Choosing a Travel Route

In recent days, I’ve been working more on some details of our summer trip. One of the very first and significant details is simply driving to the USA. It’s “only” 600 miles to the border and we typically drive this in one long day, especially this time of year when there is plenty of sunlight later in the day and we can even leave here relatively safely in the dark of morning if need be (and if I’m feeling up to it).

Since we have accepted an invitation to stay in McAllen, TX for about a week with missionary friends/co-workers there whom we haven’t seen in 5 years, naturally, we would ideally drive to Reynosa and cross into McAllen. If we were simply going up to Dallas as we usually do, we would cross at Nuevo Laredo and into Laredo. The distance is identical, but to get from Laredo to McAllen requires over 2.5 hours of driving on the USA side.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to do just that as in recent weeks the drug war has heated up once again in Reynosa resulting in at least 23 deaths in the past week, including shootouts right on the main roads/highways. Last Friday the government issued a “red light” for traveling in the area. Today, an “orange light” was issued. I’m not sure why they don’t call that a “yellow light” but then again…if my observations over the past decade are accurate, the significance of the colors of traffic lights in Mexico has never been completely set in concrete, and apparently never really understood by all the drivers out there.

Of course, as is almost always the case, the victims were almost certainly targeted or were involved in an active shoot-out with police/military, but obviously, flying bullets don’t really make that distinction and there’s not much sense in driving into an area where this is possible at any time. We’ll pass. We’ll have to spend a night in Laredo, but small price to pay for exercising a bit of caution and wisdom.

Here’s a video clip of one of the incidents today that has added to my earlier decision to take the long way to McAllen:

 

I couldn’t help but notice that it was in the news today that Mexico was considered the 2nd most dangerous country in the world by violent deaths. From the sounds of the news so far this year, Mexico could be in the running for a high place on this list again in 2017.

Mexico was second deadliest country in 2016

As always we travel in prayer and asking for prayer for safety and a trouble-free trip, especially through Mexico. God is always in control and protects us at all times as He does all of His children at all times. We would appreciate your prayers for our home assignment/representation trip not just for our Saturday drive to the border, but throughout the summer. We plan to return home from the USA around August 21 after driving from here to Texas, then to Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Indiana again, Michigan, Indiana yet again!, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and back to Texas before the final stretch home to Mexico.

Whew! I suspect this will take us about 10,000 miles to cover it all. We’re anxious to get started and anxious to get finished too!

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Amealco

I had to go up to Amealco for the 2nd time this week. The first time was so I could get shocks and struts and springs replaced on the van. And the second time was so I could get shocks and struts and springs replaced on the van! They usually have the parts on-hand or can get them pretty quickly, but earlier in the week after hanging around for awhile, the shop realized they couldn’t get all the parts on that day nor on the next day, so after a 2 day wait, they were ready for me to come back to get job done. (Wow…the van rides so much better now! Unfortunately, we’ll have to get new tires this summer for between the bad roads and bad suspension, they have taken a complete beating.)

What that extra day in Amealco meant mostly to me was that I got to eat at a favorite restaurant that is just a few minutes walk from the repair shop…twice! And afterward (today), I took a stroll a couple of blocks into the small “centro” or center of downtown. It’s a small town so there isn’t much to see.

Unfortunately, I find just about everything there fascinating and worthy of exploring with the camera, but I don’t want to get too many dirty looks or get beat up by someone sensitive for me taking pictures of whatever or whoever. The people have great features and I’d love to just be able to take people pictures! It’s like airport people-watching, except it’s not in an airport, and it’s probably not considered “kosher.” So, I look for just regular stuff to take pictures of, and if I can get some people shots, that’s a plus.

I’d forgotten that this is “fair week” (“feria”) in Amealco. As it turned out, there was a dancing demonstration going on, and it had a lot of color. Who can resist taking pics of frilly ballet dancers? Loved their hair and overly done makeup! Enchanting. Gotta love the guy on the horse strolling by. Uniquely and plainly Mexico. That’s Amealco!

