Saturday, November 22, 2014

To life!

The days of the dead are observed in Mexico for a week, starting end of October and ending November 2.  During the week, families put together altars, strew trails of marigold petals leading up to their houses, and hold services to remember their dead and invite the spirits to return.
gluing eyes on the butterfly

Our desire is to focus on life and show the light of our living God to the people around us.  Each
year, we choose a project for the Sunday afternoon kids´ club that specifically emphasizes the abundant life that God has given us and the victory of Jesus over death.

This year we had the children create caterpillars with nylons filled with soil and grass seed.  One week they made the caterpillars.  The following week, they used clothespins, ribbon, and googly eyes to make butterflies. 
decorating the trays

 On the final week, they decorated the stryofoam trays that would hold the now-sprouted caterpillars, the butterflies, and the verse.  The verse we chose was 2 Corinthians 15:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

 Abraham spoke of new life in Christ and of how God is life.  He also talked of how people´s spirits do not return to earth - that the Bible is clear that there are only two places where spirits go after death: heaven or hell.

the finished project
 Speaking of life, our newest family member has finally joined us on the outside.  Although her due date was November 6, Leilani decided to wait six more days to be born.  She came into the world at 8:05 a.m. in the same hospital where her big brother Abishael was born and with the same doctor attending.  Labor with her was much faster than with Abish, which made a great deal of difference in my recovery.  By 6 in the evening on the same day she was born, we headed home.  

She is a calm, sweet girl who smiles often and still sleeps a great deal.  Her big brother would love for her to play with him and periodically offers her toys.  He also snuggles up to her and whispers, "Te amo," and strokes her hair sometimes.  He has mostly adjusted to her being around, although there have been some more tears from him than before. 

Thank you for your prayers for us.  Please continue to pray that we can be light here in Huejotzingo and in Puebla Christian School where Abraham teaches PE.  Pray for continued health and safety as well.  Pray also for the logistics of trying to sell my mother-in-law´s house in order to have the funds to finish paying for land and to build a house here.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Huejotzingo´s Calendar

afternoon clouds gathering near the end of the rainy season
Huejotzingo has two seasons: wet and dry.  The rainy season is my favorite, although it can be inconvenient at times.  During the five or so months of the wet season, vacant lots transform to picturesque and flower-filled.  Graffiti and trash are hidden by lush vegetation, and the air smells fresh.  Both nearby volcanoes often wear a generous covering of snow.  In contrast, as the dry season wears on, vegetation dies, and dust begins to permeate the air.  Skin cracks and itches and touching metal often results in static shocks.  Trash and graffiti once more become visible.

Aside from the climatic calendar, Huejotzingo has a repetitive religious and social calendar.  The last week of September and into the first days of October, the town celebrates its patron, the Archangel Michael.  A statue of the angel is first taken to one church, amid firing of thousands of fireworks.  The sponsors of the celebration spend multiple thousands of pesos to supply all that is involved in the festivities, including feeding all the guests that arrive during the days that the statue is in the area.  On September 28th, the statue is paraded throughout Huejotzingo with great ceremony and more explosion of fireworks.  It is taken to the main cathedral in preparation for the actual day of St. Michael, September 29th.

at a toy booth in the fair
During the two weeks of the observance, the main square (zocalo) converts into a fair ground with rides, vendors of toys and food, and games.  Each night, the zocalo fills with lights, crowds, and loud music.  Sporadic bursts of fireworks add to the general noise.  The very day after the festival of St. Michael ends, the fair disappears, and the zocalo returns to normal.

offerings on an altar for the dead
Next on the religious calendar comes the week of the Days of the Dead.  The first day is October 26 and the last is All Saints´ Day on November 2.  As the days pass, Huejotzingo residents set up altars and lay out paths of marigold petals leading to their doors so that the spirits of dead relatives will return to the house and partake of the offerings on the altars.

Aside from the occasional party for first communions, confirmations, third or fifteenth birthdays, or first-year anniversaries of the death of a family member, there is a lull in the activities until near Dec. 12th.  Beginning early December, pilgrims from all over the country head to Mexico City to the Basilica of Guadalupe.  They start to pass by on the major roads.  Some walk, others ride bicycles, and still others caravan in cars and trucks.  The 12th is the most important day, the day of Guadalupe when thousands crowd the Basilica with their icons and images and participate in the services.

