Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Plunged into Life in Texas

Its hard to believe that 2 months have passed since we left Mexico. Settled in to a farm house. Girls in school at Amherst Independent School District. Got some farm animals: baby chicks, an old horse for Ceci to ride, some baby heifers to feed milk. We feel over our head right now. Like a person must feel who jumps out of a helicopter into the ocean for an important mission of some kind. He comes up. Is breathing and alive...but still not sure which way is north. But figuring it out. And feeling good to be alive. I wonder what lies ahead!

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Iztaccihuatl - Climbing a Volcano with Friends

Last weekend, I joined 10 friends from Guadalajara and Mexico City for a 2-day climb of Iztaccihuatl, Mexico’s third highest mountain.  Almost 16 years ago, a few of us had climbed the nearby Popocatapetl volcano before it became active again.  We said back then that some day we also wanted to climb Iztaccihuatl.

Izta is also known as the Mujer Dormida, or sleeping woman because its shape looks like a woman lying on her back with at least 4 main peaks sticking up out of the mountain:  her head, her breast, her knees and her feet.  Our guides took us up towards the “rodillas”, which is the 2nd highest of the peaks at 5048 meters or 16,561 feet above sea level.  What an experience! 

After spending Friday night in Mexico City at the Pink House, the group of us from Guadalajara met up with the others and made our way to El Paso de Cortez at the base of the mountain.  We took the cars a little further to La Joya (3940 meters), got our gear organized (35 lb packs each) and began the climb at 1:30 pm.  Within an hour it began to snow (my friend Lad from Colorado called it “corn snow”).  For about 5 hours we made our way up through beautiful and rugged country—through snow storms, wind, rocks.  The temperature dropped dramatically.  About 6:30 pm we arrived at a rustic shelter called the refugio—a small shed with wood bunks for 24 people.  The altitude here was 4870 meters or 15,600 feet.  We were wiped out…most all of us suffering at some level from altitude sickness—nausea, extreme fatigue, headaches, etc. 

We ate and rested there until our guide woke us a little after 3:00 am on Sunday morning.  Visibility was severely limited by a fog and snow, so we postponed our final push.  But by about 5:30 am, after having eaten and dressed for the ascent, we formed teams of 3 and 4, harnessed ourselves together, and left the shelter.  We used snow axes and crampons to climb the remaining 961 feet to the “las rodillas” peak.  We arrived after about 2 hours of climbing at 7:30 am.

It would have been cool to go further and see la panza and reach el pecho of Izta.  But because of the snow storm and danger of lightning later in the day, we followed our guide’s advice and considered our mission accomplished.  By about 1:00 pm, we were back at La Joya, eating the best quesadillas and soup I’d ever tasted and celebrating our victory.  

It was cool to test our physical and emotional limits against the mountain.  It was super cool to do that together with such good and strong men.  

My friend, James Henderson, made this great video of our experience together: 

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Friday, May 21, 2010

The Virgin Came By Our House Yesterday

Yesterday afternoon we watched as several thousand people paraded past our house with the Virgin of Zapopan.  It seems that this time of year the small statue is taken from her special cathedral in the center of Zapopan (one of the cities that make up the Metropolitan Zone of Guadalajara) to make a pilgrimage to all the Catholic temples in and around Guadalajara.  She (her statue) spends the night in each temple--then is carried with much celebration through the neighborhood streets to the next temple--where she spends the next night, and the process continues.  Folks believe that her presence brings blessing and protection to the neighborhood.

Yesterday was our neighborhood's turn.  Everyone started preparing the streets with decoration the day before--sweeping the street, laying a carpet of alfalfa leaves and hanging flags and balloons—excitement in the air. 

Then about 5:00 yesterday afternoon, as the video clip shows, the procession made its way down our street passing a few feet from the door of our house.  I was impressed to see so many people out on the streets to participate with the virgin.  I wondered what moved them to do this.  I wondered if the next generation will do the same. 

The Virgin of Zapopan on Vimeo

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Last Week in Mexico City

I spent several days in Mexico City last week—went over on Tuesday and spent the time hanging out with old friends and coworkers—and enjoying the “flavor” of Mexico City.  Although the time went fast and I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted, it was a great week and good for my heart to connect with so many friends who are trying to follow Jesus and incarnate Him in and around that huge city.  It was good to listen in on some of their stories of life there.  

