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mex indp1

What do you get when you combine dozens of children, the colors red, white, green, Jenga, Dolores, gritos, September 15 and a pigs head? You get a grand Mexico Independence Day celebration at the Home for Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico!

Yesterday we celebrated the big day with lots of games, food, music and fun. Adults and kids here at Casa Hogar made their own teams and set up booths, some for games and others for food. The food included corn on the cob, melotes, beef, chicken and pork tacos, and pastries (even a Chinese dish from a staff member who spent three years in China). There was coffee, hot chocolate, soda and champurrado to drink. There was a prize for best food and booth. Anita, my wife, and her mother worked together on the tacos and some of the muchachas and girls helped with decorating the booth and serving tacos and coffee. The pork tacos were made from a pigs head and won first place (last year Anita won second place with her grasshopper salsa, but that’s another story).

tacos dolores madre

Anita’s mom making tacos

pig head

Today a pigs head, tomorrow a taco

dolores

“Dolores” – made by muchachas

All of the staff and children at the mission were encouraged to invite friends and family, so there was a good crowd on hand enjoying the fiesta. Anita is the kitchen supervisor. She invited the people who supply our tortillas everyday and the couple who bring us fresh chicken once a week. There were people from the church gathered together as well as families who work with other ministries in the area. It was a wonderful gathering and as they say, “a good time was had by all.”

 

God loves us and wants us to be happy, and he loves it when people of faith get together to have a good time. Not only does he love it, he commands it. In the Old Testament he commanded the Jewish people from all over Israel and all over the world, to gather three times a year for worship, feasting and fiesta. There must have been hundreds of thousands of people all crammed into Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to their Loving Creator and rejoice and celebrate God’s goodness with their fellow citizens.

It’s the same in 2000 a.d. as it was in 2000 b.c. God doesn’t choose people to be “Lone Ranger” followers, but to follow him as a community of faith. He not only calls his people to come together to worship him and serve him, but also to celebrate him and enjoy him as a faith community in unity, forever.

unity

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white house on green grass and green mountain

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When I was a child I went to church because my parents took me there.

When I was a teenager I went to church because I experienced the love of God and wanted to learn more about Him and His great love.

When I was in Bible College I went to church because it was required by the Bible College and I enjoyed the preaching.

After I graduated from Bible College I went to church because I worked with the youth group and I was married and had two daughters.

After I divorced I went to church because I needed the fellowship and support of the Body of Christ, and I was committed to contributing to the life of the church in various ways.

I have gone to church my whole life, and for the most part it has been a positive experience. I have enjoyed the music, both the richness of the old hymns and also the lively contemporary tunes. Most churches that I went to had talented musicians who made that aspect of the service something special.

The sermons were usually my favorite part. Most of the ministers were highly educated, gifted speakers who made the Bible come alive. Preachers who explained biblical passages in their cultural and literary settings, and then offered practical applications for present day followers of Jesus.

I came to Mexico to help needy children thirteen years ago. These years have probably been the happiest years of my life. Living my life helping the fatherless and the incarcerated. Making a difference in the lives of poor children who have been abused and neglected by those who should have cared for them. Seeing smiling, happy faces everyday of young ones who would otherwise be living miserable lives, is an exceedingly rewarding experience for me.  Laughing with inmates and bringing a message of encouragement to them; many who were falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned, is a great blessing for me.

Going to church in Mexico, on the other hand, is not such a great experience for me. The music is almost always too loud and hurts my ears. The lyrics are generally shallow and the theology of the songs suspect. The same can often be said for the preaching. I miss the music and sermons from the U.S.A.

So why do I still go to church? Because that is where I encounter the Body of Christ, the Community of Faith, gathered together to acknowledge the goodness of the God who has called us, redeemed us, justified us, rescued us, saved us and is sanctifying us everyday. I go to church primarily to look around and be reminded that God loves US and wants US to be happy. I go to church and see the Family of God, adopted sons and daughters of the Most High, brothers and sisters of the Faith.

