Archive for July, 2008

KIMBERLY’S 8th BIRTHDAY – MISSION UPDATE

Posted in Mission Updates 2008 on July 30, 2008 by filerofish

Kimberly celebrates her eight birthday today. She was born on July 29, 2000 close to nine in the morning. I clearly remember the day when my wife Miriam gave me the news of her third pregnancy. Both of us were sitting in the van as she read the test results. We cried as we wondered how in the world we would support a family of five.

None of our children had been “planned”, but each and every one was wanted. We had been using birth-control, so we had not made any preparations for a third child. Since we were living in an old termite-infested 40-foot trailer that was already overcrowded, we were naturally concerned about the availability of living space. Furthermore, how would we pay for the hospital bill? How would we feed, cloth and care for another baby? As we struggled with these and other issues, God began to unveil His purpose and perfect plan for us.

As soon as we knew that Miriam was expecting a bay girl, the excitement and expectations began to grow. Who would she take after? What would she look like? You know, all of those things that relatives and friends want to know. Personally, I had no idea what it would be like to farther a daughter. Both of my boys were growing up fast and they kept us busy. Neftali had struggled with skin allergies when he was younger, and Santiago had regular recurrences of asthma. What new challenges would a newborn bring to our household?

Through a series of providential events, the Lord did provide for Kimberly’s delivery in Nogales, AZ. I was present in the room when it happened, along with Miriam’s sisters and her natural mother. It was a normal birth. Kimberly recognized my voice the very first thing and the connection between us was nearly immediate. All of our doubts and worries faded away as we could see God’s hand at work in bringing this bundle of love and joy into our lives. With her huge brown eyes and contrasting light-skin, she was beautiful to behold!

Back home, I would hold my daughter in my lap in front of me and sing to her. She would always try to follow the melody as best she could. She was a natural. Her hair grew very slowly at first, so her mother always made sure that she had a hat to wear. But as she began to develop, her hair also grew. She also increased in knowledge and faith. In church, she loves to lead songs, repeat the memory verses and pass the collection plate. At home, she is always making sure that we have a family prayer time before going to bed. In school, she has always been among the top three in her classroom, and that makes us mighty proud of her.

My Dad had been struggling with illnesses off and on for quite a while before Kimberly was born, and it wouldn’t be long after her birth that he would go on to be with the Lord. Both Kimberly and my Nephew Dylan were his pride and joy. They brought him strength and courage to continue on when times got tough. Kim thought the world of her “Tata” or grandpa. To this day, she remembers when he would pick up both her and Dylan at the kindergarten school. They had a lot of fun with him and he would always buy them a little something to nibble on their way home.

When my father became so ill that he had to be spoon fed in bed, Kimberly would often do the honors. When the feeding time was over, my sister Cynthia would inform me that he had refused to eat anything before Kim had been there. I suppose that her presence inspired him to make the extra effort. These and other experiences were etched in her mind forever; so much so, that when my Dad passed on she had a great deal of difficulty in overcoming her sense of loss. It has taken more than two years to recover from that grief.

Lately Kimberly has bee fighting a case of “pansinusitis“, likely caused by allergies and her repeated tonsil and throat infections since was a baby. After taking antibiotics for so long, Kimberly’s immune system has been weakened somewhat. We recently took her to see Dr. Medina who practices both allopathic and homeopathic medicine. I realize that there is quite a bit of debate in some circles regarding the benefits of homeopathy. But Dr. Medina was very helpful two years ago when antibiotics were no longer working. His treatment helped her overcome that problem then, and she had not had a significant relapse until now. He confirmed the diagnosis and gave her a treatment that already seems to be working wonders. At least the headaches are not as intense and she is getting a little more sleep at night. There is also better irrigation in the sinuses. Her regular doctor would like to get a C-scan done to see if she will need to have her tonsils removed or not


We live in an area that is highly contaminated with allergens: dust, pollen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and cement dust from the nearby factory (to name a few). A debilitated immune system will invariably succumb to whatever pathogens are out there. If I had a choice, I would gladly move to someplace that is healthier for my family. But until God provides another plan, we intend to stay where we are for now.

Kim has brought an enormous amount of love and joy into our lives. Her big brothers like to tease her a lot, but she has been able to handle it pretty well so far. She says that she wants to be a singer like her Dad when she grows up. Who knows what the Lord has in store for her, but I intend to enjoy her company for as long as I can. I suppose it’s rather typical for fathers to feel that way about their daughters.

