Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Preparing Well, July 2011 by Lori

It's GREAT to see one's work paying off. For over two years I've been working with a group of teenage girls who desire to minister to children. There have been several teaching and prepping days as I've sought to instill in them Jesus' model of loving the "little ones". Last week, Alma, the group leader, voiced to us how the Lord had been speaking to her about "going the extra mile" when ministering by REALLY preparing well. So, the girls (by themselves) spent hours pulling together songs, making a memory verse game and creating crafts for outreaches into a migrant camp. How wonderful to tag along to see the fruit of their labor. Please pray for these young ladies as they grow in their ministry skills.

A Well Oiled Machine, July 2011

One of the biggest challenges of the sewing ministry is keeping the machines in working order in a dry, dusty environment. So, about every 6 months all the machines need to be cleaned, oiled and adjusted. In preparation for the Aug. sewing week, I've spent a couple of days doing just that. Not fun, but it's like changing oil on your vehicle; either you do it when you should or regret it later. Now, it's time to move onto making samples for the class.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Mash-up of Anniversaries: Bajmission, Marcos Witt

18July, Chris in Chula Vista

Mushy warning: This blog may get real, REAL sappy… but here goes.

I’m sitting here, irritating the neighbors with loud worship music… Marcos Witt’s new CD celebrating his 25th year in worship ministry is blasting, lifting up the songs that the Lord gave Marcos as part of the most amazing cultural revolution in the Church of the last 50 years… the Latino worship movement… American churches have NO idea…

I’m gushing because this CD is a blast of memories for me of the goodness of God in our 20 years in Latin America, and my becoming a Latino Christian in my heart…

When God ‘called’ us to missions back in the 80’s, we were very involved in Christian music. Guitar player, concerts, recordings… So when God calls us to Mexico in 1991… it looked like I was going to have to give up the whole ‘music thing’ to serve.

Little did I know that God has a huge, HUGE sense of humor, and was opening the door for us to experience one of the most amazing worship movements of the last century on the planet from Ground Zero.

Our first week in Juarez, 1991, in the beat-up YWAM base, this guy bags on our door… “Hey, wanna go to Vino Nuevo for a worship concert with this guy called Marcos?” “Hey, sure” We had NO idea that we were entering history… that night was the live recording of Marcos Witt (and major choir, the ‘Te Exaltamos’ project) which went on to be one of the fundamental ‘must learn and know’ group of songs that the Lord was using to equip the Latino church with a new song and a new voice in worship. We were there, learning. I met this crazy guy Marcos that night; he spoke flawless Spanish and English… 100% consumed with worshipping God…
[I still joke that if you listen close, you can hear Lori and I and our daughters singing on that recording…]

We move to Tijuana in early 1992, and what church do we end up at? Same one a dozen pro musicians and recording/sound tekkies who tour/record/work with Marcos are a big part. They drew us in to their circle.

Iglesia Evangelica San Pablo became our home for a decade, and that circle of friends meant we (Lori + I + our kids) were very involved in the Latino worship world, centered around the worshipping community there. They are now all life-long friends. Yep, Marcos came through a bunch. There were ‘Noches de Celebracion con Marcos Witt y su Grupo’. Some of the band stayed at our house. We played music together. Lori crafted a huge, artsy ‘Jesus’ banner as a concert back-drop; it ended being taken around Mexico. I stage-managed events. We still help out at similar ‘Noches’… 22,000-people worshipping in the arena is quite something…

I am incredibly grateful to Marcos. He helped teach me Spanish. With each recording and new song, I had to learn new words, new phrases and new intonations. Sometimes it was ‘have to’, because the release of a Marcos Witt recording was a major event in the Latino church. We all had to learn every word and musical chord ‘by heart’, because those songs would become the ‘worship song vernacular’ wherever we would play or be the ‘lead worshippers’. Marcos also taught me a lot on leading Latinos into a place of worship.

I will never forget when we (the ‘Grupo de Alabanza’) were huddled around a boom-box, getting the first listen to the new song “Temprano Yo Te Buscare” (Early Will I Seek You)… Marcos had sent us a pre-release copy. We did that song every service for months… not because we were enamoured with the new ditty, but because every time we did the opening licks, the Holy Spirit would show up in power and do mighty things in the congregation… one of the services had all 650 people jammed in the church on their knees, hands in the air… that song went for about a half-hour… glorious!!

I was asked to lead part of the song-time in a village church on the coast of Columbia. I borrowed a guitar, and told the congregation that I would teach them a new song. Imagine my surprise when they all loudly joined in, knowing the song well. ‘How is this so?’ I wondered (a little humbled). This Marcos Witt song only came out a few months ago, and this is a verry remote village! After the service, as we ate empenadas, the pastor recounted how most of the congregation traveled over 12 hours by bus to the largest soccer stadium in the country last month for a night of worship with ‘Hermano Marcos’… then back… “we’ve been singing that song ever since.”

Somewhere along the way, I learned that worshipping the Lord as a Latino (context, culture, language, emotion, focus, style, intensity…) was a completely different experience than I knew as a Westerner. It began to spill into my private worship, into my guitar playing, into my thinking… and my acts of worship, both word and deed. Worshipping God became different, WAY more intense. Now, I’m part Latino, adopted by Jesus into the Latino community, and worship for me is forever different.

