Writing quick greetings from Puebla, in the last minutes of our second full day:  We are grateful for all the new friends we are making and the old relationships we are rekindling. Many of the teams’ fears revolved around breaking language barriers, but with our common goal and your prayers to build strong and meaningful relationships, we saw immediately at our worship service that boldness in the love between brothers and sisters in Christ beginning to help crush that fear. Pueblo de Esperanza welcomed us, we prayed and sang together, and listened to a sermon on Matthew 14 about how Dios tiene control de todo. The team is doing well facing Spanish (and our friends also love to learn English too) and kindling new conversations. We are encouraging each other daily and seeing growth in our relationships both horizontally and vertically.

Today, we began to meet the children of the Escuelita Biblica (last time I called it Club Biblia, which would be more appropriate for Venture Club). All the members of the team are finding their unique gifts and even gifts that we did not know we have. I was afraid that showing up once every three years wouldn’t matter as much, but I was wrong.  It matters a lot. There are several stories of people beginning to join Pueblo de Esperanza after our last VBS. But this hit me unexpectedly today, personally.

Three years ago, I met a three-year old; I’ll call her Nina. She was too young to participate in VBS and she hardly spoke then, and she’s still rather quiet as a six-year old now from what I’ve seen so far, but three years ago, we passed time taking selfies. Yesterday, we looked at our old selfies, and today, first thing after fist bumps, we took a new selfie. Later this afternoon, she came by our teen youth group and I drew her in with an outstretched hand for a fist bump, and she asked me a question—she was looking for Barbara-Lee— and I was able to give her the answer, that Barbara-Lee had gone to the store (to buy paint for Felina’s mural—which is also sinking in as Dad, but that’s a different tangent). Nina relayed the message back to her mom waiting outside, and Tim was able to continue his encouraging message to her older brother, and all of us—more about that in a moment.

In this simple conversation, I realized just how important our time together playing with a camera three years ago would impact this interaction today.  I can only imagine, as a whole, the impact our continued relationships may have on these children or on this community as we continue to get to know each other over the years. We may not be able to be present, but our memories and time together will carry meaning, the depth of which we have yet to understand.

Many of us were also very moved during a teen youth time, where we ate lunch and played games with the teens of Pueblo de Esperanza. When the fifteen-year old brother of Nina gave his testimony, his tears brought many more tears as he shared the cost of following Christ, losing friends and persecution from his teachers and even extended family. This resonated with many on the team and we know from Tim that others are going through these dark pressures to conform.

Later, outside a panaderia we met a man who asked about our group. He saw the artwork on our Puebla team shirt, and I went just a little further in our conversation, and suddenly he asked us for prayers. His family was also falling apart due to drugs, and he was having a rough time. I introduced him to Tim, and we prayed for him immediately. Pray for him, for Al. For Nina’s brother, and for others in our churches facing the cost of following Christ.

We appreciate your prayers, that we all will, in the words of Jesus: “Tengan ánimo, soy Yo; no teman” (Mateo 14:27), which also happens to be the key verse on Pueblo de Esperanza’s VBS t-shirts. Buenas noches y bendigas a todos. (Good night and blessings to all.)