Monday, November 28, 2011

Livin' in a moment you would die for

I think that's what we really all want deep down and if we strive for that everyday, we would change the world. Livin in a moment you would die for...have you really ever thought about it? If what you do on a daily basis is worth dying for.
Thursday was Thanksgiving not only for you guys back in the states, but for us here in Puebla too. I got a friend who says the secret to happiness is gratitude. I believe it and its why we share a traditionally american holiday with our students here in Mexico. We set up all our tables together family style, cook for several days in advance, hang pictures from the past semester for students to take home, and cover the tables with white paper and crayons so they can express all the many things they have to be thankful for. The plan was to start serving lunch around 2:15 and then around 3 when everyone has had a chance to eat, we would pass around the mic giving the students a chance to share what they were thankful for from this past semester.
At 2:10 there was already a good number of students at the house so we started serving, and kept serving and kept serving and kept serving...about 50 min and 230 students later, we finally stopped serving food. 230 students showed up. That's more than we have ever had here at one time since El Pozo was started in 2005. The place was packed and everyone ate even though we planned for only 120 students. Talk about livin in a moment you would die for.

This was even after many people had eaten and left

Sitting on the floor, standing up and hanging out the doors. We found a way to make it work
Then if that wasn't good enough to make you grateful, we started passing around the mic. Freshmen talked about how they were so grateful for the love and acceptance they found at El Pozo in just the short time they have been around. Nadia thanked two student leaders for inviting her earlier in the semester and the community for becoming a family to her. Older students thanked all those who had gone before them for making El Pozo what it is today. Students saw God on Thursday, but not just on Thursday...they have been seeing him all semester.
Tania wrote me yesterday...I started studying the bible with her midway through the semester and she goes to a weekly bible/leadership group with another staff member. For the last month now we have been talking about baptism. She has come to believe in Christ, wants to follow him, is learning and growing and seeking God daily, but like many students here, her parents are not supportive. They have seen the positive change in her life, but still are against the idea of baptism. She is an only child, loves her parents sooo much, and struggles because she knows getting baptized, following the road God has laid out for her is going to cause problems. Yesterday she writes me and says, "I talked with my parents, they don't accept much the idea of my baptism but I am going to do it anyways." Tania is an example of how God changes hearts and makes us strong to follow him no matter what it costs us right now. Tania knows there is the chance she will lose her mother and father, but she also knows that she has another family here at El Pozo, 70-80 brothers and sisters ready to love and support her whatever may come.

Tania (on right) with student leader Sara (on left)
People inside the ministry are not the only ones seeing God work. Here is part of an email I got from Kathy, who is the mom of the head football coach and athletic director at the university here. She wrote us on Friday after hearing about the number of students who came to Thanksgiving lunch and also thanking us for helping to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the football coaches, a few players, and their families.
I am in awe and impressed by the work you two do (talking about myself and roommate/teammate Kami); UDLAP is very fortunate to have you two at the mission, as well as the sponsors of the mission.  It is obvious that you are doing a great job, as shown in the number of people that you served yesterday.  It is a testiment to your work, your personalities, and your friendship shown to those on campus.  

God is working in this place and through us on a daily basis. I don't always understand how or in what ways, but there is no denying it. I am thankful for this job, how no two days are the same, for friends and family in the states and here, for my roommates who make going home every night enjoyable and something I look forward to, for EACH ONE OF YOU who make me being here possible, for the chance to be a part of what God is doing to redeem his children and this world he created...the list could go on and on and will because I have learned that the secret to happiness is gratitude.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Viaje a la Malinche!!!

What a great weekend we just had!!! (ok it was like 2 weekends ago but who is counting) Every fall semester around this time we find ourselves in the mountains for a weekend get away with El Pozo. A good friend and fellow campus minister, Jeremy, came in town for the weekend to give the retreat talks. He shared with us about his life during college and how he got to the point where he decided to move to Spain to start a college campus ministry in Salamanca. He talk about living a life that is worth telling, a story that impacts the world and will be carried on in one way or another when we have moved on. It was a very impactful weekend for many of the students. Here are some facebook posts I found from students who went...

Alexa wrote: This was the most amazing weekend ever, i learned a lot of new things, and made me change a lot about the way i used to think, so i am glad that God gave me this chance.
Alexa is a girl who 3 weeks ago we had never met. She came with her roommate to our monthly community service day the week before the retreat. They weren't signed up for the retreat, just showed up with two other roommates the day we were leaving. Since that weekend, every time I see here she asks what she can do to help or if I am going to be around to hang out because she has a lot of free time. Alexa is young and learning a lot and I can't wait to see how she grows to know Christ and his plan for her life over the next weeks, months, and years.