The songs coming from Marcos Witt became a major part of the soundtrack of my spiritual journey. I can’t even count the times I’ve been kneeling, praying, weeping, singing “Renuevame, Señor Jesus, ya no quiero ser igual…” (Renew me, Lord Jesus, I definitely don’t want to be the same anymore…).

I’ll never forget eating tacos with Marcos on a street-corner in Ensenada, talking ‘worship leader talk’, about how our private lives and devotions of worship will always be the watermark, and the public celebrations only (only!) flow from that… you only end up ministering what you are walking in… God is looking for sold-out worshippers…

Feliz aniversario, hermano Marcos. Gracias por todos de tus fuerzas en la musica… era un bendicion a mi, y miliones de nosotros. Thanks for being my teacher and example. Thanks for the songs, the passion, the focus, the willingness to ‘leave it all out on the field’ and that bushes burning with God-worship never run out of fuel.

You’ll have to forgive me, I want to sing along with the CD right here… Hermoso eres, mi Señor…

Tu hermanito, Cristoabal

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kingdom Gratitude 11July

Chris in San Vicente Ferrer, Mon 11 July AM

Sat, as we walked around San Vicente (to deliver something the Lord laid on my heart to a family), this other family we barely know from la Iglesia Nazareno invited us to dinner at their house...

Well, their house is a 12x12 room, a wood cooking shed and one water spicket outside the house! Of course we accepted (it's a dishonor to decine), and what a glorious time of fellowship! The husband, Francisco was gloriously saved from drug addiction a few years ago... we had a Holy Ghost meeting over hand-made tortilla and birria de res around a scrap-wood table!

I was humbled at how massively grateful he and his wife Floridina are to God for all His goodness, regardless of their struggles and having to work as tomatoe-pickers 6 days a week in the fields. The older daughter is working in the fields to make extra money to go on a missions trip with la Iglesia Nazareno in two weeks... imagine that!

Last night, my Kingdom gratitude was deepened for the amazing Grace and Mercy of God reaching into the Darkness of lives and pulling them out into Light, the Glorious light of Jesus!!

God is SOOOO good!!! The JOY of being 'in mission' with the Lord is getting to see what His Kingdom really means, outside the box of the Western context!

Gotta go, something else to do in the Village today..

your bro, Chris

Monday, July 4, 2011

20TH ANNIVERSARY PHOTOS ON BAJMISSION.COM some great photos from our 20 years out

20th Anniversary Photos... tripping thru memories

Chris in Chula Vista 4 July 2011

Hello, all! OK, little bit... Lori's BD is the 4th of July... little firecracker, she is...
For our '20th anniversary in mission service', we decided to do a little project and scan in a bunch of non-digital photos to show a bit of our 20-year journey.


What a trip thru the wires of memories!! SOOO many memories, so many people...

It made me think of taking our kids... then Ruth 10 and Hannah 5 years of age... to live in Mexico. Not just 'nice and safe Mexico', but first a really poor neighborhood next to the dump in Juarez (all the 'Juarez killings' were just starting then, in fall 1991) for 7 months, then to Tijuana and another poor region to live in. Initially, we were working in some really poor regions of TJ, like Grupo Mexico, then when the rains came and displaced 300 families, we worked with the TJ government to bring healthcare to those 300 families living in blue-tarp tents in Valle Verde... and our 2 kids with us all the time! At that same time, we began working in Tres de Octubre, one of TJ's hardest colonies to work in.

Our first trip 'home' to Michigan, I had no less than 2 'church leaders' and a number of 'concerned' church-members pull me aside and question what was going on: "it can't be God calling you, because those places are so aweful... taking your kids there? You are SOOO wrong for doing that... "


We continued on. We stayed keen to the security issues, especically for the kids.

(What turned out to be the hardest thing was the 9 times we were robbed, cleaned out twice. Always break-ins when we left the house, twice while at church. The stuff stolen from the kids was hard on them)

Of course, we did constant security assessments. We talked to our national partners/friends, and gave them blanket permission to tell us if we need to not go, or not to take our kids. They were taking their kids. They promised us to watch out for us. They did nothing less. There WERE a few times they advised us to change plans.. and we did.

Twenty years of in-your-face working in some of Baja's gnarliest places... yeah, a few tense moments, but NEVER anything unsafe.
Definitely, our two kids saw bits of the real world from the belly-up... and I think they are more grounded than many, many others...

In the mid 90's, Lori and I traveled to the midwest for the wedding of a close friend (kids were with grandparents in MI). At the reception, I ended up sitting next to a guy whose parents were missionaries in South Africa during the Apartied years. He told me a few stories from his childhood, about how growing up working with the poor, and being afforded a 'global perspective' in Africa has made all the difference in his life. He could see that I was a bit 'stewed' about all the difficulties of 'living foreign' and having our kids with us. He told me (prophetically), "never regret taking your kids out of the American comfort zone and living abroad... it makes them world citizens, and God will bless them."

That guy was totally right.

Seeing all those pictures with our kids, helping at outreaches and walking around in poor colonias on a regular basis... seeing what grounded kids they grew up to be, raising their own kids now...

I have found that when I respond to God's call, HE will 'sort' all the issues... including kids in foreign service