Monday, December 29, 2014

What Did You Do Today?


 

“What did you do today?”

“I got water.”

How can I explain that we spent a whole day just getting water? What does that even mean?

Our water system doesn’t work like it does in the States. We have “city” water that comes to our house from the street, but that water sometimes gets turned off. It’s usually not more than a day, unless there’s an issue, like a broken or clogged pipe. When water comes in, it flows into a concrete tank in our back room. If we have good water pressure, it also flows up to our upper tank, located on the roof. If that upper tank gets low, sometimes we have to turn on a pump to fill the upper tank from the lower one.

The upper tank supplies water to the house…the sinks, shower, and toilets. It also provides hot water to the washing machine if I need to wash in hot. Usually I fill my washing machine by bucket from the lower tank. (This helps conserve the water in the upper tank.)

Three days ago we realized we didn’t have water coming in from the street. No big deal. I washed one load of laundry that day, and waited for the water to come back on. I assumed that the water would be back on sometime in the night and our lower tank would fill. The next day, we still didn’t have water coming in. We started conserving water…no laundry, the kids don’t need a shower, and disposable plates. Then we ran out of water in our top tank! (Washing dishes and hands, and flushing toilets pays a toll!) So, we pumped the water up from the lower tank.

With seven people in our home, it really doesn’t take long to use water! (Yes, I know there are only 6 of us, but our neighbor Norma spends most of the daylight hours with us.)

By yesterday morning, we were out of water. We had just enough in the bottom of the lower tank for bucket-flushing the toilets. Clay went to find the guy that controls when the water comes on and goes off. We were told he would turn it on by 9am…great! But we really didn’t expect it until noon. So when the noon hour came and went and we were still without water, it was time to do something!

We knew there was an old spring in our back yard, so Clay and the kids went to dig it out.

Norma mentioned that the “old” pipe still had water. (“Old” pipe? I never knew!) So, I went to locate the old pipe, and sure enough, we had water coming in…to the driveway, not the house. I grabbed a bucket to start filling while Clay finished the hole for the well.

Essentially, Clay and I had a bucket brigade. We started filling the washing machine because laundry was about to become urgent. (We’re going to the city on Sunday, to visit a church for the first time. I want to smell and look clean!) Then I started heating a pot of water for bucket baths. And then we filled the lower tank. We washed three loads of laundry and filled the lower tank. We pumped that water to the upper tank…and the water stopped coming in the old pipe. 

During all of this, I mentioned to Clay, “I’d rather be without electricity than without water.”

This morning the power went out at 6am.

But the water is on in the new pipe…and our lower tank is full again.

In all of this, one of our children blamed Satan. And it could very well have been Satan, throwing garbage at us to see how we would react. Yes, it’s frustrating to know that you have no water because the man in charge of the key hasn’t turned it on for three days. But, this is what our neighbors live with on a regular basis. (They don’t go to the man and ask him to turn it on. They just wait.)

Frustrating…but it’s temporary. And so is life on this earth…

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Gift



Like many little American girls, my Ellie had acquired a large collection of Barbie dolls, clothes, furniture and other accessories. To be honest, it’s the kind of stuff I dreamed of having when I was little. As the parents, I don’t think we purchased one piece of her collection…before leaving the US we had been against the idea of Barbie. (Poor self-image, etc.)

Just before leaving the US, a dear friend gave Ellie her first Barbie doll…and that was just the beginning! In Mexico, another dear friend gave Ellie…well, just about everything a girl could want for her Barbie. There were at least 8 Barbie dolls…with a variety of hair and eye colors. There were 3 Ken dolls, in case the brothers wanted to play too. There were more clothes than a girl could ever wear!

For the last 18 months or so this collection has been a blessing to us in ways we couldn’t have imagined. It provided a starting point for Ellie to invite other little girls from our village to play. She has often given away a doll and a change of clothes to someone who visited our home. I’ve been amazed to watch generosity sprout from my little girl as she gives away her favorite doll.

As Ellie is about to turn 7, she has decided that she’s outgrown her Barbies. (Well, all but the three who now reside under bed in her treasure box.) So, we boxed everything up and took them to a family with 5 daughters and 2 nieces.

I was feeling happy about the “generosity” we were displaying…as well as the fact that we were getting rid of a LOT of toys. (After all, Christmas is almost here and we’ll be giving our kids new toys, right?) As we sat and visited with the families who were receiving the dolls, the kids started pulling out toys and joyfully playing.

But then, two little ones were fighting over Ken! One had a hold of his leg and the other the head! They were yanking and crying. The parents were smiling and nodding. Inside, I was cringing! Aren’t they going to say anything to these kids to stop fighting before they break the toys?!?

And then Ken’s head rolled across the floor.

No matter. Army Man was pulled out next. And the scene was replayed. And again, the parents said nothing. Just smiled.

Inside, I wanted to scream. We just gave these kids toys and they are all about to be pulled apart. Destroyed. Wasted.

I said a silent prayer, giving it all over to God. It was a gift after all and I can’t take it back. And I can’t tell them how to play. I can’t discipline these children.

A few days later, the memory of Ken’s head rolling across the floor came fluttering back to my mind. Only this time, God reminded me of His Gift. His Son. Given for mankind. He was beaten, scourged, spit upon and finally crucified. God didn’t take His Gift back just because the people didn’t receive it appropriately.

