Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In One Instant...Things Can Change

This adorable little guy with the eyes that always look surprised to see you and hair that never lays down flat is Ezekiel. He's the 4 month old baby of Sergio and Briseyda -- our church's worship leaders and leaders of ADAPTinternational (a pastoral training program). Precious? You betcha!

Ezekiel has been fighting a cold -- like most of the kids in the church -- for what seems like a month. He and Jahaziel and Nehemias seem to have been passing this nasty, phlegmy, croupy thing back and forth all winter. Poor little guys. This past week, they all seemed to be on the mend. No more fevers, no more green snot. Life was finally somewhat back to normal.

Sunday, we had a serious scare.

First of all, let me say that I don't scare easily. I tend to be pretty level-headed in an emergency. I'm kind of the "get 'er done" type of person anyway, and in tense situations I turn into Mrs. Efficient.

I took first aid in highschool. I took CPR training in college. I got certified for both when I worked for the state of California. I have 4 boys. BUT never in my life have I actually seen mouth-to-mouth performed "in person", nor have I ever watched someone pass out from choking. It's an extremely scary thing. Especially when the person choking is the 4 month old baby in your arms.

Sunday after church, Sarah and I had just finished loading up the van and were beginning the process of gathering the boys together to head home. Boca is very relaxed on Sunday afternoons -- lots of visiting back and forth, cars stopped in the street, people milling around, quite a bit of noise.

I noticed a bit of commotion over at Gloria's house (across the street from the church), but figured the dog was chasing a chicken or something, so I didn't really pay attention...until Gloria shrieked, "Rebecca!!! There's something wrong with the baby!!!" Suddenly, it seemed like everything on the street stopped still and then people began racing to Gloria's house as fast as possible.

A friend of mine, who happens to be a nurse, ran up just behind me. I grabbed Ezekiel from his great-grandma (who was moaning and screaming and making no sense whatsoever) and did what most moms do when a baby looks like he's choking -- I stuck my finger down his throat. I've had lots of practice at that. All I felt was slime. The poor boy was choking on his own phlegm. I turned to my nurse-friend and told her, "Pura flema!" (Remember, we're in Mexico -- even in a crisis, I still have to think in Spanish). She grabbed him and turned him over and tried to force the blockage out.

Ezekiel literally was turning white and then blue in front of our eyes as he fought and struggled to take a breath. Moments which seemed incredibly long, but were probably only seconds, passed. Ezekiel's eyes rolled back, and he just kind of melted. My friend looked at me and I looked at her. She was calm, but I could see fear in her eyes like I felt in mine. At that moment -- and this all happened very fast -- I realized that there was a circle around us of people from church praying out loud. My kids (some of them) were there. "Air!" I said. "Boca a boca, " my friend said. We flipped him over and she began to blow into his mouth. Nothing. She blew again...hard. There was a deep "Pop!" as the ball of phlegm broke loose and suddenly Ezekiel began to cry and gasp.

Relief swept over us, the prayers of crying out to God turned to shouts of praise, and Ezekiel was handed over to Grandma...who was still crying, but now with relief rather than terror.

I still feel almost nauseous thinking about it, and when I close my eyes, I see him crumple. Just plain scary.

I was reminded of some things on Sunday...
  • It's so important to remain calm in an emergency situation. You just can't think when you're "freaking out"...and neither can anyone around you.
  • Situations can change incredibly rapidly, and when they do, we don't usually have time to think...we just react.
  • Our first reaction should be prayer, because God is the one who gives peace in terrifying situations.

Our church leadership has decided to dedicate more time to prayer for our kids. All 4 of the families in leadership have kids who have been sick a lot lately, and we're feeling very "under attack" right now. With this swine flu thing going on, and now the scare with Ezekiel, we believe we need to pray more.

