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. 






Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Holy Week 2016


We serve a risen Savior!  This year we chose to open our home each day of Holy Week for about 2 hours each day.  Mostly children came to the services, but some days a few adults joined us. 

On Monday Abraham taught about the cleansing of the temple when Jesus drove out those selling animals and changing money from the temple.  The children made handprint sheep and drew tables to fingerprint money onto.

Tuesday it was my turn to tell the story.  I shared about how the religious leaders wanted to trip Jesus up with something he said.  Then I told how one of the leaders asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is.  He replied, "To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself."  The children cut out and decorated hearts where they wrote, "Amarás a tu Dios con todo..." 

We had a full group on Wednesday when Abraham presented the story of how Judas betrayed Jesus and how we also betray him when we decide not to do what he says.  The adults and children traced their hands and cut out aluminum foil coins to show that Judas received 30 silver coins to turn Jesus over to his enemies.

Thurday we provided grape juice, mutton, and crackers as Abraham described the Last Supper and how Jesus came as a servant.  Abraham also told how Jesus went to the garden to pray, how his disciples slept instead of praying, and then how Jesus was arrested.  Again a mix of adults and children participated in the service.

Our Good Friday service was at 3.  Those who attended learned about the Old Testament tabernacle and how people were separated from God and kept to a strict set of laws involving sacrifices of animals.  Abraham shared about Jesus´ trial, crucifixion, and death and how the temple´s dividing curtain was torn from top to bottom the moment Jesus died, opening the way to God.
My turn to tell the Bible story came again on Saturday.  I reviewed to previous day´s lesson with an illustration, and then explained how the disciples felt on that Saturday after Jesus died.  They did not understand that he was not defeated, nor did it look like they had any hope.  However, he promised he would rise again. We then went on to see five of the many promises in the Bible for God´s children.

On Sunday came the celebration.  Abraham spoke of the empty tomb, and the children and adults made an empty tomb.  After that we enjoyed a potluck meal together.

It was good to be able to share the whole week with those neighbors who came.   

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Hearts

At PCS´ Valentine´s Day banquet
Happy month of love and friendship!  I appreciate how Mexico includes more than just romantic love in the celebration of Feb. 14.

I am so thankful for my family and the love we share.  God has blessed us greatly.  We celebrated Valentine´s Day on Friday evening at the Oscars, hosted by the Puebla Christian School seniors.  On Sunday we had some games for the kids, a craft, and a Bible story about friendship.  After Abraham told the story of David and Jonathan´s friendship, he explained that Jesus is the perfect friend.

Abraham and I will have our Valentine´s date next Monday.

Speaking of hearts, we have a 20 something student in our English class that I have been especially praying for. A couple weeks ago he and his younger cousin were joking about how many scars he has from having had so many surgeries.  Abraham asked him about the surgeries, and it turns out this young man has severe heart problems - he had six surgeries before the age of 3, and doctors would like him to have a heart transplant. However, since he is in decent health, he is not likely to get a transplant - there are others in much worse condition ahead of him.

Our infant nephew is also in need of heart surgery for a number of serious issues.  When I first met him, I could see he was ill.  He is milk white with blue around his eyes and lips, and he is very thin.  Doctors, however, want to wait until he is at least three before operating.  Why, I do not know.

Please pray for these two whose hearts are not what they should be.  Pray also for the opening and renewing of hearts here in Huejo as we continue to tell of God´s love.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Back Home

Goodness, it has been a very long time since I last updated!

This last Monday we returned from three weeks in the States visiting my family.  We had not expected to be able to go, but a financial gift and Abraham´s careful searching for sale ticket prices made the trip possible. Because we decided to go without much time between buying the tickets and the actual flight, we had to do lots of paperwork quickly: my passport had expired which required two trips to Mexico City, Leilani needed her Mexican passport, and Abishael´s Mexican passport had expired which meant trips to the government offices in Puebla.  What a scramble to finish it all!

standing on the US - Mexico boarder
We flew from Mexico City to Tijuana where we used the new CBX bridge to cross to the United States.  My dad picked us up there, and we drove another few hours to Long Beach.  Both going to Long Beach and returning home to Huejo required 14 1/2 hours of travel and waiting each way.

We enjoyed the time with family. While there, we visited some fun places and took the kids to the park several times.  They warmed up to the uncle, aunts, and grandparents that they hardly ever see (except on skype).  Unfortunately, illness visited, and our final days were shadowed by first Lani's fever and then Abishael's.  They both still have coughs, although they are slowly recovering.