I got to stay in the home of my good friends James and Erin Henderson and enjoy their hospitality.  From Tuesday thru Friday, I got to hang out with, eat meals with and drink coffee with the Holcomb and Jenkins families in Cuernavaca, Rodrigo and Rosi Mendieta in Yautapec, Morelos, the Brednich family in Tlalpan, the Torres family in Cuajimalpa, Filadelfo Monterrey in Santa Ursula, Abel Perez in Cuajimalpa, Pedro Marín in the center of Mexico City, Israel and Nelly Molina in Tlalpan, Ryan and Amanda Gray in Benito Juarez, and Jorge and Hilda Ortega in Tlalpan. 

As always, I was impressed with the enormity of Mexico City—nothing I know compares with it.  As I moved through the transportation system and walked the streets, I felt the pounding of its heartbeat—looked into the faces of the multitudes caught up in its chaos.  

And, as always, I was impressed with the faithfulness of my friends; their desire to participate with God and God’s mission there.  I saw lots of evidence of their perseverance. 

I felt proud that they are my friends.  

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Morgan and Natali Ran a 5K Race

This morning our 16-year old daughters Morgan and Natali ran their first 5K race.  They ran with a crowd of other women in a Mother’s Day Race at a park near our house.  They had lots of fun.  I was super proud. 

We started training for this race in March using a run/walk plan with the idea of running it together.  It was fun training together—watching them grow in confidence and arrive at being able to run the 3.1 miles without stopping.  

But then I found out that this race was only for women.  

I would have liked to have run with them.  But it was fun watching them run! 

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Monday, April 26, 2010

This Past Friday Night with Mexican Missionaries

This past Friday night, we had supper with the Rocha and Garcia families.  After spending several years in training and preparation, Lalo and Jamie Rocha, and their boys Liam and Jonah have recently arrived in Mexico City to begin their assignment as missionaries to the people there.  They came over to spend the weekend in Guadalajara.  We cooked chicken out on the grill and had homemade ice cream.  Good friends and good food—a good combination!

Lalo was about 14 years old when Nancy and I arrived in Mexico City back in 1991; he and his mom and brother were being drawn to Christ and beginning their walk as disciples in those days.  Lalo was part of a group of youth and university students that formed back then; Nancy and I spent much of our time and energy hanging out with this group and learning together what following Jesus in Mexico City could look like.  Soon afterwards, Gerardo and Carola joined us in life and ministry with this group of jovenes—they provided leadership and mentoring for them in the years after Nancy and I made our move to Guadalajara. 

Meanwhile, Jamie was an Adventures in Missions (AIM) apprentice in Lubbock, Texas in the early 90’s when Nancy and I were finishing up our preparations to move to Mexico City.  We were always impressed with her good heart and desire to follow Christ.  Her folks became involved in La Casa de Esperanza orphanage in northern Mexico.  Somewhere along the line, she and Lalo met, married and began their family together.  

Of course, these relationships have grown and changed over these 15+ years.  Gerardo and Lalo developed a great friendship.  The Rocha family and the Garcia family are both hot on the trail of Jesus Christ and his desire for them to flesh out Christ’s life in Mexico.  

It was cool to see Gerardo and Lalo together this weekend—super cool to hear them talk about their missionary heart and desire to see God’s Kingdom come to Mexico City and Guadalajara—for their Mexico—to hear them describe what they think God wants them to do and how they think the Enemy will likely oppose.  It was neat to hear them describe themselves as “fruit” of God’s work through many others in Mexico City—and to hear them describe themselves as Mexican missionaries to their own people in these cities—to hear their desire to see God’s Kingdom alive and healthy in Mexico.

It was encouraging to see the result of seeds sown in good hearts—seeds that took root and are growing into something beautiful and surely much larger than them or the ones who helped plant and water.  God is good. 

I wonder what will become of these Mexican missionaries and the ones they touch.  I wonder what other seeds are being planted?

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

All Church Retreat

This past weekend was good for our hearts!

