All posts by suncomp

Cecilia’s Story

SK_89Cecilia is an amazing woman. She is a Tica (Costa Rican) who lives in a very poor community in San Jose, CR where many Nicaraguan immigrants have settled. There is a pattern of among men of adultery, alcoholism, drug abuse and family neglect. When they can find work, most of the salary is spent on what the men desire, while the needs of the family are secondary. As is common in many third world countries, the wives, often with no work skills, are left alone with the children and have to make do.

Both angered and frustrated by the pattern she saw, Cecilia began feeding the neighborhood kids out of her own kitchen with whatever beans and rice she could scrape up.  The Lord’s hand has been upon her ministry in some crazy ways.  People who heard about what she was doing would stop by and donate food.  A woman decided to buy a piece of property in the community and give it to Cecilia to build a new community center.  More recently, a radio show decided to have a radio-thon to raise funds for Cecilia.  Some money was raised and Cecilia and her husband were able to salvage some materials for a basic shelter that has served as the community center for the past few years.
Recently, more and more kids have come to have lunch at the center.  Out of the lunches, a vacation bible school program has developed to teach the kids about Jesus.  The women of the community also gather weekly for a women’s bible study.  From the women’s study, a sewing coop started as a means for the women to earn an income apart from their husbands. The sewing coop has now grown from one day/week to 2-3 days/week.  For many, it is a safe place in a dangerous community. Cecilia and her leadership team want to reach out into the community in even bigger ways using the “community center” as the central point.
_6However, the shelter that currently functions as the community center is in desperate need of improvement.  It was literally constructed out of found materials, branches, and bamboo.  Since no kitchen is available, all the cooking is done at Cecilia’s daughter’s house two doors down and carted to the center.  They run an electrical cord from her daughter’s house to the center for power.  The site drops off steeply to the river below right above where the kids play football, run, and play.  For a while now, they have been in real need of a new building.
Recently, eMi (Engineering Ministry International) provided a design team (for free) fromPlan View_Diagram the US and completed a simple design for a new community center made out of prefabricated panels that would be very affordable to construct.  In addition, a new site design was completed that added retaining walls, play areas, and a small futbol field.  The necessary building permits have been given and the actual building process of the main room (salon) is to start. Actual cost of building the ‘Salón Communal’ is less than $10,000. That funding has been given. Further funding is required to complete the bathrooms (Baños – beside the aulas or classrooms), 3 small classrooms, a small community soccer field (at the bottom) and to complete basic property security. All of this provides greater opportunities to transform the surrounding communities for Jesus.
This is an amazing story of hope out of darkness.  One couldn’t imagine that such a tiny lady as Cecilia would be capable of bringing about such profound changes in the community.  Yet Cecilia doesn’t talk to anyone about anything without talking about Jesus.  Her deep love for the Father is what compels her in all that she does.  Currently her daughter, Carmen, is taking over the ministry in this community and Cecilia has moved to La Lidia, an even poorer community about 3 hours east where she has started a similar community ministry.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you would like to help out financially with the completion of this community center in Guizaros, you can donate your giving to either 1. any Christian & Missionary church and mark your cheque SunCompassion – Costa Rica or 2. go on-line at this page, fill out the page and choose Costa Rica.

We are Live!

This is the first official blog on our new site. You may ask of all the names out there to choose from, why livepassion.ca? Because we want to live our passion, what God has instilled in us because of the personal relationship we have in Him through Jesus. Because we want to live our passion, that God has prepared for us, everyday. Have you ever wondered why God has you in this or that job, living through this or that circumstance, and experiencing life in this or that way? I remember over the last 25 years, as I worked in a seemingly non-linear pathway, I asked myself those questions often. I am continuing to learn that I need to live my passion, and trusting in God that He is directing my steps. Now I can look back and say… AHA! that is why I experienced this or that. Daily, it allows me to live my passion deeper and fuller. I just wonder what will tomorrow be like!

The pictures on the website header are of a few of the people that cross our path in the various countries we have been in. We get to learn passion from people like them.

