This year there were over 80 that came for fun and fellowship. Six of us prepared lessons on the different roles Jesus plays in our life, i.e. Friend, Teacher, Priest, Sacrifice.Following each lesson there was a time dedicated to the practice of different spiritual disciplines. My (Tim’s) personal favorites were the classes taught by José Luis and Omar on Jesus is my Savior and Jesus is my Lord. It was great to see these young Christians give themselves to study so that they could share why they love Jesus. They were a bit nervous before beginning to speak, but as they moved into their lessons, their love for Jesus and for their audience was obvious. Though we spent a lot of time in the different classes, there were still plenty of opportunities to visit, play and relax. We all took turns cooking and cleaning, which were fun tasks when shared by everyone.
The boys and I set up the tent and had fun freezing to death in our sleeping bags while Karsyn was in little girl heaven as she and Kim bunked in the girl’s dorm. At times it seemed like half of those in attendance were little girls between the ages of 4 and 8.
Chaos and Order
Last month we assured you that the violence in Mexico isn’t having a significant effect in Guadalajara. Just after sending that newsletter off, there was a flurry of grenade attacks throughout the city as well as a major road being cut off by a drug cartel. It appears that their motive is nothing more than invoking confusion and fear... in which they are succeeding. Some people here felt pretty shaken up by it.
What we’ve begun to notice though is God’s pattern of replacing our chaos with his order. We’ve been a part of conversations where folks are asking, “How have we gotten to this point? What have we done to let this sort of climate come about?” The fun thing about being here right now is knowing the Prince of Peace. We see God is using this overwhelming chaos to show people they need something more... something they’ve been denying... until now.
... the effect of violence on our friends in Tlajomulco.
A few weeks ago we arrived to study with the family of Jesus and Carmen in Tlajomulco only to find they had three unexpected visitors. Three of Carmen’s nephews arrived on very short notice. They were fleeing from a special fighting unit (which was formerly trained by the U.S. military) called the Zetas. Originally a part of the Mexican army, the Zetas later went to work for a leading cartel. When that cartel’s boss was killed, they decided to work for themselves. Recently the Zetas moved into Zacatecas, where Carmen’s nephews lived, and began recruiting the young men of the towns to join their squadrons. “Recruit” isn’t the right word to use, as they are abducting young people from their homes. Carmen’s nephews spent well over 10 hours hiding on the floor in their home as the Zetas shot up their town. When they thought it was safe, they fled to Tlajomulco.
The nephews, ages 22, 16 and 4, are very nice and polite young men. Their world has obviously been turned upside down, as has that of Jesus and Carmen to a lesser extent. But as chaos tries to take over their lives, they are humbly submitting to listen to the words of Christ. Since the nephews are now guests in their aunt’s home, they eat breakfast with us and open their bibles and read with us. And we have to imagine that God is planting his seed in soil that’s looking for something greater than the world is offering.
Though we were sad to see Greg go, it’s heart warming to realize the fruit he’s leaving behind. Many from our youth group are now trying to make plans to go to AIM.
We don’t know what will happen with these plans, but it is obvious that they are a result of their admiration for Greg, Zach and our other AIMers. Our youth have seen young people willing to sacrifice for God’s mission and they’ve been inspired to do the same.
Don and Kay are both on a much needed break from treatments. Don is waiting for the next round of tests to determine if he will need some radiation treatments in his neck.Kay still has three more treatments to take, but they will be spread over three weeks beginning March 15, so that is quite a break.
Also, Kim’s little sister, Kara, had a baby last week. We are very excited to get to be an aunt and uncle again. Koen Micheal Olson is the 9th Blachly grandkid. What a fun, growing family.
This last weekend she invited us to take part in her wedding, where we were to present the couple with a bible and share a blessing with them. Her husband, Oscar, had little interest in God but has recently begun to ask more serious questions. We wish you’d add Oscar and Sindy to your prayers, that God will work in their marriage, moving both closer to him.
Last fall, I began studying the Holy Spirit on Friday nights with the church in La Nueva Santa Maria. The study was an encouragement to me as it felt like I was connecting with my “sweet spot” in ministry (baseball term). God used the time to mature, teach, encourage and draw the group closer to Him.
