This Saturday, May 11th at 2pm there will be a memorial service in honor of Grant McCormick at Sovereign Grace Church (1280 N. Cooper Rd. Gilbert, AZ 85233).
To express our love for and sadness at the loss of Grant McCormick, the son of Glenn and Alisa McCormick, sibling to Brianna, Colton and Charissa, and true friend to so many, we are setting up the Grant McCormick Memorial Fund. Per the family’s wishes, 100% of the money donated to the fund will go to the Rancho 3M Children’s Orphanage in Guadalupe, Mexico. Grant was an architect, and to see people’s generosity go to construct necessary shelter for children in need would delight him and his family a great deal, as well as bring glory to God in caring for those in need.
You can make your contribution out to Sovereign Grace Church (1280 N. Cooper Rd. Gilbert, AZ 85233) and mark it “McCormick Memorial Fund”. Every penny will go to meet needs at the Rancho 3M orphanage.
Rancho 3M Day 4
Work, Dirt, “Cinderella” and Our Goodbyes
I would say 14 people accomplished quite a lot in two full days of work time. Here’s a list if you’re keeping track. Some of this is a repeat (Sorry):
- The girls and boys dorms were completely painted (Purple & blue, respectively)
- Installed 45 bubblers for trees
- Trenched 600 feet
- Laid 600 feet of PVC pipe
- Installed 150 feet of new fencing
- Installed 2 new spikes
- 2 peep hole viewers installed
- 1 solar tube installed in boy’s dorm
- Door handles at school repaired
- 4 door handles replaced
- Boldega (Large storage room) straightened and organized
- Made 2 crafts with kids and told the corresponding Easter story/Gospel
- Played soccer with the kids…….Lost 0-6 (The incorrect score was mentioned previously. Sorry Jonathan!! )
- Paint room cleaned and organized
- Installed stabilizing stakes around the green house
- Bathroom doors repaired
- Bench at Ramada repaired
- A LOT of pictures were taken!!
- 40 children were hugged numerous times, loved on, comforted, talked to and heard the Gospel (All of THIS was the BEST part!!)
It was a great few days, to say the least. It’s actually quite difficult to summarize all the LORD did. SO much happened in 72 hours……It’s just another indication of God’s spectacular grace. I’m so grateful I was able to make this trip (For many reasons). My family has gone a combination of 12 times the last two years (Alex-5, Abby-6 and Aleah-1). They would always return exhausted yet overflowing with joy! They always had many remarkable tales to tell. The children had captured their hearts. I had to “endure” countless stories of Michelle (Along with video and pictures!!), Juan, Cesar, Santos, Wendy, Jose, Raul, Mimi, Johanna, Christian, Omar…..and so on and so on and so on. I looked at hundreds of pictures. But, I felt like I was getting to know these children I had never met. I began to pray for them. THEN, I prayed to be able to go with my family to Rancho 3M one day. I asked the LORD for the last two years. But due to certain health challenges, I was not able to go until NOW.
Getting out of the car that first day, I felt as though I ALREADY knew these precious children. They kept asking me how I knew their names…..I told them my family had told me all about them & I had seen their pictures. I told them I had been praying for them. Some of them laughed, a few of them cried. They kept pointing to Alex, Abby and Aleah and then, me. These are not the proper translations but they were saying something like, ……Esposo? Esposa? (Is he your spouse?). Hija? (Is she your daughter?) Una familia? (You’re a WHOLE family?). They were trying to wrap there mind’s around an ENTIRE family being there……TOGETHER. Padre, Madre AND hijas? I told them we also had an older son (Hijo), Aaron, who would come to The Ranch one day (….and HE speaks Spanish!!). This all affected me. It took no time at all to love these kids. I instantly had affection for these orphans that our church had written letters to for years, sent Christmas gifts to, collected school supplies for and now are financially sponsoring. Love welled up in my heart & I didn’t even have to put it there. It WAS there.
