Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Different...

"It's not better, it’s not worse, it's just different". Ask any one of Ernie's students about adjusting to culture and that is one of his first quotes.  We have a tendency to think our culture is the best one; that the way we do things is the 'right' way of doing things - that others are doing it 'wrong'.  Well, you can probably survive life with that attitude if you stay within your own culture, although the world is becoming more and more multi-cultural.  The chance of running into someone who does things 'wrong' is more and more likely.  

Having lived in Latin America before, we were not amazed when we ran into things that were 'different'.  Another thing Ernie has said over the years is, "You can choose to try to change millions of people or you can change yourself."  I think that the latter would be the better, and less frustrating, choice (although some people struggle with change).

I would like to share with you some of the things we absolutely LOVE about living in Latin American; Mexico in particular.  The first thing is the people group.  When God made Latins He did an amazing job!  I have said this before and I will say it again - Latins are the warmest and most embracing people.  From our neighbours, who have stopped to welcome us and offer to help us with anything, to the friendly smiling faces we meet though-out the day, or to the car next to us who helps with directions (cause we are lost once again). The well known phrase, "Mi Casa es su Casa", is true in its deepest sense. 

Time is another thing we love about this culture.  In North America we are time conscious; driven and managed by our watches. Latins however are people conscious.  If you are visiting with someone, and you have an appointment, you don't look at your watch and say you gotta go.  But rather you take your time and finish with the people you are with. You get there when you get there. 

The food!  Oh la la...have we had some great food already. We did arrive a little flavourless as our typical Mennonite food is a tad bit bland compared to the spicy Mexican cuisine.  We have enjoyed the tacos, the seafood, the flautas, the enchiladas, the avocados and mangos, and the list goes on.  I was hoping to lose weight here...that might be a bit of a challenge.

I will refrain from mentioning the weather...just know that I LOVE IT!!

There are, of course, some things we are needing to learn to appreciate.  The first thing that comes to mind is the whole ‘rules of the road’ and the actual roads themselves. Rules of the road are somewhat nebulous.  You can make a left hand turn from the extreme right hand lane!  The speed limit at times seems to be a suggestion.  When the traffic light switches to red, that does not mean they are all gonna stop; several cars will often still drive through.  Defensive driving is the only 'rule of the road'.  

smaller speed bumps!
The actual roads themselves are my challenge.  The streets have on average about three lanes. Said lanes are not made with painted lines but rather a 'knowing' to divide the street into thirds and stay roughly in your third!  So as you are trying to stay in your third, you must watch all other vehicles (as they could do any random thing), watch the lights and stop signs, and be on the lookout for speed bumps!  These are not your average little bumps, but small mountains which will give you air if you don't notice them.  There are 2 kinds, your regular small mountain kind or the button kind.  Slowing down is not an option but a must!  New tires should probably be in the upcoming budget.

Another thing we will have to adapt to (the sooner the better) is the size of Guadalajara itself. I remember living in Managua, Nicaragua and being given directions like, "una cuadra arriba, 3 al lago y 300 metros abajo."  Translated, 'one block up, 3 towards the lake and 300 meters down.'  No street signs to speak of, just land marks and this up and down thing.  Well, in GDL they have some street signs, and it might take you 6 blocks to find one, so you know what street you are on.  There is also this funny thing of the same street changing its name as it meanders through the city.  I am, at heart, a rural gal. Moving to a city the size of GDL has been overwhelming.  Finding our way around has been daunting at times, an adventure at others, and occasionally frustrating.  But, we figured out Managua, we figured out Chihuahua, and we shall figure out GDL.  I said I would NEVER drive in Managua, and I drove. I said I wouldn't drive in Chihuahua, but did. So the other day, to get it over with, I drove to the grocery store. THERE!

I am so very thankful that we are not new, green, first time, missionaries.  I don't have to battle with trying to communicate, I sort of speak Spanish :) I love the culture and the people.  So, basically we are just adjusting to living in a city of 4-7 million - just a tad larger than Steinbach!!  As Shrek said, "Change is good, Donkey!"

