Saturday, August 31, 2013

Getting to know our national colleagues

Today Jonny Forsythe, a fellow missionary, and I had the priviledge of helping a local church move some sound equipment to a different location where they were having a special event. We have been meeting various national colleagues throughout our two weeks here, and today we got the chance to meet a young man named Roberto. It was amazing to hear his testimony of how God had transformed the life of his father and then later his own life. His father had been an achoholic and a drug dealer before God completely changed his life. However, as a result of who his father was, at a young age Roberto found himself addicted to the same things his father had been addicted to. Yet, as a teenager Roberto's life was radically changed as he cried out to God asking Him to set him free from his addictions. And God did! As a result, he has grown strong in his faith and walk with The Lord. He works full time for UNIFAM planting churches. It was an honor to get to know him this morning and we look forward to meeting many more colleagues like Roberto.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sharing the Burden

August 15, 2013 will always be a special day for me. It is the day that my family of six arrived in Mexico City to begin our ministry among our brothers-and-sisters in Christ to the lost of the city. Troy and I first received our calling to serve in Mexico in 1999. Later, God changed the organization--and location--where we would serve to One Mission Society in Mexico City. We were accepted to OMS and appointed to MC in December, 2007, and began fundraising the following May. Therefore, this special day had been long awaited (14 years from the time we initially received our Mexican calling; 5 years after we began fundraising). Long anticipated and longed for. There are no words to adequately describe my emotions that day. In a previous post of our ministry blog, I tried to describe some of them. Suffice it to say I was a weepy mess all day. From the time we checked our bags in (although those were more tears of relief that it was done), to handing our tickets and passport to the agent at the gate, to the initial take off and landing, to walking outside after easing through customs and immigration and finding Steve, our field director, waiting for us, to the drive back to the seminary in the NW part of the city, to our first Sunday worshiping with our Mexican brothers-and-sisters in Christ at the Campanario church (interestingly enough, the very same church we attended 5 years ago when we visited MC with the kids), to the kids’ first day of school at Mexico City Christian Academy yesterday... Many, many moments where tears of gratitude, of extreme happiness would overcome me and rain down my face.

Of course there have been (and will continue to be, I’m sure) moments where I feel completely over my head. I’d never seen the city from the sky before. Let me tell you, it is quite overwhelming. Everywhere your eye falls, there are streets. Buildings. Houses. People. People who don’t know that Jesus came to set them free from a life of sin. People who don’t know that the saints they turn to for comfort can no more fill that hole inside them than I can.

There is a voice in my head that says, “You are just one person. What can you do for so many?” Of course, it’s not anything I do that matters. Jesus can reach out to these people Himself--He doesn’t need me. I’m blessed to be the vessel chosen to minister to His lost children. A few people came up to me this weekend, wanting to express how thankful they are that I left everything behind to come here and minister to their people. To reach the lost. Even as I type that, it gives me chills. There were many people along our fundraising journey who questioned us. Why, after struggling for so long in our funding, were we still determined to go to Mexico? Why not just stay and reach the Mexicans at home? The mission field has come to us, they said. And for some, this is true. But we knew with every fiber of our beings that God was calling us to go. The look on these faces, the tears of humble gratitude in their eyes as they thanked me confirms that we were right not to waver. I don’t know that we can reach the lost in Mexico any better than her own sons and daughters can. But we have something very special in common: we both feel a deep burden for these men, women, and children who live in spiritual bondage.

And so the ministry begins. Together.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Mexico City - Coming Home

August 15, 2013 - This is a significant day that Troy and I are never going to forget. After five years of waiting, we will go to bed tonight on Mexican soil.

