Thursday, July 31, 2008

God's amazing grace

Most of us grew up in an environment where good works are rewarded, and conversely bad works punished. If you get good grades, you advance. If you educate yourself you make more money. Work hard and you get a promotion. Be nice to your friends and they will like you.

It is ingrained in us from very early on that when we do good things, then good things happen. Maybe this is why we are so surprised when a young family who does things right, the parents are models of what good parenting is all about, suffers the death of their five month old. We say things like:
  • They didn't deserve that!
  • Why THIS family? They are such good parents!
But the reality is that God has a plan for our lives and he is working that plan out day by day. (Romans 8:28)

When it comes to spiritual matters, the whole works thing kind of crumbles. First of all, it is because of God's grace that we move and have our being. It is because of his mercy that we are not consumed. Our very breath is because of God's grace.

Many of us have worked so hard to gain God's approval. We think that if we just try a little harder then God will love and accept us. Well, I've got good news for you: God loves you right now as much as he ever could. If you have accepted his free gift of eternal life then you are called a "saint."

Today I would encourage you to accept the fact that you are a saint filled with God's righteousness and to live in light of that great truth. Tye out.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pictures of Team #25 Building Houses in Juarez, Mexico

Welp, here they are, the pictures of our house building in Juarez. I probably spent around 6 hours getting this ready to go so I hope you enjoy it. These were all taken by members of the team and I managed to get the number of pics down to 213. Click here to view the slide show. The pictures are in order:

1. Clearing/leveling ground
2. Pouring concrete
3. Building and assembling frame
4. Installing roof
5. Chicken wire and stucco
6. Interior walls
7. Insulation, drywall, electrical, ceiling fans
8. Dedication
9. Random faces


Thursday, July 24, 2008

I cut my hair last night - wow

Building Houses in Juarez, Mexico - more random thoughts

In a previous post I listed a series of phrases and words that would remind me of the trip next Christmas when I am sipping coffee and singing the Christmas Song. There were a few things I forgot to mention so here they are:

Certain KIC members using performance enhancing drugs. "In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight." (how could I forget that one) 25 bonus points for not hitting the rubble strips, 10 points off for hitting them. 2 points off for following too close. Does Pastor Mark really enjoy being dirty and not showering? (see pic above) Does Tye ever take his foot off the throttle? Sleeping upright. Delicious brats. Pop tarts for breakfast - I love those things. 165lbs at start/172lbs at end. Where is the Starbucks?

Tonight our team (Team #25) is getting together for, you guessed it, tacos. It will be neat to see the people who I knew very little about prior to the trip. ciao

Faithful Endeavor - Day 1

We are beginning to see some activity at our new property on Centerpoint road. New Covenant Bible Church is planning to relocate to 55 acres and a new building in the fall of 2010 and today they started moving dirt.

New Zealand Judge changes girls name after he deemed it inappropriate

In New Zealand, a judge took custody of a girl for the purpose of giving her a new name. Her old name? Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. That's bad. Here's what the judge said:

"The court is profoundly concerned about the very poor judgment which this child's parents have shown in choosing this name," he wrote. "It makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap, unnecessarily."

Click here to read the entire story.

You might find it interesting that New Zealand can, by law, block names that are deemed inappropriate. In fact, some of the names they have blocked are: "Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit, he said. But others were allowed, including Number 16 Bus Shelter, and tragically, Violence."

My wife and I did our best to select names for our children that would give them every advantage possible. Andrew, Allyson, Morgan, and Mackenzie. How did we do? I hope we did alright. Tye out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Building houses in Juarez, Mexico - a picture is worth a thousand words

Me and Mark Forstrom, our senior high pastor. Thanks Mark for letting me come on the trip.

Building Houses in Juarez, Mexico - How to pull a tractor-trailer out of the mud

Originally uploaded by Forstrom's Fotos
On Wednesday (day 3 of our building project) we arrived back at the SHOC after a long day of work on the house to discover a tractor-trailer stuck right in front of the gate. They had delivered water to the SHOC and when they did it got stuck.

Btw, I'm the guy in the cowboy hat.

Someone got the idea to use the bus to pull them out so we loaded the kids on the bus and tried to no avail. This truck was buried. Then we tried pulling it out backwards. No luck.

About then Charley leaned on the drive axles and the tires spun. The tires were completely off the ground. Then Charley figured out that if we could dig out the wheels on the trailer we could lower the tractor drives and perhaps we could get it out.

So everyone grabbed shovels and started digging and wouldn't you know it the trailer started going down. Then we dug out behind the wheels and created ramps so that the truck could just drive out.

It worked. It was a great feeling. Tye out.