Israel wrote to Andrea: Never forget October 15th 2011. The most important decision of your follow Jesus and be with God.
Israel has a passion for people to know God that is undeniable. Every week he shows up to our events with new people he has invited. Last week he literally introduced 10 new people. I think 7 of those people went on the retreat the weekend before, for many of them it was their first activity ever with the ministry. God is using Israel in amazing ways. 

Andrea wrote in response to Israel's post: The truth is I will never forget Saturday. I took a big step. Thank you Israel. It was a great weekend with lots of fun and adventures.

God is moving through El Pozo in incredible ways. Admist all the changes and hard times we (the staff) have experienced over the last few weeks and months, we can not deny God's continued blessings on his ministry here. I have had conversations with three people recently about their desires to be baptized, what it means for their lives and the changes they are making daily to follow Christ. God works in spite of our shortcomings and what a blessing and honor it is to be able to be a part of God redeeming the world. 

Thank you for continuing to believe in what God is doing here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

There is a time for Everything

We live in a world that is constantly changing. No matter how much we want to stay in the exact moment we are living in and cherish it forever, we just simply can't do it. And I don't think we were ever intended to try. Jesus throughout his days here was always on the move. He changed where he was going, where he stayed and who he stayed with. He changed peoples' lives in a matter of minutes. He experienced the changes of people coming and going, of loving and losing. Change is a part of life. That's the way God intended it since the beginning.
Ecclesiastes 3 says it well:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die
this past year i have experienced both of these up close and personal, some of them simultaneously.

Reese, Sawyer, Elsa and Addie...beautiful creations i have been blessed to see born and grow each day

Kami, Addie and me
we are not guaranteed 70, 80 or 90 years, we are not even guaranteed tomorrow. makes you stop and think about your life and the path you are on and where is it some cases, we wish the time of dying wouldn't have come so soon. we think it is unfair and not right, but there are some things that can only happen after death has occurred. Christ conquered death and offers us life that will never perish, but only after he died physically was he able to do so. it wasn't without pain and sorrow, but what waited on the other side was worth it all.
A time to plant and a time to uproot
A time to kill and a time to heal
A time to tear down and a time to build
A time to weep and a time to laugh
A time to mourn and a time to dance
there has been a lot of laughing and dancing going on over the past 5 years. God has blessed me with many opportunities to see people change, to see people far from God take a few steps closer. to work alongside amazing God-loving people and have friends and family that have supported me every step along the way.
there has also been a lot of weeping and mourning over the past 5 years. people come and go from our lives. people we love move on and sometimes it feels like they have left us behind. friends chose fame or glory over a God who loves them and is the only thing we find in this life that is constant and unchanging. we sometimes chose to chase the fading things of this world only to be disappointed. 
People come and people go, through it all, God stays the same, he is with us and that will never change. 
Nate and Erin left today to start the next stage of their lives working at a church in Maryland, Justyn arrives today to start the next stage of his life working here at El Pozo.  

Me and Justyn hangin out last year
You find out a friend dies, but the same day another is being born...We have been praying for Pako for years now. to die to himself so that he may truly find a life worth living. Last night Pako died to himself by confessing Jesus as his Lord and Savior and now can truly start living. we baptized him shortly after. we weep and mourn but we laugh and dance as well. 

There is a time for everything. 
Changes are a part of life. 
God has made everything beautiful in its time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Back to School

How was your summer? What did you do? What classes are you taking? Do you like your schedule? Oh this is your first semester, How do you like Cholula? What is your major? Where are you from?

The questions are always the same, its just the answers that make the start of each new school year unique.

New school years always seem to bring with them other "new" people/events/beginnings/things in general, so here are the Top 3 "new" whatever at El Pozo...

New Team Leader: Many of you already know that Nathan and Erin Mcdade (they have been here since El Pozo began in 2007, Nathan as team leader) will be moving to Maryland to work at an amazing church there, which means El Pozo needed a new team leader. Kami Burns accepted the role and has been doing a great job since July when she took over.
Nate and Erin
Elsa and Addie, Erin and Nathan's two sweet girls
Kami Burns, always with a smile
Pray for her as she continues to figure out all here roles, what it all looks like and guides El Pozo into the future, as well as for the McDade's as they make the transition to Maryland.

New Students: As with the start of any new school year, there are tons of new freshman that arrive on campus embarking on a new chapter in their lives. Recently we have had many of them come by the casa verde and make their home here. From drama kids to basketball players, they are all finding a place here within the ministry. Some of the ones I have gotten to know best are a group of 5-6 that are all studying Theater. I met one of them, Baruk, the day before our first cookout of the semester when I was eating lunch with a friend he had just met. Since that day, he has been inviting and inviting. One loves to come early and help setup for the events, another loves tennis and ping pong so after events you can find him hanging out with others at the ping pong table or setting up times to play tennis, another loves serving the community so is always ready when we do projects outside the house. It is so cool to see each one become part of the community here in their own unique way.

