Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It´s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

 Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  In the Lechuga Greenlee family, we will have a small, quiet celebration at home.  Mexico doesn´t recognize Thanksgiving, so most of our friends and family will be working or in school.  Only a few people will join Abraham, Abishael, and I for a moderately traditional feast in our home.

Visual overload in Chignahuapan
Recently we went with teachers from Puebla Christian School to Chignahuapan, a place known for its hot springs, for a church with an enormous statue of Maria which attracts thousands of pilgrims each year, and for handmade Christmas spheres.  We spent several hours among crowds of other sphere-seekers, amazed once again by the variety of beautiful decorations available for excellent prices.

Repurposed old jeans
old t-shirts make hats and scarves
Christmas has also arrived to the Tuesday evening craft time with the pre-teen girls at our house.  There are so many ideas on the internet for DIY Christmas decorations.  What did we ever do before the net was invented?  The three girls who first started coming when we started craft nights continue to come faithfully, and they have been joined by two more girls.  We have almost finished reading through Proverbs and have made a wide variety of desserts and decorations in the months we´ve met together.  The girls have opened up about difficult situations in their lives and have also deepened in their friendships with each other.

Speaking of Christmas, yesterday I pulled out our decorations from under the bed (amid dust and dust bunnies), and rinsed the plastic tree off.  We had intended to decorate the house today, but I didn´t find the Christmas lights.  As we looked for them, we got side-tracked.  No decorating today (and we still don´t know where the lights are), and tomorrow isn´t likely either, what with Thanksgiving preparations.  Maybe Friday?

We have the blessing of being able to visit my family for Christmas again this year.  Abraham found some really good tickets, and for the first time, we can fly out of the small local airport instead of having to travel to Mexico City to fly from there.  We look forward to seeing family and have already arranged to see several friends during the time we´re in the States.

Have a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving.  May you spend it with the people you love the most.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Dead Shall Live
Marigold flowers are used in large quantities
Yesterday began el día de los muertos (day of the dead) in Mexico.  It is actually almost a full week when people remember their dead, cleaning their tombs and setting up altars.  I have read many opinions about how día de los muertos is a wonderful way for people to remember their loved ones and how children grow up without fear of death, because they learn to see it as a natural part of life.  To a casual observer, perhaps this looks true.  Pretty flowers, freshly painted graves, offerings and altars, families passing the day at graveyards, cleaning the tombs and picnicking there.

 But just as pretty wild flowers hide piles of trash and graffiti around Huejotzingo, so do these practices hide some ugly truths.
The altars are built in people´s homes with offerings of what the dead person used to favor in life.  The families who set up the altars invite the spirits of their dead to return for a visit during the día de los muertos.  People put crosses of marigold petals outside their doors so that the spirits can find their way.  However, the Bible is clear that we should  not call on the spirits of the dead;  in the Old Testament, those who consulted the dead were condemned to death.
Simply talking with people shows that the fear of death is just as strong in Mexicans as it is anywhere else.  Although children grow up visiting graveyards each year, the familiarity with death´s reality does not remove fear.&nbsp
This coming Sunday we will celebrate life in the children´s club.  We will tell the story of Ezequiel 37 in the valley of bones. "The Lord put his strong hand on me. His Spirit brought me away from my home. He put me down in the middle of a valley. It was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them. I saw a huge number of bones in the valley. The bones were very dry. The Lord asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Lord and King, you are the only one who knows.” he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones. Tell them, ‘Dry bones, listen to the Lord’s message. The Lord and King speaks to you. He says, “I will put breath in you. Then you will come to life again. Then you will know that I am the LORD."  

What a beautiful message of LIFE!  Please pray with us that the children receive the light and life of Jesus within them, and that they share the message with others.   Pray that the fear of death can be swallowed up in the assurance of eternal life in Christ for those who believe in him as the only Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A new ministry and others vacation Bible school ended, Abraham and a Christian neighbor who had helped us during the week discussed how they could continue following up with the pre teen and teen boys that had attended.  Dany, our neighbor, knows how to play guitar, so Abraham and he decided to start a guitar class and study time on Sunday evenings after kids´ club ends.  They now have a regular group of four who learn guitar chords and then read and discuss a chapter out of Josh McDowell´s book No Dejes tu Cerebro en la Puerta (Don´t Leave Your Brain at the Door).  Abraham says that the teens have many questions and enter into the talks with interest.  Two of the four teens do not attend any other activity that we have at our home, so it is especially encouraging that they come on Sunday evenings.