Approaching Christmas, there are posadas when groups of people walk the streets in the early evening, carrying their niño dios dolls and visiting various houses where they receive refreshments or small bags of candies and peanuts.  They sing to the dolls and pass them around to the people in the houses to kiss the image´s feet.  Most families have a special meal late Christmas Eve.

Día de los Reyes (three kings´ day), January 6, is when younger children receive gifts, supposedly from the three kings.  On the days leading up to Jan. 6, the children write letters asking for the gifts they want, and then they usually send the letters tied to helium balloons.

Depending on when Easter is, the next big event in Huejotzingo is the carnival in February or March.  For four days, the town is converted into an enormous theater where costumed men, women, and children reenact different battles from Huejotzingo and Puebla´s history.  Officially, the action only takes place in or near the zocalo between the hours of 10 and 4, but unfortunately many participants use the carnival as an excuse to become and remain drunk for four days.  They gather in groups throughout all of Huejotzingo, dancing, drinking, partying, and firing their muskets for hours.

When Lent starts, all carnival spirit vanishes, and daily services begin at different altars set up in various locations in Huejotzingo.  Families host altars for several days, setting up huge tents, broadcasting music and services, and providing food for all who attend.  There are several processions that progess down the highly decorated streets, moving images from one location to another.

Without much, if any, lapse, once the Easter season ends, the month of May is devoted to daily rosary services for Mary.  June is devoted to services for Joseph.  July and August have no special distinction.  September rolls around and Independence Day receives some attention before once more the festivities start for St. Michael, and so the cycle continues year after year.

Our prayer is to end the cycle.  Certainly there are aspects of the celebrations that are harmless, but so much of what is celebrated throughout the year is devoted to something other than God.  Most of the observance is directed to images or spirits, and the majority of the people believe that they should not or cannot approach God directly.  Please join us in praying that this deep-rooted idea will be exposed as a lie.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

crafting with the girls

More than a year ago, my mother-in-law and I started a craft or cooking time with some girls.  Our idea was to provide a time especially for the teen girls who had stopped attending kids´ club on Sunday afternoons.  Those particular girls only attended once or twice, but soon we lowered the age limit and younger girls began to come to the house regularly on Tuesday afternoons.
The internet is very helpful in providing ideas for each week.  The girls have made marblized paper, cooked donuts, created paper flowers, begun to learn how to use a sewing machine, and much more as we meet each week.
learning to use a machine while making a bag

dyed egg shells decorate denim frames

making window clings
We also encourage the girls to memorize Scripture.  Currently each one is working on learning a Psalm that they chose.  Progress is slow, but hopefully they will continue to work on their Psalms and find the reward of having God´s Word in their hearts.
memorizing a Psalm while donuts rise
melting crayons

Please pray for the teen girls.  We have basically lost contact with them.  Three of them used to attend on Sunday afternoons quite regularly and would also visit our home some during the week.  One of them is now almost 20 and has young son.  Another struggles between rebellion and wanting to live a right life.  The third has become involved in many destructive practices and, it seems, is pregnant although not yet 15.

We also ask prayer for our neighbors who live in front of us.  Over the past few months, they have begun to seek God´s will for their lives.  The two younger children usually come to Sunday kids´ club, and sometimes their mother also attends.  Abraham started a Bible study with teen boys a few months ago, and three or four of the young men from that family usually join him.  The father recently expressed the desire to be baptized and asked Abraham to do a Bible study with him.  However, the family has experienced strong demonic opposition as they study the Bible more.  They struggle with alcoholism, division within the family, and problems from past involvement with witchcraft.