Thank you so very much for being a part of our family with your prayers, encouragement, and support. May God bless you richly and keep you strong and healthy for many years to come. May we all be ready for the coming of our Lord, which could be a lot closer than we think.



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FAMILY CAMP SUCCESSFUL! – MISSION UPDATE

Posted in Mission Updates 2008 on July 26, 2008 by filerofish

Praise God, family camp this year was a huge success! Our theme this year was “Building Strong Families in the Lord.” We had 50 campers present, and most of them were from our own area. A number of these were kids that had come to our recent VBS program at church in Ensenada. Having these two events almost back to back proved to be a great follow-up program. We will likely do this again next year if the Lord tarries.

This is one of the main events during the year for our ministry in Mexico, and the church folk here always look forward to spending quality family time with their children and Christian brethren during the camp’s week-long activities. During the morning hours, there is Bible teaching going on for all age groups. For the kids, it’s like celebrating a VBS all over again, only in a camp setting. For the adults, it gives them a unique opportunity to be exposed to over 12 hours of solid Biblical exposition, which is something they usually won’t get anywhere else. The swimming pool is the main attraction during the afternoon, and there is always plenty of time to fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ.

My wife Miriam always plays a leading role in organizing and directing the camp. She also teaches one of the kid’s classes during the day and puts together the handcrafts for all of them. Her out-going charismatic personality makes it easier for me to concentrate on what I do best, and that is to deliver the messages and teachings to the adults and adult youth. I also run most of the errands for the camp as time permits. My son Neftali (Naphtali) is also very active in camp. He helped to entertain the Jr. Higher group and watch over the safety at the swimming pool.

Our resident “chef” this year was sister Carmen. Her regular job is teaching cooking as well as arts & crafts. She has published her own recipe book, and I understand that one or two of her recipes have been published in widely-circulating magazines in Spanish. But that is not her only virtue. She is also a wonderful conversationalist who loves to take other ladies under her wing and show them the “ropes” of her trade. She turned the camp’s kitchen into a full-fledged meeting room this year, and even some of the men could be seen hanging around the area and enjoying the warm atmosphere. Carmen always had plenty of helpers to assist in the daily chores.

Dionicio and Josefina Atondo visited us from the church in Tecate, and they shared tidbits of their incredible life’s story with us during testimony time. Dionicio’s health is rapidly failing and he can hardly hear or see, yet he managed to work up enough courage to come with his family and bless us with his participation. His daughter Alma and her husband Chuy were also there, helping with whatever they could. Alma is a retired school teacher and principle who is currently in charge of caring for her aging parents. She also helps her daughter with her catering business. Having sister Carmen and Alma hook up at family camp was truly a God thing.

The Atondo’s granddaughter Betsaida and her three little girls traveled all the way from Sinaloa (1000 miles away) to be at family camp. She and her husband Virgil run a children’s home in Culiacan – it has been a very challenging ministry for them. I had the privilege of marrying them almost 15 years ago, and I had not met her children yet. The girls are lovely and well-behaved. They even helped out in the kitchen chores voluntarily. A true Christian upbringing sure makes a world of difference!

Family Camp almost didn’t happen this year. We had a horde of obstacles to overcome. Just the price of using the campground alone was almost too much for most families. Thanks to the support of First Christian Church of Salinas, CA., Camelback Christian Church of Phoenix, AZ., and Kitty Allen of Casper, WY., we were able to provide scholarships to those who needed them. We are deeply grateful for their concern and their prayers. Camp would have been an impossible mission without them, and each of them had a part in the success of this program.

We are already planning for next year, and we encourage you to keep us in your prayers as we look at ways of making it even more successful next time.

IN OTHER NEWS

Ugly Auto Accident Occurs on Friday – God’s Grace Shines Through

My sister Vicki and her daughter Jennifer were involved in an ugly auto accident this past Friday while driving home from a trip to San Diego to take care of routine errands. They were only 15 miles from town when it happened. A semi-truck with no rear lights suddenly braked in the middle of the road, forcing Vicki to rapidly maneuver her vehicle to one side in order to avoid rear-ending the truck. As a result, she hugged the hill in the edge of the highway causing a lot of damage to the car.

Amazingly, both Vicki and Jennifer came out of the wreck virtually unscathed.