There are many Bible verses about idolatry
Recently two adults joined the kids on Sunday afternoons to hear the Bible story and participate in the activity after the story.  They are neighbors who live across the street from us.  The mother and two of the children are Christian, but the rest of the family is not.  The father has talked with Abraham several times, and he has many questions.  On Monday he asked for a list of Bible verses addressing idolatry.  Please pray for him and his family.  He struggles with alcoholism, just like many of the Huejotzingo residents do.

Practicing vocabulary in advanced class

Although we have few students in the English classes, the ones who come are consistent.  We have two levels of classes.  The more advanced students have class on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and the newer students attend on Saturday.  We hope to open a new group for some adults who already speak English - most of them lived in the States for quite a while - but they want to practice so that they don´t forget what they know.  We will read the book The Blood of Lambs by Kamal Saleem for an hour each Friday, if the time works out for the various adults.  If that class opens, it will start in the next few weeks.

Thank you for your continued prayers.  We are encouraged by the new ministry opportunities, but there is still so much need in the community.  Pray for safety and health and for wisdom as we live and work here.  Please also pray specifically for one of the young ladies we have known for a long time.  A few weeks ago, just a week after her fourteenth birthday, she asked during prayer time that we pray that she not be pregnant.  Shortly after that, she went away with her grandma to another state, supposedly to learn to be a beautician, but that seems strange since there are many places she could learn in Huejotzingo.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Abishael sleeping after a  busy day in VBS nursery
Abraham and two others setting up chairs
 Summer has come and gone.  Abraham and I helped in the VBS of our church during the third week of July.  The theme of the week was God Walks with Israel.  Abraham was games leader, while I worked in the nursery.  Each day there was a varying number of children and adults, but the final count of attenders was over 400.  

Two weeks later, we held VBS at our home in Huejotzingo.  It was a year of several firsts.  Due to lack of transportation, volunteer help from the church was at a minimum.  One young man from church helped us four out of the five days, and to do that, he stayed at our house.  Another lady also helped several days, and she had to leave home early to take two buses in order to arrive.  My mother-in-law also stayed the week with us, as did my dad who was our photographer.  Because of few helpers from church, it was the first year that all the children attending the VBS were only from Huejotzingo.  We had no worker's children in attendance except for our own son, Abishael.

Also a first was the help of a Huejotzingo couple, Christian neighbors of ours.  They came each day.  Because they came, neighbor children of theirs also attended for the first time.

Telling the story of Cain and Abel
Thomas can't stop telling about Jesus
Our theme was Dios con Nosotros, God with Us.  Starting with the creation story, narrated by an angel, we taught how God made everything perfect.  On the second day, Adam told about naming the animals and how God created Eve and also how the first couple enjoyed perfect communion with God in Eden.  Eve came the third day and sadly told how sin entered the world and ruined the perfect relationship that God intended for us to have with him.  She also narrated how God immediately promised a Savior.  On day four, a lady gave the story of Cain and Abel as an example of how sin exploded into the world, but there were still people who called on the name of the Lord.  Finally, day five, Thomas, Jesus' disciple, recounted how God kept his promise of a Savior by sending Jesus.
Adam and Eve figures and creation books
Abraham reviewing the story Adam told
We chose songs and crafts, developed games and worksheets, and practiced verses each day that reinforced the message.  God's desire is to be with us, to restore the perfect relationship that existed in the beginning.  A total of 31 children participated during the week.  We were encouraged to see their enthusiasm and their recall of all they learned as we reviewed with them.

The young group painting

The young man from church is also a professional clown

game time

Little ones coloring animal pairs

Take care of your brother

The same game with smaller kids

The sheep Abel sacrificed-a reminder that the Savior would die in our place

The closing day, Sunday, the young group recited three of their five memory verses and the older group did the same, although their verses were longer.  We sang the week's songs, and Abraham briefly went over the stories we'd heard, asking many questions as he reviewed.  The kids remembered very well.  They enjoyed the slide show, including various videos, that my dad put together.  After receiving their diplomas and small prizes, they dug into the cake that the church sent for us.  Three parents attended the finale.

