Category Archive: Helping Each Other

Back to the Ranch

I wish I could capture mornings at Rancho Santa Marta. The air is crisp and cool—cooler than we expected! Birdsong of different species fills our ears with the hope of a new day. I look out our door to see three horses in the paddock. Somehow, because of different environmental allergens, my vision here is superb and I can almost count the leaves on the Ranch’s trees.

We’re up at 5:30 am for group devotions at 6:00, followed by breakfast and the workday ahead. Don and I walk out of our room, down the cement steps and along the dirt road to the dining area.

Peter leads devotions for our group, talking about cracked pots–you and me, and some days, especially me! Each of us is a vessel (an “instrumento”) designed for service. The apostle Peter instructed that “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” I Peter 4:10 NIV.

My lovely amiga Julia grew up at the Ranch and is now studying Film at University

We’re once again in a beautiful part of God’s world in Baja, Mexico, about 60 miles south of Ensenada, with people we love and a ministry to under-served children that touches our hearts.

Don leading men in construction projects

And our team’s gifts are many and varied, including:

  • Cooking
  • Construction
  • Craft-making
  • Painting
  • Puppetry
  • Photography
  • Project Management and
  • Administration.

All pitch in to help cook and clean.

Some who have never worked in construction learn new skills as our team builds trusses, hoists them onto the roof of the last two high school classrooms here, and covers the trusses with plywood sheeting, ready for the next volunteer team to move the project forward.

Photo courtesy of Larry Trice

About 38 children live on the property in four homes, each with house parents. Additionally, about 200 children are bused in for school daily from up to 60 miles away. Teachers who could earn much more in the public school system give of their hearts and minds to these children who need to know Jesus’ love, expressed through men and women who are His hands and feet on earth. The students are trained according to their special needs.

We’re getting tired. And yet every time Don and I come here we are so glad to be back in this place where children we have learned to love are given a safe haven in which to learn and grow. The needs for external and internal healing are great, and God’s love and grace are part of the curriculum.

This week’s projects, led by different team members, included the following:

  • Built and erected 38 trusses for the last two high school classrooms on the Ranch.
Covering the trusses with plywood sheeting
  • Led four craft sessions, one for each children’s residence.
  • Conducted puppet and chalk talk demonstrations in many of the elementary school classrooms.
  • Built and installed shelves in a new and expanded room for clothing and shoe distribution.
  • Trimmed and thinned peach trees in the orchard.
  • Prepared, cleaned up, and ate three wonderful squares a day to keep us going.
  • Enjoyed games and music some evenings.
  • Had a Pinata and S’mores party with the resident children, followed by dinner in the four homes.
Enjoying dinner in one of the girls’ residences

Saturday we leave RSM at 5 am to head for the border and back to our “normal” lives, a little bit richer for having been here once again – year ten for Don, and nine for me.

God bless the directors, teachers, staff, house parents and children at Rancho Santa Marta until we see you again!

www.ranchosantamarta.org/

Thanks-giving

Do you feel stuffed after all the delicious Thanksgiving vittles?

I’ve managed pretty well with food this week; but I do feel fat with friendship! There is much for which I’m thankful this weekend. For one, California has gotten rain, blessed rain, this week. While that makes it more difficult to look for human remains among the horrendous fires we’ve had this month, it helped contain the fires and clear the bad air quality that’s hovered over many of us. While we continue to pray for, and grieve with, those who have lost loved ones, homes and pets, it has been refreshing to see blue skies once again.

  • I’m thankful for a kind-hearted, gracious, fun and thoughtful husband
  • That my almost 97-year old mother is still with us
  • For loving families and friends
  • For our Paigey
  • For the desk my husband, his son and my nephew moved to our new home this week; so glad to be getting more organized and have increased usability
  • Most of all, I’m thankful that God loves me enough to pursue me, even when I feel distant from him. He gave his son, Jesus, to pay the price for my sins and to give me hope, a future, and the promise of eternal life with him.

And I realized something else. Now that Don and I live in an over-55 community, I’m using the “Nextdoor” internet application more than in the past. I found our new veterinarian through online recommendations. Don and I just made reservations to take Mom to a special event at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts for her birthday and Christmas (two days apart). She’s having increased difficulty walking, so I researched wheelchair rentals. Then I remembered the “Nextdoor” online site, where I posted a request to borrow or rent a wheelchair for one day. I’ve received about 15 responses, from “The Villages Medical Auxilliary loans them out free of charge;” to “I have one you can borrow.” What a wonderful resource! It is meaningful to have a community I can ask for recommendations, to borrow something, or for information.