Before we left for Christmas, we had the opportunity to partner with another missionary family and a team that came from the States to distribute water filters to our neighbors.  The water from the pipes here is not clean, so most people buy containers of water.  With filters, they can now save that money, a great help to tight budgets.  When we gave the filters, we also asked if the recipients wanted to hear about living water.  All the families agreed.  Abraham and I also offered Bible studies to them, and some said they did want us to visit.

We continue with the Bible studies already established, and there has been an increase in the number of children attending on Sunday afternoons.  Our Saturday and Tuesday English classes have a varying number of students, since some drop out but more join.

Please pray for us that 2016 will be a year of blessing.  Continue to pray for health, especially for Abish and Lani.  They are entering the third month of homeopathic treatments, and we pray that the natural medicines will strengthen their immune systems.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A New Season

The VBS that we had end of July had the greatest number of children participating during the week and the greatest number of parents attending the finale on Sunday afternoon with their children.  During the finale, Abraham offered the parents ten Bible classes in their home if they wished.  A few families agreed that they wanted the classes, but so far we have only been able to schedule visits with one family.

sisters working on their comparisons of Jacob and Esau
Abish loves playing with the kids
coloring Jacob and Esau
The family that we began Bible studies with has six young children and another child who is actually the uncle of the six.  Abraham holds Bible class with the parents, one grandmother, and sometimes some adult uncles while I teach Bible stories to the kids, including our two.  It can be very chaotic, since the kids are used to running around, wrestling, climbing everything, and in general expending their exuberant energy all over the place.  

However, for now we offer small prizes for the children who listen attentively and do their review craft.  That works, and hopefully soon I can stop with the prizes and still have the kids´ attention.

This is a season of transition, because we have not had any children coming for tutoring.  The three who studied with us for a few months entered school and no longer come.  Also, we have had very low attendance in the Huellas de Cristo kids´ club on Sunday afternoons, including some Sundays with no kids.  We decided to create a short interview and go to the homes of various children who used to attend Huellas de Cristo.  In the interview, we will ask the parents if they saw benefit for their children when they came on Sundays.  We will then ask if the parents want us to continue studies in their homes.

In two houses where Abraham has on-going Bible studies with adults, I will be starting Bible studies similar to those I do with the six kids.  We are adjusting our outreach to taking the Gospel to others´ homes rather than having people come to our house.  Please pray that this adjustment will be effective in spreading light in this dark place.

Pray for our safety and health.  Abish has continued in a pattern of being healthy for a few days and then contracting various colds and coughs, some with fevers.  Looking online at the symptoms he had a few months ago, I think he had strep twice, although the doctor did not give us a name for the illness.  He received effective treatment and recovered, but then came down with a cold that lasted for awhile.  Thank God that he has been healthy since Thursday.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

VBS Huejotzingo 2015

prep work - drawing faces for one day´s snack
There is no doubt that having two young children makes planning and running the VBS
more challenging.  How was their experience of the VBS?  Well...mixed.  The days before the VBS week are typically laced with preparation, but this year was a little different, because we had other activities also going on Saturday and Sunday.  The actual days of VBS are almost entirely devoted to all things VBS. However, we did our level best to also spend time focused only on our kids so that they wouldn´t hear, "I can´t play with you because I have to finish ..."  They both did really well with the complete disruption of their schedule and the difficulty of sharing their parents with 40 + other children.  However, we could see the struggle it was for Abish, even though he mostly enjoyed having the other kids around.  During the hours of VBS, he almost constantly wanted to be with me or Abraham, often
Entertaining herself while I explain a craft
asking to be held.  He didn't want to do any of the crafts, but entered enthusiastically into the singing.  Leilani patiently put up with kids jiggling her feet and hands and sticking their faces in hers.  She was very popular.  She also held up well without good naps, because she doesn't go to sleep well or stay asleep when there is activity (she wants to be part of all that's going on).
With one of the church volunteers
a young participant with Lani

wanting to be with Mommy - while I write the day's verse




Leilani helping register kids
He loves games
Abish often chose to hang out with her - she's only a few months younger
the songs were always fun

Modeling Daddy's Abraham beard

Helping Grandpa fill the piñata for the finale Sunday 
A big helper rinsing lunch dishes

Too tired to hold out
Singing at the finale - he had been very clingy all day
So the VBS was a mixed bag for the two of them, but it did seem to be mostly a positive experience  We do so appreciate your prayers for all of us.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pictures from the VBS Graduation

Today was the VBS graduation day. Several parents joined their children in singing, praying, and hearing about the weeks' lessons.

