Uganda, here we come! Calendar

If you receive our newsletter, then you have already received our calendar.  If you are not currently receiving our newsletters and would like to, please contact us at <hsanchez5811@gmail.com>.

Below is a calendar of where we’ll be and when during this short period before our family leaves for Uganda. We are making a loop to visit friends/partners and fulfill speaking engagements. If you live in or around those areas we would love to see you while we are there. Please contact us via email to connect. Also note: from November 15th through December 22nd Sal will be in Uganda. He is going ahead to work and prepare a place for the family.

You can also view/save/print our calendar in pdf form by clicking on the links below.

Sanchez 2017 calendar

Sanchez 2018 Calendar

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

February 2018

The Renaissance Festival: The follow-up

Please allow me to open with this disclaimer: this post may seem unrelated to this website and the mission field. However, it’s important to remember that mission work is carried out by people and families who have many of the same needs as any other, ie: spending quality time together. One of the primary purposes of this blog is to paint an accurate picture of our lives as a missions family. That said, I hope you enjoy this post.

I will admit that when Sal first recommended we attend a Renaissance festival, I was a bit skeptical. I remembered this kid from high school who would go to Renaissance festivals and reenact in them. I thought that made him very weird.

Apparently I married a weirdo. But, in the end I agreed. Oh my goodness, what fun! It was really neat to see how my girls chose personas that reflected their own personalities. Mila, compassionate and brave, was my bold and noble dame/knight, Talai, humble and devoted, was my just Ranger often hidden in the shadows and Hadassah, passionate and daring, was my Nordic Viking (perhaps more after the style of Leif Eriksson).

And yes, Sal went as a monk and evangelized several times that day. He is such a great example of how being a Christian is who we are and not something we simply believe in or do. In perfect medieval monk persona, he shared the Gospel with fellow monks, knights, elves and tavern maids. It was pretty wild to witness! I was convicted to remember that in truly any situation, the Gospel applies and can be preached.

Click any picture below to access the full-size photo carousel and captions.

Lord help me, I married an Evangelist

Our whole family is intrigued with history.  So as to do something fun and largely unique to the western world, we decided to go to the Michigan Renaissance Festival this coming weekend. In addition to our typical homeschool curriculum, we’ve added classes on the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Knighthood. We’ve also been working on costumes, because an opportunity to learn history through interactive immersion is a homeschooling mom’s dream.

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As I hurried to put some costumes patterns together (and begged my mom, a seamstress, for help), Sal kept changing his mind on what persona he wanted to go as and so put off giving me a solid costume idea. It wasn’t until I threatened to send him in a potato sack that he finally gave me something to work with.  Yesterday morning he told me, “I want to go as a Renaissance-era Missionary.”Monk-800px

My first though was, “Jeepers, can’t you just put aside saving the world for one day and have some fun?” Visions of our typical joint shopping trips began filling my mind. Whenever Sal accompanies me grocery shopping I have to plan for it to take three times as long in order to anticipate the theological discussions with strangers which seem to have made their way onto my shopping list.

But immediately following I was convicted of how wrong-headed this train of thought was. Firstly it implied that we can’t have fun and share the love of God simultaneously. Anyone who has worked in children’s ministry could debunk that idea in a heartbeat.  And worse yet, I was guilty of seeing being a missionary as an occupation; as something we do and not as an identity; who we are. Truthfully it is the very identity of the Christian believer which should compel him or her to be ever vigilant, seeking the spiritually deceived and oppressed and shedding the light of truth in their lives.

Therefore, I would argue that it is every Christian’s duty to be mission-minded. Anything less and one risks living in violation of the Great Commission and Jesus’ very last words:

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”

~Matthew 28: 18-20 (NKJV)

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I’m not saying that every Christian should start packing their suitcase, but I do believe that a faithfully lived life is one lived within the constant tension, or awareness, that we’ve been called to “Go.” Some will be called to take the Gospel to foreign lands and all should be open to that if God so directs them. Most, however, will be called to “go” to their workplaces, their schools, their families, their neighborhoods and all their spheres of influence. Not every Christian is called to be an Evangelist, but we’re all called to evangelize. Not all are called to be Pastors, but we’re all responsible to bear witness to Christ and edify His body, the church. Not every Christian is called to witness in nations, cultures and tongues unfamiliar to their own, but we’re all called to love and to do good to all men and to preach the Gospel wherever we go. As Christians we should be mindful of the needs of the people around us and actively help relieve those needs while sharing the Good News. The Lord has truly brought the world to our doorstep here in the United States. As hatred and division intensify in our nation, we should be the firsts to reach across cultural and ethic lines extending hands of friendship and brotherhood.

joust knightThere is no “life as usual” in biblical Christianity. Every day we awaken with breath in our lungs is a blank page in the adventure novel that God is writing with our lives. Do we let Him take the pen or do we struggle to control the ink and smudge the page in vain attempts with an eraser? Do we see ourselves as protagonists in an epic love adventure, filled with danger and evil now, but ultimately with a happy ending? Routine can be, and often is, a very good thing in life, but if our lives are mundane we have probably become our own authors. Submission to Christ as Lord and God the Father as supreme Author are the keys to meaning, significance and adventure.

