Tuesday, November 27

Oasis: the introduction

There is a ministry here that has become a favorite of almost everyone who has had the opportunity to visit, including myself. It is a balm to many, a place of restoration and healing, and a haven for second chances. It is fitting that it should have the name Oasis. And after mentioning it, practically weekly, on Facebook, it is high time I officially introduce you to Oasis.

This ministry is a home for boys, who were either sent there or chose to go there, due to behavioral issues or addictions. They spend time there going through a 6-month program (unless they are in school, which allows them to stay for 12 months), while getting the privilege of living in a community, which includes living with others and sharing in chores. The goal is not only to see boys make wiser life choices but also for them to allow Christ to transform them from the inside out: to give them a peace where there had been uncertainty or unrest; to give them a future and hope where there had been hopelessness and futile pursuits; to fill them with Christ's love and joy so that they can carry that with them when they go "home" and then share that love with others.

Oasis has been ministering to boys for the last 5 years and had over 200 boys go through their facility. I heard once that they have around a 90% success rate of boys changing their life and making different/better life choices upon their departure. They can house up to 16 boys at a time but typically hover around 12. It is my guess that about half of these boys do not have safe homes to go to upon leaving, which is certain to have contributed to their arrival to Oasis.

The director and his wife, Saul and Judith, have become good friends of mine. They are a wonderful couple who live simply and by faith when it comes to provisions. They are firm with the boys, while also providing a nurturing father- and mother-like role in each of the boy's lives, which is very much needed and wanted. I love hearing Judith call the boys "mi hijo (my son)" and watching Saul drape his arm around the boys. Saul admitted early on in the summer that every time he says goodbye to one of the boys, it's heartbreaking because he feels like their father and loves them as much. Having to come to know the boys a bit more, I completely understand how he feels...one boy is leaving in 2-3 weeks and I am very saddened by the thought of not seeing him anymore, possibly.

This ministry is supported by donations; individuals and churches who have heard (or seen) of this ministry and want to help with the costs of running it...however this tends to be inconsistent. The most consistent support comes by the founding pastor and his wife, Juan and Rosi. Pastor Juan works for a teen rehabilitation center and often gives a large part of his salary to pay for the costs of running Oasis. Pastor Juan and Rosi are by no means rich...their family of 7 lives very simply and at times does not have sufficient funds to pay for gas, phones, or food, for themselves or for Oasis. This is how Saul and Judith have also learned how to live and eat simply, and to live by faith for God's provision.

This is just a basic introduction. I'll elaborate on different elements in the near future. I would so much love to see this ministry gain consistent support. They have so many wonderful dreams for expanding and enriching this ministry which are largely "on-hold" until the funds are there. You only need to spend a short time there to know that God is at work and I love that I have the opportunity to be a part of it for this current season of my life. You are all welcomed to come down here and visit this little ministry...I would love to show it off and introduce you to the boys and staff!!

Friday, November 16

Tortilla-made relationships

It all started when I found a sweet boy, Carlos, rolling out hand-made tortillas. I asked him to show me how thin he rolls it and what ingredients he used. Then I made a comment to the leader that I really want to learn how to make tortillas to which he volunteered another sweet boy, Franco, to be my teacher. Franco is the best tortilla maker of them all. Plans were made and I left excited for our upcoming "date."

Yesterday afternoon came and Franco began to teach. He has a quiet spirit but is quick to smile and laugh. He is a very intelligent 17 year old who is studying administration and computer technology at a local preparatory high school. He came to the boy's home three years ago due to poor behavioral choices but has since let Jesus into his heart and has become a wonderful young man. He is now a leader among the boys, respected and adored by all. The younger boys will spontaneously hug him and he allows them to follow him around.

He pulled out the bowl, the flour, salt, and oil and began telling me how tortillas are made. When my spanish understanding failed me, he patiently repeated himself or found another way to communicate his instructions. And even though he was done with his dough long before I was done, he waited, asked if I needed help, and offered helpful advise, like how to properly knead the dough. Though we never counted how many tortillas we actually made, I would guess it was somewhere around 80...enough to feed all the boys and a few added staff members. It was a three hour long process where I got to practice my spanish with him and thereby get to know Franco a bit more.

It wasn't until a couple hours later, after the evening's english class was over, that I found out that Franco sacrificed his homework time to teach me how to make tortillas. Once english class was over, he pulled out his school homework and began working on it...4 pages of homework due today and that was only in one subject.

I was, and still am, so humbled and touched by his heart and time.

Sunday, November 4

Birthdays in Mexico

So Mexican churches, at least the ones I visit, have this great birthday tradition. Well, at least I think it's great. And I don't know if it's solely a church tradition or if there is a variance of this in secular areas, such as schools.

If it's your birthday, they call you up in front of the church, usually at the end of the service. Then the pastor prays for you...all the words that I've understood have been really beautiful prayers of blessings.

Three people recently had birthdays, hence the larger group

Then, they play an upbeat birthday song while everyone, and I do mean everyone, walks up front and hugs the birthday person. It's this long parade of people to hug and say "felicidades" or whatever else.

After the line is through, everyone sits down and the service moves on.
I love it! I love the prayers. I love the hugs. I love this tradition.

But despite this sweetness, they will also smash cake into your face, if they have opportunity. Consider yourself warned.