We spent the weekend with members from different house churches in our annual all church retreat.  Over the years the shared retreat has provided a great opportunity for fellowship, focused teaching, vision sharing, and seed sowing with visitors.  We believe the annual retreat is one of several important practices that help the smaller bands of disciples continue their focus on fleshing out Christ in their own neighborhoods while also sensing that they are part of a larger fellowship of Christ followers. 

As usual we had lots of fun together.  

We began arriving at the campsite—about 45 minutes outside of the city—around 6 or 7 on Friday night.  Then, for the next 45 hours or so we played together, prayed and sang together, laughed and cried together, ate together, and studied and discussed Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount together.  In all of this, we were especially focused on listening for God’s Word to us as individuals and as a group. 

We arrived home late Sunday afternoon tired, but very happy to experience God’s work in and around us. 

One of the things that was especially encouraging to me was the evidence of maturity and leadership I saw among my Mexican brothers and sisters.  So many people worked together, each adding their part, to make the weekend a great experience.  It was cool to watch several of my Mexican brothers—Gerardo, Martín, Jose Luis and Arturo—facilitate times of discussion and listening to God together around Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount—to see their expectation that God really would give us a clear word that requires obedience.  I was touched to watch and listen in as people paired off in the last few hours together on Sunday to articulate to one another what they had heard from God and how they planned to respond in obedience. 

We also loved watching the kids and youth play together.  We’ve noticed that over the past few months it seems that God has drawn the youth from the different churches together.  It was fun to see their unity and love for one another so clearly this past weekend.  

I was also very encouraged by the father of a visiting family who spent the weekend with us.  On Saturday afternoon, with tears Jesús told the group how he and his family were seeing Christ expressed so beautifully in the love in our group—how this was something that he had not seen very often in his life—and how important it was for him. 

I already knew that was true.  But it was good for my heart to hear that he saw it too.  

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Melanie's Quinceañera

Last Saturday night we celebrated Melanie’s Quinceañera birthday bash.  It was a big deal!  I think most Mexican girls dream about this day for most of their childhood.  The party is a “coming of age” event that signifies a girl’s transition from childhood to adulthood.  For those who are unfamiliar with the celebration, it seems very similar to a big wedding—except without the guy!  Its typical for preparations for this special event to go on for months or more.  There were about 150 guests made up of family members and friends; everyone in formal attire. 

It all started about 8:00 pm and, typical of these parties, the evening began with a religious service.  Melanie and her family had asked Nancy and me to be Melanie’s Padrinos— and one of my responsibilities was to prepare an address/sermon for Melanie and the group.  We remembered together what God has done in Melanie’s life and encouraged her to continue to live faithfully and courageously.  Several of the key women in her life described the vision they have for her life.  

Then the party began!  For the next 5 or 6 hours, there was a fine dinner, photos, laughing, music and dancing.  Melanie looked beautiful—and she seemed to have a blast with all of her friends and family.  It was a special night. 

One of the things I liked about all of this is that we have been able to watch Melanie grow up over these many years.  We were with her parents in the days before and after her birth 15 years ago.  We’ve been blessed to watch God’s work in her life.  Even from a very young age, she has been strong in her beliefs and not easily influenced or manipulated by others.  Melanie’s 2nd grade teacher called Carola to complain that Melanie was teaching the other kids about Jesus during recess at school—that she didn’t think it was appropriate.  A few years back, in the days after Melanie was diagnosed with diabetes, it was cool to hear her come to the conviction very soon that God wanted her and her family to help others who were also ill with this disease.  It has been good to watch her follow through on that conviction for over 4 years now.  Its cool to imagine the woman God is making her to be.   

I also liked watching all the kids have fun together.  Melanie’s dad, Gerardo made it clear to all the guests that—unlike typical quinceañera parties—this one would be alcohol-free.  It was fun watching them enjoy one another. 

It was 4:30 am when I turned off the lights to go to sleep Sunday morning.  It was a fun night!

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Blessed Weekend with Brednich and Henderson Families

The last few days have been a great blessing.  Our dear friends and fellow missionary coworkers from Mexico City—the Henderson and Brednich families—came over to celebrate Melanie Garcia’s Quinceañera birthday party.  James and Erin Henderson—and their little ones Kate and Caleb, along with Benjy and Carolyn—and their four boys Reese, Chase, Pierson, and Hudson spent five days at our house.  We had a good time together.  Our kids had a blast together.  There was never a dull moment!  It was good to spend time talking and playing together, remembering old times—and encouraging one another.

