Mustard Seeds

Mustard Seeds

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Back to T-mec

In order to get back to Temecula from Porvenir we have a myriad of checkpoints to pass through. Between the military checkpoint, border crossing, and border patrol check it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 5 hours to get through them all. This time around however God was gracious and His sense of humor was apparent. 

We reached the military check and after claiming to speak only the minimal amount of spanish, to avoid extensive questioning, the officers came around to my door to look into the van. It was all of two seconds before they spotted my ukulele on my lap and were requesting a song. I had just been playing “Over the Rainbow” when we pulled up so I started strumming it and through my embarrassment and laughter I managed to get a couple oohs and words in. When I looked up to four iphones filming me I lost it and couldn’t sing anything else. So I passed my uke to one of the officers and taught him a C chord (you only need one finger) and he strummed it with a huge smile on his face. They handed back the instrument and waved us on without a single question or search into our creeper van. God’s sense of humor at work.

Our border crossing took a lot longer because of the Mexican Revolution holiday but I managed to entertain myself for the two hours by hiking up a hill next to the crossing, walking to buy a coke and find a decent baño, helping a guy sell his cookies and gum to cars driving by (I have a new respect for those people, it requires humility I don’t have), and by picking up plant clippings with a gardener that was beautifying the border. (I would like to mention that this was just girls... the lame boys were sitting in the car like nincompoops.) By the time I got back in the car I was ready to sit for a few minutes and pray our way through the border. We passed through with no complications and no questions. God’s graciousness at work.

Processing the Future

I know that many of you readers are also prayer warriors, not to mention my closest friends. It is for this reason that I want to share a little of what God has been doing in my heart as it involves my future. 

God spoke a word to me when I was graduating college and leaving SLO that He would “never give me more than one step of my life at a time.” He has been faithful to that. It was only when I was returning from Haiti that summer that I knew I was accepted to Ventana and it was only on the final day of Ventana last year that He confirmed I would be returning this year to Mexico. So I don’t expect to know my next life step until the end of this year in Ventana or later. So I am making no plans, those are God’s to make and keep, but I do feel that I can see a pattern of how God is shaping me and preparing me for something. And I am honestly scared and nervous for where He could be leading me.

Last year God worked on my heart a lot to give up things I was holding onto. This year, now that I am less attached to things, I feel God preparing me to go. Go like Paul in the Great Commission. Go like Hudson Taylor to Inland China where no other missionaries had gone before. Go like Jim Elliot to a people who have never heard the name of God. And that is frightening to think about. Scary and exciting. I think.

I don’t have much else to say about it but I do know am praying over the idea that I could be going to an unreached people group next year or maybe in a couple of years. And I am continuing to pray, not for direction or plans, but for a heart for the lost and the skills I need to be sent to the nations. I am also praying for the lessons I need to learn to soak into my life. I want to be formed for what God has for me and I hope I am not too daft to miss what He is doing in my life right now. =)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Staff Reunited

God loves me. I know this because he brought my kindred spirits from last year back down to Mexico for the weekend. Monique and Jason were on staff with me last year and I know that they are friends I will have for the rest of life (here and in Heaven fo-eva!). 
We had our adventures in Ensenada searching for and buying new couches for Ventana and then trying to fit them in our van with Doug’s bike, two kids, and six Ventana staff. Mexi-styling it!




We also experienced the “slide of death” at a park in Ensenada where comes the playground equipment that is banned from the parks in the States because of safety issues. Yolo! (you only live once) I was so freaked out by the time I climbed up the giant ladder that I held on to the top for a good 15 seconds as my body slowly went down the slide without my arms. But make it down I did and can now say I survived the sketchy, rusty metal “slide of death.”
I was definitely sad to see Mo and Jason go at the end of the long weekend but God did a few things in my heart as they did. He showed me that I am never alone in my journey because of friends like them. He reminded me that I am loved and cared for just the way I am. And He gave me a renewed desire to be that for other people. I missed them the second they drove away but I am so so grateful for the time we did have!

