Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Chihuahua 
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

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