Lost Coins

Karina with the Christmas tree

Hi everyone,

Well we’re back… and finally able to send out some very late Christmas cards!

If you can believe it, we have actually spent the past several months trying to write an update, but things have been moving so fast in the Laguna that we have hardly been able to keep up with it ourselves!

To be sure, we had quite an eventful trip last summer and do have trauma about coming back to the States!  But since we have to renew our van permit every six months for Mexico and Larry’s brother is in from Germany, we are here for a bit.

Anyway, though, as many of you know, our last trip was full of many of the usual and a lot of unusual adventures which can happen on trips.   And of course it was also interesting to get back to our “barrio” and pick up the thread of what we had been doing…  But the good thing was that God showed Himself to be amazingly faithful as we continued to work with our group of junior high and high school aged kids who struggle with addictions.

Eric…One of the key things which He revealed to us during these past months is that real physical hunger is actually an important factor in teenagers becoming addicted to drugs at certain stages in their lives, at least in the area of the Laguna.  Of course you know that we always used to joke about how much this “band of youth” could eat, but what we didn’t realize was that they really weren’t getting enough to eat…  However through various conversations, we began to realize that with the economic downturns in Mexico, many of the kids we work with don’t have the confidence to raid the refrigerator the way they would otherwise do at this age, since they tend to be part of big families which are struggling financially and where the focus is to make sure their younger brothers and sisters go to the table first.

As we thought about it, we also realized that most all of the kids we knew worked in lower-end jobs earning pocket change to support their families.  We knew that by the time they gave something to their parents, they did not have much left, and that a bottle of glue was actually a lot cheaper than any kind of snack that would put a dent in their hunger…  We were even more disconcerted to find out that one of the real reasons kids become addicted to glue is that it can actually create nausea in them which will kill the hunger through the night — especially if they go to sleep with it.

Kevin
Kevin is always willing to trade in his drugs as long as we give him a carton of eggs to feed his family.

This revelation was painful and slow in coming, but in fact the nausea concept really did hit home in a moment when Kim accidentally wound up getting a little whiff of glue herself!  Anyway, in an experiment we began offering to buy some of the younger kids snacks in exchange for their drugs… In no time, we had everyone following Larry around like the pied piper telling him about all of the different junk food they were craving from the neighborhood convenience store!  😉  More importantly we found that we had grace to be able to actually walk around the neighborhood and take drugs out of kids’ hands — a thing which is not normally easy to do… and we began to see that it was not rocket science to at least begin to break the cycle of addiction in their lives.

Now of course there are complexities to this, and we know we are on a time clock as the kids begin to move on to more addictive substances, and as their bodies begin to crave the actual substances rather than food.  Even in the space of time it took to fix our van after the “flood” (don’t ask!), we had to work a lot harder in order to take drugs away from these younger kids…  And we ourselves have had our share of distractions this year as our very active one-and-a-half-year-old has had to have his tummy “seasoned?” against just about every bug in Mexico.

So, we can report as usual that the past few months have been a really wild ride…  Even so, we have had very few real “no’s” from our youth as we try to put food into their hands instead of drugs.

Karina with Carlos with his brother Chuy

And of course our prayer is that as we begin to stay their physical hunger, God would develop a very real spiritual hunger in them…

We know that these youth are not always easy to reach, but we were truly inspired by a vision a friend once had for us that our ministry was like the woman who sweeps her whole house to find that one last coin…

… So in closing we are happy to tell you that we have managed to uncover a few more very valuable coins… all precious to God and well worth the effort it took to find them!

… Anyway, we wanted you to meet them.

But are they really worth the search…?

… Well, you be the judge.


Some valuable “coins” we’ve found…

… please pray for these youth.

Carlos

At seventeen, Carlos has already been the man of his family for some time now since his father has been in prison for so many years. He cleans car windshields on a busy street corner to feed his grandfather, his mother who is pregnant, and his three younger brothers. He’s always willing to come to our house to help watch the kids and wash dishes to earn an extra buck. Carlos is an animated playmate for both kids, and especially good at playing doll house with Karina!

Edgar

As a sixteen-year-old in a situation where his family lives completely hand- to mouth, Edgar is literally hungry a lot of the time. Whenever we deliver groceries to his house, he is out on the curb even in the middle of the night asking if there is anything in the bags which he can eat immediately. This young man has often asked us if he can come to clean our house in exchange for food. He is good with a feather duster and likes to sing “Do you want to build a Snowman?” in Spanish to the kids!

Chuy

Nine-year-old Chuy is the youngest in a family where the father has been in prison for most of his life. He had to stop going to school some time ago due to his family’s financial situation, and works watching cars for tips in the parking lot at a local supermarket.  As a growing young man, he buys all of his own clothing, shoes, and snacks from tips in the parking lot!!

