Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Gangs all Here
Summer schedules have come to an end.  John & Connie went 'home' to meet a new grandchild and Dallas & Tara (and children) went North to Chihuahua and El Paso.  Ernie also took a week and headed north to Chihuahua (for IAMUM conference).  Now everyone has returned and we are all back together.

Today, August 27th, after the kids got off to school, we met together for breakfast.  It was nice to catch up and hear about each others' journeys over the summer.  Then we all headed over to our place for a staff meeting.  We looked over the upcoming months and their activities.  Life is moving at a rapid pace here in GDL.  So we covet your prayers over these next months.  

September 6th is Ernie & Diane's 'Canadian BBQ', where it is looking like we could have 80-100  people attend. Ernie considers everyone he talks to a friend and out comes an invitation!  Please pray for the food prep, the band coming (from Reimer's cells group), our staff and cell people who will be helping, and all the little details that need arranging.  Pray that we would be Christ to each person we touch that day.

September 16th is Mexican Independence Day and we hope to organise a gathering with our cell group people.  A meal together, prayer for the country (and GDL specifically), plus enjoying the fireworks and festivities.  

September 20th  we are planning a workshop for our cell groups.  Ernie will lead the discussion on the "One Another" verses in scripture. Pray for good attendance and openness.

September 23rd is our next staff meeting to evaluate the month's events and look at our next topic for another workshop.

September 27-October 1 is our anual staff retreat. During our sessions we will watch a video series on evangelism and outreach.  Pray for a relaxing time, fellowship and safety as we travel.

October ? John and Connie are planning an outreach dinner with their cell group.

November 10-17 we will be hosting a Prayer Team from Canada.  (Any of you may join)

DECEMBER 13th Our children arrive for a three week visit!  

So, as you can see, there is a lot to do and plan.  We have been praying over these events and ask you to join us.  Our desire is to be faithful and to bring others to Christ.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Buzz on September 6th

This past week we have been handing out the invitations for our Canadian BBQ outreach event at the gym (top picture).  There is a buzz amongst our friends, such that we are slightly concerned about someone feeling left out.  We are technically over the amount stated by the Coto we have rented but Reimer's inform us that it can host 100 people.  Now, not everyone we invite will be able to attend but many have confirmed their presence.

Please pray that this event will be successful.  What would make it successful for us?  Great attendance, more than 50 less than 100!  That the event would be well received.  Meaning that they would see a marked difference in us, that we would reflect Jesus in our actions, and that it would move these relationships to the next level.  We already sense your prayers by the responses we have already experienced.  

We also want to give a huge THANK YOU to our families and church people for their generous supply of Canadian Souvenirs.  We are making 2 silent auction tables, one for adults and one for the kids.  We were overwhelmed by the amount of stuff received!  Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

Please also pray for those who will be helping us host: John & Connie, Dallas & Tara and some cell group members.  Please pray for Joel and his band as they will be our live music.  Joel is a member of John & Connie's cell group.  Music is HUGE in the Mexican culture.  We are looking forward to seeing God move... ....

September 6th, 2014

Updates will be posted after the event, along with pictures. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

IAMUM Conference Participation
I (Ernie) left for Chihuahua on August 6th to attend the IAMUM Conference. This is the umbrella  organisation, and legal entity, under which we can be in Mexico. 6 different Mennonite/Anabaptist denominations in Mexico make up IAMUM. The speaker was Robert Suderman and the topic was 'Churches with a Culture of Peace'. It was a good time for connecting and learning together. One of the rich parts of the conference was the round table discussion with other participants.