These families have spent the last 7 years living and involving themselves in Kingdom life in Mexico City.  

We go way back with these dear friends.  James and Benjy came to work with us in Mexico City as young Adventures in Missions (AIM) workers in early 1993.  They were still in their teens at the time.  They spent 2 ½ years as apprentices there.  Then, they went back to the U.S. to get more training.  God blessed them with wonderful wives.  Later, they formed a team with several other couples to plant churches in Mexico City.  Its been fun to watch them grow—to see them become our friends and peers—to learn from them as they follow Jesus. 

One of the things we have really liked over the years has been watching James and Benjy interact with our daughters Morgan and Natali.  This weekend was no exception.  James and Benjy had just arrived in Mexico City when the girls were born almost 17 years ago—they were some of the girls’ favorite playmates.  The guys were so good with them—played with them and gave them lots of special attention.  The girls talked about James and Benjy all the time.  Later, when James and Benjy had gone back to the U.S., the girls named their favorite toy figures James and Benjy.  They played with them for years. 

Its fun now watching James and Benjy continue to take interest in our daughters—to watch them interact with them as young ladies and appreciate with us what God has done in our girls’ lives.  That is a special blessing for which we are very thankful.  

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Weekend with Friends in Uruapan

We spent this past weekend with Juan Carlos and Cynthia and their three daughters, Alejandra, Juli and Mariana.  Juan and Cynthia were our neighbors for the past five years; we lived in the house directly in front of them in the coto privado (gated community) before we moved to where we live now a few miles away in Colonia Mariano Otero.  Ally was—and still is—Ceci’s best friend.  Juan is originally from Uruapan, in the neighboring state of Michoacán and has for some time been talking to us about going there with them.  Nancy and Cynthia have been developing a really good friendship for years.  But Juan and I had never found a good opportunity to go much deeper than just neighbors.  It was fun to be with them this weekend. 

We got up early Saturday morning and made the 3-hour trip to Uruapan.  Each year in Uruapan, on the weekend of Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday), a huge Tianguis de Artesanias begins and runs through Semana Santa.  They say it is the largest such artisan market in all of Latin America.  The indigenous people from all the regions of Michoacán bring their handicrafts.  There is traditional music and dancing—an opening parade—major celebration!  The streets are full of people. 

We spent Saturday and Sunday together—seeing the sights, looking at the Artesanias, hanging out and talking, and eating lots of traditional cuisine from the region.  It was especially fun to do this with Juan and Cynthia because its their old stomping grounds and they loved showing us around and taking us to their favorite places.  And Juan appreciates good food! 

One of my favorite things about getting to know any region is trying the typical foods.  Juan certainly didn’t let me down on this trip.  We ate tacos de carnitas (deep fried pork), enchiladas, gorditas, several flavors and types of atole, corundas (a triangle-shaped tamal that is typical of the region), several pastries and sweets, exotic flavored ice cream (avocado, peanut for example), goat tacos and Tarascan soup.  We also drank a few cups of locally grown café.  All of this is especially significant when you remember that we were only there for about 30 hours!  It was my kind of weekend. 

But the thing I really liked about the weekend was the way Juan took us behind the doors on the street to where his family members live.  We visited his aunt.  We spent several hours on Sunday afternoon with Juan’s sister and her family.  With great pride, they showed us several of the local sites and then invited us to their home for Sunday comida—showed us good, Mexican hospitality.  They are both educators in the school system in Michoacán—their families have been there for generations.  The conversation was easy. 

It was lots of fun.  I wish we could have gotten to this point in our friendship earlier.  

I wonder what—if anything—will happen next with this relationship.  

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Gotcha Day

Yesterday was “Gotcha Day.”  Five years ago yesterday—on March 26, 2005, our daughter Cecilia Grace was born into our family.  It was the day we got Ceci.  I can’t believe how fast the time has passed! 