As I pondered this illustration, God also reminded me that His Word will not return void. Recently I’ve been discouraged over the work here. We have shared His Story with so many and they enjoy it for a time, but we have yet to see it take root in their hearts. God showed me that I must not grow negligent, but I have to keep sharing the Gift, even if it doesn’t appear that the Gift is being received appropriately.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways

And My thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

And do not return there without watering the earth

And making it bear and sprout,

And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;

It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire,

And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:8-11

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sunday Travel

 
 What does Sunday morning look like? When we lived in Idaho, Sunday morning meant getting up and getting myself and four little ones “ready” for church…nice clothes, Ellie’s hair done nice, nice shoes…details. But living in Pine Hill, getting “ready” has changed a little. Often the kids (and I) wear mud boots. And we don’t wear “nice” clothes.
Our drive to church is only 8 miles…but it takes at least an hour to get there! Sometimes, as we drive along, I think about how I would love to show off where we live. It’s really hard to explain, but they say a picture is worth a thousand words, right?
So this week, I took some pictures to give an idea of what we see and experience.
We are blessed with beautiful clouds when it's not raining!
It had rained earlier in the week.
We passed lots of mud puddles.


Once we get to Saint Paul, then we have a short walk to the church building.












This waterhole ... what can I say?
We have to pass on the edge of it!




We don't always make it through the mud without falling.
In fact, we often arrive at church with mud.

Teresa, Pedro, and Clay

At the end of the day...scrubbing the mud!

How Being a Missionary Has Changed My Life…Part Two


 
Earlier this year I was contemplating how my life has changed since we moved to Mexico, and sometimes the changes make me laugh…and sometimes they make me want to cry.
 
  1. Not only am I a hoarder, but I’m a Recycler. Now, I don’t mean that I save my tin cans and plastic to put in the special recycling bin for the garbage man to pick up. I mean that I reuse zip lock bags, empty toilet paper rolls, the elastic out of a pair of worn out shorts, etc. I turned my favorite pair of pants into a skirt. Prior to living in a rural village in Mexico, I would have thrown out the holey pants and headed to the clearance rack at Ross or Eddie Bauer.
  2. I wear plastic shoes. I owned a pair of Crocs once in the States. I justified it because I was pregnant and my feet were swollen. Now I have “dressy Crocs,” which my husband says is an oxymoron. (But, Crocs have expanded their business since I was last pregnant.) Now I have cute high heel Crocs and another pair of “Mary Jane” Crocs. To complete my village footwear, I have rain boots and multiple pairs of flip flops…all can easily be hosed off and left to dry after a good rainstorm.
  3. Pediatric Check-ups? In the U.S., our children were taken for “well-child” visits as often as prescribed by our pediatrician. Now our pediatrician is 4 hours away…and is only seen when absolutely necessary. We know what scabies look like. We know how to detect and treat ear infections. We know the common symptoms for salmonella, giardia, and amoebic infections. And we know the power of prayer.
  4. Talking to Mom. In the U.S. I talked to my mom at least once a week, if not more often. Now we’re happy to talk twice a month! We hope that we can have cell coverage in our village someday…or satellite internet.
 
 

Homesick

I really hate to say that I’m “homesick” because that’s not exactly true. My home is in Chiapas, Mexico, surrounded by the noise and energy of my four kids and husband. Home is where the heart is, and I love Chiapas and the ZK people.



October marks when this “homesick” feeling starts to sink into my heart. I miss the colors, smells, and tastes of autumn in the United States…the leaves changing colors, the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin spice, drinking apple cider.

By November, Clay knows not to be too concerned if he catches me wiping tears from eyes. (Don’t get me wrong. He gives me an understanding hug, and waits to see if I want to talk.)  I get emotional, thinking about family and the holidays. My Dad’s birthday was in November, and I always get a little sad. And Thanksgiving was the last time I saw my Dad laughing and living.

Then there’s December…one of the happiest months of the year as we approach the celebration of Christ’s birth. But it’s a bittersweet time because it marks when Dad passed from this world into heaven. Eleven years have passed, and I keep wondering when it will get easier.

On top of those hidden heartaches, are the thoughts of all the family get-togethers that we’ve missed over the last three years…the birthdays, the Sunday dinners, the funerals, and the everyday stuff. I miss my family.  I’m sad that I haven’t been able to “be there” when loved ones have been going through their own heartaches. I’m sad that my kids are growing up without memories of playing with their cousins or sleep-overs at Grammy’s house.

I know it’s all worth it. I know that our sacrifice on earth is small in comparison to the sacrifices others have made. I know that the ZK people need to know Jesus. And His sacrifice was the greatest, to ransom many.

Pray for our family during the holidays. Yes, we’re making our own new holiday traditions, and it’ll be special for our children too. Pray that we can focus on the joy of the season.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

This Week in Baseball


I remember as a kid watching “This Week in Baseball.” They showed the greatest plays, the incredible catches, and the most embarrassing bloopers.

Sometimes I wish I could view “This Week in Ministry.” I’d love to see the greatest testimony, the incredible life-changing moments, but maybe not the most embarrassing bloopers. I admit, I’ve had a few where I felt like I’d messed up. I missed a chance. I said the wrong thing. (But I think I’d like to see the bloopers of my friend Laura…and I think she’d probably love sharing! She’s the one who offered the “massage” of Jesus once instead of the “message.”)

