Wednesday, 18 April 2018

ADIOS


 This weekend began our group farewells...and groups they were.  The gym ladies threw me a farewell breakfast and 30 showed up! I was overwhelmed by the love of these people who I  see daily.  A speech was given by one of the ladies on behalf of the group.  I then responded to that, which led us all to tears.

Basically my speech is a version of the same.  I may have been invited to a gym (for exercise) but I actually got invited into a family.  That I was taking each one of them along in my heart.  That it hurt to leave but would hurt a little less once I was with my (blood) family.  I thanked them for their love, their acceptance, and for all the good times we shared.

That same afternoon the gym men threw a lunch for Ernie.  Again, a fairly large group came, and, being less emotional than women, they sat around, ate, and chatted.  However, Ernie's table turned into a deep discussion on religion, faith, etc.  One made the comment that it took till Ernie's departure for him to have this kind of discussion with Ernie.  

Saturday we had the whole gym farewell, and they threw us a spectacular party.  A taquiza for our meal (tacos), then they brought in a full mariachi band for two hours.  The last song they played was called "Las Golondrinas" (The swallows).  It is a teary farewell song, during which everyone could file by and say good bye.  Tears were a plenty. 

These are the people we have shared our lives with on a daily basis.  Sure, we went for exercise, but we were also a family.  We celebrated birthdays together, anniversaries, had field trips, etc, etc. We shared our lives with each other.

I have made the comment often, in recent weeks, that if you have never lived within a latin community you can not understand how they take you in, embrace you, love on you, make you one of them.  It is an overwhelming feeling.

Taking that into account, leaving this community is heart wrenching and painful.  While it is not the first time we have done this, it hurts the same each time.

It is double hard because our own culture is less like them.  We are more reserved, less embracing, and each person has their own 'personal space' factor (you can have one in Latin America but they don't respect it).

When they choose you, you are chosen.  We not only know them, but their children as well. They shared their families with us.  Parents, children, some aunts and uncles, grandparents.  It is a wonderful culture to live in.
The kids of our friends
 Then after two days of gym good byes ... we had a farewell by our neighbours.  Within our 'coto' (gated community) I was asked to join the ladies breakfast group.  We got together once a month to celebrate whoever had a birthday that month.  These ladies were wonderful and I love them a bunch.  
Now, while the ladies are good friends, the men never really got together.  Ernie became friends with most of them and therefore we made this a family event.  He also became friends with their adult children.  

So we had a lovely Sunday afternoon together with a fabulous 'carne asada" (bbq).  That means, barbecued meat, chorizo (sausage), onions, served with quesadillas, beans, guacamole, nopales (cactus), etc.  

While the meal was fabulous it's the people that make it special.  We also felt that Coto Los Narañjos was home.  We had a community where we felt safe, felt a sense of community and family.  This too will be missed.

So we are now on our last week.  Our final good byes are getting said, our boxes are packed, and our looking forward has begun. 

There is a saying here "El que mucho se despide pocas ganas tiene de irse" which means, 'he who says good bye often has little desire to leave'.  And that has been the case.  So we are throwing one last farewell to give people one last chance to say Adios.  
We will host an open house on Sunday, for the day, serving snacks.  It will be a long, emotional day, filled with tears and laughter.  

God is good.  He has been faithful.  We leave with holes in our hearts that will heal with time as we reflect on the good times.  And the world is smaller... so we'll stay in touch!! 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

United we stand...

On Sunday we got together with a cell group for a farewell luncheon.  We were enjoying a wonderful afternoon together when a phone call came through, to one of the guests, asking for help - their house was at risk due to a forest fire!

Our group broke up quickly, the men went off directly to help, the women began to clean up and those who couldn't go to help, left. Within little time we were off.

The connection to the people, whose houses were at risk, was via a friendship through children who are dating.

It was increíble to try and help people who were extremely tired from having fought the fire for quite some time.  They were so touched that we came. It was an emotional event, which drew us all together, as we fought together against the same threat. Bonds were formed and strengthened.

Recently another event, on a much larger scale, did the same thing, but to a country. The Humboldt Saskatchewan tragedy brought Canada and beyond together.  The response to this event was monumental.  The hockey community pulled together with an outpouring of support.  It was covered in every social media site, news, T.V., etc.



