Day2Day

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“¿Qué opinas del nuevo presidente? (What do you think about the new president?)” is a question that Kelly and I, being Americans living in Mexico, are hearing quite a bit lately, and it’s one that I’ve had difficulty answering. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion, but serving as form of spiritual ambassador, we’ve found that it’s not wise to involve ourselves in political matters. So often politics tend to divide, while, as members of the Body of Christ, we are called to be united. Philippians 2:1-4 mentions being like-minded, one in spirit and purpose.

Fortunately, we belong to a community of believers who, I feel, are in touch with the mind of Christ on this matter. They’ve risen above the wrangling of partisanship and focused us on the true task at hand, the proclamation of the Kingdom which transcends the cult of opinion.

The first example of this kingdom wisdom was posted by our General Superintendent, George O. Wood. In this video, he gives us a clear call to return to kingdom living along with a biblical guide on living under elected authority. It’s fully worthy of the ten minutes you’ll spend watching it.

The second example I’m submitting is a post that I encountered on Facebook. Steve Smallwood, posted there a dream that I feel should be in the minds and hearts of all followers of Christ. You can read his dream below:

I Have a Dream

It’s based not just on the American dream,
And it goes beyond justice related to skin color,
Though who could not be moved at the tears
Streaming down the cheeks of black men and women.

I have a dream that transcends ethnic differences,
One that moves beyond the divisive issues of yesterday’s battles,
And calls on citizens red and blue to beat their tired rhetoric
Into plans for action to address issues of significance.

My dream envisions Christians who would embrace the Kingdom,
Above and beyond any denominational or national loyalties.
It challenges the close-minded simplicity that requires large blocks of Truth
To be defined by and contained within small cranial cavities.

I have a dream that is based in the example of Jesus,
Who endured ridicule and refused to throw stones
At those who were beset with the legacies of sinful lifestyles
In order to deliver refreshing living water to their parched spirits.

My dream yearns for true believers to set aside,
Partisan politics and theologies of left versus right,
To not just oppose abortion but to truly cherish and nurture life
And to love God and others just as we ourselves want to be loved.

It’s a dream that refuses to divorce the gifts of the Spirit,
From the fruits of the Spirit—especially goodness and gentleness,
Toward those we disagree with—even our enemies,
Who we are called by Jesus to love—because they need it most.

There are days when I fear my dream is merely a vapor,
When I find myself at odds with the din of the crowd,
Then I remember that Jesus said we’re not to travel the well-worn path,
But instead to listen with discernment to his small voice and follow his costly example.

I proud to be linked with such men and women and glad to benefit from their wisdom. What’s more, I’m proud to be a part of a community that awaits, not a political solution, but an eternal redemption.

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

–Ephesians 1:9-10

This verse just happened to be the verse of the day on Biblegateway.com

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A Typical Pemex Gas Station

A Typical Pemex Gas Station

I had left early for my Maya language class because I had to get gas on the way. Before leaving, I had asked Kelly if I should use cash or our handy-dandy debit card for the purchase. Liking the way that the bank informs us about the debit purchases, Kelly asked me to use the card. So, leaving the cash, I went out the door to the station.


There at the gas station, before the attendant, Robert, started pumping, I verified that they took credit cards. After assuring me that they did, he proceeded to fill the tank and top off my oil, a process that took all of about 10 minutes. Gassed and ready to go, I handed over the credit card for him to swipe it. That’s when the fun began.

After about a minute of waiting, the receipt spit out of the reader. “Try again later.” So we did, with the same results. Then we tried another card, again receiving the unwelcome advice. At this point, it was getting late. The manager was called over; another reader was tried, all with the same results. I was stuck with an $80 gas bill and no way to pay it.

I thought about the 15 minutes I had driven from my house just to reach the station, “How about one of you comes along to the ATM so that I can make a withdrawal and give you cash?” After a quick conference, Robert jumped in and off we went. We arrived at the cash machine in about 5 minutes where I jumped out and attempted to get the amount I needed. “We are unable to complete your transaction at this time. Try again later,” read the screen. What had started as strange had quickly evolved into the ridiculous. Now, we were to plan C.

Plan C consisted of a 30 minute road trip to my house in order to get the money that I had left behind. Getting approval at the station, Robert and I, fast becoming friends, headed off to get the cash. On the way there, we talked.