Kimberly’s health situation

My daughter continues to experience headaches off and on. Although she was able to attend family camp and basically enjoy most of the program during the day, her reoccurrences were usually during the evening hours. The family doctor thinks that her situation is being caused by a case of sinusitis, but it has not disappeared completely even after treatment. It is possible that she will require further testing to find out if there is anything more that could be causing the pain.

Gay man sues publishers over Bible verses!

No more “Happy Meals” for me please!

The gay agenda is plowing forward undaunted in the U.S. Recent news stories that have impacted the family-oriented Christian community are the following:

Gay man sues publishers over Bible verses

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2008-07-09-gay-bible_N.htm

McDonald’s signs onto ‘gay’ agenda

Family restaurant puts executive on board of homosexual chamber

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?pageId=60168

‘Gay’ McDonald’s prompts boycott

AFA urges millions to shun fast-food giant over its promotion of same-sex marriage

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=68672

15 YEARS LATER – MISSION UPDATE

Posted in Mission Updates 2008 on July 21, 2008 by filerofish

My second son Felipe Santiago (Philip James) is turning 15 tomorrow. It seems like it was just yesterday that he was our “littlest.” Santi (pronounced “Santy”), as we like to call him, discovered America at 3 a.m. on July 21, of 1993 at the Hospital de Las Americas in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.

The Berlin Wall had recently fallen less then four years earlier. The song “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston was topping the charts, a gallon of gas sold for $1.16, and the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in six games over the Philadelphia Phillies. That same year, Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat shook hands in Washington D.C., September 13, 1993 after 45 years of fighting, and suspected terrorists drove a car bomb into the basement of the World Trade center in New York, 8 years before the 9/11 attacks.

They tell me it’s not easy being the one in the middle. Neither Miriam nor I would know what it’s like, since I was the youngest of the siblings and she was the oldest. But I can at least relate to the age difference. There is a seven-year difference between Santi and his older brother and younger sister. Growing up in a missionary’s home is tough enough, but growing up in the home of a missionary who is a son of a missionary is even more complicated at times. The uncertainties and unusual circumstances that go along with the trade are a constant source of tension for a young boy who is trying to find his identity and purpose in life.

We live in a neighborhood situated on the edge of a major thruway that cuts through town, so there are hardly any kids his age. Santi grew up going to school until 2 p.m., and spending his afternoon hours alone at home. He has grown accustomed to spending a lot of his time alone.

Santi is quite a computer wiz, and like most kids his age he loves to play video-games. We bought him his first system a long time ago when we could still afford it, but he has been able to upgrade to a new system each time simply by selling his older one. Right now, he says that he would like to design video-games as a career and travel to Japan someday. He started studying Japanese almost two years ago and he has done remarkably well. Miriam and I are very proud of his achievements.

Last year, he took up skateboarding which has helped him to spend more time outside and meet new friends. This has become a favorite sport among local teenagers. Our only concern is for his physical safety because there are hardly any parks in the area where he can practice, so he and his friends often end up practicing on the street. Nevertheless, I am grateful that my son is beginning to open up a little more and is learning new social skills.

Santi graduated from Jr. High this year with very high scores and will be moving on to a public technical Prep School. Only 700 students out of over 2000 passed the entrance exam, and even fewer were able to get into the morning schedule. Santi was one of the few fortunate ones! He will be studying informatics, which I assume has something to do with computer programming. This is foundational knowledge that will probably help him later on in the University. The advantage to this school is that he will graduate with a certified technical profession.

When he was very young, my son loved to play the drums and he had pretty good rhythm too. He has a very good musical ear and a nice warm singing voice. This last year he has begun to toy with the guitar a little, so his brother got him a pretty good beginner’s electric guitar for his graduation. He tries to practice a little every once in a while. His brother would like to form a little musical group where both of them can play together.

Both Naphtali and Santiago are devoted Christians. They read their Bible and pray regularly. Both of them are quite knowledgeable and insightful. They have learned to live by faith and they trust in God for their future. Since Kimberly has been sick, both of them have shown loving concern for their sister and we have prayed together for her recovery.

Family camp is scheduled to start tomorrow after 3 p.m. Please pray for us as we give our best effort to this all-important event for the life of the local church and for our kids. At this time, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to First Christian Church of Salinas, California who have been used of God to provide camp scholarship and food for a number of poorer families. Among those benefited by this gift of love are Dionicio and Josefina Atondo, as well as their granddaughter Betsaida who is traveling with her kids all the way from Culiacan, Sinaloa (over 1000 miles away). Miracles can still happen!

