Home Mission Assignment

The month of February & March we were in the United States completing our first ever HMA, Home Missions Assignment. HMA is designed for missionaries to return to their home country and reconnect with supporters, supporting churches, raise additional funds needed in order to stay on their field of service, and to get some rest. The length of time a missionary is on HMA depends on the missions organization requirements and on how much money the missionary needs to raise.

In a period of two months we tried to do what most missionaries would take six months to a year to do. It was exhausting, but also very rewarding to reconnect with people & churches that we love dearly.

Here is the breakdown of our trip:

*We visited 5 different churches and traveled to 4 different states

* We spoke on a radio show about the importance of cross-cultural communication (click on the link to listen if you missed it! We come in at the 30 minute mark)

*Attended a missions conference at Christ Community Church in Carmel, Indiana, where we were able to reconnect with other MTW missionaries that serve in other parts of the world.

*Gave a presentation about our work in Mexico approx. 15 times.

*Went out to lunch/dinner with current supporters and friends that we haven’t seen in a long time approx. 20 times

* Got our family pictures taken by the amazing Nathan & Ashley Siner from The Siners photography. Check out their blog. The Siners are awesome!

http://www.thesiners.com/blog/indianapolis-family-photographer-jesch-family/

*Shared our love for Mexico & missions with two different youth groups and at an elementary missionary club (which Mateo was a part of the year we left for Colombia!)

*Spent a few days on the beach in Florida with our best friends!

We arrived back to Mexico exhausted, but with full hearts and very thankful for the experience. We want to welcome our new supporters and say thank you once again to those who have been with us for some time now!

Enjoy the pictures! Thanks for joining us on this journey!

Life in Guad #1

When we lived in Bogotá, I did a blog series called “Things You See in Bogotá.” The series highlighted the different kinds of things that you see there that we do not necessarily see in the United States of America, or more specifically, in the Midwest.

I’ve decided that it is time to start my Mexico version of that blog series. This time it’ll be called “Life in Guad” and it will feature things we see all of the time that have become totally normal to us now (like 5 people on one motorcycle!), people we love, foods we eat, lessons about the culture & language, etc. Our hope is that this blog series will give you, our readers, a true glimpse into our lives here in Guadalajara!

So here is the first post of “Life in Guad” and yes, of course, it is about FOOD!

We LOVE Mexican food! I grew up eating homemade tortillas, chicken & rice & beans, fajitas, carne asada, and chorizo & eggs. But as I got older, meat started to gross me out. So at 17 years old, I stopped eating red meat, pork, & sea food. I still eat chicken, although I am very picky about it. And I do like turkey bacon 😉

I knew enough about Latin American culture before moving to Mexico that food is an important part of relationship building & that refusing to eat something that someone has made for you is extremely offensive. So I prayed….a lot. The last thing I wanted to do is offend someone because I don’t eat meat. I have asked the Lord to simply help me eat what I have to eat in the times that I have to eat something that I absolutely hate. And trust me…there have been those times.

Like the other day when I ate “escamoles”, a Mexican delicacy known to most of you as “ANT EGGS.”

Look like cous cous right???

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Well trust me…I love cous cous and escamoles do not taste the same! The only way I was able to get this down is because I ate it with guacamole & a tortilla. Answered prayer. Thank you Lord.

Also that day I had to eat a pork taco…but we won’t talk about that anymore. I’m still scarred.

So how can someone who hates meat love Mexican food?

Well…have you ever tried a tlacoyo? It is like a super thick tortilla. Top it with cactus & guacamole and eat it with beans….delicious!

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What about molletes? How can you go wrong with bread, beans, cheese, and pico de gallo? You just can’t. Trust me.

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Chilaquiles for breakfast? They look like a version of nachos…and they basically are. You can get them plain or topped with egg or chicken. Every bite is an explosion of so much yummy flavor!

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And of course…tamales! Most people don’t know that tamales can be made sweet as well. I’ve tried pineapple, coconut, strawberry, chocolate, & cranberry.

