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Next week, Foundation For His Ministry’s Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, will celebrate twenty years of existence. Twenty years of helping the poorest of the poor. Two decades of making disciples, of meeting the physical, emotional and educational needs of children who have been abandoned, abused and neglected. Casa Hogar (as it is called in Spanish) has been following God’s call and God’s example of making beauty, sharing truth and doing good.

Twenty years ago this 14 acre plot of land in the Tlacolula Valley was nothing but a half finished building and a lot of big thorn bushes. Now it is a place of beauty, with many gardens and wonderful architecture.

Mission Courtyard
Flowers and Fountain

Twenty years ago leaders of Foundation For His Ministry began sharing truth with people of the region. The indigenous people like the Zapotecs, Mixes, Mixtecs, as well as native Mexicans heard the Good News that God loves them and wants them to be happy; that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life; that through Jesus they can have peace with God and live an abundant, eternal life. Oaxacans from pre-school age to old age heard the truth about life and death; good and bad; heaven and hell. Pastors and missionaries went into area prisons and remote mountain villages preaching hope, restoration and renewal to those who felt hopeless, helpless and lost. Children from the Home learned and continue to be taught the truth of God and his Word in morning devotions, Sunday School, church services and youth conferences. They learn the truth of God’s World in our primary school called Oasis. They also hear and apply truths at special events like swim camps and at mountain retreats.

Needy Children Who Learned to Love One Another
Hearing the Truth
Sharing the Truth of Jesus Birth

Twenty years ago, missionaries from FFHM came to Oaxaca with a vision of doing good. A vision of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick and taking in the stranger. For two decades servants of Christ have been cooperating with God, FFHM, local and regional authorities to make a difference in the Kingdom of God and Oaxaca’s seven regions. Doing good by meeting felt needs, and more importantly, meeting the deep spiritual needs of people in southern Mexico who are walking in darkness. FFHM has been bringing the Light of Life to thousands of lost souls for these last twenty years, and, God willing, for the next 20 years and more.

Feeding the Hungry
Learning to Garden
Mixing Concrete to Build a School

Sometimes I wonder if people read accounts like this and think that we must be some sort of Super Hero Christian Saints. We are not super hero Christian saints. We are just ordinary people doing ordinary things following an extraordinary God as best we can. God has opened our eyes to certain needs and we clumsily walk along the path that God has put before us to travel. We are sinners who have been forgiven. We are beggars who have found some bread and share with other beggars. We do the best we can to love God with all our being and love our neighbors as ourselves, and we fail mightily everyday. We hope to find God’s strength in our weakness. We pray for grace in our times of need, which are often. We could all easily pray the prayer of Saint Thomas A Kempis in his classic book The Imitation of Christ –

O God,

Deal with us according to your loving-kindness,

not according to our wickedness and iniquity.

We offer unto you all our goodness,

though it is exceedingly little and imperfect,

that you may mend and sanctify it,

that you may make it well pleasing and acceptable in your sight,

and ever draw it on towards perfection;

and furthermore bring us safely,

slothful and useless poor creatures that we are,

to a happy and blessed end.

May we feel ourselves assisted by your grace, enriched by consolation,

protected from dangers, freed from pains;

and that being delivered from all evils

we may joyfully give you exceeding thanks.

Pardon our sins and mutual offenses.

Take away, O Lord, from our hearts all suspicion,

indignation, anger, and contention,

and whatsoever is able to injure charity and diminish brotherly love.

Give grace to the needy,

and make us such that we may be worthy to enjoy your grace,

and go forward to the life eternal.

Amen.

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Orientation is important. Perhaps the most important part of life. Here are some definitions:

Noun – the determination of the relative position of something or someone (especially oneself)

The relative physical position or direction of something

The adjustment or alignment of oneself or one’s ideas to surrounding or circumstances

In high school and college I went to freshman orientations. These were intended to help new students orient themselves with the geography of the school. I learned where the library, cafeteria and different classrooms were. After orientation I always knew where these places were, no matter where I was. That was important. To this day I have bad dreams that I am in some large school and I am disoriented and can’t find my class, or worse yet, the bathroom, and I really need to go!

Orientation is important for everyone. Orientation is not just knowing where we are spatially, but also knowing where we are mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Many people’s lives are oriented around the wrong things. For example, some people orient their lives around money and the accumulation of wealth. Acquiring wealth makes them happy, at least for awhile. With money they have a house, a car, a savings account. They can have nice clothes and eat at the best restaurants. With wealth they have security and status. They know where they are by how much money they have.

