Thursday, August 10, 2017

VBS edition

Almost one week ago, the Huejotzingo VBS at our house ended.  As with previous years, the week of the VBS was one of intense, all-absorbing work.  My dad was here for the week, and we had loan of the church van, so he left every morning at 10:30 to pass by three fairly remote houses to pick up kids and then return them at about 2:15 every afternoon.  He was also our photographer.

Day 1 began with chaos.  Our printer decided not to work, so we couldn´t print out the review pages for after the story.  Abraham then went to save the pages on a thumb drive in order to take them to a cafe internet, but the drive wouldn´t read them.  Therefore, he took the entire laptop off to the cafe internet.  While this was going on, my dad left to pick up the kids, along with my brother-in-law who supposedly knew where the houses were.  Our helpers arrived, and soon after the kids also arrived, but we didn´t have the computer to start teaching them the new songs as we had planned.  I decided to take all the kids at once to the patio for their snack, so we had a small crowd of varying ages all stuffed in the area where we had planned for only the little kids to be.  As I and our helpers were serving snack, my dad called to ask where the houses were, because my brother-in-law didn´t actually know and had taken him all the way out to the construction site instead.

After those wrinkles, everything began to calm down, and we were able to return to the planned schedule for the day.  During the time when all the kids are together inside, Abraham appeared dressed as Ruben, the oldest brother of Joseph. He explained why the brothers hated Joseph and had wanted to kill him, but Ruben convinced them to just put him in an empty cistern, planning to return him to his father later.  The other brothers, however, sold Joseph into slavery while Ruben was gone.

Once the kids heard the story, listening with rapt attention, they divided into two groups - the 2-6´s who went out to the patio, and the 7´s and up who stayed inside.  Each child made a paper bag puppets of Joseph with his coat of many colors and filled out the review pages, finally successfully printed downtown.  When they finished their craft and work page, we all returned indoors for a quick review, and they went home.

Over lunch with our marvelous helpers, we counted the names on the registry and found we had welcomed 41 kids, a much higher first day number than any other year.

As the numbers continued to increase each day, we had new wrinkles.  Some days the helpers arrived late, so we started out with only Abraham, Six, and I and an energetic bunch of children and young teens signing in all at once.  Some days Leilani just wanted to cling to either Abraham and I and desperately wanted her nap right at 1 when we still had another hour of VBS to finish.  Every day we had one three-year-old who wouldn´t obey a single command we gave and would blythely run out the gate and into the street if we didn´t catch her.  Each day Abraham´s voice became rougher and tireder from calling out instructions during game time and from reviewing verses with the two groups.

On Tuesday, my brother-in-law played the part of pharoah´s cup bearer and continued Joseph´s story.
Wednesday I was Joseph´s wife, Asenath, and Thursday a neighbor told more of the story as Judah, the brother who had most wanted to kill Joseph.  On Friday, one of our helpers (at the last minute) agreed to be Joseph and finished the story of his remarkable life.

Every day we also had a snack related to that day´s story.  We had games, songs, review, Bible verses, crafts, and pages to help the kids remember what they had learned.

Learning from last year, we decided to invite the parents to the finale on Friday.  That way, almost all the kids were already present, and their parents were much more likely to also attend.  A neighbor


family donated the cake and ice cream, and we gave each child their diploma and a gift for having been with us.  We still have to work on smoothing out the finale process, but Lord willing, there will be other years of VBS for us to continue to learn from.

In the end, we had a total of 62 kids registered, with Wednesday having the largest total all at once with 55.

Thank you for your prayers!  Please keep praying for us as the construction is almost finished on my mother-in-law´s house.  In about two weeks, she will move in.  Our house should be done in about a month.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Construction

For about a year, my mother-in-law´s house in Puebla was listed for sale.  In January of this year, it finally sold for the asking price, and my mother-in-law moved in with us in Huejotzingo while she and Abraham looked for land to buy.  They found four well-priced lots ten minutes by bus outside of Huejotzingo and spent some time negotiating to buy.  The land is surrounded by corn fields on three sides and a dirt road in front.  We will have neighbors across the street, but on our side, no one lives yet.
Abish and Lani enjoying the constrution site
Once my mother-in-law Six paid for the land, we contracted a man we have known for many years to build our houses.  Don Ezequiel has almost a life time of experience with construction, is honest, and does not drink or allow his workers to drink.  He also works very hard and had Six´s house walls completed within two weeks.
Abish showing how deep the foundation holes are
At present, he and his crew have finished pouring the concrete roof on Six´s house, has begun the walls of our house, and is working on the cistern we will share.  When Six´s roof has cured, a process that takes about two weeks, he will be ready to do our roof.  In about a month, if all continues well, Six will be able to move into her house.

