Tuesday, January 29, 2013

God Answers Prayer

Our Church Sunday January 25, 2013
I've been praying for our church family that we all would grow more mature in our faith walk. I've wanted to have a series of lessons on spiritual gifts and serving Jesus, but if they are just coming to church to hang out with other deaf people, the jobs that they are given will be "duties", not an opportunity to give part of themselves to the work of the Lord. They will think the job interferes with their goal of socializing.  I don't want them to grudgingly feel obligated to help in some way. I want them to WANT to help so that in helping they are giving back to God.

I've also been praying that they learn to read God's Word. Since the new year began I have been passing out a list of daily Bible readings. These are thematically based on the readings we used for  Friday and Saturday night Bible studies.  Not many are reading the verses, yet, but I am confident if I don't give up, God will add to the number of people who are reading their Bibles and praying.  Spiritual maturity has to begin with listening and talking to God. I see some progress. Last Sunday Martha stood up at the testimony time and paraphrased one of the verses she had read that week.  Today Alva stopped by my house to get an NCV Bible.  It's hard for many to read anything, but just one verse a day and to pray, I think is doable.

About a month ago Phyllis and Galen Groff told me that the Mennonite Church in Hopkins is growing because, they said, the pastor is praying. I thought, of course the pastor is praying...
but I wasn't praying enough.  After seeing the number of men dwindle we got the women together to pray specifically for some of the men.  Some of us even fasted.   God is faithful  He wants us to pray because he wants us to know his power and love.  Otherwise, we think when good things happen it is just coincidence.  If we pray and see a difference we can say, "Look what God has done!"  It gives him glory and recognizes His faithfulness. So I continue to pray and testify to God's answers.

Please pray with us that we will all mature in faith.  So that next year when we celebrate 2014 we will look back and say, "Look how far we've come!".

Alma lighting a candle as part of our worship on Sunday.
I realllllly wanted to use helium balloons but I couldn't think of anywhere in Orange Walk that sells them. We have been talking about forgiving one another. This last Sunday's sermon was based on Matthew 5:21-25, the passage that is familiar because of the line "Leave your gift at the altar and go make peace with your brother."  I tried to talk about anger and conflict resolution. Part of conflict resolution is eventually "letting go" of past hurts and injustices and choosing to go on from this point where we are right now. That's why I wanted the balloons. Gee, the symbolism would have been great: all of us standing outside the church clutching our hurts and letting them go....up to Heaven.  Instead, though, I invited anyone who wanted prayer to come forward and I prayed for them to have the courage to face the conflict and talk about it with the person they were mad at....to try to resolve it.  Those who came forward were invited to light candles as a symbol of giving the conflict to God, or the hurt, or frustration.  It was just a beginning. The whole idea of resolving conflict instead of complaining about the person to a third party, or denying the conflict even exists is new.   Evenso, I am " confident of this, that he who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Kristel's Quinceanera

                                    Last Sunday we celebrated Kristel's Quinceanera.  Her family chose to have a traditional ceremony that recognized that Kristel is now a young woman and no longer a child. She danced in a formal way with various boys because she is now "allowed to date",  and she made a public commitment to follow Jesus .  It began with a worship service at our church.  Kristel and her court of 4 boys and 4 girls as well as her parents and her godparents, processed into the church.  Everyone was dressed in matching purple dresses that were made by a neighbor.  The beginning of the ceremony resembled a wedding march.

The worship service included songs signed by Deaf friends, an opportunity for people to come forward to share a memory of Kristel when she was younger, a dream, or a compliment and the last section where Kristel confessed her faith and promised to try to make God choices and follow Jesus.  This part of the ceremony was followed by a commitment to purity and being given a purity ring by her mother.

This is Kristel and her court outside of the church after the service.

When the church service was over we went to Crystal Palace (a huge reception hall) which was decorated beautifully with purple and white sways of cloth and balloons.  At the reception Kristel's court processed in again with their procession dance, then they danced together symbolically with each boy having a chance to dance with Kristel.  At the end of the dance Kristel danced with her father and then others. 
We ate lots of different traditional foods: pabil, cerviche, rice and beans with beef and chicken.  Eventually Kristel cut her elaborate cake that was made by her sister-in-law.