Highlights included reconnecting with the pastors and church people we had worked with while serving in Chihuahua from 1996-2000 (2nd Tour).
a leadership couple from the church in Juarez
3 pastors: Antonio Gaxiola, Ralph Dueck, and Walter Renpening
Blanca, from Juarez
Walter Renpening
Another extra special part of the trip was getting to see Walter Renpening (above), who we were not even aware was back in the country.  I was able to spend time with Walter, reconnect and renew our friendship.  I had not talked with him since the passing of his wife in 2012.  Right alongside that blessing was also being able to see Rebeca (below), the widow of my dear friend Aldo Gonzalez (Pastor of La Fuente de Vida church in Chihuahua).
Rebeca and Ernie in Buena Vista
Both of these dear souls are doing remarkably well, considering their losses, but we would ask that you to keep them in your prayers. It was so great to visit old friends, make some new ones, and see people faithfully serving the Lord. I also had the joy of connecting with some students of mine (below) from SBC (now youth pastors in Blumenau); another added blessing.
Rosie Dyck with daughter
Ruben Dyck
But any good trip needs some fun ... and that I had as well.  Following the conference I headed to Chihuahua City where I stay with one of our neighbours (from the time when we lived there).  With the world becoming smaller and smaller it has been such a blessing to continue these friendships.
Gangs all almost all here -  with a few more wrinkles and rolls!
Ernie & Mariano - (an adolescent when we lived in Chih.) he often played with our boys and was Chris' idol!
Lupita - talking with Diane on Skype
 "Diane" is being 'passed around' via facetime, so she can be a part of the party
Lily with Ernie - she was also an adolescent when we lived there
This depicts the kind of friendships we built during those years - Julian and Lupita
     It was great to see how God has continued to build his church in Northern Mexico. Our churches there appear to be thriving, growing, and reaching out. Even though most of the missionaries have since retired or left, and some of the key leadership lost (Aldo, Chepina, Carlos), God continues to bring new growth. It was so encouraging to see this and to realise that no one is indispensable, and ultimately God is able to move his church forward.
     It was also great to be able to have some wonderful and deep conversations with old friends whom we had sought to be salt and light to. Although we only lived 'next door' for 4 years, and have been gone for another 13+, it seems that God is still using that connection to draw others to himself. How wonderful that is! Finally, a new friend was made on the flight home - a man who comes from Chih. but now lives in Guadalajara - another connection! Well, as always, it was great to leave but even better to be able to be back home... yes, Guadalajara is now home! 

-submitted by Ernie Koop

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

This post will be the ramblings of a lady left alone in GDL for a week!  My coworkers have all left. John & Connie are in Canada hugging a new grandbaby!  Dallas & Tara and kids are in Chihuahua, visiting friends after attending the IAMUM conference which Ernie also attended.  So I have been chilin´in GDL.  Here are my rambling thoughts... ...

Yesterday my 'baby' turned 21 and I was miles away.  It is during special days like that, that I miss being there.  I mostly am okay with being away but on days like yesterday, I miss my boys and being able to celebrate with them.  But on the flip side, I am thankful for technology that allows me to call them, and see them during those calls.  I am thankful that they occasionally text me, Mike more than Chris, send a picture from their day, etc.  
Ana & I out for coffee
 God has blessed me (us) with some wonderful friends after just these few short months.  This wonderful young lady is a part of John & Connie's cell group and she will be getting married next month.  I enjoyed a wonderful evening with her, hearing about her life and her journey.  She is but one of the people God has put in my life for whom I am thankful.  Relationships and connectedness is why God has us here.  She would love it if you would pray for her upcoming wedding and future with Roy.
Why is this here?
I am 'teaching' English twice a week!  Anyone who really knows me, knows that this is a stretch.  How did I get here?  That would totally be Ernie's fault, as when asked he offered me as the student is a 28 year old young lady.  Her  name is Ana Gabriela and she lives in our coto.  Now let's be clear here, just because you speak a language doesn't mean you can explain it or teach it!  I have quoted the rule: "i before e except after c" many times in my life.  As you notice above, that rule is somewhat nebulous, so as not to say void altogether.  Why have a rule is there are tons of exceptions?  Anyway, Ernie is usually a stones throw away and he LOVES grammar rules and syntax and the whole language thing.  But let me tell you, I shudder every time someone wants me to teach English. I speak the language but I can not explain it!  But again, on the flip side of that, Ana Gabriela and I have become good friends; last night she took me out for Tacos😄.  

Those are just some of my ramblings... ... next week we will highlight Ernie's trip to Chihuahua where he met with old friends from our years of working there - second tour!  Until next week ... ...

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

3rd Tour?

This blog is called 3rd Tour because this is our 3rd assignment with EMC.  I (Diane) have been pondering over those three assignment recently and how very different I was in all three; shockingly different.  I would like to share some of my ponderings... ...

