Monday, December 04, 2006

Encouragement for Mondays

Here's a song that I find encouraging, especially on Mondays! As I look ahead to a week of work, all the things that need to be done, the difficult things to do...I find my thoughts unyielding: confusion clouds my way,...but how needful it is to acknowledge the Lord in all I do: But, then when I bow to you, the challenges you guide me through.

Spend that time with the Lord every morning! Ravi Zacharias once said, "The biggest battle you will face in life is your daily appointment with God; keep it, or every other battle will become bigger."

(Click to hear a 90 sec. sample)

by Carolyn Hamlin

Lord, as I seek your guidance for the day,
I find my thoughts unyielding: confusion clouds my way,
But, then when I bow to you, the challenges you guide me through,
Your promises are ever new: I claim them for today.

Your will cannot lead me where your grace cannot keep me.
Your hand will protect me: I rest in your care.
Your eyes will watch over me: Your love will forgive me.
And when I am faltering, I still will find you there.

Each new day’s design is guided by your hand,
And graciously revealed as I seek your Master plan.
Keep my footsteps faithful when from you I go.
Return me to the joy that your blessings can bestow.

Your will cannot lead me where your grace cannot keep me.
Your hand will protect me: I rest in your care.
Your eyes will watch over me: Your love will forgive me.
And when I am faltering, I still will find you there.

Your eyes will watch over me,
Your love will forgive me,
And when I am faltering,
Lord, I will find you there.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Facing the Giants

"We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there." But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, "Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it."
Numbers 13:32-33

Difficulties in our lives are allowed by God. What we do in response will either make us give up and turn away from Him, or draw us to Him into closer fellowship, drawing strength from Him to get through those difficulties.

On this note, I would like to recommend this movie "Facing the Giants." It is a wholly Christian-produced film with overtly Christian content. Unfortunately, it's not playing in any theaters in all of New England, but for my readers elsewhere, if you can find a theater playing this movie, by all means go see it!

Mexico: Part 11

Half a year since going to Mexico, and I'm not quite done with the account!

Friday, March 17 (St. Patrick's Day)

Another perfectly beautiful day. We were scheduled to travel to Lagos de Moreno and enjoy the day at a swim park, so Marshall and I had to get to the Landrums' house promptly today. Despite Nancy's gracious offering to cook us a hot breakfast, we had to bow out and opt for cold cereal. I felt bad having to turn down her offer, but if we didn't we would be late!

Nancy said she would do what Josue did Tuesday——skip work and join us at the swim park. I thought she was joking, especially if she meant to arrive late to work and would be locked out! Josue got permission to skip school today and all three of us took la oruga again to the Landrums'. Marshall and I insisted on paying Josue's fare, since earlier in the week he paid ours.
When we turned down the Landrums' street, we saw some well-equipped police searching a man and his car. I have no idea what the situation was, but, well, take a look at the picture (sorry for the purple haze—a minor problem with the camera).In addition to all us gringos at the their house, there were also Oscar and Alberto, and from Ken's host family Alejandra (mother) and her boys Alejandro (11) and Fernando (7). She had driven Ken, Ryan, and Willie over.

Scott produced a huge sombrero which he had bought at some point, and we all got some laughs out of it, especially when Marshall put the hat on Fernandito, who was clearly dwarfed by it!

While we were waiting for a few of the others to arrive, I got to play a Mexican guitar duet with Alberto. That was very much fun.

Once everyone had arrived, Craig announced that we could drive to Lagos instead of taking a bus, since enough people had cars. I went with Marshall, Scott, Ryan, and Josue in Oscar's van.

Mexican countryside

Admission to the water park was only 40 pesos, about 4 dollars. The grounds were well-kept and the flora tropical. We had our team time there under a thatched pavilion, and again sang some songs in English and Spanish. The few Mexicans with us wanted to hear us sing Maravillas in English, which we were happy to do.

I don't remember what the devotional was.

After team time, some believers from Lagos de Moreno showed up, among whom was Memo, a young man who had attended Emmaus Bible College, and knew several of the American students.

Meanwhile, I was in the pool with Alberto, Josue, Willie, Emily, Amy, and Ryan, playing two-team keep-away with a frisbee.

There were two of water slides in this park as well, which were fun. Actually only the one was fun, because the other was too shallow and slow. The small pool at the ends of these slides was as warm as a bath, since it was fed by hot springs!

Just on a side note, it was interesting that immodesty in public swimming situations is not as much a problem in Mexico as in the U.S. Many men and women were wearing shirts and shorts, which I was grateful to see.

In the early afternoon, several people from the East Leon church showed up with a lot of food for lunch. Among those were Nancy, who, true to her word, had taken off from work, and Edit with her two children (Edit and her husband Beto were hosting Amy and Emily for the week).

Eventually it came time to change and pack up and leave. I rode in Oscar's van again, and I don't remember who all else, but I remember Ryan was taking a nap on the floor of the van as we arrived at the Landrums' house.

Ken took a picture of the mesa on the way back

While still at the Landrums' we saw several of the host families again as they were saying goodbye to the students. Luis and Yola left us his e-mail address so we could sent him information on origami. Alberto also left us a business card with his e-mail address on it.
There were many tearful hugs as everyone said goodbye.

Edit, Beto, daughter, and son Betito (little Beto) with Amy and Emily on the last evening

I remember very well when Oscar said to me and Ken, "No me olvides," "Don't forget me." How could we ever forget Oscar, Alberto, Fernando, our beloved hosts and all the brothers and sisters we met in Mexico!

The flight for all the Emmaus students was to leave the next morning very early, so they were all going to sleep at the Landrum's house that night, while Ken and I would go back to Nancy and Cuco's, since our flight was to leave a little later.

It was sad to be leaving everybody, knowing this might very well be the last time I would ever see them this side of heaven, for in a week we had gone from not knowing a thing about each other, to working together and knowing each other fairly well. What a comfort it is to know that we have that Eternal Hope of salvation in common and the promise we shall all be in the presence of the Lord someday. And certainly since God has given us this love for one another here on earth, we shall also enjoy one another in the ages to come.

As we left we said hasta luego (see you later), instead of adios!

It was so late that the buses weren't running, so Josue hailed a taxi, and he, Ken and I got to his house that way. I had told Nancy and Cuco I wanted to take them out to dinner some evening, and it just so happened that this night worked. While we were getting ready to go, Nancy was talking on the phone with her brother Miguel, and she invited him and his family along! He was going to drive over in his little Jeep Liberty or something and pick us all up. In true Mexican style, Josue and his dad squeezed into the rear cargo area while Ken, Nancy, and I sat in the back seat, with Miguel's wife in the front holding their toddler son. Thus we drove to their favorite taco place for supper (of course it was about 9:00 at night).

