Saturday, March 31, 2012

Newsletter - March 2012


Dear Family and Friends,
          Yes, it has certainly been too long since we’ve written.  Some of you may have already consigned us to your “Where are they now?” list.  Fair enough.  But, we are still HERE and life goes on.  And, now it’s time to catch you all up on our lives….
         Jon continues to teach at South Texas College—the job that God so graciously provided AFTER we had moved here and settled into life.  He has about 60 students in his various classes…and he so enjoys teaching them college writing.  Of course, he weaves in his own life experiences…and remains ever open to any conversations that students are willing to have (see the latest blog: 

          Besides teaching at the college, ministry and service continues in Monterrey.  The John Wesley Seminary basically maintains an open invitation for whenever Jon can be with them, and the Methodist school/Teachers' College (El Instituto Laurens - LEB) is happy whenever we can both be with them.  Just recently, we received an invitation to spend a weekend at the teachers’ college to help train public, bilingual science teachers.  Now, we're not science teachers, but the director of the program wants us to talk about methods for teaching the English components of a science course.  Okay…we’ll give it a try!! Ha,ha…  Then, Jon was also asked to come a give a presentation at the 15th Annual Education Seminar sponsored by our Methodist school in Monterrey.  This year, the seminar will take place on the campus of the huge public university—la Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo León (UANL).

         Jeanne has continued to press on at the home-front making sure that this first year of transition goes well for all of us.  The home is set up now--for the most part--and we are all settling into our lives here.  Until Megan got her license in January, Jeanne was the principal taxi-driver.  Jeanne has been very active in the PSTO (parent, student, teacher organization) at Andrew’s school, and she has been scouring the internet for scholarship opportunities for our children as they attend or move towards college.  And, she manages to keep us so very well fed—not “fat and happy,” but “fed and happy.”  After this summer, Jeanne hopes to find either a full-time or a part-time job—please pray that God reveals the right kind of work and then opens the door for it all to happen!
         Jesse is in Austin, Texas, and will begin her junior year this Fall at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.  She is very excited about this move.  She will be taking a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish with teacher certification in both areas!  The girl aims high...and she has every reason to!  And--selfishly--we are so happy that Jesse can come home every so often for a take a break from school and work.
         Megan is a dual-enrollment student this last year of high school, attending the college where Jon teaches.  She is doing very well in her studies as she takes her first steps towards the RN program.  In fact, she has done so well that she was inducted last week into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society!  Go, Megan!  Besides her studies, she is very active in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship…and even went with ICF on a mission trip to the Yucatan (Mexico) for Spring Break.
         Andrew is doing very well in his first year of American high school.  As of the writing of this letter, he has all A’s!  He is involved in the drama program at the school, and plays the drums in a little band some friends and he have put together.  Andrew is still adjusting to life here.  He still misses his friends in Monterrey, but he and his sister have been able to visit Monterrey by bus…so they get to see old friends every now and then.  Meanwhile, Andrew forms new friendships here…and he seems genuinely happy with life.

          Well, there you have it!  Life is good.  We are finding our way in this new world…and God remains both good and faithful.  We're going to close this letter with the closing paragraph of Jon’s report to the Annual Conference:
  “The first few months back in the US were a time of real soul-searching as I tried to figure out who I was and what I was to do.  I was patient and God is faithful:  for now, it seems that I am to be a local teacher (with amazing opportunities to share my life with the 97% Latino student population) and a missioner to Mexico.  This life and work does not fit the neat holes of conference forms...but when has God limited God's self to our forms?  I thank God for experiences past...and look forward to what God will have for me, for us--my wife and myself--in the days and years to come.”

Thank you all for your prayers and friendship through the years--we would love to hear from you when you get a chance.
May God’s Grace and Peace be yours!
Jon and Jeanne
     Jesse, Megan and Andrew

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

María’s ‘Primer Paso’

As I walked from my office at the college towards my classroom, the wind was blowing hard from the southeast as it always does here in the Rio Grande Valley. As fate and Murphy’s Law would have it, my classroom is about as far away from office as possible on our campus, so the walk doubles as exercise for me...and doubles again if I’m walking into the wind as I was this day. Usually I walk it alone, but this day was to be different.