Nicaragua: 'Survival' (1989 -1991)

Ernie, Diane and Pablo at conference
We went to Nicaragua after I finished language school. I went with rose coloured glasses,  and optimistic about what we would do.  We were there for two short years, most of which I tried to just survive. Was Nicaragua such a horrible place? No, but I was ill prepared for that experience. I was 22 when we got married, turned 23 in that first month of language school, and 24 when we first moved to Nicaragua. Here I was, a young, sheltered and naive Mennonite girl, living in a 3rd world country that was full of stress and tension. I was given a diploma in language school that said I spoke Spanish - that was a nebulous statement!  I had a husband that had (in his mind) returned 'home' and was often gone, leaving me at home. I felt lost and alone. I didn't know how to cook their food; for that matter I didn't even recognise some of the things at the market! Language school was a thing of the past. This was now life, these people spoke totally different than my nice, patient, teachers and tutors.  All this just plain overwhelmed me, plus the ever present tensions from the political climate, the war, and the ever visible poverty, which showed up at my gate daily.  I just tried to make it through each new day. I often thought of the whole experience as a failure.  However, I did return some 15 years later and found that, although I had been just trying to survive, there were good things that happened, things that I didn't see due to being in survival mode.  I have some wonderful friends there and would love to return for another visit.

Chihuahua, Mexico: 'Utopia' (1995-2000) 

Ernie and Aldo
We headed to Chihuahua some four years later to join the team already there. It was no longer Ernie and I: we were a family with 2 sons. The good thing about this experience was that we were all on the same, level, playing field. None of us knew where we would live, what it would be like, who we would have as friends, … we would all be experiencing life together.  Here we had two worlds: the existing church ministry and our neighbourhood. Our job was to help in the existing EMC churches with leadership training and basically come alongside the national leaders. We had co-workers, although we were all spread out across Chihuahua.  We also had national co-workers; also spread out. We worked together. 
Mike and Chris in Colegio Anahuac
Diane (front right) at fiesta with neighbours
Our kids began in a Mexican school and would later move to a missionary kids school. They had friends in the Mexican school, in the missionary school, in church, and in our neighbourhood.  They thrived in this environment. It was wonderful to see our kids happy and well adjusted.  They became little Mexicans with white skin. Overall, during the five years we lived in Chihuahua, we lived an idyllic life. We had meaningful work, church family and friends.  
I would say I was happy and managed to maintain a balance between our different involvements. I tried to adapt to whatever situation I found myself in, as it did change from being amongst our Mexican church family, our middle-class neighbours, or amongst the people in the colonies. I would say I felt a little like a chameleon - adapting to my surroundings. But, all in all, they were good years, and we were very sad to leave.

Guadalajara: Acculturation (2014 - )

So here we are now, some 13 years later, living in Guadalajara, Mexico.  I am no longer that naive 23 year old who could barely speak Spanish, PTL!  I am now closer to 50 (did I just write that?) and can hold my own in Spanish (although I would never claim to be fluent, or that I dominate the language).  I am now truly in a stage where I can observe the culture, watch, listen and learn.  I take note of what is going on around me, ask questions and am learning to love and appreciate the culture.  I think I noticed this change in me when I began to notice how different Guadalajara was from Chihuahua; markedly so.  I now notice what they eat, how they dress, words they chose, how they live and every little nuance. 

Definition of “Acculturation" in the Merriam Webster dictionary: "cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture; also : a merging of cultures as a result of prolonged contact”. 

At cell group fellowship Sunday
birthday breakfast with fitness gym ladies
I am trying to truly adapt and take on their customs. What can I do to leave my Canadian ways behind (not because they are wrong or bad) and accept their ways? Ernie would love to say he does this when he makes an "illegal' turn or runs a red! The jury is still out on that one… I would say one thing it means is watching how you dress. Mexicans dress up far more than we do in Canada. Their clothes are always neatly pressed and clean, the woman almost always wear dress shoes, if not heels.  Their ‘semi-casual’ is very close to our dress up! Greeting is also SO very important … never miss an opportunity to cross the room. Remember people's names. If you invite someone out for coffee, or to eat, you pay (El que invita paga). The guest will often pay the tip. Eat chile, or hot sauce! And the list goes on.

As I remember the years and the changes, I see growth in myself.  I shudder to think of some of my mistakes over the years. I can hardly imagine what I sounded like, what things I said! I am so very thankful that Latin Americans are SO very gracious and accepting. I am thankful for their willingness to put up with missionaries who don’t have a clue. I am thankful for a God that is willing to allow me to grow and mature; that He carried me through the ‘survival’, helped me to enjoy my ‘utopia', and is leading and guiding me through the 'acculturation'. And I am so thankful that He called me to Latin American, to a wonderful people, with a rich culture, willing to love and accept the foreigner!