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There is a lady that sells tamales on the street near our house for $10 pesos each. They. Are. Amazing. Every single night she sets up her table, unloads her van with huge pots of piping hot, fresh tamales and proceeds to make a killing! People stand in line for hours to get her tamales. The first time I went, my friend & I stood in the rain for an hour! It was worth it.

Of course, Matt & Mateo love the tacos here! Tacos de arrachera, de chorizo, y pastor. Basically translated….meat, meat, & meat!

This is what tacos in Mexico look like:

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Contrary to popular belief…tacos are not made with cheese! Just a corn tortilla, meat, onion, cilantro, and of course, lime. (or as we say here…lemon 🙂 )

As with the ant eggs, there are delicacies here that I most definitely do not want to voluntarily try because of the “gross factor”. Matt got brave the other day and ordered “crickets” with the guacamole.

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Yep…gross. Matt ate many. Mateo tried one. I tried zero.

Then there is “pulpo”….which I’ll let you guess by the picture what it is.

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Praying right now that I never, ever, have to try it.

So as you can see, there is a variety of food in Mexico that is both yummy & in my opinion…gross. (and I haven’t even told you about how they use ALL of the parts of the cow in their soups & stuff. And when I say all…I mean ALL.)

Because I try to be a “healthy eater” overall…I am extremely grateful that fruits & vegetables here are dirt cheap and super fresh. Most nights…this is what you would see in my kitchen:

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That’s some goodness right there!

Come visit us and we promise to feed you some super yummy Mexican food! And if you are an adventurous eater…you may end up eating a cow tongue, a cricket, or some octopus!

On turning 40

Yesterday I turned 40 years old. Did you hear what I just said??? 40! The BIG 4-0! How did that even happen?

Like every other “young person” I grew up thinking that 40-year olds were really old. I remember going to birthday parties of people turning 40 and the theme was always “over the hill.” What does that even mean anyway? One definition says “no longer able to do something at an acceptable level because of age; past your/its prime.” Another one simply says “too old for something.” Ouch!

While aging is a natural process of life that we all must just accept (because like it or not…it’s going to happen), I am grateful that I am aging well. I always wondered what I would look like when I was 40. Would I look like a mom? (not even sure what that means!) Would I have gray hair? Would I have wrinkles? Would my husband still find me attractive? I’m here to report that the answer to all of those questions is…..YES! 🙂

To be honest…I wasn’t really excited about celebrating the fact that I was 40. This was me in the morning:

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Yep…cute huh?

But then I decided to go for a run and do a really good workout, so I started to feel like “ok…I got this! 40 ain’t got nuttin’ on me!”

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Later in the evening my boys took me out to dinner. This gave me a perfect excuse to do my hair & makeup! And yes…I need an excuse to do my hair & makeup anymore. It doesn’t just happen just because 🙂

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I love these 3 pictures because they accurately reflect the 3 different stages of my life that you would find me in at 40 years old! I either look like I just woke up, like I’m going out for a run, or I actually took time to do my hair & makeup!

(Side note: one of Mateo’s friends from school guessed I was 28 years old! I love that kid 🙂 )

Why do we fear aging or getting old? I think I know why, for me, 40 is hitting me hard.

*My brother died when he was 38. I cannot even imagine what it was like for his wife and kids to lose him at such a young age. I have already lived 2 years longer than my oldest brother. Kind of blows my mind to think about it, really.

*I always thought at 40 I would have a bigger family. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so unbelievably grateful for my husband and for the one son we have on this earth. But I would be lying if I said that the fact that I have two babies in Heaven, and not here with us, doesn’t bother me….all. the. time. I would have loved for Mateo to have siblings. He would have loved that too! I know that being 4o doesn’t make it automatically impossible to have children, but with my condition, it makes it that much harder.

*My body is definitely changing! Metabolism is slowing down, I don’t sleep as well as I use to, and I have to wear these weird socks to bed at night!

