Rosarito, Day 3

We started our morning at the children’s home, with breakfast & devotions. Made a sack lunch & packed up our bags for the transfer to our new ‘home away from home, then made our way out past the “Cliffs of Insanity” to Joseph House. Joseph House is a home in the making, sponsored by Hope Chapel Rosarito – it’s purpose is to provide a safe haven, a place for deported men to stay, live, & be discipled. There are currently 5 men living in the home, & many of them have jobs (a rarity for deportees.) Our tasks for the day were simple:

  • Paint the 2-story front of the house, as well as 1 of the 2-story sides. No ladders, just extension poles. (Light baby blue. It was nice.)
  • Assemble a corner desk – without instructions, & perhaps without all the necessary pieces.
  • Rearrange the home so that the 5 occupants could better live life in it. After all, dudes are dudes & we need help organizing & designing stuff.
  • Clean the kitchen (see above)
  • Dig holes for a fence to establish the Joseph house property boundary. Make the fence. Using only reclaimed wood, scrap metal & nails.

Boom. We did it. Finished all of the projects with the help of some skilled labor (Mario & Alejandro, 2 of the once-baddest-but-now-big-softies-for-Christ-that-I’d-want-walking-with-me-on-any-street-in-the-world type of guys) & a lot of sweat. And sun. It was hard work, & took a lot of ingenuity on the part of Tony Mac, who rigged two extension poles together in order to finish painting one section of the house, & of Janelle, who came up with the idea of hanging out the upstairs windows to paint other parts of the 2nd story. Good times.

An added benefit is that we met a family from the US that just relocated to Rosarito. Jason & Dulce have 3 kids, & the funny part is that Jason went to the same high school theWeez currently attends in the greater Reno-Sparks Metro area. Small. World. Jason is a photographer & videographer working in Baja, & he’s been shooting a bunch of pics for us.

At the end of our work day, we took time to pray for the house & for the men who do (& will) live in it. It was very moving to know that this place is (& will be) a refuge for men who have lost everything… & that they will become men who have found everything again when they find Christ.

We were dead tired (& dirty), so we made our way to our new home, the House of Rest. It is sponsored by Calvary Chapel & is a world-class place, with room for 64 people & some really great features. The best one so far was the SHOWER because I was covered in baby blue paint sprinkles.

Freshly scrubbed, we made our way to Grandma’s House, a Baja restaurant specializing in (wait for it….) food like Grandma used to make. Ate to our hearts content. And with eyes glazing over & people starting to nod off, it was time to go home.

Wrapped up our day with a brief discussion, a song, & prayer, & the promise of PANCAKES & BACON for breakfast in the morning. Another happy thought is that we will be sleeping in & having a rest day. Without a rest day on a trip like this, it would be easy to lose focus, get burned out, & turn into virtual zombies. With the demands of our schedule Friday-Sunday, we can’t afford that, so Thursday is rest day/beach day/buy a poncho day for those that so desire.

And it will be grand. Thank you for praying. It makes a difference.

Rosarito, Day 2

Slept great, & woke up just before my alarm. Because we’re staying at a children’s home, they get first dibs on the kitchen for breakfast prep/clean up. This means we get the kitchen around 8-8:30 & prep breakfast. We’re trying to take turns making breakfast/cleaning up so that everyone gets to experience the joy of washing dirty dishes. There’s nothing like it.

After breakfast, most of the team was charged with engaging with the special needs children. Very cool to see how many of the little ones have changed, grown, developed, & gained areas of function. The year between our visits really displays the significance of a place like “Catherine’s Home” to help those who society has abandoned or given up on, & invested time, energy, & the love of God.

The boys were tasked with painting a clear-coat wood sealer over a mural in the kids main play room. While the kids were playing in it. We were given rollers & a paint tray, & pointed in the ‘right direction.” And did I mention that the clear-coat sealer came with explicit instructions NOT to apply the sealer with a roller? Or NOT to apply it indoors? Well, that was fun. It made my brain feel silly, as did watching the rest of the team attempt to “lasso the wind” as every mobile kid in the place tried to make a run for it, hoping to bathe their little hands & faces in the toxic goo we were applying to the walls.

