Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fun and Fellowship

We began the day (Saturday) at a Mexican kids' club with a fellow OMS couple. For the first time in their lives the kids were separated by their age and not allowed to just stay together. Tayler, who is naturally outgoing, handled this much better than Clayton who is more shy-natured. It took quite a bit of convicing for him to stay in his age group. Because the kids do not speak any Spanish and we weren't sure how many of the helpers spoke English, at least one Spanish-speaking adult stayed with each of the kids. Troy went with Clayton (who did loosen up once the kids started to play tag), Paula went with Tayler and Tori (whom we did allow to stay with her sister), John and Troy alternately took Cody, and I stayed with one of the missionaries who taught an English lesson at her station. After no time at all, the girls in Tayler's group were holding her hand, wanting to play with her and asking the missionary to give them phrases in English to say to Tayler. The other kids were fussed over as well and were a delightful change for the Mexican kids. I enjoyed helping Julie, our fellow missionary, with her English lesson and having some of the kids ask questions of me. They were trying to learn English--something I could definitely relate to as someone trying to learn their language as well.

What really touched this mother's heart was how welcoming the kids were of our children and how much they "took them into" their groups. For a long time Troy and I were not sure how well the kids would adjust to Mexico--if this weekend is any indication of things to come, we are no longer concerned about this. They have boldly eaten everything that has been served to them and have liked it (everything from tacitos to sweet coffee with milk and cinnamon) and they have liked all the places we have gone. This is a tremendous answer to prayer for Troy and I.

After church we visited the Mayan pyramids outside of the city. The 3 oldest kids, Troy, and the other missionary, Jonny, all climbed up to the top of the pyramid and took pictures. John & Paula stayed outside of the park with Diogy (their poodle), as dogs are not allowed in the park. Julie, Cody and I sat at the base of the pyramid and tried to fend off the many vendors selling trinkets and watching everyone else make the long, high climb. I, having an issue with heights, of course opted not to make the climb.

It was a great day of ministry, fun at the pyramids and fellowship as we traveled around to the various places and had an opportunity to visit with Jonny and Julie about life as missionaries on the Mexican field. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post and for pictures!

Affirmation of Our Call

Last night, Friday, we had the opportunity to attend one of the house churches here in the City. Now, of course I (Jenny) don't speak a lick of Spanish, so I was unsure of what to expect. As I honestly wasn't expecting anyone to speak any English, I planned for either Troy or his parents to interpret for me. We began the service with praise choruses (praising the Lord is MUCH more animated here in Mexico than it is in the States!), followed by a Bible study, prayer and then "fellowship time". I enjoyed listening to the praise songs in Spanish. I enjoyed hearing the Scripture read in Spanish. I enjoyed hearing the earnest prayers of the Mexicans there. During the Bible study on communion, one of the women asked a question that went something like this: "In the Catholic religion, in order to take communion, you must first confess your sins to a priest. In order to take communion in a Christian church, is there a pastor whom you confess to?" This question just broke my heart and, as I am an emotional person, the tears just started flowing. This is the very reason we are coming to Mexico--to tell the people that they don't need an intercessor: they can take their burdens and confess their sins to the Creator God Himself! What freedom! What unspeakable joy to be able to commune one on one with the Lord Jesus Christ! This woman's simple question served as God's reminder to me as to why He has called us to Mexico and I was humbled that He would send us.

Friday, May 30, 2008

We Made it to Mexico!

After months of planning this trip, we've finally arrived in Mexico City! Lest anyone be curious, it is a L--O--N--G drive from Jackson to Mexico City! We bipassed our normal early start time of 5 AM Wednesday (May 28) for a more humane start time of about 6:15 (still early but not as bad). We arrived in McAllen, Texas Wednesday night about 11 P.M.

Thursday morning we checked out of the hotel around 8:30 and drove into Mexico! Although it took about an hour, we didn't have any problems procuring our visas and paperwork for the van (thank you, Jesus!). Just before lunch, we drove into the mountains (something I'd been looking forward to) and all of us enjoyed a feast for the eyes. At lunchtime, we enjoyed a feast for our stomachs, Mexican style! Initially unsure as to how the kids' reaction would be to "different food", they really liked the beef, mashed potatoes and rice they ate, and I enjoyed drinking an ice cold Coke straight from a bottle (a bottle)! After multiple stops, another Mexican meal, and numerous "fights" between the kids (Cody got so frustrated with his big sister, Tori, pestering him that he piped up at the top of his lungs, "I said no!" We were all shocked to hear this from him who had previously only said a few words at a time--never a whole sentence! Two guesses where he's heard that before?) we rolled into the seminary at around 1 AM. Let's just say that after being driven around the City last night and then again today, I'm pretty sure that it will be a LONG time before I'm comfortable enough to do any driving!