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Quickie Visit to Tequisquiapan

We’re quickly coming to our scheduled departure date for this summer’s home assignment/representation trip. We’ve pretty much wound down almost all of our ministry tasks except for one weekly online tutorial session, a church breakfast planned for this Sunday, and any interactions we can squeeze in with our church members.

Mostly, we’re trying to get ready to leave for over 3 months which includes a variety of logistics from bill-paying ahead, making sure we have the dog taken care of while we’re away, making lists of things we need to take, things we’ll need to buy in the USA, and ordering things we’ll need to be awaiting us in Dallas for the rest of the summer.

Another thing we typically do is make sure we have enough small gifts to share with hosts and friends/family as we travel. That’s generally a fun activity and we often accumulate these things over the course of the year, but we always need more things just before we leave.

So, Bethie and I made a quick visit to Tequisquiapan earlier this week. I took my camera for “just in case.” There’s almost always something new if you look for it.

 

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A Sunday Evening Walk

I needed to run an errand downtown after our Sunday evening church service. So we enjoyed another nice walk in the lovely weather. Took my camera bag just in case I found something interesting to snap.

(I found it challenging to deal with all the glare from the lighting and to get the focus right. I didn’t try using the flash and that probably was the correct decision. In any case, I’m obviously still a struggling photog noob holding a camera.)

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Día del Niño (Day of the Child or Children’s Day)

It’s that Sunday when we had better remember to have some little goodies for the kids that come for Sunday evening service. This year we gave them cake, candies, little Nerf guns, and they got to play in a little wading pool and enjoy water gun fights. It sounds like almost a perfect church service! Oh wait. There was also coffee. It WAS perfect!

(The adults had a 90 minute study on the topic of spiritual growth.)

 

This is what they get to wear when they forget to obey their momma’s instructions to take off their shirts before getting wet (old clothes that belonged to Beth and Dayton). I couldn’t get Isaac (the younger one) to look at me (after I couldn’t get him to stand by his brother for a photo), so I put my finger in the air to get his attention. They both started mimicking what I had done because they had no idea what I was trying to do with that. Goofballs!

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Shazam!

A funny thing happened on the way to Facebook today…MTS called. A lot of things have changed. Two days after a friend asked me how my studies were going and explaining to him just why I didn’t see any possibility of returning to MTS, I just might be returning to study after all.

You see, ever since the heart attacks, I’ve been struggling just to survive and figure out how to live and function with a severely damaged heart. Going back to work has been challenge enough, but adding two graduate classes at a time to my schedule and all the stress of late, nearly-sleepless nights reading, studying, and writing papers just doesn’t fit into what I’m capable of doing. So, over months of sporadic thinking I had come up with a list of reasons why I couldn’t study any longer, and I also had developed a list of some conditions that would have to be met in order for me to ever consider resuming my studies.

1). The MDiv at 90 hours is just too much for me at this point in life, all things considered. I don’t really need or have a passion to learn Greek and Hebrew (though I completed 9 hours of Greek already). It just isn’t all that practical or necessary for the kinds of ministry I do, and the learning of a difficult language, while I’m still trying to wrap my head around the Spanish language, is just too much for me. I’m not at an age and life situation where earning an MDiv is all that practical. I mostly got into it because it was the only accredited, online seminary masters program in existence when I started it. I needed more Bible learning/training and this was the unique vehicle available to gain that. If I were to resume online studies, it would need to be for a masters that doesn’t include biblical languages and is for a much more modest number of hours, say in the mid-30s. (I’ve completed 24 hours including the Greek.) I would also need for most of my earned credits to transfer to this other, previously non-existent online masters degree.