Other people orient themselves around sex or drugs or power or education or family or work or politics. There are countless things we can orient ourselves around. Good things and bad things. I am reminded of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Verse 40 tells us that Martha was oriented around all the preparations that had to be made. Her orientation led her to be “worried and upset about many things.”

Mary on the other hand, sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. Her orientation was Jesus. Jesus told Martha that “few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

May I suggest that we choose to orient our lives around Jesus? I recently read about a comedian whose life was oriented around being a comic. He couldn’t imagine his life oriented around anything else. Then he heard about Jesus, and how he would live a happier, more complete, more contented life, if his life was oriented around this God/Man. He didn’t believe it. He fought against it. But he couldn’t get Him out of his mind. Finally he gave in. In his words, he began to orient his life around God, and discovered, quite to his surprise, he was happier, more complete and more content.

I like that he used the word “orient”. Some Christians use the words Saved, Born Again, Converted, Redeemed or Rescued. Those words indicate important aspects of what it means to be a God Follower, but not the entire package. I think the the concept behind the phrase “to orient myself around God” encapsulates the entirety of what it means to be a Christian. When I orient myself to God, my whole life, every moment becomes related to God who loves me and gave himself for me.
There are many Bible verses that refer to this kind of orientation:

Seek first the kingdom of the heavenly Father and his righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:37,38)

Rejoice always, pray continually give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


My life is oriented around God at a mission that helps needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico; a mission run by FFHM. Our mission statement states that we exist to make disciples of Christ. A disciple is one whose life is oriented around the teachings and practices of a person or organization. We aim to orient the poorest of the poor in Mexico to lives centered on Jesus. This ministry takes in children whose lives have been oriented around abuse and poverty, neglect and rejection. Showing them the love of God by meeting their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs enables them to reorient themselves toward a better life. Once they see themselves as dearly loved children of God and orient their lives around that truth, they are able to live happy, fulfilled lives.

We all want to be happy. God created us in his image; he created us to be happy. We can all be incredibly happy. It just takes the right orientation.

I went to a prison Thursday that had no prisoners.  Its the third time that I have visited a

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New large men’s prison next to smaller women’s prison

prison with no prisoners.  The first two times I went to Alcatraz in San Francisco. An old prison closed for many decades.  The one that I went to on Thursday is brand new.  I have been watching its construction for the last three years from where I live, across the highway, at a home for needy children, in Oaxaca, México, where I serve.  I went there with 11 others, also from the mission.

There is a women’s prison next to the new prison.  It has been in operation for about 15 years.  I have been teaching an English class there for over 7 years.  Others involved in  prison ministry from the children’s home were in the group. Enrique, who is in charge of the prison ministry was there, as well as his wife and  Mundo and Linda, who assist him.  Elaine, who teaches art and sewing in prisons was also there with her husband.  Niche, the mission administrator was there with Laura, her assistant.  Two house parents were also there.

This new prison was an impressive structure, expected to house over a thousand prisoners

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New cell block which includes a dining room.

who will come from seven different prisons in the state of Oaxaca.  We all went through two security checkpoints before meeting with the prison administration officials.  Then we had the grand tour which included a cell block, one of eight on the property.  The kitchen, which has a bakery and a large place to make lots of tortillas. The medical clinic, which is basically a mini hospital, with 20 beds.  The last room we saw was a morgue, with two beds.  You eventually get out of prison, one way or another. The tour lasted about three and a half hours.

So why did 11 of us go?  We all had a lot of work to do at the children’s home.  It was supposed to be a day off for one of the house parents. What was so important about going to a prison that has not even opened yet?  It was important because we don’t see it as simply a prison.  We see it as an opportunity to make disciples of Christ.  The mission statement of Foundation for His Ministry, is that we exist to glorify God by making disciples of Christ.  We not only want the children at the home to be disciples, but also our neighbors, which will soon include over a thousand incarcerated men.

After the tour, I asked Ceferino , a house father, why he went,especially since it was his day off.  He told me that we will probably have children at the home whose fathers are in prison, and he will need to talk to them.  An opportunity to make disciples.  I went because I plan to teach an English class using Christian curriculum.  Another disciple making opportunity. Naturally, Enrique, Mundo, and Linda went because they will be preaching and teaching the Gospel, and counseling hurting men, pointing them to the healing power of the Savior. More disciples.
So, while many see a new prison in their backyard as a problem or a nuisance, we see it as an opportunity to follow our Lords example, and set the captives free.  Not free from the bars, razor wire and thick concrete walls, but free from lives of desperation, darkness and depression,  to disciples of Christ.

