Category Archive: Relying on God

Rancho Santa Marta – the Privilege of Service

We came to Mexico to serve – children, teachers, staff.

Quite a few groups of young folks come to volunteer at the Ranch. We learned Sunday that we are known as the “white-haired group” because so many of our team members have, you guessed it, white hair! (We ran the gamut from 19 to 91 this year.) Being the “white-haired group” is a pretty great distinction because, while we delight in the younger men and women who come–and need their energy, skills and mobility!–various people on our team have  served here for over 30 years (Don and I, eight and seven respectively). Like the Eveready Bunny. Evidence of God’s grace that we are still able to serve in meaningful ways.

We’ve experienced that grace in a variety of ways this week. Annette worked with children on English words and crafts. Leola cooked, and worked her puppet magic. One boy, whom she said doesn’t speak in school, got behind the cardboard stage, a puppet in each hand, and told his classmates a story! Debbie needed help repairing a sewing machine to continue work on the curtains she was making for one of the homes. She mentioned the need to Juan who, as the youngest of thirteen children, often repaired his mother’s sewing machine! A few minutes of his expertise and, wallah, Debbie had her repair.

One side of gym, complete with metal studs and siding

Much needed restroom by children’s play area

Don and his team directed the construction work with grace and strength, and one side of the new gymnasium is now supported by metal studs, covered with siding. Another group worked on a needed play area restroom with six stalls each for boys and girls. We are tired; but  keep working to accomplish the goals set for us, despite several significant workaround challenges.

JoAnn and I enjoyed keeping ‘our boys’ hydrated and uplifted with snacks and water twice a day, as well as painting, photography, and doing crafts with the children.

Last night our team leader, Bob Moorhead, played the organ in the chapel for those who wanted to listen. I sat, stitching a yarn art sample for our craft time and listening to wonderful sounds, from “Just as I Am” to the Beach Boys. It was a renewing time of just being in God’s presence.

Every year our time is meaningful as we watch what God is doing in the lives of many of these children, and understand a little more about the challenges of directing this large operation, which includes forty-five resident children, another 180-200 in elementary and junior high school, the ranch with its horses, pigs, cows, goats, the hay bales scattered over some of the 450 acres, the peach tree orchard. The wisdom and diligence required to lead this ‘operation’ demand much. Its Directors rarely get away for a break; yet they continue to serve, love, teach, and build into these young lives.

Will you join us in prayer for a couple of specific needs:

  1.  House Parents for one of the boys’ homes. “Victor’s House”, which our team framed last year,

    Victor’s House

    is ready for occupancy by the older boys/men. It is named for the oldest male resident who grew up at the Ranch and just had his 40th birthday. These boys’ disabilities make living independently almost impossible. However, they, and the house parents who will move with them, cannot move until new house parents are identified and hired to take over the younger boys remaining in the initial house. This is a tough job; 24/7 with children with special needs. Often house parents leave after a short while, saying “it’s too hard.”

  2. Times of respite for Directors, house parents, and staff.
  3. Additional teachers needed for the school, especially as the Ranch begins teaching tenth grade this Fall.

I am deeply thankful for this ministry of intentional building into the lives of children and young adults, and privileged to be a very small part of its ministry. For more information about the Ranch, see http://www.ranchosantamarta.org/

May God bless you this week as you watch for opportunities to serve Him in your daily life.

 

From Red Carpet to Black Earth

It was just a week and a half ago that Don and I stood on the Red Carpet in France, where the Cannes Film Festival began today. The glitter, glitz and glamour of the movie world, stunning actresses and handsome actors in clothing that costs thousands of dollars, the rush of the crowd (we were told it’s hard to move in Cannes during the Festival) were easy to imagine.

The following day we traveled to Monaco where we watched the changing of the guard at the palace, and went into the Monte Carlo Casino – small but stunning. It was afternoon and there was little action at the tables. We got something to drink, sat and watched.

This weekend we’re in a very different environment.

