Catching Up on The Journey

IMG_3819It’s been a long time since I visited the blog that I had a hard time logging back into wordpress, struggling to remember my password.

I quit writing in part because I couldn’t physically,  then I got really busy and distracted. Also the longer I waited to put notes to keys the harder time I was having to come up with the right series of words to illustrate where the journey to Amor has taken me.

First of all and in case the picture hasn’t given it away I’m officially the new Social Media Specialist for Amor Come Build Hope. For how it all started you can go here.

Although I have not raise enough support via fundraising I was still able to come on board because my colleges at Amor decided I was key for the new direction the organization is taking by giving part of their own salaries to subsidize mine until I’m able to raise more. Technically each month as I gain new supporters, my support from Amor will decrease until I’m fully sponsored, for that reason I still need your generous donations. (Go to https://www.amor.org/give/staff and input my name FJOH in the comment box and let me know so we can stay in touch). 

But that’s not the whole story and I wish I could come up with the words and really say how much has been placed in my heart in the last weeks. My hope is that my rambling makes sense.

A month ago I was preparing for a small surgery, so small that the technical term is a procedure. A hernia no bigger than a dime developed after my last pregnancy (my baby just turned 4) and I decided to take care of it taking advantage of my time off (a.k.a unemployment). I was told it was a simple surgery, which it didn’t mean a simple recovery. The following two weeks became the most grueling, humbling, painful weeks of my life, but in an incredibly ironic paralel in my disability many opportunities and projects I had been working on reached fruition and despite my affliction it was time to act.

As I was heading into the O.R. my husband turned to me cognizant of my terror for everything hospitaly and gave me a hug, I took a deep breath and prayed a silent prayer, your will be done. I know a little bit dramatic.

Upon my return, I felt like I had taken the best nap in the world and I was ready to get into action. After 10 months of transformation I was coming out of my cocoon.

When we got home I noticed that I had a voicemail from a guy named Chris, inviting me to join him as a Youth leader to take a group of high school students from Newbreak for a one week-long trip down to San Jose, Costa Rica to partner with an organization called Latin American Child Care (LACC).  He said he had heard good things about me (always a good thing to hear out of surgery) besides the fact that I’m bilingual and that I had recently developed a heart for Missions, made me an excellent candidate.

I felt like it was another appointment that God had prepared for me. So needless to say I’m going to Costa Rica in less than two weeks. Which by the way, although my fare has been covered there is still time if you want to support a youth to donate towards their trip by contacting chris@newbreak.org. The info about the trip is here. (I realized I’ve become shameless, but you don’t have to give if you don’t want to, but part of my job as a social media specialist includes the getting used to ask you to exercise your giving muscles.)

By evening time though, the medication began fading and was replaced by the most excruciating physical torture I’ve ever endured (and I’m counting here labor pains sans meds). Two days followed where I feared I would loose my mind, a mix of the medication that barely took the edge off and the pain that despite the medication showed it’s ugly face. A cycle of pain, numbness, confusion and the wall that took me back to the torment.

I was eager to get back on my feet, for the first time I had kept a running program for longer than a couple of months. I was eager to get back because I was going to Costa Rica, and I was eager to get back because my husband was leaving in a couple of days for a business trip and we did not make arrangements to care for our children or for me for that matter (I didn’t expect the extend of the disability).

The worst part were the six days following the surgery, specially the last three because my husband left on his trip and I had to make do. Fortunately and despite my lack of preparation asking for help, my mother in Law and my step mother in Law stepped up to the plate, helping me where they could. I also discovered or rather rediscover the beauty of 11 year son’s spirit and his work ethic. Much like his dad he has an amazing heart. He anticipated my needs and without being asked took upon himself the hardest task of putting his little sister in bed every night. To save myself some writing and because God synced me with similar stories I want to share something I read which feels like a version of what it is to go on the road of recovery for any care taker here.

I want to think those weeks also make me a more compassionate person. Not because I understand pain better, but because I was able to grasp the full scope of emotions from loneliness to gratitude and then most importantly surrendering. It is true that part of the problem of not getting more help was because I wanted to take care of things myself. That is my default mechanism: Independence, self-sufficiency. God had shown me how broken  my default mechanism really is, but this time the lesson was absolute. I needed Him; I needed others; I needed something I could not give my self. I forgave my self and began to reach out and with each reaching out healing began. I prayed, because I was surrendering my pain, but mostly through all I learned to give thanks for each act of love, even if it was small, it was enough more than enough.