The doctors aren't totally sure what happened with Ezekiel. His lungs are clear, and he seems to be having no problem with phelgm now. Praise God!!! I'm pretty certain that he'll be sleeping Mom and Dad's arms for a while! Was the incident a spiritual attack? There are several folks in the church who believe so. There is a lot of witchcraft in our village and the villages surrounding us. Either way, though, this experience has drawn the leadership together to pray more fervently for the very lives of our children.

I hope you're encouraged to do the same...for our kids and for the children in your life, too!

Have a blessed day today!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

BFS #131 -- Trusted Everywhere (Duracell Batteries)

Memory Verse: Genesis 20:13 and it came about, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is the kindness which you will show to me: everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.’” (Which, by the way, is a very funny memory verse!)

Introduction: Trusted Everywhere (Duracell Batteries) Easy Week. It was supposed to be Nancy’s week, she had planned on posting a simple assignment, but she’s gone, and her assignment isn’t here. So.. Because Nancy is traveling, I thought we’d talk about Everywhere, or Anywhere.

Assignment: Where have you been? Where have you traveled? What was the purpose of your trip?

Photo: Map your journey… or show a picture of you on the trip.

I had a couple of different ideas for this assignment. One of the main deciding factors was finding a photo of me! Generally speaking I'm the one behind the camera. There is a reason for that!!! Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, one of the kids snagged the camera from me and snapped a photo, so here you have it. Rare footage indeed!

Instead of sharing about a trip away from home which we've taken, I decided to share about a trip that came to us. Well, not us personally, but rather our beach. You see, we live on a small stretch of beach known across Mexico as "the place to go for semana santa". That's Holy Week in English. Folks aren't generally coming to worship God, though. Picture Corpus Christi or Florida or Palm Beach. It's a little crazy for a week or two down here! The beach looks completely different with people on it!

A line of cars waits to leave Las Glorias on Friday night.

The people-mover.

I had to include the photo of the quad with all the kids on it, even though the image is blurry. Count heads: there are six bodies on that thing!

So, I've decided to share about what our family did this year during Holy Week. We were blessed to have a mission team from Southern California here for a few days. Those are the other gringos you'll see in the pictures.
Chris stopped traffic to let our van across the street.  The city hired traffic cops, but most didn't have a clue how to keep traffic flowing!

The drama team got costumed up at our house. In addition to the American drama team, there was a team of Mexicans to preach and to pray with people.

Our family as a whole only went out on the beach one day. Sarah participated in the drama which the mission team shared, so she was out there most of the weekend. Seth, Jessee, Andrew and Caleb each dedicated time and resources on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to earn a little money. Seth made muffins, Jessee sold limeade, Andrew and Caleb made snow-cones. I think they decided that Seth's venture was the most profitable -- he had no competition! Vendors line the waterfront selling drinks and ice-cream, but no one bakes bread. There's talk among the boys of selling bread in a BIG way next year. We'll see! Kind of depends on whether I ever get my brick oven done!

The boys also helped a friend whose mom is opening a coffee shop here in town.

I took almost 500 shots of our time on the beach. My friend Karen took another hundred. Pastor Tom beat me out by more than doubling my number, but of course, he was on the beach three days to my one! Needless to say, it's hard to choose photos for this post.

The drama outreach was spectacular. I couldn't possibly do it justice with only a couple of shots. If you'd like to see some more photos and read more about the outreach, you can click over to Sarah's blog (this link will open in a new window, so clicking won't take you away from this site.) Hover your mouse over each photo to read its caption.
Welcome to the Beach at Las Glorias!
Yes, that's a helicopter setting down in front of our house.

Sergio shares the gospel after one performance of the drama.
Ricardo and his I LOVE JESUS hat.
Members of the team pray with a man selling cotton candy after one performance.
Taking a break between performances to enjoy local treats...mango on a stick.
Two friends who stayed with us a couple of nights and plugged in to the drama team.
Lifeguards watch the water to make sure kids are safe.  Yes, the tower is tilted.
Doug and Andrew talk with a man selling coconuts.
Another vendor is selling Strawberries and Cream -- another local delicacy.
People camp all over the beach.  If they don't have a tent, they make one.
This would be called the farmer's RV.
Soccer and beach volleyball tournaments ran all day Saturday.
Karen and Mavil set up their booth to raise money for their mission trip to Africa. Pray for them!
One of many bandas which play for the various parties held throughout town.  The band behind our house played until 5am...then started back up at 8.
A sea of kites in the sky and people on the ground.

