What does love look like

Mexico Newsletter Huejo VBS


Jesus Transfiguration
Jesus Transfiguration

On July 13, my sister Joy and my dad arrived in Huejotzingo. We visited a few fun places together, and they also helped preparing for our VBS. On Sunday they attended church at Dios es Amor with us, and we had Leilani´s baby dedication.

July 18 – 23 we held VBS at our home, with the theme of John the beloved disciple. For the fourth year in a row, we developed our own curriculum, a process which requires many months of work scouring internet resources, writing, and planning.

As with last year, we woke up to a feverish Abishael on Monday. It was his first sickness in all 2016. Because he was in pain from achy joints, and because the fever was not going away even with the homeopathic medicine treatment, we chose to modify the first day of VBS. Volunteers from Dios es Amor and two neighbor friends took over games and snack while my dad drove us in our neighbors´ car to the kids´ doctor in Puebla. Our very social Abish cried disconsolately over not being able to play with his friends. Both Abish and Lani, it turned out, had throat infections, and the doctor gave them a new treatment which soon had them both feeling better.

The Mother of James and John
The Mother of James and John

On Tuesday Abish was no longer feeling bad, so we swung into full VBS mode. At noon the children began to sign in, and the day´s focus of Jesus calling John and James started out with songs. Once most children had signed in, we split the groups into ages 1 – 6 and 7 and up. The young kids went to the patio for snack of fishy crackers and for verse practice while the older group took to the street for games. The groups switched places, and then we all met together inside for a few more songs, announcements and welcome, and a visit from special guest Zebedee (played by Abraham). Again the young group went to the patio where they made a fish mobile with the day´s verse and then completed a page to help them remember the day´s story. Inside, the older group worked on slightly more complicated versions of the same. At the end of the work time, we all briefly returned indoors to review, and then it was time to go home at 3.

Looking at the work pages
Looking at the work pages

Wednesday´s story was told by James (again played by Abraham). The children learned about Jesus´ transfiguration. The schedule followed the same order Tuesday through Friday, with the two groups sometimes together and sometimes divided, and everything from games to snacks, songs to crafts, and verses to work pages serving to emphasize the story of the day. On Thursday James and John´s mother (played by me) told the story of Jesus´ trial, death, and resurrection and of how John stayed faithfully with Jesus throughout Jesus´ trial and death.

Friday´s visitor was a lady from the church John wrote to in 2 John. She urged the children to obey God´s command to love each other.

Jesus trial death and resurrection
Jesus trial death and resurrection

Because of the change on Monday, our VBS ran through Saturday. In addition, we decided to hold the finale on Saturday rather than on Sunday afternoon as we had done in the past . Our last visitor, played by our neighbor, was John himself. He told about Jesus´ second coming and said that we should be vigilant as we wait for him.

Four parents arrived for the finale. There was some chaos as we shepherded the children inside, reviewed the week´s stories, and called the children and volunteers up for diplomas. Finally, each child received their gifts and filed outside for the cake and juice donated by two parents.

What does love look like
What does love look like

In total we had 42 children, ranging in age from not-yet-two (Leilani) to 18 years old. Our busiest day had 34 children. We were blessed with the help of several people from church and a Christian couple who live near us. Thank you for your prayers for us in the work of putting together and hosting this year´s VBS. Please pray that the messages of the Bible conveyed through the VBS would continue to impact the lives of the children and their families.

Rachel de Lechuga Greenlee

Teach Us to Pray

Huejotzingo, Mexico

Puebla State

TUtP Mexico: Reconnecting

We recently reconnected with a lady that Abraham used to do Bible studies with. She lives Huejotzingo, but not particularly close to us. After being out of contact with her for quite some time, she showed up at our house one morning to tell me about the December murder of her 23 year-old granddaughter, the single mother of two small children. She said that the family was now living in poverty, although they had the help of a Christian lady near her home.

