Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Happy New Year




Well it's that time of year again - the completion of one year and the beginning of another.  With that comes the dreaded New Year's Resolutions.  Pictured above is the list of the most common ones. The last one just enforces the fact that many resolutions just never get met. Apparently 40% of people make resolutions and about 8% achieve them.  Not great numbers!

Why is it that we wait for a new year to make goals? Why is it that we then feel a compelling need to make them BIG? Then, if that isn't a recipe for failure, we make them almost unreachable.  Failure is almost guaranteed with that plan.

We all agree that goals are good, and needed.  We can improve on many areas of our lives.  Being better tomorrow than I was yesterday is a good idea.  But how can one achieve this?  I have a few suggestions.

Firstly, don't tell anyone! Why? Well, watch this TEDTalk and you will understand.  Ted Talk

Basically, according to research, if you tell someone your goal your brain believes it has achieved it.  We have often been told to tell someone, so we are held accountable, but that generally doesn't work (it usually turns into nagging). So, why not try personal goal setting that no one knows about?

Next, try to use the S.M.A.R.T. goal plan:



This might look a little overwhelming but if you unpack it, it actually makes sense.  Be as specific as possible, make it measurable and attainable, make it relevant to you, and make it time sensitive. For example: losing weight is not a very specific goal, not necessarily measurable, and can often seem unattainable (making it the number one broken New Year's Resolution), no matter how relevant to yourself it feels.  Lack of keeping the goal time-bound is exactly why it fails as well. 

I know that if I had 'lose weight' as my goal for going to the gym I would have long quit.  Why? Because I lost nothing after the first couple of months; I actually put weight on! I would have been discouraged.  But weight loss has never been a goal of mine.  I want to be fit and I want to see muscle forming. 

Goals might be better in smaller pieces. A goal of:  I will eat no pizza, or hamburgers, or french fries, for 6 weeks.  It meets the above mentioned requirements, and might be attainable. Then change it up. Maybe after months of smaller, more attainable, goals you will have reached the larger goal of losing weight.

So, do I have goals for 2017? Yep! But I am not telling anyone.  If I reach a goal, I'll let you know. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas - Traditions - Family

Our Mexican Family
Well the season is upon us once again...Christmas.  I sometimes wonder if it is the same worldwide, or just in places I have visited, but it is a time for family.  We have been fortunate, wherever we live, to get 'adopted' by someone. Since this is the every first year we will be away from our kids, it is so nice to have a 'family'.

The family pictured, with myself, (above) has been our family in many senses of the word.  We have joined this family every year for Christmas since we came to GDL.  We feel a part of them, we love them.
Me with Ale and Paty
You might by now recognize these two ladies as my Mexican sisters.  They are sisters by birth, I am by 'adoption'. Ale was our next door neighbour till just recently. She moved across the city, some 1/2 hour drive away.  So we no longer go to the gym together, we no longer have SEAN together (they just recently graduated), and we don't see each other daily.  But we have become family and so we will gladly drive across the city to be with her and her family.

Ernie brought a tradition to the gathering and they brought some as well:

For a gathering to be an actual 'posada' one has to go through the tradition.  This means you sing a song where the weary travellers are asking for room in the inn.  Half the group goes outside, lights candles, and begins to sing. The other half are inside, responding.  By the end of the song you let them in.  Aside from a few lines that are outside of our theology, it's a nice tradition.


Ernie introduced table games.  Here he is pictured teaching them Skippo which everyone enjoyed tremendously.  This was played throughout the night. Later he took the little kids and taught them 'Go Fish', which quickly had adults joining in.  The kids only wanted to ask Ernie for cards.  He is a kid's favourite wherever we go!
Ale and her son Esteban
This tradition is very Mexican, although not necessarily a Christmas one - karaoke!  Music is a part of absoluely every party.  Singing is often forthcoming as everybody knows every song.  I have learned the words to one song, completely because it is unheard of that you won't participate!

And then we ended with the exchange of 'bolos' (this is a toocha - or a treat bag).  Everyone is assigned someone to give theirs to, hugs and a Merry Christmas are exchanged along with the bag.  It is loud and fun! 

