• Investing in what works

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    Poverty makes me so incredibly angry and frustrated.

    To watch my dear friends struggle from day to day, working hard but barely surviving and not knowing how to help them in a way that will actually bring change has been so hard and maddening.

    I have spent countless hours listening, watching and trying to understand what life is like for the poor. I have been actively involved in several peoples lives, trying to help, but knowing most of what I was doing was not very helpful.

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    This is what I now know…

    No THING including food, clothes, shoes, toys, medication, or even a house can bring any form of long term transformation.

    It may temporary lighten the burden for a short amount of time, but things just can’t change a life.

    When your poor, you are just getting by.  You have enough for the day… not the week, the month or the year.  This results from living in crisis every time an expected or unexpected expense comes up such as sickness, a school cost, a birthday, or anything else beyond simple living expenses such as shelter, food, and water.

    When your goal is to survive, everything else seems less important, even good things like school, a steady full time job, holiday celebrations, routines for your family, or going to church.  Living day by day is stressful and exhausting, leaving very little time to dream, plan, and work towards a different future.

    My friend stopped by awhile ago, asking for a ride. They had just been to the hospital, their toddler was sick with a cold and had a high fever they couldn’t get to go down. They had spent the morning in the hospital. The treatment and medication was free but they had no money for the way home to their village thats a 10 minute drive from town. The simple cold of their daughter resulted in 2 days of no work for the father. It also resulted in a small birthday party they had planned for 3 family members to be cancelled. A couple days later it brought the oldest son to my house asking for money for shoes he needed but could no longer afford. It also led to a phone call I got the next afternoon from the dad asking for money to take his wife to the doctor who was now sick with the same cold.

    What did I do?  This time, I said no.

    It may sound heartless but after way to many yeses to what seems like good things… diapers, grocery money, medicine, and many other life essentials, I know I am not helping them.  I am guilty of enabling this family to live in survival mode, teaching them that they can always ask for a hand out instead of finding a way to help them selves. I care deeply for them, and truly hate to see them suffering, but I am more motivated than ever to be a part of long term transformation.

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    I may not have all the answers but there are a few things I KNOW make a difference and bring about real changes…

    The first is Jesus.  Knowing Him, changes every thing.  Of course I know this personally but I have seen a huge difference in the quality of life in the people who’s life have been transformed by the love of Jesus.  Knowing Him does not mean that the poor get rich but that the poor can have peace, joy and comfort through their difficult circumstances. It also transforms the values in their homes, affecting how couples treat each other, how they care for and love their children and what they believe is possible for the future.  If at the end of the day sharing the love and hope of Jesus is not a priority, not much of our “help” really matters.

    The second is education.  It’s really the golden ticket for a kids life to be different then their parents.  It’s almost impossible for a child to break a family cycle of poverty without getting an education.  In the case of most kids I know, this means simply making it past elementry school.  Anything else beyond that is very rare, especially for girls, who are often married off by the time they should be starting high school.  If you want to invest in something that can truly make a difference in the fight against poverty, invest in the education of a child!

    The last area I want to mention today is new skills.  Knowledge truly is power.  So teaching some one a new skill or helping them improve or add on to the ones they already have can truly make an impact towards changing their life.  It could lead to better job opportunities, increased income, and the gift of pride and dignity to provide for their own family.  What could be better than that?

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    That family that I mentioned above, the one I said “no”  to?  Well, we have  invested in them in much better ways.  Saul was temporarily able to give the Dad a part time job  through his work at the time doing construction where he learned new skills.  We have been able to  support their family through many family crisis situations, offering advice, prayer and counsel when needed and are happy to report they are a healthy Christian family.  Their oldest son just graduated from high school, and will soon continue his secondary education, which is a huge accomplishment for some one in his community.  He is currently working for an after school program, where he is tutoring other kids in the community and gaining many new leadership skills.  I can’t say this is a “and they lived happily ever after” ending but I can say that this family has had a huge improvement in the quality of their life, and had nothing to do with the free stuff they were given.  Oh and best of all, my friends don’t ask me for money any more.  They simply don’t need to.