As I began healing we received the sad news that my husband’s grandfather, a man whom I admire and love deeply for his strength and soul, had to have an emergency gallbladder surgery. The same day I found out, I was given the fabulous news about my start date with Amor.

 “No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.” Rick Warren 

The following weeks are mostly a haze in my memory between visiting grandpa at the hospital, which very quickly made me forget any pain I had felt, and trying to rush to give my kids their last days of a very hurried fun summer before their mom headed back to work. Fortunately, and despite several complications, grandpa has a fabulous prognosis. He’s back on his feet, and although he still doesn’t look like his old self and has yet to get his swagger back, I feel confident he might even come back with a vengeance and I expect to see him soon back on the green.

As for Amor, I’ve been working at the office for one week and all I can say it’s a match made in heaven. I feel privileged to continue writing a story of Love and encourage people to follow and bravely act upon the call of Come Build Hope.

Everyone at Amor has an important job for the future of the ministry. You can be part of that vision by supporting me with a monthly donation, a one-time gift or by committing to pray for me to meet my needs to continue my employment with Amor.

You can make your donation online at https://www.amor.org/give/staff, just make sure to put designation “other” and input my name in the comment box.

You can also send a check at 1664 Precision Park Lane, San Diego, CA 92173 and put my name in the memo line (FJOH).  Or call 619.662.1200 to make a donation on my behalf.

Thank you for your support and God Bless,

Advertisements

Donations: It’s not all about the Economy Stupid

Image

Like you might know I’m in the process of raising funds to support my work with an amazing organization, Amor Ministries.

It definitely has been a journey. With its mountaintops and its valleys. At this point I’m thrilled because after a relatively long period of not being able to raise any money, money has started to come in again.

I won’t lie, it’s been a dry period and it made me question the utility of it all. I read a couple of books on fund raising, blogs and a book on giving; I’ve sent letters to friends, family and acquaintances; I contacted my church; I contacted other churches around San Diego; I prayed; and I asked for advice from elders. I reached the end of myself and I was getting tired.

Then temptation to start looking elsewhere crept in. I figured that if I was to get a “normal job” I could donate towards Amor and be more helpful. How pretentious of me. God never asked me for my money (at least not on this case. After we did our taxes last month, we realized we had not given as much as we would like). He asked me to use my God given talent and my faith.

Amor is His doing. I’m just the vehicle and I must let go, surrender.  And that was the message I got last month when I went to a women’s retreat with Newbreak. And I’m so grateful that during that trip I was without distraction to practice being in His presence. How wise was God to fill me up with His Joy. He knew I needed my vase filled up with His spirit to continue the journey.

He also asked me to take a break: To do nothing (I’ll share more about the experience in another post). How counterintuitive with our culture and my makeup is that?

Do nothing? As a wannabe athlete I’m well familiarized with the phrase “Good things come to those who work their [buttocks] off.” Maybe I should make more cold calls, follow up on my contacts (really good advice from my dad who’s been on sales most of his life), send flyers to my neighbors (I only know a handful), what about a fundraising party (please let me know if this sounds like fun and if you would like to give me advice on how to go about it), anyway you get the idea.

But I yielded and I stopped leaning on my own understanding.  During this time I’ve shared my vase with others. I’ve been running more (super excited of reaching my personal best), gone on more outings with my kids, explored my artistic side, planned a party I hosted last week, and I’ve been more available for my friends. Doing and enjoying those things when I have something to accomplish would normally turned me into a basket case, but I actually did it, anxiety free.

Yesterday my latest numbers came in. First of all, the small recurring donations have added up, thank you very much for your faithfulness, you are bringing me closer and sustain my faith.

And secondly one person very close to me made a sacrificial donation. I know it’s sacrificial because her husband just recently lost his job. It overwhelmed me. I wanted to give it back. And then it hit me. How conceited of me. I don’t know how God plans to bless her. I know God multiplies and I can’t ask for abundance for others or me from a poverty mentality.

I know her gift has already blessed me. It reminded me, actually, for the first time it made me understand I’m not alone on this journey.

This might be a blog about the journey of how an unexceptional woman goes into joining a great non-profit to build homes to the poor, but actually this is our journey. To you who reads this and encourages me from the sidelines, to you who gave what was asked from you faithfully even when you might be scared, and to you who becomes encouraged by these lines, for these lines are my gift back to you.

It’s amazing what someone believing in you can do. I sometimes doubt myself. I don’t know how I will be able to come with the rest of the money, but I must keep putting one foot in front the other. I’ll go to battle, no matter how woefully unprepared I feel. Like for Gideon, God has a plan. And like Gideon, I’m not alone.

 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you,mighty warrior.”