A brief update of what is happening with us. The project of building a women’s shelter/medical clinic in the Copper Canyon of northern Mexico is advancing. This project was chosen by the National Women’s ministry of the Christian & Missionary Alliance for its 2013/14 fund raising project. I was with the video team recently deep in the Canyon as the video was put together to share the story to the churches in Canada. An engineering ministry (eMi) is donating an architect and design team to design the building. This will occur this August.

In Costa Rica, in the barrio of Guizaros, we work with Cecilia and her family. We are able to move ahead with plans to revamp their community ministry centre and how they use their land. Again, eMi donated a architect and a earth engineer to make a plan. We hope to start building the first phase in May of this year with money that has been donated.

As many of you know, we had the privilege of teaming up with some donors from Canada to get 50+ kids into elementary school that otherwise would not be able to attend. We were able purchase uniforms, shoes and school supplies. This resulted in a problem, but a good problem. There were not enough text books for all the students so we were able to help supply these books for 20 kids.

Linda continues to send out weekly prayer needs and she is grateful for those who have chosen to join the team in this way. It is gratifying to see the prayer requests go both ways and be part of seeing God respond. If you would like to be part of this let us know. It’s not hard, you talk everyday. Now you’re just adding God to the equation and watching Him work.

What do you think of the website? Let us know. Add a comment with your thoughts to the “What is J & C?”

We Have Proof…

We have proof…that God is at work! Our last two days of work needs it’s own blog to describe how we have seen God at work, literally!
We left for the Limón prison to be with a team from the Alliance “jungle” church for their weekly visit to a men’s high-security jail. They expected to have 2 baptisms. When we got there, 6 men wanted to be baptized. Here is Linda’s description of what happened. (Sorry, no pictures as I couldn’t take my camera in).
What made me come alive yesterday was walking into the Limon Prison & stepping into what could’ve been the New Testament! What an experience to witness a Christ-movement. Wow!
We were invited by our Alliance Sarapaqui Pastors to attend a baptism of 2 men from their prison ministry & God began moving in their hearts before we even came. Two men were to give their testimony & be baptized but God had other plans. Yesterday not only 2 were dunked in a  40 gallon barrel but 20!
My mind was thinkin’ “this must be what happened when Christ would come into a town, preach & started baptizing”. Well, the same movement happened yesterday with Pastor Rodrigo preaching & inviting men to radically change their lives, & proclaim that they are Christ’s. What started out as 2 became 6, & as the men heard the Pastor & Curtis praying for them, saw these prisoners make a proclamation of faith, it had men passing the small bucket outside to get more water so that MORE men could be baptized as well.
I had so many thoughts racing through my mind & heart this afternoon. Yesterday I experienced what salvation, in a very dark place, looked like. I saw GRACE in action, I saw tenderness on hardened men as they sang or stood in adoration after the ceremony, I could almost hear the angels rejoicing over not just 2 but 20! Tears flowed down my face as I thought of what Christ would do for one lost sheep but He brought 20 home!!
This was a day that my heart resonated loudly & saw the power of the Spirit move in these men’s hearts. I didn’t understand all that was said (it was all in Spanish) but I could see the impact of the presence among these men today.
My last farewell to these men as we left the prison was seeing them clasped together in cuffs to be taken back to the barracks. What were freed men in Christ today are still chained men to their consequence of their sin.