Continue to pray for Kimberly. All of the tests that we have done so far seem to indicate that here headaches are being caused by an aggravated sinusitis, so she is receiving treatment for that. However, her symptoms continue so we will be monitoring her condition as it evolves.

Also pray for this year’s evangelist Alejandro Julian who was not able to make the trip from Hermosillo do to health problems. He is 75 years old and he has suffered from diabetes for most of his adult life. When you combine his illness with the extreme summer heat in Sonora, it’s a wonder that he is still alive. When I talked with him on the phone last night, he sounded like one who is saying his final goodbyes. It is heart-wrenching to see some of these pioneer sages fade into the unwritten pages of church history without proper recognition. What is even more troublesome is that no one seems to be coming up from behind to fill their place. The time to raise up a new generation of leaders for the Mexican church has arrived! May God use us to play a significant role in the future.

Thank you again for reaching out to us with your love, support and many prayers. You are a very much a key player in winning Mexican people to Christ.


Summer Family Camp is One Week Away!-Mission Update

Posted in Mission Updates 2008 on July 14, 2008 by filerofish

Beloved in Christ Jesus,

May the peace of the Lord abound in your hearts in minds as we come ever closer to the final showdown between the Almighty God and the evil one!

Our summer family camp is coming up this following Monday July 21. There are at least four Jr. High-age kids who came to our VBS and are now interested in attending camp. Thanks to Camelback Christian Church of Phoenix, AZ and Kitty Allen of Casper, WY, most of the food will be covered, thus making the camp accessible to several low-income families. We are hoping to get Alejandro Julian of Hermosillo to be our camp’s evangelist, but he tells me that it will have to be last minute decision because of his ongoing battle with diabetes. Please pray for Alex and his wife Esther as they enter the final stage of their earthly pilgrimage.

In other news, we were richly blessed recently by a surprise two-day visit on behalf of a youth group from North County Church of Christ, a “mainline” church of Christ congregation located in Escondido, CA. This group had made previous arrangements to work with the children at a local orphanage so we didn’t spend as much time with them as we would have liked to. We did have the privilege of meeting a few of the team members, and of hosting their group in our small but adequate church facility in Ensenada.

For those of you who may be familiar with Bill Pile’s book “Going for the Gold in Discipleship”, NCCC is the first church mentioned in his book who’s model of discipleship inspired Bill to use his sabbatical for the purpose of becoming better acquainted with their particular way of doing ministry. Without any of the trappings of the modern mega-church-growth model, North County has managed to grow a healthy congregation based exclusively on Biblical disciple-making. Bill’s son Greg Pile is one of the elders in that church.

Miriam and I were especially pleased to have met Manuel Magos and his wife July. Manuel is also an elder at NCCC, and he is in charge of the Hispanic group there. His wife is a fellow MK (Missionary’s Kid) whose parents pioneered the work for the churches of Christ in the country of Peru. They are truly a delightful couple to be with! We anxiously look forward to seeing them again soon.

I don’t recall another time in the history of our ministry when we have been visited by folk from the non-instrumental churches of Christ, but we felt so at ease with brother Magos and his family that it felt like we have always been on the same team together. It was a very refreshing experience that I wouldn’t mind repeating again. We had some of the richest fellowship possible on this side of heaven. Praise God!

One of the New Testament principles that was confirmed in my mind during their visit is that discipleship is the key to sustained growth and fidelity to the word of God. It is also the catalyst for God-honoring evangelistic outreach. Most of us need to re-learn that the local congregation was never meant to be the premier location for soul-winning, although most evangelism today takes place within the walls of the church-building. When true believers gather together, it is primarily for the purpose of the “perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12) How far have we strayed from this New Testament design for the church! No wonder so much of modern evangelicalism is beset with meaningless professions of faith, and is rapidly being inundated by postmodern existentialism and mysticism. When will this ever stop or change? The short answer is, whenever we decide to take the restoration plea seriously!

  • “Where The Scriptures Speak, We Speak. Where The Scriptures Are Silent, We Are Silent!”
  • “No Book But The Bible!”
  • “Call Bible Things By Bible Names!”
  • “Do Bible Things In Bible Ways!”
  • “No Creed But Christ!”
  • “In Matters Of Faith, Unity. In Matters Of Opinion, Liberty. In All Things, Love!”
  • “Christians Only, But Not The Only Christians!”