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This year Foundation For His Ministry celebrates fifty years of ministry to the poorest of the poor in

Charla Pereau

Charla Pereau

Mexico.  My first close encounter of this fine organization took place in 1987.  I was working with a youth group in a small church in Healdsburg, California.  I had just moved there from Missouri, where I attended a church that went to Mexico every year to build church buildings for congregations that had no buildings.  I went on three of these excursions and got hooked on Mexico.

Living in California, I was looking for a way to get back to Mexico and expose the youth in the little church to the poverty in Mexico and show them how they could be a part of helping those much less fortunate than they were.  I remembered a couple from my Missouri church who mentioned one time that they had gone to a home for needy children in Mexico.  I contacted them and found out about FFHM and their work in the Baja of Mexico, and how to make arrangements to volunteer for a week.  I got a hold of  FFHM and told them we wanted to help.  After awhile the details were ironed out, and we found ourselves in Vicente Guerrero, Baja, in the summer of 1987.

Two people I remember.  Max, the administrator, a great guy from Canada, and Jorge, a little baby that had recently come to live at the children’s home.  We went on a tour of the place and I fell in love with it,  and the organization behind it.  I had recently graduated from Bible college with a degree in Missions, having wanted to be a missionary since I was 14 years old.  After graduating, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be one anymore.  To be a missionary in the denomination I belonged to, you had to spend at least a year going all over the U.S. of A raising thousands of dollars in support, and then go minister in a foreign country for four years, and then go home and get more money for another four years of service.  That wasn’t for me.  I wanted to go to another country, preferably Mexico, and just live there and serve and not worry about money.  So I thought that maybe I wasn’t cut out for the mission field if that was what it took.

I was excited to learn that Charla, who started the home for needy children, and the board of FFHM, had a different approach to missions.  They believed that any Christian who had a desire to help the poorest of the poor, could fill out an application and if accepted, could just come and serve.  They provided a place to stay and food to eat and gave people a few dollars as well.  What could be better?  Nothing that I could think of!  I hoped that one day I would be a permanent part of this fine organization that not only took care of the physical, educational and spiritual needs of about 80 children, but also reached out to thousands of migrant workers who lived in camps that surrounded the mission, with food, clothes and most importantly, the Gospel, the good news of a great God who loved them and wanted them to be happy.  FFHM also provided medical services in a medical clinic  on the property, with expertly trained doctors and nurses.  They also had a dental clinic and tended to  many patients everyday.  This place was incredible!

I returned almost every year, for the next 15 years, to spend a week helping out in whatever way I could, like so many countless volunteers have done over the fifty years of FFHM’s existence.  I have always loved gardening and looked forward to working in the experimental orchard or the macadamia nut grove when I was there.  But, as often as not, I would be put to work cleaning shelves in the pantry, pouring concrete or painting buildings.  It didn’t really matter what I did.  I just loved cooperating with God and making a difference in the Kingdom.

One year the mission was raising pigs and I met a super guy in charge of the project named Mario.  I raised pigs for 4-H when I was a kid and loved it.  I thought Mario had the best job in the whole place, and hoped that someday, when I joined FFHM permanently, that I would get to be the hog farmer!  Mario went on to be the administrator of the Baja mission for decades.

I always wanted to meet Charla, to see this incredible woman in the flesh, and per chance, to talk to her and tell her how much I admired her and the work she was doing on behalf of the poor in Mexico.  Every year as I made my trek to the Mecca of ministry in the Baja, I would think that maybe this would be the year that I would encounter Charla.  One of the highlights for me at the mission was the first morning when all the visitors would be given a tour of the grounds.  I always called it the miracle tour because at every location, the guide would tell us how God miraculously provided something or someone that was desperately needed in order to make that aspect of the ministry to function at its peak level.

The tour always began with the miraculous story of how Chuck and Charla arrived at the place in the dead of night, out of gas, not knowing where they were, where they would sleep or how they would get home.  Nevertheless they trusted God completely and he provided miraculously.  The high point in the story was how Charla arose early the next morning, went for a little walk, and heard children laughing.  She looked for the children, but never found them.  She did find God speaking to her heart, telling her that one day this desolate, run down place, would be the home of countless laughing children, and that she would have a big part to play in making that happen.