Progress has not been without problems.  Frequently construction sites are vulnerable to theft.  Wooden supports, castillo wire, anything left at the site has a way of walking off.  Typically, neighbors by the construction site will agree to watch for potential robbers in exchange for some payment.  Our soon-to-be neighbors did agree to that, but it has been difficult with them, because they pass by very frequently to ask for money from Don Ezequiel or from us, if we are there.

Also, several kilos of rebar was stolen one night.  The happy resolution for that theft is that the rebar then mysteriously reappeared soon after.

However, as I write, there has been another theft.  Don Ezequiel called Abraham, who is in Puebla for the day, to tell him.  The call kept cutting out, so Abraham couldn´t hear details.  Abraham called me, but we still don´t know exactly what is going on.   Please pray.



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

arts and crafts

concentrating on her self portrait
On Thursdays, Abish and Lani join me to go to Puebla Christian School.  This is now the second year that I have taught elementary art with my own kids along for the class.  Abraham arrives at PCS about the same time we do, although he leaves for Puebla earlier in order to attend his Tae Kwon Do class.  While I teach the 5th and 6th graders in the hour before lunch, Abish and Lani sometimes stay with Abraham or Abish joins the class.  The class after lunch is with the 1st through 4th graders.  Lani stays with me while Abish goes with Abraham to the PE class that he teaches.  In the last hour, both kids are with me during Abraham´s second PE class.

Our kids thoroughly enjoy the chance to play at the school.  Both Abish and Lani are mostly outgoing, so they love the time spent during the lunch hour and after school with other kids.  Sometimes a young friend between them in age comes after school, and then the three of them run around happily.

In the art class, my goal is that the students learn they are capable of drawing.  It is obvious that not all are interested in the skill, but I want them to understand they can learn should they choose to.  We alternate doing pencil drawing techniques, generally from the book Drawing in the Right Side of the Brain, one week and then a craft the next.  The craft is based on some form of art from around the world, so we have done batik with crayon resist on paper, hojalata gel pen drawings on tin foil, and other ideas (usually pinterest inspired).  

In November, I also began teaching a drawing class at church after service.  The Dios es Amor students are teens or young adults, some of whom declared at the beginning that they didn´t think they would be able to learn to draw.  Hopefully they will be encouraged to see they can.

A few years ago, we started a craft and cooking time for teen girls in Huejo.  The class met once a week for more than year, and then the girls moved away.  After another year or so of no class, one of the girls returned to the neighborhood and asked if the class was still meeting.  I said we could start again, and we had two classes.  Again, the girls moved.  However, a couple months later, a neighbor girl who usually also comes to the Sunday kids´ club began to attend the Thursday evening class.  For awhile, she was the only one, but last week she invited a friend.  It looks as though they will both return this week.

Please pray that these activities would be of blessing for those who attend.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Mom

My mom as a little girl
I have not posted in quite some time, because I haven´t really known how to write or what to say.  My mom suffered from a number of health issues for quite a few years and had been in and out of the hospital several times.  In November, my dad took her to the hospital again after she woke up from a nap totally confused and incoherant.  Her days in the hospital passed as she continued in confusion and fear and as one specialist after another tried to figure out what was wrong.  There were moments when she was more lucid and could converse on a basic level with either dad or sister.  She didn´t seem to be improving much, but neither did she seem to be failing.

However, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I called my dad, and he said we needed to get to Long Beach as soon as possible.  Mom was dying. Stunned, I asked what had changed.  His simple reply, "She did.  She told me she wants to go."

Abraham immediately began looking for plane tickets.  However, we were not able to leave as anticipated.  I also needed medical attention for a small emergency operation.  The doctor said I needed to rest for three days after the procedure.

During the time we stayed in Huejotzingo for my recooperation, my dad moved Mom home for hospice care.  At first, Dad said he thought Mom would live another 2 weeks, but the first hospice nurse to arrive at their house told them she would live only about 4 days.

My siblings arrived in Long Beach.  Even my brother's soon-to-be-fiancée flew to visit for two days.  My mom had met her via skype, but this was the first time they met in person.  Although Mom was basically in coma, she did respond to some things, and smiled or opened her eyes briefly a few times.

