This year, we celebrated Anna's 11th birthday. It is becoming more of a reality just how fast kids grow up. I still remember it like it was yesterday having Anna while we still had 6 weeks left of classes to finish our degrees at Bethany College. We spent Monday, doing various fun things like having corn fritters, bacon and eggs for breakfast (not something we eat very often). Then we went on an adventure climbing up the mountain to the "Mary Alter" and then started on some trails leading up the mountain. After an hour or so we turned back to go down the mountain. We ended up going down a different way which at times was a little scary for the girls as they would slide down a little ways. Levi was not allowed to let go of my hand during our decent. We all got a bit burned from the hot mid-day sun. We didn't think we would have been hiking so long. Everyone wanted to keep going. After that, we went downtown to buy a carton of "good ice cream". The kind you only get on special occasions and Anna's favorite Chinese food for lunch. She opened presents, and had cake and ice cream, and then it was off to the movies to see the new Cinderella movie. Needless to say everyone was pretty tired after the day we had.
When you live in this part of the world for long enough you get accustomed to the way of life. You get use to the way things are. As a Minnesotan at heart (and someone who loves the snow) I thought I would never get use to the hotter temps here. Well after over 7 years of living in Mexico, I can say that I am now use to the weather. So much so that when the temperature drops about 10 degrees, we feel it. We say things like "it is cooling off, it is so nice out when the temps are in the 80's". I remember sweating all the time in the beginning no matter what temp it was. I now get cold when it is 65 degrees out. I am sitting in my office with jeans and sweatshirt on and my fingers are cold. Oh how your body changes over time. If it was 65 out in Minnesota I would wear shorts and flip flops.
On Sunday morning it was cloudy out, but you don't think much about it because it often is cloudy but never rains. We are still in the middle of our dry season. The temps are very comfortable. At night it will get down into the lower 60's even high 50's. But we will have months with no rain. I probably have mentioned this before on this blog but it just becomes normal. You don't see rain for months. If it does rain in this time of year, it will be for about 10 minutes barely making the ground wet. In our back yard all the trees will drop their leaves like the season is fall. So raking them up you make huge clouds of dust. So getting back to Sunday, it was cloudy. During church it started to rain. This may not be that big of an issue, but where we have church, we have it under a tent and have extension cords running on the ground for our sound system, projector and computer for the music. It gets a little concerning when there is rain. It was not very hard so it didn't effect us to much. (I put the power strip on a chair just to be safe.) We finished our church service and it was still raining. I thought to myself that it was kind of strange. So that afternoon, we had lunch and looked at a website we use for finding out the weather (something we don't do very often because it is always the same during this time of the year). There we found that we were going to have rain for at minimum two days. They said it was not a tropical storm but was very unusual for this time of the year. 11 inches later, it was finally letting up. A week ago it was pushing close to 90 to 95. With this rain, we have yet to reach 70. When there is that much rain, the house gets saturated. There are new leaks in the roof of our house that weren't there before. It is a never ending battle with a tile roof especially when there are cat fights that happen on them. (Cats will fight and run at full speed making a clacking sound as the tiles bang into each other. They shift and slide down over time. Last night I ran to the corner store for some saltines to have with some soup and the streets were deserted. At that time the streets are crowded with people getting off work and high school students walking home from school. It really shuts things down in a society where one of the main forms of transportation is walking.
Now on to cleaning up after all that rain. Have to make sure there is no buckets full in the back yard somewhere were mosquitoes can develop and get you sick with dengue.
In the last couple of weeks, the topic that has been coming up at various times, and I thought I would share with you, is just how lonely being a follower of Jesus can be. If we want to be disciple of Jesus, He says we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him. Luke 9:23. This is not easy especially living among people who love the darkness as it talks about in John 3:19-21
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (ESV)
I have been encouraging my brothers and sisters in Christ just how lonely this life in Christ can be. If Jesus is the center of our lives, He effects every area especially when it comes to those around us who are walking in darkness. They hate the light. They don't want anything to do with the light. This is important to grasp just how difficult this can be when it comes to needing advice. What happens to someone who has no fellowship with other believers, the tendency is to begin to follow after the ways of the world. "You can do it a different way." "If it feels good do it." "Rules are made for breaking, so go ahead and break the rules."
