unto all the nations that much more urgent.
What is God calling you to do today?
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”'
Isaiah 6:8


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Life’s Interruptions

     Clay and I have always considered ourselves to be fairly spontaneous. When someone invites us to dinner at the last moment, I’m okay with it. The dinner I prepared can wait until the next day. Or when only three kids would show up for Bible study instead of ten, we’d go for donuts. We make the best of it.

Here in Mexico, we’ve had a different take on spontaneity. When the electricity goes out and dinner is in the crockpot…well, the oven is gas! We can still cook. When we plan to have a barbecue and it rains, we move the grill under the front porch. Or when the water pressure is low, we take bucket baths instead of showers. When we plan to study, and someone drops in, we put the study materials aside…or better yet, discuss it with our visitors. For example, if we’re studying the language, we practice pronunciation with our visitors. Or if we’re studying a Bible story, we share it.

But lately we’ve been pushed to be even more spontaneous. Last week, we took the two littlest boys to their daycare and we were told they couldn’t receive the students that day, but there would be a meeting for the parents at noon. At the meeting we were informed that school would be closed until further notice because they are changing locations and have to get the new building ready and then inspected. It’ll probably 2 weeks. Or more.

Thursday when we picked up the big kids from school, we were told they wouldn’t have class the next day because the teachers were having a union meeting. (As a teacher, why would you cancel class for this?!? Your job is to teach! Have your meeting in the afternoon!) But, we rolled with it. Today (Monday), Clay took the kids to school, only to bring them home again. School is closed until further notice because the teachers are on strike.

Bring on the spontaneity! Now…back to work, amidst the noise of four rambunctious kids!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

School Registration

This week is the beginning of school in our community. So on Monday, we went to one of the local schools (there are various) in order to register Ryan and Ellie. Ryan was super excited! Ellie was a bit more reticent.

 Registration was interesting. Each teacher sat at their desk and wrote the names and ages of the students that arrived, and then they recorded the parents’ names and address. There really is no order, just a mob of people trying to push to the front.  When it was our turn, Ellie’s teacher asked what our address was, but I didn’t know how to respond. We live one street away from the main street, but there are no street signs and no house numbers. Most people in town just know where the gringos live.

Getting ready for our second day of school!
(Yeah, no pics from day one...)

The crowd of children and mothers began to chatter in ZK and I heard, “next door to Don Felix!” I laughed and told the teacher that we live next door to Don Felix. And she responded, “Oh, in front of Don Miguel!”  Exactly. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Counting the Cost

Tonight I found myself crying at the drop of a hat. What’s wrong? I really didn’t know. I guess I still don’t really know. But I can guess that Satan was trying to get me down. You know, if Satan can distract me, he can cause all kinds of mischief in our ministry.

So, what did I do? I cried! And I cried! And I cried some more!

And as I cried, I talked to Jesus.

Yesterday I was randomly hit by intense grief. This December marks 10 years since my Pop went to heaven. I think of my Dad often, but only on rare occasions do I find myself crying uncontrollably. Yesterday was one of those days. I am saddened that my children never had a chance to meet my Dad. They never had a chance to love him, or to be loved by him. I miss his smile and his laughter. I miss the twinkle in his eye that told you he was up to something.

Today I was hit by the isolation factor that comes from living in a remote town at the edge of nowhere. It’s hard to describe where we live. It truly is the end of the road. And it’s the middle of the jungle. There is no cell phone coverage. There are only a handful of telephone lines, and they are used like telephone booths by those that own them. And the only internet has sketchy reception, not to mention that it’s not convenient to head to the internet café.

As I bemoaned all that I do not have, God encouraged me to make a complete list of all that we’re missing out on…ballet classes for Ellie, tae kwon do for the boys, VBS, AWANA, Sunday School, sleepovers at Grammy and Grandpa’s house, Christmas dinner with family, Sunday dinner at Grammy and Grandpa’s…the list goes on.

And then He reminded me how unsatisfied I was in Idaho. We had so much. We gave up so much. But we have gained so much more by answering His call to obedience. Don’t get me wrong. Life in Idaho was good. I was happy. I was surrounded by family and friends. But it wasn’t where God had called me.

I was called to the ZK people. God has prepared me for life in “Pine Hill.” My kids may not get to do ballet or tae kwon do, but they have travelled to 5 different countries outside of the U.S. and they’ve seen more of the U.S. than most Americans have! They will soon be tri-lingual. And they won’t grow up learning Bible verses in AWANA, but they will grow up seeing how the Bible transforms lives. And they will be a part of the work that God is doing in “Pine Hill.”

God is moving all around us every day.  There are many people who are interested in hearing God’s Word.  Pray that God will work deeds of salvation in the midst of “Pine Hill.”

“Yet God is my king from of old,
Who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth. “

Psalm 74:12

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Marbella means “beautiful sea,” and that’s such a perfect name for the little girl that we met recently. We first saw her about two weeks ago when we were visiting a small community called Cerro Blanco (White Hill).

Rosa and Marbella

Our friend Rosa (a nursing student from the States) was with us and her first thought was that little Marbella had chicken pox. On that first visit two weeks ago, we didn’t have a chance to talk to her but two days ago we visited again. Poor Marbella was still covered in sores on her face, arms, and legs. After talking to her and her sister, we learned that Marbella had been covered in these sores for over a year! They had taken her to the clinic where she was given a cream, but she was not recovering.

