Thursday, August 14, 2008

Five Days in America

Five days in America. It's almost unfathomable that it's only been five days since we set foot back in Maryland. I remember how quickly life thrusts itself back in one's face from last year's trip, but it still is difficult to comprehend all that's happened in the past week. It's an odd feeling, like being in the gulf between two worlds. Time has raced by, and I fear I will never be able to back-post the many stories and events that never made it into this year's blog report. The most sleep I ever got this trip was one night of six hours, most nights were four hours, and one night (the night of the long blog posting) I only dozed for less than three hours. One thing I did manage to do was put together the following slide show from some of the 300+ photos collected by Wendy, Dr. Logsdon and myself during our trip. I hope it gives you a taste of the people and ministry that continues in Apizaco, Mexico!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Where to begin.....

I can't begin to describe the past two days, and I'd be up until daybreak to capture the entirety of what we've seen God do here. This post will inevitably fit into the "you had to be there" category, but here it goes....

Our morning's VBS went very well, with nearly 60 children present. Each day we have scoured the local community giving out flyers for our week's activities, and each day we've had 10-15 new children come. In the minutes before closing I had a father come up to me and speak in good English "Do you know anyone in Chicago, Illinois? I am leaving for Chicago on Friday and want to find a church of the same religion as you to find God". To completely butcher an amazingly long and awesome story I'll sum it up by saying that he gave me the phone number and address of his Uncle who he will be staying with in Chicago, and I agreed to find a bible-believing church in his local community over the Internet. I then asked him if he died today does he know without doubt where he would spend eternity. He was unsure, so I shared with him the Gospel illustrated by the six-colored bracelet we've been using here in Mexico. I shared with him that he didn't need to wait until he reached Chicago to learn of God's love, and after hearing the story of salvation in the Bible he decided to turn his life over to God and accept Christ's gift of eternal life through his death on the cross. Please pray for Samuel, as his journey to Chicago will be long and dangerous. Also pray for his wife Anna who will be left behind with their two children while Samuel works in America.

After VBS we left for lunch, but first had to drop off clothes for cleaning at the local laundry one block down from our restaurant. This is the same laundry we used last year, as well as many other teams before us. Today the owner seemed agitated, and said that he didn't have time to launder our clothes today or tomorrow. Surprised, we asked if there was another laundry nearby. We followed his directions two blocks down, and the owner said that she would have our clothes clean today, and volunteered to stay open after her normal closing time of 8pm because we said we couldn't return until near 9pm. On our way out, she asked Abel if he was a Christian (based on two tattoos on his arms). She then asked if he could share a message from the Bible, because she wanted to learn more about God. We agreed to do so when we returned to pick up our clothes that night. It was not lost on anyone in our group that this was a God-appointed meeting.

After lunch and a brief rest we returned to the mission in San Andres with plans to launch into the nearby community to pay return visits to a handful of homes that prayed to receive Christ during visits from last week's team from LBC. We arrived at the Mission in San Andres to steady rain, but just as we were pondering how we were going to walk the streets without knocking on doors looking like drowned rats the rain cleared and the sun shone through. We visited 5-6 homes in San Andres, several of which opened up their homes for lengthy conversations. Two mothers still had the six-colored bracelet on their wrists that were given to them last week when they prayed to receive Christ. One mother is arranging for a home bible study at her house tomorrow at 7pm. Another is bringing her children to VBS tomorrow and the film tomorrow night. One even remembered the names of the team members who visited the week before (Jorge and Katiy). It was a very good night of following up with and fellowshipping with new Christians.

We then moved to visit two homes in Royal Woods, another community on the suburbs of Apizaco where a mission church is being considered. The first home was thrilled to be visited by fellow Christians, and received Dr. Logsdon and Jorge for some 20 minutes. Dr. Logsdon shared this week that the Potomac Baptist Association is looking to build a Christian church mission in this community of Royal Woods because of the population density. More on this in a minute (the story gets better).....

Tonight's team meeting ran until 11pm, and included a powerful time of prayer for all that's happened this week. I don't know the exact number, but we have had more than 10 individuals decide to accept Christ and His gift of salvation during the team's visits thusfar. The prayer time included prayer for each of these new Christians, especially that they will seek out a local church body and grow as newborn Christians.