The church of America is being awakened to function in her identity.  The disciple James said that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). I know it has become cliché, but it really is time to stop doing church and to be the Church, and that applies not only to Sunday morning, but to every day of our lives. We see the acceleration of negative change all around us. Will we, as the bride of Christ, rise to the occasion and meet new challenges and trials with love and compassion in our eyes and in our hearts? Will we be missionary-minded?

Thus this Saturday, with my daughters dressed as a Ranger, Viking and Dame and my11947825_10206654063942842_8571285058587944600_o.jpg Evangelist/Apologist husband  dressed as a medieval Friar, we’ll take the Gospel as undercover missionaries back in time and forward in relevance. Do you have eyes to see the adventure God is weaving into your own story? Can we feed the sick, father the orphan, lead the lost, pray for the hurting, heal the sick, comfort the mourning, die to ourselves and preach the Gospel to every creature, every day? In these days, the world cannot afford apathy from the bride of Christ. received_10211148165972584.jpeg

Thoughts on the cost

Last week the girls and I were doing our morning prayers and intercession when Talai prayed, “Dear heavenly Father, when we go to Uganda, please protect me, and please help me to endure if I become an orphan. No matter what, help me never to deny You, but always follow You faithfully.”

Hadassah prayed a similar prayer ending with “Jesus please help me to follow you no matter what and if I have to go to an orphanage, let it be one where they treat the children nicely.”

Whoa! Right? What kind of nine-year-old or six-year-old prays that in complete johnny-automatic-girl-praying-800pxsincerity? So came my moment to respond and I sat silent for a while contemplating what to say. Should I assure them that God would not allow Sal or I to die or that they would never be orphans? As a mother wanting to quench their fears that was my temptation, but I couldn’t honestly give them any assurances and I would not have them disillusioned with God because I put false promises in His mouth that He did not keep. How would you respond?

 

I fear some will misunderstand what I am about to say. I love my children more than life, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. I have sacrificed a career, much of my education and more to stay at home and spend time with them, watch them grow and give them an exquisite education. This was completely contrary to my plans before becoming a mother, but I count it all a joy now and would not have it any other way. However, my love for them is ashes compared to the extravagant love their heavenly Father has for them. For this reason, the best and most loving thing I can do for them is to be obedient to God and trust Him with their lives.

That said, please be gracious as you read my response if I do not communicate as clearly as I should.

Firstly in response, I hugged all three of my precious darlings because even though Mila did not voice such fears I’m sure she wrestles with her own. I told them that God has a plan for each of our lives, for theirs and my own. If we are walking in His will nothing and no one can kill us until we have completed God’s intended plan. Just as God protected David while King Saul hunted him through the wilderness and how He protected Jesus when those of His own town tried to throw Him off of a cliff, so too will God protect us while we still have His orders to carry out on earth, orders that probably include being around to raise them.

However, that didn’t mean that God would not allow them to be orphaned. I told them that I did not think that Sal or I’s deaths were a part of God’s plan any time soon. God has promised much to us that we have yet to see manifested and given us much instruction that we’ve yet to accomplish. But we all need to be ready to give everything, even our lives for God’s Kingdom if it so requires. However, the Bible teaches that the angels who watch over children are ever before the face of God, and I assured the girls that, no matter what, God would watch over and protect them. I also told them they shouldn’t ever end up in an orphanage because they would live with family or friends should anything ever happen to Sal and I. And finally I encouraged and fortified them to never forsake Jesus for any reason. As long as we hold fast to Christ, we will see each other again.

reverse silloutte crossI know this response may sound radical to the Westerner, including many Western Christians. However, I recently heard Michael Ramsden speak on this topic and he said something that merits repeating; As Western Christians, we live in a time that is unique. The peace and prosperity that the Western church enjoys is peculiar not only historically, but also globally in our present world. The normality for Christians, that which has been typical since the day Jesus died, is a life of suffering and/or persecution, but even so, a life of joy and peace, of generosity and beauty.

