Thanks to everyone for our getaway !! Wait… What are we doing at the beach?!

O.k., goodness! …So now we’ve really got your attention!

Kim, Karina, Jonathan, and Larry smiling on the beach

Well, first of all we should say that as we expressed in our newsletter, we really did have a great time in Michigan… ! The kids had never seen snow before, and in fact we had never seen snow before! So you can imagine how entertaining that was to all the people around us!

Now it is important to say here that it’s not really our custom to visit Michigan and the southern beaches of Texas all in a period of weeks… but since Larry’s brother was in from Germany and the family had a gathering near Corpus Christi to see him, we somehow managed to do it, though we would not recommend that any of you try such a thing!

Anyway, we are proud to tell you that, after re-organizing our trunk (snowsuits and scarves “out”, sunglasses, beach shoes, and shorts “in”… !), and driving from Central Mexico to Michigan and then down to the Corpus area with a three-year-old and a six-year-old in the backseat, we are still married!

Jonathan, Kim, Karina and Larry smiling on the beach

We have posted a Gallery of pics below… (A lot are from the snow retreat, since everyone at the beach house got a tummy bug and started throwing up dramatically at Larry’s family reunion!)

We have also posted a copy of our Christmas letter (Don’t re-read if you’ve got it !), and a link to our prayer page, since after driving all over the country we didn’t have time to put the prayer requests at the end of our letter !!!

So if you’d like to be up on our prayer requests and haven’t joined the page, feel free to click here for a prayer request each month!

(You can download the pdf version of the newsletter here.)

True Stories from the Barrio

…Our Top Stories from 2019

Well, it’s been another year.  And there is a lot of news to tell, since this year has been interesting to say the least …

Karina & Jonathan, now 6 and 3

In addition to the loss of an eight-year-old girl in one of our church families, we are sad to say that on our last trip to the U.S. (we raise our own funds!), a lot of the youth that we are working with fell into a crystal meth addiction… So, since there is nothing quite like working with at-risk teenagers trying to come off crystal meth, it has definitely been quite a year…!

Anyway, there is so much to tell… but we are going to feature just a few people in order to give you a glimpse of their lives !

Jasmine

You might remember this young woman from quite a few of our newsletters … !  

Jasmine with her 18 month old baby boy

Many of you know that Jasmine lost her 8-year-old daughter this year, on top of losing her 15-year-old son to a familial abuse situation last year… We have also told you that even as she’s grieving the loss of these two children, she’s still taking care of her five others… including her eighteen-month old baby, and her three-year-old little girl…!

… Anyway, what we haven’t told you is that Jasmine has been living with even more financial strain than usual, since she is fighting to pay off a debt of ten thousand pesos from all of the medical care that “Yurlette” received when she died. The bad thing is that she has no regular job, and so she has no choice but to try to pay things off in exactly the same way she brings money to her family… by doing juggling acts at a local street corner.

The real shock came, though, when Jasmine found out that on top of everything else, she was pregnant again.

… Upon discovering the news, we have to tell you that both Jasmine and her husband were completely devastated, and did not feel they could keep the baby…  By the time we found this young woman, in fact, she was only a step away from doing a home abortion — in part because she had literally been near death during some of her other pregnancies, and in part because she knew she had to carry her 90-pound son on her back every day while juggling to make ends meet.

… So as we talked to Jasmine that day we knew that we had come to the end of our own answers, and to the place where all we could do was beg for the life of the baby — telling her that if God was sending her another child, then He was the one that had to know what He was doing.

Yurlette died in August due to spina bifida

… The good thing, though, was that it only took a little begging…  We aren’t sure what happened that day, but within the hour, this young woman had totally softened. She admitted that she did want the baby, and even thought she might give it the middle name of “Yurlette” if it were a girl!!!

Anyway, she did try to keep working at the street corner for a few days, but God loved that baby so much that He actually caused the traffic light to break down there at the intersection. !

So of course now we are in the process of trying to help the family start a tamale business…!  Anyway, please do continue to pray for Jasmine and those around her!

Marlene

… We wanted to feature a few other people, among them Jasmine’s daughter, whom you may also remember from when she was a little girl.

Anyway, to make a long story short, Marlene has grown up and taken some hard turns since both her brother and sister died so suddenly.