And more yet to be found…

Ricky

Ricky lost his older sister and older brother to a kidnapping and gang-related death respectively when he was about 10 years old.  His mother is on strong antidepressants, so she is basically emotionally unavailable, and as a result Ricky has a lot of resentment inside him. He is gaining interest in the gospel, but secretly he still struggles with finding refuge in crystal meth and other drugs.

Eric

When we first met Eric, the thing that he most wanted was a teddy bear, and he kept on insisting until we got him one! Having just turned fifteen, he is heavily into drugs but we noticed that he comforted himself with the teddy bear after drugging himself in order to go to sleep. Please pray for Eric and others like him to find real peace in the Lord.

Please pray for Nena and other young girls like her. The two girls pictured here, at fourteen years of age, are heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol. Pray that we would have grace to work with them, since it is often even harder to get through to the young ladies than to many of the young men.

And we will keep searching…       Luke 15:8

We’re Heroes!!!

Yep, you got it…!  We’re finally getting home for good!!!

Suffice it to say we had minor trouble this trip, but we’re soon to be safe and sound back in the gang neighborhoods of Mexico…!

Anyway, the good news is that we were able to send prayer cards to many of you that we have snail mail addresses for, but if anyone else would like one, let us know!

…Either way, below is some interesting reading, if you will, and a documentary of the things missionaries endure while on leave in the States!  …So enjoy !

Long-lost Missionaries …
(“This is not my life!”)

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As many of you might have surmised, the last part of this trip was pretty… eventful!

Jonathan all dressed up for Christmas…The fun all started when we got sick with a virus a couple months ago after trying to celebrate the family “Christmas” with Kim’s parents (yes, Christmas…!!  …Because this was when we were in town and could do it…!  The Amazon guy and the exterminator were both quite surprised to see the fully lit tree when they poked their heads inside the door!  ;))

Shortly afterwards Kim’s Dad fell off of the treadmill and wound up getting a staph infection in one of his cuts.  He had to be on a pretty strong antibiotic for quite some time and suffered considerable indigestion, but we were just thankful we caught it in time, since he only went to the doctor after much arguing!

After that the baby got sick… apparently some kind of food poisoning, since he was unable to keep anything down.  We had to spoonfeed him pedialyte for a while, and he wasn’t able to eat normally for about a week, but God was good.

A day or two later we had a problem with our water district and the upstairs had a minor flood…!  The good thing is that it was minor, but bad enough that unfortunately Kim’s mom had to wash every towel in the house by the time it was over with.

KarinaBy this time it was Mother’s Day.  So since we were already here we decided to go ahead and take Kim’s mom out.  The only problem was that on the way out to dinner, Karina started throwing up — all over her carseat… and Kim.  Needless to say we never actually made it to dinner, but the fun continued for Mother’s Day that night because then it was Kim’s Dad’s turn to start throwing up… all night long, leaving Kim’s poor mom changing sheets and doing much laundry again the next day!

…By this time, Kim’s mom was run down and so she had to be in and out of bed for a few days with a UTI, which the doctor said was trying to move into her kidneys.  After two rounds of antibiotic and a lot of cranberry juice she got better, but still feels a little funny.

In the middle of all this (at what we thought was the end…!) we were about to start packing and trying to leave town we got the message which many of you have heard about from one of our supporters, who was unable to continue helping us.  We praise God for this situation, however, because within a matter of days He led us to exactly the right people… And again, we are so honored by the new supporters who have come on board and also those of you who have expressed you would like to help in the near future.

KarinaBy the time we had finished following up with folks and straightening out all our bookkeeping, it was Memorial Day…!  So we decided to visit Kim’s grandmother (the family had also agreed to support us…) and stay for a couple days at Larry’s house in Hallettsville in order to give Kim’s family a break…  While there, Kim managed to lose one of her contacts (yes, the extra pair…), and so with a coke-bottle glasses prescription from the 1990’s which did more harm than good, she was stuck trying to get us back from the mini-trip and take care of the kids for a couple days with something like 20/800 vision in one eye.

After resolving Kim’s vision problems back in Houston, it was time to load the van, except that when we went to open the trunk we discovered the handle was broken!  So we had the part expedited from a junkyard, and Larry quickly began watching You Tube videos in order to fix it… Meanwhile Kim was beginning to have real trouble with her allergies because of the Houston humidity, and even worse, with a pretty severe allergic reaction to fabric softener. (Yes, and a missionary, can you imagine…?  We can’t even wear hand-me-downs!!! )

Anyway, what happened with the allergy attack was that with all the flooding and sickness we wound up washing towels from the 1980’s in hot water with the rest of our clothes, forgetting that they had gotten Bounce singed into them once a week for upwards of twenty years… So Kim suddenly started having problems breathing and couldn’t wear her clothes anymore, or be around anyone else in the family.  In the end she spent a good several days trying to chemically remove all fabric softener from everything we owned.

