It has been almost a week since the Mud and Miracles team from Half Moon Bay have returned to Northern California. To be honest, I don't even know where to begin or even what to say, but I know that I need to put on paper some of my thoughts. We have had the blessing and privilege of hosting several teams and families and even individuals over our years here in Peru. Each team or group or person has brought lasting impact in Peru and within our family. I think back of our first visitors, the Wettengels, and just how them coming almost gave us some legitimacy in what we were doing. Their daughter Anna has been down here 3 times now! Or I remember when I was first contacted by Zach Wise. He came down here for a few months with his beautiful family and his sister in law (who ended up marrying one of our leaders at the church and now lives back in the States). Through that trip our families have developed and incredible friendship, one that we are so eternally grateful for. By far, we were the benefactors of their visit. They literally have become our family. Or what about the Epic youth team. This was a huge group. More than 30 people all fired up to just get in and serve Jesus here in Peru. Lifelong relationships were formed from that trip also. Every year we return to the States I get the blessing to share at their youth group. Justin is my brother from another mother. We had the privilege of working with Global Cane Outreach, not once but twice. This is an incredible ministry which has blessed the people of Cajamarca in ways that probably would have never happened if Bev never took the step of faith to start this ministry. Through their first trip we got to know Char whose church now is partnered with us. A church full of joy and passion. Of course we can't forget ReGen, our sending church. To be honest, when this one was developing I was thinking, "what is going on here?" I didn't really know Josh and Erica (the youth pastor and his wife). They started serving at ReGen after we had already moved to Peru. Our interaction was limited with them. I will be the first to admit, they were on the ball and a huge blessing. All my hesitation was wrongly founded. This team was great and we love Josh and Erica in ways that can't be expressed. Not only did a friendship and partnership start with Josh and Erica, but the with the whole Mata family. They have become so dear to us. We just can't wait to go back home so we can hang out more with them. They are an amazing family with such love and passion for Jesus. One of my personal highlights (one of many) from our last furlough was hanging out with Miguel at Fredrick Street Park and rapping about everything from the Raiders to the government controlling weather patterns. Skating a few parks with Ezekiel was pretty tight also! So with all that, we have been blessed beyond measure by all who have come to visit and serve here in Peru.
Now let me get back to Mud and Miracles. We have always had such a deep and heart felt connection with CC Half Moon Bay. From the first time I heard Pastor Brian preach, I was moved to the core. Over the years, he has taken time to help me and guide me and I have grown even more fond of his ministry. Well that fondness had grown beyond him to the church he faithful pastors. So when they told us they were planning on coming down to serve, we couldn't have been more excited. From the embryonic stages of planning this trip, we knew this was going to be a special one. Not only because of our relationship with Pastor Brian, CCHMB and even the Mud and Miracles group, but because we truly knew that the timing and what we were going to be doing was amazing. Several other missionaries here in Cajamarca helped and poured their hearts into this trip as well. That alone was such a blessing. Too many times, fellow missionaries are only worried about building their own little kingdom and loose sight of the fact that the we all are part of the body of Christ and that end game is the glory of God and that people would come to know Him. So to see this unity and willingness to help and to use their giftings was great. If you remember, pray for me specifically that I don't ever loose sight of the fact that I am a tool in the makers hand to build His kingdom and not mine or get consumed by what I am doing. Anyways, from the moment this team got off the plane, it was something special. I am not at all a mystic. But you could feel the love and energy that this team brought and right away they showed my 20 complete skateboards to use for our skate ministry. Pastor Brian even brought me 4 cases of Big Red (that alone made this trip special). I will admit that over the years of growing closer to Christ, I have become more emotional. I will cry on occasion. But I cried probably every day with this team. And on the day the left, I really cried. I cried like haven't cried in a long time. Each person on this team was so vulnerable, so open, so honest and so real. They served their hearts out. They gave all they had. For some, it was the first time ever giving in the way they did. From loving the forgotten and abandoned to physically busting their humps building a house for a family of 9 who didn't have a dry, warm, comfortable, clean place to lay their heads, this team gave it all. Once again, we were the benefactors of their coming here. My life is changed forever. I know as one of the pastors at Refugio, our church is changed forever. I know without a doubt, the family who received a new home are changed forever and several of the orphans are changed forever as well. But my biggest hope and prayer (as it has been since planning this), I hope and pray that every member of Mud and Miracles, those who came and even those who couldn't, are changed forever as well. M&M, you guys should have learned in your 10 days here, that you have so much to give and that all the drama and issues you have doesn't mean you aren't valuable in the kingdom of God. You most definitely are! You conquered struggles and emptied yourselves of yourselves. You focused on serving others, in love, and gave all you could give. Don't stop that. Press on. Fight the good fight of faith. Every single one of you has challenged me to grow in Christ and serve with more passion and love. To me, you guys are the real deal. You guys truly epitomize the name Mud and Miracles. What a glorious example of what Christ can do with those who just are willing and who will be honest and open. All of us in reality are just mud. Some don't like to say that or think that, but we are mud. Yet all of us, can be miracles. You guys are! I can't say it enough, but thank you for coming to Peru and serving Jesus and serving Refugio and serving our community. We love you guys and are beyond blessed by all you have done. We are praying for you and we can't wait to see you soon. Mud and Miracles!!!!!