Busy at Work or Busybody

I don’t like to excuse myself, Dad always used to tell me “In this life there are two kinds of people, people who give results and people who give excuses, the first ones don’t need excuses.”

So I won’t, although in my title I kinda did 😉

I really wanted to share a couple of things I’ve been working with my team at Amor.

The first one is a video of what it means for a family to participate on a mission trip building homes for those in greatest need.

Aug 2013 Three Day from Amor Ministries on Vimeo.

And the second thing I want to share is a super creative campaign that we’ve envisioned to get a new server for Amor. Yes like you read it, a new server. Not the most exciting thing to rally for, but at Amor like at many organizations of our size a server is in many ways the heart of the operations. We are in the business of building homes for those in need, to bring hope and give incredible mission experiences to those who join us and everything happens thanks in part to Mr. Server.

“Let’s retire Mr. Server” is the first campaign I’ve created of it’s kind. You know I’m not good at asking for money (Not fully funded yet, but God willing I will by the end of this year :)) Yet, it has been fun to create this character.

Basically we only have two weeks to raise the funds our “IT guy” has deemed indispensable to have a performing server and not have any more blackouts…#ITproblems… And tell me about it, poor guy had to cut short his paternity leave to respond to a couple of emergencies with the poor old guy.

Watch it and let me know what you think.

Mr Server Retirement from Amor Ministries on Vimeo.

The website for the campaign is

http://www.crowdrise.com/retireAmorserver

Living the Forrest Gumpy Life

Yesterday was my first day on my own negotiating the streets of Tijuana, with only a hiking GPS and my instincts to direct me to which path to take.

I knew the day would come, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon. My mission yesterday was to gather information about  the families that Casa de Amor sponsors. Like my past visits to TJ, I expected to go with a chaperone/driver. But my ride to Tijuana had meetings all day, so I decided it was time to go on my own. After all how hard could’ve been right? I mean, I know how to drive (in a straight line); I had a GPS (the old hiking kind); and I could ask for directions without a language barrier (following those directions a little bit more tricky).

It took me 45 minutes to find the first home in one of the most challenging neighborhoods in Tijuana (unfortunately I’ve been told there are worse ones). The worst part was figuring out if what laid before me was an attempt of a dirt road, or a path created by surface runoff. I’m not a very confident driver, but when I saw a truck making it through the treacherous road, I had to trust that it was intended for driving and that all I needed was to follow the way the other driver had taken.

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The experience got me thinking of how life is a bigger version of those 45 minutes (I had a lot of time to think on my two hour border wait on the way back to the States).

In life, we don’t always know what’s around the corner or like an even more cliché yet fabulous metaphor: “Life is Box of Chocolates. You Never Know What You are Going to Get,” Forrest Gump’s Mom.

Life might require course corrections, backing ups and turn arounds. Some times we get ourselves in trouble for not asking for directions or because you can’t remember if you were told whether you needed to turn right or turn left at the second tree whose leaves were facing North, or did they say South, or was it the fifth tree?. (Maybe facetious, but if you’ve been given directions in Mexico you know what I’m talking about)

Sometimes we have to deal with the blind spots, broken AC, and bad radio reception… Ok, the last two are not really metaphorical and really a little bit of a complaint of yesterday’s experience. But seriously, we have to double check the blind spots in our lives otherwise we might run over someone if we are only focusing on where we are going and not where we are.

And some times you just have to go for it. Of course it helps to find those with the experience to mentor you, in order to follow their tracks so to speak to reduce uncertainty and risk. Yet nothing is guaranteed and no one is going to make it across the ravine for you.

Of course I could’ve gotten stuck in a hole and more than once I thanked God that it wasn’t raining season, that would definately could’ve make it worse.

Our journeys in life are often times delayed by difficulty designed to make us desist in our journey (I considered re-routing to the next home in my list in an easier neighborhood or to come another day). But when you got a clear mission. In my case yesterday was to get at least five interviews. The farther you go the harder it is to quit, and in some cases even if you try there is no going back.

And even if no one would’ve been home at the time, at least I would’ve known how to get there next time.

 

 

 

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)

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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.

It is only fitting that I start my journey in February “mes del Amor”

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Many people struggle waiting for God’s response, but what happens when God tells you clearly to do something and you simply won’t move in the direction He wants you to go?

Up until five months ago I had a job in which I did very well within a company that reflected my values and where I was growing in many ways. I was in a career path that required many hours daily in the office and many more at home reading and researching. It left me drained and hungry (literally and figuratively), although curiously happy and satisfied like at the end of a long run.

However, God began pulling me away. When my husband started traveling for work, it became harder to juggle responsibilities at home along a demanding career. I prayed and God told me He had something else for me.  So I took a giant leap of faith and I quit a job that not only provided economically, but a job I enjoyed immensely.  It was one of the hardest choices I had to make.

That was in September of last year. Since then I struggled trying to figure out what was God’s plan for me. At times I thought it was for me to be home with my kids and rock the mom profession, we moms are fabulous after all. But, He kept stirring in me a new dream. I prayed for direction.

God’s answer came while running during a chilly November afternoon.  After several miles (more like two) the song of Casting Crowns “If We Are The Body” kept resounding in my head except that the lyrics kept saying if “we are the body, why aren’t his hands building?” as opposed to whatever it says (I’m famous for making up lyrics). I prayed for interpretation.

When I got home, while working on my resume I saw Amor ministries listed in volunteering experience. (I had been asked by a career expert to perhaps remove it because it was irrelevant to my skills and the jobs I wanted).

Although it has been a while since the last time I volunteered with Amor, I never forgot that weekend.

When you are a bad listener, God sometimes shouts.  Later that day as I was cleaning my inbox I found an old link to the Amor ministries employment page (apparently it was not the first time God had stirred me in that direction).

I was shocked to find that at the top of the page that Amor Ministries was seeking for a Social Media Specialist and my skill set, as set in my resume was a mirror image of the needs of the position.

So with blind faith I applied to the position and after several interviews I was welcomed to be part of the team at the beginning of this year.

However being that Amor is a non-profit, my salary is 100% dependent on fundraising and this is where I froze (remember I got the job in Jan). I have never successfully raised funds for anything in my life. In the past, it was a struggle to even get a couple of hundred dollars for a race against cancer and now I’m supposed to raise three months salary before I can start and then I will be dependent on the good will of friends and strangers for continued support. This is an even bigger step of faith than simply sending out a resume.

But I’m even more afraid of what will happen if I don’t move. It’s easy to pray for direction; it takes courage to take the path once you are given one.

Luckily I’m not alone in this, my family supports me, and only last night some of my friends just made me realized that I’m simply being asked to throw out the net. And more importantly God is with me.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

NIV John 21:6

If you want to join me in this new venture, let me know. You can make donations directly in the website under staff giving and please input my name 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 I will keep you posted about my first year in the ministry.