This is going to sound funny…..But I started to feel like a, “Disney Character”. Let me explain, “Ana, sit by me! Ana, take your picture with me! Come here, Ana! Eat next to me, Ana!! Push me on the swing, Ana! I want Ana to help me with my craft. Take my picture, Ana! How do you say this word, Ana? Play with me, Ana!”…….You get the idea. I didn’t exactly offer up any autographs this trip but they craved our attention and affection and we all gave it enthusiastically! It warmed our hearts to be sought after…..Needed. I may not be an “actual” Disney Character but I am loved in the eyes of these delightful Mexican children. Sweet grace!
Before we had to say goodbye, we needed to clean our rooms, bathrooms, the kitchen, etc. The buildings are in disrepair here but our church (& others) are helping with that. The Ranch is really quite nice for this part of Mexico. However….There is DIRT everywhere……Fine, powder-like, dusty, dirt. Did I mention that it’s EVERYWHERE? We swept the dirt, we wiped away the dirt, we tried to shower off the dirt, we ate a little dirt, we had dirt on our skin and in our eyes and ears. There’s really no escaping it. Even on our drive from El Paso to Las Cruces, we encountered a hazardous dust storm. There were strong winds and even at times, zero visibility. We prayed. We texted a few folks at home, so people could pray for us and they did. The dirt made us feel unclean (Like our sin does). Then during the huge dust storm, the dirt blocked our view, it impeded our progress (Again, like our sin). It was a reminder to me, of how I was going to return home to my piles of laundry, my home duties, my family, my daily work, my teaching responsibilities and…..MY SIN. The dirt (My sin) chokes out my joy. My sin is hard to get rid of, it’s tenacious. Sin makes it hard to effectively serve my family and my church for God’s glory, at times. It’s kind of like, “The Ranch Dirt”. I need his help to get rid of my sin. I cannot remove it on my own, no matter how hard I try. Only HE can do it. The dirt and grime this week was a reminder to me of my own life and heart.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted”. Hebrews 12:1-3
It’s time for goodbyes. The hugs are long and emotional. I know, with God’s assistance, we will return. Several people asked me, ‘Is it just SO hard to leave them there?”. Well, my answer is, “Yes and no”. I DO want to cram as many as I can into our cars and trucks. They are treasures. I really think I would love to add several to our family. I cannot get their sweet, little faces out of my mind. Yet, at the very same time, they are loved HERE….….Very loved. Dean and Denise Adamek (With God’s help & the help of staff and supporters) are providing them with a loving, nurturing, Gospel-centered, education and “home” environment. It would be difficult to take them away from all of this (Their friends, their siblings, the staff and the culture they hold so dear). A lot of of them come from horrible backgrounds, this is true. In addition, some are not “true” orphans. They have parents who are unable to care for them for a myriad of reasons. It seems somewhat selfish for me to want to take them from all that they DO have. What I can do is PRAY. PRAY they receive CHRIST into their hearts. PRAY for their safety and well being. PRAY for The Ranch Directors and staff. PRAY for their growth and development. I may not be a REAL Disney Character but I am a Christian and I will PRAY for them. Will you join me?
Rancho 3M Day 3
Our Strength is in the LORD
By day three, we have settled into the groove. We still rise early, eat breakfast, worship and conclude with a devotion, as a team. It continues to be a wonderful (& needed) start to our day. Then, our fearless team leader (Jonathan Lambros) gives us our “marching orders”.
There is always a long list of tasks to be done. The work can be exhausting and very physical (Particularly for the men). By Day 3, our muscles are sore and our bodies, fatigued. We’re a bit worn-out. We certainly need to cry out to God for strength to complete our jobs but we also need to ask for his mercy, as we work side by side with our teammates. We have to be intentional to, “Put on” joy and kindness. It’s not always quite as easy by Day 3. Today, we are confronted with self & our sinful hearts. I guess some of our “Party Manners” have worn off. Our true character comes through…….(& it “ain’t” always pretty). Thankfully, by God’s amazing grace, there is repenting, forgiveness and humility displayed among our team members. All for the glory of God. We need God’s help for this EVERY day not just on, “Day 3”!