My son made the comment that hockey was the greatest sport in that way, it was a community spanning teams, leagues, countries, etc.  There was a joining together, a solidarity.

I want to make a comment regarding that solidarity, that joining together, to help and give support.  

This is what the church is to be.  Jesus said that the world would recognize us by our love for one another.  Do they? Not only in tragedy, but in all aspects.  Do we join together? Do we support one another? Do we love so outrageously that people are amazed by us? 

Or do we argue? Do we fight? Do we dislike (hate) more than we love? 

Sadly I think we have failed to show the world how great it is to be a member of the family of God. I think we could be a better example to the lost world. Let's put aside our 'jerseys' and come together in solidarity to show the world what the Kingdom of God looks like.

In both cases: our response to the forest fire on Sunday, and the response to the Humboldt tragedy, I believe the better side of humanity was displayed, maybe even that part that reflects the fact that we are 'image bearers' (Genesis 1:26-27). Wouldn't it be great if we could see that side more often?



Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Nearing the End

As I sit here, outside on the patio, having breakfast and writing this blog...I ponder how this is soon to end.  This sitting outside and enjoying the wonderful weather, eating outside without bugs! Alas, all good things seem to come to an end.

We turned in our house at the end of March.  What a job that was! Going through our things, having thought we didn't have much! Trying to sort of pack, but needing some things.  Selling some things.  And then that least favourite part...cleaning!

Our neighbours made the comment that we sure were cleaning a lot, and that just isn't done here. They leave the house a mess, if not totally trashed, when they move out.  We left it so that you could eat off the floor!  We knew that they are coming in to paint, and fix some things, which would only mess things up again.  But, that is just how we do things!

So now we are settled into Reimer's house, as they are in Australia, visiting their children and grandchildren.  Why pay two rents when we don't need to?  It benefitted both of us. It is nice to have a bed again, not to mention a kitchen.  Our last couple of weeks we were on air mattresses and eating off disposable plates!

So, while we are in a state of deciding, keep it, gift it, or sell it, we continue on with our lives.  We go to the gym 5 days a week, mostly because that is where we see 'our' friends and want to do that as much as we can. We will miss this part of our lives a whole lot, the exercise and the people.

The exercise we can get wherever we are, technically, but not our coaches and instructors.  I will miss my classes even though they leave me done in.  I will also miss the ladies I take the classes with.

We also continue to get together with our study groups.  We were excited to graduate our Thursday ladies but are continuing with them till we return home.  We want to take the next little while to teach the rules of hermeneutics (how to interpret scripture).  They have grown so much that we want to give them all the tools possible to continue to study the Word of God.

We also continue with our Tuesday group. They are almost done book one of the TEE course on the Life of Jesus, based on the Gospel of Matthew.  They are a constant source of joy as they hunger to learn and grow.  They have asked to purchase the next two books before we leave and want to Skype us in on Tuesdays for now.

We have had some rich discussions together and have come to love them deeply.  We are excited about continuing to study with them across the miles.

Please pray for our friends as they continue to seek to grow their faith.

Our world is so much smaller and we can continue to encourage one another in our walks with Christ.

We are not counting the days yet but are very close to that being the case.

God has been faithful and will continue to be so, for he never changes, He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Study Groups!


Our Thursday Morning Group:
Sitting in front is Sandra with her newborn son, David.  Next to her is Lili and her son Leo.
In the back row are Ernie and myself.  I am hold Zaira's son.  Beside me is Lii, then Zaira and Mayra

As you can well imagine, Thursday mornings are a joy for us.  We are so very proud of this group for several reasons.

Firstly, Sandra (in blue) is the one who came to us and asked if we would be willing to lead a Bible Study for her, her sister and their friends.  She has a truly missional heart. We had one leave after the first few studies, and one asked to join later.  The picture above is of their recent graduation.  

We spend more than 40 hours together going through a TEE course together.  It was a panoramic study of the whole Bible.  They faithfully came, missing only when necessary.  They asked questions and demonstrated a willingness to learn.

Most of these ladies are from Catholic backgrounds.  They had a hunger to learn from Scripture, and more and more learned to trust Ernie, and asked very good questions.  We all learned together.