Most of the VBS week at our home, I had some health problems, and some of the problem has continued.  We saw one doctor during the VBS week but there was no change in the situation.  A second doctor two weeks later did help some, and then we saw a third doctor today.  He also helped and assured us that soon there will be relief.  Please pray for health for all of us.  Pray also as we follow up with all the kids who attended the VBS and pray that they will share what they learned with their families.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Time Flies

I did not think it had been so long since I last posted.  We have been busy, as usual, and time flew by.

Unfortunately, the school that we started did not continue.  The one girl, although motivated to learn, is not allowed to come anymore.  In fact, even though she used to be at our home often, she now no longer comes at all.  We suspect that an outside influence is at work to prevent her.  Please pray for Dulce and her family.

The three kneading English muffin dough
The older teen girls so far have not come on Tuesday evenings, but the three who began coming when we lowered the age to 10 and 11 faithfully attend.  They have made flowers from recycled plastic bags, decorated old cd´s, made English muffins, designed wreaths from toilet paper tubes, and more.  Next week my mother-in-law will teach them out to make patterns for skirts.  Each week we have been reading out of Proverbs and discussing how the verses apply to our lives.  One girls in particular has opened up about her struggles as she talks with us.

Summer is fast approaching for the neighborhood kids, and we recently started an English class on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Right now we have five students, but we expect to have more once word spreads and summer begins.

Mother´s Day games
Some of the kids, playing on the patio
On May 9th, we held a Mother´s Day event at our home.  We enjoyed a time of talking with the ladies, followed by some games with prizes, and then a craft time accompanied by snacks.  Abraham had anticipated that children would also come, and he was right.  In fact, many more children came than mothers, and he was kept very busy with them as they played on the patio.  They joined us inside for the snacks.  To follow up, we instituted a monthly craft time for mothers.  At the first one, only two neighbors came, but it was a good time just the same as they talked freely about their lives, dreams, and struggles.

 Vacation Bible School is around the corner.  The one at Dios es Amor will be the third week in July.  Abraham will be helping with games, and I will be in the nursery.  The one at our home is scheduled for August 10-16.  In some ways, that is still far off, but we have quite a bit to do to prepare for it.

Please pray for the preparations and for both VBS´s.  Pray also for doors to continue to open to us as we share the gospel and get to know our neighbors.  Pray for good relationships.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

School? Yes? No?

We started school with four students last Tuesday, using the curriculum on  Three of the students are from one family, and the fourth from another.  Three of them we figured were in third grade, and the fourth in kindergarten.  For two days, the kids came at 10 and studied until 12:30 when they took a break.  They returned to study until 3, when they went home.  Our school week was Tuesday - Friday.  On Thursday and Friday, only one student came, the girl from the other family.

Abraham went to visit the family of the three students to find out what had happened.  The oldest girl cannot come to school anymore, because she helps her mom at home.  She is also attending classes to become a beautician.  The boy will probably not come anymore, because he is discouraged.  He took his pages of work home, and his family criticized the way he wrote and formed his letters and then gave him a page of math to do that he couldn´t do.  They concluded that he didn´t learn anything with us (in the two days!).  The youngest girl, the one in kindergarten, probably won´t come anymore, because she told her mom she doesn´t want to.

That left us with one student, an eleven-year-old girl who has not been to school for years.  She struggles with reading and math, but is very motivated to learn.  When I asked if she wanted to take a stretch break during the hours of class, she stood up, stretched, and immediately sat down.  On Tuesday at 3 o´clock, after studying various different subjects throughout the day, she asked me if she could also read a lesson of Mas Luz with me.