I guess you could say we are also a bit weary. As we scrub, sweep, paint, hammer, create a skylight, install posts, trench, organize, put up fencing and build; we have to pause and remember who we are serving. There can be a temptation at this point to grumble and complain on Day 3…….Today, my prayer has been, “….And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up”. Galatians 6:9. Help us to press on, LORD, and not give up!
I’ve realized another sweet benefit to traveling hundreds of miles from home, serving in another country, is not just the beautiful gift of being with these precious little Mexican amigas & amigos. It’s also, the blessing of experiencing a knitting together of hearts with “old” and new folks, from my very own church. I’m eating three meals a day and serving alongside a few people, I’ve rarely even talked to, before this trip. Relationships are also deepening, with dear friends I’ve known for years. We are all laughing, telling jokes, encouraging one another to press on, sharing testimonies and praying together. We are also “linking arms” in the mission of sharing the Gospel. What a blessed result. I know the LORD indeed is good.
“”….you have come to me in friendship to help me, my heart will be joined to you”. 1 Chronicles 12:17b
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Day TWO on the Ranch.
These men are hard workers. The gals aren’t too shabby, either! We accomplished a lot today. We painted the outside of the boy’s dorm, patched up some holes, repaired several broken doors, replaced several door knobs, ate some brownies, fixed a bench, trenched over 600 feet of rock-hard, dry desert and laid piles of PVC pipe. Everyone is tired but not one person complained! Not one. That’s grace (Whatever you do, work heartily as for the LORD and not for men….Col. 3:23). We sure do have a great team here! FYI….. Wives, some of your husband’s made need a massage when they return home. I’m serious.
We also eat really well (Thank you Cece Bell, Diane Mitchell, Amy Wilson and Stacey Cascaes for the AMAZING food). You’re spoiling us. Thank you for your service and sacrifice.
Each morning we have a prayer time and short devotion, after breakfast. Abby Schepps has done a great job leading us in a few worship songs. What a sweet start to our day. This morning, a few of the little girls overheard our singing during their breakfast. They asked me about it later and I told them we were worshipping Jesus. They asked me questions about how to love God more. Happy dance! Then a beautiful little seven year old girl named Dulce, quietly crawled into my lap and sang me a beautiful song……”Your love will last forever, It’s like a mighty river, That flows and flows forever, Never stopping! Your awesome love protects me, When I sin your love corrects me, You’re faithful to direct me, Always to your love (Your Love, from Awesome God by Sovereign Grace Music)…..”. My eyes stung with tears. That’s all I needed. I’m full. All done. We could go home now. I don’t want to, but we could (I made her sing it for me again later, so I could videotape her). What a priceless treasure. Definitely this was my greatest highlight, so far. I’m smitten. I want to take Dulce home.
Aubrey planned two delightful Easter crafts for the kids this afternoon. One was a mosaic cross and the other was a tomb where they could roll away the stone! They loved the crafts!! We attempted to tell them the Good News of Jesus dying on the cross for their sins. I would say one of the greatest challenges to our Ranch day is not the backbreaking labor (Although that’s difficult) but rather, it’s the language barrier that exists. We all manage and the kids are very patient. We laugh at ourselves (While they laugh at us even more!!). We try to communicate the best we can. We all desire to learn more Espanol. Please pray for us for this area and for our futures trips!
After their 4:00 homework study time, we played a grand game of soccer against the kids. There were over 60 kids and adults out there. They are good. We are NOT. However; Scott Cascaes can do a mean, “Stop, Drop and Roll”. Tim Stanton has a wicked header and Jonathan Lambros ran hard (& yelled LOUDLY) the entire sixty minutes….But, to no avail. They clobbered us, 7-0. It was ugly. Oh how they relished in their victory over the, “Americanos”!!
