Thursday, November 24, 2016

Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias!

In case you're wondering, that means "Happy Thanksgiving Day" in Spanish! As I write this many of you are gathering with friends and family to celebrate one of my favorite holidays -- Thanksgiving! It hasn't fallen into the trap of commercialism or competition and remains largely about family, friends and fellowshipping around the things for which we are thankful. And I have so much to be thankful for!

I'm writing this from Las Choapas, Veracruz, Mexico where my daughter, Hope, and I visiting the "International" part of Christian Challenge International. Lori and I were privileged to be part of the missionary team that established the Agua Viva family of churches in the southern part of Mexico back in the 1980's along with Joel and Angel Dyke. What started as a small Sunday morning worship time in our living room in Coatzacoalcos has grown to become a network of churches across three Mexican states. I have the honor of personally overseeing a branch of that work that consists of 5 churches under the leadership of Pedro and Coqui Chulín, who we helped lead to the Lord and disciple.

It's been a real treat to have Hope with me on this trip. This was her first time in an airplane and she travels like a champ! We had a few significant delays, including the de-icing truck catching on fire in Alexandria which caused us to leave too late to catch our connecting flight to Mexico City. We ended up having a 10-hour layover in Atlanta, which Hope and I made the best of by leaving the airport to visit the World of Coca-Cola museum and create some memories. We then flew out of Atlanta at 7:20PM, arriving late in Mexico City - in fact it was nearly midnight by the time we collected our luggage, went through immigration and customs and finally got to our hotel. We then had to get up at 4:00AM (again!) to catch our 6:00AM Tuesday morning - only to discover that one of our suitcases didn't make the flight with us! It finally arrived on the 11:30AM flight and after collecting it we made the trip over to Las Choapas in time to eat a delicious fried fish lunch at 2:30, rest up a little bit and hit the ground running. Here are a few pictures of our travel....

The escalator from the bottom of the MARTA subway
station to the ground level is very LONG!!!

In front of the "World of Coca Cola"

Coca-cola is probably the world's most well-known product.

This Mayan pyramid was constructed as a museum on Coatzacoalcos' waterfront.

In front of the giant Mexican flag - no wind.

Hope enjoying her first ever coconut water. (I finished it for her!)
I was operating on three nights in a row of +/-4 hours sleep so I can't really tell you much about the first night, other than there were about twice as many couples as expected and the tears, hugs and kisses at the end were evidence that God was doing a healing work! I shared on Marriage Killers and Healers and watched God touch so many hearts, renewing love and giving hope. It was a great way to kick off the week! (Sorry, no pictures.)

Round-table discussion after the teaching.
Wednesday morning I went to a pastors' breakfast while Hope went with the family of Dr. Cesar and Fanny Marin to see the Revolution Day parade. (It had been postponed a couple of days due to rain.) She had a blast with this much-beloved family and I got to share a teaching on How to Deal with Insecurity in Ministry to the pastors from 4 of our 5 churches as well as a couple of other pastors from the city. Between breakfast, my teaching, and the round-table discussion the meeting lasted 4 1/2 hours! Then we left from there to have lunch with the family that had hosted Hope. (They fell in love with her and have invited her to come back and spend some time with them next summer. She's praying about it.)

After lunch we headed back to our accommodations and I was only going to take a short nap, but 1 1/2 hours later Hope was gently waking me up telling me it was time to get ready for church! We had a wonderful praise service and I shared a teaching on "God Is In Charge of Who's In Charge" based on Daniel 2:21. This was a much needed teaching as Mexico is very concerned about America's next president and some of the things he has said about them. God used this time to remind His children that He is working His plan to prepare this world for the Second Coming of Jesus, which is very soon! Four people gave their lives to the Lord last night and we also had a wonderful time of intercession for our lost loved ones. Here are a few pictures from the service that Hope took.
Worship in Agua Viva is always AWESOME!

Hope got a nice panorama shot. The children meet in a different building.

"God Is In Control of Who's In Control!"

Three of the four who gave their lives to Jesus last night!
Today is actually a day of rest for us. We had made some tentative plans but didn't have any services scheduled. I asked Pedro if we could cancel our plans and just rest, and I think he liked that idea. His son, Oscar, who once ran a taco stand while going to college, is going to make us a mess of "tacos al alambre" for lunch! So while you're eating turkey and ham, we'll be feasting on the deliciousness of authentic Mexican tacos! I think I might be getting the better end of the bargain! ;)

We still have three more meetings - Friday night I'll be speaking at a church-wide leadership training session, then Saturday Hope will speak at the youth service, and Sunday I'll share in the regular Sunday worship service. We'll fly to Mexico City Sunday evening, spend the night there and fly back to Atlanta Monday morning, arriving in Alexandria around 5:00PM Monday night. This is the toughest travel schedule I've ever had for one of these trips - normally it's only one-day down and one-day back, so having to do each direction over two days is very tiring. But it's totally worth it to be used by God! And to create some wonderful memories with my daughter, Hope! So happy Thanksgiving, y'all! We've got a lot to be thankful for!

Oh, and here are just a few more food pictures thrown in for good measure! ;)
Fried Mojarra - yummy!

Memela - thick tortilla topped w/refried beans, chinameca meat, fried bananas, avocado, shredded chicken, cheese, etc!


Fresh fruit & strawberry yogurt w/fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast!

An assortment of Mexican "antojitos" or snacks. Yummy!!!

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