I never ceased to smile and be encouraged at hearing that story and then reading about it Charla’s book Charla’s Children, and watching a show about it on the 700 Club.  Finally the day came when I met her.  I was at the mission with my friend Bruce, who was a relatively new Christian and was making one of his first mission trips (he, like so many others, would never be the same after visiting the children’s home in the Baja.  He is now a leader in his church and has gone all over the world evangelizing and leading pastors conferences).  We were eating lunch in the cafeteria and Charla and a friend sat across from us. She was friendly and we all had a nice conversation.  Bruce used to be a mail carrier in San Clemente, the headquarters of FFHM, so they had something in common to talk about.  I’ll never forget that day.  Over the years I have had the great privilege to get to know Charla, and listen to her speak on many occasions.  She is a gifted speaker and I always end up laughing one minute at some humerous story, and then tears are running uncontrollably down my face the next as she recounts how some wrecked and hopeless child was saved, changed and loved because of how God used Charla and FFHM.

FFHM sends out a newsletter every month, and in the early years of the new century, they began writing about a new vision and new ministry.  A conference/training center in Oaxaca, Mexico for graduates of the Bible Institute that they had in the Baja.  Most of the migrant workers in the camps surrounding the mission were from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.  Many came to know Christ through the outreach programs.  Some felt a call to ministry and studied at the Institute, and then went back to their hometowns and villages in Oaxaca to spread the Good News to their family and friends that God loved them and wanted them to be happy, and had provided a glorious way for them to enter into this happiness.  This proved to be difficult work and often very dangerous to the people from the Baja Mission who returned to their homeland to people who were hostile to new approaches to relating to God.

FFHM wanted to offer a place for these new ministers of the Gospel to go where they could be encouraged, refreshed and equipped in their work.  So it came about that miraculously (of course) that FFHM purchased a piece of property that had a little building on it, from another ministry.  This  would become the Oaxaca base for graduates of the Bible Institute and further outreach to the many unreached people groups of Oaxaca.

Charla came down to check out the property and sign on the dotted line.  Oaxaca had a special place in her heart because many years before, her and Chuck had adopted a baby boy that was born to a young lady in difficult circumstances in this southern state of Mexico.  As Charla traveled around Oaxaca she encountered another home for needy children that was in dire straits.  They asked her and FFHM to take over the home.  In a couple of talks that I heard Charla give, she recounted this story and told the people in charge, “No thanks.  Been there, done that.”

Later on she heard the still, small voice of God speaking to her heart, telling her to care for these poor children.  Always careful to follow the prompting of her gracious Lord and Savior, she returned the following day and told the leader of the children’s home that FFHM would take over the ministry and care for the “least of these”, God’s precious, neglected children.

So began a new phase of FFHM, another children’s home in one of the poorest states of Mexico.  Many people from the U.S. and Canada responded to the new outreach with large donations and even larger hearts, to go where the need was greatest.  After a few years a brand new facility was built on the newly purchased property.  The call went out for Believers to come and help with this new endeavor and make a difference in the Kingdom of God.

I was at a point in my life where I was free to heed the call and go to Oaxaca, finally fulfilling my dream of being a permanent part of FFHM and their incredible ministry.  I arrived at the Oaxaca mission on March first, 2005.  It was still a construction site without kids.  I went to work helping put tile on floors, electrical wires in the ceilings and paint on the walls.  In my free time I began planting gardens, as that was one of my jobs in Santa Rosa, California.

In August of that year, the children made the move from the squalid confines of their old place across the city, to the brand new digs of Casa Hogar, set in the beautiful countryside of the Tlacolula valley.  The work continued.  It seemed more meaningful now with happy kids running all over the place.  We could see the fruits of our labors in the smiling faces of all the boys and girls.  We painted the last walls, put the finishing touches on the modern kitchen and I continued to plant gardens, including the grassy courtyard where the children would eventually play tag, catch and have picnics.

My jobs eventually entailed teaching English and other classes, doing prison ministry, driving kids to and from school and occasionally going on service and evangelistic outreaches, as well as preaching and  maintaining the gardens and planting an orchard full of a variety of fruit trees.