As I left my office building, I saw Maria, a student in my class, walking across the parking lot ahead of me on her way to our classroom. I easily caught up to her with my long stride. As I joined her, I remarked about the amazing morning weather, the beauty of the sky and so forth. Then I asked her, “So, how is the semester going for you?”

She responded, “Well, it WAS going okay, but this week has been bad.”

She became quiet.

“Bad how?” I queried.

That was all she needed. Her uncle was supposed to be receiving his daughter (Maria’s cousin) home for the first time in over 20 years...but he had done “something really stupid” and now he was in jail somewhere in west Texas...and her cousin had come in yesterday from Minnesota...and her uncle is in jail and can’t even see his daughter...and the family is upset...and the cousin is upset—“It’s been a bad week.”

Maria poured out her heart over the seven minute walk to our classroom. This really surprised me since she is the quiet sort. She is usually in class, but doesn’t say much. She turns her work in, and she comes and goes, but we’ve never really said too much to each spite of my attempts to draw her into classroom discussions and general chats about weather, weekends and what not. This day was different.

I listened earnestly, encouraged her as I could, and we finally arrived at the classroom. Maria seemed half attuned to the lecture and the following discussions...and I knew why. It didn’t matter—I was simply grateful that Maria had opened up to me, had shared something so personal from her life.

Class ended and out the door we went. Maria was the last to leave the classroom before me and seemed to walking a bit slowly, as if waiting for me. As I fell into step beside her, I again encouraged her about her family and told her that I hoped all would turn out well. A silence fell and I asked her what class she was headed for next.

“Anatomy and Physiology.”

“Oh,” I responded. “Are you going into nursing or something?”

“No, I’m going to be a dietician.”

Maria is not skinny. And, well...let’s just say that she’s a little short for her weight.

Now, I am no fool. There are some things a male just does not discuss with a female. There is no way that I was going anywhere near that sort of conversation! But, I was the fool after all because I wasn’t driving that conversation. Maria wanted to talk...and talk she did.

She began to tell me of her struggles with diets, how none of them have worked; she told me of her Mom and how she loves to cook ‘Mexican style’ with lots of tortillas and meat and oil and refried beans. She told me that her father has recently been diagnosed with diabetes...the adult onset type that came from his diet. She told me of how she has tried to exercise and how hard it is...and how she has stopped eating she wants to eat more fruit but her Mom doesn’t encourage her.

As a sane (and frightened!) man, I listened and nodded and encouraged her. We finally came to the library where she was going to study and I paused to allow her to go on in so that I could make my way to my office. But, she stopped and turned and talked, and talked, and talked another five minutes. Finally, she had to go and I had to go, so I offered my paltry, parting words of encouragement (“Persistence, hang in there!”) and we went our separate ways....

We all have those times in our lives when we ask, “Is it worth it? Does my life really make a difference? Am I getting through at all?” We may go weeks, days—even months—with silence as the only response. I had been having those feelings as of late, wondering if anything in my life—my teaching, my attitude—was having an effect on anyone in my classes. And, then came Maria this day—a 19-year-old young lady who had no reason to share with me these intimate, private parts of her life, yet she obviously had seen something in me that gave her the confidence to open her life to me and invite me to have a glimpse into her painful and troubled world.

When I taught seminary in Mexico, I would tell my pastoral students that what Maria had done is called a ‘primer paso’...a sort of a ‘first step’ in the formation of something beyond the “hihowareya? relationship.” If someone will allow us access to this deeper part of their life, then perhaps they will one day bare their soul...and the emptiness of it. When that happens, we may have the chance to share with them what has filled our souls, what has changed and shaped our lives beyond measure.

I give thanks today for those ‘primer pasos,’ those first steps that others have taken in opening their lives to us. What an honor to be trusted with such a part of their lives. Now, I hope we may be ready to share with them—at just the right time—the Author of Life who fills us and gives our lives structure, meaning and purpose.