So, this is but one of our Christmas parties.  December is a month of 'posadas'.  I have gone to one for the dance class ladies, one for just the gym ladies, one for the missionary ladies, Ernie and I did a couples one, and then this one.  We will be joining a family for the 24th, plus a couple of impromptu ones.  Its about celebrating friendships, love, relationships and on occasion someone reminds us of the real reason for the season.  

I trust each of you will not forget that the real gift was Jesus, then, as He is today.  As you remember Him, remember why He came.  He loved us, love others.  

Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad!










Wednesday, 14 December 2016

VISAS

Immigration
Red tape is so much fun! NOT! Every country has its rules, its way of doing things, and its bureaucracy.  

Recently you may have heard that our Prime Minister has removed the need for a visa for Mexican's to enter Canada as tourists.  Everyone here is excited about that, as for them it translates into "they like us", whereas the USA does not.

When I mention that we need to get visas to live here, the paperwork involved, and the cost, they are shocked.  They were unaware of what was all is involved.  They are amazed that their government charges us so much to live here.

I tell them, no worries, just to be aware that every country has their way of doing things and there is no picnic either!

So, recently we again embarked on the journey of renewing our paperwork.  The last time they gave us 2 whole years, so we had had a year off!

You are only allowed to initiate the renewal process within 30 days of expiry of your present visa.  It is not overly complicated if you go in with the attitude that thing may be completely different from the previous year.  Then its at matter of getting everything together, making copies of everything, and heading going to the Immigration office.
Just a few people waiting to be attended
Today we had everything together and headed in.  Armed with the previous days instructions, we were ready.  Well, things were a little different, but doable.  However, the documents that Ernie had filled out at home, had one little blank empty. Meaning? There is a computer in the corner, get in line and redo it!  UGH! Oh well, such is life.

That done, we were instructed to go to a nearby bank and pay the bill.  However, that bank was unable to do what we needed done due to the construction outside!  The closest bank was some 8 blocks away! Off we went on a brisk walk.  Finally we took a taxi (from the first bank to another bank - because the 1st one was full to the doors!) as downtown was crazy.

To make a long story short....we got home some 5 hours later! Within 20 days we should be ready for the next step: finger prints, pictures, etc.... and then, finally, after another wait, we should be 'legal' again!

Life is anything but simple in Mexico.... ...

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Run Forest Run!

Ready- Set - Go 

Ernie and I would not say we are athletes by any stretch of our imaginations, however, we do enjoy participating in gym events.

This past Sunday morning, we got up early - 6:30 a.m. (my normal weekly time) to head out for a race.


We had tried to get our Bible Study people to join us, and even got several yes's, some even paid to join.  But, alas, they all bailed out on us.  We did meet several friends from the gym. The race had almost 1000 participants, walking, running, or pushing wheelchairs.  It was exciting to join in this event.

You see, for us, the gym is about people and friendship.  We just happen to enjoy working out but really we went to meet people.  This gym is a family - we are friends who meet daily to work out together.  We spend equal parts working out as hanging out in the lockers, visiting.

I also attend classes and have formed friendships through going to the same classes and meeting those same people each morning.  There is some ebb and flow, some leave because they are tired of a class or some even leave the gym because life becomes too busy for it.  But new people replace them, allowing for new friendships to form.

Me with Hilda, Ernie and Hilda's husband Flavio
Several friends from the gym (Jorge beside Ernie, Eduardo and Francisco in back, both with hands up)
Me with my cycling coach and Lorraine (classmate)
Ernie and I with 2 coaches from the gym
I say anyone can run a 5K!  Maybe not but I was not doing any real regular exercise before I came to Mexico.  Now 5K is not a challenge (although 2.5 K uphill was not a picnic for me) anymore.  We are looking at trying for a 10K.  Our co-workers are more amazing yet: John has run several 10K and a half marathon, Dallas also has done 10K's and is thinking of a half marathon.  

But for us, and for many of our friends at the gym, the gym is about friendship.  Because life in the end is about people.  I would not be running if it wasn't for running with others and the bonding that happens during it.  

