Family update for January

Happy New Year from Guadalajara! We hope that your holiday season was equally fun and renewing. Thank you for your prayers and support. We know that God was at work in us and around us to bring a lot of joy and peace especially during the past month. We felt so tired leading up to the holidays, that we were honestly dreading some of the festivities. But God answered your prayers for us and we really feel rejuvenated.

Yuli’s 15th
In November we were honored to serve as god-parents for our friend Yuli’s 15th birthday party. Turning 15 is a big deal for girls in Mexico. They dress up like princesses and receive their last doll which is symbolic of leaving their childhood behind. The day traditionally begins with a Catholic mass and then the party lasts into the night. As a relatively young group of churches, we are still enjoying the firsts of many new traditions. This was a special day for the churches to come together.
Everyone enjoyed a time of worship as well as offered words of encouragement for Yuli and her family in their continuing walk with God. It was a great blessing to see the youth, especially, having fun making it memorable and honoring to God at the same time.

As Yuli’s actual birthday was on the 31st of October, she asked all the little kids to come in their costumes. Her aunt even made Karsyn a special Snow White costume, which she wears every chance she gets.

Planting Seeds at the Kids’ School
To be honest, the kids’ school is probably our largest source of stress. Schools operate differently here and it often collides with our idea of how much pressure/stress should be put on a small child. Having said that, the kids’ school seems to be one of our richest fields in which to sow seed. With soccer practice, parent groups, social events and such, we feel like we are constantly in conversations with other parents that lead back to Jesus. Sometimes we are even amazed at what we hear coming out of our mouths. That sounds weird, but God keeps popping up in places we weren’t expecting.

One of the greatest blessings of this season has been our growing friendship with the Perez family. Alejandro and Nallely have two sons (Alexis and Axel), the youngest of whom is in the kinder-class with our twins. They are a family that respects God and wants their kids to grow up knowing him and loving him. They are the friends who were with us when we walked into our ransacked house this fall, and we really believe God had us ministering to each other through that. Our prayer for this year with them is that we will continue to grow together in God and that Jesus can become the center of our friendship. We have met with them once for a time of worship and pray that will continue this year.

Missionary’s Retreat
For Thanksgiving, we traveled 3 hours to Guanajuato for the annual Missionary Retreat. There were upwards of 40 missionaries and perhaps another 40 kids. Jason and Heather Thornton from Tulsa, Oklahoma came down to encourage the missionaries; teaching several classes as well as just hanging out with old friends. It was great!

We had a huge meal together which made us all feel like we were at home (minus the week’s worth of turkey sandwiches to follow). The majority of the missionaries (as well as the Thorntons) are old friends from our days in Lubbock. So we had a blast reconnecting. But it is also fun getting to meet new missionaries and create new bonds.

Family Comes to Town
Over the last couple of months we’ve been blessed by visits from family. Tim’s dad, Terry, came down for a quick visit in early November and Kim’s aunt Pam and uncle Pete came down at the first of December. As well, the Thorntons spent some extra time in Guadalajara and we were blessed to keep them for a couple of nights.

Of course it all passed too quickly, but we are so grateful for their visits. We loved taking all to eat our favorite tacos and hanging out just visiting.

Visitors to Jocotan
Our family in Jocotan had a surprise visit over the holidays from their family from Tijuana, Mexico. Lalo, the oldest brother in the family, was instrumental in the conversions of his brother and sister, Omar and Lilian. In answer to Omar’s prayers for one of his brothers to come home for Christmas, Lalo, and several other family members arrived unannounced late Christmas Eve.

About four years ago, Lalo was a homeless addict living on the streets of Tijuana when he met Jesus. Sometime later, he returned to Guadalajara to take his son home to live with him. While here, he shared with his family all that Jesus was doing for him and in him. At the time, Omar and Lilian were in dire straights, wishing for lives of peace. Through an ex-Aim student, God brought us in touch with them the day their brother Lalo was returning to Tijuana.

The point of all that rambling is to somehow set for you the feel of thanksgiving and awe in these brothers and sister reunited for the first time in Christ. Now two and a half years later, it was amazing to sit and listen to this family reconnect over the holidays. It was as if every time we were together we were a part of an incredible worship assembly. They just couldn’t stop talking about the amazing grace they are seeing in each other’s lives and how God is changing their family. There was a lot of sharing, crying and laughing. Sometimes we also just sat in stunned silence, soaking it in.

Holidays in Mexico
Having spent the last three Christmases in the states, we weren’t quite sure how this holiday season would pass.

We agreed to spend Christmas Eve with our family in Jocotan, but were dreading it a bit as we just aren’t late-night people. The tradition here is to eat together at about 11:00 at night and then party into the wee hours of the morning. We warned them that we wouldn’t be able to stay that late but would need to get home early and put kids in bed. “So what time should we come?” we asked. They replied, “Oh, anytime after 8:00.” Ha! That’s the time our kids go to bed!

In the end, we arrived at about 5:00 for the pre-party. Madaline turned 2, so we had a birthday party first. Then the Christmas festivities began around 8:00 or so. We stayed until almost midnight but it was wonderful! Our kids all fell asleep on their bed and didn’t complain a bit. And the conversation turned toward the blessings of Christ. As much as we were missing our families, the tone of the night made it worth it. We were so thankful for how God has so radically blessed our family in Jocotan.

On New Years’ Eve, we were camping with 4 other families at a lake, inside a dormant volcano, two hours from Guadalajara. It was a lot of fun. It was the first time we’ve taken the kids camping and they all had a blast. Even our dog, Zeke, enjoyed herself.