The next day, we visited Cecilia and her family. If you have been following our adventures, you know who she is. If you don’t, you need to look at past blogs. She moved to a community called La Lidia. 
La Lidia is a community far from nowhere. We drove a really bad road to get there, past fields of yuca, pineapple and banana. If you can find work, you find it as a laborer in one of these fields. It’s common to get up at 3am, cycle to work by 4am and work till 4pm. Lunch is very short as you would rather keep moving in the heat that just sitting there. All for $10/day. Houses are made of plastic over a wooden branch frame or if you have the skills to make a house from tree, you make a makeshift building. 
Cecilia knows that these people need Christ. She has become a mother to many. Yesterday for the weekly kid’s program, there were 70 kids. She told me she gets as many as 130. It’s a day filled with music, games and Sunday School. (Then there is the women’s ministry…another time)
Many come everyday just to hang out and get food. I do not know how she does this as the family makes about $400/month. The kids are loved and and taught Biblical values and morals. I had a blast. For hours, I played foose ball on this old table that we would normally use for firewood! The kids kept repeating my name so they could get the pronunciation correct. Living conditions are so poor. A 13 year old girl has basically lived on green plantains (cooking bananas) for the last 6 months. I talked with two boys who have absolutely nothing, even food and they rely on Cecilia and her family. Most of these kids cannot read. Those that can afford to go to school (about $150/yr), still can’t read and they certainly don’t get the 3 “R’s”. Most of the kids are barefoot. At the mininum, 70 pairs of shoes are needed for the kids that are at the local school.
Cecilia, her husband Marcos, and their son and wife, Gerson and Rocio, have the biggest hearts. Wow! They hope to add 6 computers + English + more reading + more math…. to their program to give the kids a future and hope.  Please pray for them as they will be hosting 4 different Christmas parties for about 650 kids this month. She says “God will provide” and He does. 
Can you help? You are part of the answer! If you can help financially, support for food or schooling or shoes or a Christmas fiesta, email me at suncompassionla@gmail.com and we can work together to help out.

Guatemala to Columbia

Linda and Cecilia with the police

It’s been a busy fall and God has been very faithful (no surprise there). We took Cecilia (from Costa Rica) up to El Salvador to meet with other like-minded leaders who work very hard in their communities with their own ministries. She fit right in and it was great for her to know that she is part of a larger network of Christ-followers who want to change their own community for the better.  One of the six police officers guarding us during the meetings was baptized! Nicaragua was a great time meeting with C&MA pastors from all over Central America. This meeting was extra-special as 5 Alliance churches from Peru partnered with 5 churches in Central America to help with leadership development and training of pastors. It is so encouraging to see strong national churches coming along side their weaker brothers.

Bird feathers from a Mayan witch doctor stuck to the cross

In Guatemala, I joined a mission team from Stony Plain Alliance for 5 days up in TacTic. This was a great time for me getting to know some of the people from Stony Plain. I got to see missions through their eyes and it made me see things in a brand new way. I also got to see this ministry that several Alliance churches support. I spent time with the leadership and made an evaluation for future possibilities. This area had a weird mix of Catholicism and Mayan god worship.  Afterwards I took a bus in Guatemala City where I spent time with Pastor Merari of Iglesia Galilea. I also sat in a workshop for pastors that presented some ministry perspectives from the book When Helping Hurts. I really enjoyed sitting down with Merari and dreaming of future opportunities. We talked about some leadership development of pastors in the area of community development and how we could come along side the community initiatives they have started.

The barrio I visited filled with the poor and disenfranchised.

Columbia was another 9 day trip. The first 5 days was South American C&MA Leaders/Mission conference. After talking with many pastors from Columbia, I was convinced that Columbia’s need for church training in initiatives of community development is vital. This was strengthened when I spent the next 4 days in Bogotá with the jefe of one of the largest community and development banks in the country. It grew out of the need in Alliance churches and now serves1300 people in small business loans and small business training. I visited a couple of the projects up in a barrio overlooking the city. It was the highlight of my trip as I met another “person of peace”. Someone who has a love of Christ for their community and is doing unbelievable things with being the “hands and feet of Jesus” to the poor. And through this, the Gospel is being shared. Her name is Lucy and she has the same heart as Cecilia. Wow!

Have you ever heard of the Leadership Matter Course? Hands down, it is THE best leadership development course I have been part of and its coming to Canada (Alberta) in the spring of 2014. It is filled with extremely practical and hands on learning that cements your leadership abilities into practice. Linda and I spent 12 straight days with 25 other learners here in CR. The trainers come from all over the world. An Amazing time.