I think we need a “Nextdoor” for local Christians. We could request input on challenges, ask for prayer, encourage each other, or seek practical help i.e. rides to church, meals for ill folks, respite for caregivers …

But wait! That’s what the Church is called to be. We’re exhorted to hold each other accountable, to pray for, hold each other up, encourage and challenge each other as we all grow into maturity in Jesus Christ.

The most meaningful relationships in my life have been those in which sharing was open and vulnerable and responses were loving, God-honoring, challenging me to be all God wants me to be in word, thought and deed. Trust is a key factor in this kind of relationship, which can be with a marriage partner or a same-gender friend. Confessing my faults, fears, hopes is not for the purpose of gossip or even of sharing externally for “prayer,” but to open myself to another so God can work His life more deeply into mine, knowing what is shared remains inviolate.

And so I am thankful for my husband and for those women God has put into my life for mutual encouragement. Some of you know who you are. Thank you! I can be deceived and give in to wrong thinking or actions. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (NIV)

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 NIV

Question: How have others encouraged or challenged you in your faith? Have you thanked them for building into your life?

 

When Tragedy Strikes

Like many of us, I’ve had a heavy heart this week. Another shooting in Southern California left twelve dead, others with horrific memories and their aftermath. And fires, in both Northern and Southern California. The town of Paradise decimated, 23 reported dead as of Saturday evening.

Amazingly, the Paradise home of dear friends of ours is still standing, as is their church. But for several days they didn’t know whether or not they still had a home. Others I know have lost everything, except in most cases, their loved ones. Homes are gone. Lives are lost. And even if you still have a home, there is currently no water in Paradise, no power. So as of yet there is no possibility of returning to the homes that remain.

Our friends who still have their home are in the minority. We’ve heard that 80% of Paradise is simply gone. Destroyed. Decimated How do you even begin the overwhelming task of starting over? And how do you move back into a home that is still standing when all around you is destruction, ash, rubble?

Others have certainly gone through that. In countries where persecution abounds because of ethnicity, or faith, or religious differences, many have fled their homes with nothing more than they could carry. Here in California, many escaped the Camp Fire, or the Malibu fire, or another, with only the clothes on their backs. Plans for family gatherings at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas or Hanukkah must change because people are now homeless.

So how do we help?

  • Tell people we’ll pray for them – and then DO IT! If the words are simply the “thing to say” in a tragedy, they are meaningless. Perhaps instead of just saying we’ll pray, we can stop and say “Let me pray for you now” and do it immediately, and then continuously.
  • Pray for the firefighters and emergency responders who so faithfully serve in these difficult times.
  • Ask what help they need. Someone commented that they went into Target to buy necessities only to see the store full of people walking around, dazed, not knowing where to begin. If you’ve lost everything, do you start with food or with medicines? With blankets or underwear?
  • Find ways to give where funds will be allocated in appropriate ways. The worship pastor at our Aptos church is from Paradise. He is there this weekend, meeting with the church from which he came to determine how we can help. Twin Lakes Church will give us opportunities to give in meaningful ways that are based on a real assessment of critical issues.

In the tragedy of these days we have an opportunity to come alongside those in desperate need, and love them in the name of Jesus.

My friend Shirley Fransen Holm posted this article on Facebook Saturday. What a beautiful picture of what it means to come alongside those in need.

At my synagogue, I’ll take 20 Mennonites over one armed guard

After telling the disciples he would soon leave them, their hearts were also heavy, Then Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Our hope is in the God who is present, the God who has promised never to leave or forsake us, and who calls us to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need.

Hope for Women and Children in Crisis

Glass walls surrounded from floor to ceiling. With a 110-foot high domed ceiling above us, Don and I climbed the stairs to the mezzanine where h’ors d’oevres and drinks were being served. With a view of downtown San Jose all around the City Hall Rotunda, we met our friends Bonnie and Bill Fitzgerald, who had invited us to the Hearts of Gold Gala for Cityteam’s Women’s Ministries.

Following a delicious dinner and auction of donated experiences, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo spoke about the linkage of government and the faith community. San Jose has a homeless population of 4300 persons. Of those, about 1500 are women, often with children. These are among the most vulnerable, and he thanked Cityteam for their significant role in bringing hope and healing to many of these women and their children.