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Well, I’m just giving away all of my lovely secrets aren’t I??? I have plantar fasciitis in both of my heels, which developed from running so much. These socks hold my feet in a slightly stretched position which is supposed to help eliminate some of the pain I feel on a daily basis. I know….you’re jealous 😉

*And since my mom’s passing, no matter what birthday I am celebrating, it will be without her. All day yesterday I longed to get a call from my mom telling me happy birthday. It’s a weird thing to long for, knowing that it is never going to happen.

But I have to say, at the end of the day, as I was celebrating with the two most important people in my life, all I could feel was blessed.

I mean, here I am, living in Mexico, living my dream of being a missionary and serving God full-time with an amazing husband and awesome son! What more could I ask for? So many friends. So many children in my life. So many amazing experiences. So many blessings.

Honestly, if I died today, I would die the happiest woman on earth. So completely filled with joy. I want for nothing. Need for nothing. Because God has given me everything I could possibly want or need.

So….here’s to being 40 years old! I’ve decided to embrace it and continue to count my blessings. Every second, every hour, every day is a gift. I don’t want to miss a thing in this life cause I was too busy worrying about being fat, being old, or my gray hair. There are too many people in my life to love on, to cherish, and to spend time with. There are races to be ran….and praise God that I still have the ability to run! There are mountains to climb, trails to hike, and silly nerf wars to play with my son. There are people who need to hear about Jesus! I don’t want to miss a thing.

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And can we just talk about how handsome my husband is??? I mean….sheesh! He turns 40 in December. I think he’s got this.

I am blessed.

Vacation Bible School 2015

It was Cristo Salvador’s first time to ever put on a VBS! With being a small church & getting a very late start on the planning, the odds were stacked against us as to whether or not we could pull off a VBS that was fun, exciting, & completely centered around Christ. Well…prayers were answered and the 3-day VBS was a success! All praise to God! We are grateful to the 5 volunteers from Project Kids Network in Indianapolis, Indiana that came down for the week to help us plan & execute the Vacation Bible School. Their help was greatly appreciated and they did such a great job with the kids! We also have the best interns a missionary could ever dream of, seriously. (More on our interns in another post!) With everyone working together, including a few ladies from the church, we were able to have a great 3 days with the children from the community. Many contacts were made and the children learned about Jesus! A few of the children were very disappointed that it was only 3 days and all of them were very sad that the Americans were leaving. The biggest reward for us was seeing a brother & sister from VBS walk into church Sunday morning with their mom & dad! The dad of the little boy commented to one of the interns that he saw such a big change in his child during the 3 days that he was with us that he had to come to the church to see what we were all about! Thank you Jesus!!!

(Click on each picture if you would like to see it bigger)

Our interns created a skit that they performed each day which included the superhero characters of “La Chica Fuerte”, “El Doctor Hielo”, and “El Gran Grito”. And of course, you cannot have superheroes without a villain, so there was also “El Señor Sombra.” It was seriously hilarious and by the end of day 3 all the children had fallen in love with the superheroes!

Project Kids Network brought two parachutes with them from the United States that we were able to use during the VBS. The children absolutely loved it! We started each day by playing games with them.

A very important part of the day was the Bible lesson time. The children were taught about God’s love and various truths from God’s Word. Our teachers were amazing!

And of course….no VBS is complete without games, music, & crafts!

Many of you prayed for this VBS and we could not be more grateful! Contacts were made, friendships were formed, and Jesus was proclaimed! May God continue to use us for His glory!

Crossroads Community Church

With many tears, we said goodbye to our first short-term team yesterday. This team was “extra special” because they are from our home church in Indianapolis, Indiana. We had such a great week serving together. Crossroads has done such a great job of loving us, supporting us, & encouraging us! We are already looking forward to their next visit!

Here is a recap of what we did:

Our church in Mexico, Cristo Salvador, was very excited about the group coming. They planned a worship service both in English & in Spanish (Carly, one of the youth from the group, had the opportunity to sing with the worship team) and one of the women from the congregation translated the sermon for the group. After the service, the whole church shared a meal together. It was such a beautiful picture of our two worlds coming together; our church family in the states and our church family here.
(You can click on each picture to see it better)

Sunday evening we had the incredible opportunity to go downtown and pass out food & clothing to the homeless, drug addicts, & prostitutes. One of our MTW team members, Paul Fisher, started this ministry 9 years ago and welcomed us to join him. Some from the group were moved to tears at the poverty & brokenness that they saw with their own two eyes. Many came to be fed, and many came just to talk. We prayed with one lady and tried to encourage many others.