 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” Judges 6:12-16 NIV

I pray God’s gentle hand directs me to whatever is next.

 

Everyone at Amor has an important job for the future of the ministry. You can be part of that vision by supporting me with a monthly donation, a one-time gift or by committing to pray for me to meet my needs to continue my employment with Amor.

You can make your donation online at https://www.amor.org/give/staff, just make sure to put designation “other” and input my name in the comment box.

You can also send a check at 1664 Precision Park Lane, San Diego, CA 92173 and put my name in the memo line (FJOH).  Or call 619.662.1200 to make a donation on my behalf.

Thank you for your support and God Bless,

Don’t Despise Small Beginnings

coffee cupI have great news! Amor has decided to sponsor me with 50%! Their generosity has overwhelmed me. Some of the funds will have to be diverted from elsewhere including staff support. I was supposed to raise 100% of my salary. All new staff members in new created positions are expected to do so. And I’ve been working towards that end since February.

Last Friday I had a meeting with Gayla  Cooper Congdon,  co-founder of Amor Ministries to discuss  my fundraising strategy .  I was supposed to start working for Amor on March , so she wanted to see how to help me formulate a fundraising strategy to get me on board as soon as possible. Our meeting rather became a heart-to-heart. She introduced me to Amy, a friend of hers from her college years who coordinates family and group camps. We shared about the joys of raising kids and the ministry . She shared with me of how God had met the organization’s needs after the rise of violence in Mexico made them lose HALF their volunteers. It’s not an easy task for any company to survive after losing half their clients, but Amor did.

“Love grows by giving. The love we give aways is the only we keep. The only way to retain love is to give it away.” Elbert Hubbard. 

In one sweep God has taken care of half of my needs. Mark Batterson, writes in his book Draw the Circle, “Like a parent that celebrates a baby’s first step, our heavenly Father rejoices when we take the smallest of steps in the right direction. And those small steps become giant leaps in God’s kingdom. If we do little things, God will do the big things.”

They could’ve simply try to hire somebody more connected, yet they chose to take a chance on me. The feeling that someone believes in your skills, and more importantly in your dreams is overwhelming. For every generous act, whether be words of encouragement, prayer, small or big donations my heart has grown bigger, and my steps gotten lighter

Although I still have to continue raising support for the other half of my salary,  I’ve been encouraged, with my faith restored, I will continue onward until God sees me through.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”  Zechariah  4:10a.

This is just the beginning. Thank you for being part of the journey.

 “The generous will themselves be blessed for they share their food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9 NIV.

If you want to join me in this new venture,  you can make donations directly in the website under staff giving and please input my name  Fabiola Johnson in the comment section.https://www.amor.org/give/staff

All your donations are tax deductible.

If you want to read more about the work of Amor, please visit https://www.amor.org/about and subscribe to this blog as I continue my journey to Amor.  

Extreme heart/home Makeover 2007

2007 Amor trip, Danny and Chuck

2007 Amor trip, Danny and Chuck

The trip across the border was swift. My group consisted on a pretty diverse group of young and old people, married and single. We all had different reasons to be there. My reason: I thought it would be “cool” to help build a home for needy families, and I thought it could also be a good bonding time with my husband. My husband’s uncle also decided to come with us, as a baby Christian he was the probably the most excited of the bunch, taking the words of Jesus in Matthew 2534-36 very seriously.

 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick, and you took care of me, I was in prison, and you visited me.”

I remember I had my reservations about the ministry. I was not mature in my faith and was suspicious of any charity/evangelic effort. It felt cruel to swing bread in the face of starving people if they chose to follow Jesus. For the record, this is not at all how Armor works, but that’s how I imagine it.

As the token Mexican of the group I also didn’t want to be associated with the Mexicans, we were there to help. Not everyone in Mexico lives like that I wanted to tell them. While for Americans populations are broken into races and countries of origin, in Mexico it’s a class system whether most of us would admit it or not. Even though I was there to help I had a hidden sense of superiority and broken ideas of what it meant to be poor.

Tijuana-Tecate region

Tijuana-Tecate region

By the time, we arrived at the colloquially named Dump City in the Canyon between the old road Tecate-Tijuana, the lively conversations of dozens of short-temp missionaries stopped. We all simply stared at the desolation outside our window. It was incredible to think that less than an hour away from the comforts of home, plasmas TV, manicured lawns, shopping malls and the land of opportunity, a group of people survived off the trash collected from the old municipal Tijuana Landfill.

Because we were a one-day building team, as opposed to seasonal campers we were assigned to give the finishing touches to two homes. In the first one, we would pick up some tools and finish up with the cleaning efforts and in the second home we would stucco the outside walls.

