Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Church Roof Update

As you read this letter from Dave, please consider how you may help; the peso right now is over $13 pesos to a dollar. Once we finish the roof, we will be able to start holding services here.

It seemed best to order the new church roofing this year before the New Year. We are going with 1” blue polystyne insulation covered with multi-corregated aluminized sheeting. In addition to these products we will need to purchase a sealer for the insulation sheet joints and screws. However, only once we begin installation. I have already begun the purchase process because of deadlines in production and shipping for this year’s end. Simply by making the order this year we will be saving a little over $2,000usd. Plus the exchange rate is doing very well in which we again another $19,000pesos. Further with the acquisition of this product over the initial one piece design we save about $164.000pesos. These are significant numbers.

However, of the $210,000pesos we will be paying for product and delivery, we have $175,950pesos, a difference of $34,050pesos. Further, once we do the actual installation we will need a few addition, local products amounting to nearly $10,000pesos. So that leaves us short about $44,050pesos, or $3,349.00usd. I am very excited about this, that seems very little that we have left to raise; let’s call it $3,500usd.

Please click here to donate to "Cofradia Church Construction"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Quick update

Merry Christmas!

We are in the process of a number of busy activities this week. My plan was to send out an update and newsletter by Christmas; I may not get to it. We are anxious to share with everyone about what has been going on the past couple of months; the arrival of the rest of the staff, a border trip, seed sowing, and visitors for Christmas. We will be having our anual Soccer Tournament on Friday and Saturday; this year we have added a Volleyball Tournament.

Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. We are getting the house ready to have a Student Leadership dinner--our first Turkey!

Blessings everyone!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

RETO Video

A while back, Amber added some English sub-tiltes to the video we made after the RETO youth event in September. Here is a link to that video:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Revolution Day Parade

Today is Revolution Day here in Mexico. Every November 20 is the day that it is commemorated. Each year the town has a parade featuring all the students from all the schools in Cofradia; from Kindergarten to High School. In addition to the students, some of the men of the town trail behind either walking or riding their horses. This year there were a lot of people in the parade and lots of colors. Here are some pics.
At the very beginning, everyone gets together at the center of town to salute the flag and listen to a quick history lesson of the Revolution.
These are the student who led the pack for the High School group. Karla is on the far right, she comes to youth group from time to time.
The High Schoolers made a pyramid; Ruben has the red hat, Mili is on the right in the third row (she's the one that lives with us), and Laura is on the top. They are all part of the youth group.
The Jr. Highers
Elementary School
Kindergarten--Rebecka's cousin, Luis, is the Sergeant on the left in the front.
The rest of the Kindergarteners rode on a trailer dressed up in culture.
Right before the parade finished, Hugo (Gena's brother) set up his trampoline and Rebecka and Emma were the frist one's on.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's getting cold....

Just thought some of you might be interested...
This morning I looked at last night's low of 65 degrees! That's the lowest its been all season. Two days ago was the first time it reached the 60s at 69. Once December and January roll around, it will be in the 50s in the early morning. The lowest I've ever seen it get was two January's ago at 41 degrees! Even though it gets cold in the early morning the days are still in the 80s.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Living Beyond the Possible

Living Beyond the Possible by Wayne Myers

This is a great book! It challenges us in our complete faith in God and how we manage our finances. I was given this book a couple years ago and was just now able to sit down and read it. It's an easy read with lots of great stories of how God's economy works. A great message for today with the way things are going in the world; a great challenge to depend on God. The subtitle reads, "Trusting God with your finances and your future."
Wayne Myers was raised in Mississippi and joined the navy where he met the Lord. After that, he dedicated his whole life...whole life to God. He and his wife Martha were missionaries for many years in Mexico and helped plant many churches throughout the world. He did a number of conferences on how to trust God with your finances.
This book is filled with nuggets that make you stop and think about where we put our trust. One comment he makes that I really like is, "Give according to your income, lest God reduces your income according to your giving." What a statement!
Are you nervous about the stock market? Are you worried about the global financial crisis? This book is for you! has a few available.