I asked him how long how long that he had been at the station, and that opened up the door to allow him to ask me about myself. Having long since dismissed the idea of making my Maya class, I told him what we did, and he began to open up about his family situation: separated parents and a constantly drunk father. Before we knew it, we were at my house where Kelly met us with the money and a healthy tip for Robert’s lost time.

On the trip back, I got a chance to speak to Robert about my history. A former Catholic with 4 separate beliefs represented in his 8 member family, he seemed to have assigned religion to something like personal taste in music, but I challenged this idea, speaking of how Christ had changed me and of how the Bible is the only set of sacred scriptures that deals with reality and offers a solution to the human condition. As I was relating to Robert’s situation and answering his questions, I realized that after nearly an hour getting gas, I wished I had more time.

We arrived at the gas station and shook hands after we had finally made the transaction. He returned to his pump and I drove away praying that the words that I shared would hit home. At the same time, I was determining to return to that gas station hoping to continue the conversation.

So a funny thing happened to me on the way to my Maya class. In middle of an an inconvenient and awkward experience God presented an opportunity for real-life ministry. Perhaps I should pray for more credit card machine failures?

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The start of September marked the anniversary of our second year in the Yucatán. Here is a look back at some of our favorite posts that you might have missed:

  1. Rethinking the task of teaching
  2. This post was written as a reflection on a major part of our work here in Mérida, that of teaching. It serves to remind us that if we seek to impart the tools necessary, and convey an attitude that promotes learning, we can create an investigator who seeks to find the answer and apply truth in such a way as to create change.


  3. Leave if You Can!
  4. This article was inspired by our trip to the flood stricken region of Tabasco, where we found that in a town where even the name encourages people to stay away, God had decided to take up residence.


  5. Living In-Between
  6. A reflection on the human condition, this post reminds us that, although we struggle in our “in-betweeness” of imperfection and disappointment, the promise of Easter is that the redemption of our soul that we currently enjoy will one day be universally applied.


  7. The Most Excellent Way
  8. This post reminds us that, when it comes to evangelism, the real question should not be, “How should our evangelism look?” but rather, “How should our evangelism be motivated?”


  9. Learning to Fly
  10. This last selection is a light look at sharing responsibilities in a missionary home.


We’re thankful for the two years of ministry that we have had here the Yucatán. It’s our prayer that, with your continued partnership, we will be able to celebrate many more.

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Here on the mission field, we’ve come to recognize that it is important to take advantage opportunities. Take the grocery store for example. Certain staples that we depended on in the US, like applesauce, make appearances for a limited time only. So, when we saw the display of “puré de manzana” at the local Wal-Mart, we bought 5 jars.

Of course, taking advantage of opportunities requires a certain amount of preparation. First, you have to be looking for them. If we had decided that we would never see applesauce again, it’s possible that we would have passed by the display without even noticing. Second, you have to be able to make the investment. A hand-to-mouth style of living doesn’t allow wiggle room for large purchases, so without the needed cash we would have had to pass up the sweet appley goodness.

Ministry can be the same way. Opportunities arise at time when we least expect it. Take this week: a casual dinner conversation turned to a daughter in need; a meeting the next day touched on the subject of a marriage in trouble; and a greeting after service brought with it a story of sickness and family strife. How would we view each situation? Would we see them as opportunities to apply the gospel we preach and teach or would they be taken as distractions in our otherwise busy day?

I’m happy to say that each situation that I mentioned we took the opportunity to minister. A daughter was counseled, a marriage encouraged, and a fellow believer prayed for. Still, I wonder, did we see all of the opportunities? Was God working in other ways that we weren’t prepared for? Or perhaps we simply weren’t willing to invest?

Paul asks the Ephesians for prayer in chapter 6 verses 18-20 that he might boldly speak the gospel. I believe that this petition not only has to do with attitude but also with availability. Paul wrote his letter in chains. He did not have the freedom to travel and to teach. It would have been easy to say that others now need to take up the work, that now was his time to rest. He could have closed himself off from the world, and yet he asked for prayer so that he would “open his mouth” to share.

We too ask for that prayer, that we who have been called as ambassadors of Christ will take advantage of every opportunity available to us. That we will be able to recognize how God is working in each situation and align ourselves to cooperate with Him as He carries out his mission here in Mexico and around the world.