Hebrews 11 gives us a goose-bump raising account of our Christian legacy:

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword;whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.” (v. 32-35a)

How much would we love to see these kinds of miracles in our churches and in our lives? How many of us have inquired of God why these things tarry? Perhaps the key can be found in the very next words:

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins,destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (v.35b-38)

This part of our Christian legacy continues today as many endure such conditions for the sake of Christ. If you don’t believe that, you should go on a mission trip.

I see a lot of the Western world’s desire for comfort and security within the heart of the Western church and even within my own heart. Yet how much of the security that we enjoy is an illusion? One has only to turn on the television to hear of wars and rumors of wars, of division and schemings. Ramsden also said that the type of persecution that we see in places like the 10/40 window is “only ever one generation away.” I truly believe that.

But even were peace not so fragile, what would I be should I not follow the call of God on my life? No one wants to be Jonah. No one wants to believe themselves a coward, and that is definitely not how God created us to be. But how do we overcome fear when called to a place where the odds are stacked dangerously against us?knightingoldenarmor-2400px

The beautiful simplicity of the trust and faith my daughters have in their heavenly Father was deeply convicting for me. It was unbridled by the the reins of doubt and burdens of past experience that so many of us grown-ups haul around with us. It is no wonder that Jesus taught that we must become as children to enter the Kingdom of God!

I recently had a pastor ask me bluntly, “So what is the cost (of following God’s call)?” It was difficult for me to give an answer. Anything Sal or I have “given up” thus far seems quite unimportant and superficial and hardly meriting the title “cost.” Anything that may arise in the future remains hypothetical. So I suppose the costs we’re counting as we say “yes” to God are largely control, security and pride. To be willing to be utterly out-of-control of of our situation even when physical danger may be present, to be willing to face danger head-on without the security of a safety net and pride in that we may not always have the answers or solutions, and of course to look like complete fools in the eyes of the world.

Yet by God’s grace, we shall say “yes,” agreeing to whatever costs and willing to trust Him with everything. Hopefully we may in some way prove ourselves worthy of our amazing daughters who could school us on graciously surrendering to God’s will and perhaps take one step closer to being worthy dwelling places of Christ Jesus.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and may God bountifully bless you and yours.

YWAM: Our Family

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courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

This Fall when we arrive in Uganda, Africa, we will be received by the staff of Youth With a Mission (YWAM) Arua. We have been in contact off and on with these guys for about four years now, since we first believed God was calling us to Uganda. We have enjoyed getting to know them and learning of all they do. Their examples of courage and humble obedience to the call of God delights our hearts and it will be an honor to work alongside them and learn from them.

Interpersonal relationships within YWAM are a peculiar and special thing. Jesus taught us that Christianity is a brotherhood, that we are all family. Theoretically I know this, but it is a principle truly manifest amongst YWAMers. For example, if a ragged travel-worn stranger showed up at my front door and said, “Hello, I am a Christian. I was told you are a Christian also. May I stay here for a few days and rest from my travels?” I would likely invite them in, but my hospitality would not be so great as it is, for example, when my sisters come to visit nor would I likely trust them alone in my home. Please understand, I’m not saying

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courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

that is the Biblical response, I’m simply saying that in my flesh this is what I would do and I suspect most of those reading this article would react similarly.

However, if the same stranger said, “Hello, I am a YWAMer. I heard you guys are a YWAM family. I’m just passing through and a bit hungry and tired. Would you mind if I crashed here for a bit?” I would be genuinely excited to invite them in with open arms, open fridge and open trust. White, Black, Brown, Yellow, African, Indian, Russian, male, female, old, young it simply wouldn’t matter. This is the heart of YWAM.

Before you challenge that statement, or claim it unique to myself, I would share that we did this exact thing many times during our trip through Central and South America. Inevitably we would run out of food, gas and money and be unable to travel any further. At these times (and others as well) we headed to the nearest YWAM base, knocked on their front door and said something along the lines of, “Hello, we are YWAMers. We are from the USA and on our way to Argentina but we need a place to stay until God grants us provisions to continue on our journey. We have no idea how long that may take, but could we please stay here until then?”

Through the many countries we traversed they always welcomed us in with open arms and hearts. They would feed us, show us around the town, give us gifts, pray with us and bless us tremendously. They even let our dogs sleep in our rooms with us, which is culturally unacceptable in most of these countries.