And then we ran out of sealer, 1/2 way through. So, Tony Mac & I did what anyone would have done in our places. We jumped in the van, with Daniel the Man, & went looking for “the Home Depot” we’d seen when we came in yesterday. Found it too. Boom!

Turns out, they didn’t have any toxic goo similar to what we’d used, & after attempting to translate into Spanish what we wanted, we were handed off to the English language Paint specialist, Eduordo.

ED: why do you want clear coat wood sealer? Are you painting wood?
ME: Nope. Drywall.
ED: So you want a drywall sealer? We have that. It comes in white.
ME: Nope. We want a clear coat wood sealer.
ED: But you’re not painting wood.
ME: Nope.
ED: How about concrete sealer? You want that?
ME: Nope. We need the wood sealer. I know it doesn’t make sense, but we want the toxic goo we put up to be the same kind of goo we already used.
ED: Sorry. We don’t have it.

It was an adventure. We bought ourselves a celebratory Coke Zero, & went home.

Most of our afternoon was spent walking a dirt road neighborhood that could only be accessed by helicopter. Not really, I made that up. It simply required that we drive the van up sheer, boulder laden cliff-like roads at great risk to our personal safety. I dubbed them “the Cliffs of Insanity.”

Not really, but it was steep & rocky. Our team talked to many kids. I was lagging in the back, & was tapped on the shoulder by a 60ish man named Augustine. He knew gangsta-rap English (all the swear words too) & we were able to communicate very well. He walked with me for about 10 minutes, & then told me he needed to stop & head home because his back hurt. Because he was old. So I asked if I could pray for him, & did, in broken Spanish & Spanglish.

He burst into tears near the end of the prayer – & gangsta-Spanglish spilled out as he thanked me & our group for coming to his “god-forsaken barrio, a place of hopelessness.” Then he thanked me for having a real conversation with him, & treating him like a person, a real person. Because he is a worthless alcoholic, deported 30 years ago, who lost his wife & kids in the deportation. And now his only meaning in life comes from giving pesos to little kids so they don’t starve. And losing himself in the bottle. He thanked me again, & headed wobbily down the street. I wept.

TheWeez was called upon to give the message at the outreach – she had the crowd of mostly U12’s waiting on her every word. She started her talk with a chant, “UH – LEESE! UH – LEESE! UH – LEESE! UH – LEESE!” The crowd went wild. She told them how Jesus delivered her from bad-dreams when she was a little girl, how she had been taught to call on the Name of Jesus when she was afraid or in a time of need.

Off to the side, I wept.

Turns out, when we were on our paint run, we missed most of morning dance rehearsal. Yes. Dance rehearsal. For our outreach this afternoon. Missing rehearsal doesn’t mean you miss the performance. It just means you get to shake it like there are no repercussions for doing so. And we did. Tony Mac, Daniel the Man, & I. Booyah!

We got back to the children’s home, had dinner & cleaned up. We’re heading to a debrief (let’s talk about the day) in 10 minutes. Then, it is sleepy time. Tomorrow, we’re heading back up the Cliffs of Insanity to do some work at the Joseph House, Hope Chapel Rosarito’s outreach to deportees.

Good night. Thanks for praying.

Rosarito, Day 1

Met at the church today at 5:30 a.m. & had the van packed by 5:50… on the road by 6. Quickest pack job ever. 9 of us prayed & piled into the van for the long trip that would eventually end with us in Rosarito, Mexico for day 1 of our mission.

I was the driver today… didn’t initially plan to drive the whole way myself, but it worked out… & I don’t feel like a zombie. The only difficult part was when everyone in the van went to sleep, leaving me cruising down the I5 attempting to will any drowsiness away. Didn’t turn on the radio until we hit LA traffic.