Oh, and if you’ve got the scoop on where to find some Twizzlers here in Mérida we’re ready to buy.

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Is this a slip of the English language or a new theology?

The English language is much in demand here in the Yucatán, especially with the tourism that places like Chichén Itzá attract, so we often run into students who want to practice what they’ve learned with us as we go about the city. Businesses as well like to get into the act, capitalizing on the popularity that English enjoys, and billboard and signs in English are common. Unfortunately, some businesses such as the one above use English but don’t quite understand it.

This sign in the picture says: “Super 32 Thanks God is Monday” I’m trying to decide if it’s a Monday morning encouragement or a new theology. So far we’ve not had the chance to ask the owner about it. In the meantime, what do you think? Do you have any ideas as to what they might be trying to say? Leave us a comment if you’d like to take a stab at the interpretation.

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It’s Hot!

It\'s hot out there!

Enough said?

New Equipment to Combat Crime

“Mérida is a tranquil place.” It’s a place where “no pasa nada (nothing happens),” the residents enjoy saying, but this headline from today’s edition of the Diario de Yucatán, one of the major newspapers of the city, seems to suggest that things may be changing.

No, we are not under military alert, nor have we hired armed guards to follow us around the city. And yes, children still do play in the park down the street, and many enjoy evening strolls along the avenues. But what many once thought was impossible here is now becoming somewhat routine.

Let me give you a run-down of the events.

  • January 13th: Police officers and suspects trade fire in the Gran Plaza, a popular shopping center. Officers would later confiscate an AK-47 rifle from those charged in the shootout.
  • January 14th: A homicide, thought at first to be an assassination attempt, puts the city on edge. Later investigation makes the husband the principal suspect.
  • February 1st: A bomb explodes near the home of the the Secretary’s of Police home in Monte Albán (one neighborhood north of the site of our previous house).
  • February 2nd: Citizens of Mérida take to the streets to denounce the escalating crime in a “March for Peace.”
  • February 3rd: Meridians receive a report of the assassination of one officer and the wounding of three others in the west of Mérida.
  • February 3rd: Ivonne Ortega, governor of the state of Yucatán declares that the the assassination was the result of new measures to “step on the toes” of criminals in Mérida and was an unrelated incident in the new wave of violence.
  • February 4th: In what some are saying was a violent reaction to the words of the governor, a resident of Progresso, apparently involved in the drug trade, is found decapitated in a house in Garcia Ginerés (our dentist has his office in this neighborhood.)

Again, I’m not writing this post to alarm you, only to show you the current state of events here in Mérida and ask you to pray. Sure, we’d like to see Mérida return to the sleepy city that it once was, but we would also like to see this wake up call to the police become a wake up call to non-believers and Christians alike.

This world that we live in is broken, and increased security can’t fix it. Only the message of forgiveness of Jesus and a restored relationship with God can, and only a unified, mobilized church, reaching out to it’s community can bring this message.

Pray for peace, but pray for the lasting peace that only salvation can bring.

Photos are from www.yucatan.com.mx. You may also read the special section detailing these events in Spanish.

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Left BehindNeed. It confronts. It demands to be met. Take for example a stone in our shoe. Even the tiniest pebble can cause reduce our gait to a hobble. What’s the response? Well, it’s impossible to negate, and limping to avoid the stone usually only lasts a few steps. Basically our feet demand that we sit, take off our shoe and get rid of the stone.

Here in Mérida, poverty is a need that demands to be met. The poor stand in doorways and wander the streets looking for those who will help them out of their situation. Even those that do work are trying to make ends meet on $5 US each day, and unlike the tourists in the picture above, we can’t leave their need behind when we return to our hotel or board our plane.

After my run in with the Ronald, the con-artist that took us for $8 in Costa Rica, I searched for a way to avoid the needs. I believed that a policy would help protect me, or maybe I would be able to direct people to ministries that could lend them a hand in their situation. Still, the need kept nagging.

Reading the Bible didn’t help either. Jesus, when confronted by the clamoring masses, would usually reply, “What is it that you want me to do for you?” He had no policies, no list of places to which he could direct them and wash his hands of their problems. He was personally involved–feeding, healing, touching.