But to share about that one person whom you’ve prayed for and cried out to God about…and to see their life change. To see them leave behind the idolatry, the abuse, the vices. To see them choose life.

So far, I don’t have many victory stories to share about our work in Pine Hill. Sure, we have our small victories. But we’re still waiting for those big moments. We’ve had the drunk guy that finally showed up sober and he committed to serving the One True God. But a week later he was gone. He had left to find work in the city. When he did finally come back, he was right back in his old vices, with little hope of conquering the demon that kept pulling him back down.

And then there was the Sunday morning that two people prayed, proclaiming Jesus as Lord of their lives. When Clay went to look for them the following week, they were nowhere to be found.

Sometimes we talk about the “Big Screen” when we get to Heaven…you know, watching the Creation or maybe when Elijah was taken up in the chariot. I’m sure it’s just a dream, but wouldn’t it be great? And then to watch those moments when you shared the Gospel with a friend, or a stranger. And then to watch what happened next…how the verses you shared penetrated their heart and they knelt down and cried out the Lord when no one was watching.

It reminds me of the testimony of a friend. He arrived at a church in Texas one night. He was high, but the Word of God penetrated his heart so profoundly that he accepted Christ right then. The pastors at the church never heard or saw him again and never knew the sincerity of his prayer that night. But his life was never the same. He never once turned back to his vices. Instead, he ended up in Mexico as a missionary. Years later one of the pastors from that church in Texas also ended up in Mexico as a missionary. Imagine the surprise when those two met at a Christmas party…

I’m sure that’s what heaven will be like. We’ll meet up with people that we once knew, never having known the impact they had in our lives. And won’t it be beautiful!


And so we carry on, planting seeds and trusting the Lord.

Pray…Give…Go!



Yep, it’s that time of year again when we start talking about Lottie Moon and the Christmas offering associated with her name. Charlotte Moon, known to all as “Lottie” was a missionary to China around the turn of the 20th Century. She gave her all to the people she served, including her life. She also gave her all to unite women “back home” in the cause of missions. Today, we remember her sacrifice as we give so that the Gospel can be shared around the world.

In December, SBC churches collect the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO). I want to ask you to consider giving more this year than you have in the past. Lottie literally gave everything, including her life. She served in China and she saw the poverty that surrounded her. She gave her food to the Chinese people she loved, to the point that she starved herself.  It was Christ, incarnate. Christ loved the people she served. And so did Lottie.
What are you willing to give? Often as North Americans, we indulge ourselves by buying that special chocolate bar or that gourmet coffee. Are you willing to “sacrifice” that special treat? Are you willing to step it up a notch and give until it hurts? Consider a “rice and beans” night once a month, or once a week to understand the hunger that others live. (Give the money you would have spent on dinner to missions! http://www.imb.org/giving/)

Are you willing to make some drastic changes to your lifestyle? Would you consider focusing on an unreached people group (UPG) for a month? Or longer? For more information on UPG and UUPG (unengaged, unreached people groups) see http://www.peoplegroups.org/ 


If you’re up to the challenge, here are a few things you could do:
·         Research the People Group. Where do they live? What language/s do they speak? What is their typical diet? What has impeded them from knowing the Gospel? Are there currently believers that work among them?
·         Have a Culture Night in your home. Set your table with typical decorations from the country. Serve a meal that would be typical. Learn how to say a greeting in their language.
·         Present your “cause.” Find a local AWANA group or Sunday School class who might be interested in knowing more. Present the information that you have gathered. Challenge them to get involved too!
·         Pray! Pray daily for the People Group. Pray that God will open doors for a missionary to contact the people. Pray that a man or woman of peace will welcome the missionary into the community. Pray that the Gospel will be made known in the community and that the people will accept the Truth. Consider fasting once a week.


Beyond praying and giving, what else is God calling you to do? Is He trying to convince you to “go” and tell others? Who do you know that doesn’t know Jesus as Lord? What are you doing about it?





A brief explanation...

A brief explanation...


We often write, asking you to pray for "Pine Hill" and "St. Paul." We give names like "F" and "B." Why don't we give you real names?


We are protecting our people and the work that's being done. Although the ZK people have welcomed us in to their communities, there are sometimes others who want to "protect" indigenous groups from any changes in their way of living. They will do internet searches just to see if there are missionaries working in specific areas. Then they will contact a friend from that area and incite them to complain. We have heard of missionaries who were kicked out of areas for this reason.


Names that are common, like "Berta" or "Juan" we share. But names that are more unique we only use an initial. Again, it's for their protection. If someone accepts Christ, they face possibly being ostracized, or worse, from family or neighbors. Some people have faced forms of persecution just because they come to our house.


So, please continue to pray for "RW" and "F" and "B." God knows exactly who you're praying for!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sometimes...




Sometimes, living in the fishbowl is overwhelming. You know what I mean. Think about the life of a fish living in an aquarium. People come and stare at the fish. No part of their routine is sacred. All is watched, observed, and even judged. That's our life in the village. The moment we step out of our front door, people are watching, staring. In my North America culture, I'm taught it's not polite to stare. If I'm caught staring at someone, I quickly avert my eyes and pretend I was looking at something else. I feel embarrassed. In our village, the people aren't taught not to stare. They don't have that feeling of embarrassment.


Sometimes we stare back, just to see how long they'll continue staring. It's like the “staring contests” we used to do as kids, but I still lose every time!