I met my future wife, Anita, a beautiful and extremely talented cook, at the mission.  We have two fabulous little girls, Sally and Kelly.  I will have spent eleven years cooperating with God and FFHM come March.  The best eleven years of my life.  I daily pray for Charla, FFHM leaders, the staff and children at Casa Hogar, and thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for allowing me to be a small part of such a great ministry.  I remember Charla saying one time that God doesn’t want our ability so much as our availability.  I have thought about that a lot.  My ability isn’t so great, but I thank God that he took my availability and is able to use it in some small way to make a difference in the lives of “the least of these” in Oaxaca, Mexico.
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helping the poor

 

Receiving Good Gifts

I have received a lot of good gifts lately.  Different groups come to Foundation For His Ministry’s home for needy children here in Oaxaca,Mexico to give.  They give generously of their time, talents, and treasure.  Recent groups  gave a lot of time in helping me to prepare an area for the planting of a soccer field.  They gave of their treasure in buying dresses and books for my daughters, peanut butter and brown sugar for my wife, and an umbrella for me.  Janelle, who works in the main office in San Clemente, California, visited the mission with Charla Pereau, the founder of FFHM, this week.  She knows I like magazines and the Civil War, and brought me super gift.  She brought me a National Geographic magazine all about the Civil War.  Perhaps the best gift that I, and all the staff members received, was a moving speech by the talented speaker, Charla, who just turned 81, and may have made her last trip to Oaxaca,Mexico.

A successful basketball coach once said something to the effect that it is a good day if you do three things; think, laugh and cry tears of joy.  Going along with that idea, I think someone gives a great talk if it makes me think, laugh and cry.  Every time Charla speaks publicly I do all three, and this time was no exception.  I thought deeply about FFHM’s commitment to making disciples as Charla spoke about the Mission Statement.  I laughed heartily when she told about her conversion to Christianity as a young lady, and how she ran home and exclaimed to her father that she was going to do great things for God.  He told her that God didn’t need her help!  Then she told her mom that she was going to do great things for God.  Her mom told her that she could begin by making her bed!  Finally, tears of sadness rolled down my face as she described  her first visit to a Mexican garbage dump and told of the pitiful situation of  children living there, scrounging around for food and stuff that they could possibly sell for a few pesos.  Then I cried tears of joy as she shared with us that the first group of kids to live at the home for needy children that her and her friends created, were rescued from a garbage dump in Ensenada, Mexico.

Charla's Family With My Family

Charla’s Family With My Family

More Blessed to Give Than To Receive

Jesus talked about giving good gifts.  In the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 7:9-12), Jesus asked a question.  When your child asks for a piece of bread, do you give him a stone?  If your child asks for a fish, do you give her a snake?  Obviously no.  Jesus continues by saying that though we are evil, we know how to give good gifts to our children.  How much more will our heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him!

Our eyes light up at the prospect of getting good gifts from our heavenly Father.  He gives the best gifts!  He gives the most gifts!  He gives great gifts!  He loves us and wants us to be happy!  One of the best gifts our Father gives us is the ability to give good gifts to others.  In Acts 15:35 Paul says that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  The word “blessed” can be translated “happy”.  Jesus is saying that you will be happier when you give good gifts than when you receive good gifts. Jesus goes on to say, in the Sermon on the Mount, that in “everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”  If we like to receive good gifts, we need to give good gifts.

A-S-K

But we need to A-S-K.  Ask, Seek, Knock.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:7,8, “Ask and it will be given to you;  seek and you will find; knock and the  door will be open to you.”  In context, I believe one of the things Jesus is telling us to do, is to Ask God what good gifts can we give today, and to whom.  Then we Seek to find the ways and means to implement the giving of the gift.  Finally we Knock, which is the actual giving of the gift.  For example, one day I was asking God what else he wanted me do here as part of the ministry  in Oaxaca.  I sensed that he wanted me to teach English and share the Gospel at the prison across the street.  So I asked and received an answer.  Next was to seek.  I had to seek permission from the administrator of the home for needy children here, then I had to seek permission from the prison  warden, then I  had to seek curriculum that I could use to teach ESL (English as a second language).   I did the seeking and found what I needed to proceed.  Next was to Knock.  The day finally came when I stood before the huge metal doors of  the prison and actually knocked on it.  A prison guard opened the door and I went to the classroom and gave the good gift of English and the Gospel.

Good gifts. It makes us happy to receive them, and even happier to give them.  Let’s glorify God today by asking our Father what gifts we should take out of our bag of Time, Talents and Treasure and give away.  Let’s seek what we need to implement the giving.  Finally, Give the Good Gift!  Knock on the door of someones’ room, someone’s house, or someone’s heart and GIVE.

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Foundation for His Ministry is a mission whose purpose is to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ. To this end we share and demonstrate God’s love through the power of the Holy Spirit by meeting basic spiritual, physical and educational needs of those in Mexico and beyond. This will be done in such a way as to establish the Mission as a model of effective ministry for other parts of the world.           Mission statement of Foundation For His Ministry