November Prayer

This month, would you please pray for…
* Special Need Emma is 2 ½ years old and is still sleeping in a travel crib. We need a bunk bed for the girls and I project it to cost around $500 including mattresses. Please let us know if you can help us with this. You can send a financial donation; click here to see how.
* LIFE Night youth meeting. An event that includes worship, games, and a message. This month, one of our students will be presenting some Rap Music he’s written. (Nov. 22)
* Direction for youth ministry. We are continuing to move right along with change. For the past few months, we’ve had an Intern, Luis Vazquez, helping us and he’s done a great job. He will continue to help with the youth group as well as many other areas in the church. We have a number of great student leaders and it’s exciting to see that there has been so much growth in the past couple of years. My role continues to move towards an overseer instead of “Youth Pastor”. I’m really excited about what God is doing. Please continue to pray for this ministry.
* Worship Ministry. I have been praying for a long time for a worship leader to be raised up. We have had a few students lead for a while, but consistency depends a lot on maturity. Please pray with me as I believe the Lord has something around the corner for us in this area!
* 8th Anniversary. Geña and I will have been married for 8 years on November 18. Thank you so much for your prayers over our marriage and family!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Responsibility and Service

A few days ago as I was walking to a little store to buy some eggs for breakfast, I was asking myself how much I really depend on the Holy Spirit to speak into people’s lives as I share Truth with them. Do I really trust that the Holy Spirit is going to speak to them or do I need to say what I need to say a number of different ways as I try to get my point across thinking that they won’t understand it unless I say it “like this”? I know for me, the Holy Spirit speaks to my heart, counseling me, comforting me, reminding me of what the Scriptures say.

I had a message on my heart for a while; it was a simple statement that I read in a devotional by Neil Anderson. I wanted to share it so bad with our student leaders because I knew it would speak to their lives and challenge them to be greater leaders. I decided to wait until we had our next meeting. We took them up to the top of a BIG hill close to where we live called “Peñas.” You can see for miles and miles from the top of that gigantic rock. It takes about one half hour to drive up there. We saw a number of the towns in this area; Cofradía, Ruiz, and Las Pilas to name a few.

As we took time right before the sunset to share a little, I pulled out my notebook and told them what the Lord had been speaking to me personally about; letting him do the “convicting.” I told them that God spoke to me through this statement and I know he will speak to each of us. As soon as I said it, two of the four said, “Yes, I can relate to that!” It spoke to their hearts and challenged them to take another step in the walk of Leadership.

Before I type the statement, think about what kind of leadership responsibilities you have in your ministry, job, church, your family, or any other area. This statement challenges us in the areas of responsibility and service. Isn’t that what a true leader is? A servant?

“There are two types of people who will never reach their potential in Christ; those who cannot do what they are told to do and those who will not do anything unless they are told.”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

October Newsletter (Postage Mail Version)

Six shots left with the camera rolling and the soundtrack of The Passion of Christ in the background; everyone was quiet, everyone was waiting in anticipation…A MISS! WOW! Five shots left…another miss! FOUR shots left…a miss! THREE shots left…now, all they need is to find one square belonging to The Chosen; if they hit their own square, they’ll have to find two more of The Chosen’s with only two shots left! With three shots left…a miss! TWO SHOTS LEFT and the score is: The Chosen, 8; The Overcomers, 7. They only need to find ONE square! Two shots left…OOOOOPPPPPSSSS!!! THEY HIT ONE OF THEIR OWN SQUARES!!!! The score now is: The Chosen, 9; The Overcomers 7. ONE SHOT LEFT! You do the math. Yep! With that mistake, THE CHOSEN WON!!!!!!! This was wilder than wild! The students from The Chosen were going crazy that they had won EL RETO! The students from The Overcomers sat in disbelief. They had dominated all month long in EVERYTHING. The margin between them and 2nd place was incredible in the final tally. But, because they found the hidden treasure, The Chosen were given an opportunity to challenge them in ONE FINAL CHALLENGE.

"The Chosen" are the Champions of EL RETO 2008!
Kneeling L-R: Karla, Alfredo, Jaime
Standing L-R: Ruben (captain), Chuy, Diana, Beto, Juan, Yito, Charlie, Adolfo
Not pictured: Gabriela

Words cannot express the excitement and the feeling of fulfillment as EL RETO 2008 comes to an end. We will live out its wake in the coming weeks as we talk at youth group about things we learned and as we hang out with each other during the week. The two words that would best sum it all up would be…TEACHABLE MOMENTS. There is SO MUCH to get out of this whole event that lasted all the month of September, especially when we look at it through the lense of “What can I learn from this?” Knowing that the Lord is the one who ordains all the events for us to be able to know HIM more and GROW in our spiritual journey with HIM gives us confidence and trust in HIM throughout our day-to-day life. DECIDE YOUR DESTINY was the theme this year and is what each of the 72 students encountered one time or another in EL RETO. From the beginning when each team chose a name for their team from a Bible story, to the end when The Overcomers made a mistake by choosing one of their own squares in EL RETO FINAL giving the victory to The Chosen.

