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In Hot Water

Last Sunday, I was baptizing a couple who had come through quite a bit. Both have confessed that though they had been in the church years ago, drugs had nearly ruined their lives. Thanks be to God, they are in recovery. It is my honor and privilege to disciple and pastor them now.

As I prepared to baptize the young lady, she turned to me and said, “I thought this water would be boiling hot!” 

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Because of all my sins,” she chuckled.  “They are so bad it would take hot water to wash them away…” 

We laughed, and continued the celebration of believer’s baptism as the counted have done for two thousand years. I dunked her. She rose out of the water. The congregation and her husband rejoiced.

Now, I know the water doesn’t wash away our sins, Jesus’ blood does. His tide can cheer us through all the cycles of life, knowing we gain a life as white as ivory snow.

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We journeyed back to Palestine today, but not in a way we expected. It is the way of the Devil, to attempt to discourage those on Mission with Jesus, but the enemy isn’t very creative. Once again, we were in an unairconditioned vehicle on a mission trip (see Ramallah posts about “Mitsi”). The alternator on our two year old church van failed, so we couldn’t run the A/C for the 10 hour drive. The team wasn’t fazed in the least. We went “old-fashioned” and appreciated each rest stop when we could go into a cooler place. Even so, we loaded back up into the hot bus because we wanted to get home, together. We made it home – sweaty, stinky, but happy.

Tomorrow we’ll share about our journey. I promise, we’ll have showered before then. Come on to church, you’ll want to hear.

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Leaving, the Results

The working part of the Rio Grande Journey ended today, but the effect of the work will continue for some time. The last day is kind of hard on a team because we have to say goodbyes and don’t always get to see the results. Yet God was good today. VBS had a huge group of children and 15 received Jesus as Savior today. The Women’s Ministry had 26 ladies today and eight made decisions for Christ. Those are great numbers to celebrate. Amazingly, the construction team insulated and drywalled a room in one day for a baby that had heat rash (this in addition to two other projects in the week.) Our team worked hard and deserves the day of play on South Padre Island tomorrow.

I know Pastor Ruben will make a lot of visits to the new people reached at the block party and through the week’s ministries.  I know Buckner Border Ministries leadership will continue to work in this colonia. I know the Holy Spirit will guide the work here too. Still, it is still hard to leave because we saw some results of our labors and we are leaving part of ourselves behind.

Leaving was hard for me because of two little boys named Juan and Pancho (the boys from the house with the new floor). There is a lot about their situation that I can’t write in a blog, but it is enough for you to know they don’t get a lot of positive male leadership in their lives. After I affirmed them, they latched on to me (literally) and had a hard time letting go. So, after four days, they got very good at jumping onto my back and landing in my heart.

You see, Pancho and Juan remind me of what life might have been like for my grandfathers. Almost one-hundred-years ago those men had poor fathering, hard living conditions, and little hope. Even so, someone came along (I don’t know the story) and pointed those boys to something better. They grew up to become productive workers, loving husbands, good fathers, and great Christians. I feel like I owe the legacy of whomever loved my grandfathers to Jesus to do the same for some boys like Juan and Pancho. Who knows what the results will be. I’m leaving it up to God, yes, but what if a hundred years from now someone who is a pastor writes and says, “I don’t know who it was, but someone loved my grandfather, built a floor, put in a window, and showed him Jesus and I’m better for it today.”

I can leave on that.

Jay

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You’d think we’d changed their zip code to 90210. But, all we did was put in windows. The room with a floor really needed some ventilation. The kids have coughs from the dust and mold, so windows (something so simple) would make the room healthier. Adding the windows to the bedroom and the bathroom radically changed the look of the place. It let in light and air.

Pancho and Juan with a floor and a window

Pancho and Juan with a floor and a window

While we were installing windows, the women’s ministry group made picture frames and heard the gospel story about Lydia. (The picture frames are for the family portraits that were taken at the block party tonight.) The VBS group had their best day yet. More kids and more groups. The youth of FBCP really are fast learners and hard workers. They adapted and were ready quickly.