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

January 22, 2014

"Our Place"
Avenida Economos 6451 Int 28
Coto Los Naranjos
       Pictured to the left is the place we now call 'home'.  I put home in quotations as making a home takes more than moving in and placing one's furniture. I would say that if my children were here, home it would be. However, in the absence of family, making this place home means building relationships and connecting with the people.  
       We have already met the ladies living on either side of us and they seem like potential friends. Alejandra, to the left of us, is already making plans to take me sight seeing when Ernie is out of town. I am looking forward to that adventure.
     But let me show you more of where we live and what it looks like.  John & Connie Reimer (Swan River/ Pleasant Valley) were sent to Guadalajara (like the spies Moses sent out) to find a place to begin church planting.  After scoping out the land (a city of 4-7 million), and much prayer, they chose the area we all live in. 
       There are 3 families here with the EMC and we each live in a separate 'coto'. A coto is a gated community. We all live within walking distance of one another.  Pictured below is the entrance to our coto. To enter our coto you must  either have a pass or the guard calls our house to ask if he can let the person enter. Each coto has a guard shack with guards.
     Our guards work 24 hour shifts. We have already become good friends with them. They already know our co-workers and let them in. This is also fast becoming the case in each coto. Below is a picture of one of our guards, he is friendly and seemingly happy at all times. He is very willing to answer any of our questions and chat with us when we come and go throughout the day.
Our coto has very few homes in it so it feels like a small community. The streets are cobbled and remind me much of Managua, Nicaragua. Each coto also has a 'terraza', which is available for use to the community, and you are also able to rent it. In our case it has a play structure for the children and a pool. The other cotos, where our co-workers live, don't have pools. The terraza also normally has a kitchenette with a grill for get-togethers, which always include food!


The Pool at the Terraza
         We have done a prayer walk through our little community with our team. We pray for connections with our neighbours and that relationships could be built. I met a young man during our prayer walk outside his home.  He had a huge bird cage with a bird inside, on his front yard. I 'used' Brady (Dallas and Tara's son) as an excuse to approach. I struggled with how to begin, but he was warm and welcoming. I met him again during the week and he asked me why I was in Guadalajara. After explaining, he said he was a Christian too, and would love a Bible study in his home. Pray that this initial contact would be an opened door.
The cobbled street where we live

       We arrived on January 10 and have moved in. We have begun to get familiar with the city, thanks to John & Connie and Dallas and Tara. They have taken us to begin our immigration paperwork, taken us out for some wonderful Mexican food, grocery shopping, and have shown us the city. I, Diane, am somewhat overwhelmed by the city, and have been hesitant to drive. I have now driven to the grocery store! I'm glad Ernie is more than willing to drive. The task before us is huge: adjusting to living in a city of 4-7 million (depending where you draw the lines) instead of 15,000, and learning the culture (which is quite distinct from Chihuahua), not to mention the actual purpose of our moving here. So, with that in mind, we covet your prayers as we seek to declare the Kingdom of God.
 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

January 15, 2014

Meet the Team

We have settled into our new home and are ready to begin.  We thought we should introduce you to our team.  One of the gifts of this assignment is that we have co-workers, and we seek to work together with them, yet with some independent ministries.  Well, let us introduce to you our team:
John & Connie
Our team leaders are John & Connie Reimer (sending church: Swan River, Adopted church: Pleasant Valley).  The Reimer's arrived first and scouted the city for a place to begin a work and bathed the work in prayer. They have the added task of giving leadership to our team as well as starting cells.  They have been very helpful in introducing us to Guadalajara and helping us settle in.  We are looking forward to meeting one of their 'cells' tonight for the first time. 



Dallas, Tara, Carter, Logan, Brady
Dallas and Tara Wiebe (sending church: Kleefeld EMC, adopted church: Stoneybrook Fellowship) joined the Reimer's after beginning their missionary career in Delicias, Chihuahua.  They have settled into life here in GDL with their 3 boys and have also started a cell.  We have enjoyed reconnecting with them, as they were both former students of Ernie's, back in his early years at Steinbach Bible College.  

Our (Ernie & Diane) sending church: Evangelical Fellowship Church, adopted church: Mount Salem.  So this is our team, 3 couples, with 3 kids.  We have already had a few meals together, a staff meeting, a prayer time or two, and Friday they are coming to our house to pray over it, commit it to God's plan, and then we will do a prayer walk through our 'coto' (the name used here for a gated community).  We have already met the neighbour ladies on either side of our house and anticipate meeting many more. Ernie has also quickly become friends with the men at the guard house.

