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Archive for March, 2009

As I said in one of my earlier posts, one of my favorite parts of each day is the debriefing session we do each night to reflect on the day. While B2B does a great job in pouring the resources we provide (labor, passions, gift and others) into the different children’s homes they come alongside, an element of where they stand out from other mission organizations, at least in my mind, is the way in which they minister to each person that comes down here. The amount of time and detail they give to personal reflection, group debriefing and quiet time alone with the Lord allows each of us to process what we’ve seen each day and also to reflect on what God is calling each of us to do.

One of the things Anita and I have been wrestling with recently is what it looks like for the American church to live out James 1:27, caring for widows and orphans in their distress. And as a trip by Fields of Grace, what does everyone come away from this trip thinking or doing about that verse? Is everyone called to adopt? Is everyone called to go into the Rio and start a church? Is everyone called to become foster parents children? I don’t think so but many of us are and that’s what we’re hoping to begin to stir in everyone’s hearts that are with us this week’.

Here are some random comments from last night’s debriefing session with Beth. The question, again, was what picture comes to mind from the day of working and playing in the Rio.

  • playing cars with the kids, we couldn’t understand each other but still had fun
  • playing soccer with the kids
  • kids receiving the clothing items and being thankful for what they got
  • walking down through the Rio holding hands with the various kids
  • the sights, smells and sounds of the utter poverty of the Rio
  • running out of our supplies, thinking of the faith the apostles must have had when they fed the 5,000
  • mixing the cement with the older gentlemen at the Rio
  • all the trash by the Rio and the strength of the kids to live in that environment
  • the attitudes of the kids, playful and energetic
  • the kids playing in the garbage of the Rio
  • walking to the Rio, why are people born into situations like this
  • the contrast of the beauty of the church and the drug dealing house less than 100 feet away

Here are some answers to questions Beth got after we shared our pictures from the day:

  • After they sort though the garbage for anything of value, they then burn what’s remaining along the river to get rid of it
  • The kids without parents find safe kids’ homes to stay with. Yes, it’s illegal but the police have bigger issues to deal with than a child not having a home to live in.
  • For water, the homes use water capture bins to catch rainwater to use to wash clothes, brush their teeth – or they go to the polluted river to do that stuff. But they don’t get much rain here.
  • The biggest issue for the children and mothers who live along the river is the parasites they get from drinking the water. B2B is working on a clean water project with an organization from Houston.
  • Eighty percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product is held by eleven large families

I’ll post more photos of the day later this morning. Today, we’re going to Casa Hogar Douglass, a children’s home about half a mile from B2B.

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Today, we traveled to the farthest northwest side of Monterrey to serve those living in extreme poverty in a squatter’s village. In Mexico, the government does not provide for these individuals and families but they do allow them to live on government land, which is typically along the rivers. The church that is on the very edge of Escoveda serves hot meals for the children every Saturday.

Before we left B2B this morning, we divided up the 25,000 children’s vitamins into packets with 30, or roughly a month’s supply. Today, we’ll work alongside to prepare a hot meal of tacos to feed the kids before they head off to school for the afternoon. Many of the kids in this area don’t go to school because they have to walk about an hour each way to get there. We’re leaving now so I’ll get back on later tonight to finish this up.

9:05pm – we just returned home from our day at the Rio and it was obvious during tonight’s debriefing that everyone was significantly impacted. We had planned on demolishing a large concrete wall to expand the church building but when we got there some others had already completed it. As a result, there was a little less physical work to be done though some of the guys poured some concrete footings, others used the jack hammer on the concrete roof to bust away an old staircase and others hauled dirt to fill an area that will eventually be the floor.

As soon as we got to the church, we immediately fed the kids a hot meal of tacos and hot sauce so they could eat before they began their long trek to school. Once those kids were gone, many stayed behind (though they were school age) and hung out in the Rio neighborhood.

We were all struck by the utter poverty of the whole area, the massive size of the area and as one person put it during our debrief, the full sensory overload of it. The images, the smells, the people, the texture of the entire area screamed out.

