Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cultural Information

Some of you know a lot about the Mexican culture and others of you completely unaware of the culture in which we live. So, we thought we'd give you a taste of our surroundings.

First off, Mexico is extremely diverse and probably more so that the U.S. Just like the the U.S. it is made of states and each state has it's capital city. As most of you know, we live in the state of Guanajuato in the city of Leon. Guanajuato is located in the dead center of Mexico. We came from central KY and moved to Central Mexico. Leon is a huge city in comparison to the cities we are used to in the States. Many dispute the exact population, but it has aroung 2 to 2.5 million habitants and is growing daily! Honestly we thought adjusting to a large city was going to be more difficult than it has been because we were raised in the tiny town of Wilmore outside of Lexington which is not a big city at all. Thankfully it the adjustment to city life has been smooth, though at times we do miss the grass and the countryside.

While we have almost every modern convincience here including Starbucks, (is Starbucks a modern convienience?), we live in a very different world than were we lived in the U.S. For one the social classes here are VERY distinct. It is as if three worlds are coexisting in the same city, but each world is unaware of the other. Yes, lower, middle, and upper class do not really overlap in daily life unless they run into each other at Wal-Mart. (Just a side note, Wal-Mart's prices are often high here.) For us the class system that is so pronounced makes us sad and often makes us stop and think. The sad reality is that those in the lower class or lower middle class will most likely never have the chance to better their circumstances and will remain in their class for the rest of their lives. As foreigners we are able to make friends with people of all social classes. The other day we were talking to our tutor about this and she said that it is not common to have friends in various social classes. We are thankful for the ability to live in all three worlds. We live in a middle class neighborhood, but have friends in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city as well as the wealthiest. Sometimes we feel as if we are living in contrasts. The difference between the worlds is startling. God continues to give us the grace to move between all three.

Here are some fun facts:

-You only drink filtered or bottled water here. Most people, including us, buy our water jugs from companies that go from building to building and through the neighborhoods shouting "water, water" and their brand of water. Then you shout out to them how many jugs you want and they deliver it. The same is true for the gas. All homes have gas water heaters and gas stoves.

-It is true, Mexicans love spicy food and chiles. And so does Josh! From spaghetti to sandwiches, chile and salsa are everyday condiments. In central Mexico corn tortillas are also a staple! In fact, food in general is a staple. Much of life here revolves around food!

-Where ever you live there is a little tiny store nearby that you can go to for milk, eggs, and all kinds of things. Most likely it will be in someone's house. Here the norm is not to buy all your groceries once a week, but instead go to the market daily and get things you need last minute at the convinient stores. It is a different way of life and we are starting to enjoy it.

-Certain times of day traffic is crazy here and other times it is perfectly fine. Driving is sometimes very aggitating for us because the mentality is totally different from what we are used to. It is kind of like playing frogger only you are the frog dodging pedestrians, other cars, and bicicles oh and of course there's the pot holes and speed bumps everywhere. =)

-The prices of many things are not lower here though the salaries are. However, fresh fruits and veggies are way cheaper in comparison to the states. Even the apples from Washington that are imported are cheaper than in Kentucky. Being able to eat fresh fruit and fruit juice when ever we want is a huge treat. When we tell people the price of produce in the States they cannot believe a pineapple or an avocado would cost so much. One time we bought 2 lbs of oranges for 50 cents. Gas is about $2.80 a gallon and the economy is of course struggling.

-In the city everyone lives in town houses, houses right next to each other, or in apartments. Their is hardly any grass or green space unless you go to a park. There are some very nice parks here.

-Many people have cars and many do not. There is a good reliable, but slow, public bus system. There are taxis everywhere and of course all kinds of cars as well. We are thankful for our old Camry as it has been a huge blessing to us and others and given us a lot of mobility. We even found a reliable mechanic.

We could go on and on about interesting cultural things, but we will save some for the future. The short of it is we are in URBAN ministry and feel very at home in this setting.

Some of you have asked about our safety. Truthfully, central MX is much safer than the border when it comes to drug problems and kidnappings, though Mexico City is pretty dangerous. However, common theft etc. is on the rise right now here in Leon too because of the very high unemployment rate and lack of resources. And for us it is understandable. So far we have had nothing happen to us and aren't worried even if we were to have something stolen from us.

Okay, this post was way long, but one last thing...