The restaurant, like so many, was on a small, gravel lot, covered by a large tent like we might use in the U.S. for outdoor event or "tent revival" meeting. It was about 20 x 40 feet. The furnishings were plastic tables and chairs. There were only a couple of people there, and the atmosphere wasn't really like Tacos Don Luis, but the food was just as good! Miguel knew some English, andproceededd to tell us a joke, first in Spanish, then in English, just to make sure we got it:
A Mexican, a Guatemalan, and a Honduran were all traveling towards the border in a Ford Explorer. Who was driving?
Miguel explained that a Mexican who heard the joke would pridefully expect the Mexican to be driving, the Guatamalan would expect a Guatamalan driver, etc. But who was driving? The American border patrol officer! (i.e. to deport them. ...Or so we Americans hope!)

When dinner was over, I offered to pay for everyone, but because of Miguel's insistence, he and I ended up splitting the cost.

We drove back to the house, and thanked Miguel and his family for coming (and for driving) and said goodbye. Then we got ready for bed and the next day's trip home.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Ministry of the Interior

There is one day's entry in Oswald Chambers' book My Utmost for His Highest that has been especially meaningful to me that I would like to share with you.

June 21st

But ye are... a royal priesthood." 1 Peter 2:9

By what right do we become "a royal priesthood"? By the right of the Atonement. Are we prepared to leave ourselves resolutely alone and to launch out into the priestly work of prayer? The continual grubbing on the inside to see whether we are what we ought to be generates a self-centred, morbid type of Christianity, not the robust, simple life of the child of God. Until we get into a right relationship to God, it is a case for hanging on by the skin of our teeth, and we say, "What a wonderful victory I have got!" There is nothing indicative of the miracle of Redemption in that. Launch out in reckless belief that the Redemption is complete, and then bother no more about yourself, but begin to do as Jesus Christ said—pray for the friend who comes to you at midnight, pray for the saints, pray for all men. Pray on the realization that you are only perfect in Christ Jesus, not on his plea—"O Lord, I have done my best, please hear me."

How long is it going to take God to free us from the morbid habit of thinking about ourselves? We must get sick unto death of ourselves, until there is no longer any surprise at anything God can tell us about ourselves. We cannot touch the depths of meanness in ourselves. There is only one place where we are right, and that is in Christ Jesus. When we are there, then we have to pour out for all we are worth in this ministry of the interior.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Review of a Favorite Book: Preparing Sons

I recently finished reading an EXCELLENT book by Steven Maxwell: Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family. We were blessed to have the Maxwells visit the TEACH homeschooling convention in Connecticut this past June, and I purchased this book at their booth.

Especially written to fathers, this book provides a practical overview of implementing Biblical, principles in training sons. As I read this book, I could identify things in my own life that ideally would have been trained out of me at a young age, and I must say this book not only concerns itself with the training of sons to provide for a single-income family, but training them for life itself!

I strongly recommend this book to every Christian father of sons!

(On a side note, I must say I hold nothing against my parents at all for the way they raised me. God rescued them from some depressing family behavior patterns that they grew up with in unsaved and broken families. By His grace, I was raised according to the light and wisdom given to them. Now I have a charge entrusted to me to raise my children even better. My parents grew up with no personal knowledge of God. As they were raising me and my brother, they were learning more and more about the Lord and His Word, and they taught these things to us. Whenever Ken and I may start families in the future, we are starting from a point with more understanding of the Lord than our parents did, so we can pour this into the next generation, and even more as we learn more about the Lord. Each generation ought to become more godly with the Lord's help!)

Earning Potential
In this book, Mr. Maxwell first discusses typical factors that affect a son's earning potential—vocation, education, and skill level—but introduces the idea that there are more foundational preparations to be made. He provides some alternative factors: view of work, character, eagerness to learn, God's blessing, and God's discipline. Each of these are illustrated with real-life examples, to bring the ideas down to earth.

Next, he discusses things that affect what determines "making ends meet":
  • Living according to needs
    versus wants; you can't live a life of luxury on a small income.
  • Size of family and residence location
    Some states have higher costs of living than others, and that cost is also affected by the number of blessings from the Lord you receive!
  • Character
    Laziness, faintheartedness, procrastination, faithlessness, and impatience will all negatively affect spending habits.
  • Bad appetites
    May be as simple as a hobby that takes too much time or money, or something like alcohol. More on this later.
  • God's hand of discipline
    For example, extra expenses may increase because he may not be giving money to the Lord's work.
  • Spouse
    Not to put undue blame on the wife, but if the wife has shortcomings of desiring to spend too much money, it will hamper their ability to make ends meet.
Parents must influence these things long before they become problems in their son's life.

Parental Influence
Mr. Maxwell delves deeper into the parents', and especially the father's, responsibility with the three pillars of training sons: the father's training, example, and prayer. As fathers know better than I, sons will imitate their fathers (that reminds me of this cute post). That's why it's important to watch your own behavior for anything that could negatively impact your children. I am very encouraged also by the repetitive emphasis Mr. Maxwell places on prayer. It is the most effective tool in bringing up godly sons.

Some necessary foundations are then enumerated, first of all, salvation. There is little to be gained in training a son to provide effectively for his family if he loses his own soul (like Matthew 16:26). Secondly, a personal quiet time with the Lord every day is essential. How else but through study of the Bible and prayer will the son ever know what is God's will for his life? And Jesus said "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:31). Further, Mr. Maxwell points out the greatest hindrance to a quality, daily quiet time is pride. He also stresses the importance of memorizing and meditating on scripture, making it your delight all the day long. Such treasures in the Word can be so discovered!

He then goes on to talk in more detail about the practicalities and impact of proper stewardship, godly character, and a son's view of work.

Next, the convicting chapter "Appetites." The first heading within the chapter is "What could be wrong with that?" A challenging question, indeed. This will make any father find something that he could change about his life so as not to negatively influence his son, as well as a keener sense of how innocent-looking activities can be a detriment to a godly son. This is not done in a legalistic way, however, and it is so refreshing! Always the emphasis is on seeking God's direction so as to be pleasing and glorifying to Him, with the goal that your son will do the same.

Some issues addressed in a non-legalistic and loving way are entertainment and recreation, movies and TV, watching sports and playing organized sports, hunting and fishing, recreational vehicles, eating, and any sin. Many of these "harmless" activities certainly become harmful when too much time or money is invested in them. "There is nothing inherently wrong with these types of outdoor sports—unless they take a dad away from his family. If they do, I think a man would have a hard time justifying such activities Scripturally...However, like anything, seeking the Lord's direction and self-control are necessary" (p.97).

After this list, he presents some postitive examples of appetites: evangelism, seeking a closer walk with the Lord, studying the Bible, serving the needs of others, desire to be a man of God, always pleasing Him.

The next four chapters cover ages 3-6, 7-12, 13-graduation, and post high school, regarding what things would be good to train your sons in and where their attitudes should be in the following areas: spiritual life, serving, work, school, play, computers, character, leadership, gaining useful work experience, higher education. There is so much wisdom in these chapters—not only "know-how" but "do-how," as Mr. Maxwell has sought to implement these same things in his own family, and uses examples from his experience. One thing that amazes me is when their son Joseph was ten, he began learning computer programming! Talk about useful computer time instead of video games...!