We have already seen that God has prepared the way long before we arrived.  We have sensed His presence, seen His hand, and felt confirmation of His plan.  We are excited about what God is going to do here in GDL, in and through us.  We invite you to join us in our journey as you pray us onward.  Know that you are welcome to come for a visit any time. 
 

Saturday, 11 January 2014

We have arrived (last night) safely in Guadalajara. Thanks to all who prayed for safe travels! It took us a while to get here (getting lost in the city in the dark!) but we were warmly received by John & Connie, Dallas & Tara, and their children. After 4500 kms of driving we are now ready to settle in and join the work.  God painted the sky with a beautiful sunset as we approached the city that will be our new home!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

January 8, 2014
Ay Chihuahua!

They say, "Home is where the heart is."  So did we leave home or are we home?  Our hearts are most definitely in Canada, with our children, but are so very content here in Chihuahua, with our other family.  It has been wonderful to reconnect with old friends and reminisce over shared memories.  

Aldo & Rebecca

Last night we spent with some very dear friends, the family of Aldo Gonzales, who passed away last year at this time.  Many tears were shed, long hugs given, and pain shared.  We spent the first part of the evening talking about our shared pain over Aldo's passing.  The hurt is still very real and deeply painful for his family.  Please pray for them as they continue to grieve and heal.  They lost not only a son, husband, brother, mentor, but also their pastor - so church is a somewhat painful place, filled with many memories of Aldo.

Ernie & Diane with Aldo's mom
As the evening wore on we shared many memories, about the good times we had with one another.  Coffee and pastry was enjoyed together, and the stories continued. Then we moved to supper!  We laughed, we cried, we grieved and we reconnected - all part of the healing.  

We are also enjoying reconnecting with our neighbours who were like our extended family when we lived here.  We arrived in Chihuahua on January 6 (which is Dia de Reyes), the day they celebrate the arrival of the 3 Wise Men.  They traditionally get together with friends or family and share a 'rosca'.  This is a sweet bread, shaped in the form of a ring and has several little plastic figurines inside.  Every guest cuts their piece of the pastry and, if you 'get' a figurine, you host a party in February, where they typically serve Tamales.  We met new people and made new friends.  And, as God works, one of the couple's have children who live in Guadalajara and they  gave us travel tips to get to our destination safely.  A great evening.

On Thursday we are getting together to celebrate Diane's birthday.  This was a tradition the neighbour ladies had - brunch to celebrate birthdays.  They are excited that Diane's is now, but they would have found an excuse to meet regardless.  Good food, good friends, good times.  

We are settling into latin culture very naturally and are anticipating life in Guadalajara.  We are feeling the confirmation of God leading us and can hardly wait to get settled in and begin.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

2014 The Year of __________?

As you look back over 2013 what comes to mind?  Was it a good year?  Did you reach your goals?  Did you have goals?  Was it filled with good memories, milestones met, and things accomplished? Or was it a disappointing year? A painful year?  What would you change if you could do a rewrite?

Our 2013 was a 'Year of Change'.  After 13 years at Steinbach Bible College, Ernie told them he felt he couldn't sign another contract for the upcoming year as he felt God was asking us to return to the foreign mission field.  So, in faith, he signed a half contract, giving him till year end to seek God's direction.  I, Diane, ended the school year as an EA for Hanover School Division and, unclear as to what I should do given our uncertain future, I took a job at ‘Super Splash’ as a gas jockey/car wash attendant.  

In September we applied with the Evangelical Mennonite Conference to join a church planting team in Guadalajara, Mexico.  That commitment made, we began to made decisions regarding the big changes we were about to made: house, car, kids, finances, possessions, family … the decision list was endless.  But God was and continues to be ever faithful, providing wisdom and direction.

Our theme passage for 2014 is Matthew 18, with the focus verse being verse 14, which says:



"In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost."



Why, you might ask?  Our Heavenly Father is not willing to have ANY lost, so we go to Guadalajara with that goal in mind.  Finding the lost and helping them meet Jesus.  The entire chapter reiterates this concept. Don't hinder the little ones (because God doesn't want any to be lost), don't be a stumbling block (because God doesn't want anyone to be lost), use restorative/redemptive discipline in the church (because God...), learn to forgive (because... you get the picture)! 


So, what are your goals for the coming year? Is your life, as a 'shining light' (Phil. 2:15), a purpose driven life? Beyond the broken New Year's resolutions, how will you make it count for eternity this year? What will you do with the opportunities He gives you?