This week a group from Michigan is coming on a short-term trip and we will be leaders and very occupied with them for 10 days. We look forward to sharing everything with you after they leave.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Prepared with Love

"Man, this pot is heavy," I thought as I carried the giant glob of spaghetti. We were loading up the car with enough spaghetti to feed a platoon of Marines and taking it to El Cañon de la India where our church has a work with the children of the neighborhood. Today, we wanted to do something extra special for the kids at our church's project by cooking them a big meal: spaghetti with meat and vegetable sauce plus Jennifer's world famous homemade chocolate chip cookies. We took so much joy in being able to provide something good and rare for the kids. Seeing their faces light up as we gave them the homemade cookies was unforgettable. Many of the kids in El Cañon de la India don't eat well nor with regularity (especially in these times of crisis) and very few of them have ever had the luxury of eating homemade cookies. Providing a meal every Saturday morning along with Bible lessons and tutoring is a pleasure for us, and seeing the smiles on so many faces that we have come to love and care for in the past months was a gift that cannot be repaid. As we served the food and saw the excitement on the kids' faces, we too were filled with excitement and joy because we knew that we were able to show God's love to these kids who so often are pushed to the margins and neglected. We pray that through the church's work in this neighborhood that many may see a new way of life and a new way to love.

A Couples' Retreat

The road was long and full of many curves, twists, and turns reminiscent of the roads in Eastern Kentucky. We were on our way into the mountains surrounding Leon for a marriage retreat in the Sierra de Los Lobos ("Mountain of the Wolves") where our friends from church have a cabin. We arrived and quickly set ourselves to cooking and putting up our tents. That night we had the privilege of talking with one another about our lives and our cultures. We enjoyed each other's company throughout the retreat and were challenged to reflect upon the areas of our marriage that need our attention and how we can be better spouses. One of the highlights for us was just being in the countryside again. We love living in the city but we didn't realize just how much we missed the trees, grass, and wildlife. The retreat was a time for getting to know our friends better, our spouses better, and enjoying the earth that God has given us. We don't often take time to talk deeply with one another about how we can be a more godly spouse and we think that for the couples who attended God worked in their relationships.

Friday, March 13, 2009


We arrived home to Mexico safely and without any problems during our trip. We had a very long bus ride both to the border and back to Leon, but we are grateful we didn't have any accidents! And we are happy to announce that we missed it here while we were away and that, when we were in Texas, we felt very odd. Now we understand what our professors talked about during our training in Colorado when they said we would become a mixture of two cultures, two worlds: that of our home country and that of our new country. Now that we've been here for 7 months we truly understand this phenomenon of feeling at home and yet a foreigner in our own country and in our new one. This paradox is one that all missionaries live with and many other people who live abroad as well. =) This mixture of two cultures is where we live and why we find ourselves speaking with each other in Spanglish sometimes. Uh oh. All that to say that we are content here, but we did enjoy being on the border for a few days as well.

Thank you for praying for us and our meetings! Everything went smoothly and we sensed the presence of God with us as we discussed our future ministry and participated in our field meeting. God moved in wonderful ways, and we know he answered many prayers! We were also able to attend the 60th anniversary of Taylor Christian School in McAllen. WGM started the private Christian school in order to serve the Latin immigrants in the neighborhood where the school is located on the border. While we were there it was exciting to hear the vision the missionaries hold for the future of the school.

We have a lot going on in our lives over the next few weeks, and we are extremely grateful for your encouragement and prayers! Thank you for the phone calls and e-mails that have assured us of your support! You enable us to continue in our ministry here and your participation with us is invaluable!

As we work with our leaders to define our future ministry over the next few weeks we will let you know of those details as they become available. Meanwhile, please continue to pray for God's guidance and discernment as we meet with our leaders and work here.

-One of our many views from the bus when we were close to Leon.
-Taylor Christian School's Anniversary
-Our friend and fellow missionary Jorge (from Boliva, but married to an American) celebrating his new American citizenship. He works and lives on the border.
-Our little friend Oscar after his school talent show here in Leon.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Headed to the Border

Hey family and friends!
Most of you received our prayer update, but we just wanted to make sure you knew that we were headed to the border today for a few days for field meetings. Just incase you don't hear from us for a little while that is. Please keep these meetings in your prayers and our travel safety as we will be taking the bus there and back. We will write a more detailed post when we return next week.

Thanks for all the encouraging emails and facebook posts. We appreciate each one of you!

Josh and Jennifer