Our Stories from the Year…

Karina, 5 yrs old

Merry Christmas everybody… !

We are so glad to finally be able to update you on everything that has been going on!

A lot has been happening, and as many of you know, it has been a particularly hard season for us after the loss of one of our youth…  To be honest, our hearts are still aching after the death of fifteen-year-old “Angel,” who was both a member of the youth group we work with and the son of a family that has long been part of our church.

… There is more on that situation here, but we have had so many other prayer needs come up that we wanted to share them all with you, since we know and continue to learn that prayer is the most important thing.

So thank you…   And here goes.

FELIPE…

We first met Felipe as he was trying to steal a broom from our neighbor.  As it turned out, he wound up taking our broom… which was rather unsettling as we watched him slink away with it!   

Anyway, it was against our better judgement, but when he came back looking for work the next morning, we let Felipe wash the van!   When we noticed that he wasn’t actually doing it very well, Kim (who is a real neat freak!) got a rag and began to show him how to clean it according to specs!   🙂

Once he gained an understanding of how to do a detailed job on something, Felipe got a few more clients in our neighborhood as people became interested in having him do work around their houses.  Since then, he has become one of our most faithful employees and gained an increasing interest in the gospel.

Recently, Felipe has fallen ill with a disease which has caused him to be in and out of the hospital…  And as if that weren’t enough, his tiny little paper house actually burned to the ground, together with all of his belongings, in an accident which happened in his neighborhood.

…We decided to help Felipe, so we got a new house started for him by building a main room and helping to roof it… (Actually, “we” didn’t build very much! …But there were some construction guys who did a great job… !  )  

Anyway, please pray for Felipe, since God is really knocking on his door in lots of ways.  He has started to attend Bible studies through a church in his own neighborhood, but do keep praying as we try to bless him while he does his chores around our house…!

MARIA SOLEDAD,  a.k.a. “Chole”

Maria

Here is an example of one situation where your prayers have really made a difference!  Maria is actually our pastor’s wife, whom many of you know was on death’s door a few months ago.

Maria was rushed to the hospital one morning after a strange fainting spell she’d had.  When doctors discovered that her kidneys had flatlined, she waited in a coma for two days before having surgery to receive dialysis.  But even after she surprised everyone by living through the surgery, doctors were very pessimistic about what they could do…

… One night one of our youth from the gang felt led to pray for her, so we took a trip up to the hospital.  At that point, Maria was still unconscious, and her body was only partially responding to the dialysis.  After her doctor had finished warning us that she was still very much on the point of death unless things improved quickly, he left the room.

In the silence which hung in the wake of his words, we prayed.  

About a minute afterwards, a mysteriously nice nurse came in…!  Glancing at the young man standing over the patient’s bed, she quickly enlisted him to help her turn Maria.  Strangely, right after he did so, her body expelled all of the fluid that was missing from her dialysis earlier that day !

Maria and “Fili”, our pastors

…The following morning, Maria woke up and the dialysis started working like clockwork.  … So praise God.

… And of course as to what had happened the night before, we can’t rightly say, but we highly recommend that if any of you are having trouble with your hospital patients, you should really try using gang members to help you with some of the spiritual and practical aspects of your patient care  !

CARLOS

Anyway, so now we cannot help but highlight our friend Carlos…  Of course it’s impossible to write about all of our youth, but he in particular has a story that we couldn’t resist telling you! 

…Carlos has been converted to the Lord for a while now, and has managed to hang onto his faith even in the midst of the forces of the barrio which try to bring him down.

The only bump we encountered along the road as we continued to minister to Carlos was that he had just a few  too many girlfriends…!  In particular, there was one very pretty girl who was the envy of the neighborhood, and would not leave his bedroom!  

So, after some very “spirited” discussions with Carlos, we decided he needed a sleeping bag…  And since sleeping bags can be expensive, we began praying for one!  Anyway, we are not used to having our prayers answered so soon… but a few days later, a guy knocked on the door of our church…  And he was selling, yes, you guessed it, a ratty old sleeping bag which was a steal for ten dollars…!

Carlos’s dazzling new companion!

So after a few more spirited discussions with Carlos, he dutifully climbed up on the roof, with his sleeping bag… and his dog… and continued sleeping there for the next few nights until the pretty blonde girl moved out… !

And after a few strange looks from his friends, Carlos has rapidly become a powerful witness to young people in our neighborhood! He has already been used by God in helping us to expand our youth ministry and to reach families in general… !