Made it to our destination, Carl’s Jr in San Diego where we met up with Don & Sandy Godwin, the pastors of Hope Chapel Rosarito, & their daughter Emily (who lived with theBean & I for several months last year.) They will be serving as our hosts for the next week. Don & Sandy guided us the remaining 3 miles to the border, & led us across. Our van was stopped by a border agent – he asked a question or 2, looked in the van, & sent us on our way. Rosarito here we come.

20 minutes later, we were reminded WHY we have been told over & over that we need to be flexible – the place we were supposed to be staying for the next week turned out to be double booked, & we, like Joseph & Mary at the time of Jesus’ birth, found there was no room at the Inn. Stables, anyone?

A few phone calls were made & we found that we would be able to stay at the same children’s home we did last year – this could be a win-win situation, as we are already familiar with the home & many of the children… our only wild-card is we don’t know how the ‘cooking our own food while the children’s home staff are in the kitchen prepping their kids food” thingy will go. Here’s to a couple of necessities: Flexibility & Humility.

Emily prepped us for some of the outreach work we’re doing tomorrow, & gave us all a lesson in cultural norms & appropriateness. We wrapped up our day with a short debrief & a quesadilla snack. The weariness of the day’s travel is setting in. Please pray for us over these next days – our team is safe & doing well.

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #7

Woke up around 8:30 to the heavenly smell of coffee & homemade cinnamon rolls; Laura is an amazing cook. Just sayin. Evidently, I’ve taken to saying, “Tasty!” so often in response to our meals that Taylor (6) & Elliot (3) the Dueck’s 2 oldest boys, have started using the word as well. Now just to get Max (2) saying it too…

Sitting around the counter eating, the personalities of the 3 boys come out. Makes me think about how very unique the experience is to be growing up as a pastor’s kid… having people in your home all the time… with church days not just ‘going’ to church but ‘running’ it… I’m reflecting back on my own childhood, growing up ‘in the church,’ & also the experiences of my kids; wondering how & in what ways that has shaped their personalities & life outlook. Note to self.

Different service schedule today at TPLF: 1 song, then some announcements & ‘missions discussion’, followed by the speech – with the last 30 minutes or so being set aside for worship/response. The worship team was led by Kyong-he & Steve G… Kyong-he has got a voice that reminds me a lot of Kate Miner, & she is a very skillful & sensitive worship leader, in that you don’t ever really NOTICE her so much as simply FOLLOW her in worship through songs, spontaneous spoken praise, silence, & celebration. Steve is an Englishman living in Frankfurt, & is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, with a quick wit & ready story. He’s also incredibly willing to help in whatever way he can, & is a great example of how someone with the gift of evangelism has integrated into the ebb & flow of life in & around TPLF.

Today is the last of a 4 week series on the mission of the church – it’s interesting to me to see that though many things have changed, including the pastor of TPLF, the mission statement hasn’t.

    -Living for Jesus
    -Living for each other
    -Living for Frankfurt
    -Living for Germany & the World

The text I spoke from was Acts 8:26-40, about Philip meeting the Ethiopian eunuch/treasurer on the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza. If you’re interested in hearing it, you can try to find it here. What really stood out to me about that portion of scripture is that “living for the world…” doesn’t always mean having to go to the far corners of the earth (ironic, I know, as I am writing this from Frankfurt, about 5500 miles from home.) The story of Philip is an example where the world has come to him – & he (Philip) responds to the leading of the Holy Spirit in starting a conversation with a man seeking to know God, & in turn, touches & helps change an entire nation.

To me, it’s not about aiming for greatness, or trying to be significant, let alone famous… its being available to serve, to obey, to be lead in a simple way to do whatever God puts in front of me to do… whether I can see the “WHY” behind it or not. Obedience is better than sacrifice, & the real joy comes from gladly doing the will & purposes of God.

I really enjoyed having the worship/song/reflection portion at the end of the service – it gave a lot of time & possibility for listening & responding to the LORD… & also felt like a ‘good’ fit for the message & the day.