We were able to talk to her through skype, and once or twice she opened her eyes, and even smiled at the enthusiastic chatter of our kids.  On the 22nd, we talked to her in the evening.  Later that night, my dad called to say Mom had gone Home.

We joined the family in Long Beach on Thanksgiving Day, and we stayed for the next 7 weeks.  We returned home to Huejotzingo on Jan. 13 and took up the regular routine of Bible studies, kids´ club, teaching at PCS and sometimes at Dios es Amor (Sunday school and drawing class), and the day-to-day business of living and raising two energetic kids.

All the while, I feel the constant reminder that Mom isn´t here any more.  It isn´t that my particular grieving has, at this point, meant tears.  Rather, I am reminded by all kinds of little things.  When I paint or draw or teach drawing, I think of Mom and how we attended art classes together and how she loved to paint.  We would discuss painting and I would tell her about teaching art at PCS when we talked on Skype almost every Tuesday.

She and I also took Spanish classes together when I first began learning Spanish.  She started out knowing more than me, but we took the same classes together for several semesters.

I think of her when I´m with my kids and I wonder what she advice she would have given me about raising them had she lived longer.  She enjoyed the pictures of them on facebook, and her comments are still there.  It feels surreal that her comments outlast her.

So I took a long time to write a blog post again because, how to summarize my mom´s life? What to say to the internet world?  Not to acknowledge my mom´s death felt wrong, but to write about it rather personal, since anyone can read a blog post.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Activities

 Activities in Huejotzingo continue as before.  We have Bible studies at a few houses and kids´ club every Sunday afternoon.  We raise our two rambunctious kids and keep house and work at Puebla Christian School part-time.  Very soon we will celebrate Leilani´s second birthday, and within a year we will start homeschool with Abishael.

A few weeks ago, I began a pencil drawing class at Dios es Amor for anyone over the age of 10 interested in learning.  So far we have only had two meetings, because of different activities at church.  There are five, or perhaps six, students.  I emphasize that drawing is not a mysterious gift that only a few people have, but that anyone can learn how to really see in order to capture their world on paper.

Also at Dios es Amor, preparations have begun for the church Christmas presentation.  This year there will be five scenes from Jesus´ life presented in different areas of the church property.  Abraham will be one of the three narrators who will be guiding visiting groups through each of the scenes and reading the Biblical accounts of each part of Jesus´ life.  Leilani and I have the role of shepherds, along with two other children from Huejotzingo.  Abishael will be part of the group of angels, and Six will be one of the Magi.  Four other children from Huejotzingo also have roles in the first scene as angels and Magi.

In a previous post, I wrote about several people who needed prayer for serious health problems.  Aaron continues to receive chemo treatment for the tumor in his chest.  He has been able to spend days at home between treatments, and so far hasn´t suffered nausea from the medicine.  Fani decided to try alternative treatments for the tumor in her brain rather than have surgery immediately.  Hortensia is now completely free of shingles.  Alan has returned home, but is still very ill and must undergo more testing.

Another person who needs prayer is Martha, an older widow with reduced income.  A few weeks ago, she was bitten by a black widow spider and went to the hospital for treatment.   The treatment was effective, but the doctors warned her to stay out of the sun for a few months - apparently the venom remaining in her system can be reactivated by sun exposure.  This restriction is difficult for Martha, because she lives in an isolated area, and her only means of transportation is walking.  Needing to stay out of the sun makes getting to work difficult or impossible.

Please continue to pray for healing for these people and for continued health for all of us.  Pray for us as we decide what curricula to use with Abish for his homeschooling.  Thank you for your partnership with us.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Update

We have an update for the people on the prayer list.  Luis does not have leukemia.  He just has some anemia.

Irma passed away late last week.  

Hortensia is much better, and we will return to Bible study with them again this week.

There is a new person to add to the list.  Aron is a 7th grader at PCS.  His mom is the secretary at the school, and three of his brothers graduated from PCS in the last few years.  His mother was diagnosed with Lupus last year, and now he is undergoing many medical studies for a tumor that was found in his chest last week.  

Please continue to pray!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Puebla Christian School and Calling the Pray-ers

concentration on their reference drawings


Puebla Christian School has begun the 2016-2017 school year.  Once again Abraham and I are part-time teachers there.  Abraham is the PE teacher for the whole school for the fourth year, and I am the elementary students´ art teacher for the second year.  Like last year, I will alternate teaching drawing techniques with teaching art history and doing a project related to the artist or art movement.  Around some holidays we will also craft gifts.