Monday-Wednesday the group cleaned up the park that is right across the street from the church. This was a HUGE blessing because no one ever takes care of it and it is always filled with so much trash!

If you have followed our journey at all, then you already know about the orphanage out in Camichines. This ministry has a huge place in our hearts! We had the opportunity to take the group to the Ranchito con Esperanza for the entire day! We split into 3 groups: some loaded big rocks into the trucks to be hauled & dumped at a different site, some shoveled sand/gravel to be dumped at a different site, and others helped prepare lunch for the entire group. And of course…we played with the kids! We heard from Chuy Acosta, the director of the orphanage, how the ministry got started and some of the struggles they face every day with helping these children. Some of the children come to them from very abusive situations. It helped us gain a better understanding of how we can pray for and support this ministry. We ended the day by eating yummy tortas cubanas from a street stand in the neighboring town. Overall, it was such a great day but we were exhausted!

One of the highlights for the youth on the team was working at one of the local schools in the area of the city called Moctezuma. Two of our pastor’s daughters go to the school that is within walking distance from the church. He spoke with the director of the school and they agreed to allow us to come into the school for 3 afternoons and clean up the grounds and play with the kids at recess time. The goal behind this idea was to make contacts with the children and invite them to VBS in July, since these kids live in the area of the church. Well…it worked! The kids were SUPER excited about the Americans being there and by day 3, they were sad that we had to leave. On the last day, every single student wanted our autographs! Did I mention there were close to 400 students at this school?? We gave each of them a wordless bracelet; it explains the gospel using colors. They were so grateful for this gift. And we were so grateful for the opportunity to serve at that school! One of the children showed up at the church a few days later!

This was an amazing team. We really, truly mean that. They never complained (even though their sleeping arrangements were less than ideal and they had to deal with the effects of rainy season!), they loved all the food, and they were hard workers. They jumped right in, fearless, and served with their whole hearts. The biggest highlight for us personally, the Jesch family, was watching the impact the group had on our pastor & his family. Marco & Arely have 3 daughters and they worked with us the whole week. The last day, when the group had to leave, all of them were crying. Pastor Marco told the group that it is evident that they have the Holy Spirit in them. Arely told them that their presence in that church & their service renewed her passion for serving the Lord. This is a HUGE blessing! Full-time ministry is hard work and can be very discouraging. They loved being with our team and there was non-stop laughter! God used this team to encourage the hearts of our pastor & his family.

Having a team from our home church come to Guadalajara was a dream come true for us. All the years of planning, praying, & talking about it…and then it finally happened! It was better than we even imagined it would be. We were reminded so much throughout the week about how much God loves to bless His children. We were so incredibly blessed by this team and we are grateful that they wanted to come and serve with us.

Thank you Crossroads Community Church for an amazing week! We love you!!

My Missionary Hero

Two days ago one of the most influential Christian women of the 20th century died.

Elisabeth Elliot was married to Jim Elliot when he was killed doing missionary work in Ecuador. Most already know the story well. Jim had a desire to share the gospel with the unreached people group called the “Aucas.” He and four other missionaries entered Auca territory, and after a friendly contact with three tribe members, all 5 missionaries were speared to death.

What happened after this terrible incident is what makes this story remarkable, in my opinion. Elisabeth chose to stay in Ecuador with their then 10 month old daughter and work with the Quichua Indians. Through God’s providence, she met two Auca women (from the tribe that speared her husband) and they ended up living with her for a year. They were the key to her going back to the Auca tribe and living with them for two years.

Jim & Elisabeth Elliot were the first missionaries that I ever learned about after becoming a Christian. Their story inspired me in my love for missions. They are clear examples of love & sacrifice at all cost for our Lord. I am extremely grateful for the missionaries that have gone before me, paved the way so to speak, leaving these footprints to follow, leaving a legacy that inspires me to be a “better missionary.”