Abraham reinitiated Bible studies with her. Not long after that, our kids and I also began to go with him so that the lady´s grandkids could have some friends to play with during the study. Depending on the day, the lady is there. Her elderly brother is always home and listens to the study eagerly. Sometimes other family members also participate. The family has a great many chains to break as they learn what God´s best is for their lives. The mother and sister of the young lady declared their faith in Jesus just this past week, and we pray that their declaration is real.

We are gearing up for our annual vacation Bible school coming up the third week of July. We still have quite a bit to do to prepare.

This last week, after a year and a half hiatus, I started the cooking or craft class with teen and pre-teen girls. We stopped the classes because the participants moved away, and no new teens arrived. Last month, three of the girls moved back and asked for the class again. Our class last week was making cream cheese bites. Yum!

Please pray for us as we plan the VBS, continue previously established studies and English class, and reinitiate the study and teen class. Pray also for our church which is going through a difficult time.

May Update from TuTP Mexico

What a lot is going on right now! Abraham and I started out the celebrations on April 29th with some gifts and a special meal at home to mark the first of our anniversaries of seven years of marriage. Our second seventh anniversary is June 21st. This is because the April anniversary is for our civil ceremony – required in Mexico – and the other anniversary is for the church wedding.

April 30 is Children´s Day which is a big deal in Mexico. At church and at home we had games, face painting, gifts, and stories from the Bible about God´s heart for children. We had an unusually large group of children at our house that afternoon. They probably remembered from past years that there would be something extra for their special day.
No sooner had we partied for all the children when it was time to have our son´s fourth birthday party. We chose to have a low-key family celebration at home on the actual day of his birthday, since his cousin also has her birthday on May 6, and we went to her party the same day. We will have some friends over in two weeks for a slightly more elaborate birthday party latyer.

On Sunday, May 8th, we had a small gathering of neighbor ladies and their children for Mother´s Day. The children arrived first and played for awhile before making cards for their moms. A couple hours later, the mothers arrived. They decorated cups, and then everyone snacked on ice cream, cake, and coffee while Abraham read Proverbs 31. When we had prayed for the mothers, the event ended.

Already established weekly activities:

– Kids´ club, Footprints of Christ, Sundays from 3 to 7 ish
– English class Saturday morning and Tuesday evening
– Home visits and Bible study various days
– Bible study with extended family Wednesdays
– Teaching in Puebla Christian School Tuesdays and Thursdays

In planning:
– VBS, July 18 – 22, 24 –John, the Beloved Disciple
– Single parents´ event at Dios es Amor, possibly in August

Thank you for continuing to pray for us. We have enjoyed much better health this year than last year, thanks in part to the homeopathic treatments our kids are taking. We appreciate your faithful support as part of our team.
God bless!

The Lechuga family

TUtP Mexico: Holy Week and Easter

RIMG2117We serve a risen Savior! This year we chose to open our home each day of Holy Week for about 2 hours each day. Mostly children came to the services, but some days a few adults joined us.

On Monday Abraham taught about the cleansing of the temple when Jesus drove out those selling animals and changing money from the temple. The children made handprint sheep and drew tables to fingerprint money onto.

Tuesday it was my turn to tell the story. I shared about how the religious leaders wanted to trip Jesus up with something he said. Then I told how one of the leaders asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is. He replied, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.” The children cut out and decorated hearts where they wrote, “Amarás a tu Dios con todo…”

10347398_10208104451502663_1606531050044179049_nWe had a full group on Wednesday when Abraham presented the story of how Judas betrayed Jesus and how we also betray him when we decide not to do what he says. The adults and children traced their hands and cut out aluminum foil coins to show that Judas received 30 silver coins to turn Jesus over to his enemies.

Thurday we provided grape juice, mutton, and crackers as Abraham described the Last Supper and how Jesus came as a servant. Abraham also told how Jesus went to the garden to pray, how his disciples slept instead of praying, and then how Jesus was arrested. Again a mix of adults and children participated in the service.

