Friday, January 23

Christmas Shoeboxes

Pastor Ricardo, Karen, Cheryl (from Oregon) and I drove to a neighboring city to pick up the Operation Christmas Child boxes. I just stood in awe of the sheer number of boxes there! What was so awe-inspiring, was not the boxes really, but rather the thought that each shoebox represented a Mexican boy or girl and an American family who was reaching out to that boy or girl in a very special, personal way.

Never in my life did I think I would be able to visit a distribution point for OCC. This was an absolutely wonderful experience! We saw pastors from every church in our area and from as far as 200 miles from the distribution point. WOW! The men and women who manned the storage building did their "job" with such joy! I didn't see any of the "frazzledness" that might accompany such a crazy project!!! God's Spirit was evident in the peace that permeated the warehouse and the parking lot, too!

So, we brought 300 boxes home to Boca and unloaded them "bucket brigade style" to the upper room of the church...

Then we waited until the appointed day! When the children arrived, the excitement level was high!!! Really high! In a town the size of Boca, nothing remains a secret for long. Even though we tried to bring the boxes in quietly, several of the youth saw us unloading (and a couple actually hopped in the line and helped!) so all the kids knew that this party was very special!

Each child held his gift aloft and followed Pastor Ricardo in a prayer of thanksgiving to Jesus for this special gift and for His great love for us -- that Jesus has given us the most precious gift...Himself!!!

You can read more about the party at Sarah's blog.

To me, though, the most precious time of the whole day came after the big party. We realized during the festivities that none of the children from La Pitaya had come. Why? The family in the village with a car was visiting family in Guasave, so no one came. OK. Now what? If the kids don't come to the party, let's take the party to the kids!!!

Doug ran over to La Pitaya, quickly wrote down all the kids' names and ages (there are only 20 or so) and then ran back to pick out boxes for each child. Then we loaded up with Pastor Ricardo, Cristina and a few others to head for the village.

La Pitaya is a tiny village. All the inhabitants are related in some way. All the men of the village are fishermen and all of them live in what most Americans would call abject poverty. No running water, no electricity, no grocery store, no school, no church, no prospects, no hope. Just a river and dirt. Small tar-paper huts with dirt floors. Outdoor firepits serve as kitchen and dining room.

Pastor Ricardo shared the gospel message, and while he spoke at first to the children about the meaning of the gifts and the gift of Jesus, soon he was speaking to the moms about the hope that Jesus can bring to our lives. Several of the women wiped away tears as Ricardo finished sharing.

Please pray for this village! We believe that God wants to do a mighty work in the hearts of the men and women of La Pitaya. Pray that hearts will be softened and that they would be open to hearing about Jesus' love and plan for their lives!

Here are photos from our time in La Pitaya...

The moms took the gifts for the two 14 year old boys who were out working with their fathers. Much like life in the States in the 1800s, young men of 13 or 14 are expected to pitch in to support the family. In a farming community, that means herding cows. In a fishing community, it means tending nets.

We stayed for a while to see the kids open their gifts. Talk about appreciation!!! This little boy said, "Wow! Gloves! They'll fit all year and next year, too!" The other little boy (red shirt above) had 4 or 5 Hotwheels cars in his box. He was so happy, he was almost crying. His mom was crying.

So we left and headed home -- singing worship songs and praising God. Spirits were high indeed!!!

Then suddenly...we got our van stuck really well in about 18 inches of silt. We prayed and some folks drove by who helped pull us out.

Why did God "allow" us to get stuck in the mud? Who knows!!! We don't believe in luck -- good or bad -- so we tend to believe that everything happens with a purpose. We may never know that purpose here on earth, but if we believe that God is truly working all things together for His glory, then we can rest in the fact that He really does know what He's doing! Maybe we were spared an accident or perhaps the car who stopped was spared. Maybe they needed to hear about the small village that we had visited or maybe they just needed to see that Christians get stuck in the mud, too. Whatever the reason, we were stuck firm and wouldn't have gotten free without help. These guys helped us out, heard a little about Jesus and then were on their way. Maybe we'll see them again someday?