Now, as you can see from the picture, most of them came with kiddos.  So I could most often be found on the floor with said kiddos.
 My goal was to make it as easy as possible for them to learn, with the least amount of distractions. 
I came to really enjoy the kids, and they learned to love Ernie and I as well.  



Another thing that excites me is that they want to keep studying.  They loved learning how the bible was put together, that it isn't just a bunch of random stories.  They often saw things that made them question their own beliefs and asked questions that made us search for answers.  As already mentioned, we all grew together.  

They plan to continue with Tara Wiebe, and study the TEE course on the life of Jesus Christ, based on the book of Matthew. 

We are planning to continue with our group that studies on Tuesday nights.  They are just finishing book one of that six book series in Matthew.  They have asked for Ernie to continue to lead them via Skype.  So we will give that a go.

Our other group has finished both of the above mentioned courses.  Well, Paty has finished all of them.  Teo has finished the panoramic study, as has Bertha.  They at present are studying the Pentateuch.  This is a much more intense course.  We are working through it together, line by line.  We will see how they will proceed. 

It is such a blessing to study the scriptures with people who are eager to learn, and grow.  We have been richly blessed these past four years with great study groups. 

May we always desire to study the Word and be willing to help others understand its truths. 





Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Legacy

In today's Bible reading I was reminded of this photo.  In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul tells Timothy about the sincere faith "which first lived in your grandmother Lois, and in your mother Eunice."

Pictured with Ernie is part of the verse in real life.  Seated is Hermana Licha from the Fuente de Vida church in Chihuahua. Seated beside her is her daughter, Vivi.  Not pictured is Licha's mother, who has gone to her eternal reward.

Licha's mother was a godly woman, who passed her faith on to her daughter, who passed it on to her children, and her grandchildren. These saints modelled Christ-likness. One left a great legacy and it is carrying on in her children and grand children.

Licha is also the mother of Aldo, who was the pastor of the Fuente de Vida church in Chihuahua.  He, and his wife Rebecca, have also gone on to their eternal reward.  Aldo often spoke of his grandmother and her faith.

To the right is a post from Facebook that was posted by Licha's granddaughter, Sarahí. She quotes Proverbs 20:29 "The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old." She wishes her grandmother a happy birthday for her 80 'springs".  She speaks of the blessing of having her for a grandmother.

I am also honoured to have a godly mother as an example for me and for my children.  I am thankful for a rich family heritage of faith.  I am also blessed to have that same heritage for my children in my husband's family as well.

Now we may not all have that kind of heritage, or those wonderful examples in the faith, in our bloodline.  But there are always examples of godliness.  Look for them, search for role models of faithfulness.

Ernie and I also have a dear friend from San José de Gracia in Nicaragua. Doña Deborah is also in her 80s, and is a wonderful godly woman of faith. Every time we see her we say goodbye, wondering if it will be the last time, this side of glory. Doña Deborah is also leaving an amazing legacy of faith and faithfulness for her children and grandchildren. What will your legacy be?



Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Sometimes Actions Speak Louder than Words

I have gone to mass quite often since living in Guadalajara.  My reasons for attending have varied.  I have gone because someone has lost a loved one, I have attended infant baptisms, First Communions, and even mass prior to a birthday.

I love how Catholics go to mass to honour or to thank God for something.

The very first time I attended a mass here was for a first communion for the daughter of a friend.  The invitation stated the hour of the mass, which Parish it would be in, and then where and when the celebration (party) would be held afterwards.

I anticipated seeing all our friends from the gym at the mass, as they all tell us how Catholic they are.  Other than the family of the child whose first communion it was, one other lady from the gym was present!

But, for the after party/celebration...tons arrived for that! Was not the event the First Communion? Was not the whole thing religious? So why did most of them not attend?

The picture beside is from a Quinceañera we attended.  It too began with a mass.  Here too, the amount of people at the party, versus the amount who attended the mass, was very different.

I love the fact that there are many traditions and rituals, but it sometimes appears to evidence what we might call legalism or Phariseeism - bound to tradition but having forgotten the reason behind it.