Hockey was like that while in Canada.  I would have frozen my backside off just to watch my sons play, but hockey was about family to me.  Our boys played with the same guys year after year, they were our winter family.  


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Converts or Disciples?

I read an article recently that has meant rethinking some things.  I remember, clearly, the day I walked forward to accept Christ as my Saviour.  I was but seven years old.  Young as I was, I was thrilled that Jesus lived in me!  My Mother reminds me of wanting to tell everybody, of inviting the neighbourhood kids to DVBS, of a vibrant faith...

As I matured, and grew in my faith, I heard many a challenge to share my faith, to witness.  We were encouraged to be evangelistic in our relationships. With the passing of childlike faith came the fear in how to do this.  But I also heard that preacher voice in my head about being a witness, evangelizing and making converts.

Back to the article that has me rethinking that voice.  Where in the Bible does it instruct me to make converts? The author of the article claimed we are instructed to 'make disciples'.  He also gives a list of how those two things are different.  The one that hit me was:

             "Converts are believers who live like the world.  Disciples are believers who live like Jesus."

This hit me on a couple of fronts.  Firstly, and most importantly, which am I?  How do I live?  When people look at me would they call me a believer? Do I live like Jesus?  I pray that I do. For my deepest desire is for people to see Jesus (when they seem me), and not me.  I want people to notice a discernible difference in how I live, from how the world lives.  This is something I need to constantly check, for it is a very slippery slope, especially if you are living in the world, as we are also called to do.

The second front is regarding those I bear witness to.  Am I seeking to make converts of those around me?  Or am I seeking to make disciples, as Jesus commanded me to, in the Great Commission?  I often tell my friends here in GDL that my desire is to help them become more like Christ, to help them grow in their faith.

I absolutely love it when our study groups get excited about Jesus, His truths, His Word, His life.  I enjoy watching them learn or understand something new.  I love to hear them share about how others see the change in them and look to them for answers.

The Great Commission from Matthew 28

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them
to obey everything I have commanded you.  
And surely I am with you always, to the very 
end of the age.



             



Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Monthly Highlights


Our first highlight of the month was the arrival of the prayer team (pictured above).  They came to pray for Mexico, although some of our friends here thought that maybe, given the situation in the USA, they maybe should have headed there.  They also came to pray for us and our friends.  We were blessed to share our friends with them as they joined us in our activities.  Our Mexican hosts are such wonderful people, who open their arms, to love those we love.

I personally had the best crew in my house, although my co-workers might say the same thing.  We hosted, Don & Minna Thiessen, Marcella Barkman and Levina Friesen.  We shared many deep conversations and much laughter.  They were water to a thirsty soul.  We were blessed to have them.


While the prayer team was here we hosted a 'Convivio' (a gathering of all our people).  We began with snacks and mingling.  Then we had a bit of a church service, singing, testimony, a message, a graduation of our SEAN students, and some words from Jesse (our intern) as he is leaving on Friday. And then, to make a good event better, we enjoyed a meal together.  This was followed by a couple of rousing games of floor hockey ( a group favourite).  

What makes this event a highlight is that members from all of our three groups were present.  To watch them interact was great!  Lalo was frying up the steaks & quesadillas, Sergio was frying the chorizo (Mexican sausage) and Oswaldo was cooking up the disco ( a traditional meal of Chihuahua - where he is from).  Those of us cooking had a blast together.  Watching my friends become friends with each other was a huge highlight.



Then, after we said good bye to the prayer team, we took 2 days to organize ourselves and headed to the ocean for staff retreat.  We had a light schedule, for some much needed R & R, and enjoyed some good challenges from Darren Plett (our speaker).


So now we try to get back to routine.  We are glad we have the daily challenge of the gym, as it gives us schedule/routine.  We had a wonderful Bible Study last night with Oswaldo, his family, and Alfonzo, with some of his family.  We could have gone into the wee hours, as interest was high, and questions were ongoing.  I love how they ask things I have never thought of.  It is exciting studying with people who are eager to learn.  Tonight we meet with out other group and look forward to good conversations as well.

