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Coffee Chronicles

The coffee roaster at Federico's coffee shop where I buy my green coffee beans. Federico is a friend we met last term who's recently become a disciple of Jesus. (Photo is from One of the great things about having the opportunity to return to Merida has been the blessing pick up where we had left off–to catch up with old friends. Certainly there have been some sad occurrences: our pastor, Orlando Vazquez, a minister with over 50 years of experience and our good friend, went to be with the Lord in October. Still, there have been joyous ones as well. Take for example what has happened in the life of Federico.

A few years ago, I had posted about one of my favorite things, coffee. In that post, I talked about the significance of coffee in my life. Among other things, coffee is what had led me to strike up an ongoing conversation with Federico. Federico roasts and sells coffee in downtown Merida, and he’s my source for green coffee beans for my own home roasting enterprise. At that time, although interested in religious things, Federico lived on the outside looking in, close enough to comment on the goings on within religious circles, but too far away to experience the transformational power of life with Christ.

We talked about many subjects during those first years here in Merida, political, social, and religious alike. We talked about our personal problems as well. And while there was many a time where I had turned the conversation to present Christ’s solution to our social enigma, to talk about the difference that He had made in my life, and to show how his life could be different as a Christ follower, I never had the chance to welcome him personally into life in the kingdom.

Imagine my joy then, when I returned and saw the change in Federico. Since I last saw him, he’s talking about his relationship with Jesus, he’s been attending an Evangelical Christian Church, and he’s finding ways to invite others to experience the change that the Lord has made in his life. He’ll be the first to admit that he’s not perfect, but he’s certainly tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and he’s committed his recourses, his business, and his life as tools in His hands to make a difference in the world around him.

Was it our conversations that made the difference in his life? At this point, it’s difficult to determine, but it’s wonderful to know that Federico is no longer on the outside looking in, he’s a changed man, and what a blessing it has been to celebrate it with him.

(Photo from

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Checking In

The kids experienced spring, fall and summer in one week!

Our last few weeks have been loaded with activity. Saying goodbye, hello, goodbye, and hello again in the span of six short days. Yes, you heard right. We left Costa Rica on Sunday the 31st of October to land in Springfield, MO, where we stayed with friends for the remainder of the week, unpacking and repacking our bags and picking up our dog Kaixin for the journey to Mérida, Mexico. By 9:30 PM on Saturday the 6th, we were back in Mérida, greeting our good friends from our home church, Gólgota, as they picked us up at the airport, 18 bags, dog and all.

We are currently residing in temporary housing as we look for a place to call home for the next four years. The kids are enrolled in their former school, and we’re all getting our exercise as we walk and utilize public transportation until we can purchase our Speed-the-Light vehicle.

That brings us to some prayer points for this post Please pray:

  • That we’ll be able to acquire a versatile vehicle at a good price that will serve us well for the next two terms. (Suggestions anyone?)
  • That we’ll find affordable, safe, and comfortable housing that will facilitate our life and ministry here in Mérida and the Yucatán
  • That we’ll be able to re-enter wisely and gracefully into the lives of our Yucateco friends and ministry partners.
  • That our residence visa, basically the key to everyday life here in Mexico will be available soon

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Life in San José is expensive, and nothing seems as acutely expensive as the food. Going grocery shopping for the first time gave us an extreme case of sticker shock, and the problem naturally compounds itself because, eventually, we would have to eat again. Thankfully, we found out about the Feria in Guadalupe.

The feria is a Saturday morning ritual in San José. “Ticos” are keenly aware of the high supermarket prices. Because of it, they routinely skip the produce aisle and bring their shopping lists and the carts to the feria. The lot, vacant during the week, is teeming with life from early in the morning to late in the afternoon. There are vendors by the dozens selling fruits and vegetables, cheeses and baked goods, all at prices below grocery store “ofertas.”

Our trip began at 7:30 with the 10 minute taxi trip from our house in San Pedro north to the feria site. We sat down to a traditional Costa Rican breakfast, complete with “gallo pinto” and coffee before heading to the stalls.  Green peppers at 40 cents a piece, strawberries at a $1.00 a pound and granadas at 20 cents a piece were some of the bargains we found. Even better, we were through with our shopping by 9:30, early enough to enjoy the Saturday at home.

Life continues to be expensive in Costa Rica, but fortunately, when it comes to produce, we’ve found a repreive and a possible Saturday morning tradition for the few weeks that remain in our stay in Costa Rica.