RIMG2144Our Good Friday service was at 3. Those who attended learned about the Old Testament tabernacle and how people were separated from God and kept to a strict set of laws involving sacrifices of animals. Abraham shared about Jesus´ trial, crucifixion, and death and how the temple´s dividing curtain was torn from top to bottom the moment Jesus died, opening the way to God.
My turn to tell the Bible story came again on Saturday. I reviewed to previous day´s lesson with an illustration, and then explained how the disciples felt on that Saturday after Jesus died. They did not understand that he was not defeated, nor did it look like they had any hope. However, he promised he would rise again. We then went on to see five of the many promises in the Bible for God´s children.

On Sunday came the celebration. Abraham spoke of the empty tomb, and the children and adults made an empty tomb. After that we enjoyed a potluck meal together.

It was good to be able to share the whole week with those neighbors who came.

Hearts–From Teach Us To Pray Mexico

familyHappy month of love and friendship! I appreciate how Mexico includes more than just romantic love in the celebration of Feb. 14.

I am so thankful for my family and the love we share. God has blessed us greatly. We celebrated Valentine´s Day on Friday evening at the Oscars, hosted by the Puebla Christian School seniors. On Sunday we had some games for the kids, a craft, and a Bible story about friendship. After Abraham told the story of David and Jonathan´s friendship, he explained that Jesus is the perfect friend.

Abraham and I will have our Valentine´s date next Monday.

Speaking of hearts, we have a 20 something student in our English class that I have been especially praying for. A couple weeks ago he and his younger cousin were joking about how many scars he has from having had so many surgeries. Abraham asked him about the surgeries, and it turns out this young man has severe heart problems – he had six surgeries before the age of 3, and doctors would like him to have a heart transplant. However, since he is in decent health, he is not likely to get a transplant – there are others in much worse condition ahead of him.

Our infant nephew is also in need of heart surgery for a number of serious issues. When I first met him, I could see he was ill. He is milk white with blue around his eyes and lips, and he is very thin. Doctors, however, want to wait until he is at least three before operating. Why, I do not know.

Please pray for these two whose hearts are not what they should be. Pray also for the opening and renewing of hearts here in Huejo as we continue to tell of God´s love.

Back Home

RIMG1857Goodness, it has been a very long time since I last updated!

This last Monday we returned from three weeks in the States visiting my family. We had not expected to be able to go, but a financial gift and Abraham´s careful searching for sale ticket prices made the trip possible. Because we decided to go without much time between buying the tickets and the actual flight, we had to do lots of paperwork quickly: my passport had expired which required two trips to Mexico City, Leilani needed her Mexican passport, and Abishael´s Mexican passport had expired which meant trips to the government offices in Puebla. What a scramble to finish it all!

standing on the US – Mexico boarder
We flew from Mexico City to Tijuana where we used the new CBX bridge to cross to the United States. My dad picked us up there, and we drove another few hours to Long Beach. Both going to Long Beach and returning home to Huejo required 14 1/2 hours of travel and waiting each way.

We enjoyed the time with family. While there, we visited some fun places and took the kids to the park several times. They warmed up to the uncle, aunts, and grandparents that they hardly ever see (except on skype). Unfortunately, illness visited, and our final days were shadowed by first Lani’s fever and then Abishael’s. They both still have coughs, although they are slowly recovering.

Before we left for Christmas, we had the opportunity to partner with another missionary family and a team that came from the States to distribute water filters to our neighbors. The water from the pipes here is not clean, so most people buy containers of water. With filters, they can now save that money, a great help to tight budgets. When we gave the filters, we also asked if the recipients wanted to hear about living water. All the families agreed. Abraham and I also offered Bible studies to them, and some said they did want us to visit.

We continue with the Bible studies already established, and there has been an increase in the number of children attending on Sunday afternoons. Our Saturday and Tuesday English classes have a varying number of students, since some drop out but more join.