Then, December is right around the corner...

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Graduation

We got to make a very special presentation at our Convivio this past Sunday.  It was so much fun to be able to do this together!

If you look closely at the picture, I am laughing while Ernie is talking.  Why? Well this presentation was supposed to be done in two languages, as we had a Prayer team from Canada there. So I was to do it in English and Ernie would translate.  I got carried away more than once and forgot to let him translate.  My 'paragraphs' were a little much for him. 😏

So what were we explaining? We were telling everyone about our SEAN class and presenting our students to them.
Myself, Ernie, Claudia, Paty and Ale
I told everyone how I doubted that 3 Mexican ladies would come to our house, on time, every week, with their homework done.  Not only did exactly that happen, but they finished the entire course in record time - they did not want a break in between books!!  We were so very proud of these ladies and their accomplishment.  

I further explained that this group contained 3 Evangelicals and 2 Catholics.  How did we study the Bible together? With a firm base of love and respect.  On what basis could we do this? Jesus Christ is the unifying factor.  We both believe in His work on the cross, and we turned to what the Bible told us; not our own denominations.  

When we began we all tended to avoid the areas where we disagreed but as we became more and more comfortable with one another we had some rich discussions on various points of theology.  

So, we were thrilled to be able to graduate three wonderful ladies, women of deep faith, and desiring to grow in that faith.  We are considering what to study next.  They would like to continue to study where there is homework for them; not just to come and chat about Scripture.  Pray for us all as we seek to mature in our faith.
Claudia receiving her diploma
Paty receiving her diploma
Ale receiving her diploma (while I hug Paty)
Our graduating class
For those of you who are unfamiliar with SEAN, it is a Theological Education by Extension (TEE) course on the life of Christ based on the Gospel of Matthew.  It is six books, with tests and exams.  It builds on itself, so one needs to start in book one, and continue on thru book 6.  We have taught this material more than once, and learn and grown each time.  It is available in more than one language, for anyone interested in studying the Word of God in a more systematic form. 



Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Chihuahua Connection

Ernie making supper
I amaze myself sometimes! I say things that I believe in my head, but am later amazed when it actually happens to me!  

I once talked about the confusion created by the question "Where are you from?"  I then stated that it was about more than where you were born, geography and such.  Well, my post was something I sort of thought to be true, but didn't over think at the time.

We have been living in Guadalajara for almost 3 years - three wonderful years, I might add.  There are many things I love about GDL, things that will forever be a part of me.  

My Canadian-ness is something I assume and take for granted.  I don't ponder much about how much my time in Nicaragua and Chihuahua have impacted me. and have become a part of who I am.  The connectedness I feel to these places surprises me time and again.

We have a group that meets every Tuesday evening for Bible Study.  We were introduced through a friend at the gym.  Our connecting factor was that they are originally from Chihuahua, and we lived there for 5 years.  We met, connected and the rest is history, as they say.  
Osvaldo, Alfonzo and Ernie
This group has recently begun to get together outside of our study nights.  They came to our place for an evening, supper and friendship building.  The Chihuahua factor played into it once again.  It was decided that we would get together for a "Discada" - the meal pictured above.  This is a Mexican meal, but only served in the North.  We visited Chihuahua recently for a wedding. While in Cuauhtémoc we saw some discos, and purchased one.  

Our friends had 'chorizo' from Chihuahua and so the meal was perfect, with the flavour of the North! 




It has been a privilege to build friendships with this group of people.  We occasionally talk about Chihuahua, but mostly our focus is on scripture, growing spiritually, and applying what we learn to everyday life. 

We have made a lot of connections with people here in Guadalajara through the gym.  We build our relationship through that connecting point. We have also met people, through the gym, or through a mutual friend, where our connecting point was Nicaragua or Chihuahua.  Each life experience, each relationship, each view held, each conviction, etc, has the potential of bringing a connection.  That said, it can also bring division. Many of our friends here are Catholic, while we are Evangelicals. One has to allow the differences to connect, or divide. 