The day is done. It’s late…..Several of my roommates are already sleeping. As I lay here on my bunk, I reflect on numerous images from this day that stand out. 1. Paul Stanton carrying two boys (Santos & Cesar, I think) across a field about for about 30 yards…..All THREE boys, were grinning from ear to ear. 2. Aleah, Nat and Mimi warmly reaching out to numerous new faces, not being self-concerned one bit. I overhear their peals of laughter with Johanna, Mimi #2, Perla and Ruby. They have made lifelong friends. I love it! 3. Then there was Scott Mitchell cracking jokes, encouraging others and making work look fun…..All at the same time. 4. Jonathan COVERED in blue paint. 5. The kids HUNTING down Bob Newsome and Alex Schepps, then watching those manly men skip across a dirt field, hand in hand, with three beautiful little girls. SO much JOY. SO much affection. SO much fun! These are just a few of my favorite, “images from today”. Yep. I’d say it’s been a pretty good day. Oh, and we completed some work.
“I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and his great goodness…….” Isaiah 63:7
Pack, Pray and Play
Our Team: Natalie Bell, Aubrey Lyts, Scott Cascaes, Jonathan Lambros, Scott & Diane Mitchell, Bob & Mimi Newsome, Alex, Ann, Abby & Aleah Schepps and Tim & Paul Stanton
It’s day one and we made it to The Rancho 3M Orphanage, safe and sound. We are extremely grateful for the friends and family back home, who are praying for us. Thank you SO much! God’s amazing grace is evident.
We made our lists, checked them twice and we still forgot a few things. But it doesn’t matter. We are here and it is sweet. I’ve realized you can pray, make your list and plan, for the four day journey to the orphanage in Guadalupe, Mexico. But, no amount of preparation can get you ready for what occurs the moment you arrive on the Ranch property. Swarms of happy, little faces surrounded our vehicles. The kids waved and shouted! Their precious faces lit up when they spotted a familiar friend. They called out our names. Joy! There was hugging, laughter, broken communication and more hugging. Someone got tackled. I didn’t expect this.
Unexplainable JOY is the most appropriate way to describe our arrival. Not our joy but theirs. These beautiful children who were once abused, broken and abandoned are now whole, secure, loved and happy. I realize, only an amazing God could do this. It is he who has rescued them and transformed their lives. We are praying their hearts would also be transformed by the astonishing grace of the Gospel. We have brought food, tools, supplies and treats. But we also have brought the love of Christ. One of the girls is sitting by me while I type. She will not leave my side. It’s only Day One and I am changed. We are dependent and needy but we are ready…..Ready to work, ready to serve and ready to love.
Today we will trench, patch holes, tape, paint, clean, build and repair things. May we also touch their hearts. This afternoon, we will do an Easter craft with 50 little ones. We will remind them of God’s loving sacrifice and death on a cross for them. After that, they will cream us in a one hour game of soccer.
We’ve packed, we’ve prayed, we’ll work and then we’ll play. We are teaching them but I think we are learning the most.
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership with the Gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”.
Rich mentioned two weeks ago that we would post the new polity (church government) when it was released. We got it this week and you can access it here. As always, if you have any questions, please contact any of the pastors or small group leaders.
This concludes our 4-part blog series on the recent trip to Rancho 3M, written by Dale Furnish. In this last post is info about Rancho 3M for those who don’t know that much about it and would like to know more.
Guadalupe de Bravo sits to the east of Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, just south of Fabens, Texas. Both Guadalupe and Fabens are dinky little towns about 5-10 miles south and north of the border crossing between them, notable for its lack of traffic. Dean Adamek, Director of the orphanage, is known to both U.S. and Mexican border-crossing officials, which makes our getting in and out of Mexico even easier.