We were there to do extreme home-makeovers, but I didn’t count on a heart-makeover, much more impressive than the homes built.

It was easy for me to judge poor families. I couldn’t comprehend why if they were so poor would they keep having so many children. Why would they not choose something better for themselves? In every child I was seeing the same repeated story: Children continually born under the same or worse circumstances than their predecessors, with no fault of their own destined to poverty.

One of the staff members at Amor shared with me that the original mission for Amor was to help children who ended up in orphanages after their parents could not look after them. However, the founders decided that empowering families and helping them stay together by building homes, the family could use their own resources to send their kids to school, they would get sick less often. In short, families that stayed together, grew together.

A group of girls gather to get their picture taken

A group of girls gathers to get their picture taken

At the first home, on a strip of land below the dump. I heard the testimony of a man who quit drinking after his wife began praying for him. He also had gotten a job and was sending his two daughters to school. The trash collected around the house was part of his livelihood as he would sell at a recycling plant nearby. He was very thankful that he not only had a roof over his head but a concrete floor on the ground for his loved ones.

Before Amor, his house did not have running water or indoor plumbing. During the rainy season, the dirt roads turned into mud rivers that would wash into the house. Many homes in the area were still shift made homes built with discarded pieces of wood and plastic and roof tarps. We could still see many of those homes. How would anyone be able to raise above that on their own?

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  2 Corinthians 5:17

The two girls in the center were getting their own bedroom

The two girls in the center were getting their own bedroom

By mid-morning my heart had begun changing. I started seeing the children as my own. Despite language barriers with some other members of the team, they also managed to share their love and gratitude. We were thankful, for the experience had not only taught us to appreciate what we had back home, but we were witnessing resilience that is born into the human spirit when shown love.

Poverty turns out is as physical as spiritual.

During the building process, all the work is done by hand. At Amor, volunteers don’t use power-tools to be more inclusive. Which it meant I was not above mixing concrete. I discovered it’s really hard work. I have much more appreciation to construction workers all over the world. No day at the gym has ever felt that good. I didn’t know I had it me, but that’s part of the incredible experience.

Towards the end of the day, I knew I wanted to be back, but life got in the way. Nevertheless, a seed was planted that took six years to sprout.

UPDATE: Since that trip, the old Landfill of Tijuana closed. Many families lost their incomes, while some found jobs in the maquiladoras, the area is still in dire need.

11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:11 (ESV)

P1010249

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=xrDRnwjZah0

1 (ESV

If you want to learn more about the work of Amor in Mexico visit http://www.amor.org/trips/locations/mexico

If you want to support my work with the organization,  please visit  https://www.amor.org/give/staff. Input my name in the comment box Fabiola Johnson. All donations are tax deductible.

Happy Women’s Day!

Happy Women’s Day! In God I find freedom to become the woman He created me to be.

I just wanted to share the song that for me best describes what today is all about.

It was originally written in behalf of women, victims of domestic violence. However, women around the world and across ages, religions and cultures have been in physical and emotional chains that prevented their light shine bright.

Today we remember the women and men who have fought for women’s freedoms. Today we celebrate women and say that it’s not only acceptable to be a woman, but it’s a gift for humanity when women are all they are meant to become.

My life is full of great examples of the warrior that is a woman, and of men who love them. Thank you, for the path in front of me is full of possibilities.

Ella, Bebe

She is tired of throwing the towel

She removes from herself the spider webs

She hasn’t sleep tonight, though she’s not tired

She hasn’t look at her image in the mirror, yet she feels gorgeous

Today, she has colored her eyelashes

Today, she likes her smile, she doesn’t feel a stranger

Today, she dreams what she wishes without worry

Today, she’s a woman that knows her own soul
Today, you’ll know the world is all yours,

That no one can harm you; no one can hurt you.

Today, you’ll understand,

Slamming a door can break up fear.

Today, you will make someone laugh,

Because your eyes have grown tired of crying,

Today, you’ll manage to laugh at yourself and see how much you’ve accomplished.

Today, you’ll be the woman

You wish to be.

Today, you’ll love yourself

Like no one knew how to love

Today, you’ll look forward

Because yesterday already hurt you

A brave woman, a smiling woman

Look how it happens!

Today, a perfect woman is born

She’s broken the rules

She wears high heals to make her steps louder

Today she knows her life will never be a failure again

Today you’ll discover the world is only for you

That no one can hurt you, no one can harm you

Today you’ll reach heaven

Without looking down

Today, you are going to be happy

Even when winter is cold and long

Today, you’ll manage

To laugh so much at yourself and everything you’ve accomplished

Let’s have a light Valentine’s Day

First of all I love, Love, everything that means and I have no problems expressing it, receiving it, giving it, and living it every day. Mushy or not, it’s my favorite verb, noun and adjective.