IMG_20160505_163722Once in Columbia we called ahead of time and asked to stay at the base. We were told that although they would love to host us, they were packed to over capacity. With several visiting teams they had people sleeping on floors and outside in tents and simply had no space. After spending a week in a Columbian hostel while waiting to receive our van (we had shipped it from Panama), we picked it up and realized that we were too broke to continue. So, we prayerfully decided to show up at the YWAM base anyway where we asked if we could sleep in our van in their driveway. Again we were invited in with open arms. There truly was no space within the base but a few YWAM girls who lived down the road and were headed out of town gave us the keys to their apartment and told us we could stay there. And as always, they fed us too.

The following day a young woman we had not yet met walked up and introduced herself. “Hello, My name is Evenly,” she said. “There is a Bible school I’ve wanted to attend in Uruguay for a long time, but I’ve never had the resources to go. However, two days ago God told me that He was sending me there soon and to pack my bags. So, I packed my bags, prayed that God would provide a way and have been waiting for a miracle. I believe you may be the answer to that prayer. Could I ride with you as far as Corrientes? From there I can take a bus”

For Sal and I, there really was no question. She absolutely could come. We responded, “Of course you can come! After all, we are family. However,” we continued, “you must understand that we can’t guarantee a comfortable or safe place to sleep. We don’t know how long it will take us to get there and if we run out of money again we may be stuck on route until God provides finances to continue. We cannot guarantee you’ll arrive before the school starts. We can be loud at times and, just to warn you, when it gets hot our dogs drool a lot.  That said, if you believe this is your transport to God’s calling and are willing to trust Him in that, we would love to have you.”

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This picture is a little blurry but you get the idea

And just like that our traveling family went from five members to six. Well, actually as soon as we left town she announced that she had a friend on route who also wanted to take the Bible school in Uruguay. So, by sunset our traveling family had reached seven members. At one point we were up to nine for a string of our journey, but I’ll save that story for another time. Our family keeps in contact with Evenly to this day and we consider her a dear friend.

Back to my previous thought, however, this Fall we will be received by YWAM Arua, Uganda where we have made a two-year commitment to serve at (but with the intention of remaining in Uganda much longer) . Their work in Arua and the West Nile region is amazing. The daily risks they face by ministering in troubled and war-torn areas reflects a healthy and profound faith. Their vision is to “be a bridge of God’s healing to the nations” and they focus primarily on Uganda, South Sudan, DR Congo and the Central African Republic (CAR). We are so excited to be joining them in all they do, and would encourage anyone reading this article to check them out. Below are links to help you do so.

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Click above to go to YWAM Arua’s webpage

ywam aruaClick above to go to YWAM Arua’s Facebook page

 

 

Above is an informational video about YWAM Arua that they made a few years ago.

As always, may God bountifully bless you and yours. Please keep us in your prayers as we move forward in preparations for Arua, Uganda. Thank you, and God bless.

A lovely detour

It is hard to believe that the year is almost over! 2016 has been an incredible year, full of laughter and tears, disappointments and victories, sorrows and joy. And God has met us every step of the way.

img_20161124_084400As some already know, our plans have changed slightly in that we have temporarily returned to the United States. We are so excited and blessed to have this opportunity before reestablishing ourselves and serving long-term in Uganda, Africa. During our months in the US we will be busy taking care of the many logistical details involved with getting to and established in Uganda and spearheading the Borderlands Restoration and Education Project.

We know that, among the many things we have done this past year, we have not appropriately prioritized our web updates. We take full responsibility for the neglect and beg your pardon.

This is what you can expect from this site over the next several months:

  • Regular postings
  • A sort of retracing of our steps- Since driving across the Mexican border to shipping around the Darien Gap to sharing love with street kids in Argentina and back to Michigan again: where we have been; what we have done; things we have learned.
  • Lots of pictures
  • Current updates
  • Whatever else might be of interest

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    digitalphotos.net_supakitmod

As far as why else we are in the States again:

  • Obtain long-term working or religious visas for Uganda
  • See to logistical and legal aspects of Love’s Training Ground
  • Fundraise and establish new partnerships

Tuesday morning Sal and I will be flying out of Detroit on route to Jacksonville Port in Florida. Our van will be there by tomorrow and we are on our way to pick it up. We are actually still short on the funds needed to retrieve it (for online giving click here) but we figure that after bringing us this far God wouldn’t have us abandon our vehicle at the port. Having to trust God to financially come through for us time and time again has been an adventure in and of itself and the stakes just seem to keep getting higher, but that is a story all its own and perhaps I’ll share it in another post someday.

