Monday, February 20, 2012

Ministry Update

A year ago, I posted about our new direction in ministry.  A Turning Point, I called it, and it has certainly turned out to be exactly that!  A year later, we have certainly reached many of our objectives as we've been here in Puebla for nearly six months.

There have been some recent developments, however, more turning points if you will, as we have worked together with our different leaderships (three of them, to be exact!) in defining what our involvement with this ministry will look like.

I think it actually started soon after we arrived, because I remember Miguel sharing with me some of his thoughts about how he was sensing God's leading...and it was a bit different than what we'd thought we'd be doing.  It really shook me up! I mean, we had just spent months casting vision for a certain direction of ministry with all of our friends, family and supporters and now we up and say we're not going to do that?!

But that's not what Miguel was saying, exactly...he wasn't saying that we were changing ministries at all, just that he had a sense that maybe God was going to change the how of our involvement.  After I remembered that I am supposed to be trusting God to lead us through Miguel's ministry decisions, I settled down, apologized for freaking out, and found peace in waiting to see where and how God would lead.

Last October, we had some meetings with our leaders from Pioneers, our missions pastor, and the leadership of El Camino, our church here in Puebla.  The day before we all met together, we spent several hours with just our leadership from Pioneers and Miguel was able to share a little of what he was thinking.  We weren't sure how they would respond, but as it turned out, they were very open to it because what Miguel shared pretty much fits into a ministry role that Pioneers calls "ministry coach".  And they have been praying specifically for more team coaches!

One of Pioneers' core values is that of being Team-Centered.  Pioneers dedicates a lot of time and effort into helping their teams stay healthy and strong...not that PI teams don't ever encounter issues, but we've witnessed some pretty healthy teams in Pioneers so far.  One of the things they have discovered in the Mid-Americas region (and maybe in other regions, I'm not sure) is that teams with coaches tend to be more healthy and able to accomplish more than teams without coaches.  So it was pretty neat to find out that not only did our leaders welcome and honor how God was leading Miguel, they consider us to be an answer to prayer as well!

Once we got through that discussion, then we could formulate a rough plan of action for the next few years.  We're not sure of the time-line or exactly how it will all work, but another one of Pioneer's core values is Innovation and Flexibility, exemplified by a willingness to try new and different things.  Even though our leadership doesn't really have all the answers, they are willing to walk through this together with us, taking it one step at a time together (which represents another core value, that of Participatory Servant-Leadership based on trust).

Our Pioneers' leadership presented this new plan of action at the meetings in the following days and it was received favorably by our sending church's missions pastor and our Puebla church.  It is quite a change from the original plan, since it means that we will not be moving up to the mountains to work directly with Franco and Barby, at least not as soon as we thought.

So what will be doing?  Good question!  Like I have already said, we don't have all of the answers at this time and will continue to take things one step at a time...our first objective will be to conduct a survey of the Totonac people group to gather information about their language, culture, religious beliefs, spiritual needs, etc.  While there have been many ministries that have worked and are working with this people group, it has been a bit difficult to find good sources of information about the Totonac as a whole.  We are hoping to consolidate any information we come up with in one place so that it will be a great resource not just for us, but for any ministry interested in finding more about the Totonac.

The information we gather in the course of conducting the survey will also help us create a holistic strategy for approaching a ministry with the Totonac.  El Camino, our Puebla church, has a heart for reaching out to the entire people group, which is comprised of 5 to 6 different dialects.  The results of the survey will help El Camino in their efforts to determine the best strategy to use in reaching an entire people group for Christ, with the goal being that of establishing mature, self-governing, reproducing Totonac churches.

At some point, we will spend some time living among the Totonac, building relationship and learning as much of their language and culture as we can.  This will give us the much-needed personal experience that we will need if we are to coach a future team.  We're not sure when or where this will take place, but we're keeping our eyes open to where and when God might lead for that step.

So in the meantime, we will be staying longer in the city as we gather the information we need to complete the survey and cast vision in churches for the Totonac ministry.  Our prayer is that God will help us raise a team to go and work with the Totonac; a team that we would then coach through the process of team-building, getting the necessary cross-cultural training/preparation needed, creating a ministry strategy and then carrying out that strategy.

I know, huge task, and it's a bit overwhelming to think about!  But God is working here and we're excited.  We continue to feel such a calling and burden to the Totonac and it's neat to see how God has already worked to provide some of the contacts and resources that we need to move forward.

Miguel just returned from another trip to some Totonac communities in the state of Veracruz and not only had the opportunity to gather some information about the Totonac there, but was also able to share with the believers from two different Totonac churches.  Really exciting opportunities for him and we hope to return next time as a family.

One of the Totonac pastors (along with wife and daughter)
with one of the blankets that the retired volunteers at
Rio Grande Bible Institute 
sent with us to share with some Totonac families.

Miguel with one of the pastors and his son-in-law.

It is a fertile area, and many of the Totonac families have gardens where they grow corn and other crops.  Miguel and his pastor friend went out to his garden to harvest some yucca.  