Visited a maternity ward where 2 babies less than 2 hours old
were abandoned

December is fast approaching and for most, that means busyness too. We will be part of sharing Christmas with needy children from several communities. Jordan is able to come for a month and he will be a big part of this. Pray for these opportunities to share Christ with the kids and their parents. This weekend, we will be going to a baptism of a couple jail inmates. Very exciting to see them choose to express their relationship in Jesus this way. Also pray as we continue to work with the pastors from Sarapiqui in the use of resources and how to add a component of sustainability to their community outreach. Briana and her boy (Paul) will be coming down Boxing day so we will have the whole family together. We welcome Brem and Donna Frentz as the new VP of Global ministry (our bosses). Thank you for your continued support. We rely on you for partnering with us prayerfully and financially. If any of you want Linda’s weekly prayer letter, drop her a line at L7doell@gmail.com.
PS There will be a new website coming out where we will have a blog. Coming soon!

Plans CAN Change!

Food store just across the central valley from us

My plan was to write an update this morning but my lead-in has now changed. A 7.6 earthquake happened about 1 hour ago about 120 km. west of us and at a depth of 20km (very shallow). I have heard reports of cars bouncing (on their tires), buildings creaking and groaning and trees down. Communication lines are down due to the excessive use of the phone lines so there are no reports from Sámara (western Costa Rica) where the epicentre was. Pray for the people in the area. I was driving down our valley at the time and did not feel it though I saw many people out on the street. One person motioned for me to slow down and I was trying to figure out why. Now I know. Linda heard the whoosh of the sound that a earthquake makes as it came down our valley. She said the ground was rolling for about 30 seconds. I am waiting to hear from some partner organizations about the need for a direct response.

Cecilia

There is always an adventure. We have several more on the immediate horizon. One of our corner stones in our community development philosophy is called CHE (Community Health Evangelism). Our focus over the next year is with the continued development of a leadership network. Linda and I leave for a regional meeting of CHE leaders in El Salavador on Friday for 5 days. We are taking Cecilia, a local who has tremendous potential with us to introduce her to like-minded people. It will be her first time in a plane. You may have remembered me talking about her previously. She has a huge love for God and a huge desire to impact communities around her through feeding programs/VBS programs for kids and starting women groups that study the Bible. Pray for Linda and I as this is totally in Spanish with no opportunity for English. I have been asked for a 20 min presentation. Wow! Pray for a deepening relationship and future ministry focus with Cecilia.

We are back a few days and then I am off to Nicaragua for the annual Alliance pastor’s retreat for Central America. Linda is staying home to man the fort. We are traveling by bus up to Managua. Another adventure but I am looking forward to spending some time with the guys and getting to know them better. There are 22  of us. Thankfully it’s not a “chicken” bus.

Playing with the kids in Guatemala

Days later, the adventure continues as I travel to Guatemala. Linda will be staying behind to be a “Mom” for the Derksen girls as the parent are in another country.  There are several Canadian Alliance churches who have partnered with Impact Ministries in Tactic, Guatemala. Impact focuses on working with the Mayan population and having an impact on the poor and uneducated. I will join Stony Plain Alliance for several days before taking a bus down to Guatemala City to meet with local Alliance pastors that I am praying that doors will open where we can partner with them and empower them in some of their local community development initiatives.

Columbia is next as I travel to meet with Latino Alliance leaders for several days. Afterwards, I have been invited to travel north of Bogota through the mountains to visit churches where the national Alliance church has been part of an organization that provides micro-loans to the poor. I am looking forward to learning from their experience and seeing how God has used this valuable community development tool in so many ways.

Drug Rehab homes for a 1 year stay

Thank you for your continued support through prayer and giving.  If you want to be part of Linda’s prayer letter, contact her at L7doell@gmail.com. There is always a need for financial help. One Alliance church donated a sum that is directed to helping a local CR church with their community development focus in working with a drug rehab program. We have many ways that you can help. Ask!

Guatemala, Mexico and More

Things are frantic around here as we plan and pack for 1 month of traveling. We have to pack for the heat and humidity of Mexico and the rain, dryness, heat, snow, cold and mosquitos of Canada. We have regional meetings in Mexico (that’s where the biggest group of International Worker’s live) and then we travel up to Canada for General Assembly in Winnipeg but more about that later.