 It was a night Kristel will remember forever. 

Note: Brittany also blogged about this event with terrific pictures and more details, if you want to see more go to her blog at http://brittanylentz.wordpress.com/

The party was fun but the part I enjoyed watching the most was getting the girls ready for the big event. They had first measurements and then fittings for their dresses. Sulmi had a pedicure, got her hair done, had the haridresser put on her make-up.  They felt as pretty as princesses.  It was fun to see that confidence in all of the girls.  Below are a few of the getting ready pics.

Yikes! They are growing up so fast!

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year's Eve

Several years ago I started the tradition of having a New Year's Eve party at my house as an alternative to what many do here, which is to gather with friends to drink whole bottles(plural) of rum (usually mixed with Coke). Because some of our young adults find that is a huge temptation, I thought having a party might show them that fun can be had without the rum.

Our party started at 8:00PM and continued til midnight. We had about 15 people (mostly the young, singles). Everyone laughed and became involved in the "Minute-to-Win-It" games, eating snacks and pizza and chatting. When one boy showed up late, a little drunk (or maybe very drunk) I realized that their attempts to resist temptation have to come from within them with dependence on the Holy Spirit.  Each one has to choose to invite God into his decision-making or run helter-skelter doing whatever feels cool.  As much as I would like to somehow manipulate the decision-making by throwing a party, etc., ultimately the choice comes from each of them.

Even though I was forced to realize that I really cannot prevent anyone from falling, it was good to see that the boy who was drunk, came anyway.  It was good to see 14 of our deaf members make a choice to stay alcohol free that night.  It was also wonderful to have fun together in a relaxed playful way.  Here are some pics:

"Marshmallow Toss"


 "Baby Blockin'"

"Baby Blockin'"

 "Blow Hard"


 Breakfast puzzle

 "Noodling Around"

 Elisabeth doing "A Bit Dicey."
 Joshue slept through all of the noise.

 This game is called "Defy Gravity".  We did it as teams.  After the games we went to the park to light the packs of cherry bombs Alejandro brought and shine the light wands that Sulmi got for Christmas.  Happy New Year everybody!!!

May the Peace of Christ Reign in your Hearts


We were blessed with a meaningful reminder of the birth of our Savior.  It was a lot of gathering times, but everyone kept coming to the events and commenting about the blessing of being together.  On Sunday December 23rd we had our annual pageant worship.   We read scripture, sang songs and re-enacted the Christmas story.   This was proceeded by a rehearsal on Saturday night. ARGH!  How confusing that was, but on Sunday morning when the actors prayed, I said, "Just let God lead.  If anyone goofs in what they are supposed to say, it's ok.  It's worship.  God knows the story."

It all came together!  I was awed at how some of the people who were most confused on Saturday did their part with ease.  Glory to God.  The service ended with everyone singing "O, Come Let us Adore Him." I felt many of us were speaking the words from our hearts.

The next day was Christmas Eve.   I don't have any pictures from that day...I brought the camera but got wrapped up in the moment.  We arrived at church at 8 PM...ate snacks and watched the hour and a half  movie "The Nativity".  The movie was a great visual of the whole Christmas story.  After briefly talking about what was in the movie that was "new" to us, or made us think, we gathered around the table in the front of the church and lit an advent wreath that was encircled with about 15 candles.   That light was enough to see each others faces and hands.  We sang carols, prayed, anyone who wanted to shared something, (Sulmi said, "Ok everybody tomorrow morning when you open presents be sure to remember that Jesus is the reason we are celebrating"  ahhh she's an angel sometimes.  Juan, too, who is usually quiet, shared about treasuring Jesus in his heart.)...and we ended the night with Brittany leading us in "O, Holy Night."  

I could have left it at that but...several of the boys had firecrackers in their pockets that they were eager to send off...so we went outside and they made some noise and we saw some fireworks lighting the sky and heard loud cherry bomb firecrackers from all over the neighborhood going off simultaneously.

It was a Holy night.