Of course, we also threw a party. The Spiderman pinata was huge--it held about 25 pounds of candy--and much sturdier than we thought. We probably didn't need the men on the roof keeping it moving, as it turned out to be nearly indestructible.


Praise and worship


The pinata held about 25 pounds of candy 


No tree to hang it from? No problem.


The moment everyone has been waiting for

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Final Day of the Huejotzingo, Mexico, Teach Us to Pray VBS

Guest blogger Pastor Ken Greenlee

The 2015 Teach Us to Pray, Huejotzingo, Mexico VBS is in the books, except for the Sunday graduation service.  We had a total of 51 registrants, a number of whom were kids who had not participated in any of our events before.  Many moms brought their kids each day to the sign-in.  We hope to see a number of parents at the closing ceremonies Sunday afternoon.  The kids recite all of the memory verses they learned during the week and Abraham gives a summary message regarding what the children learned during the week.  We also serve light refreshments, which everyone always appreciates.

One of the most moving things for me yesterday was at the end of the last lesson when the writer of Hebrews completed his story about how Abraham was a man of great faith.  He had spoken about Jesus being the ultimate source and object of true faith.  He then led all of the kids in a prayer in which they acknowledged that they had a personal faith in Jesus as the Son of God.  Very touching to see their heads bowed, eyes closed, hands folded as they expressed this simple measure of faith.

While the volunteers were cleaning up, I was already transferring pictures from the day to my computer so I could post them to FaceBook and finish the PowerPoint for Sunday.  I completed that by about 7:30 p.m.  Then we went to a neighbor’s house for coffee.  This couple were volunteers during the week.  When I was here in 2013 they had also volunteered.  At that time they were expecting their first child, who is now a two-year old boy.  The husband had some things he wanted to ask me.

We wound up talking until almost midnight.  Some of the men he works with are Catholic.  They have a lot of beliefs that are not consistent with an evangelical understanding of Scripture and he wanted to know how to respond to some of the questions they ask or comments they make during various discussions of faith.  As I’ve mentioned previously, the Catholicism in this area of Mexico is not Christianity, but rather a gross twisting and misunderstanding of the Bible combined with former pagan practices that were prevalent in this location centuries past (syncretism).

We had a good discussion of how Catholicism elevates tradition to the level of Scripture and how various things came into their belief system over time, especially as concerns Mary.  The Virgin of Guadalupe (a perversion of the Biblical, historical Mary) is worshiped as a virtual goddess here in the area around Huejotzingo.  She is the one people rely upon for their salvation and the one to whom they pray.  She is the supreme deity, not Jesus or God the Father.  Then there is the archangel, Michael, who is second in their pantheon.

We talked about how all he can do is present the truth of the Bible as he talks to his co-workers.  We have to rely upon the Holy Spirit to open their eyes and ears so they can receive the truth God offers.  God alone draws men to Himself.  And He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to a true faith in God, as we pray the kids at our VBS and in our various classes throughout the year are doing.

On another note, Rachel and Abraham took my grandson to the doctor after VBS was over.  He does not have any sign of infection.  His throat is fine, his lungs are clear.  Thanks be to God for answered prayer.  He needs to drink more liquids.  This is a boy who would rather play than do almost anything else.  He is high energy.  His mom has to side track him while he runs by to get him to eat or drink anything.  We had chocolate cake last evening with our coffee.  He loves chocolate cake!  He ate about two bites before running off to play with toys.  As he rode by on a small car, Rachel would catch him and make him drink some of his yogurt drink.  She didn’t even attempt to tempt him back to his cake.  He ate that when we got home around midnight.

Thanks for your prayers for Rachel and Abraham and their kids as they continue their work here in this part of God’s creation.

Appreciate your prayers for my last few days here.  We have some more shopping to do today for Sunday.  Then we will visit the plot of land we purchased at the end of last year where we will build our new TUtP center, hopefully starting soon as funds are available.  We have final preparations for the VBS graduation.  We plan to travel on Monday to a town that is about 2 hours away by bus.  The folks there make a wide variety of Christmas ornaments that are the source of income for the entire community.

The author of Hebrews writing about Abraham's faith

The final day's verse

Behind the scenes prep

A crossword based on all 5 days' stories

A scroll with the pictures from all the days on it

The author of Hebrews talks about Abraham's faith


Blessings!