All along, he stresses the importance of prayer and seeking God's leading in your sons' lives. You really have to read this book!

The final chapter gives final encouragement to the parents who can't train sons on their own, but only with the help of the Heavenly Father!

It was a wonderful, inspiring read for me, looking forward to someday when God may bless me with sons, but there also are some things I know I want to work on in my life, with God's power, that I may be a more prepared father in the future.

I encourage the parents of every boy to get this book!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mexico: Part 10

Thursday, March 16

Today on our agenda was going to the capital of the state, Guanajuato, Guanajuato (like New York, NY!), which was about an hour's drive to the east of Leon. Since Nancy had taken us to the Landrums' house yesterday via oruga, we now knew how to get there; so we went alone.

Just before the team time started, Oscar showed up. He was supposed to have come yesterday to help out with the tract distribution, but got the day mixed up, and so here he was! Once he understood he arrived on the wrong day, he decided he could go with us to Guanajuato since he had the day free anyway.

I fail to remember who brought the devotional today. Perhaps it was Marshall. Oscar understood English fairly well, so we didn't feel bad about speaking in English the whole time! When it came time for singing, we sang some songs in Spanish and some in English, including Maravillas (God of Wonders), Señor Tu Nombre Exaltaré and it's counterpart Lord I Lift Your Name on High. Then we sang a unique song in 5/4 timing: How Deep the Father's Love for Us. Wonderful, deep words in that hymn!

Ryan, Celina, Emily, Beth, Amy, Willie, me, Marshall, Caleb

Willie said he didn't know most of these modern "praise songs" very well and was happy to hand his twelve-string guitar over to me to accompany the singing, since I had gotten familiar with them while I was in college.

Oscar volunteered to help drive us to Guanajuato, so Amy, Beth, Marshall, Emily, Celina, Scott, and I all traveled with him in his Mercury van. The middle bench seat was taken out so Emily, Celina, and I all sat on the floor. For an hour drive. Mexico is such fun!

Amy, Beth, and Marshall

Some typical scenery outside

First glimpse of Guanajuato nestled in the mountains

The road into the city wound around tightly as we made our way up a mountain where there is a good view of Guanajuato. The government pays the people to paint the houses and buildings vivid colors so they look good for the tourists!

Right next to the lookout was a statue of El Pípila, a historic figure who stormed the fortress in Guanajuato some centuries ago. I didn't learn the story.

We browsed some souvenier shops, and some of the others bought shirts or mugs. Then we took another group photo.

Oscar, Willie, Ken, me, Scott, Emily, Caleb, Ryan, Marshall
Beth, Celina, Amy

While Craig and Oscar parked the cars in a lot, the rest of us walked down from the overlook through narrow alleys and stone steps, finally reaching the streets. They were all cobblestone and only one car-width wide. It's quite an old city, not built for cars. We met up with Craig and Oscar at a tree-covered plaza, where Willie continually distributed tracts.

There we also met Atsushi, a Japanese graduate of Emmaus Bible College and friend of many of the students. He was living in Guanajuato, teaching at the University. Interestingly, his Spanish was better than his English, so he would talk to Craig and Brenda in Spanish. I had learned from Caleb previously that Japanese and Spanish basically have the same pronunciation, so it makes sense that Atsushi could pick up Spanish easier. He took us around showing us some of the sights of the city.

Us at the top steps of the University. Inside an opulently decorated church building.

A pretty veiw outside the church building

Now I must digress a little at this point to fill in some detail from earlier. It may have been a day or two earlier that this was brought up after our team time ended: Ryan and Caleb and Scott mentioned something about a group of men at Emmaus (perhaps that one or more of them are part of) that decided to be gentlemanly—opening doors for ladies, standing when a lady enters the room, pulling out her chair when she sits at the table. We had all affirmed those are good practices, the young ladies said that they appreciate them and that they make them smile, and the young men said as long as they smile when they do such things for them, they will continue to do such things! ;)

Back to the point: as we headed back to the green plaza from our tour, Ryan spotted a little stand selling all kinds of beautiful flowers, and went over to it as we passed by. The rest of us continued on, and he soon he caught up with the group, carrying four red carnations, which he then gave to each of the young ladies. This was another evidence of that "gentlemen's club," and a touching reminder to us all that we appreciate godly young ladies. Caleb made a point of complimenting Ryan for that gesture, and I know the ladies must have all felt special.

Once we got back to the plaza, we met a missionary family based in the city—Joel and Amy Hernandez, and Ivan and Sarah their children. Ivan was attending university and was practicing his very good English with us as we ate lunch (late in the afternoon of course). We were eating in a nice restaurant next to the plaza, where there was a jazz pianist playing lots of American big band/jazz on a keyboard with its accompaniment styles. My brother, Ken, who is a piano tuner, remarked that was the closest he came to seeing a piano all week!

Sadly, Marshall wasn't feeling well in the stomach, and only had a glass of water before heading out to rest on a bench in the plaza.

After lunch we said goodbye to the Hernandezes and Atsushi, and went to the market. The Market was huge—a big building with hundreds of little shops selling shirts, leather products, food, sunglasses... I don't even know what all. Here's a view from the second level:

I was not going to buy anything unless it was useful to me, so as not to waste money. Not far inside the building I saw a shop selling leather belts. I knew I had been in need of one, so I bought a genuine leather belt for about $8.50. Good deal.

As we headed back to the cars, we stoped at the Teatro Cervantes where there was a large statue of Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho.

Beth, me, Amy, Emily, Scott, Caleb offering Don Quixote a tract, Willie
Atsushi and Ryan

Ryan, Atsushi, and Marshall

Atsushi, Craig, and Brenda

During the trip back to Leon it got dark (because it was late), and we began to see some thunderstorms.Ooh! I thought excitedly, we finally get to experience some weather other than sun! Ha! The rain lasted a couple of minutes at the most. It was a sprinkling of large raindrops. I guess March isn't the rainy season, right? Anyway, Scott got a couple of good photos of lightning with his camera, so he was happy.

We drove directly to the kinder on the east side of Leon for the Thursday night church meeting. It was pure joy to see the believers once again, assembling in the name of Christ. Normally this mid-week meeting consists of a testimony time, sharing prayer requests, and praying, but since we were there, Craig recommended that six testimonies be shared, alternating Mexican and American, with Craig translating.

Craig joked that they didn't know what to call us.
Americanos? No, Mexico is part of North America. (The USA is usually called Estados Unidos in Mexico) Are we estadounidenses? No; technically Mexico is the United States of Mexico (Estados Unidos de Mexico). So what's left? Gringos? That's a derogatory term in the USA, so let's not use that. Now what? Gueros! Yes, let's use that! When Marshall and I were playing dominoes with Nancy and Cuco, I learned that guera is the term for the blank/white tiles. So the Mexicans joked that we should be called the same thing, since we are so light-skinned! It was hilarious!

