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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