I am also extremely grateful that I have a real life, modern day example, of a missionary that inspires me to be better, that lives her life for the Lord each and every day, that gives so unselfishly, that is a clear example of love & sacrifice at all cost for our Lord. I get to call her my friend. Actually, I call her “My Missionary Hero.”

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Jenny & I met a few years back while working at Heritage Christian school. I needed someone to chaperone our annual mission trip to Guadalajara and she was the only one of the teachers that responded with a yes! We officially met on the basketball court, while warming up for the big Teachers vs. 5th graders basketball game. It was instant friendship. We had an absolute blast on the trip and took some pretty silly pictures to prove it! The thing that I’ll never forget on that trip though, was our visit out to Camichines to meet Chuy & Amy Acosta. This couple had a vision to start an orphanage out of their home. They shared their vision with us and asked us to pray. Shortly after, Jenny was sitting off to the side by herself and I could tell that something was troubling her. I sat next to her and asked her if something was wrong. She explained to me that she felt something in that place, like God was speaking to her about possibly working with the Acosta’s in some way at the orphanage. I took her hand and we prayed. We prayed & we cried. I was super excited to see how God was going to answer that prayer.

The following summer Jenny was an intern for the Acostas. The next year after that, she moved there and started a school for the children. I watched her pour her life into loving & teaching those precious children. She did it so well. She did it so unselfishly. The school year that just ended marked her 5th year & last year there.

I’ve done a lot of reflecting on Jenny’s time in Camichines and what she has taught me through her ministry there.

#1-Prayer-I cannot think of Jenny without thinking of what a prayer warrior she is! She has taught me so much about just praying & trusting God with the details. She lives it and it’s inspiring.

#2-Die to self-never have I known someone so unselfish than Jenny. She poured every ounce of her into the children. She is satisfied with very little. She doesn’t ask for much.

#3-Love-she loves BIG! It’s like her life motto is “Go big or go home!” If she loves & cares about you, you know it! She always makes you feel loved & very special.

#4-Servant-Well, I do believe that “servant” is Jenny’s middle name! She is the epitome of what a servant should be. She has taught me servanthood is something to be honored.

#5-Above all, she is humble. She absolutely hates that I call her my missionary hero! She definitely doesn’t feel worthy of that title, but her humbleness just proves my point! She wants zero recognition, zero glory, zero honor. She just wants to see children enter into a relationship with Jesus and live their lives with hope!

God has called Jenny into a different ministry. Next month she will become a wife! As sad as I am to see her go, I can’t help but be extremely grateful for the footprints she has left on my heart; the footprints that lead me directly to Christ. Because of her example, I have been inspired in my own missionary journey. I can only hope to spur others on for the cause of Christ as Jenny has done for me.

Jenny, I love you! I’m excited for you and this next phase of your life with Phil. Thank you for inspiring me to be more like Jesus in how I serve on the mission field. You have done well, good & faithful servant.

(Jenny is featured in the video below about the orphanage in Camichines. Click on the link so you can see all of the cute faces she got to teach & inspire every day!)

March Update

Been kind of quiet on the blog lately simply because of busyness! Decided to post our latest update/newsletter for those who are not on our mailing list! Thank you for loving on our family and for praying for us. We are forever grateful.

Here’s what’s been going on with us:

Matt:
Matt has been working at the Mercadito on Saturdays, teaching carpentry and learning the ropes with working with wood here. His dream, his vision, is to start a trade school in the area around our church. We need to find a building suitable to have a carpentry class and then additional classes of other trades in the future.

Since learning Spanish will be a life-long process for all of us, we continue to study & learn as much as we can every day. Matt is currently on week 2 of a 4-week semi-intensive Spanish course through the University of Guadalajara. He is learning a lot and growing in his ability to speak. He practices quite a bit, especially at the weekly leadership meetings at church and when he meets with a friend from church to practice. In a couple of weeks, he will start participating in the church services. We appreciate your continued prayers in this area.

