harnessing the power of photography for good

Posts tagged “Tlacolula

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 :: 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!!


Adventures in Life, Oaxaca & Photography

2010 AIL Summer Camp at Pastor Chable’s farm (Zimatlan, Oaxaca Mexico)

3 years ago I made my first trip to Oaxaca with Dave Miller and Adventures in Life.  I have known Dave for quite some time and I have many friends who have been very involved with AIL over the years.   I almost made it Ensenada 15 years ago, give or take a few years,  with AIL but it didn’t happen.

Terry in action at 2010 AIL Summer Camp

Understanding that God’s timing is perfect,  I finally made it in February of 2010.  It was on that trip that I began talking with Dave about bringing more photographers to Oaxaca in order to photograph the work that AIL was doing and to take portraits of kids and families in Oaxaca.

If you have ever been on a mission trip, one thing you will notice is that everyone serving seems to have a camera.  What you see is someone taking a photo, usually of kids, and then they show the image on the screen of the camera and that’s it.  The folks you are serving never see the photos ever again.  Our goal as a ministry is to fix this problem.  The Summer of 2010, Terry Schwartz came to Oaxaca with me to photograph AIL Summer Camp at Pastor Chable’s farm.  We brought with us 2 HP printers so each student that came to camp could take home a photo of the whole camp and a picture of themselves.  The photo above is of our “command center” that week.

Cyndy has been to Oaxaca several times, like Terry, to take portraits and to photograph the work of AIL in Oaxaca.

Some of the students looking at their photos from this summers camp in Oaxaca.

One of the biggest blessings for us is knowing that we were the first photographers to take some of these students portraits!  It’s something that I can never forget or take for granted.  We live in a world here in the U.S. where everyone has a camera, whether its a traditional camera or a phone with one.  And to think that someone has never had their photo taken?  

I took this gal’s photo in 2010.  She is from San Pedro Amatlan, a small town several hours in the mountains above the city of Oaxaca.  Cyndy and I visited this town with AIL’s Medical Team in March, where we had the chance to photograph families while we were there.

I recognized her from camp and I asked her if she was coming to camp in July.  She was not able to make it.  I also asked her if she still had the photo we took of her in 2010.  She smiled and said “yes.”  We took the photo above of her with some of her family…we left this and other photos we took before we headed down the mountain that evening.

These are some of the portraits we have had the privilege of taking over the past 3 years in Ensenada and Oaxaca… 

This Summer was a blessing for us as a ministry.  Since we started taking portraits of students at camp in 2010, we have been able to take portraits several different times on numerous trips to Oaxaca with Adventures in Life, in a half dozen locations around Oaxaca and in Ensenada with Dios es Amor Church this summer!  Praise God!

2012 AIL Summer Camp

It is our desire to help ministries like Adventures in Life by documenting in photographs the work they are doing, and help AIL and the local church in areas like  Oaxaca and Ensenada extend their reach into the community through photography.

MISSION focused is now a non profit  501 (c) 3, registered with the State of California and the IRS.  If you would like to support the work that we are doing in Oaxaca and in San Diego, it would be a blessing to us.  At this point in time we are not set up for credit card donations, so for now you can send a check payable to “MISSION focused” to the following address:  MISSION focused ~ 8030 La Mesa Blvd  #326  La Mesa CA, 91942

If you are a photographer, and have a desire to use your gifts for God’s Glory and to serve others, we would love to talk with you about future trips we are planning….

All Glory to God!


Join Us Wednesday for an Evening of Fun with Dave Miller

Dave Miller, Executive Director of Adventures in Life Ministry

Dave Miller, in orange, is coming to town next week.  The photo above was taken in the middle of Oaxaca City’s main market at the world famous NIEVES OAXAQUEÑAS CHAGÜITA .  

I first met Dave back in the mid 90’s, after my good friend Grady Martine and Dave co-founded Adventures in Life Ministry.

MISSION focused first started going to Oaxaca with AIL in 2010, to help Dave document the work that God is doing there.  Since February of 2010, we have been down to Mexico with Adventures in Life several times.  The photo above was from February of 2011, with Dave is Cyndy Smith, Jim Wanglund, Terry Schwartz  and Brotherjoe

Wednesday, May 2nd, 7pm at the Rock Church in Rm 353

Dave Miller will be sharing stories with us about our most recent trip with Adventures in Life, along with photos that we took.  This will be a chance to learn what God is doing deep in the heart of Mexico and how you might partner with MISSION focused and AIL as we continue to help them photograph the work of God in Oaxaca.

Please join us, FREE fun, all are welcome!

You can learn more about Adventures in Life Ministry HERE

If you want to see what we have been doing with AIL, please go HERE


Oaxaca Med Team :: Heading for Home

It’s about that time…for everyone to head for home.  Before everyone leaves, wanted to share a few photos of some of the amazing folks we had the privilege to serve alongside this week.  Pastor Rolando with his family and the Adventures in Life Medical Team, in San Felipe GuilaPastor Chable’ with his wife Estella and her mom and their son Hiram.  With the beautiful view of the valley of San Pedro Amatlan behind them.  Team Oregon!  Jolene, Fran, Arlene and Claire.  Great gals from Burns, Oregon

Pastors Americo and Norma, with their children Ruth and Julian.  Surrounded by the great folks on this years Medical Team.  

Friday we celebrated Hermana Norma’s Birthday!  Here she is with the shawl and flowers we gave her.