Thank you for your teamwork with us as we live and minister in Huejotzingo.  There are many needs here!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Peter - From Fisherman to Preacher

Mark telling about Peter´s life

One week of eating, sleeping, and breathing Vacation Bible School at our home in Huejotzingo ended on Sunday.  We chose to create a VBS based on the life of Peter, emphasizing how Jesus changed him into the man he became.  Our first day, the story was narrated by Peter´s brother, Andrew.  On Tuesday, the narrator was a mouse who lived in the house of Peter´s mother-in-law and witnessed how Jesus healed her.  The third day was from the point of view of the beggar healed by God´s power through Peter and John.  Cornelius told Thursday´s story, and Mark wound up the week telling about some stories that Peter had told him.  We developed our games, crafts, songs, and work pages to reinforce the stories and the day´s verse, and we told the children that the stories were to be shared - that they could repeat the Bible accounts to their friends and family.

We were very blessed to have a capable team from Dios es Amor come each day to help us.  Although the VBS is small with the week´s maximum attendance at 25 children, we all had plenty to do.  We divided the children into two groups, with the younger group having children aged 2 - 7, and the older group 8 - 13 (older would have been fine, but the oldest who attended happened to be 13).  In the younger group, we had three 2-year-olds, one of them being Abishael.

The children thoroughly enjoyed the week.  One girl showed up on Saturday at 12, convinced there was still another day of VBS, although the only part left was Sunday´s finale at 3.  We tentatively plan to have another VBS in December, depending partly on how our new baby is and how Abishael reacts to being a big brother.  The new baby is due end of October or beginning of November, so we will work on developing the VBS but will wait to do it if our children need more time.

We appreciate all the prayers that were said on our behalf.  A few weeks before the VBS, Abishael was sick with a throat infection that gave him almost constant fever and robbed him of energy.  Several times we took him to the doctor, thinking the infection had become pneumonia, because he was only getting worse rather than improving with medication.  Thankfully, the infection never did turn into pneumonia.  Abraham and I both had to take antibiotics as well, since we also came down with the infection, although not as seriously as Abishael had.

On the Monday when VBS began, Abishael woke up with fever again, after several days of almost normal health.  When we took him to the doctor in the afternoon, she diagnosed a stomach infection, and he had to begin a new course of medication.  That infection responded better to the antibiotics, and he soon returned to his exuberant self, very happy to participate in all the VBS activities.

Many of the children missed the Sunday finale, because there was another event at the same time with another family.  However, even so, this year more parents and other relatives attended the finale than any previous year.

Please continue your prayers for us.  Pray for health, since we have only just emerged from illness.  Pray also that the children would be willing to share the Bible stories they learn with their families and that we can continue to build relationships with their parents.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thursday at VBS

Thursday was another busy VBS day here.
Reviewing the week's lessons: Can you guess what they are?
A closer look at the week's lessons
Cornelius tells his story
Peter has a vision
All colored!

More from Huejotzingo VBS

The kids are still coming to have fun and learn about the Lord.

The leaders demonstrate tin can stilts
The kids racing
Abraham helps the little ones with stilt walking
Craft time

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Huejotzingo VBS 2014

It's time for VBS here in Heujotzingo. Here is some of what we have been doing:

A mouse tells the story of how Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law

Gathering for songs and Bible story.

Getting ready for a relay race.


Putting together a Bible memory puzzle

Gathering at the end of the day

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Visiting friends during the rainy season

navigating muddy roads
 Rainy season, while a blessing in many ways, does make our Sunday evening visit more challenging.  Most Sundays after kids´ club we go to the home of the family that we have known the longest in Huejotzingo.  Abraham began visiting their home during the week more than a year before we moved to Huejotzingo, and we have continued ever since.

They do not attend any church, although they are confirmed and baptized Catholics and are devoted to Guadalupe.  They used to live a few streets away from us, but not very long ago, they bought property in a place surrounded by fields and unpaved roads, and they built a house and moved there.  Now, instead of a quick walk to their house, we go by bike.

exploring outside
bouncing on the bed
Abishael doesn´t always go with us, because his grandma Six is at our home Sunday through Wednesday, so he sometimes stays with her.  However, when conditions permit (it´s not pouring rain), we usually take him with us, because he absolutely loves playing there.  The family has sheep, turkeys, chickens, dogs, geese, and other livestock, and Abish is fascinated by the animals.  He also thoroughly enjoys playing with the other kids.  The youngest is more than three years older than Abish, but they still play loud, rowdy games together and have lots of fun.

