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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bucerías Mexico

The kids are back in school and things are settling down. That leaves me with time to write. I've been waiting for an opportunity to tell you how God worked when we traveled to Mexico. I am very excited about what God did in me and through me.

Do you ever suffer from the after blues? You know when you've done something really amazing or you've gone somewhere awesome and God showed up? It can be hard to adjust to normal life again because you feel different. And everyone around you is not different; they're all still the same. I call it the after blues. You have the you before you went, and you have the you after you went. Life can be hard to adjust to again. The honeymoon stage has to end and you must get back to the reality of life.

To me it is just another example of how we need to cling to God in all times. Through the good and through the bad, through the up and through the down. Feelings can never be trusted 100 percent, but God can be. I am so thankful I have that hope in Him. I know that while I may struggle today, tomorrow is a new fresh day.

I am so excited to tell you all about the week of my life spent in Mexico. It was AMAZING!

The team consisted of 5 ladies, along with my daughter and the 6 month old son of my friend. Two of the ladies that went on the trip were new to me. I had very limited conversations with each of them before we left. I was a little nervous about spending so much time with people I was unfamiliar with, but God was in control.

This team of ladies was incredible! We may have all started out as acquaintances, but soon we became friends. I am so glad each of us was willing to say yes to God for this trip. Everyone added something individually to the whole of the group. I loved it! Getting to know everyone a little better was a big part of what made this trip so successful.

We were all away from our families at Christmas time, a very family focused time of year. I would say that it was difficult, but I think we drew closer together because of it, and relied on each other as a family would. We kept so busy, we never had time to think about what we were missing out on. We were only reminded of what we had right there together.

We enjoyed a couple prayer meetings, a time of Bible reading, some worship, and the greatest time of talking into the late evenings. It was a girl retreat that I desperately needed and clung to. We had the most extraordinary time of opening up our hearts to each other. We talked about our fears, our over-comings, and areas we needed to stretch in. It was a safe environment with teasing, laughter, and even some tears. God showed up! How many of you know when a bunch of girls get together there can be a few trials and hurt feelings? I never sensed any of that on this trip. It was a time of friendship that opened the door for growing closer to each other! If that was all we got out of it, I would have been content. But God had WAYYYY more in store for us.

So... enough with the mushy girly stuff. You want to know the details right?

Christmas Eve we arrived in Bucerías, Mexico (about 30 minutes from Puerto Vallarta) around lunch time. We stayed in the church, La Fuente Riviera's, upstairs apartment. This was recently completed and we got to be the guinea pigs. By the last night we were there, we were granted hot water for our showers. We certainly take things for granted here!

Pastor Keith, picked us up from the airport and fed us lunch. The food in Mexico was wonderful. I love Mexican food, and it was authentic! We ate tamales three times, enchiladas twice, and fish tacos once. It was all so delicious. There was a little miscommunication for our food plans. We were supposed to cook for ourselves. We didn't get the message until our 3rd day there. God always provided our meals! We were never without.

The first night, on Christmas Eve, we were invited to an outdoor Christmas dinner party at the pastor's beautiful home. Afterwards, we headed downtown and sang Christmas carols (in English). Hot chocolate and desserts were provided. It was so much fun and put us all in the Christmas spirit. It's hard to remember it's Christmas time when you're wearing shorts and sweating, although it does get cooler in the evenings.

Christmas day was spent at the beach! Talk about out of the ordinary. My daughter played in the waves and didn't want to leave. This was her first time visiting the ocean that she remembered. (When she was a baby she played in the ocean in Florida.)

I have to give some thanks to God here. Ariel was so excited to be at the ocean, it didn't even occur to her that the waves might knock off her glasses. And sure enough, the first big wave sent her glasses flying off her face (you can see it in the video below). Thank God, Ariel was able to catch them. My daughter is considered legally blind without them. If they had been swept away into the ocean she would have been in real trouble. There is no way we could have replaced them in Mexico, and she would have needed to walk around the rest of the time blindly. (We hadn't even been there 24 hours yet!) She would have been in a foreign country and wouldn't have been able to see a foot in front of her face. Can you imagine how disappointing that could have been for her? God is good! We may have lost an earring of hers in the ocean, but the glasses made it home safely.