Tonight, we returned to Salida del Sol church for a block party. We had prepared food bags for distribution. The family portraits were ready to shoot. Buckner brought a couple of bounce houses. We had enough fixins for Frito pie to feed a small army. Before all of that, though, Pastor Ruben and the church had a spirit-filled worship gathering. When it was about half-way over, something wonderful happened for me.

The back door of the room opened and in came the family whose home we had worked on. They had walked a long way (nearly two miles) in the evening heat. When they came in, the children saw me and ran over and hugged me so tightly, you would’ve thought I was a long lost relative! What a joy it was to love them and worship with them. I can only imagine the nudge to the Lord this family has received and the long-term impact it will have.

And all we did was let in light and air…It’s like what happens when we start following Jesus. The light of the world comes in and fills us with the Breath of God. It changes everything.

From a new address,

Jay

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Seeing helps

It can be tempting when on mission to spend time wondering what causes some people to be in situations of need like in the Colonias. In John 9, Jesus’ disciples come upon blind man and wonder the cause. Jesus works past their shortsightedness and shares with them the vision of God – sometimes suffering is just that, suffering,  and when we do something about people’s suffering we glorify God.

This week, I’ve been so proud of our church and the team they’ve sent to the Rio Grande Valley. They’ve poured themselves creatively into helping people who are living in tough situations. The women’s ministry team hasn’t postulated on the life history of the women to whom they reaching, they’ve just loved them and taught them from God’s Word. The youth leading VBS haven’t singled children out or worried that there is a language barrier, they’ve used their energy to love Jesus and let the children join in. The Construction team has sweated love in the finished classrooms at Salida del Sol church and onto the new floor in a children’s house (see yesterday’s blog for more on this).

You can see pictures from the first two days by clicking on the following link. It will take you to my Facebook photo album, and you don’t need a Facebook account to see them. Just click the following link or the picture below:  http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2029679&id=1358683529&l=874c022ccc

Lifting up children and seeing Jesus at work

Lifting up children and seeing Jesus at work

Tomorrow, we’ll all see some people in need again. Especially when we host a block party in the Colonia. I figure several hundred people will come. We prepared food bags for fifty families and have tons of stuff to make Frito pies. Buckner Border Ministries will have a couple of inflatables there. Pastor Ruben of the Salida del Sol church will lead in worship. I believe some people with spiritual blindness will be made to see the Love of God in Jesus Christ. That will help us all and will glorify God.

Vision, can’t see without it.

Jay

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First day of work for the Rio Grande Valley Journey team today. A very smooth start, even if it was hot. Here’s a quick recap of the day:

  • Mission VBS team – had over 50 kids in the AM and will probably have lots more tomorrow. Recreation Camp in the afternoon had about 25 kids.
  • Women’s Ministry team – had fourteen women who were beloved. It went so well, each one promised to bring a friend tomorrow, thereby doubling this work.
  • Construction team – made a connecting opening in the existing building and the additional two rooms for the church. Also completed some electrical work and started some finish trim work.

All told, a great day. Everyone stayed well and had fun. We’re about to meet for our evening gathering and share time. It will be fun to hear the stories.

Now, regarding the title of this post. Late this afternoon, Ricardo (with Buckner) took me to see some possible sites for our construction team to improve the conditions for children in the colonia. At one, we found a family with 8 kids who had lived in an old trailer for seven years. They had built an “addition” which was a lean-to about ten feet square in which the children slept. There was a bed, but a dirt floor on which some of the boys slept. Ants bite the boys in their sleep. Poor ventilation means mold and sickness. The need drew us to this site and tomorrow, we begin to make a huge difference in the lives of these children by simply building a floor!

You know, we often pray and thank God for a good roof over our heads. Tonight, I’m going to add a good floor under my feet to that list. AND…I’m going to be glad I get to be a part of answering that prayer for someone else.

Grounded,

Jay

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