Its always great to be at TPLF & have the opportunity to renew the acquaintance of old friends, & to meet new people. Today was even better – my dear friend Anja came over from Mainz (about 25 miles away,) & Julia, the young woman from Aachen, Germany that lived with us for 6 months,) made the 2-hour trek by with her sister & a friend to be in the service. It’s hard to put into words the response that that kind of love evokes. What special & dear friends.

After church, several of us made our way to a restaurant just around the corner from TPLF – Koriander (formerly Zimt und Koriander – now under new ownership.) I think that they have great pizzas, so that’s what I got – a personal pepperoni & pineapple, complete with a dark Hefeweizen. Mmmm. That should get your mouth watering.

We walked from the restaurant, talking & catching up on the last few months – & navigated the short distance to Eddy & Laura’s house. They were having an ‘open house’ for any who wanted to come by & sample some of Laura’s baked goods & drink some tea or coffee. The house was filled with great smells, peals of laughter, & good talks. Aris & Steve had us all rolling with their witty repartee.

Too soon, it seemed, the afternoon flowed into the evening, & our friends had to make their way home, especially those that had traveled so far. It brought tears to my eyes to say goodbye to my friends, for whom I’m so thankful.

The family & I spent a quiet evening with a light supper (tasty!) & now the boys are in bed & I’m trying to catch up on the happenings of the day with news from home & Hillside. When I’m here in Frankfurt, I try to be “HERE”; while at the same time, I dearly miss my wife, my family, friends, & church family.

An epic trifecta: God, Guinness, & historical-ness…

I’m a ‘fan’ (fully devoted believer & follower) of God. A fan of Guinness. And a fan of history. So when I heard about a book that combined all 3 of those, I was intrigued, especially because it is often assumed that it is impossible for the first 2 (God & Guinness) to be associated at all, a development that seems to have originated with the Temperance Movement of the late 19th century, a subject I’ve written about in some detail HERE.

The book is called, The Search For God & Guinness – a Biography of a Beer That Changed The World,” by Stephen Mansfield. It begins with a series of anecdotes relating specifically to Arthur Guinness, the man that started the Guinness brewery in 1759, & also about the beer he created. It reveals a man (& a company,) committed to God & people. As I go through the book, I may blog some of the stuff that jumps out at me. So far, I’m really impressed at the values & priorities lived out by Arthur Guinness. He vividly illustrated by the way that he lived, worked, & cared for people that ‘the Church’ is not a building; it is a way of life – the Jesus way – loving God & people. He left behind a legacy & a lifetime of evidence that testified of that fact.

I’ve found it a fascinating read from the get-go. My favorite thing so far is from Mansfield’s exploration of the history of beer, & especially how it is tied to a familiar & significant part of the beginning of the United States of America. He cites a couple of primary sources, (meaning that the sources were written by actual Pilgrims who were eyewitnesses to the events recorded. If you’re interested, the sources are: Mourt’s Relation & Of Plymouth Plantation.)

The sources record the first interaction between the occupants of the Mayflower & the Native Americans, a couple of guys that we’ve learned about since Kindergarten, Samoset & Squanto. What I’d never heard about was the details of their first interchange.

In March of 1621 – the Pilgrims, worried about a lack of shelter from the brutal New England weather, as well as waning foodstuffs & a rapidly depleting beer supply, made their way ashore & began the process of establishing their colony. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

On March 16…a tall muscular native strode out from the trees & began to approach. The Pilgrims quickly took their muskets in hand. They were startled, for the man coming toward them was an unsettling sight. He was nearly naked – “Stark naked,” they later said – with only a strand of leather about his waist & fringe about as wide as a man’s hand covering his private parts. he carried a bow & 2 arrows & the Pilgrims noticed that his hair was long in the back but shaved at the front of his head. They had seen nothing like that in England.

As starling as this Indian was to the Pilgrims, it was what happened next that shocked them most of all. The man neared, paused, & then shouted “Welcome!” in clear, perfect English. And then, more astonishing still, he asked – again, flawlessly in the Pilgrims’ own tongue- if they had some beer.

Yes. Beer.

As much as I love historical-ness, I believe I would have paid even better attention if that information had been included in the educational process.