Fortunately, the world has to be back to work on Monday morning. Sunday was quiet (comparatively) and we celebrated resurrection Sunday with our church family from the US and Mexico both.

Well, that was a trip, wasn't it??!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

BFS #129 -- Strong Enough for a Man, but Made for a Woman (Secret Deodorant)

Memory Verse: Judges 4: 8 Barak answered her: “If you go with me, I’ll go; but if you won’t go with me, I won’t go.” 9 She replied, “Yes, I will gladly go with you; but the way you are doing it will bring you no glory; because ADONAI will hand Sisra over to a woman.” Then D’vorah set out and went with Barak to Kedesh.

Introduction: Strong Enough for a Man, but Made for a Woman (Secret Deodorant) I am woman hear me roar.. Or.. If you’re not going to do the job, someone has to. We live in a society that thinks any strong woman is a “woman’s Libber” but that’s not what God has to say. D’vorah (Deborah) was a strong woman, she was appointed as a judge over the Israelites by God.. .. and yet she was a wife 4 Now D’vorah, a woman and a prophet, the wife of Lapidot, was judging Isra’el at that time.This is no Woman’s Libber, this is a woman who is strong in Character and Wisdom, and her strength doesn’t humiliate her husband, it glorifies him.

Assignment: OK my strong, wise, brilliant friends. Glorify your husbands! I want you to study this story of D’vorah and see if you can follow her path, from the Palm between Ramah and Beit-El, in the hills of Efrayim; to Mt Tabor, and then follow Sisera as he flee’s to oak at Tza’ananim and is finally brought down by Ya’el.. Find out where Kadesh is too…study this story with a map in front of you, look at the terrain, look at the setting of the battles Look at the players of this battle, who are they?. Now..Tell me the story as if you were D’vorah - tell me your travelogue, your sightseeing, your emotions on your journey. Tell me of the dangers and the thrill of victory. Tell me of your strength. Tell me of your response to Barak.. bring this story to life in the first person, as if you were there and living it.

Sorry, I've never done "first person" very well. ;^)

The date is c. 1000BC.

The place is Kadesh-Barnea and the surrounding area. An arid, high desert suitable for the raising of sheep. Here's a photo to give you an idea of the terrain. Visit this site to see a better "overall view" of the area (it's worth the click!).

Background: Israel has fought for their promised land, and for the most part, they have won. The Canaanites remain in the land to test the faith of the Israelites. (Judges 2:20) Apparently, they are failing the test. Enjoying a relative peace, the Israelites begin to slide back into the worship of idols. As God's word says in Judges 3:12 "the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord." This happened several times in their history (Judges 2:16; 4:1; 6:1; 8:33; etc.). God has, instead of appointing a king, raised up judges to help in the governing of His people. Eventually, they will tire of this and demand a king, but for now, the whole "judge" thing is relatively new and the judges cause the children of Israel to straighten up and fly right...for a time.

Enter Othniel and Ehud and Shamgar -- the first 3 judges. Each had their moment in the spotlight, fulfilled the purpose God had for them, and then died -- leaving the children of Israel to once again do "evil in the sight of the Lord". Sigh.

Kadesh-Barnea is circled in orange near the southern tip. Click on the map above to see a larger view. The blog where I found this map is a wealth of information!

We meet Deborah as she is living near an oasis being the area prophetess. From what I gather from scripture, people from the area would come to her for advice, suggestions, prayer and probably more than a few with complaints and problems. She was a woman of God, devoted to Him and serving as wife to Lapidoth and keeper of her household.