Miguel enjoyed spending time with these kids...he
said the little boy is quite the question-maker!  

Yucca (or cassava) is a root, something similar to a potato.  They don't eat yucca here in this part of Puebla, but it is found in other parts of Mexico, such as the northern part of the state, Veracruz and in the more southern states like Oaxaca and Chiapas.  Yucca is commonly eaten in both Colombia and Venezuela, so both Miguel and I enjoy being able to eat some when we can get it!  One of our favorite ways to prepare yucca is to boil it and then fry it like french fries and eat it with ketchup.  Yum!  

The scenery reminded Miguel a lot of Venezuela!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Snow-Covered Volcanos

Over the New Year, snow began appearing more and more on the volcanoes around Puebla.  Every morning when we go out to the football fields close to our house to exercise Schatzen (our five month old German Shepherd puppy), we hope that the weather will be clear so we can see this view.

Popocatepetl (Popo for short), the volcano on the left, has been smoking a lot more recently and has even had a few eruptions.  Makes us wonder what's going on under that snow-capped peak!

On our way home from a trip to Texas recently, I was able to snap this shot of Popo.  A lot more snow had fallen while we were gone!  It was good to see this familiar sight once again, even though we were only gone for a few days to renew our tourist visas and car importation permit.

This morning when I went out with Schatzen, I took my camera along, hoping to get some good pictures of him in action.  He loves his Kong frisbee!

For the last few days, the volcanoes have been completely covered in clouds.  It's been raining a lot lately, rather unusual for February, but the top of Popo was visible for a few minutes before the clouds covered it up again.  It looked a bit surreal, as if the mountain was floating above the city...I looked back a few minutes later, but the clouds had risen again and the volcanoes were gone.

Hint:  If you click on the pictures, you can see them a bit closer!  

Valentine's Day Treat

Happy Valentine's Day!  Or as they say here in Mexico...¡Feliz Día de Amor y Amistad!  Translation:  Happy Day of Love and Friendship!

It's been pretty much a regular day here in our household in spite of it being Valentine's Day.  Jkaile learned how to cut out valentine hearts, but otherwise the kids have had to do their schoolwork as normal (much to their disgust).  But we have homeschool camp coming up next week and we can't afford to take any days off at this point.

I did make them a special treat for dessert, however, No-Bake Oatmeal Cookies (perfect for an oven-less home such as ours).

2 c. sugar
5 T. cocoa powder
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. butter
Dash salt
1/2 peanut butter, optional
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2+ c. oatmeal (quick cooking oatmeal is better, although I used the old-fashioned kind because it's what we have)
Bring everything to a boil except for the vanilla and oatmeal.  Bring to a boil and stir constantly while at full rolling boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and add vanilla and oatmeal.  Drop by teaspoonful on wax paper, foil or cookie sheets.  Cool to let harden.  

Miguel is still in the mountains and will probably not be home until Thursday.  But last week he brought me this sweet carved rose made by an inmate in a prison that Miguel has visited together with others from our church.  I put it in the vitrina (something like a china cabinet) along with a few other special things.

Here's a's a bit hard to see, but the base of the rose is in the shape of a heart.

Monday, February 13, 2012

(Mostly) Straight from my Journal

February 13, 2012

I continue to feel a bit disconnected.  I tried to update my status on FB last night and there just wasn't anything there.  Everything I wrote sounded flat and/or lifeless.  I want to write on my blog, but it's easier to just watch a show or check the news or read a book.  It's kind of like writer's block, except that it's not that there is nothing to write about, but maybe because there is too much and I don't know where to start.  I hope I get over this soon, because the words are building up in my head!  I'm afraid I will lose these words altogether, which would be a shame.

I read a post the other day about feeling small...sometimes I wonder if my story matters that much.  I wonder if I'm having a confidence crisis or focusing too much on what people will think? I tend to be self-conscious about who I am and what I write.  But I really do need to's an outlet for me.  I need to write for me.

And I need to remember that a post doesn't need to be long or complicated.  Some of the blogs I enjoy the most are the shorter ones with a few I think I just need to Nike---just do it.  I suspect I have more to say than I think.

Miguel went to Poza Larga (a small Totonac community in the mountains-his second visit there) and I so wanted to go with him.  But since we're going to homeschool camp next week, we couldn't afford to miss the schooldays (we are hoping to go to Poza Larga as a family soon).

I am not feeling well, but I rested all day yesterday and am feeling better today.  It's a weird flu/cough that is giving me a bit of a throat infection as well.  Funny thing is that it also gave me a pain in my neck and shoulder.  Miguel had the same pain when he left, which was weird, and I hope he doesn't get worse while he's traveling.  I told Micah that I had a pain in my neck, but assured him that it wasn't him.  Ha!

The kids have been squabbling a lot in recent days--I suspect that this is very normal sibling stuff, but it is driving me nuts.  And I suspect also that when I don't handle it well, it just makes it worse.  But today is another day and God's mercies are new once again.