Cut the grass; cut my hair

Just in case you were wondering what I was up to tonight. : )

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ciao - what does that mean?

I sign off with the word "ciao" often and every now and then someone will ask me what it means. Today I looked it up on the world famous "Wikipedia" and we all know that if it is on Wiki then it is gospel. (wink) Here's what I discovered about the little word "ciao."

The word ciao (pronounced "chaow" /tʃao/) is an informal Italian verbal salutation or greeting, meaning either "goodbye" or "hello". Originally from the Venetian language, it was adopted by Italian and eventually entered the vocabulary of English and of many other languages around the world. In the Spanish-speaking world, it is spelled "chao". The word is mostly used as "goodbye" in Spanish and English, but in modern Italian and in other languages it may mean "hello", "goodbye", or both. Wikipedia

Tye out. Ciao.

Building Houses in Juarez, Mexico - random thoughts

(Where's my framing hammer?)

I thought I would put some random thoughts down. You probably won't enjoy reading this unless you were on the trip. If something doesn't make sense, leave a comment and I'll try to clear it up.

I love driving. I especially enjoy driving big stuff like buses and tractor-trailers. Slight motion sickness. Ginger pills. Lilac oil. Lauren liked my cowboy hat. Charley S. knows everything. Excursion was not my cup of tea. Snacks. Creme Soda. Animal Crackers. A new $7 watch with a nifty light. 2nd place for heaviest tub. Allyson had the lightest tub. I talk too much. "Living on Tulsa time." 18 hours in Oklahoma City. Starbucks. Napping on a concrete floor. Napping on the bus. Napping during siesta. Telling jokes over the HAM radio to stay awake. Keeping other people awake telling jokes. "Hey Renee!" "Hey Tye!" Teaching hammer, drywall, and other useful techniques. DRINK! Great food by Mindy, Blynda, and Cindy. Mindy+Blynda+Cindy= Blyndi. "Can I borrow your air mattress inflater thingee?" 48 hours of travel. "I have to go to the bathroom." "I have to go to the bathroom" - said 30 seconds after passing the ONLY rest area in 120 miles. Where's the ______ (fill in the blank for whatever tool you were looking for at the time)? Hasta los banos? I don't want to go in the outhouse. (I'm glad I can go standing up.) Awesome worship service on Wednesday night. I'm such a sensate. Cut out for missions, but not called to missions.

Prayer for faint team members. Hot, dry, cool, wet. Sandstorm sucks. Torrential rain. Dam. Two dams. 16 penny nail. 22z hammer. I love working with the students. I love equipping people. Pouring concrete with a faulty electric mixer. Students working soooo hard.

Stuck 18-wheeler. dig out the tires. Charley solves issue, again. Bus tows 18-wheeler. Tye gets ramped up.

Using fake Spanish. Dedicating the house. Tears. More tears. Team unity. Sleeping in the same room with 58 other people. Nasty Days Inn seems nice compared to Mexico. Sleeping in my boxers - finally. Lauren always looks put together - a miracle! Lots of new friends. Check the GPS for diesel. Rain. More rain. Wet, wetter, wettest. Missing Judy. Wearing old clothes. Working with two of my daughters. SPAMS. KIC. SPAMS/KIC controversy. SPAMS for me next time. Baby wipes. Bottled water. Gatorade. Gatorade with dirt. Sleeping in shorts. No down time. Frontier Restaurant. Great views. I love the west.

Servant leaders. Great sponsors. The students never complained. Team unity. Everyone pitches in. 59 people, three houses, four days. Amazing trip. Tye out.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Building houses in Juarez, Mexico - house dedication - July 10

After 48 hours of travel, torrential rain, exhaustion, and many hours of hard work we finished our house at 4:30 PM on Thursday afternoon, inventoried the tools, and headed back to the SHOC to eat and clean up for the dedication. As you could tell from the pics, I chose not to clean up. I wanted to wait until we got back to El Paso later in the evening.

We headed back to the work site to present the keys to the home owner. It was a moving time as we presented a Bible and keys to the house. There were a lot of tears of joy from our team and it was difficult getting everyone back on the bus for the border crossing. I wish you could have been there.

Personal note - at this point I had worked 10 straight hours trying to get the drywall done. I worked through lunch. The night before we had a wonderful worship service with songs that spoke right to me and I poured out my heart to God. I was reminded of how much I love missions and wish that I could be a missionary. God cut me out to do missions, but did not call me. I was tired and all I wanted to do was leave and start the journey back to see my beautiful wife Judy because I was beginning to miss her. Up until then I had been too busy to think about her.

For $6k we gave a family a house. It is humbling. How many of you spend 4-5 times that on your car? We are definitely blessed.

Some day I hope to make Juarez an annual destination. Tye out.