The testimony from a man named Josue (introduced on Sunday) was especially moving. As he recounted how he came to belive in Christ as his Savior, he could not hold back tears. He came from a violent, alcoholic home, and followed in his parents' footsteps. He became a boxer and a champion in the state, but nothing satisfied him. Finally the gospel was preached to him and the Holy Spirit opened his eyes to the truth and he was saved. He had only been saved about a year and two months at that time, but he obviously loves the Lord and is growing daily, though his parents and siblings are still un saved. Thankfully his wife Lupita is also saved.

That testimony time was such good fellowship, and enabled us to get to know one another a more on a deeper level. We ran out of time for prayer, unfortunately. Afterward I gave Josue a hug and said "Voy a orar por tu familia" (I will pray for your family). With tears still in his eyes he thanked me.

We had some refreshments afterwards—Coke of course—and some more fellowship. Eventually someone got us visitors together for a group photo...which quickly turned into a visitors-and-instant-brothers-and-sisters photo as some dear Mexicans joined us!

Back: Fernando (the guitarist), Ken, Scott, Caleb, Ryan, Marshall, and Josue (who shared his testimony)
Middle: Fernando's sister, Samuel (who preached in the street) holding Betito (whom you will see later), me, Amy, Emily, Beth, Celina, and Alberto
Front: Willie, Josue, and Oscar

There was setting on a table in the room a can for collections to help fund Fernando's trip to Turkey, coming up soon. He was going to visit the Landrums' oldest daughter, Sarah, and her husband Jerry who are missionaries there. He is burdened for the Turks and may become a missionary. I was happy to contribute some to his trip. Fernando also had a handful of leather souvenier bracelets he gave to each of us as a reminder of him and our trip to Mexico. I'm not a bracelet-wearing man, but I couldn't say no. It was a gift from a beloved friend!

When it came time to say good-bye, we knew we would see some people the next day when we would go to Lagos de Moreno to a swim park, but for those we wouldn't see, it was sad. Might we return next year? I don't know, but the common bond in Christ ties our hearts together forever. We shall see each other again some day, even if it's in heaven.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Mexico: Part 9

Wednesday, March 15, continued.

After the afternoon tract distribution, we drove back to Craig and Brenda's house. We hung around on the sidewalk talking to Alberto until he had to go to work. He is a dentist and works in the afternoons till about nine o'clock PM.

It was around this time that Beth and Celina arrived from their day of outings with their host family.

Somehow or other, some believers from the Leon West church helped transport us all over to a neighborhood on the west side of the city for evangelism. The neighborhood over there was poorer than where we all were staying. The roads were rather beat up and the houses didn't seem as nice. Some of the men set up a power inverter to their truck's battery and plugged in a large amp to make a rudimentary PA system. Then they took turns preaching the gospel to the whole neighborhood!

We Americans were handed many home-made tracts to hand out to the inhabitants of the neighborhood. Those soon ran out, so some others and I were writing the contact phone number for that area on the backs of the other tracts we had, and the rest of the Americans passed them out.

There were quite a number of young people from the West church there too: Chuy, Samuel, Stephanie, and more that I didn't meet. When one of the men finished his address from the top of the street, they moved down a block, set up the amplifier again and another preacher took over. Samuel, who was 16 years old took a turn too, and it was awesome to see him despite his youth unashamedly preaching the gospel.

Once again, Celina's fluency with Spanish was a blessing as she was able to explain the gospel to several children on the sidewalk. I'm sorry the photo quality is poor, but it was at night under street lights. Celina is at the 11:00 position in the circle on the ground, looking at the girl on her right.

You may recall my reluctance on Sunday to hand out tracts, but thankfully this evening was different. Especially because of observing Alberto's method in the afternoon, I was more comfortable and more eager to give tracts to people and converse a little in Spanish.

I felt rather put to shame by those who knew very little Spanish but used what they could. Here I was, knowing more than they did, but fearing to use it: What if they respond too fast or say something I don't understand? How silly! I have an ability; I should use to the fullest what God has blessed me with and let Him worry about the details! So I did.

"Buenas noches, señor. Le regalo un folletito." I could be pleasant and personable by using the greeting, like Alberto did, and be confident they would be happy to take something free. We passed them to people riding by on bicycles, people walking by on the cross street—everyone.

Oh, if only all those people would take the best Gift that's free! Everyone wants a handout, except when it regards his eternal destiny.

It was getting rather late and we had to get back to our homes, so we began to say goodbye to the West church believers, knowing we wouldn't see each other again on this trip. However, Ken found out that Stephanie knew some English and also had Skype on her computer, so he gave her his e-mail address. Then she went around gathering as much contact information from us all as she could.

(Fast forward to back home, she had some problems with Skype for some reason, so we have communicated using MSN messenger. Samuel also has Messenger and he and I have chatted a few times, he in English and I in Spanish!)

We enjoyed some joking and laughter together and then shook hands and hugged everyone good bye. It was delightful to know them all as brothers and sisters in Christ, and that gave us special comfort, since though we may not see each other again in this age, we shall see each other in eternity!

Back at our Mexican home again, we had supper after 9:30, I think. Typical. We stayed up with until around midnight, playing dominos. And of course we joked a lot. ¡Nancy es muy chistosa! She jokes a lot, and we had some running jokes during the whole week! You had to be there, you know?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mexico: Part 8

Wednesday, March 15

Now I really regret that I did not write about this trip sooner, because more details are escaping me.

It was wonderful to wake up to comfortable temperatures and low humidity—a combination rarely experienced in Connecticut. The days were always sunny and we didn't have to worry about rain clouding our schedule. On la agenda today was door-to-door tract distribution.

Before breakfast, Nancy put on a CD of Christian music, and I enjoyed hearing God-honoring songs sung in Spanish. I still remember one of the songs: "Yo soy Alpha y Omega, principio y fin" (I am Alpha and Omega, beginning and end).

One of these days we had cereal for breakfast—Cornflakes or a Nestle's version of Cocoa Puffs—and vanilla gelatino, or pudding. It was nice and quick, though not distinctly Mexican!

Josue made it to school on time, so Nancy took us to the Landrums' home via the oruga. Now that we had more experience with the bus system, we noted what was the stop for the Landrums'.

Yesterday Caleb invited Ken or me to bring a devotional at the team time today. I replied I had some thoughts I could share, which is what I did. Starting from 2 Timothy 4:1-21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction., we looked at what last words Paul, at the end of his life, had to give to his son in the faith Timothy. We were encouraged to live all our lives for the Lord, to please Him, and looked at how these verses relate to 1 Peter 1:13-1913 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY." 17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. and 2 Corinthians 5:9-11,14-159 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.
14For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

After the main meeting of Team Time was finished, while we were waiting for lunch to be ready, Ryan began folding some more origami objects. Now Caleb grew up in Japan, where his father teaches english in a school (if I recall correctly), so he was interested in trying his hand at folding a paper crane. While he did, he also explained to us some of the Japanese words written on the instruction sheet. I found out Origami is pronounced correctly when you pronounce it with a Spanish accent! I also folded a paper flower, which Scott wanted to learn how to do. So here's a picture of us all folding paper before lunch.