One of the other things that happened this week is that one of our local (to Puebla) team members (Alejandra) spent time Monday night with the night clerk named Francisco at our local hotel and found that he was seeking the Lord and had a hunger to learn more about the Bible. Alejandra led Francisco to the Lord that night, and Francisco had asked that someone share more with him on his next shift (tonight) as he wanted to learn how to read the Bible. Tonight Alejandra and I spent nearly 90 minutes explaining the Bible, sharing scripture throughout the New Testament to describe and illustrate God's love for us and desire for us to accept His offer to reconcile us to him through Jesus Christ. Francisco absorbed and understood everything we shared, and our Q&A session revealed what appeared to be a heart genuinely seeking to build a Christian walk and one that understood everything that was shared. I believe it to be a clear example of God demonstrating the promise in His word that all who seek and ask for wisdom through reading God's word will find it. We exchanged phone numbers and addresses with Francisco, and asked him to show us on the map of Apizaco where his home was. After some time to get orientated, his finger fell smack dab on top of the small community named Royal Woods, where we visited tonight and the PBA is hoping to start a mission church.

All this is only that which I saw and experienced today. I haven't taken the time to list the stories shared tonight by the other team members, but suffice it to say that there was many more examples given by the other team members.

I will close with a prayer request for our activities tomorrow, but which also is a long-term prayer need for this town. David, a local church planter from Puebla, shared that last week he visited the home of a dear lady in San Bartolo named Yolanda. She had accepted Christ several years ago during a previous visit by John Fields and an LBC team. David went into Yolanda's home last week for a home bible study, and preached on holy living. He closed by challenging everyone there to consider taking a sack and putting away anything in their home that took away from their focus on Jesus Christ. The next night David returned to Yolanda to see how she was doing. When he prepared to leave, Yolanda produced a sack she had filled that day based on the words shared from the Bible the night before. David took the sack, and without looking into it turned to leave. He then felt a strong tug on the sack and turned expecting to see their young boy pulling back as if the sack included his favorite toy. Instead he saw no one, and his co-visitor later said that she saw a nearby curtain flutter as if something passed through it. When David left the home, he looked inside the sack to find it filled with idols that are common in the homes of this area and deeply ingrained in the traditions and beliefs of the people. David is certain he experienced a very real manifestation of the spiritual struggle that actively pulls at the surrounding community. Yolanda's parents just two days later (last Friday) were struck by a car, and he mother was hospitalized with injuries that threatened to claim her leg. We learned today that her mother had been released from the hospital, but then suffered a heart attack. They prayer request is this: these are circumstances that underscore to the family the reality of the spiritual warfare surrounding them, and are intended to make them question their decision to be obedient to God's word and seek God only. I ask that you join me in prayer for the health of Yolanda's mother, but more importantly that the entire family not be tempted to return to the inclusion of idols in their belief and understanding of God.

Tomorrow is going to be another full day. In addition to VBS, hosting a leading doctor from Puebla for four hours of free medical consultations, and showing a movie in the evening we also hope make several additional home visits in San Andres to follow up from last week, honor our commitment to lead a bible study in the home of one lady in San Andres, and send a team up to San Bartolo to pay crucial follow up visits with Yolanda and several other key brothers and sisters in Christ there. It will have to be a God-thing to make all this happen, something that we have become accustomed to seeing this week!

And now to find a bible-believing church in Chicago for my new friend Samuel.....

Buenos Noches. :)

Monday, August 04, 2008

El Primer Día

The scurry of the inevitable last-minute preparations quickly melted away when the children arrived on our first day of VBS today, and in three short hours our hearts were melted for the children of this small community known as San Andres. 48 children from the surrounding neighborhoods joined us today. This was heart-warming for the church because there are only four children who regularly attend worship in San Andres - meaning the majority of those today were new visitors from the surrounding area. These numbers are building on the work done by John Fields' team last week, and is exciting to see. One of the local interpreters said that most of the children have little to no entertainment during the summer months, and these events bring great memories for them.

The VBS event went almost without a hitch until Pastor Jorge fell with a badly twisted ankle on the rutted soccer field. Later visits to a local doctor for x-rays showed no break, but anyone who has badly turned their ankle understands the pain can be almost the same. He is out of commission for at least two weeks.