In reality, every time I walk out my front door here at the mission, I go to church.  The church is the people who I work with everyday, my fellow Christians.  In one sense, I don’t go to church – I live in the church.  I live and work with people who are dedicated to making beauty, doing good and sharing the truth in the name of Jesus.  People who strive everyday to love God and love humanity.  People trying to bring peace, joy and light into dark and unhappy lives.  We do it all depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the strength of the Lord and the nurturing of our loving heavenly Father.  That is the true church.

But when we all gather together, now that is something special.  The presence of God is manifest in our lives in a unique way.  I look around the auditorium and I see house parents who give their time and love to children desperate for love. I see cooks who make delicious, wholesome meals for children who previously lacked a proper diet and nutrition. I notice men who do maintenance; who keep the vehicles in working condition so the kids can go to school safely and the cooks can go and buy food and the teachers can go and buy supplies. I take in the school teachers who are so dedicated and give so much of themselves so that their students have a good education and can make something of themselves in this country where it can be so difficult to get ahead.  God’s presence is with us all as we go about our individual chores and fulfill our responsibilities.  But when we all gather together to worship God and look into each others eyes and pray for one another, that gives God an opportunity to do a work in our hearts and lives that would not otherwise be accomplished.

So I go to church and worship God with music that is too loud and where the preaching is less than stimulating, because I am part of a team that God has called. He has not just called us individually to salvation, but He has called each of us to come to Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico, to work together and grow together and make a difference together. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I go to church to celebrate US. US who are God’s handiwork. US who are created in Christ Jesus. US who are doing good works that God has prepared for US to do.

I go to church to celebrate God with my brothers and sisters in the Faith. The God who has opened our eyes to the truth. The God who gives us a common vision of how we can participate in the Kingdom of God in the Tlacolula valley of southern Mexico. To celebrate the faithful God who gives us “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”

That is why I still go to church.

Don’t

live in the world

and go to church.

Live

in the

church

and go into the world!!!

 

I pray the Lord’s Prayer every morning. I especially like the part about “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Kingdom of God on earth is Already – But not yet. It already exists.  It started with the new born King whose little body was laid in a wooden manger in Bethlehem and whose adult body was crucified on a wooden cross outside Jerusalem. It started out as the smallest of seeds, starting to grow over 2000 years ago, and is still growing, just like Jesus said in Matthew 13:31-32.  It has not yet come to completion.

When George Bush was President he promoted a 1000 Points of Light program. I like to think of the Kingdom of God on earth as a Million Points of Light program. Everywhere that Christians gather together to glorify God and love Him and love their neighbors is a Kingdom Point of Light.

I live at a Home for Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico. It is one of those Points of Light. We take in children who are poor, abused, neglected and abandoned. They are hurt,sad, angry and confused when they come here. Here they experience the love of God and of Christians who care for them.  Here they are transformed.  We give them a safe place to live with plenty of nutritious food to eat and clean water to drink. They receive a good education and spiritual direction. Our goal is not just to make them into good people, but to make them into faithful disciples who love God and want to cooperate with Him in growing the Kingdom.

My wife and daughters and I spent Christmas day with a half dozen of these children, all under the age of 6. They are new comers to our little Kingdom Point of Light. Most of them are brothers and sisters who had been separated and put into different children’s homes in Oaxaca. Now they are reunited, happy and healthy, living in a loving Christian community that meets their every need.

New Kids at the Mission

Brother and Sister Reunited

God’s Kingdom is coming everyday in many different ways all over the world. In 2018 He may choose to bring His Kingdom to fulfillment; to completion. Then He will be the one to wipe away the children’s tears and there will be no more need for children’s homes. If that doesn’t happen in the new year, then God’s Kingdom will continue to come, on earth as it is in heaven. Little light by little light. Followers of Jesus will continue to spread the joy and peace of God and people all over the world will be coming into relationship with God, glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever. He is the One who truly puts the Happy in the New Year!