Please pray for us that 2016 will be a year of blessing. Continue to pray for health, especially for Abish and Lani. They are entering the third month of homeopathic treatments, and we pray that the natural medicines will strengthen their immune systems.

Final Huejotzingo Report

I arrived back home at around noon yesterday, Tuesday—that is most of me is here, but I miss some of my mind, which stayed back in a different time zone. Perhaps by tomorrow all of me will be here.

Monday, after the Sunday VBS graduation activities, we went to Chingnahuapan. Getting there involved three different buses and took around three hours one way. Chingahuapan is a charming mountain town. Fifty percent of all the inhabitants earn their living from making and/or selling Christmas tree ornaments. When I say ornaments, I mean a very wide variety of glass figures manufactured locally and sold in just about every shop along main street. There are some really amazing variations on traditional round decorative globes. Every color, style and shape you could imagine, and then some. It was a delight to walk through the shops and see that although they all had certain standard items, each had some unique thing the others did not have.

We had a leisurely lunch in a small restaurant just off the town square. They served delicious lime aide and cappuccino along with traditional Mexican fare. Fine, casual dining at its best. The only thing that would have enhanced the experience would have been if the fountain in the courtyard was working.

We started home on an express bus, leaving around 7 p.m. to be home by 10 p.m. But we had an adventure along the way. Wasn’t it Bilbo Baggins who said, “Adventures are horrible things that make you late for dinner.”? We were sitting at the very back of the bus. I was in the middle of the seat and could see out the massive front window. I noticed the bus driver was closely tailgating a small car. Bus drivers in Mexico are extremely aggressive. The driver could not seem to pass the car, but did stay within inches of its rear bumper.

All of a sudden two other cars passed the bus at high speed. Then they and the car that the bus had been following, forced the bus to stop by boxing it in and slowing to a stop. The driver of the car that had been in front of us got out and started yelling through the window at the bus driver, shaking her fist and demanding he open the bus door. Wisely he did not comply. Thus we stayed at a standoff for almost an hour before a police car on routine patrol arrived on the scene.

By then the 15 or 20 occupants of the three cars that had brought the bus to a halt were all outside the bus, milling around and waving other vehicles around the scene. They immediately began to talk animatedly to the two officers. Pretty soon the bus driver, deeming it safe, got out and joined in the conversation.

The woman alleged the bus had cut her off and had damaged her side mirror in the process. Our driver and some of the passengers who were sitting at the front of the bus asserted that she had in fact cut in front of the bus, almost hitting it, and had broken off her mirror as a result. Back and forth the argument went until an agreement was reached between both parties. Ahhh. We could finally be on our way and still catch the last night bus out of San Martin and get home before midnight.

Not so. At that moment the Federal Police arrived on the scene and took over. More conversations. More allegations. More arguments and testimony. In the end, the Federal Police demanded “payment” for services rendered before they would let the bus go. The term for this in Spanish is “mordida”—or “little bite”. Only they did not want a little bite, they wanted a big feast. Their demanded bribe was too high for the driver to pay, so they determined the bus would be seized and towed to an impound yard. We, the passengers, would have to take another bus that would stop and take us on our way.

When we finally arrived in the town where we could switch to the second bus to San Martin, it was too late to make the last night bus to Huejotzingo where our TUtP center is located. Fortunately we found a cab driver who would take us at that late hour and for a reasonable rate. Mission accomplished. Still getting home at a somewhat reasonable hour. Not.

As we went through San Martin that morning the town was busy setting up what is claimed to be the largest clothing flea market in all of Latin America. By the time we got into San Martin, the main street through the city was closed. Hundreds of people were out shopping for bargains. It took us over a half an hour to get around the closed area and onto the highway on the other side of town. We had to stop a couple of times to ask directions, and accidently wound up briefly going the wrong way on an unmarked one-way off ramp. We got turned around without accident and finally were on our way.

We arrived at the center around midnight. I still had to complete my packing and deal with a few last minute details before getting to bed, only to get up at 3:30 a.m. to catch my cab to the airport. My cab which did not come, despite assurances in a call when we got home that the driver would most certainly be there on time.