Our flight out of Costa Rica was at 7 AM. Due to the fact that many families were also leaving today, we ended up sharing two big van taxis with another family. As their flight was earlier than ours, we left our house at 4 AM. Between squeezing last minute items into the carry-on luggage and sheer excitement, I’m not sure that either of us got more than 2-3 hours of sleep last night. We were up at 2:45 in order to make sure we were ready for the 4 AM pickup. I’m so glad we arrived sooner than we’d originally planned. By the time we stood in line to pay the exit fees for all six of us, then got all of our 15 pieces of checked baggage tagged, checked (plus our six backpacks and 6 carry-on suitcases tagged), and paid for, we ate up a significant amount of time. (The sight of 6 gringos behind two enormous piles of luggage on baggage carts, carrying backpacks and pulling carry-on suitcases created quite a spectacle I can tell you.) Then, it took an additional 30 minutes or so to get through immigration and security before we could head to our gate. Just like in the Jackson airport when we came to Costa Rica a year ago, we had only just gone to the bathroom and sat down when they began boarding! Although this time, our seats were not all together. Tori and I had seats in row 9 on one side of the aisle and Tayler had the end seat across from me on the other side of the aisle. I offered to let her sit with Tori and I would sit next to the strangers, but she didn’t mind. She ended up spending the bulk of the flight entertaining the 4-year-old boy traveling with his 2 sisters, mom, and grandma who was sitting in the row right behind me. Indeed, he became so enamored of her that when we all saw each other again in the baggage area, he followed her around like a puppy. We had our mountain of luggage assembled before theirs (how, I’m not sure), so I had to watch to make sure he actually got back to where his mother was standing. The boys, however, were not so fortunate. I’m not sure how this happened, but they were each placed in different rows---in the back of the plane! Before takeoff, Troy told me that he’d managed to convince someone to trade places with him so that he could at least sit by Cody. But people weren’t cooperating to allow Clayton to join their row, to Troy’s great frustration. Thankfully, when he came up to get our customs paperwork during the breakfast service about 30 minutes into the flight, that problem had been resolved and the three of them were together in one row.

Our landing in Mexico City was a bit rough. Troy and I were talking about it this morning and it seems our landing experiences varied greatly just from being in opposite ends of the plane. In the front, we could feel the plane ascend and descend as there must have been significant wind the pilot had to contend with. Touchdown was fairly normal, but he had to really brake hard to get the plane to slow. Everyone in the front portion was jolted forward in their seats quite a bit--you could see people place restraining hands upon the seat backs in front of them. In the rear of the plane, however, they didn’t experience that part. The worst part was the actual touchdown. Troy said the pilot hovered quite a bit and then seemed to drop down, bounce back up again, before dropping back down again. Very rough. Amazing how different flights can seem from one end of the plan to another.

As the guys were in the very back of the plane, the girls and I let our seat mates out and then just waited for them to make their way to the front. This allowed most of the passengers to disembark and make their way through immigration before we got there. Unlike in Costa Rica, where we had to wait in line for about 45 minutes just to reach the counter, we walked right up to the counter. And unlike in Costa Rica, where we spent 20 minutes with the immigration agent before she allowed us to enter the country, we maybe spent a total of 5 minutes talking to the Mexican official before being waved on through. Yay for those preliminary Mexican visas! Next, we headed to baggage claim to gather our checked bags. As we watched for the little hot pink pieces of duct-tape wrapped around each handle (so that we could easier spot each piece), two men came over to help us with our luggage. I am so proud to say that I was able to communicate with them in Spanish--not always very well, but we at least understood each other. That is vastly different than one year ago! I’m also so thankful that all of our luggage arrived with us! God is good. With our baggage literally piled high on two small carts, we next proceeded to customs. Whether or not your luggage is searched is completely random--you push a button. If it’s green, you continue on to the security scanner and they push it through extremely quickly on the conveyer belt (some have told us that if you have less luggage and receive a green light, you can sometimes just skip that last part and leave the building). If it’s red, they search your bags--one piece, two, or even all. We prayed--and asked many of you to pray as well--for green lights. Troy pressed the button and God answered that prayer--green light! Another five minutes saw us out in the waiting area where Steve, our field director, was the first face we saw.

I’m so thankful for how God blessed our day and was with us through each step. It was during this process that we realized once again how truly miraculous our initial move to Costa Rica was. The afternoon before our flight then, we had nothing packed in our suitcases. Nothing. Yet, Troy managed to get everything to fit in a matter of six hours’ of straight packing. This time, however, we spent many more hours over several days packing and repacking, trying to get everything to fit. That God gave Troy supernatural abilities last time, I do not doubt. We had one extra bag this time than we did last time, yet we had to pay a significant overage fee for the 3 bags. Last time, we paid nothing for those two extra bags. Regardless, as we stepped outside the airport and eyed the Mexican landscape, we were overcome with emotions. I’ve been in tears often during the past (almost) 24 hours, but they are definitely tears of happiness. One of the sweet ladies in our church back in Mississippi made the comment that she was thankful we made it “safely home”. Home. Yes, indeed. Upon our arrival to Mexico City, we finally made it home.

Thank you so much for your prayers for our family during these last weeks in particular. Please keep praying as we work this next week to get the kids in school (Monday) and begin the house and car shopping process. And stay tuned for future posts about our ministry experiences here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Some Posts From Our Facebook Group

I've been reminded that some of you are not on Facebook and so do not see the posts made to our Facebook group, "Gentrys' Mission to Mexico".