Rancho 3M Christian Orphanage occupies an ample acreage in Guadalupe, somewhere around 30-40 acres, all surrounded by a fence made of vertical-welded rebar. The site is desolate and windblown, in an agricultural area (cotton, pecans) without a lot of volunteer vegetation. Buildings are scattered east and north from the southwest corner of the complex, where the entry gate is. The nicest building, the western-most at the site, is a new facility to house orphan babies, not yet certified to begin operations. Across from that is a fine henhouse, with a resident flock to provide eggs and meat. Nearby sit the director’s house and office; a large workshop-toolshed, sharing a back wall with guest bunkhouses for men and women; and the main dining hall, with a connected visitors’ kitchen and dining room next door to it. To the east of the dining hall, there is playground equipment, then a concrete basketball court and next to it a concrete soccer/dance/party gathering place with a roof over it. Lots of dirt playground is around and in between. Moving north and east, the original A-frame chapel now serves as a warehouse. Long boys’ and girls’ dorms run parallel east-west with a dirt courtyard between, and beyond them lie more playground equipment, more sand/dirt playgrounds, then the school buildings, in a U-shape around another dirt courtyard, with the current chapel at its northern end. Apartments for administrative staff fit in here and there throughout. To the north there is a dirt-and-rock soccer field. Various other buildings haphazardly dot the area. The whole place is so rough that even the hardiest “thorn-proof” bicycle inner tubes have a very short life span as the kids ride them everywhere through the complex.
Currently, 47 orphans live at Rancho 3M, and about a dozen staff. Dean and Denise Adamek, whose three sons live with them, head it all up. They have support from three other resident ministry families (all Mexican, two of the husband-wife teams alumni of the orphanage; a new alumni team—Isaac and Valeria—will join the staff after they are married in February) and an assistant recently arrived from the United States (Kendra, from the Sovereign Grace church in Chesapeake, Virginia, who gave up her law practice). The orphan population changes constantly. Many children are not true orphans; they have parents or family in the area, but do not live with them. For all sorts of reasons, their families would rather have them at Rancho 3M, but often reclaim their kids, perhaps when their hearts call for them and/or when circumstances change for the better.
Since the kids sent Christmas present requests and pictures, three girls have left and three boys have arrived. Fortunately, the Sovereign Grace Felíz Tree donors were generous and there was plenty extra in the boys’ boxes. Cece Bell did some rearranging of the boys’ presents and everybody got a Christmas box.
Rancho 3M has a K-6 elementary school and a new 7-9 secondary school on the grounds for all of the orphans, to which locals come as well, paying a low weekly tuition. Most of the Rancho 3M staff teaches at the school, supplemented by teachers from the outside. Rancho 3M hopes to add a high school in the future.
This is a 4-part blog series about the recent trip to Rancho 3M, written by Dale Furnish. The trip took place January 10-13, 2013 at the Rancho 3M orphanage to help do some maintenance of the facilities and deliver Christmas presents to the children. Here is Part 3 of Dale’s account:
The second day of work was eventful. We made good progress the first day and had the end of several projects in sight, but we needed to fill a list of materials, all available at the hardware store in Fabens. As the least essential worker, Dale got the assignment to make the parts and materials run, and to take the Schepps back across the border to attend a wedding in El Paso that afternoon. All went well in Fabens until I tried to start the vehicle and head back. I could not turn the key in the ignition, although it had worked perfectly the two times I started it before. Finally, after some frantic phone calls, Dean came across and fixed the problem: on a ring with several car keys, this particular vehicle was the only one with two keys, one for the ignition and one for the doors. In several attempts to start the car, I had always tried the door key.
Despite the delay, we finished the priority items on our checklist, although we did not paint the buildings (a problematic assignment in the cold and wind) or get Isaac and Valeria’s apartment done. On the other hand, we did a couple of jobs not on our original list. The paint crew painted all the right doors green, green escape routes got painted on floors, and even some non-slip material (which proved mildly hallucinogenic to users) applied on stairs at the baby house. The final new wood burning stove got installed, and another, smaller wood stove already at Rancho 3M appropriated and installed in third staff apartment; seven stoves in all.
The hardest task on Saturday involved moving two propane tanks, by sheer manpower, with two rods through iron hoops on either end. It provided a proper finale to our work. As with other tasks in prior years, we were not sure (perhaps Bob and Ken were sure; I wasn’t) we really could do what we did, but we did it. Those tanks were heavy. God is great, and everybody’s back survived. Bob repiped the gas lines to the two tanks, finishing the second in a cold, raw wind as the sun went down. That left us to shower, eat, pack and clean up for departure the next day after devotions and breakfast.