Amy, Ryan, Caleb, me, Scott.

The plan for the afternoon was to drive to some nearby neigborhoods and make some first contacts with the people, giving out tracts and gospels of John. We were expecting a certain number of fluent Spanish speakers to arrive to help us with this task, but a few didn't show up, so Craig had to make some adjustments. One major adjustment was when he said, "Ken, you speak pretty well; why don't you go out with Ryan [not me] and Zeke." Ken was surprised, but accepted the assignment. He didn't do too badly at it either, he tells me. He speaks better than I do.

So Bob DeLaine and his 8-year-old son Zeke arrived, and Celia and Alberto from the church. Bob took Ken, Ryan, Emily, Marshall, and Zeke in his pickup truck.

Marshall and Zeke

Ken and Ryan

Willie, Celia, Scott, Amy, and I all packed into Alberto's Jetta. Since Amy was the lightest, she sat on Scott's lap in the front seat. Caleb stayed behind and went out with Brenda to their neighborhood. Beth and Celina were not with us today but spent the day with their hosts, Luis & Yola.

When we arrived in the neighborhood of Manzanares, Alberto, Amy, and I set out to cover a block together. Alberto pointed out to us his own house, a mere two streets over! He said that last year he was saved as a result of people passing out tracts door to door! Oh, what motivation that was, to know that such evangelism worked! And here we were doing the same thing that led him to the Lord.

Not long into knocking on gates and doors, we met a man who was a Christian, who had been saved many years ago as a result of the ministry of some missionaries who worked in Leon before the Landrums started there: the Beattys. As we moved on, we encountered a old lady with deteriorating eyesight who had spent many years teaching catechism in the Catholic church, and was relying on her works to enter heaven. It was sad to see she was set in her ways. I think she did receive a gospel of John, though.

We stopped at many houses; at a good number no one was home. Sometimes we gave the tracts to children in the street to deliver to their parents.

At one house, my ears perked up at the sound of parakeets. Having had parakeets all my growing up years, I was delighted to hear the happy chirps so far away from my home. It turned out that several houses had these little cages of parakeets hanging in their garage/patios.

When we were on the last street Alberto greeted a woman in her sixties mopping the floor of her garage/patio. She spoke really fast, so I didn't get much of what she said, but I could read her body language and expressions quite well! She wasn't at all interested in taking a gospel of John, and thought it a curiousity that Alberto was passing them out. She was kind of scoffing at Alberto, but was friendly enough. She seemed to appreciate his sincerity in passing out the gospels, but her attitude towards him was condescending, as one might regard a child trying to do something his own way. In the end, she still wouldn't take the gospel.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A quick note and a link

Hi everybody, I just wanted to write a quick note to say I do intend to continue my account of Mexico, and I do have more I want to blog about, but I just haven't had time lately. So for any of you checking my blog every day there is more coming.

I just read a post over at Doulogos that was very true and motivating, concerning our relationship with the Lord and the effect it has on our prayer life. It's certainly a matter I need to deal with in my own life. Here are a few excerpts:
God doesn't answer prayers because your faith is greater than the guy beside you - he answers prayers because you are in communion with him through your continued willingness to obey....

God doesn't demand perfection as a prerequisite to communion - but He is rightly aloof from those too proud or lazy to continue in obedience.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Mexico: Part 7

Tuesday, March 14

By the time Marshall and I awoke, Josue had already left for school. (By the way, I don't think I have explained that Josue is pronounced Ho-sway.) We did all those normal morning things that you do and ate breakfast. Because of the time I have allowed to slip by between the trip and writing about it now, I don't remember what we did for breakfast each individual day. I do know that one day (perhaps not this day) we had tortas. They are sandwiches made from little oval loaves of white bread, on which is spread cream (kind of a cross between cream cheese and sour cream), a slice of cheese and some sliced ham. Jalapeños were optional, which of course I accepted. The tortas were great! Since returning I have even made my lunches like that, spreading cream cheese on bread and making sure to load up on jalapeños or chopped hot peppers.

Again this morning, we were going to the Landrums' for Team Time, but before we left, Josue returned home. He explained that he arrived at school too late and the doors were locked. So since he had a suddenly free day with nothing else to do, Marshall suggested he accompany us. Nancy agreed to let him go, and we headed out to the bus stop. Soon we got off at the stop for the Landrums' house.

During the team time I felt sorry for Josue because he doesn't know English, and that's all we spoke in! Eventually it came time to leave for the bus station to take us toward San Juan de los Lagos. We would be stopping to eat in Lagos de Moreno, where the Landrums used to serve several years ago.

On the walk to the station, we passed a construction site where they were putting up a commercial building. It was right at the street, and we were walking on the sidewalk only a foot or two from the construction--there were no fences, barriers, tarps, etc. keeping people away from the action!

The fare to Lagos was only about three dollars on a coach for the near-hour ride. It was a pleasant ride, providing ample opportunity to see the countryside, which was quite deserted: few trees, much scrub brush, and few houses. At one point, traveling through a more populated area, we saw a lot of sizeable white stucco houses with terra cotta roof tiles. "Casas de ricos," Josue explained. Rich people. It was ironic, because when you think of a southwestern style house in America, or see things like Taco Bell with their stucco walls, you tend to think of that as being a Mexican style house...which it is, only for the rich.

In Mexico they do have a lot of familiar stores. One which was on our normal bus route home was Wal-Mart supercenter ("Precios bajos. Siempre.") There were also Home Depot and McDonald's, and this Goodyear service center Ken saw in Lagos.

When we arrived in Lagos de Moreno (which means Brown Lakes), Craig took us to a shopping mall, not heavily patronized in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, to eat lunch. There were several restaurants to choose from, but most of us ended up ordering from the same traditional Mexican place. They had enchiladas, quesadillas, hamburgers, the like. I ordered chicken enchiladas: three enchiladas on a large plate, with lettuce, cheese and red or green salsa (I don't remember which one I got). The salsa was sufficiently hot, rather liquid, and soaked all the food, so every bite was spicy! I have since discovered I can achieve the same effect at home by pouring the water from a jar of sliced jalapeños over my food.

While we were ordering, a ten-year-old boy came around, apparently begging for money (not an uncommon sight in Mexico). We all turned him down, but he took a seat at a table next to us. Willie did give him a tract, though, which was in the style of a comic strip.

Marshall also ordered some enchiladas, but began to feel a little bit nauseated. He didn't push himself and only ate a few bites. A little while later, he had an idea.