Sometimes I feel frustrated and maybe even a little angry because I'm surrounded by children who are malnourished. It's not because the government isn't trying to help. There are many organizations that bring in basic food needs to help the people. Milk is given away at the schools for the kids to take home. But most don't drink it. The family sells it for a fraction of what it's worth. Parents say, “My kids don't like milk. They won't drink it.” I am frustrated because as a Mom, I have had to teach one of my kids to drink milk just because it's good for you. I'm frustrated because when they sell that milk, they buy Totis, the cheap, local equivalent to Cheetos. (Or worse, sometimes that money goes to buy alcohol.) I'm frustrated because so many children, by the age of 3 or 4, have had their rotten teeth pulled. And I'm not talking about 1 or 2 teeth. I'm talking about all of their teeth.




Sometimes I am frustrated when I hear how a 3 week old baby was taken to the witch doctor because he was sick. The parents had already tried everything they knew to do—like crushing a pill of some kind and putting it in the milk for the baby to take. A pill, designed for an adult, given to a newborn baby! When that didn't work, the witch doctor said the baby was sick because he “has a craving.” This is the witch doctor's common cure-all. According to this lady, the mom had a craving while she was still pregnant—for beef or seafood, maybe? But the mom didn't get a chance to eat it before the baby was born. The baby still has that craving, so mom needs to eat whatever that craving was and then the baby will feel better after nursing.


Sometimes, I just have to get out of that environment. It overwhelms me!


But always, I know the Lord is with me. And I can cast my cares on Him.


Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7

Pray for our Health






Recently I was talking with a friend about just what the request for our health means.



Living in the States, it was common for our family to eat red meat at least 5 times in a week, if not more. We had a freezer packed with venison and beef. And, we had ample access to fresh vegetables and fruits.



When we moved to Mexico and were living in the city of San Cristobal, our red meat consumption dropped to 3-4 times a week. But, we also had access to the market, where fresh fruits and vegetables are pretty inexpensive.



Then we moved to the village. Our read meat consumption dropped considerably to a couple times a month. And our fruit and vegetable options dropped to bananas, apples (which are pretty expensive by local standards), and some local seasonal options. Currently, we have guavas dropping to the ground in our front “garden.” (Rex loves it, by the way!) Soon we'll have some oranges, but they're not a sweet orange. (Good for making orangeade...tastes a lot like lemonade.)



Now, some may say that limiting red meat consumption is good. But, the change in our diet has caused things like iron deficiency. (Levi has had a few bloody noses recently. I have experienced fatigue.)



When we make our shopping trip to the city, we try to stock up on vegetables that we can't always get, like spinach and celery. My kids devoured the celery in 2 days! (It was the huge pack from Sam's that I thought would last at least 4 days...and I had to fight to get my share!)



The other issue to our health is unsanitary food preparation, or contaminated water.



When we visit people, they are always hospitable, even if they don't have much to give. But hand washing isn't as common as it should be. And the water from the tap...well, we really don't know what all might be in there! The problem isn't that we are given tap water to drink. The problem is we are given dishes that have just been washed and are still wet with contaminated water.



These issues can cause things like giardia, salmonella, typhoid, parasites, etc. Many people in the village are carriers of these illnesses and don't even know it. Which means they are transmitting them to others...like us.



Along with that, people in our village don't believe that sicknesses are contagious. A friend told me one day that her son woke up early in the morning vomiting, but he was feeling better, so he went to school. Or, when they have fevers, they still go to school. They believe you get sick because the weather changed, or because the mist that rises from the cemetery blows over the town causing sicknesses. Another belief (according to one of the local witch doctors) is that you have a craving and if you eat what you crave, you will get better. (She has given this advice to a pregnant woman who was having contractions at 5 months and should have been on bed rest! Instead, the witch doctor told her she needed to travel an hour and a half to the city and eat seafood!)



So, when we ask for prayer for our health, pray that God protects us from all the yuck that surrounds us. Pray that God will strengthen our immune systems so we can fight off the common colds. Pray that we can maintain a healthy diet. But above all, pray that our lives will glorify our Savior!


Monday, June 23, 2014

How Being a Missionary Has Changed My Life

How has my life changed since I became a missionary?

Some changes are obvious…like I live in a foreign country and speak a different language. I’m the only natural blonde woman for a hundred miles. And I’m considered tall for the first time in my life!

Other subtle changes:

  1. I’m a hoarder. Yep, that’s right. When I see something at the store that I want, I never trust it’ll be there tomorrow. And that’s why I have over 10 jars of Miracle Whip and 4 cans of cranberry sauce in my pantry.
  2. I stare at people’s mouths when they speak. Don’t let this intimidate you! But as I learn a third language, I’m always trying to decipher where the sounds are coming from…and so, I observe teeth, tongue and lip movements! You’d be amazed how many different sounds can come out of a mouth when the lips don’t even move!
  3. I always have a flashlight or candle and lighter within reach. Where we live, the electricity could go out at any minute, day or night. It’s not fun to be stranded, barefoot, and surrounded by Legos.
  4. I never go barefoot. In the States, I always walked around barefoot—in doors and out! I even ran to the mailbox in the snow without shoes. But not here! The risk of stepping on bugs (tarantulas, millipedes, etc) is just not worth it. And then of course, the old wives’ tales teach that if you go barefoot you’ll catch a cold…and it’s just not worth the argument.
  5. I relate a little too well to Laura Ingalls Wilder and Dr. Quinn. I’ve learned to bake bread, including hot dog buns, out of necessity. I use my ever-improving sewing skills to make curtains and little girl dresses or repair holey pants. And we often have to rely on our own medical know-how to diagnose the latest illness.