Yesterday we had a family date; after school we ate at one of our favorite restaurants and went to a movie together.  It was fun being together.  It was fun telling remembering together all that has happened since Ceci came into our family.  It was fun imagining what the next few years will be like.  

We are blessed! 

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Running with Jose Luis

I had a good time running a half-marathon this past Sunday with my friend Jose Luis.  He and I joined about 2300 others for the 24th annual running of the Medio Maraton Internacional Benito Juarez here in Guadalajara.  We began running together about a year ago and have enjoyed training on and off together for the last few months.  We enjoy the running and the hours of conversation that come with it.  This was Jose Luis’ first half-marathon.  It was fun to watch him run!

Jose Luis is a good guy.  You may have noticed from the picture that he is a few years younger than me—about 20 years younger!

Several years back, he was working in a factory and became impressed with the lifestyle and strength he saw in one of his co-workers, Martín.  Martín was a follower of Jesus and a part of the church that lives and meets in Colonia Jardines del Valle.

In the months that followed, Martín helped Jose Luis come to know Christ and the strength that comes from living in the Kingdom of God.  At first, it was difficult for Jose Luis because his family didn’t understand and felt threatened by the changes they saw in Jose Luis.  They threw him out of the house and threatened to disown him.  But Jose Luis persevered—and now a few years later, a house church rotates their weekly gathering between Jose Luis’ small home and the home of his sister Luz.  Most all the family has made or are in the process of making decisions to follow Jesus.  You can’t be around him very long without noticing Jesus in him.  

It is fun to watch Jose Luis run!

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Paying Attention

Thursday evenings are usually one of the high points of my week.  Last night was no exception.

Almost always, 3 or 4 of us fellows gather for a couple of hours.  Martín, Gerardo and Jose Luis came to my house last night.  It is always good just to hang out together as friends—to eat supper or drink coffee together—to catch up on each other’s lives.  Of course, these guys are not newbies when it comes to following Jesus; between the three of them, they have almost 28 years of experience as Christ followers.  Each of them is fleshing out Christ in obvious ways where they live and work.  The conversation is almost always rich! 

One of our main reasons for gathering is to pay attention to God’s work and word in each of our lives; to do this together—to be there for one another during good times and bad—to listen for God together and to support one another as we each try to be obedient to that word.  Besides our weekly gathering, we also try to connect by phone several times during the week—to ask how its going and to pray together.  We usually agree to read some section of scripture during the week in our personal time with God—lately we have been making our way through Ephesians.  Out of all of that, God almost always speaks. 

I think that we are learning how critically important it is to spiritual formation and maturity for us to have these close, and ongoing listening relationships with another person or two.  I’m impressed at the constancy of this element in the lasting spiritual formation I’ve seen over the years.  

I hope that these friends of mine and I don’t forget this important lesson.  I think it could make all the difference in the world.  

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Blessing to Families in Crisis

This past Sunday afternoon we drove out to a nearby campsite to join our good friends, Gerardo and Carola, for a little while as they finished up a weekend Camp for recently diagnosed children with diabetes and their parents. 

It was cool to see them and their team as they tried to be a blessing to the lives of some 25 families in crisis.  I felt so proud that they are my friends—so impressed with what God is doing through this group—so hopeful to see this light shining in a dark place. 

As they have done six times in the last couple of years, they and a growing group of about 30 professionals (nutritionists, psychologists, educators in diabetes, doctors and social workers) offered an invitation to children who have recently been diagnosed with diabetes.  They invited the children to bring a parent and spend a weekend being pampered, being shown how to care for themselves, being educated about their illness, being listened to—generally being blessed by others who know what they are going through.

There were special workshops being offered for both the children and the parents—covering all the relevant subjects and questions that these families are experiencing.  We met many parents and children—saw looks of tiredness, fear, stress…but also glimpses of hope in the eyes of the parents.  We saw kids having fun! 

One of the things I love about this is the way God has helped Gerardo and Carola discover this ministry out of their own life experience.  About 4 ½ years ago, their 10-year old daughter, Melanie, was diagnosed with diabetes.  Their world was turned upside down as they faced an illness that threatened to change and destroy all their hopes and dreams for their daughter.  Yet out of this crisis and the salvation God provided for them, they were drawn by God to notice and try to help others who now find themselves in a similar crisis.  The telling of their story has become healing for others.  They began the Hope Foundation for Children with Diabetes—Mexico’s first and only non-profit foundation for children with this disease.  They are presently serving over 200 families with this disease. 