Thanks again to everyone who participated in Samaritan's Purse -- Operation Christmas Child this year: the thousands who sent boxes, the thousands who shipped boxes, the thousands who distributed boxes and transported boxes and prayed for boxes. I don't know how many shoeboxes were shipped to Mexico, but these 300 found good homes...and Jesus came with them!!!

Thursday, January 15

Feliz Navidad!

Here are a few shots from the church Christmas party...
New chairs
Tom brought these chairs as a gift from a church in California. Maybe they looked old where they came from, but boy-oh-boy are they pretty here!!!

angry eyes

This is Jasiel's newest cute trick: "Angry Eyes" (I think you have to see the old Toy Story for that to be funny.) We managed to get all the kids up front to sing "Away in a Manger" in Spanish, but since we were all up front, no one took pictures. We didn't warn the kids at all -- yeah, they were a little upset...especially since we made them do the hand motions!!!
los jovenes cantan
The youth of the church (those that they could talk into it anyway) sang a couple of songs during the party.

church's new pianoHere's a good shot of a gift that was given recently -- a Korg keyboard. A family in Guasave had this sitting in a closet not being used and desired to donate it to a church which needed it. It's been such a blessing to have and is saving wear and tear on our piano, too. Bris and Sergio and a few others in the church are wanting to take piano lessons, now that the church has a piano accessible!
Evie and Damaris singing
Damaris and Evie sang the Moses song, "Dame la Paz".

Secret Santa gifts

Does your church do the Secret Santa? It's a big hit here. Everyone is called forward one at a time to receive their gift, open it, ooh and ahh over it and then give the next gift. Pastor Ricardo drew Doug's name. It was a hilarious gag gift! (Sorry, not gonna describe it over the internet. Suffice to say that one of the older church members was a little offended!)

Doug's gift

Hey, Annette! You said you wanted to see Damaris' face when she opened your gift? Here ya go!!!

Damaris's Gift

Here's Aristeo: The Taco King
Aristeo the taco man

Taco feed

Norma's Brothers...or cousins or something!

A great time was had by all and eveyone ate tacos! This was a very special party simply because most of the church was there and everyone brought their families. So often people stay home to be with their families at Christmas, or even on Sundays if family comes to visit, but this time the family came along as well.

CC Boca's Annual Couples' Dinner

Although this annual event has been held on Valentine's Day a few times, it seems there is no hard and fast rule for the date. This year, it was held the weekend after Christmas.

The best part of the dinner is not the posole (although, that is a very good part!!!). The best part is seeing all the ladies of the church bring their husbands to dinner. A lot of these guys come to church exactly once per year -- the couple's dinner. So we took a bit of advantage and served them some spiritual food along with the physical.

Our friends Gary and Patrick shared a short testimony for the couples.

The young people from the CC -- Rancho Santa Margarita youth group served dinner.

Several music groups entertained the guests including a group from the American team from CCRSM.

All of us old married folk had a chance to just sit back and relax for the evening. (Sarah and Bethany volunteered -- or were volunteered -- to babysit at our house so Caleb and Christian could work with the kitchen crew.)

Here is a picture of our friend Annette when she found out that she was in charge of the kitchen and serving crew for the night!

A week later, Doug was talking to a guy at the hotel who had passed by the church during the dinner. As usual, the church doors had been left open, so the speaking and singing was easily heard from the street. This man said he had been interested when he heard someone speaking English (because he spoke English, too), so he had stopped to see what was up. He had stayed and listened and later told Doug that he was on a "search" to find what was really "real" in his life. We've invited him to come back to church or to stop by our house. Pray that God continues what He's started in this young man's life!

Guided Tours

The fishing here in Boca del Rio is wonderful in November and December. The locals have been pulling in 10 pound red snapper, sea bass and a lot of others that I don't know the names of in English for the past couple of months. Pat and Gary, our friends from Oregon, like to fish as much as Doug does, so they managed to kidnap Esteban (who was pretty happy to be dragged along) and hired one of the men from La Pitaya to take them out fishing while they were here.

The guys got up early (twice, actually, but that's another story) and headed to the canal to catch some bait. The big fish only bite on live shrimp or small fish.