    I know a lot of people with big hearts, who want to help people in difficult situations.  Their are so many ways to help, but few bring long term results.  So this is my suggestion…

    Jesus (evangelism and discipleship), education and new skills.  These are the areas I know are worth investing in because I have seen it firsthand, and they are the areas where we personally invest our own time here in Mexico.   I am not saying you shouldn’t support ministries/organizations that focus on other needs but I am saying that to help a person move away from a life of poverty, find hope and be able to change their family for the better these are the areas where I would encourage you to invest your time, money and resources.

    Don’t make some of the mistakes we have and invest in what matters most!

     

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  • I’m back

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    Just a little post to say…. I’m back!  Here, on this page, sharing my heart.  Its been a loooong time since I have ween able to write consistently.  Over the last few years we have lived through a lot of change… adding family members, working with different ministries and non-profits, moving houses and so much more in between all that.  I think we finally have reached a place of stability, and it feels sooooo good.  Their have been so many highs and lows, some I’ll share and others I won’t… but their are thoughts and lessons and  dreams to share.  I hope you stick around to listen.

    I’ll be talking about family, missions, poverty, parenting, adoption, ministry, and so much  more.  I’ll also be sharing some of my favourite things from podcasts to books, recipes and cleaning tricks.  I have been parenting 4+ kids for 5 years now and have learned a few tricks, haha… but I am a work in progress, so I am by no means trying to say I know it all!  I so don’t.  Maybe you can learn from my mistakes.  Any ways, I hope you check by here often.  I’ll have a post or two every week.  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.  I always like to hear from my friends, whether I know you in real life or not!

     

    A little glimpse at our summer in Canada…

     

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  • Uncomfortable

     

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    I’ve been uncomfortable lately.

    It has to do with my shower.

    Our boiler had a break down and was replaced with a new fancy looking “instant” boiler.  Instead of holding decent amount of gloriously hot water, this new fancy thing heats water instantly, saving propane.

    Sounds great, right?   I’m all about saving resources and money of course… IF the darn thing would keep my water hot for more than 30 seconds.

    That’s right, it heats up to a perfect hot temperature and then turns cold in under a minute.  Then I have to turn off the shower completetly and start all over again.  It has something to do with the water pressure not being strong enough to keep the hot water on.  It’s brutal. #thirdworldproblems

    One of my most favourite things in life used to be a long hot shower.  Now I just long for 60 seconds of hot water at a time, you know, long enough to get the shampoo out and for my  sore baby holding muscles to relax a bit.

    My perspective has changed.

    When I think about the purpose of my writing, it also has to do with perspective.  My life has changed in so many ways since I moved to Mexico.   I see so many things differently than I used to and I am better because of it.

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    I know most people won’t have the opportunity to experience many of the things I have, so I can’t help but share them with you.  Who know’s, maybe your perspective will change too?

    Discomfort does that to us in the best way.

     

    Update:  We moved and I thankfully I am soaking in the goodness of hot showers every day.  I am sooooooooo thankful.  You have no idea!

  • Up Close – Our Growing Family

    IMG_6579I’m trying to make writing a regular part of my life again.  Its something I have been longing to do for awhile, and I am determined to make time for it.  Even if it means typing with my left hand and nursing a baby at the same time, which I may be doing right now.   Maybe.

    Confession, I actually started this post months ago and had to update info and photos.

    So here we go…

    I feel like an update is needed.

    To start off, our family has grown!

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    Meet Solana Ruby born October 9th, 3 weeks before her due date.  Her name means bright, gracious and merciful, and is truly a treasure to us! She is fairly easy going,  only cries when really hangry (who can blame her) and loves to be held and cuddled.  Solana is adored by every family member and has no lack of hugs and kisses.  She is the perfect addition to our family!

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    Solana is not the only new member of our family.  We have also welcomed a sweet young lady, Dalia, into our home.  We have known Dalia since she was a baby, as she grew up in the same orphanage as our  older kids.  She is currently in the process of being adopted by a very close and dear friend of ours.  We are simply stepping in as tios (aunt and uncle) until she gets to go home to Canada to a very loving and eagerly waiting family.  Dalia was in a not very good place and God worked it out for her to be moved from there into our home as a foster family.  We are glad to have her with us but ask that you join us to pray for her adoption to go through quickly so she can go to her forever  family where she most desires to be.

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    Brielle is a very proud big sister.  She has always wanted to be a big sister, so Solana is a dream come true for her.   I am thankful for her eagerness to help with the baby when ever she can, its truly a blessing!    She is doing well in 1st grade and is loving taking ballet classes.