We choose to connect on as many points as we can.  How about you?

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Balance???

Devotional Reading from "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young
      So, should a missionary struggle with balance? What about a Pastor? It has been said that one of the greatest sins (probably even more so in the Western world) is that of 'self-sufficiency'. So what do I mean by 'balance'? On the one hand we recognize our COMPLETE and absolute dependence on God - for anything and everything! It is a great truth: Human efforts = human results, Divine efforts = Divine results. So, whether you/we are missionaries, pastors, or just believers, not involved in formal ministry, we recognize that we need God to be actively involved in our lives, in our efforts to share our faith, in our efforts to live out our faith authentically and vibrantly. Certainly an active prayer life is part of that dependence, and an expression of reliance on God that even Jesus demonstrated during His earthly life.
     So, what's the other part? Each and every human being is also an image bearer, created in the image of God. Although fallen, because of the stain of sin, that image is still there, in each and every one of us. What does that 'image' look like? Wings? NO! God is omniscient (knows everything), and He has given us the ability to think. He is omnipotent (all powerful), and He has given us limited power. He IS love, and has given us the ability to love, etc. etc. This means, from my perspective, that God actually wants me to use the brain He's given me, He wants me to use the gifts He's given me. He calls me to account for the use of the 'talents' entrusted to me (Matthew 25:14-30).
     The balance then, is, on the one hand, using the gifts and abilities God has entrusted to us, while at the same time recognizing, and living in absolute dependence on Him.

      As stated in the quote above, "Don't divide your life into things you can do by your self and things that you require My help. Instead, learn to rely on Me in every situation."

    I'm not sure how that's going for you, but I find that balance difficult to maintain. After doing something for awhile we have a tendency to trust in our own abilities and experience. The absurd thing is that you could actually get to the point of doing God's work without God!! How ludicrous is that! So, we are reminded to keep things in balance, trusting God from day to day while at the same time being good stewards of that which has been entrusted to us.
     All the best as you join me in working at maintaining a healthy balance!! God Bless!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Wedding Thoughts

Gelin (neighbour) and Martin
We have attended 6 weddings in the last 6 months! Each one has been distinct, each one reflecting the individuals getting married.  Each beautiful in their own right.

I am amazed at how very different each wedding turns out to be.  Yet there are certain things that remain the same, regardless of who is getting married.  In each wedding the couple vows to love, honour, respect, cherish one another..."till death do us part".

When one actually reads the traditional wedding vows, I mean carefully reads them, the couple is promising an awful lot!  Not only a lot, but things that are almost impossible to fulfill.  Yet, through the centuries, couples repeat them, and try to honor them.

Jose Angel and Lili (neighbour girl from Chihuahua)
Thinking back on these last 6 weddings, I look at all the details that were so important to the bride  (let's be honest, for the most part, the guy is less concerned about those details that the bride stresses about!).  Now, while all those details make the event glorious and beautiful, they do add little to the actual marriage.  One is no less married if one goes before a Justice of the Peace and signs the papers, then if they do the whole church, reception thing.

But alas the wedding is but a day.  Then comes the work of honouring those vows that one made.  This is another test completely.  I told my sons that they needed to put more effort into the actual marriage than the wedding day.  I have told my married kids that if they ever thought they needed help I would pay for counselling.  Why? Not because I think that they won't make it but because I believe one must work at one's marriage and put in 100%.  I also know that we are human and selfish, that the glow of that lovely wedding day dims, and too many choose to call it quits.
Jessy & Peter (friends)
While I enjoyed all 6 weddings, and was excited to be a part of their day...I know that many don't make it for the long haul.  I have also just recently seen the end of several marriages.  People saying things like "I just couldn't do it anymore" or "I deserve to be happy and I am not in this marriage" or "he/she was unfaithful and I can't put up with that" etc, etc.  I have watched the end of a commitment and how that affects the couple, not to mention how it affects the kids.
Gaby & Mariano (neighbour boy)
I remember my own wedding and all the illusions about our future. On October 29 we are celebrating 28 years! But, I also remember going into marriage counselling to get some help.  We have good days and we have bad days.  Some times I don't like my husband, some days I don't like myself! But one thing we both have agreed on is that we will keep at it, we are committed for the long haul.  We also want to support those who are struggling.
Brittany (niece) and Jason 
Right now Ernie and I are taking a course to get certified to help couples in their marriages.  A side benefit is that we will strengthened our own marriage through the process.
Whitney & Ryan (friend)
Pray for marriages, your own and those around you.  Take time to look at those vows you made and then take another look at how you can fulfill them each and every day!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Chihuahua