"Ryan, why don't you ask that kid if he wants my food? He may not have had anything yet today."

"Yeah, okay," I agreed, intrigued by the fact that in the U.S. we (or I) don't usually talk to people so freely whom I don't know. But this is how you can minister to people and practice the love of God.

"¿Quisiera esta comida?" I asked him ("Would you like this food?"). He gladly took the plate and got some utensils from the restaurant, and proceded to clean the entire plate. Not a normal feat for a ten-year-old.

After most of us finished eating, Celina, who was fluent in Spanish, went over to the boy's table and began talking to him about the gospel and what it said in the tract.

While many of us were praying for the boy and Celina's witness to him, Celina later reported that he did make a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus! She gave him the phone number of some believers in the area, but only the Lord knows if he was able to contact them. Again, He knows what kind of a family he has and what living conditions he is in; they might discourage any faith in him. His name is Juan, and he could use our continued prayer.

Meanwhile, as Willie and some others were passing out tracts to the few people around, a policeman in the building discovered them and stated they couldn't do that here. As I heard the story, he wanted/needed contact information for people who could explain more about what the literature was about, so they gave him the contact phone number on a tract! Perhaps he read it later.

After everyone was collected, we walked back to the bus station to continue on to San Juan de los Lagos (St. John of the Lakes). We got there in time to miss the most recent bus, and the next would arrive in half an hour. Craig was kind of dissatisfied with that amount of waiting time and inquired at another bus line's ticket desk. They said a bus would be there in twenty minutes. Well, twenty minutes turned into an hour! (That's Mexico.) To pass the time, we talked and some of the students played a card game on the floor of the station.

On the bus to San Juan, Craig met another American, not a christian, and Celina witnessed to the young woman next to her almost the whole time. God's word will not return void! We must continue to pray for these people.

From the station in San Juan, we all took taxis to the cathedral. Entering in the back, we saw the confessional booths. How tragic to think people think you have to confess your sins to another person because you can't approach God Himself!

Next, we went into the trophy room. It had a lofty ceiling, and pegboard covered the stone walls. Literally the walls were letters, photos, soccer trophies, motorcycle helmets, jerseys, locks of hair, crucifixes, children's crayon drawings, communion dresses, paintings... They were all tokens of thanks to the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos, because supposedly she answered prayers made to her at this shrine, whether for healing from an illness, a game won, or some other request. All the letters were addressed to the Virgin of San Juan. Of course the virgin is supposed to be Mary, but there is also the Virgin of Guadalupe, the virgin of this town, the virgin of that place... It's effectively not the same person, because people address the virgin of each individual place. It was heart wrenching to see the utter idolatry of the country in this room. Occasionally the caretakers of the building come through and clean it all out. I think I heard that the amount of stuff on the walls there was only about six months' worth! You see, six million people go through that cathedral every year! The disparity between the wealth the church gets and the non-wealth of the general population is despicable.

From there we made our way into the "sanctuary," where the stench of incense filled my nostrils. A mass had just begun. At other times, we were told, you might see people walking down the center aisle on their knees. At the front of this cavernous main room is an altar to a three-foot-tall doll, representational of Mary.

Back in the 1500's there was a situation where someone had supposedly died, so another person who had this Mary doll laid it on the "dead" person, who revived. Thus they enshrined the doll. The whole town was built around the cathedral and the doll, and it is now a profitable institution for the Catholic church in Mexico.

Everything in that building spoke to me of death, between the 3/4 life size dead Jesus on a cross off to the side, and the pitiable, blind worship of this image. We made our way to the back of the the "sanctuary" (nothing sanctified about it) and noticed, as the chanting prayers and songs were raised, there was an old man in the back row, on his knees, arms upstretched, rosary in one hand, whose voice soared over those of everyone else. He was dedicated or desperate, and hoplessly lost in his religion! It was a horror to see. He obviously was clinging tight to the Catholic religion to get him in favor with God.

Josue was especially glad to leave, since he is so much more aware of the hold the religion has on the populace, and the deadness of it. In the U.S., you usually don't see such dedication as the Mexicans have to the Catholic faith, nor the superstition.

Craig said that every year when he brings the Emmaus Bible College students to San Juan to show them the pitiable state of the Mexicans in their beliefs, it's a real "downer" of a day, with which I quite agree.

Just before we headed back to Leon, a couple of us took a detour to the restroom...they were pay restrooms. A rather foreign concept here in the States, but it helps to pay for the cleaning services. It was only 3 pesos, or about 30 cents, so it wasn't a bother to pay. It was just a bit funny, you know?

On the trip back, we all were seated together in the rearmost seats in the bus. Ryan was folding some origami again, and for quite a long time Emily, Josue, Ken and I were talking and having a lot of fun! I learned all the Spanish names of the fingers: Thumb = pulgar, index = indice, etc. If you want to know them too, just ask!

We got home after dark, so it was past 9:00 pm, and we had supper at our host familys' homes. Normal Mexican time for supper. At Nancy and Cuco's house, Nancy's father was there visiting, and we told him we were at the cathedral of San Juan that day. He told me to take a look at Jeremiah 7:17-18:
Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger.
It startled me to see the phrase "Queen of Heaven" in there, for that is what they call Mary. It was just so similar to Catholicism in that it was creepy. The passage goes on to declare that the Lord GOD (the name used when God made the covenant with Abraham and David) would pour out his wrath on those people for their idolatry.

We too should be careful if we think we are not idolatrous like the Israelites were or Mexicans are. We all have things we put in priority before Christ, and anything like that is an idol. Before God, all sin is equal, so blatant, open idolatry is just as offensive as idolatry hidden in the heart.

Well, again I don't remember the specifics of what we did at the home. Often times, after we supposedly went to bed, Marshall and I would talk for quite a while. One night early in the week we talked about military aircraft and top secret airplanes. It was a subject I had some knowledge of and an interest in ever since I was about thirteen.

Nights were warm, the window in our room was always open, and we slept without sheets or blankets on us. The pillows were rock hard (I never got quite used to it) but we did sleep well after a long day!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mexico: Part 6

Monday, March 13

The next day dawned and Marshall and I got up at our usual time, 7:30. I think Nancy made us huevos revueltos, scrambled eggs, that morning. She mixed chopped bacon and cheese into it. Great way to make eggs!

We were scheduled to meet at the Landrums' home at 10:00 for "team time," and we needed to get there somehow. Cuco left early for work, Josue left for school around 7:15, and Nancy was going into work around 9:30. As it worked out, Nancy's father, also a believer, came by in his car to drive us over to the Landrums', and Nancy to work. (She sells advertising in a local newspaper.) So we ended up getting to the Landrums' house first of all the students!

When I first stepped outside on this morning I was surprised at how warm it was! I asked Marshall if this day was any warmer than Saturday. "About the same," he replied. And to think I was chilly even in long pants and a jacket Saturday. I was definitely not well! Thus it was refreshing and cause for praise to the Lord again for my restoration to health.

