Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Here we are....send us!

On the spur of the moment -- because the group needed someone with camera equipment and some photo-experience -- Claire and I spent the weekend with a Mission Team in Ensenada, Mexico.

I have to confess, I had NO idea what the nature of the trip was or even where Ensenada was located. I heard three things: Mexico, Mission, Camera....and started packing my suitcase! Wade was so gracious -- knowing my heart, he was the one who suggested Claire and I go as a Mother/Daughter trip.

Turns out, Ensenada is on the Baja Peninsula -- an 8 hour drive from Phoenix, just south of San Diego and Tijuana.

Welcoming us -- the sign says "Thank you for your visit. Welcome to Ensenada!

The mission in Ensenada was fairly simple: help finish the school being built at Rancho de Refugio and spend a day ministering to the people of Ojos Negroes.

Rancho de Refugio is a camp for Americans coming to the Ensenada area to serve. The grounds were breathtaking. The views awe-inspiring. The area just lovely.

A school has been built on the grounds of the ranch. The amazing multi-purpose building will serve the children that come into the area with their families to work. These families live simply in the barrios of Ojos Negroes with no access to schools for their children. Rancho de Refugio wants to change that. The school will offer a pilot program in July for the children. Pray that the resources needed to make this a successful venture are secured (they need desks, chairs, teachers!)!

Early morning view of the school as the coastal fog rolls in.

Wheelbarrows waiting for cement delivery -- so we can build a curb around the school!

Claire and I were ready to serve. We planned to work hard. We prayed to bless.

And of course, what happened? WE were blessed. Repeatedly. And taught so much. So very much.

Dan Simpson and his dog, Winnie.
Ivy Simpson working to smooth the concrete.

Our first lesson was about service -- and retirement. As Americans, we live in a society that believes we reach a certain age and should "retire". My dictionary defines retire as "to withdraw from action" or "to withdraw from one's occupation." But Dan and Ivy Simpson, the missionaries that run Rancho de Refugio, BEGAN their service in Mexico at 60 plus. They have been there for more than 11 years. This couple worked not just alongside us all weekend -- but twice as hard as most of us! They were amazing. And so inspiring. And definitely NOT retired!

The view from behind the ranch.

But our lessons didn't end with the Simpsons. Beth and Brad Bozer, former missionaries to Papua, New Guinea, spoke to our team on Saturday night.

At 20-something, with two toddlers and another on the way, Brad and Beth waded through swamps, crossed rivers and climbed hills to reach their new "home"with the Teti people of Papua, New Guinea.

The Teti tribe had only recently ceased practicing cannibalism. The teti tribe spoke a language that had no written form. The Bozers lived among them for six years before they could speak and understand the language well enough to share the Gospel. Six years. Can you imagine? The Bozers lived among them -- seeing the power of the Holy Spirit work among the people -- until they could develop a written alphabet and translate the entire Bible for them. More than 20 years.

Brad pointed to this scripture -- Mark 16:15 as a command from Jesus, rather than merely a suggestion. 

"Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation."

Eager to get into the world after hearing Brad, we awoke Sunday ready to head to Ojos Negroes to meet the children. The weather was not cooperating and we feared our day would be cancelled. Claire could not hide her disappointment and so we had a prayer time that the weather would clear and our plans could move forward.

And the sun began to peek out encouraging us that it would eventually shine. We loaded the trucks and headed to the barrio.

When we reached the church, the sun was out and though chilly, it was a perfect day! (I have to add that the men had left us with the children while they went to repair a roof at the local police station. They reported that as soon as they lifted the first hammer, the sun appeared!)

The camera opened the door wide open for us. I snapped a few pictures and turned the camera so the children could see themselves. Within minutes, I heard "Hermana, Hermana." It took the little boy repeating this a few times for me to realize he was speaking to ME...calling me "Sister". Oh my goodness, my heart was smiling.

"Hermana, un photo!" And as I turned the children would ham it up; or grab their best friends and squeeze them tight; or look at me solemnly as if afraid to smile and then be eager for me to turn the camera for them to see themselves. It brought hours of enjoyment! (And a couple hundred photos of precious faces for me!)

Claire and three of the teenagers on our team were doing face painting for the children. The girls were using their various levels of Spanish to communicate. As they inquired what each child wanted, I observed (technically I was taking photos but it lent itself perfectly to observing!) the beautiful interaction. At first, the girls were struggling a bit but within minutes they had discerned enough language to communicate with these beautiful children. The kids were eager -- getting both cheeks painted, foreheads, arms, wrists and hands!

Claire painting faces.

And then they wanted to turn the tables...asking if they could paint Claire's face. It made me smile as I realized what an illustration of missionary work this made: Brad had told of telling the Tetis about Jesus and teaching them the Gospel only until he had enough Teti believers to teach the others. Then he allowed them to do the teaching. The children had the girls teach them how to paint faces....and then they picked up the brushes and began to paint the girls and each others.

Claire, Charissa and some of the beautiful children we worked with.

Our team in front of the Police station where the men repaired the roof.
The weekend was brief but the blessings were plentiful. I am ever thankful for the opportunity to serve and to learn from the willing hearts of so many. But perhaps for me, the biggest blessing was serving alongside my daughter, observing the lessons God taught her, the work He did through her and the joy she received from the entire experience.

Are you ready to go?