Right to Left: Claudia married to Juan Carlos and their 3 kids,
Us in the center
Victor and Claudia and their 2 boys

This blog is called "3rd Tour" because we are on our third assignment with EMC.  The people above are from Chihuahua, where we did our '2nd Tour'.  We often refer to our 2 tour as being kind of utopian.  The reason for this is because it was a wonderful time for us as a family.  We left Chihuahua in 2000, so, if you do the math, the above people were not church leaders back then! 



It was such a blessing to share breakfast with some of the people from our days in Chihuahua, and then head to church, where we got some surprises.  First we enjoyed a rich time of praise and worship, led by Victor and Claudia. Great to hear God's people worship in song (Something we often miss here in GDL).  Then, Juan Carlos and Claudia were in Chihuahua and he preached the morning message.

What an wonderful morning with some wonderful people. God is good.
Claudia leading the service

Victor on guitar

Juan Carlos preaching the word of God





















The best part of the whole thing is watching national leaders doing the work God has called them to.  To see them doing it so well.  I was blessed by their ministry that Sunday morning.  The wonderful singing, with gifted musicians, great voices, and the ability to lead their people in worship.  To hear the Word of God preached so well.  To see their love for God and their desire to grow and see the work grow.  

I remember Claudia as a young girl, and to see her now, a wonderful young woman, wife, mother, leader in the church, and a business women as well, warms my heart.  We may not have led these young people to the Lord, or even had them under our leadership, but to have been a part of this work, is a blessing beyond compare.  We did work together with Claudia's sister, Rebecca, and her brother-in-law, Aldo, both of whom God has called home.  We mentored them and they mentored Victor and Claudia.  Reproducing fruit.

Oh that God would have found me faithful in the past, find me faithful in the present, and also in the future.  One never knows who's life they are impacting or who's life that person's life will later impact.  Like it says in I Corinthians 3:6-7, some water, some plant, but it is God who makes things grow.  
Pray for Victor and Claudia as they lead the church
We were also able to meet up with Walter Renpening, who is the pastor of the church in Cuathemoc.  We had a wonderful time over lunch, reconnecting and hearing about what God is doing in their church and their lives.  It was such a blessing to see Walter and his new wife Susie's enthusiasm for the ministry in Cuathemoc.  Walter was a wonderful friend who worked alongside Alvira Friesen and then tragically lost his wife.  God is using him in his work there and you can see the joy in his eyes.
Walter and Susie
We did work with him over the years (while living in Chihuahua) but I often wondered who was on the receiving end.  We were always blessed working with him and the Cuahtemoc church and I trust we blessed him and his family.  Those were good years of mutual encouragement as we sought to be faithful to God's calling on our lives.  

We also made a surprise visit to the school in Blumenau, where we were able to connect with several friends from years gone by.  This was such a blessed time for me. 

Below are pictures of people from what feels like another life.  Way back when, Mike was maybe 2 years old, so 23 years ago, we were invited to go to Chihuahua to youth camp.  Ernie was to speak at their annual youth conference.  The Bojorges sisters were my first friends in Chihuahua.  To see these ladies,  (pictured are 2 of the 4) still loving Jesus, working and serving Him, leaves me in awe of God's faithfulness.  The hugs were many, long, and tight!
Edna, me and Sonya 
Us with Sonya and her husband Abram
God has been faithful, both in my own personal life, and in the life of many friends.  He has been faithful to His church and His people.  We were so richly blessed to see some of the fruit of our labours.  Seeds planted, seeds watered and the reproducing of a marvellous harvest. God is so Good.