Now, this is not a criticism of the Catholic Church.  I have attended beautiful masses, where the Priest has done a great job.  In the picture you can see the that priest is in front of the Quinceañera. He actually directed his talk to her.  He challenged her to guard her faith.  It was wonderful..

Whether one is evangelical or Catholic, one must guard their faith.  We need to make sure we don't just guard the traditions, but our faith as well. I sometimes liken the tradition to a Coke bottle, and the faith, or relationship with God, to the contents. You need the first to 'contain' the last, but there is no question as to which is the most important. We need to ensure that our faith is based upon Scripture and not on tradition.

I need to make sure that I am following Christ and not a tradition, or a person, or a 'religion'. I keep insisting, as I talk with people here, that it's not about religion but rather about relationship - a close, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, which changes my values, attitudes, and behaviour.




Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Cultural Differences

I am constantly amazed when living abroad.  I have lived in Latin America on and off for years.  I have live in Mexico for many of them.  But yet I often experience, or maybe rather notice, something new.

This weekend I went to a baby shower for my friend's upcoming grandchild.  Baby shower's are not something new for me; I have attended many.

My first observation about baby showers here was that I often got invited to them, when I did not even know the mother, sometimes never having even met her.

But, what I observed this time was that they have a baby shower for every child a mother has: first, second, third, etc.  We often only throw a shower for a first baby.

The next thing was that often the mother, or mother-in-law, hosts the baby shower for her grandchild.  I can't say that that is something we do in Manitoba.

They also go all out.  The place is all decorated; that's normal.  They serve a meal; not common in Canada.  We would more often have snacks.  They have a lovely, decorated dessert table, regardless if it is breakfast, lunch or supper.  They give party favours to all the guests.

My neighbour ladies who attended the shower
Standing is Tina, is the mother-in-law who hosted and her the very pregnant daughter-in-law
Lastly, they always know the gender of the child and have chosen a name.  I don't think that is common back home although maybe now it is.  In my day we wanted it to be a surprise and had names chosen for either gender.

This shower was hosted by my friend Tina, for her grandchild.  It is this couple's third child, all boys.  The child's name will be Iker. I had met the mother on a few occasions as I have attended some family events they have thrown.

It was a lovely morning.

On that same day, but in the evening, we attended a Quinceñera for our friends' 15 year old daughter.  We have attended many of these over the years.

A Quinceñera is the birthday thrown for a 15 year old daughter - it is a 'right of passage'.  A little like 'sweet sixteen' although much more significant (or a guy back in Canada getting his drivers licence).
Diane, Ernie, quinceañera en blue, her mother in pink, and the 'padrinos' - dad was busy when we took the pic
They usually thrown a huge party, often going into debt or saving for quite some time, in order to host it.  Depends of the economic situation of the family.

We have attended very elaborate ones and simple ones.

When I am at one of these, and I see a younger girl, I will often ask them if they want a big party like that.  I get varying responses, some say no, they would rather want a trip.  Some say yes, and then there are those that say they want both!

What I noticed this time around is that 15 is young.  She is a young lady but emphasis on young.

I noticed at this party that the young lady is highlighted in various ways.  She dances with her father and her God (padrino) Father.  Then she often preforms something.  I was at one where the young girl did aerial silk.  It was amazing.  This particular event the young lady danced with 3 professional male dancers.

This is what struck me, the way they danced.  The young men were older then her and you could tell they had practiced quite a bit.  Then they put her on a chair and danced for her!

 I thought it was maybe a little bit to much for a 15 year old girl, whereas everyone thought it was great!


But, a bit later, she danced with her father, her god father, and three other men.  They also had prepared this.  That was fun, but also something I can't see happening with my people back home but maybe it does happen...

Another thing I noticed again was how formal these things are and how Mexicans love to dress up.  I compare that to how informal we seem to have gotten back home.  I was shocked last time I was home to see people in shorts and flip flops at a wedding! NEVER, AND I MEAN NEVER, WOULD THAT HAPPEN IN MEXICO!

I have come to appreciate their love for formal events and their love of getting all dolled up.  The women often get their hair done and their make up professionally done.  Everyone always looks stunning.  Even the young people are all done up. Changes how people act.  It's nice.

So, we continue to learn and grow here.  We love so much about Mexico and its culture.  We will miss it tremendously.