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19 July 2017

199/365

The good news- we added 20 new kids to the neighborhood VBS today. We scrambled to form a new group and create a new schedule. We snapped colored rubberbands around little and big wrists and tried to convince them that even if it wasn't their favorite color, it was still a good group. We wrote nametags and stuck them on shirts and then we wrote nametags again when their shirts got wet and again when their shirts got wet again. I looked down and now I think we will call the tile floor "Luis."

For three hours, the place was teeming with kids- sweet, naughty, active, wide-eyed, ever-thinking, "what comes next?", thirsty, neighborhood kids. It was all the chaos that you might imagine, and maybe then some more. They waved their arms and spun circles in dance. They ran and kicked and the littles played Pato, Pato, Ganso. They sweat. We sweat. They listened to the parable about the Pearl of Greatest Price. Well, sort of they listened...

They mixed granola and butter and honey and toasted it all up. They added the hidden treasure of M&M's and craisins and filled bags with trail mix. Little kids were separated from their groups and returned to their groups and middle boys wanted a different group and the big boys were too cool for their group today. Was it the sugar? Maybe no M&M's and craisins tomorrow...

But in one place, everyone sat and hardly even spoke. Unlike anywhere else in the building, calm permeated the room- the Art Room. Almost without exception, the kids storm into the Art Room, and then settle. Today they painted treasure boxes, and plain wood was transformed with rainbow bright hues. Little boys stuck out their tongues in Michael Jordan-like concentration. The helpers refilled paper plate palettes with color. They praised the efforts of the artists and thanked them when they finished, almost oblivious to the pandemonium below. Art. We are keeping art.

And prayer. We are keeping prayer. Because in all the smiles and in the tears today, we recognize as much as ever that we are not enough. Yet, even in the chaos, we see Jesus here. So we pray, Lord, give us all ears to hear and eyes to see and a mind to understand, just as you hear and see and understand us. Help us to know your still, quiet peace in the midst of the all the wild activity around us. Enlarge our hearts to love just as you love us.



18 July 2017

198/365

From nearly clear skies, the sun beats super hot at midday and hardly a soul is to be found. Yet these volunteers persevere, measuring and re-measuring to prepare for the new soccer goals to come. Modest shack-like homes line the back of the fields. My teammate told me that he met a local resident with a Lipizzaner horse, high-stepping and trotting through his paces on the very same ground. He was invited into the rider's home, and shown the fine leather saddles and told about the travels he takes and where he buys his steeds. We are reminded, again, we can never take this place for granted.

197/365

"It's a fixer-upper," we might say with a grin. Ordinary description doesn't really do the property justice- this little house made into a duplex. It sits at the end of a road in a less than desirable Reynosa neighborhood. Pass the house on a dusty little street heading west and gun up a short steep hill and you'll find yourself at the top of a levy, looking at a complex of dirt playing fields. If you were to travel as the crow flies, in less than a half a mile, you'd find yourself at the city dump. Inevitably, piles of trash litter the side of the road, along with the evidence of charred garbage and the discarded soda bottles and chip wrappers that serve as staples of the local diet.

The house itself, it's not much to speak of, really. The front door opens to the entryway living room. A few steps more and you pass a bathroom that's being restored and continue to a corner bedroom. The kitchen is, um, unique. The walls display no less than four styles of tile. The counter tops are granite, yes, but they came together through pieces and parts leftover from other jobs. The original wiring allowed one plug in each room, but our make-it-happen electrician friend is installing more boxes. (Can I mention how grateful I am to have an electrician friend? And friends who tile bathrooms? And who paint walls? And who paint fences? And who clean up yards? And who donate furniture? And who pray?)

Then there's the little structure at the back of the property. We know that the owner has used the brick ovens to roast pig. There's an abandoned band saw in the corner. All manner of trash has been removed. Surely bugs and rodents must hide in the crevices, yet undetected.As grubby and dark as the picture shows, cobwebs knit into dusty cobwebs. Yet, the window set into the top of the wall allows streams of sunlight to expose this place. It is a work in progress, but slowly the glow of light filters out the darkness.

17 July 2017

196/365

Some days are
morning latte,
unsweet tea with lemon,
iced coffee with room,
large diet coke,
water,
limeade,
keep something cold and wet in your hand,
all the day long.

16 July 2017

195/365

Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
    and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
    and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
    in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

- Isaiah 32:16-18 (ESV)

15 July 2017

194/365

Far and wide they’ll come to a stop,
    they’ll stare in awe, in wonder.
Dawn and dusk take turns
    calling, “Come and worship.”

- Psalm 65:8 (The Message)

I looked up and the pink-peach-coral glow called me and up and out and a photo does not do justice to the glory of it all. For a few minutes, we could forget the humid dusty heat of the day to yet to come, forget the hard stories that would bring us to tears, forget the cacophony of the noise of life in this place, and just put our eyes on Him who created all things.
And it was good.

12 July 2017

193/365

Meet Todd the blond mutt. As of today, Todd is bilingual- because he heard a "No" and "Get out!" about a thousand times today. Repetition, repetition, repetition is the key to learning a new language.