Last I wrote, we hade two trips ahead. One to Guatemala and a return trip to the Tarahumara of Mexico. First, I had gone to Guatemala to join in a week-long YWAM-sponsored course on micro-loans focusing on the poor of Latin-America. This course was arranged by a local Alliance church, Iglesia Galilea. They have a focused community development program with schools, smokeless stoves and building new housing structures. We were shown a Mayan village where they have a strong ministry focus. This village gets shut off every raining season because there are 4 rivers to cross to get there. I had a great time playing with the kids at the local school. A special part of this course was that many from the community and local government attended so they could in-turn help their community. And they all were presented with a clear message of the Gospel and the Biblical theology of why you help others in need!  It was all in Spanish so I lasted pretty well through the first 3 days before my brain just didn’t want to work anymore. The course was informative and I was able to take away many highlights.  I had several outside meetings with other ministries that could lead into strong partnerships. I love how God brings these people into my path. It happens over and over. We also spent some time in Antigua. It’s a beautiful place to see.

On our return trip to the Copper Canyon, Linda and I brought in another $18,000 that many of you gave to the Global Emergency Relief Fund of the C&MA. Based on our last trip, this will buy about 14 tons of food that will be distributed to about 1700-1800 people. We did not have an Alliance Men’s work team to help us so I was wondering how we would be able to separate the 100lbs sack of food into 1 kg bags without a big group. When we were in Guacayvo, the kids came through and I think we were ready to distribute earlier than when the adults had helped :).  After providing a hot meal and Pastor Tomás giving the Gospel to the group, we gave out food to about 225 families. This was less than last time as it was reported to us that many were sick and could not make the hike. We went to the second village, the same area as last time, but we went a bit further in to a more central meeting point. At one point in the traveling, we crossed over a dirt airstrip and we were told this was a drug cartel airstrip. Here we fed about 180 families. This was also less than less time but many of the males had been literally taken by the military to “volunteer” to fight forest fires. For both villages, we were joined by a Dr from Virginia who was on his 18th volunteer trip in to run medical clinics. We also  were with 2 contractors who were doing an evaluation of water systems and buildings and drew up plans for a possible improvement project.  Again what a blessing to be part of this humanitarian aid. Pray as we plan for the next step. I am looking to take an agriculturist specialist and a Geologist/Water specialist as we look at finding a local spot to drill a well and provide much-needed water and build into the ability to expand their agriculture ability.

We will be in Winnipeg for a week for General Assembly C&MA. I have the privilege of being a co-presenter along with two other members of the world-wide Justice & Compassion team. Linda and I have 3 other speaking engagements that you are welcome to come to. At High River Baptist Church on June 28 at 7pm. At High River Alliance Church on July 8 at 10am and at Brooks Alliance Church on July 15 at for the morning service. And we get to spend time with family and friends!!!!

Alliance church with house at back

I want to leave you with one story from Guatemala. This was back in the woods near the Mayan village we went to that gets cut off by 4 rivers. We were getting a tour by a local Alliance pastor through the community and saw the church which Linda said it looked like an outhouse; but it was a building donated from a local owner. At one point, I had asked the pastor about his family but he didn’t answer me. Later, our guide told us this story. This pastor and his family had been living outside of the community. Their young son, less than 10 years old, was found dead on the river bank outside of the community. He had been sexually abused and then killed. The community took an active role in helping and they found the man who had done this. It turned out that several kids had disappeared in this community and everyone had their suspicions who had done it but nothing had been done judicially. Remember, we are back away from any large towns. This is also a culture that went through many years of civil war and the scars run deep. This time, the man was taken to the police and he is now in jail. Here is the scary thing. If the evidence against this man disappears, the local police have no reason to keep this man jailed. The family of this man have made several threats against this Alliance pastor, his wife and 2 remaining kids. If this family is killed, (remember the recent civil war) then there is no evidence against this sexual predator. If the family is killed, he is released back into their community.  The family is the only evidence that this child was killed in such a way. So they have moved to live immediately behind this little church for safety. This pastor says he will not move away. God has him and his family there for a reason. Please pray for his safety and God’s ability to work through this dangerous situation.