Words can’t fully or adequately describe what we saw today, but perhaps some of these pictures will. The first photos are of the garbage that permeates this area. The final three shows the beauty of God’s created beings who, for some reason, were placed to live in this area of the world. I have no idea why it was them and not us, but God has a plan. It’s easy to think that we are better off than they, and in many ways we are, but ultimately perhaps because they have a very real, almost tangible faith, perhaps they look at us in the same way, running around with our fancy cameras taking pictures, in our “fancy” clothes. Good night.

Picture 107 Picture 115Picture 108Picture 122 Picture 085 Picture 106

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We’re Off to The Rio 3

112355We’ve just finished up our morning routine of breakfast, quiet time and family devotional time. Following that, we had an open market experience where they bring in hand-crafted goods for local artisans that are available for purchase at B2B. In the past, they used to bring the teams to the central market in Monterrey, which took quite a bit of time and cost for the bus rentals.

In this morning’s family devotional, we talked about “one anothers,” today focusing on encouragement. It was fun to have each of talk about ways we can each be an encouragement to one another. Here was our view for our quiet time and family devotional time.

I’ll check back in tonight.

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At The End of Each Day

Last night, after we returned from a long day of working hard and playing hard, we had a de-brief in one of the Palapas, or outdoor covered areas, with Beth Guckenberger. Beth and her husband Todd are the directors of Back2Back Ministries Mexico and have been down here for about ten years. They are both very passionate people about caring for the orphans of Mexico and have expanded their family significantly since moving here (I believe they now have ten kids, four biological and six are teenage Mexican girls that have come to them in different circumstances). I would encourage you to do a search for Beth on Godtube – there you’ll see several videos the Zondervan shot of her in advance of her book, which is entitled “Reckless Faith.”

She described to us that a girl on a recent trip came up to her and thanked her for the mountain top experience she was having, and then she walked away. Beth told us how she was devastated by her comment – she doesn’t want this to be a mountain top experience for anyone in that from here the only place you can go is down. She talked about how they view a trip to work with them as a launching off point from which people can catch a heart for how God views the fatherless. We’ve certainly seen that in the people we’ve brought down here from Hill Country Bible Church. Her line was something along the lines of “Am I allowing God to use me in the ways he created me to be used?”

Each of us last night were asked to close our eyes and get a mental picture of the most impactful memory of the day. We went around the circle and everyone, old and young, shared what their picture was. The most common one was the complete joy we saw in the children that we visited and served. They came running to the gates when we arrived, they played with complete joy despite their surroundings. Each one of the children would shake our hands, say hello or hola, and many would want to take us to show us something. And when it was time for us to leave, many of the kids walked us to the gates and waved to us through the gate as our bus pulled away.

I look forward to our de-briefing time each night. It enables me to see the day through the eyes of everyone else on the trip and through the eyes of my children.

Thank you for your support.

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065949You probably read my earlier post entitled “What if We Just Brought Ourselves.” There was never a thought of not bringing with us crucial supplies with us that the children of Monterrey desperately need but was intended to provoke some thoughts on whether we could still be used. I believe we can and would.

We drove down here in three 15-passenger vans, with the back seat taken out for stability while driving. The back of each van was packed to the ceiling but one entire van was completely filled with supplies that we brought in to the LDM last night when we first arrived. Thank you to everyone who donated clothing, shampoo, diapers, shoes, flip-flops, medical supplies, children’s vitamins, soccer balls. Each item will be put to good use by Beth and Todd and the staff here.

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111541As I write this, we’re riding in the rental bus from the B2B campus to a children’s home on the east side of the Sierra Madre mountains, about an hour’s drive away. We’re taking the bus because we’ll be less likely to be stopped by the local policia. Today, we’ll spend much of the day doing heavy demolition, running jackhammers and busting up concrete. Not sure what the area will look like.

Since I’m typing this as we drive and we’ll soon be up in the mountains, I need to stop typing as I’m prone to car-sickness.

6:04pm  — we headed home, my what a day.