We had a lunch of pineapple, cookies, chips, and Pepsi, provided by a lady we met at the Christmas party the evening before. We happened to visit the exact same spot of the beach as them, and God provided our lunch through her. It certainly was no turkey, or ham dinner, but it was very memorable and sweet.

Lorree created this manger scene.

After our unique lunch at the beach, we headed back to the apartment to do some serious gift wrapping. Just a reminder to those who may not be familiar with the reason for this trip to Mexico; our church adopted 5 families there for the holiday. Each kid received a toy and a clothing item. The parents also received a gift. Many of the people in our church signed up to buy these gifts. We asked everyone to label who the gifts were for when they returned them, but not gift wrap them. That would be done when we arrived. We knew customs wouldn't approve of our gifts already being wrapped.

All 5 of us ladies "adopted" a family of our own. We brought the gifts for our family in our luggage, we wrapped the gifts for our family, we prayed over each of them individually by name, and we presented them with their gifts at the Christmas dinner. This adoption personalized these families to us even more. We may not have purchased all the gifts, but we had carried them, and felt responsible for them.

Wrapping Christmas Gifts

After 3 hours of continuous wrapping, the gifts were done. My family was the Perez family. I still pray for Martin (Papá), Idania (Mamá), Martin, Eduardo, Júlio César, Jesús Geovany, Priscila, and Alondra. Each of them are very special to me. Each of them are now more than a name to me. I have faces that I will never forget.

While some of you probably sat around a beautifully decorated tree on Christmas, full of bright lights, maybe an angel on top or a star to light the way; we had our special tree of pine cones. We made do with what we had. It was our very own winter wonderland.

Before we left on the trip, we each drew names for a secret sister gift exchange. It was our Christmas celebration for the day. We read the Christmas story aloud, sang a Christmas song together with a YouTube video, exchanged presents, and shared our favorite thing about Jesus.

While our Christmas celebration was simple and sweet, their Christmas celebration would be wildly extravagant. We wanted to overwhelm these families with the love of God. I think we succeeded... but more about that later. If you notice the picture below has gifts on 5 different shelves. Each shelf represents a different family. My family is the top shelf.

Their Christmas Gifts

Now it wouldn't be a mission's trip if there wasn't a little work involved. So far we all felt like we were on vacation. Wednesday was a day of hard labor. Two of us worked on deep cleaning the kitchen. We started from the top and worked our way all the way down to the bottom. We scrubbed ovens, fridges, all cupboards and food containers! It was work, and not the most pleasant task. They had suspicions of mice invading the area, so we were getting rid of all evidence and helping to prevent future encounters.

We painted, and we cleaned all the bathrooms in the building. We swept and mopped classrooms and the main auditorium. We did laundry, and scrubbed down doors. By the end of the day we were exhausted, but felt good that we had earned our keep!

Thursday morning we went shopping! You cannot go to another country without visiting the tourist area. We were given 4 hours to shop and we made the most of it. We walked around downtown Puerto Vallarta. It was so much fun and we all got lots of souvenirs for our families back home.

It was nice to see a little bit of home 2,000 miles away!
After our shopping trip, it was back to the church to get ready for our dinner. This was the reason we were there! You can imagine the excitement and nervousness of us all. Our week was just now getting to the part we had been anticipating for months. I couldn't wait!

The five families were from mission churches around the city. Only one family attended the church we were at. None of them knew each other, and none of them were really aware what they were in for.

That's all I'm going to say for now... God was amazing to me on this trip! I knew He would be, and I'm excited to tell you about it later. Before I leave, I will share with you a video I put together. You can see all the highlights of our trip, and even see the joy on the faces of those receiving our gifts.

"You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.

If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!

Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

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