Then one day she gets a message from God: (Judges 4)
(voice of the Lord...paraphrased) Deborah, I have called to Barak, son of Abinoam, and told him to gather 10,000 men and go to Mount Tabor. I told him that once he is there, I will draw Sisera, captain of Jabin's army, to him and deliver him into Barak's hand. BUT, Barak hasn't moved. Go tell Barak that he needs to get up and get moving.

Deborah, being obedient to the call of God, calls Barak to her palm tree.

"Barak, the Lord God has commanded you to go to Mount Tabor and take 10,000 men of Naphtali and Zebulun with you. There you will meet with Sisera and the Lord God will deliver him into your hand. Why are you still here?"

Barak replies, "Deborah, I'll tell you what, if you go with me, I'll go. Obviously you have a better relationship with the Lord than I do and more experience at leading the people. They all look up to you already! Think of the benefit you'll be to our team." (yes, I added a bit to the story)

Deborah thinks for a moment. A quick prayer is sent to the Master of the Universe and the answer to her petition is received. "Alright, Barak. I'll go with you. You need to know one thing though. If you were hoping to receive the glory for this operation, forget it. The credit will go to a woman."

Certainly Barak was thinking, "Sure, she'll take the credit, but I'll deal with that later. The important thing is that I'll be alive!"

Deborah and Barak go off to war. True to His word, the Lord delivers Captain Sisera into Barak's hand, but as prophesied Sisera was already dead when Barak captured him.

As you can see from the map above, Kadesh was in a hilly region near the Kishon River. This area was prone to flash flooding. Sisera was proud of his chariots, but in this battle the chariots didn't help. (Judges 5:21-22) God sent torrential downpours, the river Kishon flooded, the chariots became bogged down in the mud and Captain Sisera fled on foot to his friend's tent -- Heber the Kenite. Unfortunately for Sisera, Heber's wife Jael wasn't a big fan.

Captain Sisera arrived at the tent of Jael exhausted and thirsty, so Jael -- the perfect hostess -- offered him warm milk and a pillow. "I'll watch over you," she told him. (Judges 4:18)

Some time later, Barak comes riding by. Jael walks out to meet him. "Are you looking for Sisera? He's in here." Remember how in my last BFS post I said that Jael was a tough lady? Think about this:

  • How many of you have ever helped your honey set up a tent?
  • Have you ever tried it using a stone hammer and a wooden stake?
I don't know about you, but I don't think I've ever hit a tent peg hard enough to drive it through a man's skull and pin him to the ground. AND it's not like she's going to get more than one chance at this. If she misses the first hit, she's dead. That peg has to kill him instantly, or it's all over for her.

That is one gutsy lady. I picture the dialog something like this:
God: "Jael, Sisera is asleep. Take the stake and the mallet and pin him to the ground."
Jael: "Do what?!? I can't do that!!! If I swing that hammer hard enough to kill him and I miss, I'll lose my hand! What if I miss entirely??? He'll kill me!"
God: "Jael -- peace. I have delivered Sisera into your hands. I will guide you. I never miss. Just do it."

So what's the moral in all this???

We need to show up. I've been mulling this idea over for a week or more. What did Deborah do that Barak didn't do? She showed up. God said to do something, Deborah did it. Barak made excuses.

I'm thinking that there might be another post coming along those lines. Maybe Nike: Just do It. Seriously, though, so much of our life here in Mexico is just showing up. We really don't set out in the morning to conquer our world. We just pray that God would use us where we are and that we would hear Him when He's speaking to us. Man or woman -- boy or girl.

Isn't that what God has called each of us to do?

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem [your hometown], Judea [your homeland] and in Samaria [your enemies' territory] and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

BFS #128 -- Does She or Doesn’t She (Clairol Shampoo)

Memory Verse: Genesis 2: 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bonesand flesh of my flesh;she shall be called Woman,because she was taken out of Man.”