Matt recently went to the states for a week to receive the leadership training that is offered through MTW. Because of bad weather in Dallas, he ended up being stranded for 3 days! We were all happy when he got home! We are not sure how the Lord is going to use this leadership training in Matt’s future, so we would appreciate you praying with us about that.

Estefana:
March is a very big month for Estefana! She finished up a two-week intensive Spanish course through the University of Guadalajara which was fantastic! She grew in her speaking abilities and met some wonderful Japanese students! She started teaching children’s Sunday School last week and will begin teaching Women’s Bible study on March 24th. Obviously, this will be done all in Spanish! This is her dream and she’s very excited about it, yet nervous because she still struggles with being confident in her ability to speak Spanish.

Estefana is also involved in 3 women’s Bible studies, one is English and two in Spanish. The English study is with the missionary wives that serve here in Guadalajara, led by Sandy Trotter. They just started a new study in the book by Nancy Guthrie called “The Wisdom of God.” In the Spanish study with the ladies at church, they are studying the women of the Old & New Testament. This is the study that she will be participating in as a leader. The other Spanish study is at a friend’s house that she met through Mateo’s school. This group of women have been a huge blessing in her life! They are studying being at the feet of Jesus.

If you know Estefana well, you know that she likes to run! She recently completed a half-marathon (the first of many in Guadalajara we’re sure!) with a couple of her friends. She is excited to be running a virtual race with Matt’s uncle who lives in Florida, and his sister who lives in Indiana. They formed a team called “2 Chicks & An Old Man” and together will share the responsibility of running 2,015 miles in the year 2015. So far they are doing great! It has been a great way for her to stay connected to family and do something “fun” together!

Mateo:
Mateo is doing very well in his school. It’s hard to believe that school will be over in 3 months! He has a lot of friends at school, but we are praying that the Lord would bless him with a really close friend. We know that making a good friend like that can take time, but this is something that he has really missed here.

He decided not to play soccer this year because he wanted to try basketball. Never having played organized basketball before, we were curious as to how he would do. We have seen him grow in his abilities a ton this season. He is a natural athlete. We were proud of him when his coach made him captain!

Recently, Mateo expressed interest in playing the drums or some sort of percussion type instrument with the worship team at church. Upon hearing of his interest, he was invited to practice with the team and ended up playing the bongos the next day during the service! He did a great job and we are really looking forward to seeing how the Lord will use this in his life to serve at the church.

Chuy:
Chuy is doing great and growing SO fast! Last visit to the vet he weighed in at 29 kilos! He loves to chew on everything, living up to his name. He runs 2 miles every morning with his momma and he loves to play with other dogs!

Cristo Salvador-Our church:
We really love our church and have enjoyed getting to know people the past few months. It’s really nice to have a church home again. We are a small church, averaging about 40 people on any given Sunday, but our hope & prayer is to grow! This summer our church is hosting a VBS for the very first time! This is a very big deal that we would appreciate your prayers on! Pray that it would draw people from the neighborhood to the church.

Click on the link below to watch a short informational video on our church:

http://cristoredentormx.jimdo.com/ministerios/cristo-salvador/

Summer teams/interns:
This summer we are really looking forward to having two teams come to work with us! The first team is from our home church in Indianapolis, Crossroads Community Church. It has been a dream of ours for quite some time to be here and a receive a team from our church, so we are super excited! They will be doing a lot of work in helping us prepare for VBS. The other team is a new partnership with Project Kids Network. PKN is a non-profit organization that coordinates volunteer programs that serve the youth in developing countries. They will be helping run the VBS, as well as, spend some time helping at the orphanage.

We will be also be hosting some interns this summer (all former students of Estefana’s that have been to Guadalajara with us on former trips!) We are so humbled that these students want to come back and continue to work with us now that we live here. It is an absolute joy for us to receive them because they are pretty much a part of our family anyways!

Words cannot accurately express our gratitude for your prayers and support! We thank the Lord daily for your commitment in giving & praying for our family.