While the kids play, I am either outside with them keeping an eye out to make sure the games don´t get too rough, or if it´s raining, inside but still watching.  Abraham chats with the adults for awhile about all kinds of different topics.  The father of the family spent several years in the States, as did various other relatives, so sometimes the conversation is about his times there.  Eventually, Abraham tells a story from the Bible, and then he and the father discuss the story.  Some time after that, we bike back home.

Please join us in praying for the family, that they could have a personal relationship with Jesus.  Right now they cling to tradition without knowing much about the Bible or about God.  We are thankful that they continue to be welcoming friends and willingly listen to the stories Abraham tells from the Bible.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


As I write this, the rain is falling steadily and softly outside.  What a blessing to be able to see Huejotzingo and all of Puebla be beautiful and green again and to be able to be in this house, out of the cold.  Earlier this evening Abraham and I went to visit a family that lives about 10 minutes away from us by bike.  When we left home, there was a lull in the rain, but we still had to carefully skirt puddles and thread our bikes along the grassy side of the road on the last part where there is no pavement yet.  As we talked with the family, the rain began again.  We talked a bit more, and then Abraham said we were leaving.  The father of the family urged us to stay until the rain died down, but when we looked outside at the thick cloud cover, we saw no break.  We decided to head home through the chilly rain.  Sure enough, the rainfall has continued, even just now picking up to a downpour.

Even with its inconveniences, I prefer the months of rainy season over the months of dry, dry, dry.  With the almost daily rain, the sky is washed clean of dust, the vacant lots fill with wild flowers and grass, and the nearby volcanoes become covered in snow.  Farmers sow their fields with corn and beans, and everywhere there is refreshing green.  Huejo becomes a pretty place all over again.

Here in Huejo Abraham and I continue with almost the same ministry schedule as during the Puebla Christian School academic year.  The year ended with May, and so Abraham no longer teaches at PCS on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  This means that he is home in the afternoons when the children come for tutoring.  He works with them on the multiplication tables after I read with them, since we discovered that many of them - even the older ones - don´t know their multiplication facts hardly at all.

On Saturdays we have English class from 11 to 1, although the number of students has dropped off some.  The first hour we work on review of what we have taught before, and the second hour is dedicated to new material.  At 1, those who choose to can stay for a paragraph-long Bible story which I give in English, using pictures to help.  The students take home copies of the story.  I record it, and Abraham then puts it onto facebook for the students to hear and practice.

Please pray for us as we work in Huejotzingo.  Pray as the vacation Bible schools for the church and also here at Huejo fast approach.  The church´s is the third week in July, and the one here is the last week.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Single Parents´ Night

It had been more than two years since Abraham and I last set up a single parents´ night at church.  During the intermission, we moved from Puebla to Huejotzingo and had Abishael.  Both significant changes complicated planning for the event, but we decided to put together another single parents´ night.

cutting limes
The church board approved the date we had chosen, and we began rounding up volunteers. The other two single parents´ nights that we had hosted before were only for people from the church, but this time around, we opened up the invitation to others and capped the attendance at 30.  When the actual evening arrived, there were almost 30 single mothers and fathers.
preparing the dessert

This time we asked various people from the church to prepare and take specific special dishes for the parents´ meal rather than preparing the food at the church. Providing the dinner that way made the kitchen work much simpler, although we still needed the help of a number of volunteers to finish preparing and serving the food.

concentrating in the game of Spoons
As the parents began arriving, Abraham set up rousing games of Spoons and Uno. Once most of the parents were at church, he began other games as well, and the sanctuary rang with hilarity. Other volunteers set up their tables for manicures, facials, shoe polishing, and hair cuts. While some parents played games, waiting their turns for pampering, others moved to the tables with the volunteers.

Once the time of games and pampering ended, the kitchen crew entered into high gear to serve dinner. There was vegetable soup, salad, hand-made tortillas, and meat in sauce, followed by dessert of banana dolphins with strawberry roses and ice cream. To drink, the parents had sprite with craisins floating in the bubbles.