Please pray safe travel for us. Sal and I are flying Spirit Airlines from Detroit to Atlanta and then taking an overnight bus into Jacksonville. Since our oldest, Mila, was born, we haven’t done any trip like this without the girls. Please pray peace for them during the time we are away (they’ll be with Grandma). And of course, pray for the financial miracle we are confident the Lord will provide so that we can retrieve our van. Sal already has a job in Michigan so we’ll bquill-and-letter_simon-howdene able to sustain ourselves, but port fees and such simply go beyond our typical expenses. We are excited to be turning the last page of another chapter as we set our eyes toward the thickening plot of God’s master script into which he has penned our lives.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and God bless and keep you and yours.christmas-trees_simon-howden

Cute Challenges to writing an update: or “From point A to point B”

As I write this, I am hiding in a corner at the YWAM base (our internet access location). Earlier I sat up to a table in the community area as I composed the first draft. Linda, a very cute girl around 9 years old skipped up to me. She is mute and was having trouble with the other kids because of her inability to articulate. No invitation needed she jumped up onto my lap. I showed her some pictures on my computer which completely fascinated her. She stayed by my side, jumping on and off my lap, wiggling like she had a scorpion in her dress and trying to buy games through the Play Store on my phone. In her excitement she pointed to a picture on my computer and started swiping her fingers across its touch screen. Somehow her actions combinedIMG_20160506_193739 with my keyboard typing completely erased my first draft.

At that moment I had a sort of internal struggle where I lept between “You’ve got to be kidding me!” and “This sweet little girl just needs a friend. What’s the big deal?” Poor Linda looked at me, mouth open attempting an “uh-oh” and waiting to see how I would react… Well, I’ve always been a softie when it comes to kids.

After about half an hour of play time showing Linda more pictures and how to play a math game on my phone, I figured I’d better get to rewriting the update. I tracked down Linda’s parents and then found another spot on the base with a decent wifi signal and began to write. Within 10 minutes a young Paraguayan missionary and friend who is in cross-cultural missions classes, approached me. “Heather” he said with his Guarani-thick Spanish accent. “I really need your help. In one hour I am presenting on the differences between North American and South American culture. You are the only North American on the base right now so can I please interview you?” Without waiting for a response he started asking all about my “cold northern culture,” as he called it. No matter what I said I just couldn’t convince him I wasn’t cold-blooded. “You are from the north after all,” he said. “That is why it is so hard for you here with us warm Latins while Sal (my Mexican-descended husband) gets along so well. I hear North Americans don’t like hugs.”

“But it’s not difficult for me here,” I responded. “I love Latin culture and I love hugs.”

“Maybe you just don’t realize that our ways are really hard on you or maybe your husband is just rubbing off on you.” Oh well, my friend is sure to discover one way or another that not all North Americans are “cold cultured.”I believe we are the first US family he has yet met.

Forty-five minutes later he wrapped up his interview and headed to class. I turned on my screen to write and another young Argentine missionary (whose hair I agreed to dread next week) sat down next to me. She just needed a “big sister” talk.

After listening a bit and encouraging her not to hide big decisions from her parents, I excused myself and sook out a seemingly quiet spot of ground outside where I didn’t think I’d be disturbed. I loved all the interaction, but I had work to do. The update was coming along well until a group of kids stampeded around a corner IMG_20160514_115203and pounced on me. It was a mix of missionaries’ kids and our restoration home students.  “Tia Heather!” they yelled. They were so rambunctious it was all I could do to stop them from stomping on my computer. Once I climbed out from underneath them I explained that I had some important work to do but could come back later to play. “OK,” they said disappointingly. I reopened by laptop, sat down and found myself in the middle of a half-dozen kid huddle… “Where is Mila and Talai and Dassah?”… “What does that button say?”… “What are you writing?”… “Will you teach us to lasso cattle”…So much for not liking hugs.

After a short tickle fight, I decided I had better take drastic measures or I would never complete the update. That brings us to now, with me hiding from a bunch of very cute distractions in a dark corner of the YWAM base quietly writing. With that introduction, let me invite you to read:

 The Update

or, “Where we are and where we are headed”

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We have been working in Argentina while attending the School of Rescue and Restoration through the University of the Nations from which we recently graduated. The school involved long days of up to 15 hours in the classroom and required us to put in many hours of hands-on work with children in the youth penitentiary, orphanages and homes and with the onsite restoration home or Casa Abierta. We worked directly with the kids and when possible their parents as well. We learned about: childhood sexual abuse, family restoration, human trafficking and extractions, restorative counseling, working with governments and much more. Now with our education paid off and our counseling certificates in hand we are headed for Uganda, Africa.