So here are some of the recent posts made...


I know it's been a post-a-day kind of week, but many of y'all asked us to be specific in our requests, so I'm just trying to comply with those wishes. LOL!

Our new interim field director emailed last night asking what we are looking for in housing. While the kids would love a pool, that's not high on the list of necessities. ;-D Here are the things we have been praying for, and the things that we are looking for in a house. Again, we believe God ALREADY has the perfect house chosen for us, we just have to follow His leading.

3 bedrooms and 2 baths - a 4th bedroom would be a nice luxury we could turn into an office/guest room

A bit of a grassy yard for Troy & the kids, and for the dog we'll be getting

Rent under 10,000 pesos/month (preferably under 8,000). And preferably a home that includes the major appliances.

Within walking distance of the kids' school, as our car will be out of circulation one day per week (cars over a certain year model have to be parked one day a week because of the smog and traffic levels. We won't have the money for a brand new car).

Security without being totally isolated from our neighbors.

Lots of other Mexican kids in the neighborhood for our kids to play with. We believe their Spanish acquisition has been hindered this year because the only kids they see every day, both at school and at home, are English speakers. They've not been forced to use the Spanish they've learned.

These are the things we've all been praying for for a couple months now. We'd love to have you join us in praying for these as well. We appreciate how much you've covered us in prayer during this time!

August 8

Troy just checked the school's website that the kids will attend. As some of you may remember, we arrive in one week and they begin school the following Monday. We had conveniently forgotten that we would need to buy school supplies---just after arriving in country, without a car of our own, or the knowledge of where to find supplies so quickly. BUT! God provided before we even knew we had a need....for an extra fee (that is less than we paid for school supplies here, I will say) for each child, the school will *provide* the needed materials! So next weekend, the only thing we have to do is settle in, attend the kids' school orientation Saturday, and enjoy our first weekend, and Sunday, in Mexico City!

Thank You, Lord!

Gotta brag on my husband a little bit, so bear with me.

He received the results back from his ECCO and 3-hour grammar test and scored as a solid advanced high! In fact, he was one of 2 students (maybe 3, we're not positive on the 3rd person) who received this high a score!

I am so proud of how hard he has worked to increase his level of fluency this year. All glory to God for blessing Troy in this manner!

August 7 - a post by Troy

As we are packing up to head to Mexico, we are so thankful for our time here in Costa Rica. One of things I have enjoyed over the year has been watching Jenny grow in her spanish. Today I enjoyed not only seeing Jenny converse in Spanish all through lunch with a Costa Rican friend, but to also hear her auto-correct herself. She has come a long way and the fact that she is not only recognizing her mistakes, but correcting them herself shows just how far she has indeed come. I'm so proud of her.

T-Minus 3 Days

Look out Mexico City, the Gentrys are headed your way in less than 3 days!


We received a phone call early Friday afternoon from the consulate asking us to come in. They didn't say why, so immediately, I jumped to worst case scenario. Again, I should have learned this trust thing a long time ago. After waiting awhile, we were each interviewed by one of the workers and then sent home. If not for slow systems, we would've had our passports in hand WITH the visas stamped in them on Friday. However, we returned this morning and received them. We have until February to finish the process of applying for residency in Mexico. God is so good to us!

Saturday, I said "see ya later" to a couple ladies who have greatly helped me with my Spanish through weekly visits. Yesterday was our last day at the church we've attended since we arrived last August. That was bittersweet. We're excited to be moving on to the next phase of this journey, but it's hard to leave behind people we've grown close to this past year. As I alluded to earlier, we're not saying "adios" (goodbye). Rather, we've chosen to say "hasta luego" (until later). Goodbye seems so permanent. See ya later has the hope that we'll see each other again soon.

This morning, we had graduation practice and it was a morning of incredible fun and laughter. I'm sure our poor academic dean was frustrated with us for not taking things more seriously. We're all just so giddy and slap-happy about finishing formal language study and moving into our ministries. Tomorrow will be the last day of classes -- party day. In between, we're working like crazy to get things packed up. Although we said we'd work hard not to accumulate more stuff, somehow we managed to do it anyway. And so, Troy's work is cut out for him, figuring out a way to get everything packed while saying within weight allotments for each piece of luggage.