The next morning when we said good-bye, three boys sought us out to introduce us to their mothers, visiting them on Sunday morning. As I looked into each mother’s face, and introduced Luella, I wondered what they must have felt. I hope that they were grateful and saw and felt God’s love and protection for them and for their children, and felt how privileged we were to serve them.
If the next Sovereign Grace team visits as planned in March, we left plenty of jobs to do, and took away hearts filled with the Lord. Amen.
This is a 4-part blog series about the recent trip to Rancho 3M, written by Dale Furnish. The trip took place January 10-13, 2013 at the Rancho 3M orphanage to help do some maintenance of the facilities and deliver Christmas presents to the children. Here is Part 2 of Dale’s account:
The kids opened their Christmas presents Friday afternoon. A good time. Names are called, oldest (who have more patience and can wait without peeking) to youngest, and every one goes forward to get a box. Some of the smaller kids alone cannot carry their box. When all have their boxes on the table in front of them, they open them together. Intense anticipation and inspection of the contents by each child. Good hearts evident, as they share their gift candy, especially with us. Not over-the-top euphoria and shouts, but more quiet gratitude is the predominant feeling in the room. By that evening a lot of the kids have their new shoes and clothes on, and are trying out skateboards and other new toys.
Our teenage girls got together with the kids off and on throughout the visit, not the least hampered by the language barrier. The orphans are physically active kids, most of them extroverts and engaging, and so are the girls. A basketball game developed Friday night when some of the Rancho 3M boys thought the girls would be easy pickings. No such luck. Natalie in particular destroyed them. I watched for awhile; she is a good ball handler and she never missed. This gave way to continuing banter the rest of our stay. Wherever the girls were, a bunch of kids were gathered around them, with lots of smiles and much laughter.
We all enjoy eating with the kids in the dining hall, but when we have a larger group, that puts a burden on the Rancho 3M food supply, so we took our own food. We ate exceptionally well while at the Rancho 3M. Cece and Luella took charge of our meals, making provision for three breakfasts (oatmeal, pancakes and cold cereal), two lunches (lentil soup, hot sandwiches) and three dinners (salads and chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven for all, chicken enchiladas courtesy of Becky Ross, pasta alfredo courtesy of Stacey Cascaes, and pork roast, green beans, and baked potatoes). After Luella straightened out Scott as to who was in charge of the kitchen, everything went smoothly. The men were allowed to help wash dishes and clean up the dining room. Hard work in fresh, cold air meant that all brought good appetites to the table; most went back for seconds. One night a Costco-sized pack of Oreo cookies almost did not make it past the four young women.
While we enjoyed the food, we also found time for spiritual nourishment and enjoyed devotional time each morning. We started off with a consideration of James 2:14-26, esp. 23, and the proper relationship between faith and works. Alex insisted on an “interactive” session, and as the sun came up over the Rancho 3M where we had come to engage in works, we discussed—among saints ranging from their teens into their 70s—that delicate relationship, and how in the heart of the believer faith comes first and works follow, flowing out of an obedient, willing, joyful heart for the Lord.
The second morning, extending the faith-and-works discussion, we addressed being a “blessing” and being “blessed,” with reference to I Peter 3:8-14, esp. 9b; Acts 20:35 and Luke 6:37-38; Gen. 12:1-3, esp. 2b; and Psalm 1. The fundamental idea was to understand that we were blessed by our opportunity to serve Rancho 3M, but are more blessed through our faith in Jesus as our Savior, the ultimate blessing. Achieving that blessed state, we can become a blessing to others.
The third morning, Bob Newsome played out the same thread a bit more, asking us to consider the practical application of our faith and works, and how we—being blessed—might become a blessing to others, specifically those at Rancho 3M. Certainly our Christmas gifts and our works there are part of it, but beyond that we can demonstrate to all the love of Christ in our individual lives and among us. In the middle of our discussion, almost as if on cue, one of the orphans, 13-year-old José Ibarra, knocked on the door. We invited him in, and he talked about his belief in Jesus as his Savior (and showed a quick grasp of English), but bemoaned the lack of belief in other orphans, including his own younger brothers and sisters. We prayed around the table that we might all be blessed by belief in Jesus, and be a blessing. Later, when I told Dean about this, he said that José fights pride, and the prospects for other believers among the orphans are better than José paints them.