This last month Kim and I began the same study on Monday nights with Arturo and Laura. Arturo is one of our church leaders and his girlfriend, Laura, is a relatively new Christian. Originally I intended to go over this study with the church in Jardines del Valle, but decided instead to teach Arturo and Laura and let them, in turn, teach the church in Jardines. It has been fun for Kim and I to get to spend some extra time with this young couple. (We expect them to announce their engagement very soon!) They generally arrive at our house an hour early to spend time with us as we finish getting the kids fed and into bed. Though we love the study time, I think this extra hour will be what we look back on with the fondest memories.
We were blessed to be part of an annual
Mexico missionary retreat in early
November. When we got there, much to our
surprise, we were counted among the veteran
missionaries of the group. There has been a lot of movement among missionary families in Mexico this year. We know at least six that have moved to the states and met some of the newest additions to our extended family at this year’s retreat. We felt incredibly renewed by God’s work in those few days.
This week we said good-bye to one of our AIM
guys. Zach Montandon moved back to Texas
and we will really miss him. He has been like
an uncle to our kids and a great servant to God
in the work here. We are really proud of him
and expect to see God-things in his future. His teammate, Greg Bell, decided to stay on for a few more months. That is fun and exciting for us, as we also have a great friend and co worker in Greg. Both have pretty big transitions ahead.
Kim’s dad is being treated with chemotherapy
for lymphoma. His cancer is improving, but
he had to spend Thanksgiving in the hospital
with possible pneumonia and a blood clot in
his lung. Kim got to go home for a very
quick visit a couple weeks ago and passed along all your prayers and love to her parents. We’ve appreciated your notes, reminding us of your prayers for Don, and for us. (Apologies to Don for posting a picture of him in Cardinal Red, taken before we went to a ball game last year. He's a huge Giant's fan... which made for a nice World Series for him.)
How quickly this year is passing by. We have been back in Mexico for almost 5 months now! Life feels normal, surprisingly enough. We are thankful for the ease with which the kids have slid back into school and how we feel at home in our new neighborhood. We had visiting teammates (Chadd and Nancy Schroeder and their girls) over Thanksgiving and so even that felt pretty normal.
In truly last-minute
Mexican style, a group of
our neighbors joined us
for the meal and brought
mole (a spicy sauce made
with chile and chocolate)
to put on the turkey. So
that was a little abnormal, but it was a delicious addition to our tradition.
Zach, several of the Christians
here hosted a Great Feast like
Jesus described in the book of
Luke. On Fridays the Aimers
and some of the youth group give
out sandwiches near a social
hospital in the Center. They
share the food with homeless people and family members of the patients in the hospital. On this Friday night, our brothers and sisters shared the cost of tacos and a Christian Mariachi band to celebrate with those who usually don’t have much to smile about. Joy was a tangible presence there; lots of laughing, singing along and even a little dancing!
within the event. Fito’s mom
(the young guy who was baptized
a few days later) joined us for the
night. Her feelings about his
desire to be a Christian have
ranged through angry, depressed,
suspicious, and worried. She
made a huge macaroni salad to contribute to the food and she was truly amazed at how God multiplied the salad. It was the salad that could not run out! The same thing happened with the tacos. We bought 600 small tacos and in under two hours of serving, some one said they were gone. On more than one occasion, another person opened the box and found a few more
tacos at the bottom! Our church family here remembers a similar event when God supplied another kilo of tortillas in almost the same spot a few years back. They shared how that event has stuck with them and reminded them that God always provides for our needs.
new growth recently, which has been a great
encouragement to all the believers among us. On different days Violeta (not pictured) and Fito were baptized. Violeta is a nutritionist and a co-worker of the Garcias in the Diabetic Foundation. She is the first person to come to Christ through the foundation and they feel like this is a first fruit after much labor. Their daughter, Melanie, just celebrated 5 years of living with diabetes. Most of you know that they started the only
diabetic foundation for children in Mexico after equipping themselves to help her adjust and manage the disease. They now share the love of Christ with other families experiencing this specific crisis.