Ivonne, Philip, and Sergio
Baruk and Jillian
Sammy, one of the drama kids, and her two friends she brought for the first time
Pamela, Linda and Charisse, some of the basketball girls that have been coming recently
Pray for all our new and old students as they find their place within El Pozo. Pray for them to take steps in God's direction more and more.

New Building: After more than a year of working on our back building, we can finally say that it is a building. It has walls, windows, doors, closets, a stage, and even carpet and tile. All of this has been made possible by friends, family, supporters, golfers at our yearly summer golf tournaments, people who have come down to do manual each have had a special part in this building that we are now able to use as a resource to reach even more students. We now have our weekly Tuesday night events in the back building. When before there would have been people lined up in the hallway and down the stairs, we now can fit everyone and have room to grow. The blessing this building has been and will be is priceless.

We finally have room for all the band members. Its so big you can't even see the drummer in this picture
We can eat in peace, rain or shine. The front table is full of some more drama kids.
This ping pong table was donated and has been a constant attraction, which we are only able to have because of the space we have in the new building.
Pray for all the lives that will be blessed by what goes on in this new building. For God to get glorified in everything we do, from the ping pong games to weekly events we put one.

Thank you all for your support and love and prayers. Welcome Back! It's gonna be an awesome semester!!!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

That Time Of Year

Every now and then it is worth asking yourself what is important in life, what are you living for each day and are our actions a reflection of all that...

We just finished up another semester of school, life and ministry at El Pozo. At the end of each school year, we have an end of the year banquet to honor graduates and reflect on the past year. This year we had the most graduates that had been involved in the ministry for the longest time. Many since their first days at the university. As I reflect on those questions above, my answers come from what each of those graduates said about their involvement in the ministry throughout their college years and the impact being involved in a community loving God has had on their lives. In many cases, their tears spoke louder than any words.
I do what I do because I get to see heaven brought to earth on a daily basis and actually get to be a part of it at times. I do what I do because there is no greater joy, adventure or adrenaline rush than watching eternity being changed today and knowing that you got to play a little role in it. If you don't know what I am talking about, try building a house and giving it away to a family living in a cardboard "house" no bigger than your bathroom, or being friends with someone for 4 years, watching them suffer heart ache after heart ache chasing after popularity to finally give God a chance and find a life worth living again, or being family to someone whose family has rejected and abandoned them. There is nothing like it.
If I ever start to think my life is boring, that christianity is boring, I have to look at my life, ask myself those questions and get things back on track. Cause if there is one thing I have gotten from reading about Jesus' life, it is the fact that there is no room for boredom when your purpose and mission is to bring heaven to earth every day.

Here is the video we showed at our end of the year banquet to sum up this past year at El Pozo. For many of you, these faces are just faces, but let me assure you that each person you see in this video has a name and a story and a future...they are my friends and family, the reasons behind many tears (both good and bad) and they are the reasons I do what I do. God still has a lot of redeeming to do in this world and I do what I do in a effort to be a part of it.

May-July I will be taking a 3 month furlough/sabbatical/whatever you want to call it. Essentially what it means is that I will be in the states for the next three months, learning, exploring, resting, visiting friends, support raising and anything else that comes up. I would love to see you, catch up, talk about life or whatever. Shoot me an email so we can get together...PEACE

Monday, January 31, 2011

Not like Clemitine

Thursday I flew back to Georgia to spend a few last days with my Dad before he flew off to live with Jesus. I guess we were getting too boring for him here. I am glad he is not suffering anymore, but it is still hard and I will miss him so much. I always knew he was a great man but in the last few days I have seen even more the impact he had on so many lives. He was loved by so many and will be missed by even more. His legacy will live on in each of the lives he has impacted over the past 61 years. I would have loved him to be around longer to teach me more, walk me down the aisle, give me medical advice when my kids get sick, and other such stuff, but he taught me about Jesus and showed me how to live and love like Christ which is the most important. The rest I can learn along the way and you guys can fill in whenever needed. He will never really be gone from this earth as long as we live out what he taught each of us everyday.

P.S. my 10 year old niece wrote this poem to my dad last week...

Grandpa I love you
Wish you weren't going away
I'm sure going to miss you
But I'll see you some day

It's going to be hard to say good-bye
But you're not going to be lost forever like Clemitine
Jesus wants you way high in the sky
Boy Lucy and Ethel are sure going to whine

You're going to have lots an lots of fun
with no tears, sickness, or pain
Where Jesus is the Sun
You've got lots to gain

The city is made of gold
The gates of pearl
But you won't care a world
Cause those days will just go by with a whirl

When you get to heaven it's sure to be a wonder
When you're there maybe ask for some ear plugs
Cause God's voice will probably sound like thunder
When you get there God will probably give you a great big HUG!