Can’t have a birthday without a birthday cake…and fire!  Janet and Raquel have already left for home…but we still had a blast celebrating Hermana Norma’s birthday without them 🙂Before I forget…It’s been a real blessing to serve alongside Cyndy Smith.  She has traveled the world on many missions over the years, and she is a great addition to MISSION focused family and this week couldn’t have been possible without her.  She has been a real trooper this week.  Missions deep in Mexico is very different than what you may have experienced along the border towns and she has learned to be quite flexible with how things are on mission in Oaxaca.

We will be continuing to post when we get back to the states, photos and stories, so stay tuned and please visit our Facebook page for more info and photos.  You can see our Facebook page HERE.


Hearts of Oaxaca

We have had two good days of ministry at San Baltazar. Tomorrow we leave Tlacolula at 6:30 AM to drive to the little town of San Padro Amatlan. It is about a three hour hour dive. We really don’t know what to expedited in regards to the turn out but we leave it all in God’s hands.

The people here in Oaxaca have filled our hearts with love as they have opened their hearts to us.

They have shared their heartaches and their hopes and dreams, we have learned from them and uplifted them in prayer.

Psalms 33:12-15

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
13 From heaven the LORD looks down
and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on earth—
15 he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do.

Follow Adventures in Life & MISSION focused on Facebook


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 Med Team :: Notes from Dave

Dave Miller, with Adventures in Life just wrote a great blog about the power of photography.  He gives us huge props as well…You can read his blog at his blog site  “notes from Dave” or by going HERE.


The Hands of Jesus

We drove an hour from Tlacolula today to get to the village of San Felipe Guila, the truck was full with six in the cab and four of us in the truck bed. This is our first day of medical clinic, the team kept busy as the two providers saw 39 patients.  Sometimes there were two interpators needs as the Zapotec dialect was translated into Spanish and then the Spanish was translated into English.

The Clinic was held in a Church, called Strong Tower, that has just been in the community 10 months. The Pastor’s name is Rolando Bautista, he is also a missionary with the Wycliffe Bible Translators. He is translating the book of Mark into one of the Zapotec dialects. The Clinic gave him a chance to talk with people he had never met before.

There was a group of boys who took a little while to warm up to us but then they just kept asking to have their photos taken.

The clinic is a fruitful and fertile ground for evangelism because the medical work is done with compassion and an outflow of Jesus’ love in us. Intertwined in every book of the four Gospels is Jesus’ ministry of healing and His message of salvation. “And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” (Matt. 14:14) Jesus’ healing was not designed as a “hook” to get people to listen to the message but a totally consistent outpouring of His love for the people around Him. It was not designed to be spectacular in a false way. Involvement in medical missions means that in a very tangible and special way you become the hands of Jesus.

Two young girls and a lady prayed to accept Jesus as their savor today.  All the people who came to the clinic were so appreciative; they would shake everyone’s hands as they left. We ended the day with people praying in Spanish, English and Zapotec. We look forward to tomorrow as we are returning to the same village.

See what else is going on in Oaxaca on Adventures in Life Facebook page.


Oaxaca: To Know The Truth

Today was a day of learning more about the Zapotec culture.  We visited Mitla, the most important archeological site in the state of Oaxaca to the Zapotec people. The walls are covered with elaborate and intricate mosaic designs made with small, finely cut stones, which have been fitted together without the use of mortar. No other site in Mexico has this.

brother joe enjoying the ride to Mitla

In the 16th century, the Spanish built the Church of San Pablo here, with stones from the destroyed Zapotec buildings.  The church was built here to keep the “devil” from escaping.

The painting inside the church walls says; “Mitla sacred city of the dead, the tomb is not final. The resurrection of Jesus. Mark 16, 1-8”

Mark 16:6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.

It would be great if the people would put their trust in Jesus and believe in His resurrection.

There are a lot of churches here in Oaxaca and the people have a form of religion but don’t seem to know The Truth. It is sad to see such devotion to what they believe is true, but is not what God’s Word says. This man was reciting something written on a piece of paper and sprinkling water on the candles.

Tomorrow we begin our free clinic days, please pray for the medical team!


Med Team Oaxaca:: Buenas Noches, Buenas Dias, and Good Day

Cyndy and brotherjoe made it to Oaxaca, safe and sound, Praise God!  Thankfully the trip was uneventful, if you don’t count the psycho racist dude that sat next to us on the plane from LAX to Houston.

The above photo was my view out the window of the plane from Houston to Oaxaca.  Having some fun with my little Canon camera.We met up with Dave Miller at Casa Arnel then it was time to eat!  We walked down the street to this great little restaurant, Taqueria El Primo.Dinner!

It’s a beautiful morning in Oaxaca.  I’m sitting at the dinner table enjoying fresh squeezed jugo de naranja (orange juice) and a plate of fresh fruit with yogurt.  The fruit plate has fresh mangoes, papayas, apple, cantaloupe and bananas.  If you find yourself in Oaxaca, and you really should, stop off and enjoy the comforts of Casa Arnel.

After breakfast were gonna do a little walking around in the Zocalo, then we jump on a bus for Tlacolula, where we will be home based for the week.  Thank yall for your travel prayers, and stay tuned as we continue to post during the week.


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 :: All In!

Sunday morning in the Zocalo…around 9am and the city is still waking upEveryone is now in Oaxaca…this photo includes the gang from Las Vegas, fresh off the plane and heading out to Mt. Alban before we all meet up in Tlacolula later in the afternoon.

The work begins in earnest Monday morning…let the fun begin.