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courtesy “africa” at freedigitalphotos.net

To reach and become established in Uganda is the second step in a multi-phased plan to ultimately run a restorative home and private school for highly traumatized youth in Uganda Africa. The plan looks something like this:

  • Phase One: Study and prepare, get certified (completed)
  • Phase Two: Arrive and become established in Uganda, Africa-
    • Prepare van for drive from South Africa to Uganda
    • Ship van to South Africa
    • Fly to South Africa
    • Obtain Ugandan working visa
    • Drive to Uganda
    • Work alongside other ministry, learn culture/worldview/politics
  • Phase Three: Buying and Building Phase
  • Phase Four: Running the home and school
  • Phase Five: If the Lord wills, help others start and run their own restoration homes and schools for traumatized youth

 By the first week of August we will leave Corrientes and head for Buenos Aires, the port we will likely be shipping the van from and flying out of. The Buenos Aires metropolitan area is home to around 14.5 million inhabitants and we are grateful to have contacts in several areas of the city who will help us navigate the landscape and bureaucracy. There is a lot of footwork

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Courtesy “photoraidz” at freedigitalphotos.net

and paperwork involved in transporting 5 people, 2 dogs and 1 van across the Atlantic! We expect the process to take about a month or so. Other than that, we are waiting on funding and will be turning a lot of attention towards fundraising. If you are interested in helping us in this phase of the project, please see our “Support Page” or go to

http://paypal.me/salandheather.

 We are excited about the adventure ahead and the opportunity to anchor in some roots in Uganda. We have been in a sort of transitional chapter in our lives for almost seven months now and we are anxious to establish a home that we can “come home to.”

 A Note on Driving:

 Several people have already asked us  why, considering the risks, are we driving half-way across Africa. Usually the question is framed something like, “Are you crazy?!?” Truthfully, sometimes I think perhaps we are, a little. However, ultimately we feel that the benefits of overlanding far outweigh the risks. Here is our nutshell explanation:1212151441

  1. With our experience overlanding Central and South America, we feel confident in our competence to minimize the risk involved in this trip.
  2. This trip allows us to create valuable networking and contacts which will be immensely helpful toward starting a home and school. It also provides for us the opportunity to learn African culture before jumping into ministry with them.
  3. A vehicle is a must-have in Uganda one way or another. Without it there is no way to dependably transport our family. We have a dependable van that is invaluable to us. Our van (donated by Family Life Church) is large enough to fit our family and has proven it is up to rigorous driving.
  4. It is cheaper this way. A used, questionably dependable vehicle in Uganda costs around $17-20K. Our trip, including gas and traveling costs, plane tickets and shipping the van should cost significantly less than that.
  5. It is less complicated. As foreigners, obtaining a vehicle in Uganda is complicated.
  6. After much prayer, we feel this is God’s guiding.

 That said, it would be a lie to claim that we’re disappointed with how things are working out. As explorers and adventurists at heart, our whole family is very excited at the prospect of driving through Africa, seeing new places, meeting new people, learning completely foreign customs and everything else involved with such a journey.  We are exquisitely blessed that God has merged our dreams with His plans for our lives. We get to do what we love as we serve His Kingdom and help the “statistically hopeless” to have and follow their own dreams.

Isn’t our God simply amazing?

We’re Back!

Wow… And thank you for your patience!world map

First bit of business: We just sent out our newsletters, so if you didn’t receive one and would like to, please write us at hsanchez5811@gmail.com and request to be added to our updates list.

We have been quite ill lately with some nasty viruses that have put us behind schedule in much of what we are doing. As happens with families, one person gets sick and then the next and then the next and so a week-long virus takes almost a month to work its way through a household. All this to say, “Thank you so much for your patience and we are happy to announce that we are back online.”

IMG_20160514_114316We are very excited to share our experiences and our vision. Bit by bit our page will be transforming, so check back periodically for updated information. That said, the current information on our website (including how to donate) is accurate, if not complete.

We have completed the School of Rescue and Restoration through the University of the Nations and are now certified in counseling. It was an intense school with grueling hours and lots of hands on work in orphanages, street ministries, foster homes and the youth penitentiary. We are still working with troubled youth but we now have time to breath since our classes are over.

And now… drum-roll please…we are headed for Africa!… that is, as soon as possible. For some time now we have planned to work in Uganda long-term with traumatized and exploited youth. We have neglected to make a large announcement, however, because we’ve been unsure of God’s timing. Following graduation we spent many hours in prayer seeking God’s guidance and now are confident that the time is now. That said there is a lot to do in preparation, which of course takes time. We’ve finances to raise and lots of research and paperwork to do but our goal is to make it to Africa in a few months. Over the IMG_20160630_174325next couple of weeks we’ll be updating our website to clearly communicate our vision for reaching children in Uganda.

