Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dream Big!!!

We always look forward to it at the start of every year. It brings excitement and adventure. A chance to get away from the everyday routine, relax and have some fun. Plans are started early to make sure every moment is taken advantage of and that this year's Spring Break is the best ever. College students all over the world have this in common. A whole week off of school to do whatever they want. One Week! What do you do with it???

For the past five years, El Pozo has taken a group of students to north Mexico during Spring Break to build houses for families living in shacks made of cardboard walls if they have any walls at all. Over the past five years, any where from 8-20 college students have chosen to do something positive, to change lives, to give instead of take during their one week off of school in the spring. Instead of going to the beach all expenses paid with their families, they chose to work hard, save some money, buy, build and give away a house during their Spring Break. Instead of touring the coastline to find the best places to surf or visiting ruins and waterfalls, they chose to spend hours and hours in a bus, sleep on a church floor, and do physical labor all day for several days in the hot sun building a house for people they have never met. This year, students are going to make that same choice. Students are going to "give up" their week of vacation to help those in need, to share what they have to give, and to shine the light they have found in a dark part of the world.

In years past we have built one house for one family and we have gotten pretty good at it. We know how to raise the money and how to get just enough students excited about it to accomplish the goal. So this year when we were planning and dreaming, we decided it was time to stop being comfortable, get out of the way and let God show off. This year our goal is to build two houses, one for a family of 2-5 people and the other for a larger family of 5 or more. Very Scary to say the least. We have only ever had just enough money and just enough people so to double the needed money and people doesn't make sense. But we believe and preach every week to these students that God is big and in control and wants to use us to change the world. Every week we stand up to tell these students that we believe in the power of prayer and invite them to let us pray for them and for them to join us in prayer. Now is when all those words turn into actions.

We are praying everyday at 2 for 2 houses. We are planning fundraisers and recruiting participants. But more importantly, we are trusting God. We are trusting him for every penny and peso that is needed to make this trip a success, for every person that will get on the bus and be a part of building the houses, and for the lives of not only those receiving the house to be changed but also for every person that has a part in the process.

You are invited to be a part of this God-sized dream we have for this semester. You can join us in prayer every day at 2 for 2 houses or whatever hour you would like. You can make your way to Cd Acuña the 24th-27th of March and help us physically build the houses while getting to know the students you pray for and support everyday. You can give financially towards the building materials we must have to build these houses. Each one of you is invited in whatever way you are able to be a part of what God is doing here in Mexico through a few college students that have chosen to dream big, put their trust in the God of this universe and live out a story worth telling.

Me and Pato with the beautiful kids we built a house for two years ago

Last year's house that was finished just as the sun was setting

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Celebrate the little victories!!!

We are four weeks into this spring semester and celebrating the little victories that lead to much bigger ones. In life we can sometimes get overwhelmed and discouraged trying to reach some big goal we have set in front of us. Many years ago I was taught that the joy is in the journey and celebrating the little victories along the way is a great way to keep that joy. So here we are 4 weeks in, celebrating the little victories...

Our exchange student, Katelyn, from Georgia Tech went on her first weekend trip with a student. Being invited to a student's house for the weekend is a great step in relationship building here. Katelyn is slowly learning the language and finding ways to communicate and build relationships despite being in a different culture, first time away from home, and having to speak a foreign language. Celebrate with Katelyn!!!
Katelyn at En Vivo

This semester we have 12 student leaders who have made the commitment to serve God through El Pozo. Last semester we had 5 and only one male, this semester 7 of the 12 are guys!!! This is an answer to prayers from all last semester since we have a lack of male influence on our staff right now and did not want that to influence the students we were able to reach. Our 12 leaders are all stepping up and taking on roles that last semester they were not doing. Mariana is welcoming everyone as they come in the doors on Tuesday night. Frank is taking on the fundraising for our spring break mission trip to build houses with Casas por Cristo. Irma and Monica are praying before their basketball games with the team and setting an example on and off the court. Abdi, Hans, and Cesar are continually asking how they can help and serve the ministry as they learn more about how El Pozo works and what God wants for them in their lives while Marco and JP have become leaders of the band. Each student has found ways to serve God using their unique talents and passions. Not only do they have hearts for service they also desire to learn and grow as followers of Christ through our weekly small group bible studies. We would love to have 50 students involved in leadership, but for they time being, we are celebrating the 12. Celebrate with Hans, Carlos, Marco, Frank, Abdi, Cesar, JP, Tania, Sayra, Mariana, Monica and Irma!!! 
Hans with Stephany, both are new to the community this semester

Cesar with a few international students he met during orientation week. He is a guide for all new students during orientation. 

Frank, Mariana and Gustavo serving dinner

Irma, front center, and Monica, right, with other basketball girls

Abdi, Marco and JP
Tania, right, at our weekly devotional lunch

Carlos, at computer, is our computer/sound guy...after En Vivos he puts on Karaoke for everyone to sing along with

Sayra, second from left, has been key in bringing along her fellow track and field teammates

Speaking of celebrating the little victories...I asked Frank last night to pray in front of everyone for our spring break trip during En Vivo. He got real nervous and said he didn't know how to pray out loud or in front of people, so Abdi prayed. Right now, Frank is sitting in the office across from me as I write this blog working on his school work. My alarm went off at 2pm reminding me to pray for the two houses that we want to build this spring break. We both looked at each other as Kami's alarm went off as well. Frank folds his hands and says, "ok we have to pray" and then with a little prompting from us, proceeds to pray out loud, in front of people for God to provide all our needs and keep us strong from now until the houses are built in late March...Little victories!!!

One more victory to share...For the past 4 years we have worked alongside a kid's home doing various activities with them throughout the year. In December we had a party for all the kids that consisted of singing, games, piñatas, and presents. 34 students went along with several other people from within the community like parents and local business owners. This semester it has been a desire of ours to be more consistent in our presence at the kid's home, so we started the first week of school going Friday afternoon. Now it has turned into a student led initiative that happens every other week. Gustavo has been key in inviting and leading these hang out times with the kids. He is one of the leaders on the university's football team and has been awesome at inviting his teammates to not only hang out at the kid's home but also to El Pozo's weekly events. Celebrate with Gustavo and El Pozo!!!

Gustavo with some of the kids last week
If you knew each of these students personally, you would realize that these little victories are actually not that little at all. They are really more like big steps in their faith and relationship with God. Learning to trust him in areas that are not within their comfort zones, realizing that God can use them even though they are just starting out, believing that they can be forgiven for their past and have been given the opportunity to tell a better story tomorrow are all parts of each of these student's journey with God. As we are a month into this spring semester and new year, join with us as we find joy in the journey and celebrate what God is doing in and through us along the way.