A friend from Puebla Christian School brought her team from T2T International to do a puppet play specifically for single parents.  Since several of the parents attending are not part of the church, we wanted to be sure to present the Gospel at the event.  When the T2T team finished their play, the event ended for the parents.  Church volunteers worked quickly with us to clean up, and we caught our bus home.

Next single parents´ event? Perhaps in another two years. Abraham and I are expecting our second baby end of October or beginning of November, so we may need to wait again for awhile.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Walk Thru the Bible

Sign for tabernacle

400 years
Two weeks ago in the Sunday afternoon kids´ club, we finished telling Bible stories from the Old Testament.  Now Abraham is teaching four weeks of Walk Thru the Bible.  Everyone is enjoying the energetic review, and we hope that they will take the stories home with them to tell to their families. 


After he finished teaching the signs for week two and reviewing from creation to Moses´ death, Abraham passed out a sheet with key words to
fill out so that everyone could practice at home.  We worked in groups to finish the sheet and then practiced the signs a few more times.

The Huejotzingo carnival has ended and various Lenten activities have begun.  There have been several processions of different images walked through the highly decorated streets, and some neighborhood homes have been converted into shrines to the images.  Starting late afternoon and on into the night, the sounds of ´Ave Maria´ and other classical songs float through the air, coming from the shrines where people gather to recite their rosaries and other scripted prayers.

Just as we have done other years, Abraham, Six, and I plan to have Holy Week services at our home, culminating in the celebration of Jesus´ resurrection on Easter Sunday.  We have observed in past years that the focus of the majority of the people here is on Jesus´ and Mary´s suffering and on Jesus´ death.  His resurrection is almost overlooked.  Our prayer is that we can clearly present the balance - yes, Jesus´ suffering and death were very real and necessary, but the story does not end there.  He rose again!  Please pray with us as we plan this year´s Holy Week activities.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Back Home

Abraham, Abishael, and I have been home for over a month now, and we´ve been encouraged.  The first week was rather slow, because some people still did not know we had returned, so they did not know that all the regular classes had started again.  In the English classes, we only had one student, and the girls´ craft class also had only one attender when we made tee-shirt scarves.  However, after that the regulars returned.

We soon had between 9 and 11 students in the Saturday morning English classes.  Each week we have a different class dynamic, because the same group of students never repeats.  Our youngest in the class is a shy 6-year-old, and the oldest is her mother, the wife of a local pastor.  Some students faithfully come every Saturday, and others are more relaxed, but each week we also have new students who take the place of the ones who are gone.

One Sunday, the bus drivers seemed to have reached an agreement to not pick up new passengers, so Abraham and I were not able to get to our regular church.  Instead, we decided to visit a Huejotzingo church, the church of several of our English students.  We enjoyed the service and the warm welcome of the congregation.  The pastor asked Abraham to announce the English class, and after service many people approached us for more information.  We shall see whether any of them actually decide to join.

On Sunday evening, my mother-in-law Six and I resumed the monthly women´s craft night after a long hiatus.  We made no-sew cloth necklaces and chatted with the three neighbor ladies who came.  I briefly told the story of King Solomon and Ecclesiastes, and one of the ladies asked me where to find the book in the Bible so that she could read it.  All three ladies agreed that they wanted more craft times, and we set up another one for Tuesdays at 7 p.m.  Six will teach ribbon embroidery this week.

We plan to finally start a conversation class for people who already know English but don´t have much chance to practice.  There are several neighbors who lived in the States, some of them for many years.  Hopefully that class will be on Fridays at 1.

The annual Huejotzingo carnival begins this Saturday.  I dread the four days of the constant noise of rifles,
unruly drunks, and crowds of costumed people.  The carnival is an international attraction, but many of us who live in Huejo would rather be away!  There are usually quite a number of injuries - some serious - and also some deaths.  We have heard that the convenient anonymity of the masks and costumes makes the carnival an opportune time for taking revenge.  Please pray that this year there will be no loss of life or serious injury.

Pray for us as we look for the doors God is opening here.  Pray that we would be wise as we seek to be Jesus´ hands and feet in a very needy area.  Thank you for your support.