Touristing

A few weeks ago I had to opportunity to travel to Southern California and be a tourist. It was quite a treat for someone who has lived in Porvenir for three months. But in all seriousness, we went to San Diego and I felt like I was visiting it for the first time and it was wonderful! We began our day by praying Taylor off on a new chapter of her journey at home in one of the original train stations of California:
We then continued onto lunch at county offices of San Diego. It was indeed as random as it sounds but let me tell you, it rocked! At the very top of this old building is a cafe for the county workers that is government subsidized and super reasonably priced. Take advantage of your taxes! Eat here if you are ever in the area and try the pesto sandwich... and the salad and the bread pudding and the smoothies... We were all pleasantly surprised with the food and the amazing view of the entire harbor.
After we stuffed our faces on American food we then went to Balboa Park to walk it all off in the botanical gardens. Everything about the park is beautiful...

...the plants...
...the buildings...
...the free art museum...
...the people...
...and the wildlife.
(can you see the turtle?)

Not to mention the people I got to spend the day with. We all bonded as women so much throughout the day as we wandered around and discovered little treasures in San Diego. And Doug was a great tour guide and stand-in dad for the day. It was so refreshing! It is hard for me to explain but I felt like I got a breath of fresh air that has filled my ever since lungs that day. Praise God for fun days that involve being a tourist in your own state! 
He thought he was taking a picture of us when he snapped this one. =)
We finished the day off with pumpkin and eggnog treats at Starbucks before we crossed the border back home. Have I mentioned Mexicans don’t believe in Pumpkin or Eggnog as flavors? It makes the times we get it so exciting. I cherished that eggnog chai when I finally got it. =)

Soy Mexicana

I want so badly to be a true mexican that I claim I am one, when with the locals. They usually laugh and smile at my joke as they look at my white (even for a gringa) skin. So, when our pastor asks for volunteers to make tortillas for an outreach, I give a good college try at proving them wrong. I raise my hand in church with all of the other ladies who can make tortillas in their sleep. It is mere seconds before our pastor exclaims in the microphone, “Stephanie?! Puedes hacer tortillas?!” In a small (because I am now in the entire church’s spotlight), but stubborn voice (because I want to be mexican enough to not be singled out) I respond, “Si! Yo puedo!” He smiles at me with an incredulous and surprised expression and continues with the announcements.

Fast forward a few days and I am in my kitchen up to my forearms in flour and sticky dough. I make little balls and start rolling out the dough into thin circular(ish) sheets. When my first tortilla is more of a chip than the warm, floppy creation I was hoping for, I start to panic. “I can never be a mexican!” But I forge ahead, determined to not contribute to the outreach by buying tortillas down the street. “I am helping by making these myself, gosh darn it!” My second one rolls out easier and cooks soft. I breath a sigh of relief and finish making all my little balls into sheets. All the while, eating about five of them and making everyone try a piece because I am so excited that they worked. 

Fast forward again to that evening when I arrive at the church to deliver my two-kilos-of-flour-made-quesadilla-supplies. I continue to make everyone there try my tortillas to get a true mexican’s opinion of them. They were all shocked. They thought that when I had raised my hand in church I was going to take my pesos to the store and buy tortillas. But when I show up with fresh, still-warm tortillas (that taste like a real Mexican’s) I attain true Mexican status. And for once, when I claim “soy mexicana,” they agree.

Soccer Medals

After many bruises, missed passes, and sprints down the court to retrieve the balls that were stolen from me, we finished the season in third place. And we were awarded medals that are actually really amazing.
 The hard part of the whole thing was how embarrassed I was to go to the ceremony. All of our friends were there cheering in the stands and watching us as we walked out on the court to receive our medals and I wanted to crawl in a hole. Why you ask? Well let me explain how we got to third place. It was not because of the skills of our team or the death of another team. No, it was because there are a grand total of three girls teams in town to match the ten or so that the boys have. So we got third by default. And I was mortified that we were awarded for that. That is, until I thought more about it and the ceremony was over. I realized that instead of being embarrassed I should be proud that so many of us got out there and played. I should be excited for the relationships we have formed with the local girls. And I should be grateful for the bonding experience of going to the ceremony as a “team.” Especially since I love my medal now that I have it hanging in my room.