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Recognize this picture? If you’ve seen our missions display you might.

It’s a snapshot of our struggle to teach and train in spite of the lack of resources on the mission field. In that particular instance, I was trying to set up an old projector without a VGA cable on a kiddie table. The result, after an hour of work, was frustration. We went without the Power Point that session. It’s a common tale when we have to rely on what the local church may have on hand to facilitate our presentations. In many locations, even a white board is a luxury!

However, thanks to Vector Ministries and their Speed the Light challenge, the frustration that you see in the above picture is a thing of the past. This past Sunday, at Praise Assembly in Springfield, they presented us with a brand new Sanyo projector, complete with cables! Now instead of worrying about our equipment us as we head out to train, we’ll be able to focus on discipling those we’ve been called to serve.

Thanks Vector Ministries!

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This last weekend was full of amazing coincidences. It started on Friday evening. Headed down to Nederland, Texas for services with Greg and Amanda Swafford, we stopped for a night with friends Brian and Jessica Fisher in Frisco, just north of Dallas. They had apologized earlier in the week for having to attend a minor league baseball game while we were there, but being the flexible, baseball loving missionaries that we are, we were up for the outing. Imagine our surprise, however, when we found that the game was between the hometown Frisco Rough Riders and the visiting Springfield Cardinals! We got a chance to root for our hometown team in Texas!

The real treat came following our weekend. Our nine hour trip back from services with Danny and Stephanie Baker in Leesville, Lousiana would take us past Hot Springs, Arkansas, the birthplace of the Assemblies of God. We debated the visit, as the side trip would certainly kill our ETA, but our debate ended as we researched the stop. The first General Council which gave rise to the Assemblies of God took place from April 2nd until the 12th, 1914. It just so happened that on Monday we were passing by Hot Springs on our denomination’s birthday!

We called area churches and were directed to the spot which sits on Bath House Row in downtown Hot Springs. The plaque, laid on the 60th anniversary of the event, is the only physical remnant of the former Hot Springs Opera House where the council took place. It’s easily overlooked as visitors pass by, many without even looking down at the inscription affixed to the cement, but for us it has special significance.

On Monday, April 12, 2010, 96 years after the event, we found ourselves returning to our roots, and as our feet surrounded the memorial plaque, we reflected on the principles that brought about the founding of the Assemblies of God–evangelism, missions, and ministerial training. We’re glad that now, almost 100 years after its organization, those principles are still at the forefront of its agenda. What’s even more humbling is that we’re able to serve as its representatives as we emphasize evangelism, missions, and ministerial training, making disciples in the Yucatán.

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Since we’ve been back from the field I would say that the #1 change for us has been the McDonald’s experience. Moving itself from a kid magnet restaurant barely tolerated by adults, McDonald’s has remade itself with drinkable coffee, a new menu, and a new look. Now, when the kids say, “Let’s go to McDonald’s,” more often than not we say, “OK!” More recently, my reduced ambivalence to this nearly ubiquitous eating establishment set up an opportunity to minister.

It all started when Brad Keller, a fellow minister, scoping out a spot to set up his Mac to catch some free wi-fi, greeted a twenty-something guy named Ricky. After exchanging some greetings and comments about the technology that we were pulling from our bags, Ricky asked us what it was that we did. It was as though he was asking us to tell him about Jesus.

I began by giving him my prayer card and explaining my mission of calling Mexicans into relationship with Jesus. He responded almost immediately with a smokescreen of excuses for not attending church. I sensed from this that Ricky was seeking, but he wanted someone to help him justify his practice of keeping the spiritual at arm’s length. I listened to what he had to say, but I gave him no justifications.

When he spoke of ministers that fail, I responded with statistics that I had heard only earlier that day that it takes some 300 A/G ministers in order to come up with only two moral failures. When he talked about judgmental churches, I encouraged him to talk to two separate ministers that lived in his area that I was sure would welcome him as he was and help him on his spiritual journey. When he brought up others’ experiences, I asked him to look to his own and to understand that he needed a personal relationship with the only on who could settle his questioning; he needed to encounter Jesus.

So I want to thank McDonald’s. Because of their change, they made possible my encounter with a searching heart. I’d also like to ask for prayer for Ricky and his friends. They have my card. They have names of pastors that they can talk to. Let’s pray that they’ll take the next step on their spiritual journey toward Christ.