The Overcomers dominated all month; they deserved to win EL RETO because they did a great job. However, through the hidden treasure that came in to play, the Lord set up a teachable moment to bring glory to Him. Life sometimes isn’t fair; that’s usually when we are challenged to put our faith and trust in Him. He is in control. This is just one of the lessons that the students learned this year during EL RETO. You can read in more detail by clicking on "El RETO Week 1", etc at the right.

Our Student Leaders are doing great. They have been extremely helpful in our weekly meetings taking on responsibilities with willingness and confidence. One of the former student leaders is struggling with many different things in his life and could use some prayer, please pray for Jose and his home life. Another student leader, Jesus, went to Bible school at the end of August and is doing awesome! He and a couple of friends he made started a youth group at the church they are attending. WOW! I am so proud of him! Another former student leader, Jose Luis, is living in Mazatlan, working with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and a Homes of Hope project. He is doing really well also! If you would like to receive his emails, let me know, they are pretty interesting and are distributed in English!

We had our last short-term mission team in July and they finished painting all of the rafters of the new church. We would love to have you bring a group down and join us as we continue the construction of the building and reaching out to the community. We are excited about its progress!

After a long year of off and on homeschooling, we finally finished Rebecka’s Kindergarten homeschool class the 2nd week of October! We gave her a week’s vacation and then start first grade on October 20. Hopefully, we’ll be done by the end of July. She is doing so well in school and we’re very proud of her. This year, we are going to have her focus on homeschool instead of participate in the local public school so she can get a good grasp of how to read and write in English. Then, next year we hope to put her back in to learn the easier Spanish language.

Emma Rose is doing great. She has been growing a lot and her personality is very cute; her words are getting clearer and clearer each day.

We also were given a pet in August, his name is Pony Deer. He is a “deer head” Chihuahua. He is a lot of fun!

“There are two types of people who will never live up to their potential in Christ: those who can’t do what they are told to do and those who won’t do anything unless they are told.” An excerpt from a Daily Devotional by Neil Anderson

So, are you making any plans to be in Mexico? Let us know if you will be in or near Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, or Guadalajara. All three locations are within 4 hours of us; Mazatlan being the closest (3 hours). We would love to have you out for a night (or few) at our home and show you around Cofradía and the surrounding towns. Come see what it’s like and get a taste of what the REAL Mexico culture is like; a few of you have already done this and we would love to open the doors for others to do the same. If you have an RV, we have a hook-up on our property! Email us or post a comment and I will get back to you. We’ll see you here!

Click here for options on how to invest financially in this ministry.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. We would love to hear from you! If you have internet access and would like to receive this letter by email, let us know! We love you and pray for you often!


May the Lord bless you all,

Steve, Geña, Rebecka and Emma Silberman
Missionaries to Mexico
Alternative Missions

Written: October 17, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture

Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture by Walt Mueller

What an eye-opener!

I learned a number of things as I read this book and I think it’s a message that many of us have heard or even expressed at one time or another. Making the message of the Bible relevant to a generation or people group with whom we do not share their culture. This book is specifically talking about the current and upcoming youth generation.

I have heard the phrase “Postmodernism” before, but I had never taken the time to actually pay attention to what it is. Postmodern thinking basically says that there really is no moral right or wrong; “truth becomes what people—an individual or a community—want it to be.” Here are some distinctions of this worldview: everyone has a story and interpretation of society or art for example. Whatever your story or interpretation is, that is correct because that’s the way you see it. Postmodernism uses feelings, not reason. We don’t have to go too far to see evidence of this; all we have to do is turn on the television and observe commercials. What are the ads really selling us? Postmodernism embraces moral relativism; “truth becomes what people want it to be.” Postmodernism celebrates pluralism, diversity and tolerance. It replaces immorality with amorality. With the idea that there really is no right or wrong (amorality), immorality is impossible. It promotes an agonizing pessimism, displaces hope with despair, fosters a longing for connections and permanence, advances interest in spirituality, and it dismisses Christianity. This postmodern way of thinking is dangerous, but it’s real. This is what the youth of today believe (in general).