Esteban demonstrated the proper techniques for throwing the taralla (hope I spelled that correctly) and explained how to hold it...and why. He said that some guys tie the net onto their wrist or thumb, but the experienced person will tie it to the middle finger or pinky. Why? Well, many times a person will throw the net into the water from a boat. If the net happens to get caught in the propeller, the appendage tied to the net will get taken off. It's better to lose the pinky finger than the thumb or your whole hand. Pretty effective object lesson, I must say.

The guys then went to La Pitaya to meet up with Chabelo, who wasn't the only early morning fisherman out!

After being on the river a few hours, they then headed over to a place near the mouth of the river to fish from the shore. No pictures, sorrry! The photographer dropped the guys off at the boat!

At the end of the day, the guys had a 5 gallon bucket full of fish and were headed home. Since we women had the van, they were on foot. They met guy on the beach who looked like he could use some fish and asked if he'd like them. "I don't have any money, though," he said. Doug explained, "No!! We just want to give it to you!" He was happy then!

The younger boys went out with the dads the next day and did manage to bring in a few good-sized fish.


No, that's not a fish on Christian's plate. We served pigs-in-a-blanket for those who don't "do" fish.

So, they didn't catch as much as they wanted, but I think that's why they call it "fishing".

Wednesday, January 14

Oregonian Missionaries

I'm finally getting 'round to posting about our friends who came down here over Christmas break. We had such a fantastic visit with them!

Proverbs 25:25 says...
As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country!

That's how we felt about our Oregonian company -- refreshed!!!

We had a great time of fellowship, and the days simply flew past. We had all made promises of blogging and emailing during their visit, but I don't think I sat down at the computer once and the other grown-ups might have accessed email once or twice. Of course, we had 4 youth vying for time on the computer, too, but to be honest none of us really wanted contact with the "real world". We were having too much fun!!!
Here are some photos of our time with the Lee and Logerstedt families from Oregon...
church service
We were able to share both a Sunday service and a Wednesday service with our friends. Both times the church was packed. In addition to our friends from Oregon, another mission team of 22 people had come down from Southern California to do a construction project at the church. The more, the merrier!!!Tristan sharing Pastor Tristan (CC-Rancho Santa Margarita) shared on Wednesday and then invited the leadership of the church to come forward for prayer. After that, Pastor Ricardo invited the American leaders to come forward. It was a really neat time of prayer. Since it was New Year's Eve, the church service turned into a celebration of praise and prayer.American Leaders

Mexican leaders

Madai, Braulio's daughter, fell in love with Noelle and was always trying to drag her around places. Noelle didn't seem to mind too much!

Noelle and Madai

While the CCRSM team worked on building a roof at the church, our menfolk were working on some unfinished projects at our house. Doug, Gary and Patrick finished laying brick in front of the house. What a blessing! We will be using this area a lot during the hot season. Our friend Ramon got in on the project when it came time to cement the bricks in.

An added blessing to having a cement patio in front of the front door is that it has cut down on the amount of sand and gunk tracked in. We live in the land of endless dust with a house full of people allergic to dust. The difference is noticable!

Sunday night we hosted the annual couple's dinner. You can read more about this event by clicking here (once I write the post --maybe Thursday afternoon?).

We have a lot of pictures of our group eating. Why is that? Well, for one, we have twelve kids all together and more than half are teens. Plus mealtimes were about the only time we quit running around and sat down!

Gary's monster potato

Cheryl and I took a trip to pick up boxes for Samaritan's purse with Pastor Ricardo and Karen.

The menfolk went fishing with Esteban one day and with the kids another day.

The womanfolk took a tour of Guasave. We turned the "youth" loose with the camera, so we got some great shots of what they were up to! You can check out Sarah's blog to read more about that and other "stuff".

The Bonfire
We love to have bonfires on the beach (How many beaches in the States still let you make a big fire and shoot off fireworks?) and an integral part of any bonfire is...the marshmallow! We have SERIOUS marshmallows here!

Sarah and her bon bon

Then it was time to take them back to the Tufesa bus station. Very sad to see them go, but we took solace in knowing that, Lord willing, we'll see them in a month or so!