Photo from LancerE’s flickr photostream

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FriedChickenWhile travel certainly has it’s downside, one of the benefits that we receive is the chance to reconnect with friends and family all across the U.S. One such chance came this last weekend when we spoke at Saint Robert First Assembly, where our friends, Joel and Amy Maxwell, attend.

Joel and Amy are friends from our college days, when, almost 15 years ago our paths crossed in the married housing at Evangel University, then Evangel College. We shared dinners, exchanged information on where to find the best grocery deals, and basically grew up together.

Later, Amy and I worked together at Evangel while I attended AGTS. She was on the cutting edge of “exciting web technology,” even then dabbling in blogging as she maintained the University’s web presence. It was during those days that we watched our kids come on the scene. Play dates in the park or at each other’s house was a frequent occurrence.

Not all of it was good times, Joel and Amy’s lives were dramatically affected by situation in which he nearly lost his ability to walk, having been run over on the job as a security guard at Evangel. We were glad to be of support, if even in a small way as they saw their business collapse in late 2005. Their story of perseverance through adversity, however, has been an inspiration to us. To see them now, Joel having recently completed a marathon on his reconstructed leg, and rising out of the teeth of financial disaster, makes us marvel at their determination and resilience. If that isn’t enough, Joel is now serving as an officer on active duty in the Army, while Amy is a Chaplain Candidate studying at AGTS. These are solid people.

This weekend was a real treat, then, when we were greeted by the smells of Joel’s famous recipe chicken-fried chicken, with mashed potatoes and gravy to boot! I was even allowed to take part in this masterpiece of a meal in the making, as the photo above proves. Later, the kids played downstairs while we caught up around the table accompanied as well by Judi Murphy, a Facebook friend we’ve finally had the chance to meet.

The next day we held services at their church, where Amy introduced us as family, and Pastor Gabe Falen graciously allowed us the opportunity to address both the Sunday school and share during the morning worship service. The largely military congregation responded, committing their prayer support and finances.

The reunion of course couldn’t last forever, we had services in the evening to attend, but we were appreciative of the fact that, sometimes, our travels as missionaries allow us to reconnect once more with friends like the Maxwells.

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What’s going on with the Godzwas?

That’s a good question. I’ve got an hour of McDonald’s Wifi to let you know a bit about what we’ve done for the last month.

We’re back in US! We made the 6-day 2,240 mile trip from Merida, Mexico, to Springfield MO. We’ve been through Missionary Renewal on the campus of my alma mater, Central Bible College and stuck around for the excellent re-entry program sponsored by by Caring Connection. Since then, we’ve been trying to move back into our house here that has been rented out for the past 4 years. Until that time, our internet connection will limited to our 2X2 cell phone screens, but we’re planning new updates when we’re finally settled in. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, be sure to check out our updated contact information.

Tree down in our neighborhood

Tree down in our neighborhood

Hurricane season started with a bang here in Mérida as a ferocious if short lived storm passed over the peninsula last week. Tropical force winds and a half inch of rain in the span of about 45 min brought down this tree and numerous others in the city, and brought damage as shown in this slide show of the “fotos del día” from the Diario Yucatán (Opens new window, captions in Spanish). The damage shown in the shopping mall is just about a mile away from our home.

We were safe and sound during the downpour, although without power for about six hours after the storm. A few flashlights, candles, and a bit of patience were all that were required for us to deal with the aftermath of this first installment of hurricane season ’09.

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clearanceIf you are familiar with Tolkien, you’ll have to forgive my obvious allusion to his popular tale, The Hobbit, but no, my recent trip didn’t include trolls and dragons, and the only real danger was related to the risks of travel by air and taxi. So to save you the long story, and the 255 pages that comprise my edition of the Bilbo Baggins tale, I’ll make it short.

On Sunday afternoon, I hopped aboard a flight to Mexico City, which seems to be recovering from its bout with the Swine Flu, where, on Monday, I met with the national leadership team about our future here in Mexico. I presented them with a report of what we had done and the plan of what we feel God would have us do in the future. They approved that plan, and they invited us back to serve for four more years here in the Yucatán!

Now, that we have received this approval our upcoming itineration becomes more clear. Our goal during these upcoming months will be to reconnect with churches and individuals to show them what God has done and invite them to continue their investment in the lives of the people of this region.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support as we make our transition to the States with the goal of continuing to raise disciples here in the Yucatán.

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