Then on Wednesday, she didn´t come.  Abraham went to visit her family, and her mom said the girl had to accompany her sister to deliver tortillas.  Up until that day, her sister had delivered tortillas alone, but on Wednesday her mother said the girl had to go too.  She promised that the girl would return on Thursday.  She did not.  Please pray that, if the school will be of help to the kids, they can continue.  Pray that they will not be discouraged and that they will put in the effort it takes to learn, even after years of being out of school.

pizza-dough hands
A couple weeks ago, we started an activity time at our home for the teen girls.  On Tuesdays at 5, the girls can come to make crafts or food - a different activity each week.  We also read and discuss some verses.

The first week we made no-bake cookies (which never hardened...), and the girls requested to make pizza the following week.  They didn´t come the following week, but a neighbor couple, also Christians, came, so we made pizza with them, and then had dinner with them.
Originally, we set the age for the Tuesday night activities at 12, but we decided to lower it to 10, and on the next Tuesday night when we made soap, three girls, ages 10 and 11 came.  They enjoyed the process of soap making, although one girl was rather uncertain about stirring the mix after I told them that the glycerin could catch fire if it boiled over (this I know from personal experience).  No fires broke out, and the girls took home their heart-shaped rosemary-honey-lavendar soap bars that evening. 

We plan to make cards next week.

Please pray that the older girls will also attend, since they are the ones we specifically planned for.  They have difficult home lives and are very vulnerable to abuse as they look for love.  We hope to offer them love and a safe environment here.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Week

One of the altars without all its decorations
Street leading up to altar
Processions of the different statues began throughout Huejotzingo even before Holy Week.  People sign up 15 to 20 years ahead of time for the chance to host one of the statues in their home.  Hosting a statue involves setting up the scene, feeding everyone who arrives, and providing for the masses held while the statue is in the house.

At the time when the statue will be travelling from one place to another, a car sets out ahead, announcing to the neighborhood that the statue will be passing.  There are also numerous posters throughout the area, showing when different events will be held at each altar.

Stencils used for decorating the street
People turn out to sweep in front of their houses, hang garlands, and paint the streets for the procession.  Vendors also gather around each host house and along the procession route.  Early in the afternoon of each day of Holy Week, music begins to fill the streets, lasting until evening.  Sounds of Ave Maria, Vivaldi´s Spring, opera, and other classical music are the soundtrack of the afternoon.

Jesus´  suffering and death and Mary´s pain are the focus.  On Good Friday, most businesses are closed.  There is one final procession throughout the streets.

Easter Sunday is not noticed much.

On Thursday evening we held a seder meal at our home, inviting the kids who normally attend the Sunday afternoon kids´ club and their parents.  Eleven kids and teens came, and Abraham reviewed the story of the first Passover.  After that we served the seder meal foods one at a time, explaining the significance of each one.  When the meal ended, most of the kids stayed to play for awhile.

The following night, once again in the evening, we had a Good Friday service.  Twelve kids and teens arrived to hear to story of Jesus´ death for our sins and how his death removes the barrier between God and mankind if we accept his sacrifice.

They and their parents are invited to an Easter service at 11 a.m. at our house.  We will have an Easter egg hunt where each egg holds an object from the Easter story.  After reviewing the story, we will have brunch and games.  We plan to have a great celebration.

He is risen!

Friday, February 22, 2013

The cleanest house in Mexico?

Lots of laundry
After almost a month at my mother-in-law´s house making sure that Abishael had completely recovered from pneumonia before returning to our colder house, Abraham, Abishael, and I went back home to Huejotzingo on a Wednesday  morning.  Because of our extended absence, the house had accumulated a layer of fine dust that decorated shelves, books, all our clothes, everything.  Abraham and I immediately began a thorough cleaning of our room, because Abraham is allergic to dust.  With the washer running full of bedding and some clothing, we took all our clothes off the shelves and hangers and heaped them in a tub in order to wash them little by little.  I dusted while Abraham mopped.

Doll house toys drying
On Sunday our adolescent dog began to show signs of sickness, vomiting and not wanting to eat or drink.  After kids´ club in the afternoon, Abraham called the vet, and he said that a strong outbreak of giardia was sweeping through Huejotzingo.  He told us that we could also be infected by it and recommended an intense cleaning of our house and patio with creolin.  Abraham scrubbed the patio with a solution of creolin, while I began mopping the floor and cleaning all the kids´ toys in the part of the house where we have classes.  Soon the house smelled like a hospital.

