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.

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!  🙂