Women in Ministry

Sometimes I ponder the lives of my friends and loved ones…the impact they are making for Christ, furthering His kingdom. Most recently, I’ve been reminded of the impact of women in ministry.

 I think of my dear friend and former roommate Laura. I met her on the mission field in Mexico City 15 years ago! Today she is teaching English in a Muslim country in Northern Africa. She ministers to women as only another woman can.

Or a young lady named Rose who has a heart for missions. She travels to different locations to tell people about Jesus. And then she uses her photography and videography skills to tell the story to those back home…stories of missionaries, stories of Christians in other countries, and stories of the lost.

My sweet friend Aubrey gave two years of her life in South America. Although she had her heart set on Brazil, when that didn’t prove possible, she humbly agreed to go elsewhere and fill a need. A servant’s heart, a quick smile…not her will, but the Lord’s.

My friend Theresa devotes her days (and many nights, I’m sure) to bringing up a gaggle of boys and one little princess, to walk justly and love the Lord with all their hearts.

My sister-in-Christ, Rosa, just graduated as a nurse. Last summer, she stayed with us in our village so she could tell people about Jesus. With her bi-lingual language skills, nursing skills, and a heart for Jesus, she spent time on the front lines!

In our American society, we place few limitations on women who are obedient to God’s call to serve. And consequently, many women serve with their whole hearts. It doesn’t matter if they are married or single. It doesn’t matter how they style their hair, or if they have more than one ear-piercing per ear.

Unfortunately, where we live, we see many women who quickly become discouraged because they are struggling to find the balance between Biblical obedience and legalism imposed by the local church.

Please pray for Petri, a young single lady who desires to know the Lord and follow hard after Him.  Her desire is to finish her seminary studies and then allow God to use her wherever He leads. Currently, she lives in a small village and participates in her local Christian church. Unfortunately, because she wears pants instead of a skirt and has cut her hair, she has been asked to step down from any leadership role. She was told that she can’t reach the youth of community if she wears pants. Pray that Petri will find her identity as a Daughter of the Most High King and that she will not be discouraged by the words of man who try to limit her service.

Pray also for Blanca, a young mother who struggles to raise her son in the knowledge of the One True God. She lives in a village where she is the only believer.  Blanca’s husband, Daniel, works away from home and is not a believer. Praise the Lord that Blanca actively seeks the Lord and has a passion to tell others. Pray for Daniel and their son, Joshua, that they too will know the One True God. Pray that Blanca will continue to grow and that she will be encouraged to stand strong in the Truth.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

“What is church like for you?”

Recently I had the opportunity to Skype with different Sunday School classes at my home church in Idaho. It was so fun to see how much the children had grown since we left almost three years ago! And to see the faces of loved ones…it was priceless! I long for the day that we can visit face to face.

While I visited via Skype, each class had different questions, things they were curious about. One question was, “What is church like for you?”

This was a difficult question to answer. It changes so much from week to week. And therein lays the blessing! Last summer, church was our immediate family. (For a time, that included Rosa, our beloved sister in Christ who was “visiting” from Idaho.) For months it was the 6 of us. Then it was our family, plus RM and Berta.

We would sing praises, pray and share a Bible story. After the Bible story, we would discuss the characteristics of God found in the story. Then we would sing and pray some more. And finally, we would drink coffee and eat cookies or coffee cake while we visited.

Sometimes this is what church still looks like. We just don’t always fit in our living room anymore! Now, we sometimes meet in the big back room of our house. Our friend Miguel comes with his two sons. And his wife came once too!

 Twice a month our family drives an hour to the village of St. Paul where we do the same. The difference is that we meet in a small church building. And I have the privilege of teaching “Sunday School” to the kids. (Last week there were 24 people at St. Paul! And 14 were kids!)
 
Pray that God will move hearts and that we will see evangelical churches planted amongst the ZK people!

 

 

Thank you Lottie!

If you have spent much time in a Southern Baptist Church (SBC), you should know the name Lottie Moon. This lady literally gave her life to the Chinese people so that they would know the love of Jesus Christ. As a result, missions agencies began to form in the US and Canada which encouraged people to “be involved” in missions through tithes and offerings.

 Every December, SBC churches take up a special Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for the International Mission Board. Because of these offerings, our family was able to purchase a generator last year.

This week, we are grateful to Lottie Moon! We have been working on translating Bible stories in the Z language. We had invited a young lady to spend the week in our home to work on translating and then recording Bible stories. When the electricity went out, she was able to keep working for a time…until the battery on the computer died.

And then we began to think about the food that we store in our fridge…

Clay fired up the generator for a couple of hours while we charged the computers and cooled off the fridge.

It may not seem like much, but it allowed us to keep working. (“Translation weeks” start just after breakfast and go late into the night, when our translator is exhausted. The only breaks tend to be for a meal, and possibly a nap. Day after day, for about 4 days. If the computer is dead, the work stops. And our translator lives 3+ hours away.)

Begin praying now about how you can give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering!

Marbella Update

Marbella (“beautiful sea”). She first attracted our attention because she looked like she had chicken pox or some other skin ailment covering her face and arms. At that time, our friend Rosa (a nursing student from the US) was working with us.