Also, over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting “Road Diary” articles which will share fun and thoughtful experiences from our journey driving from the United States to Argentina. Please accept our sincere apologies for not keeping our website better updated in a timely fashion. It is our goal to improve on that.

There are many exciting changes for us on the horizon. We will be posting more soon. Thank you for checking us out and God bless!

Michigan to Guadalajara and 4,000 miles in between

Since leaving Gillette, Wyoming following the Picnic in the Park, life has been a bit of a whirlwind. We have shared much of our stateside journey already, so I’ll jump right into our trip here in Mexico.

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     We crossed the border in Laredo. For anyone looking for a mission field within the United States, Laredo is your place! The city itself is not very welcoming or attractive. The spiritual oppression is palpable and among the worst we’ve ever encountered.

     Crossing the border itself was anything from easy to frustrating to comical. After crossing the bridge into Mexico we got in the “things to

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Border control guards

declare” line (for the dogs). Two border control guards asked us to take our dogs out and when we did they jumped back with exclamations of “Wow! They are big!” Within moments we were surrounded by border control guards who were all taking pictures of our dogs and uploading them on Facebook.

     They let us through without any hang-ups ad pointed us towards customs to obtain visas and a car permit. At this point the road was divided by a meridian in the middle with two lanes of opposite traffic on either side. It was a bit eerie because there was bumper-to-bumper completely stopped traffic leaving Mexico for miles on end. Even the bomberos (firefighters) who were directing traffic were taking pictures of the line. Our lanes, however, entering Mexico had only sporadic traffic. Where it was a relief to not be stuck in the worst traffic I’ve ever seen, it was a little intimidating to be among the few that were entering when a multitude were leaving. Sal and I had a good laugh over it. God’s people are always called to go against the flow of the world anyway.

     In our excitement over how easy it had been to cross the border, we completely missed customs. As we continued further and further south on the highway, we realized the fact. We followed signs to Los Federales (federal police station) and asked for directions to customs. In retrospect we questioned the wisdom of stopping there for directions, considering we had just entered Mexico illegally (by accident), but they just chuckled and pointed us back the way we had come.

IMG_20160105_095501_433     Inevitably we got lost several times on our way to customs. We stopped multiple times for directions, but everyone gave us different routes. After about three hours in and out of Nuevo Laredo, we finally made it to customs and continued legally to Monterrey.

     From there, everything went as planned, except that because of the hang-up at the border, we arrived in Monterrey after dark (#1 rule of driving in Mexico: Don’t drive after dark!) Being in a hurry to get off the road we decided to find a hotel instead of risking getting lost in Monterrey at night trying to find the YWAM base. We stopped at a 7/11 to ask where a good hotel was and the guy behind the counter said, “You’re in luck! Take a right at the next light and there is a whole district of hotels.”

     “Wonderful!” we thought. “Praise God!” We turned right and sure enough there were several hotels. We stopped at one that advertised 300 pesos, commenting on how inexpensive Mexican hotels were (17pesos = U$D 1). When Sal asked for a double bed room, the receptionist gave him a quizzical look and explained he only had single beds and they were 300 pesos for four hours. A little alarmed we observed our surroundings better and realized indeed we were in the red light district (which was curiously lit not in red but with Christmas lights). We got directions to a family friendly area with hotels, but even there prostitution was very prevalent. As uncomfortable as the whole event was, I pray every Christian experiences the heartbreak that we did that night over beautiful women created in the image of God being extorted so grotesquely. It was both haunting and convicting.

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     The next morning we found the Monterrey YWAM base.We were well received and shown exquisite hospitality. They connected us with other YWAM bases along our way as well as a contact in Corrientes (there was an Argentine there who’s sister lives two blocks from the Corrientes YWAM base). They invited us to spend the night as to get an early start for Guadalajara, and that is precisely what we did.

     In Guadalajara we received a very warm welcome from old friends. Tonight will be our third and final night here. We’ve accompanied them in IMG_20160101_245102_555ministry to an unreached area in Jalisco, Sal helped fix a problem with the water, we rested a spell from the road, repacked the van and washed our clothes and ourselves. It has been a huge blessing. Long trips always remind me of what a grand blessing water is. From here, our plan is to continue through Central America only stopping to sleep through the night. We should be able to jump from YWAM base to YWAM base almost exclusively. Although we have passed a few military checkpoints, we have not yet been stopped. It could seem they are much more concerned about traffic headed north. Also the fact that we speak Spanish has been immensely helpful and allows us to fit in very well.

     Thank you for your continued prayers. You are often in our thoughts and prayers as we carry you in our hearts across the continent. May God richly bless you!

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Less than a week to go!