We had good devotional times, and started each day in God’s word and in prayer, with the Holy Spirit in each heart and at the table with us.
This is a 4-part blog series about the recent trip to Rancho 3M, written by Dale Furnish. The trip took place January 10-13, 2013 at the Rancho 3M orphanage to help do some maintenance of the facilities and deliver Christmas presents to the children. Here is Part 1 of Dale’s account:
Monday, January 14, 2013~ Back home in Phoenix, it seems like the last four days flew by. This account is fairly long, but it is still quite selective. Paraphrasing John 21:25, there are many other things that we did and saw and discovered. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Most know about Rancho 3M Christian Orphanage, which we have served for several years now with quarterly visits, but a quick update might help, for which purpose see the Appendix at the end (Part 4), if interested.
Twelve of us left for the Rancho 3M orphanage early on Thursday, 10th January. We loaded Christmas presents and our luggage into a trailer attached to Ken Stout’s truck. Ken got the young crowd. Aubrey Lyts, Abby and Alea Schepps and Natalie Bell rode in his truck, with Alex Schepps along to help keep order. Bob Newsome had the senior cruise ship, with Scott Cascaes, Randy & Cece Bell, and Dale & Luella Furnish aboard. We had an easy trip across Arizona and New Mexico into Texas, with our customary stop at Home Depot in El Paso for a few building items before we crossed into Mexico at Fabens, with Dean Adamek as escort.
We got to Rancho 3M late in the afternoon. When we pulled in, the kids came out to greet us. Their eyes shine, and they smile a lot; healthy, happy kids, secure in where they are and in the care they receive. The scene touches hearts, and we could feel the welcome. The kids want hugs and reach out for affection. They remember names and greet returnees, but hug the first-timers, too. One scene that says it all: little Michele, maybe 7 or 8, jumped into Alex’s arms for a hug. Alex cried.
The usual unexpected circumstances awaited us. Dean invited Luella & Dale to enjoy a vacant apartment as a “honeymoon suite,” an opportunity they accepted. Neither the “suite” nor the women’s dorm had hot water, and the women’s toilets did not flush. Guadalupe de Bravo shared in the great southwestern cold snap, with frozen puddles in the morning and chill, whipping winds in the daytime.
We had a punch list:
- install six new wood-burning stoves, two in each of the kids’ dorms, and singles in a couple of the staff apartments
- paint eight emergency fire exit doors green, several coats
- paint stencil numbers on eleven propane gas tanks
- move two of the propane tanks, with the requisite repiping
- tear out a wall to create an apartment for Isaac and Valeria, who have grown up at Rancho 3M, will marry in February and stay as staff
- paint the outside of as many buildings as we can
When we began work on Friday morning, the various work crews set out on different tasks all around the grounds, and saw each other sporadically thereafter, gathering for lunch and dinner. Ken and Scott started installing stoves in the boys’ dorm. Cece and Luella started painting numbers on propane tanks. Alea and Natalie began painting doors under Alex’s tutelage. Abby and Aubrey took on a new job, laying floor tile in Kendra’s (newly arrived administrative assistant from the U.S.) apartment, and learned her life story while doing so, then joined the door painters.
Dean’s first words to Bob, Randy and Dale were, “Our work list has changed in the last ten minutes.” So we went first to attend to the women’s hot water heater and toilets, and then a stove that did not function in the teachers’ lounge. The water heater was easy, a broken plastic valve that could be turned with pliers. The toilets resisted everything, from plungers, to opening a cleanout and using a snake. Final diagnosis: a tree root apparently has found its way into the sewer pipes; not to be fixed this trip. In the teachers’ lounge, the oven burner had separated from the gas feed on the stove. It took well over an hour to work that out and fix it, after checking the stove top burners and making sure that they were all right. After repair the stove is much cleaner, and everything seemed to work.