I thought is was really good, although I had to ask who Clemitine was. She replied by singing...."oh my darling oh my darling oh my darling Clemitine, you are gone and lost forever oh my darling Clemitine."  hence the blog title...not like Clemitine.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Reason 16: He's a funny guy

So I know I know, I didn't quite finish 61 Reasons I Love My Dad...but here we are for round two or maybe this is round 5 or 6...either way here is another reason why I love my dad and you should too.

He is a pretty funny guy. I am sure that is where I must get my humor and funniness from as well...

So the past several times I have talked to my dad on the phone and the blog thing has come up in conversation, he has reminded me that his illness is terminal and I should get busy on it if I want to finish in his lifetime. Maybe to some of yall it doesnt seem so funny, but for us it is funny and always makes us both laugh. Then after we laugh I tell him how my next one is going to be how funny he is.

It is the little things he says when he maybe isn't even trying to be funny that I find hilarious as well that have stayed in my memory over the years...One example is from many many years ago, we were driving in the car talking about who knows what when he says "Courtney have you gone to the bathroom today?" and I was like, "ummm what do you mean" and he says "you know have gooone to the bathroom today" and so I said I had and then he says "well you need to go again cause you are full of sh**" I don't even remember what we were talking about but I do remember having a good laugh.

Here are a few pictures I found that bring out his lighter side.

a picture says a thousand words

only grown men with a good sense of humor would allow this to be photographed

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Early Church Puebla Style

I have some awesome teammates who also play the roles of family and friends here in Puebla. The next couple of weeks we will be doing a series on church based on Acts 2 at Tuesday night bible studies and I can tell you all that what we have here on this team is the church. We teach each other, love each other, take care of each other, serve together and each other, break bread together (tonight it was hamburgers and the Auburn game...Go War Eagles) and all the other stuff the early church was doing together. God knew what he was doing when he brought each of us individually here to Puebla and then brought us all together to form one team, one body in Christ.

So if you read the last post, you read about my house being robbed. I can't remember if i wrote details of what was taken, but among a few of the things were my wii, some gum that is only sold in the states and like $150 worth of coins I had been saving...Well  let me just tell you what my teammates have done. Some brought me several packages of my favorite gum that got stolen. Then later after everyone got back I received this gaming system so I would have something to play on the huge tv my parents got me for Christmas, and then just today I was given a jar of coins that some teammates had been saving up to buy something special with a little later down the road. I just counted the coins and it was just the amount of money I estimated got stolen from my room. Words can't express how grateful and blessed I am to be a part of this team and family.

coins stacked and counted
game system (taken by computer camera so I guess that is why it is backwards)

Thank you to all of you who have blessed my life over the years and especially this past month, both here in Puebla and in Georgia. I hope you all know who you are cause I love and appreciate you more than you know.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hello Again Blog World!!!

It's a new year and a new semester. woohoo. I am excited.
Christmas was great. It was good being back in Georgia, seeing friends and family, being encouraged, relaxing, and SNOW on Christmas day was the cherry on top. My brother now has 2 boys,  Maddox Tate was born a few days after I arrived, and just a few days ago, my sister had her baby, Kylah Joy. Now I have 12 nieces and nephews. Makes family get togethers fun and a little crazy.

Maddox Tate with his Tia

Christmas Dinner   

present craziness
And what Christmas is really complete without a birthday party for Jesus??

Happy Birthday Jesus!

So after Christmas and a few weeks of vacation, it was time to get back to work. I was so blessed over the break in so many ways by so many different people. Thank you all for everything.
A surprise was waiting for me when I got back to my house in Puebla. Not really a surprise I was hoping for but that is how life goes sometimes. While we were gone, someone broke in and stole some of my favorite things. It is really weird and doesn't make a lot of sense looking at the stuff they took and the stuff they left, but they are only things and most can be replaced. A lot of people say it is because I invite anyone into my house and am hospitable and stuff like that but just because people do wrong doesn't mean I can stop doing good. So if that is the reason, I am ok with it and will continue to show love and hospitality and anything else God desires of me. I really believe all I have been given are blessings from God and should be used and shared to bless others, so that is what we will continue to do.

Everyone is starting to come back into town, Cholula is being transformed from the ghost town it was last week into a vibrant active college town. We have our first bible study on Tuesday Night. Friday we will be finishing up planning for the semester. Keep us in your prayers whenever you eat Mexican food or something makes you think of us.