However, Valentine’s Day the day to celebrate love can be one of the most difficult days especially for the romantic challenged. My Beau, has a terrible score with Valentine’s. Yes, I do keep score in this sort of thing. It never fails; at the end of the day he’ll walk around feeling like once again he failed to do the big romantic gesture. He got caught up with work late, he didn’t find anything to get me (it’s tough when your girl hates most jewelry, red roses and cheap chocolate), or simply he forgot until someone got flowers at work.

So I wrote him a letter, about having a “light” Valentines day, maybe someone else can relate. And if you are feeling particularly “unloved” this day, or most of the time, maybe they are simply speaking a different language.

So before you come home I release you. I release you of the obligation of having to prove that today you love me more than any man has loved any other woman. For starters, I love you and that’s enough for me. To love you has been the best decision I’ve made in my life and I hope to keep loving you for the rest of my life.

And I thank you because I know I’m loved more than all the chocolate covered strawberries in the world could convey.

You loved me when you said, “I do” even though we had nothing going for us but our faith.

You loved me when you came back to me time and time again, no matter how far you traveled and how far you stray. 

You loved me when you took charge of this family like a man even when you were just a child.

You loved me when you held our son and told me we had everything.

You loved me when you forgave the unforgivable.

You loved me when you supported me to get a degree, go to D.C., stay home, get a job, quit said job, write, get a new job, start again, plant a garden… or not, go to Mexico, paint the kitchen blue, learn to draw… or not, put my feet up for a while, run a marathon… let’s start with a 10K, have another baby, and every other whim of my heart because you love and respect my heart.

But most of all, now I know you do have pretty extraordinary moments as a romantic; I only had to learn to read between the lines.

I now now:

 You love me because you don’t leave the house without giving me a kiss.

You love me because you let it go before I can.

You love me because you smile/laugh after everything I say. I’m glad I make you happy.

You love me because you get me tea at night.

You love me because you invite me for lunch or to clean the garage when you miss me during the day.

You love me because you want to read what I read.

You love me because you can’t go to sleep until I do.

You love me because you let me sleep in.

You love me because you work hard and want to share it with me.

You love me because you ask me to dance in the kitchen when we have rough days.

And I could go on and on, but I think you got it. I know you love me and it’s OK if for today if we just watch a romantic movie and the bottle of wine I got. We can celebrate our Love without anything exceptional, because what we got is pretty sweet

Can you have faith in the face of fear?

Image

29 Jesus said, “Come, Peter.”Then Peter left the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. 30 But while Peter was walking on the water, he saw the wind and the waves. He was afraid and began sinking into the water. He shouted, “Lord, save me!”31 Then Jesus caught Peter with his hand. He said, “Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-31

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

 It never fails; doubt and fear are a heavy burden that causes drowning.

It is no wonder fear has been a recent visitor in my life. See, I’m like Peter. Of course it’s easy to follow Jesus in land, but to follow Him in water?

I’ve told you my story about where I’m heading here.

However, at each step my legs wobble and my hands tremble. A couple times (more like a thousand) I’ve questioned how wise is for me to take this path. I’ve told myself that maybe I should’ve been looking for something to secure my family’s future. A career with greater compensation, big benefits or at least job security.

The truth is that fundraising has not been easy for me and didn’t expect it to be.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Perhaps I imagined that the whole situation would resolve itself, keeping me from the inconvenience of becoming “uncomfortable.” Don’t get me wrong I’m eager to start working with Amor and I’m convinced about my calling and their mission.

Yet, my life would have been easier if a big donor would have jumped in and offer to cover my salary for the entire year. Talk about miracles, right?

But I know growth only occurs when you get out of your comfort zone. God is after something else. He knows I’ll need more faith than ever before to carry out His message, to help His people and to stay strong for Him. It feels like a test, but I believe is rather the lesson.

Fundraising is only hard now because it is something I’ve never done. However, as I walk in this path, with each step my legs become sturdier and stronger, remembering what they’ve done and what they can do through Him.

When my faith sees itself tested. I draw strength from past experiences. One day this experience will too serve to show me that faithful work has its recompense. One day soon I hope, I’ll be telling you from the offices of Amor that all is well and you too should consider stepping out into the water and join us in a mission trip.

Today don’t fault me for doubting; these are my first steps out of the boat.