When Ian was a little boy he tasted a strawberry guava from our neighbor's tree...liked it so much that he buried a fruit in our backyard...and now we have a strawberry guava tree, too! For those of you who have never seen or tasted this exotic cranberry-colored fruit, it's about the size of a grape, loaded with seeds and bursting with flavor. They make great jelly. Our Mexican friends love them and are always happy when I bring some down.
Recently my neighbor with the guava tree moved into a retirement home and her daughter gave me permission to harvest fruit from their backyard whenever I wanted. I gathered many figs, lemons and guavas. But then I got busy and a little lazy and distracted, too. When I finally got around to picking more guavas, I saw to my dismay that much of the fruit was dried up or rotted. It could have been a treat to many, nutritious, too!
With a repentant heart, I picked what fruit was still ripe, recalling that Jesus said something about the harvest being plentiful but the workers are few. And I saw the withered fruit still on the tree and wondered about people who at one time were ripe for hearing about Jesus but no one told them. Do their hearts dry up to a point that when a worker does come with the good news, they are no longer ripe? I've noticed when I'm consistent about pruning and watering and then picking the guavas on our tree, the fruit seems to get bigger, sweeter. Any lesson there for us in the fields serving Jesus?
For a few years we have had an on-going prayer request for unity within our Team Tijuana. Recently our goal for teamwork got a great boost.
When we heard that a guest speaker wanted to come from Dallas and share "I AM SECOND" with our ministry teams, we knew it was time for some clean-up and remodeling at the Team TJ headquarters. Our "Equipo Tijuana en Accion" sprang into action with 2 scheduled workdays, cleaning and painting supplies, ladders, etc. Bernardo volunteered to sort and haul away trash. Josefina ferociously cleaned every corner and was rewarded by finding a half-dozen dehydrated mice. Javier and Lydia brought men and women from the Esperanza rehab program who tackled repairing drywall, scrubbing and painting tables and benches. Flor and the Campo de Fe home for disabled men really surprised us by producing several men able to clamber up on the roof and not only repair leaks, but completely redo the roof! Greg made countless trips to Home Depot and bought lots of pizza, new paint, new curtains, new roof, even a new kitchen sink-- and a renewed sense of pride and partnership are part of our new outlook.
What is “I am second”? I am Second is a tool meant to inspire people of all kinds to live for God and for others. The statement means someone else is first in our lives— Jesus. Weekly Bible studies require us to act out our faith in practical ways. Each study asks questions of the group about what the passage means to them and what they think it tells them about people and about God. The most important question is where each person in the group tells how they will apply the lesson from that passage during the week. For instance, say the passage is on loving your neighbor. Each person must respond on how they will act on this verse. Just trying to smile at everyone will not cut it. Which neighbor this week will you minister to?
How? You say you will help Ruth the elderly neighbor put up her Christmas decorations. What day? Each one in the small group ( no more than 8 per group) writes it down. Since the results are so specific the group can ask the following week if you completed your assignment. If you did, the group rejoices, but if you failed the whole group is considered as failing. Why? They wrote down what you planned to do--did they pray for you? Did they call you to remind you to help Ruth? Were commitments fulfilled? If not, then redo the last lesson. E3Partners has used these small Bible studies as cell groups and house churches. Newly evangelized Christians can be put into groups* or older Christians can strengthen their faith in one. Our leaders have already started groups in the Drug rehab and others are exploring other ways to use “I am Second.” This creates an environment in which loving Jesus means obeying Jesus. What are YOU going to do about living out your faith— this week? Here’s one idea: check out www.iamsecond.com online.
*See article in Mission Frontiers, Jan.2012 pg 6 “Can Short-term Teams Foster Church Planting Movement?”
We prayed God would heal him. We prayed for his family. But Arnulfo, after a courageous battle with a cancerous tumor on his spinal column, died on November 4th at the age of 42. Arnulfo was our friend for over 20 years, one of the first people we knew when we started working with the squatter community of Grupo Mexico back in 1989. I remember doing a Bible study with his wife Carmen when I could hardly speak any Spanish and my Ian and her Tania were toddlers.
Arny knew how to do almost anything with his hands--brickwork, construction, landscaping. He helped us and many others with all kinds of projects and was always willing to lend a hand. I remember the time he rescued Greg and some buddies when the red truck broke down and they needed a tow. He volunteered his time and vehicle to help put in the foundation for the community center at Carretas. Even near the end of his time before he was bedridden, he delivered some donations for us to Campamento de Fe.
When in January he experienced pain in his shoulder, he thought he'd strained something and needed to take it easy. But when numbness began to spread over his left side, he got alarmed and finally went to the ER. Studies revealed the tumor. Surgery followed, but the tumor was entwined with the spinal column and couldn't be totally removed. Some chemo and radiation were given, but it was too little, too late. Arny ended up dying on November 4th, 2011.
Lots of prayer went up for Arnulfo for healing. God didn't heal Arny the way we had hoped...but He healed in other ways. Arny and Carmen had been going separate directions and it looked like the marriage was about to end. Their two eldest daughters were making disastrous choices. The younger daughters needed their daddy, too, and he wasn't around. But when Arny got sick and needed help, the family rallied. They took on the challenge of 24 hour care. At the very end, the pain and complications got to be too much and Arny returned to the hospital in San Diego. He never made it home, but died in hospice in San Diego. But the week before his death, his three oldest daughters, Tania, Carolina and Maria, became Christians at the Bible study that he had asked the local pastor to bring to his family and neighbors in his home. A thousand years from now, we will all be dead and gone. But God's gift of eternal life to Arny and his family, perhaps thanks to a tumor, will still be celebrated.
Gardens intrigue me. They're constantly changing, producing new growth and yes, weeds as well. The April issue of "Spice" inspired me to look at my mission work in Tijuana, Mexico, from a different perspective. If God is the Gardener and Jesus is the Living Water, maybe I'm a garden hose...moving from plant to plant letting God use me to splash His refreshing, life-giving water into thirsty growing lives. Arturo is one of those lives.
I met Arturo at "Campamento de Fe" (CdF), a home for disabled men run by Flor, a member of our ministry team. Arturo was injured 6 years ago when he fell from a roof during a construction job. His spine shattered; chronic pain became his constant companion. As outward strength wasted away, Arturo met the Lord and began to grow in his faith. When other sick and injured men come to CdF, Arturo prays for them and sees lives change. The CdF men are a vital part of a local church body, realizing that even if they can't be out earning a living and contributing financially, they work as prayer warriors.
Dr. Raul, a member of that church, referred Arturo to a spinal column specialist who offered free surgery--but in a city 14 hours away. In complete faith, not knowing where they would stay, Arturo and a friend caught a ride with Dr. Raul to Hermosillo. Incredibly, a couple opened up their home to the two disabled men. Dr Alan saw Arturo and gave an optimistic prognosis; however, before he could operate, the hardware would need to be purchased. Hardware?! $4000 dollars, not pesos?? My role in Arturo's story turned from garden hose to telephone cable--communicating between doctor, donors and Director Flor, translating from Spanish to English. Arturo was confident God set this up; He would provide. What seemed impossible became a reality because Arturo and Flor saw with eyes of faith. Their faith was contagious. Seeds of hope grew to produce a harvest of righteousness and healing--and I am so glad God let me be part of it--a conduit of His blessing!