2). I can’t afford the studies with one son in college and another just a couple years away. The Timothy Scholarship is only available to those who enroll and maintain 15 credit hours per year. I have to have that matching scholarship in which I only need to pay 1/3 of the tuition, or I simply can’t continue. Thus, I would need for the Timothy Scholarship to be offered even though I only took say 12 hours a year instead of 15 hours.

3). I can’t manage two classes at once any longer. I could probably handle one class at a time, but the MDiv program requires 2 classes at a time in order to finish within the allowed number of years to get it done, and the biblical language studies require a 2nd class to overlap since they stretch those Greek and Hebrew classes out over a longer time. Any resumed studies would have to be such that I only take one class at a time, which means, 2 classes per semester or 4 classes per year, which means 12 hours a year.

So, that’s my list of non-negotiable requirements to make it work. As far as I knew, this was an unlikely, if not impossible, set of requests.

And then today the GSA (graduate student advocate) calls me and says, they’re offering a new online master’s this fall, starting in late August.

  • The Master of Arts in Biblical Studies is only 36 hours.
  • Out of my 24 credit hours earned, 15 of them can be applied to this degree (the 9 Greek hours are useless and Greek to them too I guess!). So, I only lack 21 hours (i.e. 7 classes).
  • The Timothy Scholarship has been changed so that only 6 hours per semester or 12 per year are required in order to receive it. To get 12 hours per year, I only need to take one class at a time.
  • The courses I lack for this new online masters are basic Bible and spiritual formation courses. Perfect. That’s what I really need and want.

So…I’m not sure what there is to pray about at this point. I’d already prayed that all of these things would have to happen before I could consider resuming studies. It’s more about praying that God stops me from going back in at this point. I honestly can’t see a good reason why I shouldn’t. It is the desire of my heart…battered though it is.

So, maybe you can pray with me that I’ll continue to understand the Lord’s will in this matter, but perhaps we can start praying for the finances as well. I will need some help to take these courses. They’re now up a little to $410 per credit hour or $1,230 per class.

I’ll have to re-apply for the scholarship which is a formality and to set it up with my home church in WV as well. This also means that I’ll need donors for 1/3 of that amount times two (for two classes this fall semester). All that to say, I’ll need $820 given through my church for this year’s fall semester and again for next year’s spring semester. I’ll have to come up with the rest of those funds unless anyone wants to help me with my portion as well which would be greatly appreciated too.

There’s also a relatively new fee from Faithlife which is the author of the Logos software I purchased for the MDiv and is required for this masters as well. Now there is Logos Live! which allows access to many expensive resources for a hefty subscription fee of $300 per semester. Unfortunately, it’s a requirement to get it, and so that’s another $1,200 that will be added to this semester if paid to Moody which would cover the 4 semesters/2 years of expected studies. There may be a payment plan available if I go directly through Faithlife for this, but I don’t know if it costs more on such a plan, and I don’t know if it is charged each semester or simply is measured out over a few extra months. Stuff to find out.

Wow. I’m really excited about the prospect of being able to resume seminary studies and being able to earn a degree that is practical and in-line with my needs and desires for learning. I think I can do it. It seems manageable.

Pray about it with me. I’ve still got some time to decide. Pray for the finances too. It’ll be a chunk of change to get through this, but to my knowledge, our eternal Provider has not run out of resources. Trusting.

 

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April Library Day

The “Library Man,” “Library Lady Beth,” and “Library Boy” are hosting the monthly library day. One family is away on home assignment and another couldn’t make it, so we have a smaller group today. As you can see, it’s as much romper room, playtime, and gym class as it is library browsing, but those are all healthy things for learning, exploring, and discovery as much as looking through books on a shelf.

Today’s selected preferences include Thomas the Tank Engine, animal books, and Adventures in Odyssey DVDs.

Selected readings by “Library Lady Beth” included, “Miss Lollipop’s Lion.” (I enjoy the facial and body expressions by the kiddos. The little girl listening from the doorway was enjoying playing with some toy cars. It looks like the story was so good, it just about knocked off her britches!

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