Cityteam President Glen Peterson also shared that the San Jose Cityteam Board just voted to add another 150 beds for women in need to the fifty currently available in their two women’s programs, Heritage Home and House of Grace.

Heritage Home helps pregnant women with both immediate needs and long-term solutions. Its structured program provides “housing, meals, clothes, strollers, car seats, and diapers in addition to mentorship, education, parenting classes, Bible studies, AA meetings, life transformation classes, and career workshops.” https://www.cityteam.org/san-jose/programs/

We heard the story of a young mother who has learned how to parent effectively and is very excited about raising her daughter with lots of love and an understanding of who Jesus is. This young woman has gained the tools necessary to move forward with hope. “My daughter never has to see me high, or stoned, any more … I can’t believe how much I love her,” she beamed.

House of Grace provides a “long-term, life transformation program” so that addicted, abused or homeless women can rebuild their lives while keeping their young children with them. The program “addresses chemical dependency, abusive relationships, and other self-destructive behaviors … women are mentored and taught how to rejoin the mainstream of community life and become productive citizens supporting themselves as well as their families.” (*) And their onsite nursery provides a safe and caring environment for newborn to five-year old children.

Both Don and I were deeply touched by the stories of lives changed because of the love of Jesus Christ and his people. Gala attendees were generous with their bids and gifts to help women in crisis find meaning, purpose, and life skills to help them reenter mainstream society.

And as Cityteam Vice President of Development, Michele Ruby, told us, each section of the Rotunda’s dome must be interlocked with its neighbor to provide the structural stability needed to hold the roof up. A beautiful analogy of the body of Christ. As Pastor Tim Wood said this morning, the shields of the Roman empire were not meant to protect only the soldier behind it; those shields interlocked so that a phalanx of guards could move forward in battle together, much stronger than any one of them alone. So when scripture talks about putting on the whole armor of God, it’s not just referring to what I do individually, but to how I am connected to others in the family of God for added strength and stability.

So last night we joined our shields together with Cityteam to serve women and children in need. May God bless them, every one!

Question: where are you linking your shield with others for added strength, stability and effectiveness?

Kicking and Screaming!

“I don’t want to miss this wedding and time with family; but all I really want to do is stay home and unpack more boxes.”

Don and I had committed to a family wedding months ago. But as I surveyed our new home, I felt overwhelmed with the need to get the boxes emptied and their contents put away. We’d moved just two weeks earlier and the house was still a bit chaotic, as was the state of my mind.

For the past few months I’ve had trouble sleeping every 2nd, 3rd or 4th night. When that happens I get up and work. I’ve unpacked up to 10 boxes during the night before finally falling asleep sometime between 2:30 and 4 am. My awake times are usually quite productive but of course, the following day(s) I’m not worth much.

Fatigued as I get, I still have a choice to make. Will I grumble and grouse, or will I choose to remain positive (perhaps quietly so!), knowing those around love me dearly (and I them); and that the next night offers another opportunity for rest.

So with all that was on my mind I was concerned about attending a wedding with dark-rimmed eyes after a sleepless night or two.

At the rehearsal dinner, I mentioned my need for prayer for insomnia. Several offered to pray for me. That night I slept eight good hours. After the wedding Saturday, I slept eleven hours! I am so grateful for the prayers of others, and for the weekend away. Although I left home kicking and screaming (figuratively speaking), Don and I both needed this total break from packing and moving and unpacking to get some much needed rest. The wedding was beautiful, and we loved the time we spent with family members all weekend–precious time not to be missed!

Moving is stressful. I was interested in the responses of others to my question about the hardest part of their last move. Some were funny, like “getting out of the recliner”. But others talked about the physical and mental exhaustion, the lack of storage, the boxes everywhere and no floor space, and thinking they were finished only to find more boxes to unpack. One mentioned moving an upright piano, and still another, losing their community of friends and prayer partners. Leaving a home you loved, friends and a church community, as well as doctors and other service providers, is a challenge.

We’ve been home from the wedding a week now and I’ve continued to sleep well. I imagine that’s partly because we’re feeling more relaxed. Critical items are unpacked, the house is taking shape, and we can now work at a less pressured rate. My insomnia seems to have been related to having too much on my mind, and having a hard time letting go of those thoughts. And God’s grace, through the prayers of family and friends, helped me let go and sleep. What a blessing!

It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
    and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
    giving rest to those he loves? Psalm 127:2