Today, I was on a search for some items to get our house finally set up. Taking the wrong way to get to Home Depot, I stopped at a local hardware store. In the parking lot, there stood Raul, a disabled, middle-aged man, who, along with his wife, had been looking for garden work so that he could pay for his kids’ school supplies and uniforms. He asked me if I could help him. My schedule was free, but my impulse was to say that I couldn’t. After all, I had just cut my lawn the day before, and my ministry is equipping not compassion. Still, his need was clamoring for attention, and the example of Jesus from my devotionals was fresh in my mind. “What do you want me to do for you?” I asked.

I decided to get personally involved. I talked to him and called one of the references that he had given me. Then I spent the next 30 minutes praying and driving them to the places that they needed to go. As we said good-bye I gave him about $20 towards the uniforms and some dry goods that we had been carrying in the car so that his family would have food to eat. He gave me his address and an invitation to visit him.

Did I do the best thing? It’s hard to tell. I would rather have taken him to buy the shoes and uniforms that he needed, but at that moment I couldn’t. So perhaps I settled, or perhaps I was used as one response to the prayers of a desperate couple with a need that wasn’t going away.

Photo Credits: “Left Behind” a photo taken by gerriet available at: https://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=43491111&size=l and used under a Creative Commons License

Deviated SeptumI’d received some feedback from my post inspired by my on-going sickness, and I thought that there may be those who would like to hear an update.

After two different antibiotics and an attempt to treat my symptoms as an allergy, I was finally sent to get a nose culture and an x-ray. The nose culture, a very uncomfortable procedure by the way, revealed that I have a pretty nasty infection, which is bringing on the very real possibility of having to go through 5 days of injections followed by oral medication in order to clear it up. It seems as though my sinus infection that I thought I had dealt with in November/December never really went away. So now I’m faced with a whopper.

I would really appreciate your prayers as the treatment comes with certain side effects for the kidneys as they have to process this powerful antibiotic. This continuing saga also comes at the end of the bi-semester at the Bible Institute and the start of another hot on it’s heels. I’m caught in the middle of developing a class on Christian Evidences in Spanish with my energies at low levels.

Now, about the picture: The root of all of my problems seem to be an irregularity with my nose. The x-rays showed that I have a deviated septum. Those with a deviated septum collect fluid (seen as the gray in the right nasal cavity) in their sinuses that should drain through a normal nose. Instead the pooling creates a perfect environment for the breeding of bacteria. This explains why I come down with a new infection with every change of the season.

Usually, a deviated septum comes about in an accident with some kind of shock to the nose. This pattern of infections started during my time in CBC, but I can’t seem to remember any kind of accident that would have caused it. Of course, there was that one night while I was up reading Millard Erickson’s one volume Systematic Theology that the book might have slipped out of my hands onto my nose, but then that was thirteen years ago, so my mind might be a little fuzzy. Update 2/14/2007 It just came to me as I was watching the kids playing tennis in the Salvador Alvarado Sports Complex, that I was struck in the face with a raquetball raquet my second semester at CBC. The sinus infections began soon after.

I said all of that to say that while I won’t be ordering those android lymph node implants anytime soon, I may be looking into a bit of corrective surgery. Of course it will have to wait until the rest of my health situation is dealt with.

My thanks to all who have helped me get to the bottom of my problem and search for solutions: Sandy–our fellow missionary, Berta–a local pastor and doctor, and most of all, Kelly–my very patient and caring wife who has been great through all of this.

picture from https://home.ptd.net/~warnergt/Sinus.html

Joseph and Jonathan.I don’t dedicate much space to plugs on this site, although I could definitely spend some time talking about the great insight that I get reading the thoughts of others all across the net. However, there is one site that I just can’t afford not to mention. Seeing as how it’s run by the woman with whom I just happen to share my life.

Across the way, literally on the other side of our study table, Kelly has been recording the events and happenings of the Godzwa family with a focus on the kids in her blog, “From the Mouth of Babes.” She has healthy dose of pictures, video and even funny sayings peppered with a bit of her own commentary. All worth your time!

So click on this link and stop on by Kelly’s site, and while you’re there you might as well sign up for her newsfeed or email subscription as well. I’m sure you’ll find lots to keep you coming back.

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