We just found out that Fani, one of the PCS teachers, a lady who also has three children attending there and who was on the board of directors, was diagnosed with a brain tumor that must be operated on as soon as possible.  At this point, she and her family have no other information about the tumor.

The tumor adds her to a list of people Abraham and I are praying for and helping in any other way we can.  My sister-in-law has a former co-worker, Alan, a 25 year old man, who is in the hospital receiving chemo treatments for leukemia.  His family is poor, and the treatments, while partially covered by public health insurance, are difficult for them to manage.

Another person recently diagnosed with leukemia is Irma, the grandmother of seven of the children we do Bible study with once a week. She believes she has the cancer because some one put a curse on her.

Our neighbor Luis, the teenage uncle of three of the kids who regularly attend Sunday kids´ club (and who used to attend himself), will be having tests done next week to determine the cause of his anemia.  The thought is that he, too, may have leukemia.

Finally, we are also praying for Hortensia, a lady who lives with another of my sisters-in-law.  She has been down with shingles for the last two and a half weeks.  The family has been trying to find creams, lotions, and natural treatments to relieve her symptoms, but she is having a very rough time.  So far nothing helps much.  For this family also, the expenses of treatments are causing strain, since their budget is very limited

This is just too much serious illness!  Please pray for these people and their families.

On a much brighter note, we were very blessed by one of the families that Abraham and Six regularly do a Bible study with.  Ernesto and Marisol are new believers, and they still have many habits to change.  However, they are taking the studies seriously, and two weeks ago decided to give Abraham an offering of money for two of the sick people mentioned above.

On Thursday evening, we heard a knock at the door, and Abraham went to answer.  He returned with a box of groceries that these neighbors had bought for us.  How wonderful to see them growing in their faith and willing to generously give!  It is encouraging to see them grow.  Pray for them as they grow, because they often face rejection and mocking from their relatives who live in the same compound.

We are checking to see if we can change a Bible study that we used to do on Fridays to Sundays.  The Bible study sometimes involves three generations of women, all of whom have serious difficulties in their lives.  Recently only one person, sometimes two, could be at the Bible study.  Last Friday, one of the ladies asked us if we could change the Bible study to Sunday, because it is the only time she, and perhaps her four-year-old granddaughter, can attend.  We will try going right when we arrive from church.  Six will stay with the children who arrive for kids´ club as they play, and we will return for the other afternoon activities.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

John the Beloved Disciple


baby dedication
On July 13, my sister Joy and my dad arrived in Huejotzingo.  We visited a few fun places together, and they also helped preparing for our VBS.  On Sunday they attended church at Dios es Amor with us, and we had Leilani´s baby dedication.

July 18 - 23 we held VBS at our home, with the theme of John the beloved disciple.  For the fourth year in a row, we developed our own curriculum, a process which requires many months of work scouring internet resources, writing, and planning.


Abish feeling awful
As with last year, we woke up to a feverish Abishael on Monday.  It was his first sickness in all 2016.  Because he was in pain from achy joints, and because the fever was not going away even with the homeopathic medicine treatment, we chose to modify the first day of VBS.  Volunteers from Dios es Amor and two neighbor friends took over games and snack while my dad drove us in our neighbors´ car to the kids´ doctor in Puebla.  Our very social Abish cried disconsolately over not being able to play with his friends.  Both Abish and Lani, it turned out, had throat infections, and the doctor gave them a new treatment which soon had them both feeling better.

reviewing worksheets and preparing
On Tuesday Abish was no longer feeling bad, so we swung into full VBS mode.  At noon the children began to sign in, and the day´s focus of Jesus calling John and James started out with songs.  Once most children had signed in, we split the groups into ages 1 - 6 and 7 and up.  The young kids went to the patio for snack of fishy crackers and for verse practice while the older group took to the street for games.  The groups switched places, and then we all met together inside for a few more songs, announcements and welcome, and a visit from special guest Zebedee (played by Abraham).  Again the young group went to the patio where they made a fish mobile with the day´s verse and then completed a page to help them remember the day´s story.  Inside, the older group worked on slightly more complicated versions of the same.  At the end of the work time, we all briefly returned indoors to review, and then it was time to go home at 3.
Joy saying goodbye on Wednesday

Abraham dressing as James
Wednesday´s story was told by James (again played by Abraham).  The children learned about Jesus´ transfiguration.  The schedule followed the same order Tuesday through Friday, with the two groups sometimes together and sometimes divided, and everything from games to snacks, songs to crafts, and verses to work pages serving to emphasize the story of the day.