Rosa was quick to give Marbella a check-up—looking in her ears and eyes, taking her temperature, listening to her heart, and checking her vaccination card. Although Marbella’s skin condition was a concern, a greater concern was the heart defect that Rosa could hear.

We contacted the local doctor and got everything set up for Marbella to be taken to Tuxtla, the capital city of the state of Chiapas, where the best area hospitals are located. Then, we waited. When we would travel through her village, we would ask about Marbella. The answer was always the same. “No, we haven’t taken her to Tuxtla yet.” Of course there was always a reason given, but as we drove away we could only shake our heads.

Finally, in May, Marbella was on her way to Tuxtla with her mom and baby sister.

We hope to find out the results from their trip to Tuxtla soon. Until then, we continue to pray for beautiful Marbella and her family.

 

 

Dirt Poor and Happiness

I followed Clay and our four kids down the narrow, muddy trail, noting the old mattress springs that were used for fencing. Many “homes” were located down this trail, but I had no idea the conditions.

We crossed under someone’s roof…they had no floor poured or walls built yet. Just a roof. The man was there, chopping firewood, but obviously he lived elsewhere for the time being.

 We snaked our way down another trail, behind a simple house. And then we entered into Victor and Felicity’s home. If only I could have taken a picture with my mind’s eye to share so that you could truly understand the meaning of poverty! The tin roof was supported by tree posts.  On one post, they drove in nails to hang their coffee mugs. The walls were red and blue tarps. They had hung wooden crates against the “wall” from the top support beam, forming kitchen cabinets. Their hanging “pantry” contained their few dishes and three boxes of milk. Their floor was uneven dirt.

 They offered us a couple of stumps, a hammock and a kid-sized chair to sit on. As we visited, Victor and Felicity (her name means “happiness”) shared so much with us about their lives, their families, and their home. I’ve lived in this village for a year, and yet had never been invited into a home quite like this one.

Victor and Felicity have three sons and are expecting child #4 any day. They raise rabbits, but mostly because one of many organizations came in and gave away rabbits and all the materials that they would need—a rabbit hutch with watering system, bags of food, etc. The idea being that the people can eat or sell the meat. The problem…meat isn’t a common element in the diet.

In spite of all of their hardships, Victor and Felicity are happy, a smile ever present on their faces. Victor told us that they were offered “piso firme,” one of many government programs to pour concrete floors in the homes. But they refused because they say life is easier with a dirt floor. When it rains, as it often does, water runs across their floor. Victor simply grabs a shovel and digs a channel for the water to run out the other side of their home. He says that if they had a concrete floor, they would have to mop the water up and it wouldn’t dry. A dirt floor soaks up water…or anything the kids spill. And when the kids come in with dirty shoes, you don’t have to worry about cleaning up behind them.

Can you imagine? They prefer to “live simply.”

From my American way of thinking, I was greatly saddened at first. Just look around you as you read this…what do you see? A computer?  TV? Carpeted floors? A comfy couch and a matching arm chair? A book shelf or two, full of books or knick-knacks? Well, that’s what I see in my house in the village.

So often I find myself distracted by the stuff in my life. It’s good stuff. And sometimes necessary stuff. But it has a tendency to interfere with the time I spend with my Lord.

Please pray for Victor and Felicity. Pray that we can minister to them where they are, without expecting any changes in them except their hearts. Pray for Victor as he considers going to another city to work for a time. And pray for Felicity as she raises three boys, plus her baby.

 

Anayeli and the Smile Train

      A few months back we were travelling through a village, on our way to visit some friends. Just before we arrived, we saw a little girl, running and smiling. Her smile was different than most, but it still lit up her whole face.
     A few days later, we were chatting with a fellow M who mentioned that
 he had been in contact with Smile Train…do we know anyone who might need reconstructive surgery? They’re working in Tuxtla. All expenses are covered.
     The next week we were travelling back to the village and on our to-do list was to find this little girl. Clay found her easily and her parents were very willing to answer his questions. The girl’s name is Anayeli. And yes, they would be interested in learning more about Smile Train.
     Pray for Anayeli and her family. We are doing all that we can to connect her family with the doctors. Pray that her beautiful smile can be repaired. And pray that she and her family will see the love of Jesus shining through everyone involved in this process. (At this point, we’re hoping to set up the initial appointment in September.)
    
 

Monday, March 31, 2014

First-World Problems…

Our village is only three hours from the state capitol of Chiapas, Mexico. But they’ve only had electricity for about 30 years. It’s crazy to think that in my lifetime this village didn’t have lights.

We’ve been living in Pine Hill for almost a year and I can’t tell you how many times we have had brown outs or black outs. For the ZK people, it’s really not that big of an issue. Most of them cook over fire, or maybe a gas stove. No one has an electric stove, so cooking isn’t an issue. And I’d be willing to bet that the ZK ladies could roll out tortillas in the dark faster than I ever could, even with the lights on!

But, for us who were born in a First-World country, we are annoyed and frustrated when there’s no electricity! It interrupts our plans. Or it makes it more difficult to study. Let me tell you…when it’s cloudy and there’s no electricity, it is inconvenient! I lit candles at 3pm the other day and was using a flashlight so that I could read to the kids! (I only have 3 windows in my house, so there isn’t much natural light.)