Some climate statistics for El Paso/Juarez, Mexico

Here are some statistics on the climate in El Paso and Juarez, Mexico that I thought you might find interesting.

  • Temperatures range from an average high of 55 F (13 °C) and an average low of 28 °F (−2 °C) in January to an average high of 97 °F (36 °C ) and an average low of 68 °F (20 °C) in August.
  • The city's record high is 114 °F (45.5 °C), and its record low is −8 °F (−22 °C).
  • The sun shines 302 days per year on average in El Paso, 83 percent of daylight hours, according to the El Paso Weather Bureau. It is from this that the city is nicknamed, The Sun City. The natives find the weather attractive though temperatures can reach 100+ degrees F.
  • Rainfall averages 8.74 inches (223 mm) per annum, most of which occurs during the summer from July through September and is predominantly caused by monsoonal flow from the Gulf of California. During this period, winds originate more from the south to southeast direction and carry moisture from the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico into the region. As this moisture moves into the El Paso area (and many other areas in the southwest), a combination of orographic uplift from the mountains, and daytime heating from the sun, causes thunderstorms to develop across the region. This is what causes most of the rain in the El Paso area.
Tye here. Did you see that? Eight inches of rainfall. wow. I think we got 2-3 inches at least while we were there.

Building Houses in Juarez, Mexico - torrential downpours

Oh no! Water is coming into the house. Notice the power tools. yikes.

The dam is successfully built. Nice work team!

Wet and wacky team #25. It was an amazing day.

Some might conclude that our group of 59 Cedar Rapidians brought the flood waters with them and no one would blame them for coming to that conclusion if they did! In a land where the annual rainfall is around 8 inches we saw torrential rain for 2 of the 4 days we built our houses there in Juarez. It was amazing.

By Wednesday morning we had the walls up, the roof on (minus rooking paper), and it was already starting to sprinkle while a group worked feverishly to finish the roof so that we could do drywall and insulation on the inside. Drywall?

O my! The drywall was stacked up outside near the ditch and wouldn't you know it the water was rising quite quickly and Renee yelled out from the roof for us to get the now endangered drywall into the house. The girls moved 42 sheets of drywall in short order! Nice job ladies!

On Thursday morning it rained again and our construction efforts were diverted from the house to civil engineering - a dam had to be built. It was an amazing process and we were victorious over the flood waters!

Mark said that it had not rained in the 9 trips he had made down there. I guess we made up for it in 4 days time!

Our Intern - Renee ( I spelled it Rene)

Sorry Renee. I spelled your name "Rene" in my blog post. I just corrected it. Tye out.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Building houses in Juarez, Mexico - sleeping arrangements

One large concrete floor...

59 servants...

One good night's sleep.

Some chose to forgo the air mattress and sleep on the concrete, including our senior high pastor.

Building Houses Juarez, Mexico 3 - July 7

We arrived at our work site around 10 AM and Renee (our Casas intern) explained to us the general process of building a Casas house - a double. Our first job was leveling the ground and building the forms where we would pour the concrete slab. That took us up until around 1:30 to complete. After siesta (lunch and nap) we came back at 4 PM and started pouring the concrete...

By hand...with students...and sponsors...who had never done concrete before. O my.

And then a sand storm hit. It was brutal.

The recipe for concrete goes like this: water, rock, sand, rock, sand, concrete, rock, sand. We used buckets to carry the materials to the concrete mixer.

Did I mention that the electric concrete mixer overheated. We had to do half loads. Which meant twice the time. But our crew knocked it out in around 4 hours - including clean up.

Just as we were finishing a storm was rolling in complete with lightning and high winds. God's timing is always right.

Building Houses in Juarez, Mexico 2 - July 7

(The SHOC - our home for the next four days)

After getting across the border we headed toward our home for the next four days, the SHOC. It is a concrete floor building that has showers and a place to take our siestas. While some slept on the concrete floor, others like me used an air mattress.

And yes, we all slept in the same room. Men on one side, and women on the other. We exercised "extreme" modesty which meant shorts to finger tips and tee-shirts for sleepwear. It never felt awkward at one time. This youth group is so mature. I would have never tried this with my first youth group.

Then is was off to the work site to get started on our house. Tye out.

Building Houses in Juarez, Mexico - July 7

After a fair night's sleep in El Paso, we woke up at 4:30 AM to cross the border into Mexico. I felt a little like jet lag by that point. After 48 straight hours on the road with catnaps along the way I was feeling kinda out of it.

We crossed over into Mexico twice. Once unsuccessfully, the second successfully. We tried crossed at the place Casas por Christo wanted us to cross even though they don't accept buses. We tried everything to get the officials to let us cross, even a bribe. They explained that their scales could not handle the weight of the bus.