By this time in the week, Marshall had already taken around 500 MB of photos and he wanted to burn them to a CD, so, with Brenda's gracious permission, we went upstairs to the office and I helped Marshall with his project. Meanwhile, everyone else arrived, and we became late for the meeting because of the computer work!

After a short devotional given by Ryan, we sang a few songs accompanied by Willie on his guitar, and then Craig told us some history of how he and his wife became missionaries.

Soon I found out the talents of Ryan and Scott. Ryan was very interested in origami and was folding some paper cranes. We found this interesting because I used to be big into origami when I was younger, and we both have the same first name. When I pulled out the juggling balls I brought along, Scott eagerly began trying to juggle four, for he was pretty good at three already and had good form.

After lunch, with which we enjoyed some mangos, we headed over to the kinder where we were to meet some others of the church for evangelism. The day prior to our arrival in Mexico first contacts were made in the neighborhood of the kinder, where they handed out tracts and asked the people to read them. Today were the followup visits in which we would ask the people what they thought about what they had read, and explain the gospel. Obviously we don't speak Spanish that well, so Ken and I were teamed up with Alberto, and everyone else was matched to a Spanish-speaker as well.

Not too many houses out, Alberto had a chance to talk at lenght with a middle-aged woman named Margarita. I didn't catch a lot of what they were saying, but it was very encouraging to see that she was (mildly) interested, and polite enough to chat. As we left after about fifteen minutes, Alberto pointed out a small sticker on the gate, which featured la Virgén de Guadalupe, some popular virgin Mary shrine. So much more we appreciated the opportunity to converse with her!

As we moved on, many people were not home, and since we were unclear exactly which streets to cover, many people received the tracts for the first time. After a couple of blocks, however, there was one elderly woman seated outside a little shop who, when asked what she thought of the tract she received, said distainfully, "I don't have an opinion; it doesn't interest me." How sad to see a soul, likely convicted by the gospel contained in that tract, dismiss it callously. So many people are set in their ways, trusting in the rituals of the Catholic Church for salvation, that it may be enough to discourage one. But knowing that the little church on the east side of town was built from such as these is assurance that God's Spirit working in people's hearts, co-laboring with faithful witnesses produces fruit!

After making use of the allotted time, we returned to the kinder. There we shared with one another how things went and enjoyed some more fellowship.

Here Ken and Emily are talking with Alberto

Next on the agenda was a trip to downtown Leon to see a little bit of the city, which also offered a chance to do some souvenir shopping. All the students, Ken and I, and Craig picked up the big bus, la oruga and began the trip. The orugas are interesting buses. They are about one and a half times as long as American city buses, and accordian-hinged in the middle. It's from this that it gets the name oruga, which means caterpillar! There is a lot more standing room in Mexican buses than American, because it is a more common mode of travel. Everyone uses it! Even middle school students going to and from school.

We walked a few blocks from the bus stop downtown, passing many leather shops on the way. Leather and women's shoes seem to be the biggest industry in Leon, judging by the number of shops specializing in them!

We soon reached the square, which was square. And big. And had more people in it than you would ever see in a similar setting in the States. Mexican people love to hang out outside! It did so happen that there was some sort of political/communist rally-type event ocurring there which did account for a large chunk of the people, but still there were so many just enjoying the weather, shopping, etc. In the center of the square was a fountain that was the image of lions standing in a pool with a large bowl on their backs. They were the lions of Leon. Los leones de Leon. We got a pretty good group picture there:

Beth, Emily, Scott, me, Marshall, Ken
Celina, Amy, Caleb, Willie

Everywhere we went, Willie was handing out tracts, repeating the phrase taught him: "Le regalo un folleto" ("I 'gift' you with a pamphlet," indicating the fact that it was free). It was a real encouragement to see his enthusiasm and single-mindedness for evangelizing according to his ability.

Making our way around the square, Craig recommended a certain ice cream shop there, so we all bought some ice cream. It seemed blueberry was a favorite among us. While there, Willie met a young couple sitting at a table. Because he knows, practically speaking, no Spanish, he soon called Ken over to interpret. It turned out these folks were Christians and excited to hear about the mission we Americans were there for. They even exchanged e-mail addresses with Ken and urged him to contact them if we were ever in the area again! The brotherly bond in Christ is boundless!

While Ken was talking to them, the rest of us purchased and finished our ice cream. So while Ken got his, Willie got talking to another man outside and enlisted the help of Craig. Craig and this man talked for a good long time, possibly 20-25 minutes. He reported to us that the man had been in the Catholic church, tried Buddhism, and several other things, apparently trying to find a religion that really worked. He's another soul needing fervent prayer.

Also during that time, a man and his teenaged son came by and set up a homemade marimba on the stone-paved walkway and began to play some tunes. This was something quite typical in Mexico, especially when they hopefully solicited tips from the bystanders.

Finally we were all ready to go, so we made our way back to the bus stop, Willie dealing out tracts all the way. We had to switch buses partway through the trip, and one of them was packed. Do you know what Mexicans do when there's no room on the bus? They don't wait for another...they pack it tighter! We were literally shoulder to shoulder and back to back to everyone on the bus. Craig was shouting our destination for us to hear. "Next stop!" The buses only stop for about a minute, which, for a vehicle that packed, made it possible that people would either miss their stop or miss their bus, depending on which side of the doors they were. We were concerned that only some of us would make the stop! Nevertheless, with much pushing and "Con permiso!" we all got off together.

Mexican bus rides are a blast! Adventure! Excitement!

Anyway, we headed over to the Landrums' favorite restaurant, Tacos Don Luis. As you can see, like all Mexican store-fronts, the restaurant was open across its whole width to the street. Never have I had better, more authentic tacos! There were choices of pork, beef, and sausage, with or without cheese, and you could add as much lettuce, onion, or hot sauce (yeah!) as you wanted. The tables were about waist high, and you could either sit on stools or stand to eat. They had Coke, Sprite, and a couple of other choices of beverages, served in glass bottles. That's something you don't find here. We ordered what we wanted and watched in awe as the men chopped, cooked, fried and assembled the meat and tortillas into tacos. Using blisteringly hot griddles. With bare hands. They could grab a tortillas, throw some meat in it, throw some hot sauce on it, throw it on a paper plate and hand it to you in five seconds, absolutely no kidding. That's Fast Food! Once you were done with your tacos or quesadillas, a waiter might come by and take more orders, delivering them to you.

Like I said, great food. And great service. All at a cheap price. Each taco was about 80 pesos, or close to 80 cents American. The cost of living in Mexico is much cheaper, as is the average income, so I'm not really sure what it was like for a Mexican to pay 80 pesos, but it sure was cheap for me.