In fact, so many things happened so quickly in Marlene’s life that by the time Kim managed to catch up with her at age fifteen, Marlene had already had three husbands, two miscarriages, tried drugs, and suffered from two separate overdoses on marijuana and crystal meth.

To be sure, this young girl’s weight had gone down to eighty pounds because of her addictions… She was also suffering from heart problems due to the crystal meth. So of course Kim was shaking in her boots when she began to try to face the idea of working with the new teenage Marlene.

Anyway, Kim did make a mistake when she said, “Oh my gosh, she looks terrible…!” upon realizing how underweight Marlene had become. That afternoon, though, the Lord convicted Kim, and told her to call back and say that she thought Marlene was beautiful… So she called and did exactly that!  … And the very next day this young girl came to church and asked for prayer.

…That was the start of a very interesting relationship between Kim and Marlene, which has definitely had some ups and downs!  We won’t give a lot of details, but we are happy to say that Marlene is off of crystal meth, and is now rapidly gaining weight!   … So please keep praying!

Cesar

Here’s another story for you … This is a good one about our friend, Cesar… Now Cesar doesn’t have anything to do with Jasmine’s family, but his story is so good that he’s certainly won himself a spot !

Anyway, this young man started out a few years ago as one of the terrors our kids program… He tried drugs around age 12, and by the time he was fifteen he found his addictions rapidly closing in on him…

…Until one day he decided to change. To everyone’s surprise Cesar showed up sober to one of our outreach activities and motioned Kim over, asking for prayer.  Hearing the seriousness in his voice, Kim turned, promising to bring Larry as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, though, the crowd pressed in that night so we couldn’t get back to Cesar for a while, and when we returned to pray for him, he was gone.

That was probably actually a good thing, as it turned out… Since two days later and having just turned seventeen, Cesar walked in the rain for fifteen miles, against the advice of everyone in his family, and with only the clothes on his back in order to check himself into a Christian drug rehab center.

Now it is important to say that the center that Cesar checked himself into was actually a voluntary one… meaning that he could leave at any time he wanted and go back to his addictions.

…But Cesar didn’t do that, in fact… Instead he chose to stay there for almost 2 years … Anyway, suddenly two years later we ran into Cesar in the neighborhood…!  He was back !

Now we will say that it took some adjusting for Cesar to find himself again…  So after pulling him off of a few park benches on some particularly long nights, we decided to invite him to live for the Lord outside of the rehab center.

…Things finally began to click, and to make a long story short Cesar is now working, drug-free, and contributing to his family… So pray that God would use him to reach others like him!

Victor Manuel

…Last but not least we wanted to feature an older gentleman by the name of Victor Manuel…

You may or may not remember Victor since he appeared as a side character in our last letter, but he’s the grandfather to blame for the accidental death of Jasmine’s son, due to some sort of abuse situation during which in a drunken moment, he could not stay his hand.

Wrecked from his own childhood, Victor has not had any legal action taken against him because the case remains unproven, since the extended family actually framed the young man for suicide in order to avoid problems.

Anyway, we could raise a whole lot of legal questions here, but what we really want to share with you is that after the incident, Victor started coming to church… In fact, he is there often before the service, kneeling in front of the altar and quietly asking for forgiveness from God.

… And though we won’t say there haven’t been a few bumps along the road as we’ve ministered to him, Victor is coming along.  Certainly the best thing of all is that Victor is considering checking himself into a rehab center… But until he does, we know that God is working as he sits quietly in church, usually only a few chairs away from Jasmine, who overcomes all of her own resentment just to be there.

*******

… So to summarize… thank you for praying.

And in closing, we know we don’t have to tell you that ministry in the barrio isn’t always easy.

But where else can you find a service where an accidental murderer and the mother of the victim sit for two hours in the same room… or where two divorced people sit side-by-side, and where crystal meth addicts crowd around the door, trying hard not to show that what’s being said inside is by far the most important thing in their lives…?

Anyway, to make a long story short we are having to learn as we go, to let ourselves feel, to hurt for these families, and most of all to risk loving them … which can be painful at times.

And we know there is no real formula or easy way to do it.

But thankfully, there is One who makes a way. And it’s a good thing…

    …Because there are so many out there… searching to find their way.