The place where buses are supposed to cross is downtown and it is supposed to be dangerous there so the interns are not allowed to go there.

So, after leaving the USA but not entering Mexico, we now had to re-enter the USA which took us well over an hour. A short drive down to the downtown crossing, about a nine minute wait and we were in Mexico. Finally.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Our Casas Por Christo Intern

Renee (pictured on left) was our Casas intern who led our team and she did an incredible job. She is a 25 year old third grade school teacher who has served as a summer intern for four years now. We developed a great working relationship as the house went up. By Tuesday afternoon it became a "hey Tye" day. I would hear Renee say "hey Tye" and I knew that the next assignment was coming. Then it became a "hey Renee" day because I needed to know that I was doing a good job - my love language is words of affirmation.

Renee is a little taller than me, so I stood on a stool for this picture of us as we finished dedicating our house.

Pray for Renee. She, and the other interns, have a great responsibility as they lead teams every week. Pray that God meets her needs as a young woman and as a intern at Casas.

P.S. Do you like my beard?

On the road again - Oklahoma City to El Paso - July 6

The mechanic finished the bus at around 12:15 AM (Sunday morning) and after all the paperwork and driving back to the church where the students were staying at the church youth center, we managed to get everyone loaded on the bus and I took the driver's seat at 1:15 AM.

We pulled into Albuquerque, NM around noon for a delicious meal at the Frontier Restaurant. I had had a nice nap on the bus and this meal only served to energize me for the four drive through the desert to El Paso where we would spend the night at a church before driving across the border into Juarez to build our houses.

Conclusion: We left NCBC at 7:30 PM Friday night arrived Sunday night in El Paso at 7:30 PM, right on schedule. The only thing is we missed our overnight stop in Albuquerque and the opportunity to change clothes and shower. Our sponsors and students went the entire time without changing and showering and I never heard ONE complaint. Amazing. Tye out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Oklahoma City - for 18 hours - July 5

The original plan was to leave NCBC at 7 PM on Friday and arrive in Albuquerque 24 hours later. With four bus drivers and several more Excursion drivers this is easily possible. Charley took the lead out position and then I hopped in the driver's seat around 11 PM. It was at the rest area where we switched drivers that the trouble began. The bus overheated when we stopped.

Brian Valenti called us around 1 AM to let us know that we could get the bus fixed in Oklahoma City.

We pulled into a McDonald's near the bus repair facility and while the bus headed for repair, the group headed for breakfast. The really good news is that there was a Starbucks, Walmart, Applebees, and an Office Max next door.

About 10 AM we found out that the part for the bus would not arrive until 5 PM. O my. Mark Forstrom called a prayer meeting for those hanging around and so the prayers began. But I have to confess that I don't always close my eyes when I pray, so I was kinda looking around when I spied a church van leaving Walmart. I stepped out into the street and flagged the van down. The Lord answered prayer.

At 1 PM the youth pastor and his wife arrived and began shuttling students and sponsors to the church's youth center where we found cool ac, X-box, Guitar Hero, pool table and foosball. More importantly, there was a side room where I was able to get quality sleep. I would need it. Tye out.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Heading to Juarez, Mexico - July 4

On July 4 59 senior high students and sponsors left the parking lot of New Covenant Bible Church in a bus, Ford Excursion, and a trailer heading towards Juarez, Mexico. This was the annual senior high missions trip where our group partners with Casas Por Christo to build 3 houses. I would not have been able to go if it weren't for the fact that I have a CDL (Commercial Drivers License) and two daughters on the trip. I have driven buses, tractor-trailers, and everything else over the years.

We pulled out around 7:30 PM intending to drive straight through to Alburqurque, Mexico where we would arrive 24 hours later and sleep. That's not what happened.

During the night we discovered that the cooling fan was not working - not a prob during the cool night, but definitely a problem during the hot desert days. A call was made back to the "commish," our transportation coordinator Brian Valenti and around 1 AM we received the news that the bus would be fixed in Oklahoma City. Thanks Brian for staying up and getting us hooked up!

That's it for now. Stay tuned. Tye out.

Flood relief update

On July 2 we sent out our last team down to the flood zone. We received word that the safety of our volunteers was at risk due to the mold that was growing. Mold is an extremely hazardous thing to deal with and it requires safety precautions that we are not prepared to deal with. It was a difficult decision, but one that we felt was necessary to protect the longterm health of our volunteers.

Right now we are interacting with a group that may be coming to do construction. If they decide to come they believe they will be bringing somewhere around 6-800 volunteers, which would include up to 50% skilled workers. Please pray that this would come to fruition. Tye out.