Two days ago we came home from a trip to the city to find that the lights were out…and the cell phone coverage was gone. Again. The interesting part to me is that we moved to the village knowing there was no cell phone coverage or internet and that electricity was sketchy at best. After living in these conditions for 8 months, we were ecstatic to finally have cell phone coverage. And the library received internet! How quickly we became re-accustomed to “modern” technology!

And as I reflect on the “inconveniences” that I live with, I’m reminded of missionary heroes like Hudson Taylor, Lottie Moon, and so many others. They left their home country with little or no expectation of returning. They gave their lives to their mission of taking God’s Word to the ends of the earth. They wrote letters via snail-mail to let people know what was happening and how to pray. It could take 3 months for the letters to be delivered. (There are some amazing similarities to where I live…)

 But alas, I serve a God who is bigger than any first-world problem. He knows my needs before I ever realize them. And He is putting things in motion for His glory. Pray for the people of Pine Hill, that the Light will shine in the darkness. (John 1:5)

Village Sunday School


Sunday mornings are always a unique adventure. Most weeks we have “home church.” It’s a simple idea that dates back to the book of Acts. Originally, it was our family of six that would gather in our living room. We sing a few praise choruses and then tell a Bible story. Then we ask a few questions about the story. Everyone participates together. Occasionally, one of the kids will tell the story too.

A few months back, people starting showing up on Sunday mornings. Our friend RW is there every week! Sometimes his girlfriend Berta comes with him. Rod and Ceci and their four boys have come a couple of times.

One week RW showed up with a new friend, Pedro. Pedro is a ZK believer who lives about an hour further up the mountain in the village of St. Paul.  He shared his testimony of how God brought him out of alcoholism and into a position of leadership in the church. About 14 years ago, a church was built in his community and he was given the responsibility of preaching.  He had been discipled and was ready for the task. At one point he had 20-some people attending. Today, it’s only him and his wife and they have been very discouraged and lonely.

 We have been invited to preach and teach in his community! Currently, our goal is to spend two Sundays a month in their community. The first Sunday, I decided to attempt to teach Sunday school for the children. (Those who know me know that this is not where I would prefer to be! But there is a huge need.) I had no idea how many children would arrive, how long I would need to entertain them, or exactly what would be available.

 
Clay, using a Bible story to teach the Truth!

The kids and I found a piece of concrete to sit on, but it was rough and dirty.  I told the story of creation. I was surprised how many of the kids hadn’t heard this basic story in an area where the Catholic Church maintains a stronghold. After telling the story and asking some questions, I gave the kids crayons and a color sheet. At first, they tried to color on the ground, but before long they were using the wall as their easel.
The perfect Sunday School location?
 

 
The kids LOVED coloring...

...except for Matthew.
He was more interested in the dirt pile!

The next week, Clay decided to use the story of creation as his lesson for the adults. I thought it could be good for the kids to sit in church and listen to the story again. While I know my kids were listening and participating in the questions, I’m not sure the other kids did.

 Please pray for me as I make a commitment to teach these children! Pray that I will speak the lessons clearly and concisely. And pray that the lessons and God’s Word will touch their hearts and lives will be transformed. Pray for the community of St. Paul, that the people there will humble themselves, and pray, and seek the Lord’s face. Pray for Pedro and his wife Teresa, that they will be encouraged to fight the good fight and remain faithful.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

2014 Prayer Card...coming soon!


Don Clemente




We first met Don Clemente in May of last year. We had decided to take a "road" trip. Essentially, we were looking for the back road out of town in case of an emergency...like a wash-out or landslide. As we passed through Cerro Blanco (White Hill), we saw Don Clemente. He immediately offered us the best of his hospitality...fresh produce from his land, and the beginning of a friendship.



We continued visiting Don Clemente, sharing Bible stories at every opportunity. In June, when we had our friend Rosa (a nursing student) visiting, we were able to offer some basic medical check-ups.(Some of you may remember the blog about Marbella...this is her uncle.)

In November, Don Clemente was out cutting firewood near his home when he fell down the mountainside. We're not sure how far of a fall, but Don Clemente was injured pretty severely. His family brought him to the clinic in Pine Hill. And because of a God-incidence, we happened upon the clinic that night. We offered our serviced in any way that we could--we offered to transport Don Clemente to Tuxtla to the hospital, but he refused. We eventually took him to his brother's home where he could be cared for by family. At that point, he was basically paralyzed. He couldn't lift his legs, let alone stand or walk.

Visiting Don Clemente
Through a series of God-incidences, we have been able to minister to Don Clemente. Unfortunately, many people arrived at his home to take advantage of his illness, offering "medical" treatment or "spiritual" healing in exchange for large sums of money. Clay was faithful to visit and to continue to share the Gospel. And then one day in December, we met a Christian physical therapist who offered to travel to our village to provide treatment.

The therapist has been coming every 2 weeks. He gives a treatment and then shares more about the Gospel, assuring Don Clemente that the only One who can heal him is the Great Physician.

This weekend, we stopped in to visit Don Clemente. I hadn't seen him since December, when he was bed-ridden. I watched him stand without anyone's help. And then shuffle across the floor and back various times. Praise the Lord!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Norma…my other daughter!

The kids who started showing up to play...


            Shortly after we moved to Pine Hill, the neighbor girl and her friend started knocking on the door to ask if they could
play with our kids. We were cautious at first, but Norma and her friend Dulce proved to be sweet, considerate young girls.








Cupcakes for Norma's birthday...
a perfect surprise!