Fito is a teenager who lives here in Mariano Otero and has been a part of the youth group for the last few years. He has grown up among us, although his parents are not Christians, so for many it was like seeing a nephew giving his life toChrist.
His parents have been a bit anxious about his baptism and almost didn’t come. Until the last minute, they did not think they were coming... until they decided to test God and his support for Fito’s decision. They had lost a large sum of money, searched everywhere for it and had laid it before God in a challenge. Just before our worship began, they came, saying that the money had appeared on the dining room floor. At one point his mom, Socorro, (pictured below) explained that she felt very humbled by God and was thankful that God made sure they did not miss that important day.
Socorro and Mario, Fito's parents, were encouraged by Manuela, who told them about her own son's baptism before she was a believer. Manuela had also worried about the choice her sone was making. She has been a christian for almost 3 years now.
Over the past month we have been visiting the existing churches to evaluate where they are and what direction we might take in helping them along on their journeys. Many right now are experiencing the growing pains of maturing in Christ and are frustrated by this. Relating the phases to the seasons of the year, it seems like a spiritual winter for many. No doubt the recent transitions (including our absence during the last year) have influenced these feelings. Not everyone is headed this way, but there is a large camp that wants to hunker down and huddle together to conserve heat and energy. We pray that the void they feel now will take them closer to God. At times it is discouraging for us as well, but we are hopeful that (just as the seasons change) God will bring them into the fun of spring and summer. Right now we think it is important that they understand that seasons come and go naturally, and that there is good that takes place in every season.
Prayers for Patience and Wisdom
In your prayers for us we especially ask for patience and wisdom. Although we have lived here before, today is new. Coming into this “second term” as missionaries we are aware of the blessing and curse of our past experience. Our goal is to empower disciples here to live deeply in God and in community with each other. More than ever we feel convicted that we cannot be the foundation that any group is built around. We want to encourage and teach without fostering dependence upon ourselves and our presence, modeling lives sustained by Jesus. Easier said than done? Definitely. We are trying to pray over each step we take and allow God to set our direction. We would love for you to share your prayers with us.
This summer has been very productive. We’ve moved in and unpacked. We’ve reconnected with old friends and have begun to begin again. Schedules are taking shape and life is filling back up. This week the kids returned to school (3rd Kinder and 3rd Grade). Please continue to pray for our ongoing adjustment, especially as the kids try to return to the world of Spanish. Quincy seems to have picked up right where he left off but the twins have been a bit more hesitant. We know that after a couple of days of Kindergarten it will be as if they never left. Still, jumping back in isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Thanks for remembering our kids in your prayers.
Our New Neighborhood
We are renting a house from one of the Christian sisters, and her family lives just across the street. We are thankful that we get to be here. There is a lot of space, (even a yard!!!!) and we enjoy getting to be a part of their community. The socioeconomic level of the people in this neighborhood is lower than where we lived before and the feel is a lot different. There are people out walking and lots of activity on the street. There are some pluses and minuses connected with the change, but overall it seems like a great place to be living. The picture to the side, taken from our roof, is actually of the houses across the street.
In the past I have thought of a church as a stained glass window that reflects the light of God. He sets the design as a master artist, and creates whatever picture He chooses. But lately I think God is pointing me to the kaleidoscope to enlarge my vision and to give my heart peace. Part of the beauty there is in the way that the pieces move. It is a fluid system, alive with activity. It’s hard to describe the picture and the relationship between each part because the pieces are always shifting. The jostling around is actually part of the wonder. Flecks and shaves of color move in and out of contact with one another in intricate designs. Some are fleeting glimpses, never to be seen exactly that way again . . . even if you keep spinning and trying to get it to do what it has done before.
Our ministry is like this for sure, but I think life is this way. It is hard to describe exactly what is going on sometimes, as in a clear picture to report. Especially in house gatherings, people move in and out of contact with each other, although some stay close together for many spins. It is nice to see that as part of the beauty of the kingdom, where God keeps the flecks in motion. When I was looking for stained-glass, I felt disappointed at not being able to see clearly. But maybe I will be able to enjoy this ride. (And I like bumping into you guys.)