Rosa's Village Clinic

Rosa did some research and talked to the doctor at our clinic. The girl was diagnosed with impetigo. Basically, she had been bitten by mosquitoes and then she scratched. The scratching broke the skin and bacterium was introduced into the open wound. A basic skin infection went untreated, and poor Marbella suffered unnecessarily for over a year!

Rosa with Marbella & her Dad

I thank God for that skin infection though. Sounds strange, but because of it, Rosa was attracted to this little girl. She listened to Marbella’s heart and lungs and heard an abnormality in the girl’s heart. Today, we took Marbella and her dad to their local clinic. The doctor has written up a referral for Marbella to be taken to Tuxtla for further tests and hopefully she’ll receive the treatment that she needs for her heart.
Pray that God will continue to open the doors! Pray for Marbella and her family.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Recently we were without water for four days…or more accurately, we were without water pressure to fill our big tank that sits up on the roof. Fortunately, we still have a tank just outside of the bathroom so we weren’t completely out of water. But it was a good reminder of the things that we take for granted.

I have a beautiful kitchen where Clay plumbed in the water. As long as there is water in the top tank, I have water to wash dishes…or to wash my hands while cooking. (I never realized just how often I wash my hands while cooking until I had to go to a different room to wash.) I also use that water to fill our water filter for clean drinking water.

 The top tank is also where the water comes from to fill our washing machine. With six in our family (plus one adopted Rosa), we produce a lot of laundry. On the fourth day, (and not knowing how much longer we’d be without water pressure) I decided it was time to wash clothes by hand, using the water in the bottom tank. Luckily, I had lots of help!
Ellie, washing clothes
Mathew and Levi, "helping" hang the clothes!

 And then there is the blessing of hot showers…the top tank allows us that treat. Without it, we have a cold shower or a bucket bath. Depending on the time of day, a cold shower or cold bucket bath is actually kind of nice. Our temperatures are in the 80s inside and outside of our house.  And interestingly, our kids usually prefer a bucket bath to a shower. (Bathtubs are VERY rare in Mexico, and the kids miss taking baths.)
It’s interesting to me that during rainy season we didn’t have enough water pressure to fill our tank. But it has caused us to reconsider how we use our water. Obviously we have been cautious by American standards, where clean water is plentiful. Here we live in a rain forest and still don’t always have water, let alone clean water that we can drink. (That’s a whole other rant on water pollution, but I’ll not go there!) There are days when we can’t even fill our lower tank because there simply is no water.

Today I am thankful that I can breathe a sigh of relief. I can wash clothes in my washing machine. I can fill my water filter from the sink. I can wash dishes in the sink without hauling water from the back room. I can take a hot shower. In essence, I am more comfortable today.

But I am reminded that the people around us don’t even have these same “luxuries” of a hot shower, or a kitchen sink. And they probably wouldn’t even know what to do with a washing machine! (And they also probably wouldn’t trust a machine to get their clothes clean anyway.)


A few months ago, we were contacted by Rosa, a friend from our home church in Idaho. She’s a nursing student and was wondering if she could come to Pine Hill and see how she could use her nursing skills within our ministry context. There are many awesome things about Rosa
She likes to run.

She knows how to make amazing refried beans…

            And tortillas…

                        And Mexican rice!
Rosa, teaching me to cook!

My kids adore her! (Matthew can’t say her name, so she’d been nicknamed “Ocha.”)

Rosa, studying with my kids!

She has so much nursing knowledge.

Rosa, playing in the tree house!

She’s bilingual! (Her parents are from Oaxaca, Mexico.)

I'm not sure, but I think Levi kissed Rosa!
She plays board games!

Rosa, playing monopoly with Ryan!
She LOVES a good exploring caves!

Rosa in the cave!

Ants...yep, Rosa even ate one!

From her first day here, she was helping people with her medical knowledge. She’s been able to teach about “basic” prevention techniques. (Sometimes what we consider “basic” has never been taught here.) She is volunteering at our local clinic where she has administered vaccines and given talks to the moms about nutrition and healthcare. And all along, she is sharing the Gospel!

 We are blessed to have Rosa’s help and encouragement.

Please pray for the rest of her time in Mexico
  • That she’ll stay healthy
  • That she’ll shine the light of Jesus everywhere she goes
  • And that God will work in Rosa’s life too

Our Own Little Jungle

I often forget that I live in the rain forest. Life has become mostly “normal” for us, for which I am thankful. We know that we should carry an umbrella in the afternoon. And we know that the lights can go out at any moment…or that the water might not come back on for a few days.

 Recently I was looking at a science book with the kids and decided that we should make a terrarium with the jungle life in our backyard. So, with Daddy’s help, we grabbed a shovel and some plastic jars and headed to the backyard!

Matthew, getting the dirt ready!
Ellie, holding a lime plant.
Adding dirt...
Ryan, digging up a small plant.
Levi, adding a tiny amount of water.
Isn’t it amazing to be able to go in your backyard and find tiny lime trees? I learned something that day too…lime trees send out a lateral root which will sprout a whole new tree!
Now, to observe the growth of our little plants!