Introduction: Does She or Doesn’t She (Clairol Shampoo) The world sees Christianity as a male dominant religion. It’s seen as a religion dominated by men, for men. But we know that God loves women - God created woman, and has used women to bring about His plan for the world.

Assignment: Tell the world about your favourite woman in the Bible. Who is she? How did the world judge her? How does God see her? How did God use her? How has this woman affected your life? How does she inspire you to walk out your relationship with God?

Hmmmm. My favorite woman in the Bible...that's a tough one. I have many favorites -- Hannah encourages me to keep a gentle spirit and to pray more fervently. Ruth reminds me that God has plans for my future, even when my "Plan A" doesn't work out the way I thought it would. I really like Jael (she's the one who killed Sisera with a tent peg) and Deborah -- tough chicks, for sure.

But my favorite (at least today) would have to be Abigail. You can read her story in 1 Samuel chapter 25, but let me give you a little background. Keep in mind that this is purely hypothetical, because we know nothing about her prior to her marriage to Nabal. The Bible says that she was "a woman of a beautiful countenance and good understanding". We can assume that she was from a good family, since she married into the family of Caleb (high society). Girls in those days married young and generally had no say in whom they married. So let's picture Abigail as a beautiful young lady of about 16 whose father arranged a marriage with a prominent (and rich) older man named Nabal. Whether or not she was happy about the match, she had no choice and found herself the mistress of a large household, and the wife of a fool.

Abigail to me is the picture of a woman who made lemonade out of the lemons of life. Rather than bemoaning her fate, she rolled up her sleeves and set her mind to the task at hand. Although scripture doesn't say this, I don't believe that she was in the habit of belittling her husband. She saw him as he was and made no excuse for him; she called him a "worthless fellow", but then the Bible clearly says that he was "churlish and evil in his doings".

Read Chapter 25 -- it's a great story!

Abigail was faithful to the committment she had made -- the vow she had made before God and the obligation she had to her parents -- and God honored her faithfulness.

So why is Abigail one of my favorites? Well, I'm a sucker for a happy ending. Hers is a bit of a Cinderella story -- rescued from a life of drudgery by a handsome prince (even if the whole "happily ever after" thing didn't really happen). More than that, though, is the hope I see for women whose husbands are stinkers...and there are a few of those where we live. Seeing how God dealt with Nabal reminds me that God sees all things and as His word says, "Vengeance is mine says the Lord. I will repay!"

Does God still allow us to go through hard times and suffer through difficult people? Obviously so! In James we read that, "The testing of our faith works patience."(James 1:3) It's just refreshing to be reminded that we don't need to stress over people who wrong us. God sees, and God knows, and we can have faith that He will take care of everything in due time.

Romans 8:38 And we know that God works all things together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.

Have a blessed week!!!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Winter Furlough Epic -- Part 7!

Hey! David and Andrew -- I'll bet you thought I forgot to post about you guys! Not a chance!!!!

These guys were in our youth group ever-so-long ago. They were two of the first three missionaries who came down to visit us here almost 3 years ago. David, Andrew and Tyler were sand-shoveling, brick-hauling machines. (Just so you know, we've never worked any team as hard as we worked you guys...especially in July!!!) Should I show pictures? Nah. Well...maybe just one or two.

Here are the 3 amigos putting together a small building in Alomito for the second time. The first time they put it together as a "temporary shed". That night the village was hit by a small tropical storm, and the building was flattened. The second time they put the building up, they made it a little sturdier. Temporary is fine, but 24 hours is a little too temporary -- even around here! It's still standing, and now it's being used as our friend Miguel's house.

That was almost three years ago. My, how time flies! Look at how little Andrew and Evie were!!! Tyler is now married and has a beautiful daughter. David and Andrew are both getting married this summer and are planning on honeymooning down here...right??? ;^)

Well, that was an interesting jaunt down memory lane. We did get to spend a little time visiting -- although not nearly enough -- and then we turned left on I5 and headed south again.