I also would like to mention that from playing soccer with the locals I have taken away something else... a gnarly battle wound that will not go away. It looked like this and got worse as the blood moved to my foot and ankle and the bruise turned more colors.


But after a month and a half I still have a huge knot in my muscle that makes my foot hurt all the time. Any suggestions from you doctor folk would be much appreciated! This is one medal I would not like to keep!

Find my Parent

When my mom sent me this picture a few weeks ago I decided to see if people could look at my face and find my parent in the picture. The majority, my local friends included, got it right on the first shot. Do you know which person in this picture is my parent?





Answer: My dad, rocking the plaid and a stripped tie, is the guy on the right. =)

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Weapon of Faithfulness

Last year I blogged about a spiritual attack we experienced the first week we were here. (there are two links to the two blog posts) I wrote how the experience was new for me and how Monique and I were unsure at first how to deal with the actual demonic presences that were in our room. I have come far in understanding God’s power through us and around us and so when the spiritual warfare of Ventana was made physical again this last week, I was frustrated more than scared of demons. But that was almost worse...

Ashley (my new wonderful roommate) decided to really take time to pray before she fell asleep one night last week. But while she was praying Satan attempted to stop her. She woke me up around midnight to ask if I heard a clicking noise. I became barely coherent enough to mumble no and fall back asleep. Then at 12:30 she woke me up again with a slightly frantic “Stephanie!” It reminded me so much of how Monique’s voice sounded last year that I woke up and knew something was amiss. She explained that she had been hearing a strange clicking noise and was scared. So we prayed. I was frustrated with Satan that I had to be up in the middle of the night dealing with his lame attempts to scare us and ruin our rest. So I refused to acknowledge anything real was happening. My thought being that if there were real demons in our room I would have to fully wake up, deal with it, and lose sleep. So in my self-centeredness I prayed for peace and protection from the Lord but I did not pray against anything in the room. If I had been scared I wouldn’t have treated the situation so lightly but would have run to the Lord for power to cast out whatever was pestering us. But I wasn’t scared, I was just super hot and irritable and listening to Satan tell me that I didn’t need to pray with power. 

It is no surprise that after I prayed Ashley was still scared and I was still awake. I started then to acknowledge that God was calling me to pray with strength against what were real demons in our room. He had been prompting me to be his voice that night and I was ignoring Him. So I eventually did pray, I prayed that whatever was not of the Lord would leave our campus and not come back. I prayed for God’s hand of power and for the Lord to fill that place so nothing else could fit. I prayed the way God was calling me to pray the whole time. Praying for peace while still sleeping in a room full of demons wasn’t going to cut it, I had to acknowledge the reality of the battle going on. 

As soon as I prayed against Satan I felt a significant change in the temperature of our room. I went from stifling hot to cool and refreshing. I found out the next day, from Ashley, that right before she woke me up she had felt a hot presence hovering directly over her and she had hid in her covers. The temperature change was proof to me that God was just waiting for the first signs of my faithfulness to work in our lives. He just wanted me to be faithful in one tiny thing (prayer) and he provided everything after that, including casting out demonic spirits.

When the strange clicking noise continued, even after the demon was kicked out, I knew I had the power to end that as well. I only had to be faithful to the Holy Spirit once again. I realized that being faithful does not only mean I pray as God asks me to; being faithful also means I recognize God’s ability to move and I don’t insult him by not trusting Him to move when I need Him to. So I told the Lord we needed the clicking to stop. (Side Note: The click, when I did hear it, was uncanny and not a normal creaking trailer noise. It was deliberate and loud and was hard to pinpoint in the room. It sounded like it was right next to both of us at the same time. Definitely a scare tactic of Satan.) So I told God he needed to make it stop and in that exact instant it did. We couldn’t help but praise God after that and tell everyone about how amazing He is the next day. God gets all the glory for this! Forever and always, the glory and power and honor is His.

I learned that when God asks you to pray, you pray. When you are scared or need God to move, He can and will. I need to be more faithful to God and who He is... it was only when I gave God the acknowledgment he deserved was I able to fall back asleep and was Ashley at peace. And only then was God glorified.