I think of the Apostle Paul’s words of praise to “…the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). 

Another thing I love about this is the way others—young professionals who hear about what is happening with these kids—are begging to get involved in this project.  They are finding purpose and satisfaction beyond the materialism and “success” that is being advertised to them as professionals.  While very clear about their own faith and about how God has been at the center of this story, Gerardo and Carola are partnering with many who are at various stages in their walk with God.  Gerardo and Carola see it as a way to plant seeds and build relationships with all kinds of people—to allow God to plant and nurture the seeds in hearts as those hearts become ready. 

At a coffee shop this week, a young fellow asked me about my life and my reason for being here.  As I told him about some of the things that are going on around us—and mentioned the Hope Foundation for Kids with Diabetes, he stopped me and asked:  “Could somebody like me get involved in that as a helper?” 

Gerardo calls this their proyecto de vida—their “life project”—a God given mission that springs out of one’s own design, one’s own pain, one’s own experience.  It is a mission that brings life both to the one on mission and to those who are being served. 

He has lots of people wondering about what their own life project might be.   

I wonder where all of this will go.  I wonder what God will do with all these seeds being planted in so many different hearts. 

It sure is fun to watch and imagine! 

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Multi-Church Gathering Yesterday

Yesterday we enjoyed being with good friends.  As commonly happens on the 1st Sunday of the month, members from several of the house churches gathered for an afternoon of worship, fellowship and fun.  This month’s gathering was hosted by the church that lives and meets here in Colonia Mariano Otero.  We gathered in the carport and patio of the Zendejas sisters—and spilled over into our house across the street.  

The afternoon began with an extended time of singing, prayer and reading of passages from the Psalms.  Jose Luis, who came from the group that lives in Colonia Nueva Santa Maria directed the larger group in a reflection around the Lord’s Supper and the common desire to follow Jesus’ example of perseverance and self-sacrifice.  A little later, my daughters and some of the youth took the small children aside for a Bible Story while Gerardo, who came with some of the members from Colonia Jardines del Valle, exhorted the larger group to live with faithfulness—and then facilitated a time of discussion and sharing of passages from Scripture.  Then, after a time of focused prayer for those with special needs and requests, the rest of the afternoon was spent cooking tacos, eating together, playing ping pong, laughing, celebrating a couple of birthdays, and generally sharing life together.  

Days like these are good for my heart. 

One of the things I especially liked was the way that the members of the different groups enjoyed and played with one another.  Sergio and Amelia had birthdays in the last few days—in good Mexican style, we made the most of the opportunity to have a party with them!  

I think our shift to small house churches in the last few years has been important because it has helped many to envision themselves as a group who fleshes out Christ in their neighborhood.  The focus on simplicity and smallness has allowed the groups to “do church” simply and focus much of their limited time and resources on family spiritual formation and connecting to God, on discipleship and on reflecting Christ to others in their own colonias.  However, the regular practices of gathering monthly as a larger grouping of house churches—and of regularly gathering for retreats, special studies, and youth activities reminds the house churches that they are not alone—that there are other groups like them who are similarly trying to follow Jesus—that we are looking out for one another.  

Another thing I liked was that there were several visitors among us yesterday.  It was cool to see how the group welcomed each one and to notice how the visitors felt comfortable enough to share needs and ask for the prayers of this group—to see everyone eating together and enjoying the afternoon.  

Yes, days like these are good for my heart. 

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Monday, February 08, 2010

A Recent Baptism

Gerardo’s and Carola’s friend Mara was baptized a couple of weeks ago.  She has been trying to follow the Lord for a long time—been in and out of our group (and in again) over the years.  But recently she decided she wanted to make changes in her life—asked for Gerardo’s and Carola’s help with this.  

We pray God’s guidance and blessings for in her new beginnings.  

