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.


Day 4 of the Huejotzingo, Mexico, Teach Us to Pray VBS

I can’t believe that tomorrow is the last day of our 2015 Huejotzingo, Mexico, Teach Us to Pray VBS. It looks like we will have directly affected the lives of around 50 individual kids. We have had an attendance of around 40 each day, but some kids don’t come back every day and some new kids join each day. This has been a very fruitful time of ministry impacting the lives of these children and their parents.

I help prepare handouts or whatever needs done to get things ready each day. I’m the chief photographer, I set up the multimedia equipment each day and I handle most of the publicity. I’ve been preparing the PowerPoint we will use at the graduation ceremony on Sunday when some of the parents of the kids come to watch their kids perform. Rachel and Abraham will also use the PowerPoint to show at Dios es Amor, their home church that has done so much to support their ministry over the years.

Yesterday the batteries in my camera died just at the end of the day. Off to the market to buy a new set of batteries. Started taking pictures and shooting videos first thing this morning, only to have the new batteries fail at around 2 p.m. I grabbed the camera I brought with me this trip for Rachel and Abraham and started using it, only to have the batteries run dry on it after about 3 minutes. Fortunately I got most of the day covered.

Off early this evening to buy another three sets of batteries at a local market. I trust I will get all the pictures I need tomorrow and Sunday without further difficulty, but don’t want to take any chances, hence the spares. I thought batteries had a shelf life of some 12-15 years. Wonder how long the ones I bought yesterday had been in inventory?

Please be in prayer for a great finale to our VBS tomorrow. This has been a lot of effort to put on, especially on the part of Rachel and Abraham who have stayed up as late as 2 a.m. each day getting things together for the next day. It is worth the effort to watch these kids enjoy themselves and learn about God and His love and faithfulness.

Thanks and Blessings!

Rachel and Abraham cut Stars out of 22 large cucumbers to represent the number of descendants God promised Abraham.

The kids used star stickers to show the stars in the sky representing God’s promise to Abraham.

Day 3 of the Huejotzingo, Mexico, Teach Us to Pray VBS

We discovered early this morning that the schools were registering students today. That usually does not happen until August. There were long lines in front of the schools as parents and kids waited their turn to complete the process. Every student must register each year. These are the same kids who should be coming to our VBS. We didn’t know how that would affect attendance. We need not have been concerned. We had 38 kids, only 3 fewer than yesterday, and some of those who came were new.

It was another great day with a lot of fun games, food, memory verses and the story of Abraham being called to sacrifice Isaac. He was a man of great faith who obeyed God without question. The kids enjoyed the tale, as Rachel played the part of Rebecca talking about what Isaac had told her regarding what happened that day. He was tied down on the wood and his father raised a knife to take his life when suddenly God called out and stopped the process, providing a ram as an offering instead.

I’ve always wondered what Isaac thought about all that happened that day. Must have been quite traumatic. What conversations he and Abraham must have had in the weeks and months afterwards, until Isaac finally understood what was in his father’s mind at the time. Abraham knew God could raise Isaac from the dead, since God had promised it would be through Isaac that the promises would be fulfilled.

My grandson continues in perfect health, though he mentioned to his mom that he had seen something evil yesterday. We prayed with him this morning after his mother and father explained that if anything like that appears to him again, he has the ability to tell it to go away in the Name of Jesus. Another lesson in faith.

I’m beginning to assemble a PowerPoint presentation we will use during the graduation ceremony. Rachel and Abraham will also show it at Deos es Amor, the church they are affiliated with here in Mexico. Most of the volunteers that are coming each day are from that congregation, though there are two neighbors who are helping as well.

Appreciate your prayers for ongoing health and stamina as we go into the 4th day tomorrow.

Thanks and Blessings!


Day 2 of the Huejotzingo, Mexico, Teach Us to Pray VBS

Our second day of VBS started very early. My grandson had a very high fever and a lot of pain in his side, so my daughter woke me up at 7 a.m. to pray for him. We anointed him with oil and did an hour of soaking prayer. By 8 a.m. his temperature was normal and he was soundly and peacefully asleep. He remained in excellent health all day with no further meds or doctor visit required.

We had 41 youngsters at our second day of VBS. Some of the kids were ones who had never been to the TUtP center before. That’s just awesome. I mentioned yesterday that several moms brought their kids to registration. This is great, as it shows both trust and interest in what Rachel and Abraham are doing here in Huejotzingo, Mexico. They have lived here for 4 years, but working in the area together for 7 years. Before they were married, Abraham had been working for another 5 years. We have purchased land to build a new center to take the place of the property we now rent. Hope to begin building sometime soon, depending upon funding.

Just like yesterday, the kids had a fantastic time playing games, eating, singing, listening to Bible stories and memorizing the Bible verse of the day. So many of the kids we work with come from difficult situations at home. They really enjoy the one-on-one contact with loving, concerned, safe adults who so obviously care for them.

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Day 1 of the Huejotzingo, Mexico, Teach Us to Pray VBS

Day 1 of the Huejotzingo, Mexico, Teach Us to Pray VBS is in the books. It was a great day. We had 31 kids, which for day 1 is the best ever. Usually the attendance builds, with some kids not returning but with more new ones coming each day than those that don’t return. We have 13 helpers, some from the neighborhood and some from Deos Es Amor, the church Rachel and Abraham are affiliated with. The church also provides equipment and some funds.

I was interested to see how many mothers brought their kids to register. Most often the kids come by themselves. I think the interest of the parents is an encouragement. They know Rachel and Abraham and greet them as their kids get their name tags and are assigned to their age group for various activities. And a number of parents have been coming to the closing ceremonies as well.

TUtP Mexico: Celebrating Holy Week

Rachel and Abraham invited friends and neighbors over to celebrate and learn about Holy Week this year: