harnessing the power of photography for good

Posts tagged “men’s ministry

Blessed!

Raul was paralyzed from the chest down when the truck he and his cousins were in was hit by a gas truck that didn’t stop…that was 7 years ago.  It hasn’t been easy for him or his family but they continue to trust God for their needs and God has been faithful in His grace and mercy.  The family is a great testimony of what it means to trust God for everything and remaining faithful to Him despite the circumstances of life.

Pastor Raul and his family.

I first met Raul’s Dad, Pastor Raul, in 2010 when he came to Oaxaca to serve alongside Adventures in Life during the February Men’s Ministry week. Pastor Raul wanted to see photos we were posting but he does not have Facebook, he told me his Son did.  That’s when I became “friends” with Raul. It was a blessing to be in Guadalajara this week, where I got to finally meet Raul in person!  It’s been a great week of ministry…

We finished up work at the church on Friday and eating lunch when Raul asked me if I would take some photos of him on the grass.  Of course I said yes!  I didn’t realize that this would become one of the hardest photo sessions I’ve ever done…After taking photos of Raul he asked the folks from AACF UCLA, who were serving with Adventures in Life in Guadalajara, to come join him. As I started photographing and watching as the family gathered around Raul for photos, a few things really stood out to me.  Raul wanted some nice photos where he was not in the chair…for a few minutes he was just part of the family posing for photos, smiling, having fun, goofing around…Honestly, it took every ounce of strength I had to keep the tears back!  I’m taking photos, praying and thanking God for the blessing of being here in Guadalajara to photograph this beautiful moment.  It was magical!

This is the power of photography.  Once all the photos were done, Raul looked exhausted and was left lying on the ground, he looked in pain but had a big smile on his face.  I had to take a walk and compose myself.

The interesting thing is I don’t think some of the folks in the photo understood what just happened…The lesson was not lost on me.  I am blessed!


Oaxaca 2013 :: Serving Alongside Adventures in Life Ministries

medteam 101_5294

L to R: Raquel, Claire, Jolene, Cyndy, Arlene, Judy, Linda with Ty in the middle

MISSION focused has been actively serving in Mexico with Adventures in Life Ministries since February of 2010.  It has been a real blessing to see up close the work Dave Miller, executive director of Adventures in Life, and their ministry partners in Mexico are doing.

The above photo is of the 2013 Adventures in Life Spring Medical Team, posing for a photo in San Diego, before heading South for Oaxaca.  They are in Oaxaca this week seeing folks that they saw last March, and attending to new people who come to their clinics this week in the different towns and villages.  Please keep them in prayer.

MISSION focused photographer Cyndy Smith, is photographing this year’s Medical Mission.

The photo below is of this year’s Adventures in Life FMO Men’s Ministry Week Oaxaca, that just finished up in February.  It was a busy week, unfortunately they didn’t have any internet connection, so we are working on photos now and hope to have some to show soon.  The photo was taken by Jim Wanglund, friend of the Mission who was photographing this year’s Men’s Week in Oaxaca.

2013 FMO Men


Adventures in Life :: 2013 Men’s Ministry Week

Jim Wanglund is on his way to Oaxaca for this year’s Adventures in Life Men’s Week of Ministry. This will be Jim’s second trip to Oaxaca to photograph the work of Adventures in Life.  Please pray for safety and good health for the men on this year’s Mission.

Internet access is limited at the site where the men will be working, so what updates we get, will be posted on our Facebook page HERE(facebook.com/MISSIONfocusedPhotography)

The above photo of Jim was taken at Hierve el Agua in 2011.


Adventure Friends…

The Adventures in Life 20th Celebration was a great evening to come together and thank God for the work that He has done through Adventures in Life in Mexico.  I always look forward to these gatherings because I get to see good friends in the Los Angeles area that I don’t get to see as often…So Sunday was an added bonus for me!

Grady Martine and Paul Lathrop.  I’ve known these guys for some time.  Grady was the one who God used to get a hold of me back in high school.  He and another friend Danny Mandagie, wouldn’t let me not go to Younglife…as hard as I tried, God had another plan.  I am forever thankful to both of them for dragging me to Younglife.

Paul and Grady grew up together in Pacific Grove, and Paul came to live in San Diego with Grady in between missionary stops in Columbia and Mexico.  That’s when I met Paul.

Paul and his wife Deanne, at the Adventures in Life 20th Celebration.

My good friend Ernie, with his lovely daughter Adrienne. Wife and Mom, Joy, couldn’t make it to the Celebration.

I think Ernie and I met back in 1995 or 96, when we were both leaders with Younglife in San Diego.  We used to meet together for a men’s Bible study group every Monday.  Paul was part of that men’s group, along with another friend Brett Bristol, who didn’t make the celebration on Sunday.

I don’t recall who moved up to L.A. first, but in a few years…Paul, Brett and Ernie all had moved to L.A. and started meeting with Dave Miller.  I had met Dave sometime after he and Grady started Adventures in Life.  Grady and his wife Barb had moved up to the Pasadena area when Grady began working on his Masters at Fuller Seminary.

Dave with Ernie and Adrienne at Restaurante Guelaguetza, where the 20th Celebration was held.

Ernie, Paul and Brett all became involved in some way or another with Adventures in Life over the years and I think we have all been blessed by this ministry.  I never had a chance to go to Mexico with Grady, Paul, Brett or Ernie.  Perhaps in the future.  I do know that these are friends that I will have for a lifetime!  This is another reason why I am thankful for Adventures in Life!

Here’s to another 20 years of ministry!!


Promise Keepers San Diego :: Called Out

My first experience with Promise Keepers was at Anaheim Stadium in 1994 (seen here, before becoming a baseball only stadium).

It was an experience that I can still remember and it was when God really showed me the importance and the power of men who come together to pray and hold each other accountable.  Since 1994 I think I have been to 4 other Promise Keeper events, either to attend or photograph.This past weekend Promise Keepers was back in San Diego at SDSU‘s Viejas Arena.  The last time I was at there it was for the Rock Church Easter Service in 2007.  It was fun to wander around underneath, hard to believe it was 5 years ago since I was last there.Volunteers getting their assignmentsIt was a blessing to help Promise Keepers document this year’s conference in San Diego.  It was their last event for the year and it finished well.  Promise Keepers might not be filling 60,000+ seat stadiums right now, but I was exciting to see what God was doing.  They are trying to equip and encourage the men of the church.  Young and old and everything in between!   Calling them Out to be Men of God…in their marriages, families, churches, work places and communities.  There is talk of Promise Keepers coming back through San Diego next year.  If they do, I will be there!  What a blessing!


Adventures in Life :: Twenty

Our friends at Adventures in Life Ministry are celebrating 20 years of ministry in Mexico.  We are truly blessed to have been able to photograph what God is doing through AIL in Ensenada and Oaxaca.  In the next few months we will be sharing a few of our favorite photos from the last 3 years that we have been photographing for Adventures in Life.  You can learn more about the work of Adventures in Life by going HERE.  Enjoy!

Our 2nd trip to Oaxaca in July of 2010 for AIL Kids Summer Camp at Pastor Chable’s farm in Zimatlan, Oaxaca.  

The above photo was taken as we were waiting for a bus so we could make our way to Tlacolula from the city…I remember hearing Dave say,” jump on the nicest bus”…which we did.  In the mean time we passed up 4 or 5 buses and ended up waiting another 30 minutes.  I was fine, but the gals apparently had to go to the bathroom.  The nice bus ride was 40 minutes to our destination….

This was taken in San Felipe Guila, about an hour away from the city of Oaxaca.  We were there with the Medical Team.  The folks there loved the photos, we took over 70 portraits in 2 days….of families, kids and different combinations of friends and family.  What a great time

The men had just finished eating at one of Dave’s favorite roadside eating establishments, Taqueria El Rodeo, across the street from the main bus station in Oaxaca City (if you ever find yourself in the area you must go eat there)…and we were walking back to Casa Arnel when we bumped into these guys.  The world famous Tuna de la Urse, one of the best roaming minstrels in Mexico and beyond…  They travel all around the world competing and winning.  They played for us and then the men got to pose with them!  Great food and great music!

Happy 20 years of ministry to Adventures in Life!  We hope yall have at least another 20!  Praise God!!


Ensenada 2012 :: An Overview of the Week of Ministry with Adventures in Life ~ Dios Es Amor Church

Terry Schwartz being prayed for by the kids at camp! 

Terry worked hard and took lots of great photos.  These are just a few to give yall an idea of what God did this week.

This is the heart of who we are as MISSION focused, to use the gift of photography to document what God is doing through ministries like Adventures in Life and small local churches like Dios Es Amor in Ensenada.

Dios Es Amor ~ Adventures in Life Kids Camp 2012

First Baptist Church of Salinas spent the week with Adventures in Life, sharing the love of Christ with the kids and remodeling the kitchen at Dios Es Amor Church.  The men worked hard and got tons of work done…Please keep the next group, from Gardena Valley Baptist Church and Panorama Baptist Church, in prayer as they come to Ensenada to finish the work that began last week.

Dave Miller, Executive Director of Adventures in Life, taking some time to recharge and rest during worship.

You can see more photos from the week on our Facebook page HERE


Oaxaca Med Team :: Fruit of the Loom(s)

Next door to the church in San Baltazar is a family that has a textile manufacturing business, they make knit ware on the loom, from wool, cotton, silk and other assorted materials.  The father, Julian, has been a big help in the past as was part of the team of locals that helped build the church over the years.

Doug, Noemi, Elizabeth and Brian in front of the church in San Baltazar in February 2012

Doug got to know Julian during their time of working together while building the church.  Doug took a photo of himself and Julian that found its way back to Julian, via Dave, and now hangs proudly in the house of Julian.  Talking with Jaime, Julian’s son, he said his dad still talks about Doug and his experience helping build the church.Jaime and Dave, who is holding the photo of Doug & Julian

Dave shares…As I walked in the door, I saw it.  A picture I have seen a million times on my computer.  It is one I have used on the Adventures in Life Ministry web site.  It was a picture of my friend Doug and the new friend he made in Oaxaca, Julian, Jaime’s dad.

 Everyone in the family remembered Doug and the day that photo was taken.  I listened as they shared about their dad helping us build the church next door and his work with us alongside Doug in Tlacolula. 
This relationship building is what many missions forget to do.  Too often missions groups are in such a rush to “share Jesus” they forget this.  If Doug hadn’t taken the time to get to know Julian, and his family, we wouldn’t  have been invited to come over and see what they were creating on the looms…
Having come from a YoungLife background, where I first met Jesus as my Lord and Savior, you will hear over and over again that “you need to earn the right to be heard!”
Meaning, after you have earned their respect and built a relationship of trust with them, then they will be more open to listening about your life in Christ and what Jesus has to offer them (eternal Life).  Because they will want to hear, because they know you care!
Yesterdays adventure into the loom and textile world next door was made possible by Doug Fog taking the time to get to know Julian years ago.  We were literally harvesting the “fruit of the loom.”  🙂
You can read Dave’s blog HERE

Oaxaca Medical Team:: Bang for the Buck(or Peso)

Dave Miller, executive director of Adventures in Life (AIL), was talking with one of the men yesterday in San Felipe Guila, Oaxaca, Mexico.  That’s where this years Medical Team has been ministering, today and yesterday.

He asked, “why are you guys here?  Nobody comes here (to San Felipe Guila).”

If you look on the map, there really isn’t much there.  Most of the men in the town have left to find work in the city, near the border or in the U.S.  Folks leave the town, they don’t come here for vacation, or even for missions trips.

Dave and I were talking today about his question, and it really was a good question that opened itself up to further questions of how short term missions is done across the globe.

I don’t profess to know much about short term missions philosophy and methodology, but I know what I’ve seen over the years as a photographer for Miles Ahead ministries and other groups that do short term missions.

The idea of, “bang for the buck” is an interesting concept.  Dave shared a story with me of an missions leader telling him that trips with AIL are “cheap” in comparison to other missions groups.  That he loved what AIL is doing in Mexico and he could see that real help is happening through Adventures in Life ministries.  Bang for the buck!

But…what AIL does isn’t flashy, fashionable or trendy.  Not that short term missions should be any of those things, but that missions leader was looking for something with more “show,” that would look good to the church that sent the group.  They wanted big extravagant events and projects that look good and project well when doing a power point presentation to the missions folks and pastors.

What I’ve witnessed over the last 3 years, in the time I’ve been coming to photograph AIL ministries, is relationship and community building.  A belief that working with local churches and pastors, and long term missionaries like Pastor Rolando in San Felipe Guila, is smarter than trying to come to an area and “do something” big for big’s sake.

Pastor Rolando & his wife

Adventures in Life understands that those in the trenches know better than any missions director in the states.  That bigger isn’t always better when it comes to doing short term missions.  By asking those who are ministering long term in the field, and living alongside them in community, Adventures in Life can partner with and help these missionaries better reach those who don’t know Jesus yet.

Unfortunately, too many U.S. churches want the big dog and pony show that looks good on video and looks good when sharing from the pulpit.

That’s not what Adventures in Life is all about.


WHY GO?

Whenever I am getting ready to go on a mission trip I have people ask me why I go.  It makes me stop and reflect and ask the same question, “WHY DO I GO?” Sometimes I feel like I do it just to appease my feelings of guilt caused by me having so much materially when the rest of the world has so little. I also fear that I go just because I love to travel. However, deep in my soul I pray that my desire to go is so that I can show God’s love to people around the world.

I have been on a lot of different mission trips, with a lot of different purposes, to a lot of places around the world. No matter what the purpose of the trip; whether building a house or an orphanage, installing water filtration or stoves, conducting VBS or teaching nutrition; the common response from the local people has always been that they can’t believe I would leave my family and travel so far from my home to help them. Just the mere fact of being present in their lives shows them how much God loves them.

Most of the people around the world live very simple lives, where every day is pretty much the same as the rest. It causes great excitement and anticipation when a short-term mission group roles into their little village.  I am sure some Missiologist will disagree with me; but I believe that it is not so important what you do, as that you Just Do It. (Can I borrow that from Nike?).  I sincerely believe that if at all possible everyone should go on a short-term mission trip sometime in his or her life. A few days before Keith Green (a Christian musician popular when I was a teen-ager) and two of his children were killed in a plane crash, he  wrote an article entitled “Why YOU Should Go On The Mission Field” .  He says you need to go: 1. Because Jesus has told you to go. 2. You should go because the need is so great. 3. You should go because  … … …Click HERE to read more of the article.

On Friday I will be traveling to Oaxaca, MX for my second trip with Adventures in Life Ministry. Last year I went with their Men’s Only Build Week (some how I snuck in to photograph their work building a Bible school). This year I will be photographing their Medical Ministry Week. AIL understands the needs of the people in Oaxaca and partners with local churches to bring economic, physical and spiritual health to them. Stay tuned in for daily updates and keep the team in prayer.


Med Team Oaxaca Countdown has Begun…

It’s time for Oaxaca…come Friday I will be on a plane, with Cyndy Smith, heading for Oaxaca, Mexico.   It’s been busy the last 2 weeks and as Friday approaches, I’m looking at another busy week.  Hopefully I will be able to get some time to prepare, spiritually, for my time in Oaxaca.  I’m really looking forward to this trip.

2010 Adventures in Life Oaxaca Medical Team

My first trip with Adventures in Life was back when the men’s work week and medical team outreach happened at the same time.  Since then, the medical team outreach was moved to March and I haven’t had the chance to join another AIL medical team trip, so this should be fun.

2010 AIL Men’s Ministry Construction Team

That trip 3 years ago has become a real special experience for me as I look back.  From that trip, God began to clarify how we, Mission Focused, can use photography to help further the reach of the Gospel and help those working in the missions field.

Terry in action

Since that first trip with AIL, God has continued to show us how we can serve those that are serving in the field.  One of the things we started doing is taking family portraits.  Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico, and family photos is a luxury item for many.

It is our hope that taking these portraits will help the local church and missionaries to reach out to their community and build relationships in order to share the Love of Christ with them.  And we can leave a lasting reminder of our visit…since too often, photographers come and go and the people they are taking photos of never see a photo other than the image on the back of the camera.

Cyndy and brotherjoe (me) will be sharing photos and stories during the week, so stay tuned.  We will be posting on Facebook as well, so if you haven’t, please visit our FB page and “LIKE” us while your there 🙂


Oaxaca 2012 :: Adventures in Life Ministries

Adventures in Life Ministries was started over 15 years ago by 2 friends of mine, Grady Martine and Dave Miller.  The ministry continues today… their Vision is to make known the transforming power of the Gospel through short term missions in Mexico.  

They do this by developing  ministry partnerships to reach the heart of Mexico(their Mission).

MISSION focused has had the honor of partnering with AIL over the last 3 years to help them, through photography, to make known the transforming power of the Gospel in Mexico.

Cyndy and brotherjoe are going to Oaxaca at the end of March to continue documenting the work of AIL in Oaxaca.

Jolene, part of the Medical Team in 2010, checking a patients heart and breathing

The Medical Team will be serving in different parts of Oaxaca, partnering with local churches and missionaries, to bring basic health care, via a small mobile clinic, to folks who might not receive any medical attention at all.

You can follow the work of Adventures in Life at their website www.AILministry.org or you can visit their Facebook page HERE.  You can also view videos of recent AIL ministry trips at their YouTube channel HERE.

Of course, if your curious about what MISSION focused has been doing in Oaxaca, you can look HERE.


Oaxaca 2012:: Final Video…Job Well Done!

It was a long week of work, fun, and fellowship…it’s great to see this final video taken inside the completed storage rooms that the men built during the week.

If you want to come and experience Oaxaca first hand this summer or with the men, next February, contact Dave Miller at Dave@AILMinistry.com     You can learn more about Adventures in Life ministries HERE


Oaxaca 2012 :: Team Buffalo

Team Buffalo

The men from Buffalo, posing for 1 more photo after a week of hard work, fellowship, and fun.  Left to right: Adolph, Brad, Ed, Big Boy(aka Brigham) and Willie (in the wheel barrow)

I first met Big Boy 3 years ago, on my first trip to Oaxaca.  It has been a blessing getting to know him over the past 3 men’s work weeks in Oaxaca,  along with some of the other men from Buffalo, New York.  What I have seen, especially this year, was God bringing men from all over the United States and Raul from Guadalajara, Mexico, and quickly molding the men into 1 group in order to complete the work that God had brought them down to Oaxaca for.  Every year has been different, not necessarily better or worse than others, but God was clearly present from the first day of work.

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

2 Chronicles 16:9

Without a doubt the credit for this belongs to Jesus!  The men came and were ready to work and like  Big Boy, there were quite a few men that had been to Oaxaca before, so they knew what to expect.  Adolph and his son Willie came in 2011…it was great to see Willie step up and work hard during the week.  Brad and Ed were new this year, but it looked like they’ve been down to Oaxaca before.  Paul Bembia, who is part of the Buffalo crew couldn’t make it this year, he was missed.  I’m sure Bid Boy and the guys from Buffalo will continue to share about their experiences in Oaxaca, and hopefully more men will join them next year in Oaxaca!

Dave Miller made this little video at the end of the week with Big Boy, take a look.  If you want to learn more about Adventures in Life and the work they are doing in Oaxaca, Mexico, you can go HERE.


Oaxaca 2012 :: Taking it Home!

The men gathered with Pastors Americo and Norma and their kids, inside the newly finished storage room for one last team photo before heading for home

After our little celebration dinner Dave gathered the men together one last time to encourage and thank the men for all their hard work and dedication to this years project in Oaxaca.  Sharing from Colosians 3, Dave encouraged the men to continue to do “good” when they get back home.  Paul reminds us in vs 11, that we are here serving Christ as fellow believers and servants of Jesus.  We are no longer Americans, Mexicans, Lutherans, Oregonians or whatever label you wanna use…we all belong to Christ.

Dave said that he is thankful that the all of the men took their time and talents to come and serve in Oaxaca with Adventures in Life this week, but if they do nothing else for the Kingdom of God this year, he would be sad.  Dave encouraged the men to continue to serve Christ and others when they get back home.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)

Kingdom work never ends.  It was a great week of ministry and a blessing to be a witness to the work that God did through the men this week.  If you want to see some photos from this week you can visit our Facebook page HERE.

More photos soon…


Oaxaca 2011 :: Heading for Home

Tonight we got together one last time, all the men who were serving this week, along with Pastors Americo and Norma, and some of the families that served alongside us this past week in Oaxaca.  It was great to break bread with our brothers and sisters in Christ after a great week of serving Jesus.We took one final group shot in front of the new storage rooms the men built this week in Tlacolula.  

As we prepare to leave tomorrow, it becomes an obvious time to reflect and thank God for his faithfulness.  Nobody was seriously hurt, the work was completed, and relationships have strengthened renewed for those who have been to Oaxaca before, and new friendships for those coming for the first time.

Sometimes after these short term missions, we can forget once we get back home, that ministry continues after we leave. It’s that whole perception that if were not there, ministry must stop and wait til we come back 12 months from now.  Nope!

The work is hard.  Hermana Norma said it well tonight, that though her joy is in Christ, she will miss us.  Sometimes just having fellow believers join you and fellowship with you, even for a short period of time, is therapeutic in and of itself.  Showing up is enough.  We don’t always have to do something.  More on this when I get back to SD.

Please keep Pastors Americo and Norma in your prayers as they share the love of Christ in Oaxaca.   If you are interested in coming next year, contact Dave at Adventures in Life or by going HERE.


Oaxaca 2012 :: Family Photos

MISSION focused began photographing military families (free of charge) 3 years ago, as a way to say thank you for serving our country.  It has become one of the biggest blessings for us as a group of photographers.  When I began coming down to Oaxaca with Adventures in Life in February of 2010, I started thinking that maybe we could take the concept of free family portraits to Oaxaca, as way to extend the reach of the local churches.  After talking with Dave and Pastors Americo and Norma, they liked the idea…we decided to try it out and see how it went.In this photo, I was able to gather, was 3 generations of one family, spanning 4 generations.  The young girl in red was the daughter/great grand-daughter; the gal in brown was the mom to the young girl and grand-daughter of the women in native Zapotec clothing; and then there was grand-ma/great grand-mother(bis abuela).  How cool was that!  What a huge blessing to be able to take what most likely was their first photo of the 3 of them.In July of 2010, Terry came with me to Oaxaca to help photograph a kids camp Adventures in Life was leading for kids who live in the mountains surrounding Oaxaca.  Terry and I were able to take portraits of every kid and print them so they could take the photo home with them.Along with a photo of themselves, we gave them a copy of the camp photo.  Our plan was to go into some of the towns Americo and Norma are ministering in and take family portraits, unfortunately we got rained in.  There was so much rain the first couple days we were stranded and unable to go and take photos. brotherjoe, Dave, Cyndy, Jim and Terry, with the owner of the famous Chaguita Nievas Oaxaquenas (ice cream like dessert) helados stand in the middle of the market in Oaxaca City.

Last February Terry came back along with Jim and Cyndy to help take portraits.  Unfortunately Jim got sick and had to stay back at home base as Terry, Cyndy and I went out to take photos.Terry in action last FebruaryCyndy taking photos of some of the local kids in San Baltazar, February 2011The reality is this:  In the parts of Oaxaca that Adventures in Life ministers in, family photos is a luxury item that most families can’t afford so they don’t think about it.  The best example I have of this is Hermana Norma’s parents, Santiago y Julia.This is a photo of Santiago and Julia’s wedding day in 1965.  Santiago is at the head of the horse that Julia is sitting on.Terry took this photo of Santiago and Julia last February.  It wasn’t until we showed Hermana Norma this photo that we learned that this was the first photo of the two of them since their wedding day.  I was in Santiago and Norma’s house yesterday and there was this photo hanging on the wall.

This is the power photography!  This is why we come to Oaxaca and this is why we choose to use our gifts for God’s Glory.

**to see more portraits please visit our Facebook page HERE, and while your there please LIKE us**


Oaxaca 2012:: Rounding Third….

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

(Matthew 5:1-12 ESV)

This morning Dave shared from Matthew 5, the Beatitudes.

It reminded me of something I heard and never forgot.  I was a young christian and going to Emmanuel Faith Community Church in Escondido, Doc Strauss said “there are lots of people who say they love God, but very few truly love Jesus.”  He was talking about having a passionate personal relationship with Jesus.  Being fully surrendered to the One who I owe everything to.  All that I have is His.

Dave shared how much of Mexico is culturally religious and in much the same way many Americans fall into the same category.  As followers of Christ, are we looking at the Beatitudes as a check list for our faith?  As if we will gain eternal life if we get all our boxes checked off before God calls us home.  Christians have been told that they need to “do things” for the kingdom in order to become more like Christ.  We pray before meals, go to church, attend Bible study, read our Bible…and somewhere along the way we were told we should evangelize and go on mission.  Romans 6 tells us that obedience leads to righteousness.

Dave really hit it home when he said that we need to have obedience with purpose.

Today is Thursday and in less than 2 days we will be on our way back to the states.  Are we really serving Christ out of a deep passionate desire to honor Him with our whole life?  Or are we here because it’s what christians are supposed to do? Where are you going?

The great thing about our relationship with Christ is that while God demands perfection from us, He sees us covered by the blood of the Lamb.  By God’s Grace, we are given the Holy Spirit to help us along the way on this process of sanctification, becoming more like Jesus each day.

I love the photo above.  It reminds me of what our relationship with God is like…

As I watched this scene unfold, I couldn’t hear what he was saying to his son, but it didn’t matter.  I know what was being conveyed by his body language an the fathers smile…what I saw was a picture of God reminding me that He is there for me.  Though I may mess up or fall on my face, He is there to gently remind me that His Grace is sufficient.  I don’t have to “try” so hard.  Obedience with purpose.


Oaxaca 2012 :: Wednesday in San Baltazar

We spent the day in San Baltazar, about 40 minutes southeast of Tlacolula.  To get an idea of where we are and have been, take a look at this little video Dave put together.

It was good to be in San Baltazar.  This first trip I came with Adventures in Life was to San Baltazar.  The day was quite successful as the men put a roof on two adobe structures at the church that will be the kitchen and a Sunday school class room.  Before work began they gathered to pray and strategerize for the day…The men are putting up a greenhouse next to the adobe buildings…this will be version 2.5You can see more photos on our Facebook page 🙂


Off to the ends of the Earth….

This morning Dave shared from Acts 1

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

(Acts 1:1-8 ESV)

As we prepare to go to San Baltazar today to work and fellowship, Dave gave us some perspective on where we were going.

In the United States, about 90 percent of short term missions work is done in Mexico.  And 90 percent of that is done in the border areas of Mexico and the U.S.

Welcome to San Baltazar

Where we are going, San Baltazar, is not on the map when it comes to short term missions…Americans don’t go to places like this.  Dave was was encouraging everyone to remember that everyone will be watching us,  we are literally going to the ends of the earth when it comes to missions.  Folks in this part of Mexico don’t have a favorable view of Americans, we have a chance to change their opinions of Americans and christians from the U.S.

I won’t have a chance to post anything in San Baltazar, since the church doesn’t have internet…so keep us in prayer and I will be posting when we get back to Tlacolula tonight.


Buenos Dias Oaxaca

This morning before breakfast Dave shared the story of Lazarus, from John 11: 1-44

He made some obvious comments about the fact that Jesus could have raised Lazarus without going to his tomb, with a simple conversation with His Father Lazarus could have been raised from the dead  Or that Martha didn’t have to run out to meet Jesus, but she did.  Jesus went to the tomb to show everyone that He had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead…

Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.   I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.  