Oh, the innocence of youth!- Mission Update

Posted in Mission Updates 2008 on July 7, 2008 by filerofish

“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16

Oh, the innocence of youth! How many of us would give anything to return to that wonderful period of our childhood when we could confidently clime up into our parents’ lap and feel the warmth and security of their loving embrace? I know that I would in a heartbeat! Much of my early life was spent recovering from asthma and related respiratory illnesses. It was during those moments of personal crisis that my mother or father would come into my room and reassure me with a comforting word or loving caress. Somehow, all of my worries and uncertainties would suddenly vanish away as a result.

God has designed us in such a marvelous way that we all have a built-in need to love and be loved by others. It’s in our very nature as spiritual beings fashioned after the image and likeness of our Maker (Gen 1:26) He is a deeply loving God who intensely seeks to sustain an intimate relationship with us through His Son Jesus, and shower us with his blessings and his peace. The psalmist puts it this way, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! (Psalms 8:4-9)

Growing up nowadays can be a very scary thing. With all of the violence, abuse, crime, war, poverty, hunger, sickness and death, children often have a very tough time coping with it all. Many of them are under an enormous pressure to mature prematurely, cave into sinful behavior, and thus loose their innocence. I see this process happening all of the time in Mexico. Mothers who dress their little pre-school girls in inappropriate outfits for their age; young boys who are already consuming a steady diet of “mature” content on the TV or Internet; and hundreds of kids who already engaging in dark occult practices that bring them under demonic oppression. These are but a few examples of how children are being bombarded with the temptations of this world. Satan is an extremely cruel slave master who would do anything to cause children to sin at the earliest possible age, and therefore claim their soul as his own.

The apostle Paul declares that all of us loose our innocence sooner or later (Romans 3:23), but that we can all be “…justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3:24-25) Sin has grave consequences (Rom. 6:23), but the sooner an individual seeks forgiveness of his or her personal sins through faith in Jesus Christ, the better off he or she will be. God has revealed that He is a jealous God, who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him; but that he also shows mercy unto thousands of them that love Him, and keep His commandments (Exodus 20:5-6) That’s why it’s so important to break the vicious cycle of sin and judgment through the powerful passionate preaching of the Gospel.

Our experience has shown that children who hear and heed the message at an earlier age have a much better opportunity to survive spiritually later on, and even make an eternal difference in the lives of their own children when they reach adulthood. Even kids who have grown up in worldly or unbelieving households are more likely to make a life-changing decision for Christ if they have been exposed to this message of hope when they were younger.

Francisco Zuñiga, for example, grew up in a rather unsophisticated home environment in Hermosillo. Yet, as a young boy he had the privilege of attending a vacation Bible school in the vicinity of his neighborhood. During his adolescence, he engaged in the worldly behavior which is common among young people. Even so, that seed that had been sown in his heart during his childhood would eventually grow and bring about a life-transforming encounter with the Lord. Today, he and his family attend our church regularly and help to teach other young children during our summer VBS program.

Vacation Bible School this year in Ensenada was an exceptional victory for many reasons. Our attendance was as good as last year. We had nearly 70 students present! They were also better behaved than usual, which made it much easier to handle. Almost the entire church membership got involved. My wife Miriam directed and coordinated the event. Neftali, Vicki, Francisco, and Desiree did the teaching while others helped with the crafts, refreshments, transportation and cleaning chores. It was a true delight to watch them all work together as a team for a common cause: bring hope into the lives of little children who would otherwise not have that assurance of the promises of God.

Although we did not have a group from the States come down to visit us this year, we are thankful that previous groups had left enough materials to work with for this occasion. God supplied our need for lesson material through the generosity of a man who has been visiting us for several months now. Other needs were met by church members themselves, including refreshments and fuel for the vehicles that transported the kids back and forth.

Those who continue to support our ministry here have also played an all-important key role in making a difference in the lives of Mexican children. Even if we do not see immediate results, we trust that the precious seed of the Gospel has been planted, and we pray that it will someday produce an abundant harvest not long from now. You can also pray that these precious children will come to know Christ as their personal Savior. If you would like to pray specifically for any one child, let me know and I will see if I can get permission to send you their names. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers and for your unwavering trust in what we are trying to accomplish. I want you to know that we pray for you also, asking God to bless your own efforts to please and serve him where you are.