Good music too. Eventually a man came in with a boombox, and the restauranteurs pointed him to a spot in the restaurant and an electrical outlet. He plugged in the boombox, which he held in his hand, pulled out a notebook of handwritten words, and proceded to sing to accompaniment tracks on a CD. The musical style was Ranchero, specifically Vicente Fernandez songs, if that means anything to you. Fernandez and his son, Alejandro, are amazingly popular singers in Mexico, and my dad has a couple of their CD's from his business trips down there years ago. It's really nice, traditional Mexican music. So this man was singing these songs, without amplification, and he was clearly heard above the cacophany of the restaurant. Quite a talent that man has!

When dinner was over--probably around 9:30 pm (lunch is usually around 3)--Craig told Marshall and me that we had to take the bus by ourselves back home. He told us what bus stop we were at and which one we had to go to. We were both good-naturedly nervous about it, but it couldn't have been simpler. (By the end of the week we were old pros.) We got home and I told Nancy and Cuco what we did that day. Nancy asked what we were doing tomorrow, Tuesday. Going to San Juan de los Lagos, I replied, to see the cathedral. Josue joked, "On your knees?" The cathedral there is a big pilgrimage spot where millions of people come to every year, often on their knees. Even some in the church in Leon made the pilgrimage before they trusted in Christ alone for their salvation, believing that all their so-called righteousness was as filthy rags before God. But more about that in my accounting of the next day.

We showed them Marshall's digital pictures on the TV, which they enjoyed immensely, then I think played dominoes and eventually went to bed around midnight.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mexico: Part 5

Sunday, March 12, continued

After the services were over and food was being spread out on the table in the back room, I met and talked to a few more people. Soon I joined Ken and Amy talking to Juan, who was sharing his testimony of how he came to trust in the Lord, and how he evangelized his wife and she got saved too. Juan is the father of Fernando, the guitar player.

By this time, the food was smelling delicious. That was a good sign, considering the smell of food the day before was unappetizing. It was announced that the visitors from the United States would go through the food line first, and of them, the ladies first.

There was quite a variety of food. You could make your own sandwiches, tacos... I don't even remember all that there was! I remember grabbing a couple of tortillas and a variety of mixed foods to fill them with. And I made sure to get some jalapeños!

An interesting note: In the U.S., disposable plates, whether paper, styrofoam or cardboard, are round. In Mexico most of what I saw were rectangular! They do have round ones, but apparently they're not as common.

Though I did not fill myself with food, my hunger was satisfied. I still didn't want to push myself for fear of becoming sick again. Of course we had Coke to drink, too.

After the meal, I headed out the back door, which opened into a little yard. Josue and his 16-year-old friend Samuel were playing guitars together. When he saw me, Josue offered his guitar to me to play something, and in a little while he showed me a bit of a song he was working on learning.

We stayed outside for quite a long time, and Fernando began to play and sing all kinds of songs with his guitar, mostly hilarious renditions of popular songs including "Besame" and "Volare." He was really good, especially at flamenco style, and his fingering on the strings was so precise! As you can see from the picture, everyone was having a grand time!

Brenda Landrum said that these Mexicans were so gregarious and loving a good time that you never knew what they might do or want you to do for fun. Somehow, they began coercing each other to step into the ring of people enjoying the music and do a little flamenco (or whatever we thought was flamenco) dancing. Ha ha! Yes, even I got it over with when they selected me.

Ken and I also enjoyed a small game of basquetbol with Alberto and Susana.

After the basketball game, I rejoined the (still) singing group and learned a couple of Christian songs, one of which Hannah the Landrums' daughter had written.

Gracias Jesus, porque tu me salvaste
De la muerte
Gracias Jesus porque tu me amaste tanto
Hasta morir en la cruz. Jesus

(Thank you Jesus, because you saved me
From death
Thank you Jesus, because you loved me so much
to die on the cross. Jesus)

Another person whom I remember with fondness was a man named Chuy. Throughout the day, he would pass by one of us Americans and tap him on the shoulder. When he would look around to see who was requestion attention, Chuy would have the most matter-of-fact normal look on his face as though he never did it. I've seen people in the U.S. do this, but not with as much success as Chuy!

As the time approached 6:30, we all got ready to leave for the park, where we would do some evangelism. People piled into the Landrums' vehicle, Oscar's van, and Chuy's pick-up and headed out.

Here's another fun aspect of Mexican culture: vehicle packing. It's not unusual to pack as many people as can possibly fit in any vehicle, whether a two door hatchback, pick-up truck, or bicycle (I saw a whole family of four on one bike! Father pedaling, and mother and small child on the back rack, and another small child on the handlebars!). Admittedly, it's quite dangerous, and they do have accidents because of this kind of thing, but it sure was fun.

After we stopped at my host family's home to pick up Nancy, there were about fifteen people in the back of the truck. Nancy brought a bottle of diet Coke with her. Remember what Brenda had said about the Mexicans being a little unpredictable? Well they began passing the bottle of Coke around and almost everyone took a sip, me included. I have no idea why they did it, but it was funny!

The park we arrived at was right next to a Catholic church, and there were some vendors selling CD's, produce, and cheap children's toys. The whole area was about half a block in size, paved with stones, with planters here and there with benches around them, and a central stone fountain. Stockpiles of tracts were distributed among the believers and we prayed together as Fernando and some others set up a PA system.

We all organized ourselves into a large semi-circle and the music began. It was a heart-wrenching soundtrack for the mime drama the Emmaus students began to act out.

Marshall and Ryan, guards, threw Caleb to the pavement. As he struggled to get up, they kicked him and punched him and mocked.

Eventually they stood him upright and grabbed Amy and Celina, making them pound "nails" into Caleb's hands. When the deed was done, the women retreated to the sides.

Jesus was crucified, put there by each of us.

When he was dead, he was taken down from the cross.

Amy and Celina stood by solemnly. Then Caleb came out from the now-rather-large crowd of observers and approached Amy. He presented himself to her, very much alive, but she was full of scorn and disbelief. She shoved him away in hatred. Then Caleb went over to Celina, presented himself to her. She couldn't believe her eyes--he was alive! Full of joy, she tried to convince Amy of the risen Christ, but Amy angrily pushed her away too. Caleb indicated it was no use, and he and Celina walked away together.

Obviously, this was an allegory that our own sins nailed Jesus to the cross, and it demonstrated people's reaction to the gospel, both believing and rejecting. I assume this is what Fernando preached about next, when he picked up the microphone and began to speak. I and the others were looking around, seeing to whom we could give the tracts.

In the discomfort of my flesh, I was not eagerly participating. I wanted to hand out tracts, but didn't know how, didn't know what I would do if someone started talking to me... I did make excuses to myself. I never did this before. I know there was profit from the preaching and distribution of tracts that evening, but it was not helped by me, much to my sorrow.

About 8:30 Josue took Marshall and me back home. I found out later that all the Mexican believers who were there went to Luis and Yola's house afterward, the poorest and most hospitable family of that church! I was very happy for Celina and Beth, for Luis and Yola were their host family, so they got to enjoy more fellowship! It would have been fun to be there.