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.
Our time back has been full of fun and excitement as we welcomed in a new member to our family. Maxima or Max is a Great Dane pup that we are getting to know. She is about 6 months old and like all Great Danes, seems to grow every day. She is about 50 lbs and should be double that when full-grown. She loves to cuddle and she tries to take up the whole couch when she relaxes with Linda.
As we look back on our 3 months in Canada, we think of all the blessings we received through the building of new friendships and strengthening of old ones. We didn’t plan on being part of the Alliance response to the Slave Lake (SP video report) wildfires but it was a highlight as we met amazing people and say God’s hand at work amongst the strife and heartache. We touch based with 12 churches and we walked away encouraged by what we saw God doing with His people. I was invited to observe the Canadian Food Grain Bank (CFGB) board meetings as an Alliance attendee. I am excited as I envision the food programming needs we can look towards within our community development focus. I will be joining a CFGB group as we tour food programs in Honduras this fall. As I write, I’m distracted as I think about all that we saw and did and the people we met. It was a rich time for us.
Our kids and our extended family were a highlight too. For the summer, Jordan and Briana are working out at Lake of the Trees Camp in BC. We were able to spend a day with them and see why they thrive out there as they invest in the lives of others. Pray for this fall as they look for guidance in their decision making. Jordan is returning to Ambrose for his 3rd year. Briana has very recently shifted directions and will be pursuing her EMT/Medic qualifications.
I mentioned earlier about “mini’ culture shocks. We are experiencing one right now. As many of you know, while we were in Canada, other Alliance personnel had borrowed our vehicle and the transmission gave out on them. Well, after approx. 2 months, it is still in the shop. My plan this week is to sit at the shop every day until it’s done and done well. (Another one) As I write, I’m munching on a cookie that some ants had got to. You can’t waste a good chocolate chip oatmeal cookie so you throw them in the freezer, kill the ants and voila, just brush the dead ants off. In the last weeks, our time has been filled with more ministry development as I am starting to put together the package for our disaster response teams as well as doing some translation work for a community development program. Linda is exploring how we can initiate an intentional daily prayer program that will provide the basis for a sharing of our prayer needs with you and you sharing your prayer needs with us. Before I forget, Linda and I need to return to Canada (Calgary) for a few days in August to meet with Alliance medical personnel as part of our insurance fulfillment responsibilities. Maybe we might run into each other.
Linda and I are very excited to be back though there are always little apprehensions that occur as you ask yourself if God has the right person here for the job. Pray for us for these little spiritual battles. Pray for other international workers as these spiritual battles are very real for them too. We pray for the churches we met with and the needs that were shared. Pray for our continued stepping forward in faith as the Spirit leads. We have not had a financial update lately but also pray for the financial needs of our vehicle, and the general giving to the GAF fund that supports the work of C&MA international workers world-wide.
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Who would have thought that Linda and I would be asked to go to Slave Lake for the C&MA relief effort? God knew! Linda and I had the privilege of spending 10 days in total in 2 different time frames coming along side the Slave Lake Alliance church. We arrived 3 days before the town people were allowed in. Having never have been there before, we were not quite sure where along highway 2 it was located. But as we drove over the red fire retardant coating the highways and trees dropped from water bombers and smelled that old smoky smell that all firefighters know, we knew were getting close. The devastation as we entered the town left us speechless. That sensation did not leave us while we were there as we listened over and over to the individual stories of the people affected. To hear a story, all we had to do in passing was ask how the person was doing. Without fail, we stood there 20-30 minutes as we heard their story of escape, their feelings of desperation and their sense of hopelessness as they saw their homes and town burning around them.
The local Alliance church building was spared so as we partnered with the Disaster Response unit of Samaritan’s purse, this became our base of operations. This included twice daily briefings by the provincial emergency operations crew that included police, fire and town officials as well as some NGO representation. Approx. 30-50 people in a room making decisions on how best to save the town and how to bring life back to normal so that the people could return.
But as we worked with the community members in our response, we quickly realized that it will be many months, maybe even years before “normal” would be the norm. Once the people returned (those with undamaged houses), they began the hard work of cleaning up, removing fridges/freezers that had spoiled and rotted food from 2 weeks without electricity. The grieving process started as they saw the state of their homes and of their town. People feeling guilt and anger as their home stood undamaged in the middle of all the destruction while others felt guilt and anger as they looked and stood in the cinders of their home at the undamaged houses around them.
The Alliance church had been praying for an opening into the community. Pastor Ottenbreit said afterwards, that the door could not get wider than this. Seven homes within the Alliance congregation were destroyed. Everyone in the church, everyone in the town had difficulties with internalizing what had happened and how to respond as individuals and as a community. Coping skills are saturated and worn out. The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team responded. These are chaplains trained in trauma counseling and critical incidence debriefing. Seventeen volunteers from Alliance churches across Alberta volunteered their time and emotional energy to come and serve the people of Slave Lake for 2-4 days. They received basic chaplain training and we sent them out to the hurting people. The stories we heard! But the exhilaration people felt as they saw God at work using them as the “hands and feet of Jesus” was indescribable. These volunteers went out to where the people were – in the coffee shops, in the campgrounds, in the donation sorting facility…wherever. The town has a long way to go. I ask that you continue to pray for the people of Slave Lake. Also pray for the Alliance church as they have made significant inroads in the community and town leadership for Christ.
We did not know that this was going to be part of our 3 months in Canada. But we are thankful that we got to be part of it for many reasons. The relationships we formed will be life-lasting. The God-experiences we were part of were incredibly faith-building. We have less than three weeks to go before we head back to Costa Rica. We said goodbye to Jordan and Briana this weekend as they headed off to be camp counselors for the summer. We are hoping to see them once or twice more before we go. I fly off to Winnipeg to be an observer to the Canadian Food Grains Bank board meetings this week. This will give Linda to rest and catch her breath after a whirlwind few weeks of speaking in churches, back and forth from Slave Lake. I have also been able to fit in some cardiologist appointments. It’s amazing how God can orchestrate our schedules.
We have 3 more churches to have meetings with or give presentations at. I don’t think we have a day free until we go due to family times and “things to do”. We have been richly blessed by the new relationships we have formed and by others that have been strengthened.
We ask you to uphold us in prayer for a few things
– safety in traveling
– closure as we leave Canada for another 2 years
– for the raising of $6000 for our ministry vehicle
– for continued learning of Spanish as we reintegrate back in to Spanish culture
– as we move forward in ministry initiatives focusing on transformational community development
– continues giving to the Global Advance Fund which funds International Workers