Walt explains three dynamics of the culture war within the church: accommodation, alienation and transformation. In accommodation, the church is on a leash being led by the culture. The extreme is when a church is accommodating themselves to cultural values and behaviors that are contrary to a biblical worldview. Sometimes it’s out of ignorance, convenience, or a belief that it will enhance the proclamation of the gospel. Alienation would be the other extreme where churches “ban” themselves from worldly activities in order to protect themselves from evil and offensive influences. Doing this, they construct for themselves a “bunker” where they stay and are “protected” from the world. These churches believe that contact with the world would lead to corruption and the adoption of ungodly attitudes and practices. Here Walt says, “In recent church history, many in the conservative evangelical church in America have adopted this bunker mentality.” I think I can see his point and I would probably tend to classify myself as a “bunker” Christian more than a “leashed” Christian.

Transformation suggests that the church be in but not of the world. This is the idea that leads us to the point of this whole book. In the end, Walt explains the Apostle Paul’s approach to the Athens when he spoke on Mars Hill. Paul went in, observed the culture adding to what he already knew about them, and as he was walking around he noticed an idol with the inscription “Unknown God”. He spent time learning about the people, getting to know what they believed. He met them on their turf (in the world) and an opportunity came up for him to share the Gospel. As he did so, he used their vocabulary and quoted form sources they respected (ie. Epimenides, Aratus, etc.).

We are encouraged to learn about the people group we are ministering to or, even as a layperson, trying to reach. The final question in the book is “Who is your Athens?” He gives a number of questions to think about as we learn about our target audience. We need to approach them with questions and a willingness to learn about them.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

CHANGE of Online Giving Link

Alternative Missions has changed their online giving location. If you give online, please go to the new link below, look for my name "Steve Silberman" click "donate" and follow the directions of the next page.
Thank you!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

EL RETO FINAL 2008 (week 5)

EL RETO FINAL, The Final Challenge! This is it, the final week!
This year we totaled 72 students who made it out for at least one of the five weeks. We have learned some great life lessons through this event and we’re excited for how things have ended. I believe with all my heart that God ordains everything that goes on during this time and with that confidence, through all of the challenges we faced, we know that God is telling us something!
This week was a little different because it was the final week. As we began with announcements, I asked if anyone of the teams had found the hidden 1000 point prize. Funny, the two teams that had all three clues didn’t succeed in finding it, but did succeed in leaking information.

“There is a prize of 1000 points
hanging on something wooden
within eyesight.”

“In this year’s RETO, here we have not visited,
but there was a time that here we played a game.”

“If you have attended Abundant LIFE Youth Group meeting,
you have been very hot.”

The Overcomers, who had only received the first clue, also received some information from another team and came forward with an uninflated balloon that I hung from a branch of a tree in our back yard. Pedro, the leader, looked all over in our trees and bushes and finally found the balloon with the words, “1000 POINTS.”
Good job Pedro.

We proceeded as each team presented their choreography and song. We gave them a tract with music, but no words. They had to come up with their own lyrics and make choreography to go with the music. Each team had the same reggae style music to work with. They all did a tremendous job and I was actually surprised that some even did it! These students are learning to step out of their “comfort” zone more and more and not worry about what people say about them. It was great for them! My prayer is that this confidence will bleed into their personal day to day lives.

The lyrics needed to relate to the theme of this year’s RETO, “Decide Your Destiny” and the bible story of their team’s name which I didn’t hear much of either. I think the phrase that sticks out most out of all the songs was by “The Angels of Good” who started out this year on the bottom and stayed there because of some bad, unrespectable attitudes. One of the new generation students, Guille, sang, “This challenge we have lost, but God is still with me.” What a concept. I think they got it! To be able to understand that God is with us and still loves us even though we fail sometimes is HUGE.

Here are some photos of some of their moves…
Guille for "Angels of Good."
Riki with "Fearful."
Team captain, Gollo, performing for "Fearful."
Keyli and Maira for "The Messengers."
"The Chosen" crew.

WOW, be careful Juan!
Alfredo spinning for "The Chosen."
Ruben doing what he loves, rapping for the crowd.
"The Overcomers" crew.
Freddy rapping naturally..."yup."
Chuy jumping from all fours!
Now he's spinning.
I don't know what this is.
Walking with his hands!
When we were done with that, we had a time of worship. As I lead worship sometimes, I look out to see who is actually worshipping. Sometimes like this time, I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the “fringe” youth raising their hands as they involved themselves in worship with their eyes closed. Lord, touch their lives!