Abraham tried calling a couple of other cab companies he knew, with no success. He finally decided to walk to the main road, about 5 minutes from the house in hopes of flagging down a passing cab. Meantime, we prayed that God would send a cab as my plane left at 6 a.m.

Rachel and I were standing in the open door of the classroom looking out at the deserted street when an airport cab stopped in front of the house and asked if I needed a ride to the airport. I thought maybe Abraham had flagged him down or called him somehow. Or that the cab driver who did not come had sent him. Not so. He just happened to come by and decided to stop. Answered prayer or what?!

Though I got to the airport later than I should have, when I arrived, the check in counter was still closed, with some of my fellow passengers lounging around, waiting. This is, by the way, an international airport.

With all that, our plane still took off at 6 a.m. and I connected with my Monterrey flight in plenty of time. They march to the beat of a different drummer.

Now, if I could only find my brain. And my camera, which is missing–but that is another story.

Thanks for your prayers. This was a remarkably fruitful mission trip.

More on the VBS Graduation!

Around noon Sunday, Rachel and I headed into the center of town to buy a piñata. There are a number of shops that sell candy. Most of those also sell piñatas. I didn’t realize that you buy the piñata empty and then buy the candy to fill it. I thought they came pre-filled. Anyway, the store that we were headed for turned out to be closed. We went to the other three candy stores Rachel knew about only to discover they did not sell piñatas this time of year. Turns out they are more popular certain times of the year, like Christmas. As we were heading home, we spotted a small candy store Rachel hadn’t seen before. When we walked through the door, there hung one of the largest Spiderman piñatas we could ever want. My grandson absolutely loves all things Spiderman. Purchase of Spiderman and candy completed, we walked back to our TUtP center.

The rest of the afternoon was spent baking cakes, finishing the VBS PowerPoint and generally getting ready to host about 40 people. At 3 p.m. we began the graduation ceremony for the Huejotzingo VBS. Around 30 of the kids who had attended joined us, along with their siblings, friends, and some parents.

The kids showed their parents and friends what they had done during the week. They sang some of the songs they learned and recited some of their memory verses. Abraham talked to the parents about what their kids had studied—how Abraham in the Old Testament was a friend of God who demonstrated great faith. Using the five pictures on the wall that represented the story as it unfolded each day, he briefly explained the story of Abraham and Sarah, stressing Abraham’s great faith in God and connecting that to faith in Jesus, as spelled out in Hebrews. He let the parents know that they were welcome to discuss these and other stories with him and Rachel over the next few weeks.

The Spiderman piñata was a definite favorite with both kids and parents.

As I was carrying him home from the shop, I thought he seemed feeble and kind of fragile. Indeed, his legs and arms were knocked off fairly quickly in the game, even by the littlest of the kids. But his body and head, where the candy was stored, were something else. Almost indestructible. There was paper mache, plastic, and I don’t know what else reinforcing the candy cavity in belly and head. It took about ½ hour to finally break him open. One of the dads finally accomplished the feat. The kids swarmed over the patio, picking up every piece of some 25 lbs. of treats. Moms and dads had their share of the booty as well.

We then went into the classroom to eat finger treats and cake, and to mingle. Everyone stayed pretty much until 6:30 p.m., having a great time eating and talking.

After the program was over, three of the parents asked Abraham and Rachel if they could meet and discuss the Bible and matters of faith. This is really wonderful. Rachel and Abraham already have three Bible studies going on in Huejo and one study going on in a neighboring town each week along with their kids clubs and tutoring

Today we take a 3-hour bus trip to a town that makes Christmas ornaments and decorations. I’m looking forward to touring the town and watching the glass blowing, etc. but not to a total of 6 hours on various buses.

Tuesday I fly out of Huejo around 6:30 a.m. to make my way back home.

So appreciate your ongoing prayers!