Almost 14 Tons of Food Aid

Well, the final numbers from March are in from providing an emergency food aid to the Tarahumara people group who live in the Copper Canyon area of Mexico. Almost 14 tons of food was purchased from funds provided by the Global Emergency Relief Fund of the C&MA. About a 1000 of the 1800 people served received about 50lbs of food that was to last them for several weeks. The rest receive about 25 lbs of food. The boarding school at Guacayvo received several weeks of food for the kids at the school who have nothing. And you may ask what is the point? Well, Isaiah 58 says to all of us that we are share our food with the hungry and provide the shelter for the homeless and cloth the naked so the the chains of injustice are broken and the oppressed are freed. And you know what, Linda and I get to do it all over again.

We travel back to the Copper Canyon for the last week of May. We saw evidence of how showing this love by giving needed food opened up hearts to hearing about what the love of Jesus is all about. And this in a culture where there is no word for “love”! Pray for us as we get to be apart of this amazing compassion response. Pray for the strengthening of relationships and hearts to be open to who Jesus is. Pray as we continue to evaluate the living conditions of the Tarahumara and how sustainable responses to their poverty and health can be addressed.

Back in Costa Rica, we continue to work with a group of Nicaraguan women in a barrio. They have a weekly Bible study and they have committed to reach into their community through a sewing cooperative. We met with the cooperative leadership last week for a leadership development training time. It’s is so exciting to see them take ownership of their community. The group received their first big order – 40 bags!

Along this line of sewing…we are finding that sewing machines are a tool of community development that works. Another local community would like to start a cooperative. With that being said, I have a question for all of you. A thrift store in Salmon Arm wants to donate sewing machines. But the question is how do we get them down here. Any ideas? One idea given is to ship them down. Anybody have any expertise in this area? Is anybody willing to ship them down (by boat) for us? Lot’s of questions. I need to compare the cost of shipping vs the cost of buying new machines local (but imported). Let me know.

Our schedule until mid-July is busy. May 11, I fly to Guatemala for a YWAM sponsored micro-business training session. I will be there for a week. After one day at home, Linda and I will be in the Copper Canyon for an additional short-term food aid. One week there, 2 weeks at home and then we are gone for a month. This includes a regional ministry retreat in Mexico and flying up to Canada for General Assembly. We will have 12 days in the Calgary area that I am looking forward to.

Some of you have been giving to our Approved Special account. This is a ministry directed account. It is called “The Patarra Project“. Patarra is the barrio where the soup kitchen is and the kids that need help with either food or schooling costs. Because our community development work in Costa Rica is expanding in coming along churches that also are part of addiction counseling and prison ministry, we have had to change our Approved Special focus. It is now called “SunCompassion / Costa Rica” which better reflects our justice and compassion work in this country. So if you would like to give directly to an area, designate it to SunCompassion / Costa Rica and let us know what area you want it directed to. I also want to thank those that give to the Global Advance Fund. This is what supports International Workers world-wide with their living costs.

Tarahumara Part Dos

I fully expected to get to the second part of our Mexico trip quickly but emergency gallbladder surgery and all the pain leading up to it lead me down a different path. Here goes Part 2.

Flying into Ciudad Juarez, we just didn’t know what to expect. We were told it was the most dangerous city in the world. In actuality, it is one of the most dangerous cities in the world but in reality, it is like any other city in the world, where there is danger for the unwary. Thankfully, the cartels are taking it easy until government elections in July when there is a general fear the street fighting will start up again. Brenda, a ministry team leader for the Tarahumara, said to us it so difficult not to stop when you see someone bleeding out in the street, knowing you cannot stop for fear of your own life. Life is so different in other places and as we hadn’t been to see the people of the Tarahumara yet, I didn’t realize how true that statement is – Life is so different in other places. Yet, our God is God of it all.