Sunday morning, Don and I, along with the rest of our missions team, celebrated worship at Rancho Santa Marta in Baja, Mexico. After driving fourteen hours Saturday to reach the ranch, we settled in for a night’s sleep. This morning we joined the ranch’s resident children, parents and staff for a worship service in both Spanish and English. It is a joy to worship here annually.

Forty-five resident children include orphans, children removed from their homes because of abuse, several who have been left at the ranch’s doorstep, and others with learning disabilities. They live in groups with house parents, giving them a stable and structured environment in which to grow. Additionally, about 180 community children are bused in for school from up to 60 miles away.

Director Rod shared his testimony this morning; it thrilled me to hear him talk about how God has prospered them … not in terms of financial success or reputation; but in their five children, and the blessing on the Ranch’s ministry. He pulled out a Kobe Bryant LA Lakers’ jersey, a “Struiksma” jersey (his and Tina’s last name) and another jersey with the name of one of the children here. Tossing that one to the side of the chapel, he spoke: “The message these children have received is that they are junk – because of abuse, because of separation from their families. Our job, and yours while you’re here, is to love them and teach them they are of infinite value because of Christ.” He reminded us that our work here goes far beyond building gym walls; it’s to minister to and value the children here.

Don and I feel pain when children choose to leave the ranch, or must leave because of disruption to the community. Sometimes their desires and needs feed them the lie that life will be better, happier, easier outside, with less of the structure they need to become contributing adults. Sometimes children have to be removed because of their impact on others.

One family of seven children have all grown up at the ranch. Some are becoming productive adults. Other children are also here with their siblings. We have been blessed to see the love, education and training they receive. And there are young adults who came to the ranch as little children, and are now also ministering to others. While the ranch is a safe haven for these children, they are also taught about, and led in, taking the gospel beyond these 450 acres. Some learn that they too can bring the good news of Jesus to others.

Our team at lunch after church, at a local restaurant

Don and I feel blessed to see different parts of God’s creation, both in nature and in the people we meet. And we see our Father’s love and desire for relationship in myriad settings, whether obscured by wealth and fame, or shared with children who come with great needs. And we love Rancho Santa Marta, its children, staff, and teachers. Would you pray with us that our service this week will be a blessing, both among our team of 23, and to those we will serve.

How can I pray for you?

Agony … and Glory!

“Christ is risen.”

“He is risen indeed!”

The traditional Christian Easter greeting celebrates the greatest truth believers know. But how often do we also focus on the agony that came before victory?

It’s Thursday. Jesus flinches as spittle splatters onto his face, and groans in pain as the crown of thorns is pressed into his forehead. The open gashes across his back attest to the whippings he has endured. His mother, Mary, is barely able to see above the rest of the crowd as she stands, watching while they nail her boy to a rough-hewn cross. Reaching out with her right arm, she forces her left hand to cover the scream that threatens to break out of her throat. She rocks back and forth, heart shredded. “My son. My son.”  Wanting to take his pain; unable to do so.

Later she kneels at the foot of the cross, wringing her hands, keening as she watches her son dying. Never has she felt so alone. Then John steps up and lays a hand on her shoulder. Mary looks up through tears to see that John, too, is suffering as he watches his Rabbi’s body being torn and bruised and broken. She sees Jesus look down on them both.

“Behold your mother,” he says to John.

And “Behold your son,” to Mary.

And after Jesus’ death, after they have buried him in a borrowed tomb, she goes home with John, who cares for her from then on.

There is so much agony in our world. On at least three of five days last week I read about another school shooting, a bombing during Easter celebrations, and a fired employee returning to the workplace to kill. I hurt because some people I love are going through physical, emotional or mental pain. A good friend with whom Don and I have ministered in Mexico for the past few years went in for what was thought to be a non-critical surgery, caught an infection and died. Wars and famine abound.

But, as an old song says, “Sunday’s comin’.”

Sunday, when Mary’s world, John’s world, our world, was changed forever because Jesus conquered death and, in so doing, gave those who believe, life eternal–and hope now!

Yes, sorrow is ever-present in our world. But there is a day coming when joy will be the light of our morning and the song we sing at night. The day when Jesus the Christ returns for his people, and sorrow will forever be forgotten; pain a thing of the past; and peace, justice and harmony will reign. What a day that will be!