In route to California, we stopped in Roseburg just long enough for Sarah to take her drivers' test. She passed with flying colors. Neither Doug nor I could remember how many questions you were allowed to miss and still pass. It has, afterall, been a few years! We had told Sarah that she was allowed to miss a couple, so she said that when she missed a second question, she began to worry a bit. Apparently, she asked the guy later and he told her she could miss up to 7 (or something like that). Well, no matter! She has her learner's permit now!!!

We were now homeward bound. Driving north a couple of weeks earlier, I took this great photo of Mt. Shasta.

Driving south...we didn't see much mountain. In fact, there were some strectches of highway where we didn't see much of anything! We were one of the last cars to get over the Siskiyus before they closed the pass. Thank you, Lord! We met up with some folks traveling from Seattle a couple of days later who had been stuck in Yreka. They said it took them 9 hours to drive from Yreka to Sacramento once the pass was opened (that's normally about a 5 hour trip).

We arrived in Chico in time to visit CC Chico Saturday night -- which everyone was very happy about. Doug and the Jr. High youth leader took some time that afternoon to load up an old air hockey and pool table that they were donating to our ministry. Wa-HOO! [Side note: I don't know how much that air-hockey table was used in the youth room, but I think it's possible that it's being used more here! The kids from Boca love to come over and play air-hockey! It's trans-lingual!!!]

We shared at Chico Family Church on Sunday morning. We let the kids share from their hearts (which can be a scary thing -- you never know what kids are going to say!), showed some pictures of our ministry here and gave a bag of giant marshmallows to the kids in children's church. If you've never had a giant marshmallow, you're missing out. You'll just have to come down here and try one! I've never seen them in the States!

Then it was on to Sacramento to return our house on wheels. That RV was SUCH a blessing!!! We still miss it!

After the near-miss we had over the pass in Oregon, we thought it best to check the road reports to make sure the Grapevine was open. Everything looked good, so away we went!!!

Storm clouds were rolling in, though. As we neared Bakersfield we saw this:

The sign says, "I 5 closed 123 miles ahead due to snow. Use alternate route." Well, at least they gave advance warning!!! So we detoured through Kramer Junction. Kramer Junction has exactly one stoplight. This is the line waiting to turn right.

We thought our wait was bad, but it was nothing compared to the trucks waiting to turn left!
This leg of the trip wasn't as comfy as the first leg. We were a bit spoiled by the RV and being able to spread out, but we got cozy and made the best of it!

But we finally made it back to Grandma's house, fixed another little "fixit thing" that was giving her trouble, and then we piled back into the van for our last leg in the States -- bound for Tucson.

Well, our furlough epic is nearly finished, and we haven't had any serious "issues" -- aside from a couple of hours of pretty tense driving over a snowy pass and a significant detour around LA, which worked out fine, since we were heading to Riverside anyway. When you travel as many hours and as many miles with as much weight as we usually do, you just know that once in a while "things happen".

Thank you, Lord, for the angel driving the Harley who flagged us down just outside of Indio, California, to tell us that we had smoke coming off our trailer tire.
It was bad, but it would have been really bad if we hadn't stopped when we did.

Doug and Andrew strolled over to admire the various dune buggies until the wheel shop opened. During the course of the next 6 hours, Doug rebuilt the wheel bearings and got us back on the road. It wasn't a really easy fix and the man at the bearing store actually said, "Well, that's what you get when you use any old thing to make a trailer. Better to just use things for what they're intended." Well, I could argue that. That little-red-trailer-that-used-to-be-an-almond-sprayer has traveled many long, heavy miles over the past 20 years. I think it was entitled to new bearings once in its life!

So we did eventually make it to Tucson -- really late at night. We made pbj's and collapsed. Not until morning did we realize what a beautiful place we had landed in!

Only one more furlough post to go!!! Then we'll be caught up and you won't have to see anymore traveling photos...for 6 months!!!