Mexi-Style

My definition of what I fondly call Mexi-Style is this: making do with what you have. This week I was able to rock this particular trend on my bicycle. My saddle has slowly been deteriorating as it sits in the sun year after year and the inevitable finally happened, the front quarter fell off. Not all at once though, but in chunks and pieces of fabric. The result was this:
So how did I fix it? Like any red-neck (this would make more sense if you have seen The Red-Green Show) or local would... with duct tape!
Though the duct tape was applied only after the chunks of my seat had bounced around in my also mexi-styled basket (put on with zip ties) for a couple of weeks.
The result is this black beauty... ready to go within minutes!

Softened Hearts

A quick praise! God has been moving in the students so much and while that has been resulting in resistance from some, others are embracing the work God is doing and they are seeking God’s guidance to change things in their lives. I love this part of my job! Prayer for those who are not welcoming the challenging parts of walking with the Lord down here would be appreciated. But praise to God that student’s hearts are softening to the Lord’s promptings and some awesome stuff is being shared with us about how He is working!

Nicknames

It is playoff season for soccer around here and that means a few things: we are playing two games this Sunday, we have been conditioning a lot in practice, and there are a lot of people in the stands for the games. A lot of drunk people. Who like to yell obnoxious things. That make it really hard to hear my coach. 

These lovely drunk men who decide to grace us with their presence every week also like to pass out nicknames to the players. So I naturally, being the bright white person on the court, acquired a new nickname... Pelusa. It took me a while to understand what this meant when asking my teammates because the definition is vague but, from what I understand, it means a hairy thing. haha It is a word used for fluffy little dogs, llamas, and curly haired white girls. And oh man has that name caught on around town! My friends now use it, my team uses it, and I even hear it from a few people who I am not sure I know. Down here nicknames are a big deal though so I have embraced it and decided I don’t mind being known for my hair. But you bet it will be in a ponytail this Sunday and not flopping all over like it was last week when I became a Pelusa.

Oh, and since I have to reference Lord of the Rings every once in a while, I wanted to share one of my newest favorite quotes from The Two Towers that talks about nicknames in a way that reminds me of Mexico and the importance of accepting a nickname (an apodo):
‘Hullo, Sméagol! Found any food? Have you had any rest?’
‘No food, no rest, nothing for Sméagol,’ said Gollum. ‘He’s a sneak.’
Sam clicked his tongue, but restrained himself.
‘Don’t take nicknames to yourself, Sméagol,’ said Frodo. ‘It’s unwise, whether they are true or false.’
‘Sméagol has to take what’s given him,’ answered Gollum. ‘He was given that name by kind Master Samwise, the hobbit that knows so much.’
Frodo looked at Sam. ‘Yes sir,’ he said. ‘I did use that word waking up out of my sleep sudden and all and finding him at hand. I said I was sorry, but I soon shan’t be.’

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Culture?

Even after a year in the tiny town of Porvenir, Mexico I am still learning more about the culture of this place. The biggest example of this was a few weeks ago when the circus came to town. This circus not only had a shetland pony and a llama (so exotic), it also had Tarzan, Spiderman, and a few other gymnastics routines all done by the same guy...
Snookie (from Jersey Shore) made an appearance...
And the girl gymnast was named Stephanie. Apparently I am really buff.
There were also cameo appearances from Phineas and Ferb and Dora the Explorer...
And a slew of horrible dances from girls in not enough clothing and with a sever lack of skill. If I hadn’t been sitting next to one of my guy friends I might have laughed but instead I was just plain awkward. But all in all I am glad I went since this was a first for a lot of locals too. Circuses don’t tend to come to our little town but it stayed a week longer than planned because so many people wanted to see it. Despite (or maybe because of) the cheese factor it was a $20 pesos well spent (about $1.50).



Another recent cultural experience was my first quinseñera... for a guy. I was dropping someone off at the Cafe when my friend came outside asking me if I wanted to come to a quinseñera... right then. I came inside to find this:
Giovanni was turning 15 and all of his friends made him a dress and made themselves ties so they could all be his date to his party. =) All mexicans need a quinseñera right? Who said only girls could have huge fifteenth birthday celebrations? Natrually, we all wanted in on the action so we tried on the dress and ties as well and I think we made some pretty fine looking couples...

