The VBS Team was so impressive for this mission. The students led it with great poise, joy and creativity. Who wouldn’t want to join God is this kind of fun???
Category: Mexico 2015
Our devo today was More Than and the guys offered it for us. Walker, Coleman and Reid stepped up and tried out their English while Ricky translated in Spanish. Yes, that’s right. Sometimes it does feel like you are trying out your “English” when you are in a Spanish speaking country! Their devo was great and they inspired us to be “more than…” just someone that calls themselves a “Christian”; they urged us to be more than the name.
I could write all day about each of the 30+ people on this mission but for now this is a glimpse into two.
More than an acolyte: from worship to Mexico
Nick has been in our church all his life. He is an acolyte so he has made a strong commitment to be in worship and serving for many years. And Nick does more than that……he escorted Yaneth during her Quinceañera! Sometimes you just get chosen. You don’t necessarily “do” anything; it just happens. And when it happens in another culture it is even more surprising. From acolyting to busting up concrete to playing all day with the kids, Nick stepped up do more than just go on a mission. Nick said “yes” when he was asked to be the escort for the birthday girl!
More than music: from the choir to hair salon
We all know Abi from church. She sings in the choir. She preached on Youth Sunday. She has been there day in and day out for most of her life. But there are always hidden talents in the life of every person. In many cases, we never get to discover them, but they exist just the same. And sometimes you are with someone long enough that the gift just bubbles up and spills out in the middle of something ordinary. Like a room full of girls on a mission in Mexico needing to look a little bit pretty.
Abi has a gift for styling hair! It is truly amazing. In need of looking special for graduation one night and a Quinceañera the next, we literally stood in line as we waiting for her gifted fingers to weave beautiful braids in our hair. I am thinking she can pay her way through college with this talent. And the best part is her sweet spirit that is happy to say “yes” to the next one who gets in line. I love what God does in our lives with the ordinary things you just “like to do.”
This youth mission team is definitely as “More Than…” group of teenagers and leaders. They are sharing the love of Christ in all the creative ways God gives them. They are leading. They are creating. They are living…into…a God sized vision for the world today. It is a beautiful thing to see.
On the last night of our time, the youth of Benito Juarez and our youth all did dances to express their culture and joy of being together. Our group chose a Taylor Swift song, Shake it Up. As the song reached it’s last chorus the team invited the Mexican youth to join them on the dance floor and … oh my goodness what a great sight it was! Indeed, God is shaking up some Joy here!
Passages and Rituals
We celebrated the Quinceañera of Yaneth last night. She was so kind to invite us. Worship was full of music and dance. We were able to catch a tiny glimpse of why David wrote about dancing before the Lord. We were worshiping God and giving thanks for life. It was so much fun to worship with that level of Joy! The pastor’s message offered four pieces of advice:
- Always be thankful. Say “thank you”.
- Say “Please”
- Show Respect for others
- Honor God with your life
We all listened in as if hoping to hear a word of wisdom that would apply to our own lives. Our students may be wondering what the advice would be; our adults hopeful we haven’t missed anything important. And indeed, for every listening ear, these words point us in the direction of success no matter the road we travel. Many of the students on this mission have just graduated and several of them have already discerned their life call, or at least the first step of it. Others will hear as they step into next week, next year or the next decade. We all hear differently and usually at just the right time.
The Quinceañera is an ancient ritual established by the Mayas. It is a passage for a young girl from childhood to being a woman. This particular Quinceañera included four gifts:
- A doll to symbolize the end of childhood and playing with dolls; it is her last doll, he said, and one to keep, not with which to play.
- A watch was presented to symbolize and equip her to make decisions to be on time and to use her time wisely in daily life.
- A ring to symbolize her coming into womanhood as a child of God, and that she will always be a child of God.
- And finally, a pillow, not for her head but for her kneeling in prayer as she gives her life to honor Christ in all that she does each day.
After the time of worship we adjourned to the dining hall for food, dancing and games. And oh yes… CAKE! It was a wonderful celebration! Most impressive were our guys who stepped up as gentlemen and took their part in dancing with the birthday girl! Word of wisdom: teach your sons never to leave a birthday girl waiting for a dance partner on the dance floor! They may need to act on their feet in a moment of opportunity they did not anticipate.
I wonder….would a ritual of passage help the youth of our day? Would a moment of life you spend years preparing for and waiting for….would it help? Would it offer something of a gift to have a community gathered around you at that time to pray for you, laugh with you, celebrate with you, offer you wisdom and escort you to the next phase of life? I wonder.
