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:

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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.

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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.

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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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