And so, the countdown begins. In exactly six days from today we will be driving across the US-Mexican border (deep breath… and exhale…) But do not worry about us. The hours we have put into preparation, planning and research have been countless. We even bought this book:

book-sm

As it turns out, driving across Central and South America is actually “a thing.” It’s called overlanding. Lots of people do it, including retired folks, modern day gypsies, remote workers, fugitives, backpackers, and missionaries!

Currently we are camping on a friend’s property in Austin, Texas. On Tuesday our pups have a vet appointment to complete necessary travel paperwork and on New Year’s day we head to Laredo. We’ll be Camping Austinvisiting one last consulate and spending the night there so we can get an early start crossing the border the next morning, January 2nd. Our first stop is the YWAM base in Monterrey, Mexico. With a little luck and a lot of grace we should reach Corrientes, Argentina in 6-7 weeks. The YWAM base there is helping us to find a small home to rent so we can get settled a bit before the School of Rescue and Restoration begins.

Since leaving Michigan, we have already covered over 3,000 miles. This has given us a chance to prepare for our overlanding trip in a safe sort of mock trial. The Lord has, in this time, prepared our van (yes, new brakes and battery are a must) and ourselves (everyone definitely needs their own sleeping bag) for the trip we are very close to embarking on. More than ever, we feel prepared and confident. Not to mention, Sal has achieved the status of “yes and no mechanic.” Yes: I can fix that. No: I am not certified.

sal and van

We have given the inside of our van a make-over and it definitely feels like home. (Will post pictures soon)

Now that we’ve got business out of the way, allow me to share a few stories from our adventure thusfar:

In North Carolina we served hot chocolate to stressed exam week students at a local college and shared the Good News of the Gospel with them. The girls did an excellent job rounding folks up. Something about a four-year-old in pig-tails promising a warm cup

freedigitalphotos.net
freedigitalphotos.net

of hot chocolate on a cold day proved irresistible to the college kids.

A few days ago Mila decided she wanted to share the Good News with a woman who was stocking Pokemon cards in Walmart. As she has seen Sal and I do, she attempted to break the ice by asking her about her tattoos which were barely visible beneath her Tee shirt. With a big smile the woman lifted her sleeve to reveal Satan and demons and a big triple six across her bicep. Mila’s eyes grew to saucers and she clenched her jaw so as not to let it drop. With a polite “Thanks for showing me” she turned on her heal and hurried back to Sal. Poor Mila was rather distraught feeling that she had “cowarded out” by not telling the woman how much Jesus loved her. She vowed to follow through next time, no matter what someone might have tattooed on themselves, bless her heart! This opened up a perfect teaching moment on conversational evangelism and light Apologetics. Sal and I reassured her that approaching the woman in the first place took courage and that both God and ourselves were proud of her.

trunkSimilarly I was asking a young man about his dreadlocks about a week ago. By the end of the conversation he was inviting Sal and I over to crochet our dreads and “burn down.” Being the naive woman that I am I just smiled and waved and pondered over his odd phraseology as he drove away, thinking perhaps we could visit and share the Gospel with him. Sal, in the drivers seat of our van busted out laughing. To the inquisitive look I gave him he responded, “Honey, you just got us invited to go get high!”

“What?”

“Yep,” Sal said. “That guy just invited the missionaries over to smoke some weed.” As it turns out, my dreadlocks are proving to open many opportunities to share the Gospel… who’d have guessed?

Christian Clip Art
Christian Clip Art

Across the miles we have camped, slept in the van, witnessed to Muslims, made many potty stops, donated half the clothes we started with to free up space, evangelized at universities,  gotten stuck in a muddy field, said lots of goodbyes and had lots of fun.

As we embark on this new adventure that God has called our family into, we petition your prayers. We ask God daily for divine encounters, open doors, safety, provision and favor. If you would join with us in this, we would greatly appreciate it.

freedigitalphotos.net
freedigitalphotos.net

Also, please prayerfully consider partnering with us through financial support. You may make a one-time donation or provide monthly support. Click on the “Support” tab for more info. We do not yet have sufficient funds to complete this trip and attend the YWAM secondary School of Rescue and Restoration, but we are confident that we go on God’s timing and have faith that He will provide.

This New Year will mark a radically new chapter in our lives. Our prayer is that it will also mark something significant in your own life as well. May you go deeper with God this year than you have ever been before. May you experience greater manifestations of His love for you and learn to love Him back with ever-growing strength and zeal. May forgiveness and intimacy define your relationships, especially with family. And may you laugh often, filled with the joy of our Lord and that peace which transcends all understanding.

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

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