JASMINE: More on Angel’s death…

Many of you may remember Jasmine from our former newsletters…  What you may not know is that she was actually the mother of Angel, the young man who died.

Sadly, the loss of Angel was just another tragedy for Jasmine in a life marked by pain.  In fact ever since we have known her,  Jasmine has told us stories of suffering, including how she lost both of her parents very young, and found herself married to an abusive husband, with whom she began to have the first of her seven children. 

Since Angel’s death, Jasmine has been trying to somehow move forward for the sake of her family…  Many of you also know that one of her daughters has spina bifida and needs lots of attention, in addition to her two-year-old, and youngest son, who is only nine months old.  

Needless to say, the loss of Angel was also a huge blow for Jasmine, especially since there was there was some amount of mystery surrounding whether or not his death was a suicide, or just a severe episode of abuse that occurred when Angel was with his extended family.

We will have more specific ideas on how to pray for Jasmine in our link below, but in general please pray that God’s grace would truly be upon her…  And that we ourselves would have the grace to minister in the midst of so much tragedy that we don’t understand…

Angel

… And perhaps we never will.

Even so, we know that God is good… though at times we just have to trust Him…

…But we are going to miss you, Angel.  So thank you for the years that you gave us.

Most of all, thanks for teaching us that we don’t always have to understand… just everything. 

   …We know the One who does.

For More Specific Prayer Requests…

about Jasmine, her family, and even us, please see this link: Prayer Requests

Prayer for Jasmine and others… Dec. 2018

  • For Jasmine…: Please pray that God would somehow heal her heart and all of the heaviness in it, and that she would have wisdom in knowing how to raise her other six children…  She is a believer and has shown interest in being discipled, however she has been struggling lately since she seems to have hit a new wave of depression.  Pray that life would not just be a series of going through the motions for her, but that she would truly open herself up to finding wholeness in the Lord.
  • Marlene:  Many of you may also remember Marlene as one of Jasmine’s daughters, and Angel’s sister… We have included her here because unfortunately she has really fallen off a cliff after Angel’s death.  For a while she was even trying hard drugs and disappearing at night, though nobody knew where she went…  Recently however, she has been a little more stable, although it has been at the expense of Jasmine encouraging her to go ahead and marry, at only fourteen years of age.  Sso please pray that God would change the course of Marlene’s life entirely, and that He would protect her from any decisions that are not right for her.
  • Victor Manuel:  Victor is Angel’s grandfather, and is actually the person deemed by most people as responsible for Angel’s death… With a history of abusing his family, Victor denies having had anything to do with the incident, though he was the only one present, and as we say a lot of sources suspect that Angel’s death was some sort of severe abuse incident rather than suicide.
         … Anyway, the important thing here is that Victor has come to church on several occasions, crying and begging for God’s forgiveness.  So please pray specifically for him… Pray that we and others would have the grace to minister to him, and that he would experience the depth of God’s love and grace.  Pray that he would come clean if he needs to, and most of all that any and all chains of addiction and abuse would be stopped in his life.  Forever.
  • Larry and Kim…
  • Who us…? Well, we do want to praise God, since all things considered we are doing all right… 🙂
  • We’d like you to keep praying, though, since we are emotionally worn out from all that has happened, and since the level of “attack” on our ministry still continues to be pretty striking… (To be sure, the last time we returned home from a trip we drove up to our house with water pouring off of our roof from a broken pump, and a power outage which affected our whole street (Hey! …We paid our bill…!), not to mention phone calls from some of our youth who got stranded in Guadalajara. (They had apparently gone on a construction project which turned out to be headed up by drug lords who left them there… So do pray for protection!)
  • Anyway, please pray that all of the ‘fun’ of any kind of “unnecessary” adventures would stop, or alternatively that they would only make us stronger and more ready for ministry! Pray also for Karina and Jonathan, that their childhood experiences would not be compromised, but instead enriched by our missionary lifestyle.
  • Pray for financial protection for us, that God would bless all of our supporters, and that funding would not be an issue for us in the midst of so many other things! (Has anyone ever noticed that young people cannot be in the same room together for any period of time without eating…?)
  • Please do praise God with us, though, because even in spite of everything that has happened lately, the youth are responding to us in new ways and in greater numbers, and the outreach service which has sprung out of Angel’s death has had the church filled with people listening to the gospel!  🙂

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