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Friday, February 05, 2010

A Men's Weekend

I had a great time with 10 of my friends this past weekend.  Six of us from Guadalajara met up with five guys from Mexico City at a cabin on the east side of Mexico City—in the shadow of the volcano, Iztaccíhuatl.  After several weeks of prayer and preparation, we wanted to spend the weekend with God and with one another in conversation about our role as men—in our families, jobs, churches and communities.  We wanted to be brutally honest with ourselves and with each other about how our life is going, about what we really want, about what it will take to live the life that God intends us to live.  As followers of Christ, we wanted to seek God together in these talks. 

From Friday night until Monday morning we hiked, talked, prayed, discussed scripture, played, ate and challenged ourselves and each other.  At times the conversation was intense.  We told stories from our own lives.  We considered the stories of men we admire.  The conversation was focused.  We also had great fun together!

We talked about our desire to see real transformation in our families, in our churches and in our culture.  We know first hand how difficult it is to live a sane and Christ-centered life in the big cities of Mexico—anywhere for that matter.  And at the same time, we know how critically important it is that there are strong, good men who are living up to their responsibilities as leaders in their homes, in the workplace and in Mexican culture.

We spent a lot of time considering Jesus Christ and the kind of life he lived as a man.  We talked about our Enemy and his common strategies against us.  We recognized together how important it is not to be alone in this battle. 

One of the things I liked about the weekend was the way we were able to get past superficiality and really get to the heart of what it means to live and struggle as men.  I was impressed that in spite of the diversity in this group, we all are challenged with the same questions and doubts, the same failures and needs, the same desire to make a difference in our world.

It was also a cool thing to see the strength in each of my friends—to see how each of them wants to flesh out what God has placed in them.  

As we headed back to our cities on Monday, there was a newfound unity among these men—a simple yet clear commitment to walk together as friends and to help one another succeed in our important role as men—a commitment to a handful of practices that we hope will help us keep moving in the right direction.  

It was not a bad way to spend the weekend.    

I wonder where this will lead in the weeks and months to come. 

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ronnie and Sandra Schroeder

We spent this past week enjoying a visit from my folks, Ronnie and Sandra Schroeder.  As always, we had a great time together—talking and being together.  We stayed a few days here in Guadalajara and then spent a few nights vacationing near San Miguel de Allende.    

I’ve been blessed with good parents—which is not a small thing! 

One of the things I really like about my mom and dad is the way they have always supported us in our desire to be missionaries.  I remember years ago when I decided to put off post-graduate work and instead enroll in the Adventures in Missions program; they not only gave me their blessing but also provided financial backing and visited me when I lived in England as an AIMer.  Later, when Nancy and I decided to begin our mission work in Mexico, they could not have been more supportive.  During these 19 years in Mexico, they have made dozens of trips to visit us and have given much money to bless our lives, the mission, needs of coworkers, special projects, etc.  Not only have they been supportive; but also they have allowed themselves to be influenced and changed by this experience.   

Nancy and I want to be that way with our daughters and the dreams God has put in their hearts.  We hope it won’t be anything too crazy!

I also like that my folks are really interested in the lives of our Mexican friends.  Yesterday one of my friends told me what another had said after they spent time with all of us on Monday.  "I like Chadd's mom so much because you can tell she really is interested in what our life is like--she asks questions and really wants to know what we think and what we want to do with our lives." 

I like that about her too.   

We were trying to count how many trips my mom has made to Mexico since we moved here.  We came up with between 40 and 45 week-long visits in the last 19 years.  This means that my mom has spent almost a year of her life in Mexico!  My dad has averaged a week each year which means he has spent 3 or 4 months here.  We’ve had lots of fun and made many good memories. 

I wonder what they’ll do with their vacation time when we’re not in Mexico anymore.  

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Women's Gathering on Saturdays and Kid's Formation

Every other Saturday afternoon, our house is the gathering place for several women who come together to help one another grow in their understanding and skills around the idea of spiritual formation in children.  Nancy invited them to begin this Kid’s Formation Workshop back in September.  