Here’s all that we did:

  • water-proofed a wall
  • Jumped rope with lots of kids
  • Dug a ditch
  • Cut down two medium-sized trees
  • Played soccer with the kids
  • Dug two holes
  • The women made rebar ties and tied together rebar frames for concrete work
  • Changed the tire on the trailer
  • Played with play-dough
  • Played a game of Sorry in English and Spanish
  • Colored
  • Grilled 148 hot dogs
  • Ate dinner with the kids

All I can say is that we worked very hard today and bonded much more as a team. Before we began our day of work, we walked to a new piece of property about a block away. The children’s home directors have the opportunity to purchase the land to consolidate their facilities from the three homes they manage. Steve Sibley offered to pray over the land and with the children to ask for God’s provision for the land. Greg Huffer, our working contact from B2B today, told us the cost of the land was very expensive, about $75k for what appeared to be about an acre of land.

Connie, the house director for this children’s home, is such a Godly woman. At the end of our time of prayer, she led the kids in singing a song that talked about the fact that regardless of our nationality or our skin color, we are all children of Christ. She has had numerous young mothers bring their children to her and she has offered for them to live with them, do some laundry and help care for the children, including her own. Several young ladies have taken her up on the offer and have actually come to know the Lord as a result.

All of us are still well, no sicknesses to report. Tomorrow will be an emotional day for us as we’re going to the Rio 3, perhaps one of the poorest and largest squatter’s village in all of Monterrey. We’ll bring the underwear, vitamins, toothbrushes and toothpaste tomorrow. The people B2B works with there are operating a church where all of the residents of this poor area come each Sunday for church services.

My idea of what constitutes a church or even a church planting movement is changing dramatically as I view each of the children’s home directors as essentially operating small house churches.

Here are some random photos from the day. Thank you again for your support.

Prayer requests for tomorrow:

  • Continued safety as the place we’re going is less confined than the children’s homes;
  • Continued good health for us all;
  • That God would show Himself to us in the circumstances of the lives of those we interact with.

 

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In year’s past when we’ve come down here over Spring Break, we’ve had the luxury of having the entire place to ourselves. Not so this year. There is a group of about 15-20 people from a Vineyard Church in Cincinatti that are also here this week. And last night Beth told us there was a group of about eight people from Family Christian Bookstores that were flying in from locations across the U.S. B2B has a strong relationship with FCB and their James Fund, which through it’s James Fund Bear project has enable B2B to build several of the teen homes on the B2B campus and do many other things at some of the children’s homes.

Today, we’ll be spending about eight hours doing heavy demolition at a children’s home on the other side of the mountain range (the Sierra Madre mountains). We’ll start off at 10am and won’t quit until about 6 and then will feed the children there at 6:30 and have the opportunity to play with them before heading back to B2B.

It will be a long day for us all. Yesterday’s excitement will begin to wear off as we get into the reality of the poverty and hopelessness that many of the people here experience. Everyone is still asleep and I’ve been up for about 45 minutes. Though the area in which B2B resides is relatively safe, the campus is encircled with a wall and probably about a 25-foot high security gate. Each night there is a night watchman who walks the campus to ensure everyone is safe. He just came in to the LDM to drop off something.

That makes me think of the complete insecurity that each of the children in these homes knows each and every night. Most of the chilren’s homes don’t have security like we have at B2B. We are fortunate in that regard. But we are also fortunate in a bigger sense as well, and that is a huge part of why we’re here.

Because we personally know the love of Jesus Christ, because each of us has given up and said we can’t do this on our own anymore. Because each of us has asked Jesus Christ to take control of our lives, we have the ultimate security that no night watchman can match.

There is no wall large enough to protect us from earthly risks. There is no hedge of protection of any kind for many of these children and many of the residents of Monterrey from a spiritual perspective. Each and every night, they go to sleep with no protection of any kind. For those of us who have given up trying on our own and have turned our lives over to Christ, we have the ultimate night watchman. But His shift never ends. He’s always there. Always watching. Always waiting for our call. He wants a relationship with us.

So, our prayer requests for this day is this:

  • That each of us would pour our physical bodies into the construction we’re doing as if we’re doing it for the Lord (which we are);
  • That we would allow the surroundings of the children’s home to impact us, to help us realize what each of us has (though I’ll write in a future post about whether our material belongings can be called a blessing or a curse)
  • That we would have, and take, the opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ with each of these kids
  • Safety, safety, safety.

I’ll do my best to post this evening but we’ll have a late night.

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