On Thursday James and John´s mother (played by me) told the story of Jesus´ trial, death, and resurrection and of how John stayed faithfully with Jesus throughout Jesus´ trial and death.
little kids´ craft
 Friday´s visitor was a lady from the church John wrote to in 2 John.  She urged the children to obey God´s command to love each other.

Because of the change on Monday, our VBS ran through Saturday.  In addition, we decided to hold the finale on Saturday rather than on Sunday afternoon as we had done in the past . Our last visitor, played by our neighbor, was John himself.  He told about Jesus´ second coming and said that we should be vigilant as
keep watch
we wait for him.

Four parents arrived for the finale.  There was some chaos as we shepherded the children inside, reviewed the week´s stories, and called the children and volunteers up for diplomas.  Finally, each child received their gifts and filed outside for the cake and juice donated by two parents.

most of the young group
older kids and their diplomas
little kids´ games

don´t lose the balloon

older kids´group finishes tower first

the youngest participant


our debt is paid
In total we had 42 children, ranging in age from not-yet-two (Leilani) to 18 years old.  Our busiest day had 34 children.  We were blessed with the help of several people from church and a Christian couple who live near us.  Thank you for your prayers for us in the work of putting together and hosting this year´s VBS.  Please pray that the messages of the Bible conveyed through the VBS would continue to impact the lives of the children and their families.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

reinitiating

playing with sidewalk chalk
 We recently reconnected with a lady that Abraham used to do Bible studies with.  She lives Huejotzingo, but not particularly close to us.  After being out of contact with her for quite some time, she showed up at our house one morning to tell me about the December murder of her 23 year-old granddaughter, the single mother of two small children.  She said that the family was now living in poverty, although they had the help of a Christian lady near her home.

together in the yard
Abraham reinitiated Bible studies with her.  Not long after that, our kids and I also began to go with him so that the lady´s grandkids could have some friends to play with during the study.  Depending on the day, the lady is there.  Her elderly brother is always home and listens to the study eagerly.  Sometimes other family members also participate. The family has a great many chains to break as they learn what God´s best is for their lives.  The mother and sister of the young lady declared their faith in Jesus just this past week, and we pray that their declaration is real.

We are gearing up for our annual vacation Bible school coming up the third week of July.  We still have quite a bit to do to prepare.

This last week, after a year and a half haitus, I started the cooking or craft class with teen and pre-teen girls.  We stopped the classes because the participants moved away, and no new teens arrived.  Last month, three of the girls moved back and asked for the class again.  Our class last week was making cream cheese bites. Yum!

Please pray for us as we plan the VBS, continue previously established studies and English class, and reinitiate the study and teen class.  Pray also for our church which is going through a difficult time.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Día del Niño

April 30th is children´s day, and it´s a pretty big deal around here.  Both at church and at our house, we celebrated on May 1st, since that was the Sunday.  On the 30th we visited a family that we normally see on Saturdays.  The situation in their home is very difficult, and I emphasized the special place that children have in God´s heart, praying that the seven children in that home will escape their parents´ errors by being sure of God´s love for them.

What was special for our kids on April 30th, is that there were fair rides set up in the town square, and all children rode for free.  Abish enjoyed four rides and Leilani one, because only the carousel was for really young kids.
ice cream at church
At church, the songs were children´s choruses and the sermon was directed to children as well.  Once the service ended, there were games to play, face painting,  and ice cream with sprinkles and chocolate sauce to eat (or paint faces with...).
several boys wanted face paint like Spiderman
 Back at home we had also invited the kids for games and fun.  Several kids that had not been to Sunday kids´ club for months showed up for the celebration.  After some time of playing, we gathered the 18 kids together at the table to tell stories from the Bible.  I told how Jesus raised a 12-year-old girl to life and how Jesus told his disciples that they had to become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Abraham finished the time by telling of when Jesus became angry with the disciples because they rejected the mothers who wanted Jesus to bless their children.  He told the disciples,"Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these," and then he welcomed and blessed the children.

"Catch me if you can!"



After they had eaten their snack of chicharines and chocolate cake, the kids ran outside to play tag.  As the time came for them to leave, we gave the boys a matchbox-type car and the girls a pony.