Wednesday morning is graduation. It will definitely be another bittersweet time for us as we celebrate our accomplishments yet say goodbye to the teachers, administrators, and staff who have ministered to us throughout the year. And I don't even want to THINK about the goodbyes to come among our fellow missionary friends. There is a large group of us (a little under 40 people) going to a local Chili's to enjoy one last meal of celebration together before we each move on to other ministries. We haven't eaten at a Chili's for over a year, so we're looking forward to "food from home" as well as the fellowship we'll share with good friends.

The next 3 days will fly by very quickly, so please keep us in your prayers as we finish our time here and prepare for our move to Mexico. Our flight is THURSDAY at 7 AM.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Residency Visas in Process

It's only Tuesday, yet it's already been a roller-coaster week emotionally.

Yesterday, we went to the Mexican consulate in San Jose to try and apply for our residency visas (note: these are not the actual visas, but the stamps that show we are in process. In order to continue the application process in Mexico, we must have these stamps in our passports. If you enter the country as tourists, you cannot apply for residency. It must be done from outside of the country).

It was a bust.

We needed copies of bank statements to show proof of income. But the biggest obstacle was that we still, at this time, have not received our Costa Rican student visas. We had documentation stating that they are being processed by the government, but it was dated in November and was deemed too old to use.

When we left the consulate yesterday, I was very frustrated and very discouraged. Poor Troy had to pull his mind away and concentrate on a three-hour Spanish grammar test in the afternoon! Honestly, although I knew I should show more faith, all I wanted to do yesterday was host my own pity party. And I did, for several hours.

Then, I realized that nothing had really changed. Sure, there was the chance we might need to leave the country for a short period 6 months in (to renew our tourist visas). But the point was that we were still going. That was the part I forgot. That after waiting since 1999, when God very first called Troy and me to Mexico, we are finally going to step foot on Mexican soil--for more than a week's visit--in just over 1 week's time. By indulging in my pity party, I was letting the disappointment over something we had absolutely no control of steal the joy of this next step.

Shame on me! Shame on me.

Today, Troy went to the consulate with our teammates to begin their process. Along with them went Miguel, one of the men who is directly involved in the student visa process at the language school. What a difference! He had copies of all the documents he has submitted on our behalf to the government. These, along with his confirmation that we have done everything the Costa Rican government has asked of us and are only waiting for its' response, helped us immensely. I thank God for Miguel and his help.

That doesn't mean it went completely smoothly, however. We still needed copies of our bank statements for the last 6 months---per child---something we hadn't been informed of yesterday. We also needed copies of Miguel's documentation for each person. So, they all raced back to campus and, at 11:25, Troy told me we had an hour to make the required copies, get the kids, and get back to the consulate before they closed for the day. The biggest problem was that the two older kids had gone to a nearby swimming pool as part of their summer program (the two younger kids' swimming session was earlier in the morning, so they were back at school). So, paperwork copied, Troy and the two youngest kids grabbed a taxi and hustled back over to the consulate so that they could get a "foot in the door", so to speak, and let the ladies there know we were coming. Once the kids returned at 12:20, our teammate, Jonny, called a taxi friend of his who picked the four of us up and sped over to the consulate. We arrived at 12:35. We said goodbye to Jonny, and worked to get all the documentation signed for the ladies.

As each person's mound of paperwork was assembled and signed, the ladies looked them over and STAMPED THEM. This was new! This hadn't happened yesterday! Finally, all the paperwork signed and stamped, they took them to the back room and both disappeared. About 10 minutes later, one of the ladies emerged with a big receipt book and called Troy over. Payment was exchanged. Again, this hadn't happened yesterday! Then, they asked for the kids' birth certificates. Thanks be to God, we'd had the foresight to have new ones, freshly issued and apostilled, delivered to Costa Rica (the Costa Rican government has our originals from last year)! One of the ladies made copies of them and added them to the pile. Finally, we were each called back to have our pictures taken and digital fingerprints made.

One of the ladies, upon hearing that we fly out very early next Thursday, was a bit concerned. But the other one was not, and since neither told us there was no way we could get the visas after all, we're hopeful. Indeed, I don't believe God would have brought us this far only for them to say, "Nope, can't do it. Sorry." Still, we'd love for you to join us in prayer as we pray these--and the visas for Jonny & Gemma and their family--are issued speedily.

On the way home, Troy and I were saying to each other, "What a difference 24 hours makes." You'd think I would've learned this lesson by now. That there is NOTHING impossible for God!

I can't even tell you how many people were praying for this process the last two days. If you were one of them, we thank you. We thank you for your continued prayers in this matter and as we settle into new ministries in Mexico.