Now, although we feel bad that this dog is mangy and underfed and looks at us with incredibly pathetic eyes, still, Todd's a dog. And when he finally wanders away down the street, I didn't stew over it very long.

But, in the last few days, I've seen people and heard stories that I will remember much, much longer. I've seen sick and sad little kids- a tot with impetigo, and a few broken collarbones that are healing, and sores that are not. I've met young teen girls that have experienced more in their short lives then any adult should ever know. A woman stepped on the scale and weighed 80 pounds and turned her eyes down in shame. I have double checked blood pressure readings and blood sugar levels because they just seemed much too high to be correct, though they were. I checked in a man who had tattoos on his entire body, no kidding- every piece of skin I could see, face included. We wonder about relationships that seem questionable at best.

I listened to a pretty long story about a man's job history and on the job injury and problems with the national health system and current unemployment and homelessness, in Spanish. Then he told me that he had retired from an auto plant in the States, in Spanish. "Why am I speaking to you in Spanish?," I asked him, in English. "I don't know," he answered, in perfect English. We both smiled big and then laughed out loud. I listened to an older woman who has lived in the area for more years than she remembers, most of those years working in the Zona Tolerancia down the street. But now, she told me with a content smile while holding my hand like the grandma she is, she is old and single and she's quite content to be married to Jesus. Oh yes, even among the hard, there has been plenty of sweet, babies and elderly ladies that are adorable, doctors who share good news, hearts that have been softened and soothed in counsel and prayer.

But Todd? Well, our hands are pretty full. Maybe Todd can find another place to hang out.




192/365

My teammate first saw the idea on the Internet. To be clear, he gets lots of ideas on the Internet. If we were counting, I'd guess that the majority of time when he sticks his phone in front of us and says, "Watch THIS!," we nod and then wait and then laugh out loud, loudly. Sometimes we say, "We could do that!," but really it might be a Pinterest Fail just waiting to happen. But sometimes we say, "WOW! That's cool! We should do that here."

This time, Ryan really made it happen.

You think potholes are bad where you live? Sure, they probably are, for a season. But those of you living in the States, if you complain, the city will mostly likely send a crew out to fix them and then you forget that they ever were. That doesn't happen here. Potholes, or rather- avoiding potholes, become part of the daily obstacle course of life. Another teammate (and lest we be accused of cultural insensitivity- he's Mexican), tired of the jarring hits on his car, decided we could start filling the potholes in the neighborhood. And last summer, that's what we did. With the help of crews from our short-term summer teams, we hit the streets and mixed up concrete and starting filling holes.

Then sometime in the winter, we saw the video. It showed examples of folks in other places topping off pothole repairs with mosaic art. That was a natural for this place.

We started making art with our neighborhood kids a year ago. In that time they have created drawings and paintings and self-portraits and collages of all sorts. This time, we are taking their art to the street; really, laying the art into the street and capping off the pothole repairs with the mosaic tiles. Over the course of this summer, we have laid down tiles with Esperanza and Gozo and Amor, literally bringing hope and joy and love into our neighborhood roads. Our kids and volunteers have designed flowers and ice cream cones and animals and abstract colorful designs. We are patching our streets with beauty. 

Street art doesn't last. It's temporal. Cars drive over our art and the tiles crack and will eventually disintegrate. And maybe, then, we'll do it again all over again. But no matter, the message we keep is from Him who is eternal, the Creator of all things who made us in His image to create. We can tell our kids that He too is making all things new and that our Jesus, he does not disappoint. And whether in the street or anywhere else, that is the most beautiful message of all.



11 July 2017

191/365

We opened the doors for the medical clinic at 9 and already a couple of patients were waiting. Today we saw 60-something people come through our gate: babes, tots, kids, youth, adults, elderly, men, women, familiar faces and others completely new to us. These servant doctors and nurses and helpers allow us to invite our neighborhood in to receive very practical helps. They give us yet another means to love our neighbors.  We heard stories and symptoms of all sorts of aches and pains, physical diseases and spiritual ills, too. We pumped up cuffs for blood pressure readings and measured pulse ox levels and poked fingers for sugar tests. We dispensed vitamins and meds that had been prescribed and ran labs and watched super cool portable sonogram procedures. So many more consultations and procedures took place in privacy, our community center transformed into examination rooms. We prayed with the hurting and their family members and asked for healing in Jesus name.

We are broken people who met broken people today- physically hurting yes, and spiritually fractured too, and that is humbling. At the end of the day, we know that there is so much more left to do . And even so, at the end of the day, we know our Jesus and know He is enough.

190/365

Summer Sunday habits-
early quiet if not for the chatter of waking birds,
eggs and beans,
worship and "Dios te bendiga" and kisses on the cheek,
pollo asado and rice and banana pudding,
avoiding potholes and keeping the distance right and a drive past fields and bones and young people as the dj,
lazy look shopping and "gracias, no" and small buys,
Topo Chico with lime and topos and Spanish peanuts and lounge music and random sports on tv while sitting with friends in a smoky bar,
BLT in the kitchen,
an exchange of text and "not restful but rested."