By then, Ken and Scott had installed the first stove and were well along on the second. Bob, Randy and Dale turned to stoves for the girls’ dorm and by the time they had the first one in, Ken and Scott came over to help with the second, and then the stove team did one in an apartment, too, before the day ended. All five new stoves had fires burning cheerfully in them by nightfall and groups of kids gathered in front of them . . . and the smoke alarms in both dorms went off as the new stovepipes burned off their tags. The next morning there was still smoke puffing out the top of each chimney.
Ken Stout and Bob Newsome are mighty men of the Lord, at the center of our successful work at Rancho 3M, and will be embarrassed by what I write about them. It doesn’t matter. The Holy Spirit gets the credit; they are just the vessels. They bring know-how to the job, but even more a get-‘er-done attitude and a cheerful outlook based in unshakeable faith that the Lord will let us successfully complete everything we start. They trust and go forward at a rapid, sustained pace and never let up; just watch them walk from job to job. At Rancho 3M, most of the work is not their usual fare. The equipment is old and/or strange, and they have to adjust as they go and figure out what needs to be done, often saying, “If I just had this tool, which isn’t here, this would be easy.” Randy, Scott and Dale were mostly gopher and sounding-board labor, listening to Bob or Ken reason out what needed to be done, holding tools and ladders, going back to the toolshed to look for tools and parts and materials, lending a hand on the easier stuff and occasionally getting to lift something. Blood spilled as stovepipe got trimmed to size, but work did not stop. The Holy Spirit was with us, and the job got done. Believe.
I have to feel that the same thing took place with other folks as they went about their chores. The propane tanks got numbers stenciled on them. Doors with several coats of green paint began to appear. When we ended a long day—with a mid-afternoon break for Christmas presents—much had been accomplished, with much left for the next day.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of 4.
As you may know, an unspeakable tragedy occurred in Connecticut today. Any quick and canned cliches ring hollow. Today is not a day for getting answers, rather a day for brokenhearted prayer. We pray to the God who is never absent and always good. We pray to the One who comforts us in grief and transcends evil. We pray because we trust in Him and believe that one day He will make all things as they were meant to be. Until then we pray for the families of the victims and cry out, “come Lord Jesus!”
When it comes to Christmas albums I’m pretty open in terms of songs. I can enjoy the Nutcracker Suite, Burl Ives, albums of Christmas hymns, the Elf Soundtrack or Vince Guaradli’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. There are a few that stand out in my mind that you may not have heard of or that you may not think of purchasing. Here are 5 Christian themed albums you should purchase:
This is my favorite Christmas album by far. Andrew Peterson weaves a story of the coming of Christ from Egypt to Bethlehem. Beautifully told, this album contains no traditional Christmas hymns (except one instrumental) but it is well worth the price. You can sample it or purchase it here.
This album has been a gift to me as a worship leader because so many of the arrangements are easy to play and sing for the congregation. This has a few original Christmas songs on it but on the whole it is filled with all the songs you would come to associate with the Incarnation of Jesus. You can sample it or purchase it on iTunes or Amazon.
You may have never heard of Enfield but you should listen to their music. These guys excel musically, and they use their God-given gifts to mainly rewrite arrangements of old hymns, oftentimes adding well-written choruses. They do that to great effect with this album of Christmas hymns. I’ll bet there are some songs on this CD you never knew existed but that you’re glad you know about now! You can sample it or purchase it on iTunes or on Enfield’s website.
This is an older album but it still has some great songs on it. If you’re more of a pop country person this album will really appeal to you. If you’re not as into pop country then this will appeal to you (perhaps drop the really). The title song Music of Christmas is very good. This is a classic that you should have in your library. You can sample it or purchase it on iTunes or Amazon.
Sovereign Grace Music exists to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in every song they write. This album also has no traditional songs on it but the last 2 songs on the album are worth the price of the CD. You can sample it or purchase it on iTunes or Bandcamp.