This is my second Quinceañera to experience in Latin America. I am especially thankful now for the youth from our church to experience it. In this culture it is not specific to class, education, race, language or an event that may or may not happen in your life. If you are alive at age 15 and you are a girl, there is a celebration! It is the Latin American culture and everyone honors this time in a young girl’s life. It is a moment where everyone says, “God made you for a special purpose and it is time for you to take a big step into that purpose…that Life.”
Big steps are hard to take but there comes a time for all of us when we have to take them. It usually means leaving something behind so you can walk into a different place. What helps you make those life transitions? What would a ritual of passage look like in your life?
When Things Happen That You Didn’t Expect
The Mexican government recently set standards for the construction of schools. The space requirements and layout will create a better environment, and it will also require a big change for existing schools.
The impact to the school at Casa Hogar Benito Juarez is that they must build a new one. And soon. The cost is $79,000 US dollars. The school will serve up to 120 students and include kindergarten through 6th grade. The government is requiring the building be built by a certified company in Mexico and will take 3 months from start to finish. Mark Russell is praying and trusting God to provide another miracle. And there have been many miracles in this place.
One miracle is Wency. Hank told us about Wency before we arrived last year, and although we knew of him, we could never imagine the blessing he is without experiencing this time with him. Wency is in his 40’s and when you meet him you are amazed at his wit, his joyfulness and his unique gift for naming everyone who steps onto this place. Most of the names tend to be a vegetable or fruit, but you will have to come and see what he names you!
Wency landed in the children’s home in 1973 when he was 14 months old. His grandmother brought him. Coming from an abusive environment, Benito Juarez Children’s Home was the only place she knew to turn. Wency has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He took his first step at age 7.
Today he helps around the place and entertains guests with his wit and joy. Medicine never expected this for Wency. Everyone loves him, and I suppose, Wency loves everyone. At least he seems to love us!
I’m sure there are countless stories and most too personal to share here. Suffice it to say God is working miracles in the children that pass through this place. When life takes a turn you didn’t expect, God provides a way. Tonight we celebrate a young lady’s Quinceañera. And, well…that would be another miracle too. Today there are 32 children that call Benito Juarez “home”.
There is a verse painted on the wall in the chapel and stamped across the t-shirt that represents Christ’s presence here: “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God.” – Mark 10:14
Please pray for the miracle of support for the building of this school. In our context of North America, it the price of super nice car or one-two years of tuition at a super nice university. Pray also for the young girl who celebrates her Quinceañera tonight. Like Mark, we trust God completely. The work that started here will see its completion. Already I thank God for the miracle. Let it be.
Here is a link to this place: missionstomexicoministries.org
Graduation at Casa Hogar Benito Juarez
We are honored to be part of the graduation ceremonies as the children celebrate their accomplishment and transitions. Hank served as one of the Padrinos, handing out diplomas and offering words of encouragement and admiration. There was music, dancing and food! All the pieces of the party came together.
As for us…you may wonder…what is it like to attend a graduation where you barely know the students? Or what is it like for a student to be graduating without the crowd of family and friends? The answer is simple: it is like experiencing true Grace and Love. We are here to celebrate these kids out of a love that lives within us. They accept us out of a love that lives within. They didn’t have to invite us to participate and we didn’t have to come. We are here by God’s grace; and they as well.
Jesus was asked, “who are your brothers and sisters?” His answer was simple: “The ones who do my Father’s will”. Indeed, a true family gathered to celebrate graduation at Casa Hogar Benito Juarez this year. And thank God, we were a part of the family. Let’s dance!
The Return to Casa Hogar Benito Juarez
The greeting of little faces filled with love and hope. That is what awaits us at the children’s home in Reynosa, Mexico. The students who return from last year know the joy that is coming this week. Those embarking on the adventure for the first time are eager, humble and ready.
For me the joy is tenfold. I see the faith God has placed in these children of Benito Juarez and I see what God is doing in the teenagers of Franklin First UMC. We are all blessed beyond measure. The youth have stepped up in a big way. Each team has a part to offer: VBS; Work; Recreation and Devo Team.
VBS chose the creation story for VBS and the creativity is spilling over every day. Glow in the dark stars brought shrieks and thrills like no other! The pajama races to celebrate the creation of day and night brought to life a sleep group children. And then…tissue flowers for the creation of plants! How fun!
Every session includes Jess reading the story in Español; the youth adding to the creation mural; the children creating something that symbols that day in creation and then an activity to express all the goodness of creation. Oh….yes…and the SNACK!
Meanwhile others are working in the garden harvesting more carrots and corn than they ever imagined possible. And I hear that today there are more slabs of concrete to break up in the yard. And in-between there are games, conversations and love to give and receive.