Sunday, December 31, 2006


A large part of our ministry involves rehabilitation. Stephen and Marcela run a rehab center in Torreon called Rescate Social (Social Rescue) which is dedicated to giving free help to men with alcohol, drug addiction, and social behavioral problems. Most of the participants are young men between 14 and 22 years of age.

When they enter the program, the first and most difficult thing they go through is a detoxification period, after which they are put in the care of the “encargados”, men who have been through the program and act as fathers and mentors. Every day meetings and services are held where the men are ministered to with the word of God. They are taught to pray and learn how to depend on God to supply all their needs and realize their hopes for the future. Stephen regularly instructs the leaders of the center in the word of God, which the leaders then share in the meetings. Every week we supply food to the center, which we are blessed to receive at an excellent price from a local food bank.

Our hope this year is to buy the property on which the center is built. Right now we only rent the land, and we would like to be free to make improvements and build without fear of having to give up the land one day. We would be blessed to receive any financial help that you could give in order to purchase this land, which costs about $18,000. It is more than property; it is a place where souls are rescued and won for God.

In the future we are planning to open a similar center for women. There is a great need for such a place, but few people realize it. We are praying that God will guide us as we plan this work, as well as in our current ministry so that we can be effective and continue to bring glory to His name.

As we face a new year, I know that many of us are planning how we want our lives to be different in the coming months. There are the common year-after-year resolutions (I WILL lose 10 pounds!) and others that perhaps are more private and personal. The common theme behind all resolutions, though, is renewal: we want to leave behind all of our bad habits, the things we don’t like about ourselves, and be reborn along with the new year. Why, then, if we sincerely want to change, do we so often fail? Not all the men who go through the rehab program stay clean; in fact, almost half relapse at some point and return to the center. These men face the same problem as the rest of us who make the same resolutions year after year: we want to change, we know how to change, but somehow we keep going back to our old selves. It is easy to lose hope, to be beaten down with each failure, but it is in these times that we learn to rely on the grace and mercy of God. In a ministry where a 20% success rate is considered excellent, the fact that more than 50% of the men do change their behavior for good is a testament to the power of God. It is when we depend on him, and not on our own resolve and willpower, that change can happen and we can be reborn.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:3-7)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Viaje al Cerro

...literally, "trip to the hill"... and that's what it was. Recently our youth group went on an overnight camping trip in the desert just outside of San Pedro. I went along, not really knowing what to expect - what hill? Are we going to the real desert, or just kind of an out-of-the-way wilderness spot? Are there bathrooms?? Are we going to survive the night???

With these all-important questions unanswered, about 20 of us set off in the bus at 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon. Well, first we had to stop for snacks, then for gas, then to pick up more we went at 4:30, this time for real, and after half an hour on the highway, we turned off on a rough track through the brush. First answer - we were going to the real desert. We made a brief stop to collect firewood (so this was why they told us to bring our machetes!) and a short time later, we arrived at the hill. Second answer - our campground was a spot between a couple of hills in the middle of the desert. Who decided this was a good camping spot? Does anyone actually know where we are? And, third answer - no bathrooms...

After clearing the ground of cactus spines and checking for scorpions, we unloaded the bus and set up camp. The only person who actually brought a tent was the bus driver; the rest of us planned to sleep in the bus or on the ground. We started a campfire as the sun set and after we got the coffee boiling, we had a short service. Although it doesn't matter whether you have a service in a church or in the street, worshipping in the open desert underneath more stars than I knew existed made me more aware of God's presence. There we were, a small group of people in the middle of nowhere, who couldn't see beyond the light of our fire, but still God knew exactly where we were. He heard our voices although no one else did, and we felt his presence in the stillness around us.

The night passed peacefully - no one got lost, we didn't run out of firewood, and we only heard and didn't see the wolves around us...morning came with a spectacular sunrise, and after breakfast it was back home to San Pedro. Fourth answer - yes, we did survive the night and, more than that, we experienced the presence of God in his creation and in his care of us.