Pictures from the VBS Graduation Day

Today was the VBS graduation day. Several parents joined their children in singing, praying, and hearing about the weeks’ lessons.

Of course, we also threw a party. The Spiderman pinata was huge–it held about 25 pounds of candy–and much sturdier than we thought. We probably didn’t need the men on the roof keeping it moving, as it turned out to be nearly indestructible.

The Final Day of the Huejotzingo, Mexico, Teach Us to Pray VBS

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The 2015 Teach Us to Pray, Huejotzingo, Mexico VBS is in the books, except for the Sunday graduation service. We had a total of 51 registrants, a number of whom were kids who had not participated in any of our events before. Many moms brought their kids each day to the sign-in. We hope to see a number of parents at the closing ceremonies Sunday afternoon. The kids recite all of the memory verses they learned during the week and Abraham gives a summary message regarding what the children learned during the week. We also serve light refreshments, which everyone always appreciates.

One of the most moving things for me yesterday was at the end of the last lesson when the writer of Hebrews completed his story about how Abraham was a man of great faith. He had spoken about Jesus being the ultimate source and object of true faith. He then led all of the kids in a prayer in which they acknowledged that they had a personal faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Very touching to see their heads bowed, eyes closed, hands folded as they expressed this simple measure of faith.

While the volunteers were cleaning up, I was already transferring pictures from the day to my computer so I could post them to FaceBook and finish the PowerPoint for Sunday. I completed that by about 7:30 p.m. Then we went to a neighbor’s house for coffee. This couple were volunteers during the week. When I was here in 2013 they had also volunteered. At that time they were expecting their first child, who is now a two-year old boy. The husband had some things he wanted to ask me.

We wound up talking until almost midnight. Some of the men he works with are Catholic. They have a lot of beliefs that are not consistent with an evangelical understanding of Scripture and he wanted to know how to respond to some of the questions they ask or comments they make during various discussions of faith. As I’ve mentioned previously, the Catholicism in this area of Mexico is not Christianity, but rather a gross twisting and misunderstanding of the Bible combined with former pagan practices that were prevalent in this location centuries past (syncretism).

We had a good discussion of how Catholicism elevates tradition to the level of Scripture and how various things came into their belief system over time, especially as concerns Mary. The Virgin of Guadalupe (a perversion of the Biblical, historical Mary) is worshiped as a virtual goddess here in the area around Huejotzingo. She is the one people rely upon for their salvation and the one to whom they pray. She is the supreme deity, not Jesus or God the Father. Then there is the archangel, Michael, who is second in their pantheon.

We talked about how all he can do is present the truth of the Bible as he talks to his co-workers. We have to rely upon the Holy Spirit to open their eyes and ears so they can receive the truth God offers. God alone draws men to Himself. And He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to a true faith in God, as we pray the kids at our VBS and in our various classes throughout the year are doing.

On another note, Rachel and Abraham took my grandson to the doctor after VBS was over. He does not have any sign of infection. His throat is fine, his lungs are clear. Thanks be to God for answered prayer. He needs to drink more liquids. This is a boy who would rather play than do almost anything else. He is high energy. His mom has to side track him while he runs by to get him to eat or drink anything. We had chocolate cake last evening with our coffee. He loves chocolate cake! He ate about two bites before running off to play with toys. As he rode by on a small car, Rachel would catch him and make him drink some of his yogurt drink. She didn’t even attempt to tempt him back to his cake. He ate that when we got home around midnight.

Thanks for your prayers for Rachel and Abraham and their kids as they continue their work here in this part of God’s creation.

Appreciate your prayers for my last few days here. We have some more shopping to do today for Sunday. Then we will visit the plot of land we purchased at the end of last year where we will build our new TUtP center, hopefully starting soon as funds are available. We have final preparations for the VBS graduation. We plan to travel on Monday to a town that is about 2 hours away by bus. The folks there make a wide variety of Christmas ornaments that are the source of income for the entire community.