Saturday, July 23, 2011
And, this write comes because McAllen is on the top 100 list:
Monday, July 18, 2011
We were able to go back to Monterrey this past weekend, and it was a good time. Yes, it had only been a month since we left, so we went back some trepidation. The thoughts swirling in my mind were, “What if I get there and realize that we made a huge mistake in leaving?!” and “What if I get there and see all the needs that remain—will I want to stay??”
We left Friday morning and made our way across the border without incident. The drive across the “desert” was beautiful’—rains from some weeks ago had turned the dry and dusty land into a beautiful green carpet with desert flowers. We found a lot more cars on the highway than we had seen in months—the government seems to have re-instilled a sense of security for travel on that highway. Of course, that was a good thing as we had worried some about that part of our trip. The many cars and trucks gave us sense of calm.
Upon arriving in Monterrey (MTY), we made our way first to the City Club Soriana (a grocery store) to grab some gorditas at Doña Totas…a long time favorite food of ours in Mexico…similar to the arepas of Venezuela. After lunch, we started getting the kiddos to their various places, to where they would stay for the weekend—first, we dropped Andrew at Pastor Oscar’s house. Then, Megan, Jeanne and I ran by Instituto Laurens to drop off yet more books for the developing reading program there (thank you Keogh Family, Woodland UMC and Buford 1st UMC for the latest shipments of books!) Of course, Ms. Andrea (the English coordinator) was thrilled to have more books. She is now purchasing carpets for the reading areas so the children can read in comfort.
After the Laurens stop, we made our way to the Home Depot (yes, Home Depot has made it to Mexico!) to buy some large, industrial fans for the classrooms at the John Wesley Methodist Seminary (el Seminario Metodista Juan Wesley). Some additional funds came in AFTER the copier was already purchased for the office, so we determined to use those funds to better the life and learning environment at the seminary. When the students start classes in August, they will find some large, quieter, industrial sized fans in the classrooms making those 100ºF+ temps much more bearable. Thank you to ALL who have given towards the copier…and beyond!
The books delivered, the fans purchased and delivered (we got to see Itzeel and Panchita in the office at the seminary,) we got Megan to her stop—Pastor Sergio’s house where Megan would stay with his daughter, Loyda…and then Jeanne and I went to Juan Manuel and Claudia’s house where we would spend the weekend. They graciously gave us a room in their home…and we so enjoyed seeing these friends of ours. They are missionaries from Honduras, so we got to enjoy some absolutely DELICIOUS Honduran coffee…prepared their traditional way. Fantastic! Still, even better than the coffee was the fun we had sitting and talking with them, seeing their four precious children.
That afternoon, I met one of my former students from the Teachers’ College, Ale, and turned over to her some computer software that will allow her blind brother to use the computer by using only his voice! She was thrilled to receive the software…and so happy to see us.
Friday evening, we were able to be with our “old” discipleship group for a time of sharing, prayer, and fellowship together. Saturday, we took Andrew for his dental appointment (we have yet to get a dentist on the US side, and it still costs less to drive there, see the dentist and drive back than it does to pay a single dental visit on this side!)
Saturday afternoon, we got to go for coffee with my friend, Adil, a teacher friend from Morocco that I met when I was teaching at UDEM. He, his Mexican wife and young daughter shared together with us almost an hour-and-a-half! We agreed—at their insistence—to stay with them next time we visit Monterrey. Then, after, we went back to Juan Manuel’s where we watched their children and sent the two of them off to dinner to celebrate their anniversary. That was a lot of fun!
Sunday morning, we were back at our church in Monterrey—La Iglesia Gran Comisión. It was wonderful to see everyone…and everybody was so welcoming and glad to see us. We sang together, heard the Word, and fellowshipped as long as we could after. Finally, we had to pack it up and head back to McAllen.
On the drive back home, I reflected on those questions I had swirling in my mind before…and I came to some conclusions: we had a fruitful ministry in Monterrey, we impacted many lives…but, we did leave at the right time, we did understand the call correctly. We are back home in McAllen, thankful that we can visit from time to time with our dear friends in Monterrey…and they with us here. We pray for peace in that land…and for a positive impact on the part of the Church. And, we move forward as we discern what God would have us do with our lives on this side…in this context. God is good…all the time.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Our family participates and enjoys popular culture as much as the next person, perhaps. We love going to the movies…enjoy popular music…give popular art a chance. We are not classical snobs…and don’t want to be. We strive to find what is good in whatever ambience we find ourselves. Yet, we don’t embrace whatever is popular and call it “good.” We strive to be critical thinkers—that is, we question what we experience…either during the experience or after. We can enjoy the Twilight films, but we don’t embrace all of the ideas set forth. We can watch Ugly Betty on television…but we realize that the show pushes a homosexual agenda, and we don’t support that agenda. Being aware of the underlying themes and ideas allows us to watch, participate…but not get sucked in. And, I hope we’re always that way.
Last night, we saw Fast Five...the fifth installment of the Fast and Furious series. The show was good fun. The dialogue was clever here and there. Having lived in Latino culture, we were able to take in the Rio scenes of scantily clad women and gun toting “cholos” no problem—that is common in many parts of the Latino world. But, all was not well and right with this film.
Like too many films coming out today, this film did not offer any truly good, positive role-models. All of the characters ended up being “bad” in the end. Even the great DEA agent, Dwayne Johnson’s character, goes bad, helps the thieves, and laughs when the thieves get away with it all. In this film, there were bad bad-guys and good bad-guys…but they are all bad guys. You take that element and mix it with clever dialogue, seeming-invincibility, super-coolness, humor and you get a formula for future disaster.
Why would I say that? I can imagine too many kids walking away from a film like that thinking, “Yeah, I want to be a good bad-guy like Dom…family first…trust…love…but steal and hit and kill and damage to get what I want. But, a good bad-guy.” What? A good bad-guy? What an oxymoron!? I have a feeling that much of the violence we see in Mexico today, violence that is showing up in the drug-cartels and even in the common thieves who roam the streets, was spawned in Hollywood and television movies/series that set forth this increasingly popular character—the good bad-guy. And, “Heck, if being good is so much work, why not just give in to selfishness, egotism and greed…but be a “good” bad-guy as I go about it??” If everyone out there was a critical thinker, these movies would just be fun. As it is, as it has been for decades, art shapes life…as life shapes art.
While I have very little chance of changing Hollywood or popular culture, I can (and will!) teach and encourage critical thinking. As we drove home from the film last night, we talked about the film and raised those questions of good, bad and everything in between. My wife, my teenagers and I discussed the messages of the film (as well as the funny and clever parts, and the stunts and special effects), and came to some conclusions about the film…and revisited some things we’ve known about Hollywood all along. “Good bad-guys” are still bad. Stealing is wrong, money is not the end all, sex has its pleasure and place…and Hollywood is all messed up when it comes to these issues!
The final question that came up on our ride home was, “Okay…they have $11 million each—what do they do now?” How long can they sit around on a beach and do nothing?? Andrew suggested that learn to love reading and fund a library nearby. I love my son….