I pray that if you are hurting, lonely, confused today, you will turn to the God who gave us Easter Resurrection; and the promise (and experience) of His presence with us in the sorrows and agony of today.

Sunday’s comin’!

 

 

He will quiet you in His Love

Searching for documents

My fingers tapped the table. My mind struggled to remember where I’d put those documents.  I’d been gathering information for our CPA for hours already that day. But I couldn’t find some significant paperwork I needed to complete my part of our tax preparation. Finally I went outside to find my hubby.

“Don, I need your help. I can’t find these papers and can’t finish my tax information without them.”

“Let’s both go look.”

I leaned into his shoulder while my love put his arms around me, holding me close. My spirit quieted because, whether or not we found those documents, I wasn’t alone in my search. Don was there for me, helping me, sharing the load. We walked into the den and checked everywhere we could think of, without success.

I spoke up. “Lord, we really need your help here. I have no idea where else to look.” Don looked up at me. “Have you checked the safe?”

“No, but that’s a good idea.” I got out of my chair and walked towards our room. Before I got there my view fell on the folder I needed in the hall closet.

“Thank you, Jesus … and Don.” He took my into his arms and we both laughed, rejoicing that the lost was found.

This is such a teeny example of the truth in a scripture I love. Zephaniah 3:17 says “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

When I take my concerns to the Father, He puts his arms about me and says, “Let me carry this burden, my child.

I’ve got it!” And even more, the God of the universe rejoices over me with singing. That feels like the tenderness that surrounded me when my mother sang lullabies to me as a little girl. In God’s love I feel enfolded. And my heart and mind quiet in His presence.

What helps you give your concerns to the One who wants to quiet your heart with his great and unconditional love?

“‘Til the Storm Passes By”

Runoff from our hill 

Bills must be paid, despite stormy weather, mudslides, downed trees. Driving to the post office yesterday to mail those payments, Don and I saw four waterfalls, not there before, cascading down the hills on our right.

California has been inundated with storms recently. Two hundred thousand residents were temporarily evacuated when breaks in the Oroville Dam spillways threatened enormous floods. Flooding has overwhelmed parts of Southern California. Mudslides, power outages, and traffic tie-ups have resulted in several deaths.

Trees have fallen across roads, onto houses and cars, and slid down hillsides. Unsafe. Highway 17 has only two lanes open. Our road, a main alternative to Highway 17, is closed indefinitely north of us. The road has already sunk at least eighteen inches in one area, while a sinkhole took out a fourth of the road in another. Unstable.

The storm offers some gifts. Staying home. Burrowing in with hubby and dogs, writing, reading, cleaning, napping.

It also offers challenges. Don has created a good drainage system under the house, and along the road, so the water will not threaten our foundation. He’s checking it and refining it again today. Early this afternoon, Safeway was quite full, people filling their carts in preparation for the next storm, starting later today.

Storms enter our lives in different ways. Years ago I was seriously depressed. No strength remained in my mind or heart. But I had a cassette (I know – almost prehistoric!) of a melodious male quartet. “My” song talked about the storms of life. Every night for three weeks I crawled into bed, depressed, fearful, sometimes crying, and played that song. My prayer was brief. “Lord, I have nothing with which to hold onto you right now. Please hold me.”

When the long night has ended,
And the storms come no more,
Let me stand in Thy presence.
On that bright, peaceful shore.
In that land where the tempest
Never comes, Lord may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.

‘Til the storm passes over,
‘Til the thunder sounds no more;
‘Til the clouds roll forever from the sky,
Hold me fast, let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.

Hold me fast, Let me stand,
In the hollow of Thy hand;
Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.

And He kept me. Storms came, and went, and still do. But my hope is in the God who will hold me fast “’til the storm passes by.”

If you’re discouraged, caught in a storm you don’t know how to get out of, I pray this song will minister to you as it did to me. That it will give you hope, and truth to hold onto until your storm passes over. God be with you.

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