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    Kayden has really grown this past year in both height and maturity.  We are proud of how hard he works at school and how he treats his fellow classmates.  On our recent trip to Canada he especially loved the cool playgrounds we visited and our frequent stops for Tim Horton donuts, but he was eager to come home to see his friends.

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    Moy started his first year of high school in a small private school.  He is not loving it, but is working very hard and getting good grades!   We are so proud of him.  He is growing into a very hard working, kind, trust worthy young man.  He spends his spare time pursuing his goals of running competitively and becoming more fit.

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    Gloria works for a local ministry called Eternal Anchor that works with and teaches children with disabilities.  She is really loving working with the kids and is excited to  learn more.  She is also finishing up her high school to get her diploma.  About two months ago she decided pursue independacne and moved out, a decision we have supported her with as much as possible.  We are proud of her wanting to be more responsible.  She lives with two friends near by and we welcome her for visits as much as possible!  Gloria has big dreams for the future and we ae excited to see whats next for her.

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    IMG_6830Saul has been working for Live Different as community advisor, but he will soon be leaving that position.  He has really enjoyed working for them the past 2 years but is looking forward to pursuing other passions and dreams.

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    Since returning from our recent trip to Canada I have spent most of my time at home getting settled into life with a new baby and managing a household of 8 (now 7).  I have been forcing myself not to jump into any extra activities as my family needs my most attention right now, and I want to give them my best.. not leftovers after serving others who I also care about.  I find myself googling things like “big family blogs ” or “big family recipes”  because I need to up my skills of running this house a bit better. Hopefully in the future I can continue to be more active in some of the community projects that I really care about, but for right now my main ministry is to loving and serving those in my home, and I am totally ok with that!

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    We moved recently.  I will share more details about that in the future, but God has really blessed us with a beautiful home.  We moved at the end of April and are still getting settled.  Saul is working on adding a couple rooms and a kitchen renovation project in his spare time.  We are so thankful for Gods constant provision for our family!

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    We were so blessed to spend lots of time with friends and family on our last trip to Canada.   We enjoyed every visit and conversation with those from back “home” and were truly blessed in many ways by many people.  Thanks to all who gave time to us, invited us for a meal, or gave us a baby gift.   Our time in Canada was really restful and encouraging.    We truly appreciate the love and support we have from people like you that care enough to check in on our family!

    Lots of Love from the Machados!

  • When the poor become your friends

    When we first moved back here, I saw the poor distinctly different.  They were the ones we were helping,  serving, and reaching out to.  Although I cared for them deeply, I did not see them as equals, and I honestly had no idea I felt that way.  It wasn’t till I heard it from a friends mouth.  A pastor from Canada had asked us for a project and we decided we wanted to build a house for  a lady who’s children were in the daycare I had worked at for the past year.  When this fellow Canadian talked about the lady and her family she referred to them as our “friends”.  I realized at that moment that I was not thinking of them as a friends but as just people we were helping.  I didn’t like it.   That was when I started to see things differently.  I now proudly call that same lady a dear friend and have since made many others in the community that she now lives in.  Since then a whole shift has gradually taken place in how I see and do many things since then and I wanted to share a few things my friends have unknowingly taught me.

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    When the poor become your friends…

    You hate calling them “the poor”.  I wouldn’t give any of my any other friends such demeaning labels, and I can’t stand my friends being known under such negative terms.  Sure my friends may not have much stuff, but they are hard working, intelligent people with beautiful personalities and names.  They each have a story to tell just like you and I do.  They don’t deserve to be looked down on in any way, or thought of  as mere statistic that no one can relate to.

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    When the poor become your friends…

    You stop carrying around your camera all the time looking for a good shot of the sad looking neighbourhood or meager living conditions.  How many times have you brought your camera over to a friends house and took photos of their dirty laundry, messy kids bedrooms or their kids after they had played out in the yard and were full of dirt?  Probably none because it would very offensive and intrusive to do so.  I am ashamed to say I have been guilty of exploiting my friends with my photos, but am proud to say I don’t do it any more.  I do bring my camera with me once and awhile, and I take the same kind of photos I would with any other friends… photos of birthday celebrations, of my kids playing with their friends, the crafts and artwork of a dear amiga, photos of new babies that I print off later as gifts to families who don’t have a camera (or many photos) or something I love about the beauty I see in their culture.   Most of the photos I take are of people I know by name and I have a good long standing relationships with.   All of the photos I take are with the permission of the person in the photo.  They aren’t to show off my good works or their different way of living.