I cooperate with God in a home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico.  We currently care for about sixty needy child children.  Most of them come to us from desperate situations.  Many have suffered abuse of one kind or another.  Others come from dire economic situations.  Some have no parents or one or both of the parents are in prison.  They are all needy in one respect or another.

The staff members at the Home For Needy Children are there primarily because they recognize the need of the children and want to help meet their needs.  Therefore we have house parents, cooks, a pastor, an accountant, maintenance workers, administrators, school teachers and even a gardener (me).

Occasionally someone comes to help, but in the long run it becomes apparent that he or she needs as much help as some of the kids at the home.  Some are asked to leave.  One former administrator spoke at our morning devotions and felt the need to remind the adults that this was a home for needy children, not a home for needy missionaries.  It was a  clever line and spoke to the reason why one missionary family had recently left.

That event occurred many years ago.  I have occasionally thought about it and the idea of “needy missionaries”, chuckled and continued my job.

In the last couple weeks I have given more thought to the concept of needyness and what it really means and whether or not there is room for “needy missionaries” at a home for needy children.  One reason I have been having second thoughts about this is the Lord’s prayer.  Jesus wanted people to learn how to pray correctly; to really understand what prayer was all about, and what some of the important  characteristics of communicating with God are.  The main emphasis Jesus put on prayer was that we are all very needy.  In fact this short prayer is all about our needs.  Jesus introduces the prayer by saying that the Father knows our needs before we pray about them, and then proceeds to tell his disciples to pray for the Heavenly Father, to meet those needs.  He knows the extent of our needs, though many times we do not.

What are our needs according to the Lord’s prayer?  Holiness on earth as it is in heaven.  His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  His will being done on earth as it is in heaven.  What we have here is a recipe for true happiness, because, after all, God loves us and wants us to be happy.  When we talk about needs, what we are talking about is the need to be happy.  If we are not happy it is because some real or perceived need is not being met.

Those first three needs are God oriented.  We need to be holy as God is holy.  We need God’s kingdom on earth.  We need to do God’s will.

The next four needs that Jesus mentions are directed more towards the Community of Faith and to individuals.  We need daily bread, which is symbolic of how need God to meet our physical needs, such as food, water and air to breath.  If God doesn’t meet these needs we die.  By the way, when was the last time you asked God for food, water and air?  I think generally we take those things for granted.  Jesus seems to be saying that is a big mistake.

The next need Jesus mentions is our need for forgiveness.  Just as important is our need to forgive others.  Of all of our needs, this need to forgive and then be forgiven is the only need Jesus repeats as important to his listeners she he finishes the example prayer.

Jesus follows forgiveness with our great need for deliverance and “salvation”.  He says we should pray, in the modern versions, for “deliverance from the Evil One” and that the Father “saves us from the time of trial.”  Satan is the Evil One who prowls around like a hungry lion, seeking to devour us, destroy us and wreak general havoc upon us and the Community of Faith.  If God doesn’t deliver us than we are dead meat.

Jesus also instructs us pray that we are saved from the time of trial.  None of us like pain, suffering, disappointments or emotional distress.  Job suffered all those things in spades!  Why?  Because God took away his “hedge of protection”.  Basically we are praying for God to maintain that hedge of protection, so that we don’t suffer, especially like Job did.

So there it is.  Jesus points out the fact that we are all needy, weak, vulnerable  people.  We need God’s intervention in our lives everyday.  All of us are desperately in need of God’s mercy and grace, every moment of everyday.  We are all needy – children and adults alike.  Poor abused kids, and missionaries.

In other parts of scripture we learn that our greatest need that needs to be met for us to be supremely happy, is to love God with all our being, and to love our neighbor as our self.  One way missionaries meet these needs is to help the poorest of the poor in places all over the world.  In this sense, the Home For Needy Children where I and many others cooperate with God, is indeed, a home for needy Missionaries.

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needy children happiness