We spent Monday, normally our day of rest, in super-clean mode.  Our living room rug had to be washed, as did all the floors, and all of Abishael´s toys.  Unsure of how paranoid to be, we started using filtered water to rinse our dishes after washing them and decided to bathe Abishael in boiled water rather than in the shower.  The vet came and vaccinated both dogs and prescribed oral medicine for them as well.  Even so, the adolescent dog died on Monday night.

We still don´t know exactly how cautious to be.  The adult dog is fine, and none of us has become sick, but information on the internet indicates that we still could up to some months later.  We are going to put chlorine tablets in our cistern and roof tank on Sunday night after kids´ club and will spend Sunday night through Tuesday at my mother-in-law´s house, since the water at our house will be unusable for 48 hours after we put in the chlorine tablets. 

Please pray for us that we don´t get sick, especially Abishael.  Pray also that we can return to our normal lives with normal classes with the kids and that we can start the school and the English classes soon without any further interruptions.  Our original plan was to start the school in January and the English classes in February, but sickness changed those plans.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Here I raise my Ebenezer

The "fruits" on Abishael´s "tree"
December 12-Jan 8 we visited friends and family in the United States.  It was a wonderful time, and we enjoyed the activity and the chance to meet people that I hadn´t seen in years and that Abishael and Abraham had never met.  Abishael was the toast of the town, and he experienced many new things, along with meeting some of his extended family for the first time.  He especially loved fish and had a great time at two different aquariums and at The Huntington where there are many koi.

A little over a week after we returned home from the United States, he had a new first - being a patient in a hospital.  We returned from the States on Tuesday, and by Saturday he had a slight cough.  On Monday his pediatrician diagnosed a throat infection and prescribed medicine.  By Wednesday, however, Abishael´s fever was returning every time the tylenol wore off, and all he wanted to do was sleep.  Thursday morning we took him back to his pediatrician, and he told us that Abishael would have to be hospitalized, because he had bronchial pneumonia.

On entering the hospital, his x-ray
Our pastor´s brother-in-law is a doctor at one of the hospitals in Puebla, and his daughter is a pediatrician who has rounds in the same hospital.  Abraham called Dr. Jorge, and he arranged for us to check in to the hospital, without having to pay the 10,000 peso entrance fee.  After the staff assigned us a room, we went for Abishael´s blood test and chest x-ray, and from there to the room where his treatment began.

Because he had already been taking an antibiotic, Dr. Magdalena prescribed three different and stronger antibiotics, along with other treatments.  The nurses inserted his i.v., a difficult and painful process for a baby who has no idea what is being done to him and why.

So began the hospital stay.

We checked in early evening, and by the time night had fallen, the various treatments had taken some effect.  Abishael had entered the hospital droopy, pale, fussy, and glassy-eyed.  He regained some color and energy almost immediately, and over the stay steadily transformed into the bouncy, curious child he normally is.  His love of exploring and playing with everything made keeping the i.v. line in very difficult.  In fact, it pulled out once, obliging the nurses to replace it in the other hand, wrapping the whole works in bandage to keep it more secure.

Day 2, playing with Daddy
As anyone who has ever stayed in a hospital can attest, the following days were tiring and long.  But we were extremely blessed.  Abishael´s body didn´t object to the strong medications, and the pneumonia cleared up well.  Dr. Magdalena did not charge for her time.  The hospital bill was less than we had thought it would be, and our church took an offering to help us with the cost.  Several people brought us food, so that it was only on the last day that we had to buy our meals.  Most of all, people all over the world prayed for us and for our son.

And so, like with the Biblical stone called Ebenezer, a stone of remembrance set up so that the Israelites would recall God´s provision, we remember God´s faithfulness to us in healing Abishael and using his people to bless us in many ways.

Abishael is still taking an antibiotic, probiotics, tylenol, and an expectorant, and he has one more day of out-patient nebulizer treatments.  We have to be very careful to guard against a relapse, especially since the weather has turned cold.  Please pray that his lungs will strengthen and he will return completely to normal.  Pray also for our finances, because, although the cost of treatment was a fraction of what it could be, it was still significant.