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    When the poor become your friends…

    You don’t give them your junk.  Like many other families we try to get rid of things we do not use any more.  We always have an ongoing donation pile of clothes and shoes that have been outgrown or unused and an assortment of other things including toys, house wares, books, and decor to give away.  When you are used to being able to drop off your unwanted stuff at a local thrift store, or donation drop off centre, it’s pretty easy to drop off any old unwanted item.  We don’t have that option here.  We can either give it to a local ministry (where we personally know the people who work there) or to families that we know.  So basically our donations one way or another go to our friends.  That sure changes what you view is acceptable to give.  I refuse to give away anything that is broken, stained, has holes in it, works sometimes, is missing an important piece, is faded, ripped, expired or is just completely useless.  This may seem obvious, but believe me, it’s not.  I have been on the receiving end as an individual and representing a ministry many many times and have received all kinds of junk that had to be thrown out because it was not useful anymore.  If you don’t want it for any of the reasons mentioned above, no one else does either.  Don’t give your scraps to those who have less than you.  Send them to the curb.  If you want more thoughts on this topic please read a post my friend Carla wrote a couple of years ago after helping us sort through a bunch of donations where we were working.

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    When the poor becomes your friends…

    You spend your money differently.  I have a hard time being in bigs stores full of stuff I know most people don’t actually need.  I also have a hard time being on-line seeing all the new, trendy “must haves” such as clothes, purses, and baby stuff that are apparently considered “needs” in our rich, selfish home culture.  Some times I get sucked in and want those things too… but then I remember my friends.  The ones who made a make-shift baby crib with a crate and a hammock.  Or the ones who’s only “newish” clothes they get are the ones handed out to them in pity.  I remember my friends who hardly ever celebrate their kids birthdays because they simply can’t afford to.  Or the kids who wear the same stained, too small, school uniform 2 years in a row because a new one is too big of an expense for the family to afford.  I still get sucked in.  I still want nice things, and I am sure I will always like to make beautiful spaces for my family to find comfort and refuge in at the  of the day, but I refuse to spend a small fortune in doing so.  Buying and spending are no longer the centre of my life.   We try to live simply, give generously, and invest what we have in others and not ourselves.  We don’t alway do the right thing but we are very aware of the needs of others and are convicted that we can and should live differently.

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    When the poor become  your friends…

    You want to help better than you did before.  We have helped our friends in many different ways.  Many times its been in emergency situations such as a ride to the doctor, buying medicine when we knew they couldn’t afford it, a bag of food when we knew their was no work or even money to help pay a bill they were behind on.  We have even invested more in our friends by helping them get a new house built, providing school supplies and uniforms, celebrating their birthdays with gifts and parties, and having our home open for  them when they needed some where to be safe or dry.  All are things I would do for any friend who was in a difficult situation, because I care about them and don’t want to see them suffer.  Now I know that a lot of this help has caused more harm than it was ever meant too.  This help has cost my friends some of their pride and dignity.  It’s taught them to be be dependent on others instead of God, and has left them in a cycle of poverty they can not get out of.  Now it is clear that my friends need a better kind of help that will go further than the immediate need or emergency of the moment.  My friends need to learn new skills to be able to get better jobs.   Their kids need to be supported in their education with tutoring.  They need to learn how to budget, manage their money, and plan for the future.  They needs to be empowered to care of their own families and communities.  They need friends to help them find the resources to do this, and some one to cheer them on as they make some significant life changes and are transformed from being the helpless to becoming more helpful to those in need.  Not an easy task by any means, but if we really want to help our friends then we need to be willing to invest in them what they are worth receiving so they can have a better quality of life.

     

    Those are just a few of the important lessons I have learned from my dear friends.  I think that as long as we talk about “the poor” in vague impersonal terms as if they were less valuable than we are,  we will continue to treat them that way.  I am so glad God has transformed my view.  Maybe it’s time we all made new friends in unlikely places that challenge how we love and do life?