Rio Chico

We are in Mexico because of the food problem. The people of the Tarahumara don’t have any. People are dying. Suicide due to lack of hope is high. From the Global Emergency Relief Fund of the C&MA of Canada, we were bringing in an $18,000 installment for food aid, to supply food to about 300 families that Pastor Tomás and his Mexican ministry team were working with. Except the money transfer did not arrive on time but God was faithful to provide. We left for Rio Chico the morning after arriving in Juaréz. We had eight hours of driving across the Sierras. Rio Chico is the mid-way point to the Copper Canyon. It is a camp that Pastor Tomás and his team built that serves the youth of the Juaréz area. Many Alliance churches in western Canada and in the States along with the Alliance Men’s work teams had a hand in making this camp happen.

There was at least another 8-10 hour drive to the Canyon and we still had to buy food. We bought almost 8 tons or 71 metric tonnes of food that morning before heading out in a convoy of 5 vehicles including an Alliance Men’s work team that was coming to help with the food distribution. Our destination was Guacayvo, the boarding school located deep in the Copper Canyon. Linda says she is thankful we arrived there at night. I remember seeing a pin point of light as I looked straight down into the darkness of the Canyon. I found out that was where we were going….over 2000 ft straight down over a road so tight that the 1/2 ton could not make it around a switch back or two in one turn. Two of our vehicles, including the food transport truck had to stay at the top as they just couldn’t handle the road down.

We arrived at the boarding school. The school was originally built as a contact point with the local Tarahumara to show them the Gospel through love and action. The local kids had no school option. And the parents you need to understand, in their culture, school is not important, it is not a cultural value. But, you would receive food there so parents started to drop their kids off. Literally, drop them off. There are kids there that no one knows who the parents are!!! The government supplies a local teacher and now kids are receiving some learning too. The road down to the school is only 2 years old so for the previous 10 years, everything was carried in by burro over hours of trails. When I say everything, that means all the food, the cement to build the school and the 600lb wood stove to cook the food and more.

In the morning, we saw where we were. Astounding. In a valley, deeeepp in a valley, miles from everywhere with no signs of local civilization. Yet the word was out…there was to be food given. People started coming out of the rock, literally, walking over 8 hours knowing they would get a hot meal and a bag of food. We had to ferry the food down from the top of the canyon and start separating the food into smaller packets. We had rice, beans, flour, corn meal, pasta, oil….each family group receiving over 25 lbs of food. I had a census done and I figure we supplied food to about 935 people that day.

And this was only our first group of the Tarahumara to feed. The adventure would continue…

Isa 58:6-7 says

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: 
to loose the chains of injustice 
   and untie the cords of the yoke, 
to set the oppressed free 
   and break every yoke? 
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry 
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— 
when you see the naked, to clothe them,

Our Week with the Tarahumara

There are so many places I could start writing about last week in Northern Mexico in the Copper Canyon or (Barranca del Cobres). So many God stories! As the Compassion Track leader for the C&MA for this part of the world, I am always looking for our niche, where God points us in the direction we are to follow. When I heard about Pastor Tomás’ ministry to the Tarahumara, I instinctively knew I needed to explore this. What a journey this has led Linda and I on! I am still working internally through what we experienced. So I am thinking that this will be a 3 part series to get some of it out and written.

Through the Global Emergency Relief Fund of the C&MA, I submitted a proposal for a $36,000 emergency food aid to the Tarahumara people that Pastor Tomás works with directly. Now you may think that this amount of money is a large sum and that will buy a good amount of food,  it is and it does. But when you measure it against the need….I am still overwhelmed.

There are between 50,000-70,000 Tarahumara people living in the Copper Canyon. Many years ago, there were over a million. They have become a forgotten people, ignored by the government to the point of becoming extinct. One news report team recently called the Tarahumara “the poorest people in the world”. Seventeen years ago, Pastor Tomás and his sidekick Brenda were led to reach out to this people group. Travelling for hours and days on burros and walking  through the canyons, they searched out the people. As Pastor Tomás told me last week, these people have been waiting over 2000 years to hear about the life-saving love of Jesus.