I’m amazed at the sustained interest in this…that they keep gathering with such enthusiasm.  They have a lot of fun together.  Lots of things are happening—fellowship, fun, eating and praying together.  But Nancy is especially focused on a few elements:

  1. They are growing together in their understanding of the larger Story of the Bible.  Instead of merely seeing the Bible as a hodgepodge of stories, poems, laws and prophecies, they are seeing that the stories of Scripture make up a larger storyline.  These women are grasping this important truth and are also learning to share these stories in the context of the larger Story with the children in their own families, in their house churches, and in their neighborhoods.  Its cool to watch them grasp this together. 
  2. They are learning together how important and yet simple it is to tell and “play” these stories together with kids—and perhaps adults.  They have a growing confidence that they don’t have to be professional teachers, but that God does something formatively important when we begin playing with kids around these stories…that important questions and conversations often come out of this experience.  The kids are blessed; the adults (when we let ourselves) also can enter into the play and be blessed as well. 
  3. These women are also growing tremendously in their confidence.  Most of them have a very limited education.  This has caused them to doubt their ability to contribute.  But Nancy is helping each of them put together a resource box of simple tools which can be used to tell the different stories of the Bible.  Each time they meet, they work to make the material together (on a recent Saturday they each made a wooden temple that can be used to tell several of the Bible stories).  You can tell that they feel good about themselves and their ability to be helpful to kids.  Its neat to see their confidence grow and to hear them tell of how they are using all of this with the kids in their lives.  

Its fun to see the growth and wonder what will become of all the seeds that are planted in good hearts. 

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Our Old Friend Pedro

One of the things I liked about our recent visit to Mexico City was that we got to spend a little time with our old friend Pedro.  Pedro is a tough guy from one of the toughest areas of Mexico City—Tepito.  Pedro has been following Jesus for almost 20 years now.  It shows.  

When we were together a few days ago I heard him tell his story again…how 18 years ago this month he stumbled out of a cantina at about 11:00 am in the morning and  was handed a piece of paper by a girl who was handing out invitations to a Christian film series.  She spoke no Spanish and he no English.  But she led him to where I was and in my poor Spanish (Nancy and I had been in Mexico for only 6 months or so) I explained to him about a film series we were offering and invited him to attend. He came and met several of us—he and I began to read the Bible together each week.  A few months later, he decided to commit to Jesus—and has been walking and growing with God ever since.  

I heard him tell of important people God has used in his life—the Moore and Fanning family—Gerardo and Carola Garcia—and many others.  

It was cool to hear him describe his life and ministry now and his dreams for the future…to hear him talk about the brokenness he sees daily in that huge city and his desire to participate with God in seeing things made right.  Pedro ministers to at least 3 small communities of disciples—celulas he called them in different neighborhoods in Mexico City.  He has friends all over the city.  He knows life is tough.  He likes to teach and help people…but especially loves telling the story of God’s work in his own life and helping others see that God is willing to do the same thing for them.  

Pedro is still a tough guy from one of the toughest areas of Mexico City.  He has a faith made mature through experience with God on the streets of Mexico City.  It was good for my heart to see the evidence of Christ in my old friend.  

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Bringing in the New Year in Mexico City

We spent last week in Mexico City—decided to go over a few days after Christmas and see the New Year in there.  Our friends, the Degraffenreid family (a missionary family from Guadalajara whose kids go to school with ours) went with us.  We had a great time showing them Mexico City, seeing the tourist sites, hanging out with old friends, and visiting our memories of our early years as missionaries in Mexico so long ago.  

In later blogs we may write in a little more detail, but we visited the Pyramids of Teotihuacan, the Basilica of the Virgin Guadalupe, Chapultepec Park, the Zocalo and Templo Mayor, the museum of Friday Kahlo, the center of Coyoacan, and Six Flags Mexico.  We took 17-year old Zane Degraffenreid to Los Narajitos for tacos and he ate 30 tacos in one sitting—we wonder if it might be a record!

We got to spend time with our good friends the Brednich and Henderson families—and got to eat lunch with Pedro Marin.  We also got to visit the orphanage where our daughter Ceci spent 2 years of her life—got to visit several of the people who were responsible for caring for her back then.  We got to say “gracias” again to them. 

One of the things that I really liked about the week was that we stayed at the Pink House.  When Nancy and I first arrived as missionaries to Mexico we lived our first 5 ½ years in the Pink House.  We brought Morgan and Natali home from the hospital to this house.  It was there that we studied Spanish everyday and began to fall in love with the Mexican people. 

It was cool to visit old memories last week!  

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

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