            After awhile, it was Norma who was knocking on our door almost every day. I admit I was still cautious about opening my home. I have enjoyed my home being my safe haven. But eventually God showed me that Norma needed a safe have too.
Norma, opening her stocking!

            Norma is the youngest child in her family. I don’t remember how many kids there are, but since she’s the youngest and a girl, her older brothers aren’t always very nice to her. Norma’s mom works outside the home and her dad isn’t always home. Often it’s Norma and her brothers.

            After Norma shared about her brother I realized that she too needed a safe haven. We made a deal that she would come to our house after school every day. She helps wash the dishes and sweep the floors. And she plays with the kids. Ellie looks forward to Norma coming over because they play Barbies together! (Ellie always wanted a sister!)

Norma's Family after high school graduation
Norma, Don Felix, Elizabeth, Doña Brigida, Pablina

            Now, it’s not just after school. Norma is with us almost every day. Her parents have shared with us that Norma is already sad that someday we will move away. She told her parents that she’s going to have them sign papers so that we can take her with us when we leave.

And sometimes that idea is very tempting…when I see how hungry she is, or how lonely, or how mistreated by her brothers…

Granny and her newest granddaughter!

 Please pray for Norma and her family. She has mentioned that she likes coming to our house because our home is so peaceful. Imagine…a house with four rambunctious kids is peaceful to her.

Pray that our family can testify to Norma of the Peace of God. That she can know the Savior and that her life can be transformed.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mischievous Matthew

            Our little Matthew is not a baby any more…at least according to him. He’s a big boy, or so he claims! His personality is shining through and he is growing and learning.

 

            Matthew was just a small baby when we left Idaho…only 4 months old. (I can only imagine the comments when we get back to Idaho next year for our furlough.) And he was 8 months old when we moved to Mexico. He really doesn’t know anything else but life in a foreign country.

 

            He’s 2 ½ years old now. He talks all the time, but we don’t always know which language he’s speaking! Sometimes we think maybe he’s speaking German because he says things like, “mines shoes.”  We know he’ll get it all figured out someday though and he’ll probably even start speaking ZK. The people love it when they ask him “how are you?” in ZK and he responds in ZK.


Levi "reading" to Matthew
            Matthew and Levi act very much like twins…and they look very much like twins too. I think the most asked question or most frequent comment has to do with that topic. They play together and fight together. They stick up for one another and are sad when they are apart. And Matthew is quickly learning the art of instigation.





            In 2 ½ years, Matthew has travelled across the US three times—once from Idaho to Mississippi and back, then from Idaho to Orlando (including Disney World) and back, then from Idaho to Virginia. He’s been to Washington, D.C., New York City, Canada, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Mexico. He has swum in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as well as the rivers of the Amazon jungle. Oddly, in spite of all that travel, when we leave our home in “Pine Hill,” Matthew always asks to go home.

Matthew, hanging on the climbing wall!
 

            Matthew is our gift from God. Already, he has helped to open doors in the Pine Hill community. We walk down the street and we hear, “Mateo!” (Matthew in Spanish)   We look forward to what God has in store for him in the future.
 
Styling on Christmas morning!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Love this smile!
 
 

Smart, Handsome Ryan

Ryan is holding a coralillo snake that we
found in our back yard ...but don't worry.
It had already been killed.

            My handsome Ryan turns eight in February. This boy is growing and maturing so quickly! He’s had some difficult times, but I’m so proud of him. Living in Mexico has been one adventure after another and Ryan has taken each adventure in stride. When we left Idaho 2 ½ years ago, I don’t think he knew what he was saying goodbye to, or what kind of adventure he was entering. He is so brave!

            We spent three months in Virginia for training in 2011. Ryan was five years old. He attended school for MKs (missionary kids) where he learned about other countries, cultures, and religions. He made friends with the kids in class and although we haven’t had much contact, Ryan still remembers his friends and prays for them, their families, and their ministries.
 

            We moved to Mexico two years ago, in January 2012 and a whole new adventure began. Ryan was removed from his home culture and language and immersed in Spanish! It was very difficult for him at first. He attended a local school for a few months where he was expected to learn math and read in Spanish. He struggled, but today he can communicate very well in Spanish.

Sitting on a caiman in Suriname
            Last year, we spent a month in Suriname, which is a small country located north of Brazil. We lived in a cabin in the Amazon Jungle! And Ryan was in heaven! He’d go back in a heart beat. Is it any wonder that he has told me that he wants to be a missionary when he grows up?

            This school year Ryan and Ellie started school in our “Pine Hill” village. Life in a rural village is tough on a young boy. The other boys want to test him to see what he’s made of. How will he react to their taunting words? Will he fight? Will he cry? Will he join in and taunt others?
Ryan is afraid of heights, but he is brave!
Here we are on the tallest Ferris wheel in Latin America!

            After the Christmas break, Ryan really didn’t want to go back to school. We talked it over and I reminded him of God’s promises…”the Lord is my Shepherd” and “the Lord will fight for you, while you keep silent.”
Ryan wrote a special Christmas poem.
 
On Friday, after school, Ryan said, “Mom, one of the kids that was picking on me is my friend now.”

            “Oh? Tell me about it. What happened?” I asked.

            “I asked him if he wants to be my friend and he said yes.”

            I know he’ll have many more battles ahead of him, but I think we’re off to a good start. I’m so proud of Ryan! And I look forward to watching him grow in the Lord.

Our very own climbing wall!