After lunch five of us left to scour the neighborhoods surrounding San Andres to give out flyers inviting the children to the VBS activities, and to announce two days of free health exams by both Dr. Abel Williams (from Puebla) and Rebecca Cromwell (from Maryland). I paired up with Dr. William's son, Abel Williams (Jr.) and we distributed at least 75 flyers - many of whom expressed interest in coming. Patrick Walsh paired up with Pepe Rojo to distribute the same. Pastor David launched off solo in a third direction. All told some five or six individuals listened to the Gospel and prayed to accept Christ today.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Worshiping together in Christ

We began today in Puebla, having breakfast together before checking out of the Hotel Panamerican. There are two paths to drive the 40+ miles from Puebla to Apizaco, the "bumpy" road (sliced by speed bumps every mile or so) or the "pothole" road (the toll highway). It took us 45 minutes to dodge both the potholes and the waves of cars streaming by at 140+ kph (85+ mph) to reach San Bartolo for a worship service at 10:30am. It was wonderful to see and worship with the friends made during last year's missions trip with Leonardtown Baptist Church. The dirt floor had been replaced with a concrete pad, and restrooms have been added (roof and doors to follow!).

From San Bartolo we quickly left for a second worship service in San Andres at 12:30. It is in San Andres that we will be spending the majority of our time this week leading a Vacation Bible School for children, offering medical services to the community, and hosting home bible studies. Pastor John Fields led a team from Leonardtown Baptist Church last week that spent time in both San Bartolo and San Andres, and the tent used in their sports camp activities was left up for our week. This picture is of the small two room concrete building the church is currently renting, with the big top tent set up in the front courtyard.

The service in San Andres was followed by a planning meeting with the Pastor and his wife Violeta, then lunch served by the church families (at 3pm much to the dismay of several of our team members!). We arrived at our home in Apizaco, Hotel Grysell's around 4:30. Some rested for the afternoon, others of us spent a few hours walking the streets and central plaza of Apizaco. The Gospel was shared with several individuals on the street, one of which asked our group to lead him to
understand and accept Jesus Christ as his savior.

We ended the evening with a team meeting at 8pm for prayer and final planning of our week. We then used Daniel Newberger's Skype account to video conference with John Fields in Maryland - technology is a wonderful thing!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Yo estoy en Mejico, otra vez!

No problema entering Mexico today, the flights were on time and the logistics came together well. Six team members flew out today, where we joined two others who came down with the LBC team lead by John Fields and are staying into this week. We are joined by four local men who will help interpret for us, Pepe, Pastor Eduardo, Pastor Jorge, and Abel Williams. Abel is the older brother to Liz, our interpreter on my trip last summer. Abel lives in Bel Air, MD nine months of the year, and returns to his family in Puebla during the summer months.

After settling into the Hotel Pan American in Puebla, several rested in the afternoon while others of us took in the sights and sounds of the local market in downtown Puebla. We later joined together and made our main shopping event of the week in Puebla, buying supplies both for ourselves and for hygiene kits we will be giving to families in Apizaco. We then joined seventeen others who traveled today from Taneytown Baptist Church and had a huge cookout at Lucy's home in Cholula, just outside of Puebla. It was a wonderful time, and it was good to fellowship with others who will be spending their week in Puebla.

And with this, I am quickly running out of steam. 21 hours of traveling have worn on us all. An evening of rest and a day of worshiping with two different churches tomorrow is sure to recharge the batteries.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Vamos a México mañana

389 days. They go by fast. It's been over a year since my first missions trip to Apizaco, Mexico with friends from Leonardtown Baptist Church (LBC). Tomorrow I leave for a return visit to the same city. This year I will join seven others from various churches in the Potomac Baptist Association and help lead a Vacation Bible School for the children in the small town of San Andres on the outskirts of Apizaco. We are following in the heels of a team comprised of LBC members who worked in the same town this past week, spreading the word of our team's pending arrival.

We leave at 0600 tomorrow from Reagan National Airport. For those interested in tracking our flights, here are links to our flights using

* DCA to Houston, Flight CO559, Saturday, Aug 2nd
* Houston to Puebla, Flight CO3135, Saturday Aug 2nd
* Puebla to Houston, Flight CO2129, Saturday Aug 9th
* Houston to DCA, Flight CO458, Saturday Aug 9th

A late look at the weather forecast for Apizaco makes me glad I packed an extra sweater!

I hope to post a few updates while in Apizaco this coming week. This has been an extraordinarily stressful week leading up to this trip. Only tonight have I truly been able to begin thinking about the week ahead, and the excitement is building for me. I've kept thinking about the faces of the children from last year, and the joy of sharing time together in worship with Christian brothers on Sunday. This year we will be involved in adult evening bible studies with the men and women in Apizaco. I would welcome your prayers for safe travel for our team, for the men and women we will meet, and also for Barb and the boys as they will spend the week with Grandma and Grandpa on the farm in Pennsylvania!