Jonathan smiling in his high chairSo after giving all of our clothes away (boiling them on the stove was a fail!), and resolving a minor sewage problem we had back at our house in Torreon (we preferred to it do it over the phone!) we were now ready to buy all new clothes (Wal-Mart..:  Baby blankets, underwear, men’s shirts, jeans, undershirts, socks…) and then pack…, And then really hit the road…!  Only now Father’s day was upon us, so of course we knew we should stop and celebrate Kim’s Dad… though we were afraid of what might happen next.

Anyway there were quite a few other things going on at this point, but we will spare you the details here and just skip to the part where we got yet another call from Larry’s family (No doubt they were envious of all our adventures in Houston…!).  Unfortunately, though, the final time we got to visit them was in the context of a death in the family…  But we were grateful to get to attend the funeral.

On the way home, though, (and can you believe…?) we had a slight problem when the van alternator went out!  (It was actually very interesting because we were driving at full speed on the freeway in the middle of some eighteen-wheelers…).  We were so thankful, though, because we were able to pull over.  Unfortunately, however, we wound up spending the whole night on the side of the road after various attempts to communicate with (“beg!”) different roadside services (“…six hundred dollars?!?”)!  So we woke up with our windows still open and found ourselves covered in dew.  This could have been vaguely romantic, except for the kids behind us, who woke up squirming in their carseats as the sun began to beat down on our van.  Anyway, at dawn we made a quick phone call to Larry’s family and were on the road again in no time… (sort of!)

Anyway, suffice it to say that after having the van fixed (back in Houston!) we were finally able to re-pack in the middle of an almost 24-hour power outage (we were trying to do laundry…), and in spite of the fact that Kim’s Dad came home with news that his bloodwork is off and very suspect of prostate cancer.

Kim's dad giving Karina a hug
Kim’s dad on Father’s Day…

Even amidst all of these circumstances, though, we are still glad to be finally getting home…  We are also thankful because throughout this trip we have been able to stay in touch with the church and continue supporting the ministries to youth and children.  In fact we hear that the youth were apparently still coming to church, and breaking the ice with the brothers all by themselves. (!)

Also we are thankful since were able to have had some sweet (and very interesting! ) time with both families.  We were even able ourselves to go to church with Kim’s family some which we don’t otherwise get to do.  (Father’s Day, incidentally, went off without a hitch… ;)) .

So while getting back from a  few week’s vacation turned into a three-and-a-half(?) month furlough, we can honestly say this… that God’s timing is not ours.

But it is perfect.

And even more important than a happy ending is the fact that we know we were refined on the trip, learning just a little bit more about patience… and prayer.  Anyway, to tell you the truth, you wouldn’t believe some of our stories, but it always seems just sort of uncannily hard to get back and continue reaching out to our youth.

… So of course it would be easy to let ourselves to get discouraged.  We know we have an adversary who has an agenda much different than ours.   And we know he would love to put thoughts in our heads… like, “Man, these trips are getting hard… !“ or “Gee… maybe God is trying to tell us something…!”

OscarAnd to be honest, there have been moments when he has almost succeeded…

…Almost.

… But not quite.

“For Christ’s love compels us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

Prayer Requests – July 2017

The other thing that we managed to do on such a lovely vacation was to evaluate the situation at the border with the school bus which was donated to our youth and has unfortunately still been stuck on the U.S. side!  We do want to praise God because we’re fairly sure that after the generous one-time donations that we received in response to our email that we do have the funding to do it… especially since we were able to combine them with funds that we had already designated for a vehicle. The only problem is that we have been holding out on principle, since the Mexican government really does want to charge us all of $5500 dollars in order to take the bus across.

…Needless to say, that importation fee seemed a bit steep to us.  So as we’d mentioned in our last email we decided to see whether or not we could receive it as a donation across the border through some non-profit organization.  If we can convince an organization to receive the bus for us, we will be able to use all extra funding to do youth outreach activities, and that really seems like it is worth waiting for… The only problem there was that none of the Mexican organizations we have approached have even given us the time of day!  Anyway, please pray for the Rotary Club in Torreon, and that God would touch the hearts of the directors, since we are still waiting on a response from them!  If their response is negative we will have to sell the bus at the border and re-use the funds to buy a Mexican bus or go ahead and spend the money to import the one we have.

Anyway what is clear is that we will have to do something, since Larry did get some strange looks initially and was immediately stopped when we just sort of tried to “drive” it across the border!  (.. Well, we were just trying…!  )

…So please pray for wisdom and favor for us as we try to go back to Mexico and contact the Rotary club one final time.

…Pray for our children, because by this time, they are a little disoriented from so much stimulus in the U.S.!

…Pray for Kim’s mom’s friend, Linley, who at 23 has shown remarkable comeback from a very difficult cancer.  Her strength is failing however, and doctors seem uncertain about what to do next, so please pray that God would cover the situation with his total grace and pour out His power.