This morning we met with our new field director, Christian Mackinnon and his wife, Robin. Then, Margaret Neff took us to the missionary school so that we could see where the kids would be going to school and to one of the churches in the city. We packed a lunch and ate it in a quiet little park area near her house (the houses there were very beautiful even if they were packed together like sardines) where the kids had a good chance to run and play. And since all of us are adjusting to the altitude and the results of 3 nights of only about 4-5 hours of sleep each, we came back to the seminary and took a nap. Tonight we are going to a house church so that we can meet some of the Mexicans and ECC church planting workers there.

We are thankful for the safe travel. We are thankful for the lack of problems crossing the border. We are thankful for the way the kids have favorably responded to the country. Finally, we are thankful for the love and generosity shown us by our fellow missionaries. Stay tuned for future entries and pictures on our Mexican experience.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Our First Missions Conference as Missionaries

This past weekend, May 16-19, we attended our very first missions conference as official missionaries! While we had the privileged of attending a conference in Reidsville, NC in November, we had not been officially accepted by OMS yet. We attended the conference held at an EMC church in Douglasville, GA (Reverend Jimmy Garrett, Jr., pastor) with Troy's parents, John & Paula Gentry, Sr., as the missionaries involved in the conference. Friday evening after a time of fellowship and food (those two always go together) we watched "End of the Spear" about the 5 missionaries martyred in the '50s in Ecuador and how the events following their deaths brought the gospel to the Indians of that region. Saturday, after an afternoon of fishing, we each had the opportunity to talk about our ministry opportunities. The conference marked the first occasion our display was used (masterfully made by Troy) as well as our photos/informative slide power point presentation put to "And Now My Lifesong Sings" by Casting Crowns. It was very moving (and I've seen it many, many times before)! Sunday, we all had the opportunity to attend Sunday School and then John preached the morning message. At the end of the conference, we were thrilled to discover that we had 7 people decide to take out monthly support in us! Praise the LORD!

Not only do we want to thank Rev. Jimmy and the rest of the church family for inviting us to the conference, but we want to especially thank Jimmy and Jackie Garrett, Sr. and Dan & Regina Henly for their gracious hospitality as they welcomed us into their homes. Troy and the boys stayed with Garretts and the girls and I stayed with the Henleys. We all enjoyed our charming hosts and felt like we'd been welcomed as family. Thank you for your loving care of our family.

After church on Sunday, we drove to Macon where Richard and Tara Jelley live with their daughters, Caroline, Susannah, and Katie. We'd gotten to know the Jelleys while Richard attended WBS with Troy and were sad to have such good friends move away after his graduation in 2004. We spent the latter portion of the afternoon catching up, attending church with them, and then enjoying some more fellowship over dinner and again in their home. Richard invited Troy to a men's breakfast at 7 am Monday morning, so after the men returned home from that, we headed home. The wonderful thing about the Jelleys is the hospitality they showed to us was even as Richard finalized his preparations to leave for Zambia, Africa on a missions trip today. With all that they had going on that close to his departure for 2 weeks, they welcomed our family of 6 into their home. It would have been so easy for them not to make the offer - and anyone would have understood if they hadn't. So we are thankful for such great friends - brothers and sisters, really.

P.S. Thank you Richard and Tara for this picture.