Oh and the guys, needing to re-establish their manhood, burned the dress at the end.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Disciples

“Making disciples is not an easy process. It is trying. It is messy. It is slow, tedious, even painful at times. It is all these things because it is relational. Jesus has not given us an effortless step-by-step formula for impacting the nations for his glory. He has given us people, and he has said, “Live for them. Love them, and serve them and lead them. Lead them to follow me, and lead them to lead others to follow me. In this process you will multiply the gospel to the ends of the earth.” -David Platt 

This quote has given me perspective so many times this year already. I wrote it in my journal over the summer knowing God would use it and this week I shared it with my staff. Whether you are in a ministry like mine where you are overtly discipling students or not, the difficulties and mess of working with people exists. But take heart, we are all flawed and all tired at times but we are still called to love on one another and guide each other towards the Lord... and we can so it! Despite the difficulty of the process. =)

Satan Hinders Us

“Satan hindered us.” -1 Thessalonians 2:18

“Since the first hour in which goodness came into conflict with evil, it has never ceased to be true in spiritual experience, that Satan hinders us. From all points of the compass, all along the the line of battle, in the vanguard and in the rear, at the dawn of the day and in the midnight hour, Satan hinders us. If we toil in the field, he seeks to break the ploughshare; if we build the wall, he labours to cast down the stones; if we would serve God in suffering or in conflict -- everywhere Satan hinders us. He hinders us when we first looked to the cross and lived. Now that we are saved, he endeavors to hinder the completeness of our personal character. You may be congratulating yourself, “I have hitherto walked consistently; no man can challenge my integrity.” Beware of boasting, for your virtue will yet be tried; Satan will direct his engines against that very virtue for which you are the most famous. If you have hitherto been a firm believer, your faith will ere long be attacked; if you have been meek as Moses, expect to be tempted to speak unadvisedly with your lips. The birds will peck at your ripest fruit, and the wild boar will dash his tusks at your choicest vines.
Satan is sure to hinder us when we are earnest in prayer. He checks our importunity, and weakens our faith in order that, if possible, we may miss the blessing. Nor is Satan less vigilant in obstructing Christian effort. There was never a revival of religion without a revival of his opposition. As soon as Ezra and Nehemiah begin to labor, Sanballat and Tobiah are stirred up to hinder them. What then? We are not alarmed because Satan hindereth us, for it is a proof that we are on the Lord’s side, and are doing the Lord’s work, and in His strength we shall win the victory, and triumph over our adversary.”          
 -Charles Spurgeon

Monday, September 10, 2012

More Ipod Pictures

I carry my iPod with me everywhere now since I can document so many things and write so many lists on it. =) I love my lists! So here are some more pictures I have taken so far.
 Sunset at the beach our first day on the way down.
 Awesome Tiki Tiki Room-esque resturaunt in El Sauzal.
 Sunrise in Porvenir.
 David and Tim... twins at the Taco Shop.
 Sushi and Tempura plantains in Ensenada with the staff.
 Painting our kitchen with a vibrant yellow. =)
 Creepy Parrot at the Second Hand stores... For Kimbo.

 We bought a purple (wine) colored couch! Go remodeling!
 Dr. Suess Tree. =)
 This will have a post all to itself later.
We need this couch. haha

New Position


You might be wondering what I am doing this year if I am not teaching the English class at the local kindergarten anymore. Pues, as the “Program Assistant” my new job involves these things:

Product Placement


I love watching a movie and seeing logos for companies and products pop up. It makes me laugh to think of how much money those companies spent to have their car or drink in the movie and I like finding details like that in movies. Well, here is my very own, very blatant, product placement.
I blog about this stuff not just because the color is so in style right now (highlighter yellow) and not because it is so citrusy and nice but because I think everyone should have it to make their lives easier. I am telling you about this because here at Ventana we have some really set in gooey, nasty stains sometimes that we can’t get out. Seven years in already used trailers will lead to that. So when we whipped this Mr. Clean stuff out for the first time and I went to town on a horridly disgusting white board I had little hope of recovering it to a useable state. But this stuff was a miracle!!! Calling all moms to the cleaning isle! This cleaning solution is incredible. Try it. =)