Jesus also said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me."
He is our life. He is our joy. He has to be our satisfaction. If His not then we begin to allow the world to influence us and the way we think becomes unbiblical. Apart from Him we can do nothing. More and more I realize just how important our fellowship with other believers is. They are the ones who bring us back to scripture. They are the ones God uses to bring us to repentance. Do we need other believers? Yes. Do we look to scripture for giving advice? Do we feel alone in our walk with Jesus? Is He sufficient? Are satisfied in Jesus when we are all alone? These are the questions I have been asking. If we say no, are we really disciples of Jesus? I leave with this: are you satisfied in Jesus?
As a pastor in Mexico, I will be honest, it is discouraging at times to not have anyone new come to the church. I find my strength in the Lord and how he calls us to be faithful to what he has called us to do. The ground is very hard here. The reality of only 1% of the 50,000 who live in Autlan profess to be "Christian" is evident when you invite people to church on a Sunday morning who never come. Not that coming to church on Sunday mornings is the answer, but it is one of the first steps to faith, when so many are just going to the Catholic church out of religious tradition and no biblical knowledge. Paul said in Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (ESV) We have found when someone comes to a "Christian" church they are coming out of curiosity in seeing what these Christians are all about.
On Saturday evening, I was downtown with my two young guys Jose and German. We played racquetball and were just hanging out. I got an opportunity to share the gospel with a guy who was singing for money. After that, I saw a couple who I knew named Augustine and Edna. I knew them because Edna had been in one of my English classes over three years ago. The last time I had seen Edna, through tears she said she had lost her first baby. They came into La Roca maybe 3 months ago where Edna asked me about raising kids who now have 2 little girls ages 2 1/2 and 1. I was able to share with them that it is a difficulty to bring two different ways of discipline together and try to come to some agreement (which is what I perceived to be one of the issues they were having). They left and I didn't think I would see them again.
When I saw them on Saturday, Augustine was very frank and said that they were thinking about separating. They had a few days of great difficulties and were very stressed. I didn't know about what I could say to them. As Edna was running after their two girls who were climbing all over a mechanical horse, I was able to say to Augustine that we as men have to choose to love our wives in what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13. It is not selfish, keeps no record of wrongs, looks for the best of others. They both said they would try to make it to church on Sunday morning. My expectations where not very high has this is something we hear very often with no results. Lo and behold they were there on Sunday morning. After church Edna was able talk with Jessie and a few of the other women of the church. She voice her concern as Augustine might not have anyone to talk to, but Augustine was more talkative after church than Edna was. He was bringing up topics that he had studied like creationism verses evolution and science. He had come to believe in creationism but how to defend this position was were he was having difficulty. It was clear he had done some study but not with a biblical basis. We again invited them to the coffee house to have a pizza on us in the evening. They came as well. They again didn't have to worry about their girls as much, as there were other kids to play with. As they left in the evening, Edna said she had a really good time. Our hope is that they will come to our bible study on Thursday. What I was telling Jessie afterwards, was I think that through the difficulties and stresses of life, God is using these things to draw them to himself. Please pray for this young couple, that God would touch their hearts. I will continue to keep you all posted about this. God knows their hearts and what they need.
Last week, I had the pleasure of getting to know, two gentleman from Baja, California, Pastor Luis and Gary (their last names slipped my mind at the moment). They came to Autlan to meet with various pastors about the opportunities of having leadership training classes every three months. The pastors and leadership can come and learn various aspects of ministry like: how to teach others to teach and leadership through the example of Nehemiah. It is out of Hope International. I had the privilege of taking them around and speaking face-to-face with various pastors. It was clear after meeting with various pastors, the training of leaders is a huge need in the church of Autlan. I have agreed to become the contact person in communicating with various pastors about the classes coming in the future as the classes will be held out at the center. The first set of classes will be at the end of April. Below is Pastor Luis, Pastor Leonel, and Gary.