10 Years of Marriage

It is hard to believe, but we have actually been married now for 10 years! Our anniversary, Friday, May 16, saw us on Interstate 20 headed east to Georgia - with all four kids and the in-laws along! Not in a million years would I have imagined on our wedding day that we would be celebrating a decade of marriage not only with our four kids and Troy's parents at a missions conference in Georgia, but that we would be staying at 2 completely different homes as well! Thankfully, we're not the kind that needs a fuss - aka an expensive hotel in a tropical location (although if someone were to offer to give us a "fuss", I doubt we'd turn it down). The one thing that was the same as on the day of our wedding was what we ate for supper. Our wedding night supper feast consisted of pizza eaten at a Pizza Hut in Ottumwa, Iowa. 10 years later, we ate pizza delivered by a Papa Johns in Douglasville, Georgia. In the decade we've been married, we've had 4 children, graduated from college, moved to an entirely new state (aside from the 3 years my parents were missionaries in Burundi, Africa, I'd never moved out of Iowa), Troy graduated from seminary, and we've been accepted to Mexico as missionaries with OMS International. At the end of the next decade of marriage, we will have nearly completed 2 terms as missionaries, will have an 18 year-old ready to begin college, a 17 year-old, a 14 year-old, and a 12 year-old (4 teenagers - pray for us!) A lot will happen by the time we mark 2 decades together as a couple, but we are thankful for all that we have been blessed with and accomplished with the LORD's help during these past ten years.

Another Lesson in God's Timing

We were reminded again last week that the Lord is good and His timing is perfect. At Tayler's annual heart checkup last Monday (May 12), we were stunned--and I do mean stunned--to learn that the second angioplasty procedure needed years in the future was needed now. As I sat in the doctor's office with the kids, I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that he was not talking about an angioplasty in four years, two years, a year, or even six months. He was talking about one that would take place in less than 24 hours! My initial belief wazs that this was something that needed to be done within the year, but because of our uncertainty about when we would be leaving for language school in Mexico, he was scheduling it earlier rather than later (so that there would be time for follow-up appointments). Dr. Ebeid then told me that not only would he be doing the balloon procedure on one of Tayler's arteries, there might also be the need to put in up to two stents as well! Yikes! Needless to say, I was shell-shocked as I had to come home and break the news to Troy and to the rest of our family. Immediate requests for prayer were sent out literally around the world, something we are beyond grateful for. I don't think we can adequately express our gratitude for the love that was shown our family through the prayers lifted up on behalf of our daughter.

The next morning
, Troy's parents, John & Paula, arrived at our home about thirty minutes before we needed to be at the hospital for a family prayer session. John gently applied some anointing oil on Tayler's forehead and prayed for her, speaking for the family while the rest of us laid hands on her and prayed silently in agreement. We are firm believers in the use of anointing oil in occasions like this. We used it as we prayed over Tayler as a 12-day-old infant the morning of her open-heart surgery to correct the heard defect she'd been born with. We used it again as we prayed over her as a 6-month-old baby the night before her first angioplasty procedure, needed to open up her vessels narrowed by scar tissue from her surgery. The oil itself doesn't have healing powers, but there is something to be said for the calming, soothing scent of the oil breathed in as you gather around the one being prayed for.

When we had finished praying for her, we drove her to the hospital for the procedure. John, Paula and the kids waited in the waiting room while Troy and I sat with her in the procedure room while they prepped her for the angioplasty. The hardest thing for me as a mother is sitting helplessly by while my children suffer, knowing I can't take their place. I, who have bad veins, know the pain of having multiple needle sticks while the nurses try to start an IV in veins that don't want to cooperate. I, who have had four c-sections, know the fear of the unknown as you are lying on a narrow table, shivering to your very core because the room is so cold. And our daugther was scared, so very scared. Her pittifully uttered, "Mommy, I'm scared" tore right through me and made me long to grab her off of that table and bolt from the room. As she gradually fell asleep, I reminded her of the one thing that could bring comfort to her--indeed, the only comfort I was clinging to. As she went through that procedure, even though she'd be asleep for its entirety, she would not be alone. Yes, the doctors, nurses and technicians would be with her. More importantly, however, the One who made her, sustains her and saved her would be sitting right there with her in the room. "Even when Daddy and Mommy can't be with you, Tayler," I told her, "you won't be alone--Jesus will be with you." A beauteous smile slowly spread across her face and she nodded.

When everything was said and done, we know that the Lord was with her throughout the procedure. She came through it with flying colors, and, miraculously, did not need the stents at all! We are thankful for the way the Lord has touched Tayler and how He worked out all of the timing of this in the first place. A normal heart has about 35 percent pressure on it - before the procedure Tayler's was 85%. Obviously, this is something that desperately and immediately needed to be done! Amazingly, considering that her original check up was not scheduled until June 4, but because of our up-coming trip to Mexico City, had to re-scheduled, and the nurses "worked her in" for the May 12 appointment! I am thankful of this happening now while we still have such a good doctor and Children's hospital. I am thankful that it happened now while we had Troy's family living nearby to help take care of the kids. I am just thankful.