The Tarahumara do not have a word for “love. That makes it kind of hard to share that concept. Each group of this people has a dialect that is just a bit different but between them, they can make themselves understood. There has been little to no interaction between the various groups. As one Tarahumara leader said, after seeing Tomás’ unfailing commitment to them of walking through the canyons and helping out wherever he could with food and medical help, they began to accept him and understand that this man was not going away. This opened the door to the Gospel. Last week, Tomás had tears in his eyes as he explained to me that through the growth of new believers, the interaction is starting to be shared between Tarahumara groups for the purpose of sharing the Gospel (after 17 years).

You and I would think their living conditions as completely unacceptable. Most live in caves.  They usually marry when they reach 12 or 13 years of age. There is rampant abuse of all kinds. Water is a luxury. Imagine hiking 4 or 6 hours or even more just to get some water. I met a girl of 13 with a child. Then Linda told me of a 16 year old with 6 children. Yes, you read that right! While giving food to one group, there was a unfamiliar smell in the air, but then I realized I was down-wind. It was the basic odours of humanity. There has been much written about the lack of disease and lack of medical problems with the Tarahumara. But it is still prevalent. TB is a killer. Hunger…Suicide…. It seems like if the kids can get past the age of 10, they have a greater chance of growing old but up to 50% die before reaching 10. Lack of water and the availability of food are enormous issues.

So you may thinking, how and why should we help these people? There are those that would say, let’s move them into a town where there are hospitals and laws and water and bathrooms or that we need to educate them and teach them what is right and wrong according to…. Others have said leave them alone, they have survived to this point in time…

Let me leave you until the next time with this. Read Isaiah 58:6-9.
In my mind, how we are supposed to deal with this is straightforward.
My question to you “how do these few verse relate to you and your community that you live in?”
Oh ya, give to the Global Emergency Relief Fund!

PS. Click here to see many of the pictures from this first trip. 

A quick note…then the Copper Canyon

Just a quick note as we want to keep you updated and we treasure
your praying. We are continuing to get together every Tuesday afternoon with our group of Tica and Nica (Costa Rican and Nicaraguan) ladies for their time of fellowship and worship. Praying Latina-women-style is quite something. The faith shown  is amazing. The noise is mind-blowing. It’s also our time to do some training in basic community transformation issues like the value of woman, understanding money, leadership and working within a cooperative. As Cecilia, a local leader, said yesterday, “It’s all about salvation!”. With the sewing cooperative that has developed, the last 1.5  hours are spent sewing. A leadership group has been chosen. Please pray as we are part of the development of this amazing opportunity of creating self-worth, skills and livelihood opportunities. We are now up to 8 sewing machines for 18 ladies. AND another group wants to get started in a nearby community! Pray for direction.

Next week, Linda and I are off to Mexico, specifically the Copper Canyon area to meet with Pastor Tomás and his team. They work with the Turahumara group of people. After 17 years of ministry, this team is making inroads into this indigenous group. There are are 50,000 people living in and around a canyon that is bigger than the Grand Canyon. The problem is that in many ways, these are a forgotten people so many C&MA churches have sent short-term missions teams into this area. Lot’s has been accomplished.

Yet….I watched a short video this morning about When a NGO Admits Failure. Take a look.  We are going in with an emergency food aid for the people in the region. Drought, lack of food and medical problems are problematic. It has been reported that less than 50% of kids in this people group reach the age of 10. In one community of 300 families where this Mexican mission team works, 98 people of have died in the last 3 years. Our plan is to bring in emergency funding from the Global Emergency Response Fund of the C&MA Canada to address immediate food supply problems. We will be exploring how we can come along side the local ministry goals and work together to create a sustainable answer to the physical problems. Pray as we meet, as we travel and see. We need open eyes and open hearts to see the needs and how we can be part of a long-term solution. As I write this, I am hearing that timing will be very tight with the transferring of funds to purchase the food. Please pray for the details to work out.