John 11: 41-42

In the same way, Dave said by us men coming to Oaxaca, it was a way to show those serving long term for the Gospel that they are part of and connected to the body of Christ outside of Oaxaca.  It would have been easy for the men to give money and not come, but to give of their time and talents as well, means more and shows that the men care.  Dave shared how Americo and Norma, missionaries here in Oaxaca, are constantly giving…leading Bible studies, church on Sundays at multiple locations.  Every day is ministry.  They don’t get to “go home” at the end of the week like we do.  Ministry continues to happen.   The blessing to them isn’t always the work that is done by the men, which is nice.  It’s the time of fellowship and friendships that are made, knowing that there are men from another country who would come and help serve alongside them, sharing the load or yoke, even for a short time, means tons to them.

Forget all the hoopla,  programming, and production value…sometimes just showing up is all that’s needed.  Now isn’t that refreshing!

Work continues.  Here are some photos from today…

Norma and the hermanas: wonderful servants and cooks preparing lunch for us.

more photos on our facebook page HERE


Oaxaca 2012 :: Gonna Get You Suck-a!

Pastor Steve, looking not so mean, even with all that cement on his fistWillie, wishing he was where Jake is…further from the lens!

Keith

Bill, chillin!

Dave, getting muddy

We added more photos from today on our Facebook page…go take a look HERE


Jerusalem, Buffalo, Las Vegas & Oaxaca

This morning Dave shared out of Nehemiah 1: 1-11

Nehemiah was in mourning when he heard that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and that the gates were destroyed by fire.  After weeping, mourning, praying and fasting he sought the Lord that God would allow him to rebuild what had been destroyed.  Dave mentioned that just as men came from all parts to Jerusalem to help fix the wall, the men this week have come from all over the United States and Mexico because we heard there was need in Oaxaca.  The men have come here to Mexico, with willing hearts and servant attitudes to serve the people of Oaxaca and in essence, be cup-bearers of the King.  Being willing to give our lives for Christ.

It was a great choice of Scripture as the men begin what will be a hard exhausting week of work.  All Glory to God!

You can view more photos from today on our facebook site HERE, please take a second and “like” us…thanks!


Looking Beyond…

I’ve been inside the Cathedral de Oaxaca numerous times over the past few years.  I never paid attention to some of the details, or I just never “looked” long enough.  Looking beyond the gate, I noticed the cross with the sun…

I’ve seen this lady walking the courtyard in front of Iglesia de San Matias Jalatlaco, which is next door to Casa Arnel, for the last 3 mornings.  At first I thought she might be praying the rosary, but no beads.  Watching her, she appears to be praying.  I must have watched her for at least 20 minutes this morning while I was reading Proverbs and listening to some Hillsong praise music.  It made me think, in light of the worship series Pastor Miles is going through right now, am I fully worshiping Jesus with my life?

The details really jumped out at me, and as I watched two gals try to light a candle below, I saw Jesus(really).

I saw this candle of Jesus.  Yes I know…He doesn’t look like this.  As I was trying to get a photo that I liked, it became a reminder to me that I need to keep focused on Him.  In my photography and my life as a whole.  That there are things in my life that I’ve taken for granted, I don’t know if it’s because it’s always been there or that I’ve “seen this before” as in some of the details in the cathedral…
I am truly excited to be in Oaxaca.  My biggest prayer is that I would be focused on getting the images that need to be seen.  The images that would glorify Him and best show what He is doing in Oaxaca.  This being my third men’s week, I want to view it as if it’s my first time here.  There are men who are here for the first time, along with guys who have been down to Oaxaca multiple times over the years.  
If I keep focused on the Cross of Christ and remember why He had to die on the cross…I have no choice but to humble myself and realize I am in no position to ask for anything other than that Christ would be glorified in my life.
Please keep me and the men in prayer.  That the work gets done in a manner and spirit that brings Christ glory!
Soli Deo Gloria