Category Archive: Rebuilding

Hope Realized

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV

I was on a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles to meet women I hadn’t seen for 38 years. My anticipation was high, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.

We worked together in the Los Angeles ghetto. Some of the women coming to the reunion accepted Christ through the ministry and went on to become staff members. 

Six women in this 1970’s L.A. staff photo were among the 14 present at our reunion

During my ten and a half years of service there, we worshipped, sang, taught children and adults the Bible. Our African American teens taught us white Mennonite girls, not known for dancing, the “hustle”. Our girls laughed at us, but I won the dance competition. That’s about as much dancing as I’ve done in my life, and it was fun! We taught children’s and adults’ Bible studies. We cried together when someone we loved was hurt or killed. We took in women who were abused, threatened, hurt. We watched an SLA house burn to the ground directly across from our home. When our lives were threatened we sat up late, talking and praying until we were fatigued enough to sleep.

We were close, both because of a common purpose and because we needed each other. We built tight-knit relationships within staff and in the inner city communities where we lived. We rejoiced together when another precious child, woman or man began a walk with Jesus that changed their lives and gave new hope.

Thirty-eight years later, I wondered how the women I would be with had changed. How had I changed? Would we have to work our way past years of separation and misinformation or could we pick up where we left off?

As I wrote last week, my departure was under less than optimal circumstances. Would there be questions, rehashing, resentment? Or forgiveness and love and acceptance for each person where she is now?

Were there residual areas of healing that needed to occur? I have forgiven those who hurt me. But were there still areas I needed to address?

After taking my first ever Uber ride from LAX, I knocked on Katie’s door. Entering, I was greeted with a lingering hug, which I gladly returned.

As twelve other women joined us, the extended hugs continued. Without words, we seemed to say “I’ve missed you. So very good to be with you again.”

One missing – we were 14!

I felt at home.

After a potluck lunch the 14 of us sat around the family room. We took turns updating each other on our lives. None of us are still with the organization we left, although one or two still volunteer with it. For four and a half hours we shared nonstop.

Patsy asked why I left. She had felt abandoned, another person walking away from her life. For 38 years some of these women had no idea why I left. I shared that I had lost trust in our President, with whom I’d worked very closely for 10 1/2 years. When he realized I no longer trusted him, he told me to leave town … that night. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. My sharing answered a long-held question for Pat, and I think brought some closure.

But I had not walked away from the Lord we all loved.

The ability to ask and answer questions, the vulnerability we shared with each other, reestablished a foundation of trust among us. And I realized that I was the first, but certainly not the only one who experienced rejection and hurt in leaving that ministry.

We had prayed for a time of healing, of restoration. My text to Don said it all. “Ohhhhh. Myyyyyy.”

Have you had a difficult challenge with a ministry from which you needed healing? That changed your faith? That caused you to question God or service?

You’re not alone.  Let’s talk about it.

Next week I’ll share more of what I learned and experienced this weekend. Still processing!

Retooling

I sat down at the keyboard, placed my fingers in position. I couldn’t open my WordPress program. Nada. Nothing. I was stumped. I couldn’t post my weekly blog.

The following week I contacted my provider to regain site access. After six or seven calls and repeated emails that got me nowhere, I was getting quite frustrated.

Finally I spoke with a service representative who said, “This is beyond my pay grade so I’m going to escalate your call.” Thank you Jesus (and Shawn)! This man recognized he did not have the skills necessary to correct my issue and up-loaded my call. Jon, on the other hand, did have the needed expertise and spent time with me, giving me back access to the administrative side of my blog and answering questions patiently. Something about my system needed retooling.

How often do you and I need retooling in our lives, whether spiritually, physically, emotionally or mentally?

I was recently challenged to fast in some way. I tend to get lightheaded if I wait too long between meals and so a food fast doesn’t seem workable for me at this time. However, I can fast in another way, for the purpose of spending that time with the Father.

My morning habit is to pick up my phone while I’m still in bed, check news and emails. I’ve determined that for the next week I will postpone that time on my phone, rather getting out of bed to sit by a living room window overlooking the pines and hills, and start my day with my Savior FIRST.

I need retooling periodically. How about you?

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/

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.

BEAUTY FOR ASHES

 

Demolition began Monday! Don and I purchased a home in a lovely over-55 community called “The Villages” just over two years ago. With a plan to stay in our beautiful Soquel locale for another two years or so, we rented the house in San Jose to several short-term tenants, the last of whom moved out a week ago. Now we’re preparing for our own move within several months.

Don and I arrived at the house early on demo morning to let our contractors in to begin work on our kitchen and master bath. The house looked clean, with everything in place.

By the end of the day the kitchen was totally torn apart (photo right), with wood strips, shavings, sawdust, and countertops on the floor to be removed and dumped. What a change in that one day!

Our lives can be demolished just that quickly if we’re not careful. In the case of our  “new” house, the demolition is occurring for the purpose of bringing about new life. Sometimes the same happens to us. A physical or emotional tsunami hits without warning. Stress, loss due to death or illness, or poor choices can have the effect of seeing our lives splinter and disintegrate.

But God has promised to “restore the years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). This scripture first resonated with me when I read a biography of Senator Harold Hughes. An alcoholic who was ready to kill himself with the loaded rifle at his side, Hughes felt God’s touch. Choosing to live for Christ from that moment on, Hughes spoke about how God did indeed give him a full and productive life of service to God and country. From desolation, our faithful God can bring a fresh, new reality.

I felt despair when my first husband passed away. I was shattered, lonely, aching. Couldn’t think straight. Couldn’t concentrate. Got on the wrong freeway–in very familiar territory–four times in two weeks because the wheels of my brain just weren’t connecting. But God gave me this scripture from Jeremiah 29:11 almost immediately after Jerry’s passing: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” With time, the love and support of family and friends, and a helpful grief recovery group that reminded me I was not alone in my crazy-making, the slow healing process began.

We can choose to stay in that lonely place, crushed, broken-hearted, closing ourselves off to those who would love us and walk with us. And when we do, we can’t heal.

Or we can allow Jesus to bring ” … beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3)  Another translation speaks of a “garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” That spirit of heaviness can be cloying, overwhelming, suffocating. Healing doesn’t often occur overnight, but over time as we take three steps forward and two back; or sometimes, three forward and four back … but if we keep trusting our God, He will bring the healing for which we ache.

So, as Don and I watch our house being rebuilt from a baseline of demolition, I want to remember that God is doing that kind of work in my life, and in the lives of those I love, as well. As I allow Him to tear down old strongholds, as I confess sin and receive His forgiveness, He is faithful to complete His good work in me–to build something new and pleasing to Him–until He comes to take me home for life in His presence, for all eternity.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,

    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
   to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

   to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
   the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
   and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
 They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Isaiah 61:1b-3 (NIV)