Friday, January 30, 2015
In my early Christian pilgrimage through many very conservative churches, I found myself on the wrong side of right. I was taught and/or caught; that "the more you didn't do the better Christian you were." Key words like testimony, worldly, liberal and modernist gave the Church elders a foundation of No-No's to build on, and like the Pharisees of old, the growing list was permanently fixed to the cross. As Church members we were into "not doing;" we were not to dance, party, play cards, gamble, smoke, drink, use "minced-oaths" …like darn, gosh, dog 'gone, etc. We were not to go to shows; mixed bathing (girls and boys in the same car going to the beach for the day.) was a No-No. Unfortunately I could keep going.
Actually what we didn't do was more important than what we did do. We were actually known for what we didn't do! "That's the Church that doesn't ..."
What we did do, was go to meetings and tithe. I caught on soon that the more meetings I attended during the week determined my spirituality. (Minimum: was three services a week.) Preaching was strong on Old Testament and the Epistles. Biblical it was, yet Biblical it wasn't.
Jesus and His testimony and teaching were very seldom heard from the pulpit ... I noted the book of James didn't have a place in the pulpit. For years I was stuck on the wrong side of right. Thank God, I broke free and found Churches that were Biblically balanced. I found the unheard-of Grace that was there all the time ... and heard the mandate "be doers of the Word."
Unfortunately, I find this also true the world I minister to in Tijuana; it seems that our early Christian missionaries exported that same kind of legalistic religion ... and I find so few that are willing to break out of it.
Remember Jesus greatest enemies were the legalistic ... the Pharisees! The Pharisees of today are no friend of His either.
Friday, January 23, 2015
In our world of families where money is scarce, its hard for us in the U.S. to really understand the money factor ... just how many little things depend on money. As Americans we well understand that a big part of our living depends on money. However when you are very poor ... you actually think before buying a family tooth-brush or flashlight battery or for that matter a light-bulb.
Little things become big when you are poor. We Americans pretty we know there is a need for food. However, expensive Schooling surprises us. Schooling in Tijuana includes transportation, uniforms, shoes, books and projects. Understandably everyday food and schooling form their priorities and take their wages.
That leaves no money for medical emergencies! All emergencies start out with a cost for transportation, and end with a costly prescription. Transportation by bus or cab is expensive! Unfortunately they wait until the last minute to move!
Consequently, a good part of the money you send us is spent on medical emergencies. For instance if your child has asthma or bronchitis, taking him to an emergency clinic or hospital to get a nebulizer treatment; (the transportation $1.70) the treatment runs about $50. (A weeks wage.) In the long run its cheaper to buy a nebulizer and medication.
One of our mothers had to rush her child to the hospital using public transportation (bus and cab) ... and her little boy was vomiting blood! She had to beg some transportation money to get home to her other kids.
I remember one day, taking a mother and her several month old baby to the hospital ... in route the baby died! Dehydrated too long!
These are the people in our backyard, so close yet so far away. Where are our rich churches?
Thursday, January 15, 2015
It's so easy to take blessings for granted; often we forget that blessings come in different sizes and shapes; often at odd times. Gratitude isn't just a word it's an attitude ... a feeling. A good and healthy feeling.
Because our ministry is that of giving, on most occasions we receive a gracious response. Hundreds of people, large and small, show their appreciation for our help. On most occasions it's a smile and gracias, and that's sufficient. The people, even little people show their gratitude.
More than once I caught a "bug" working in Mexico. Now that I'm older these "bugs" are easier to get and harder to shake. My latest was a chest cough; when I start coughing it sounded bad and looked worse. At an orphanage one night I had a coughing attack. Suddenly the kids got a chair, pulled me towards it, and sat me on it, other kids were patting me on the back. Eight pairs of eyes intently looking at my face ... a sudden response, a loving response, from kids who love me. Gratitude in a different form. I can still feel those little pats on my back.
On other occasions, I might add, many occasions, we know we hit the Divine moment of need when we slip a little financial help in the hands of a lady and suddenly there is an emotional breakdown ... a river of tears and a tight hug! Gracias! Gracias!! And the story flows out of how the unknown need was met by our gift. In most cases Hortensia is the one who gets the tears and hugs.
But she's not alone.
I remember late one afternoon driving back from a visit to Ijido, a rather isolated community ... a cold and muddy barrio of poor people living in shacks. As I was driving home, I saw Jose up the road, slowly riding toward me on his muddy bike. I pulled over to say "Hi," and in our short conversation I felt led to slip him a ten dollar bill ... he held it. Looked at it, and looked up at me ... then the tears started flowing and the story followed. He hadn't gotten paid and there was no food in his house. Gracias! Gracias!! Hermano von! Another Divine moment. One in many, many other moments.
These are moments I can't capture by film. I don't take pictures of sacred moments like this. Filming true gratitude is sort of tricky and can look canned.
Forgive me for not taking more time to let you all know how appreciative the poor are for your financial help.
Translated: Kids medical emergencies and prescriptions, transportation to hospital, the times of no-food or no drinking water, no school shoes or books, leaking roofs, etc.
Thank you so much.
Thursday, January 08, 2015
He's about seventeen now. Ugly. Terribly burned and crippled. This is Internet, so I won't use his name or photo (I have in the past).
When he was a little tot sitting in the car his father was working on, his father carelessly threw a lighted cigarette in the front seat where there was an open can of gas ... the gas ignited and spilled over the seat and over the little boy.
Badly burned, he was flown by helicopter to Shriners Hospital in the U.S in critical condition. Almost died. Years of painful medical visits to the U.S have helped Improve his physical condition.
He contacted Hortensia yesterday. Wanted to talk. It seems his father was beating and kicking his mother (He often does this). and the boy could take it no longer, he hit his father ... at school he had to become a pretty good fighter as he was always ridiculed. The fight ended with His father forcing him out of the house ... "your useless, ugly and just another mouth to feed ... Leave!"
He's staying with his grandmother in her small house. That isn't working out. He wants a job, a place to stay.
Can you imagine the life this kid's lived? Think you have it bad? The other siblings have to watch their mother get beaten regularly.
"Hortensia I can work. I can sweep the floor and clean things ... I've cleaned bathrooms before, I'm willing to work!"
Hortensia gave him a few dollars and said "Come Wednesday morning and see Pastor von ... we'll see what we can do" ... Try and sleep with that on your mind.
Too often issues like this come up. Each one unique. Each one takes the wisdom of Solomon ... and often his pocket book. Now what would Jesus do? What should a Christian do? What can von do?