The past couple of years we’ve had a guest speaker come to share a message that relates to our theme. This year I invited a friend of mine from La Cruz, Sinaloa, Sergio Barreda.
What a great job! Gracias Sergio! He spoke on what it is to make decisions and how important it is to be able to make decisions in our life. The most important decision we can make is to accept Christ into our hearts and decide to live for him. This year’s verse is Joshua 24:15, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” When I asked Sergio two months ago to be our speaker, he told me later in a phone conversation that God had laid on his heart a message and a scripture. We had not talked about this before and come to find out that the scripture God gave him two months ago was the same scripture we have been using this year in EL RETO! We were on the same page!

Unfortunately, the roof to the new church is not on yet and the message was cut short due to rain. However, I know that God had all of that prepared. After we put all the sound equipment away and moved over to another part of the church grounds, the minimal rain had stopped and we had a time of prayer over the students. One girl, Maira, from Santa Fe accepted Jesus into her heart as Geña prayed with her. There were a number of other students that received prayer for other reasons as well. This, to me, is all worth it. When students come forward and admit a need before God and man. Lord, touch their lives!

When we were finished praying, we moved into the conclusion of the whole RETO event. Mili announced the results of the choreographies and she had the students going crazy! I sat back thinking, “she does this way better than me!” which is not a bad thought! When the final results of the choreography winners was announced after a very suspenseful and exciting 10-15 minutes of announcing, The Overcomers came out on top.

Mili did such a great job at this, that instead of me announcing the final results of this year’s RETO, I was more than pleased to give her the honor once again of announcing who had the most points in the final tally. She excitedly accepted and off she went…
“6th place with 976 points, ‘Angels of Good’”.
“5th place with 1,010 points, ‘The Messengers’”.
“4th place with 1,430 points, ‘Fearful’”.
“3rd place with…WOW…4,542 points, ‘Eagles’”
“2nd place had 4,921 points”
…and after another 10-15 minutes of suspenseful and exciting announcing, she announced first place…
“and first place of EL RETO 2008 with…WOW…7,337 points…THE OVERCOMERS!!!!”
“2nd place goes to ‘The Chosen’”.

Now, did they actually win? This was the moment that I asked if there were any teams who had found the hidden treasure.

“A big opportunity awaits you if you find the treasure. If you win the FINAL
CHALLENGE, you will end up in first place. Search amongst the rocks where the
tournaments are held.”

“In The Village of The Cast Away with a Braveheart, you saw The Passion of Christ, The Almighty.”

“Mathew 13:44. How was the treasure hidden?”

“Line up the palm tree with the corner of the palapa”

With just the first two clues, “The Chosen” found the hidden treasure after only the 2nd week. When the leader, Ruben, found it, he asked me, “So, about the treasure, what do I do with it, do I open it?” I responded, “Are you sure you found it?” “Yes” he said. “Show it to me” I replied. He went into the house and came out with a tiny bundle of fabric tied up in twine. “Here it is.” “Hmm,” I hmmed, “Good job!” And I went on to explain to him that he can open it and inside he will find a message for him and that he didn’t need to share it with anyone. I told him to bring it to EL RETO FINAL to present it to me then and we will continue from there.

So, did he bring it with him? Yes. And we had one Last Challenge between “The Chosen” who had found the hidden treasure and “The Overcomers” who, if it hadn’t been for the hidden treasure, would have won already. Now it was getting suspenseful!

So, we had all the teams line up in their formations just like we had done every week and one last time the teams went in to the decision room to vote for the team they wanted to win. The Chosen and The Overcomers didn’t vote because they couldn’t vote for their own team. So, the other four teams, one by one, went in to vote.
The first team to vote was the “Eagles”.
Then the “Fearful” came in to vote.
The next vote was from “The Messengers.”
Finally, the last vote came from “Angels of Good.”
It was a tie! However, this was not the way either team was going to win. What they received for votes were “shots”. I made up a game on the computer in Excel much like the board game Battleship. We had each team choose 20 squares on a grid of 100 squares (10x10). What they were going to do was try to guess which squares the other team had chosen.

"The Overcomers" choosing their squares.

So, The Chosen had two votes, that’s two shots. The Overcomers had two votes, that’s two shots. We also gave The Overcomers five shots to begin with for having been the team with the most points at the end of EL RETO. So, the score…The Overcomers 7, The Chosen 2.

The opportunity to gain more shots continued with a series of questions. I had 20 questions for them. Ten questions about RETO history and ten Bible questions. Right in the middle of this, it started to sprinkle again and we had to pack up. We continued to finish the questions the next evening.

Sunday evening, 5pm, we continued. They arrived and received a bonus shot if their whole team showed up wearing their team’s color. Neither team qualified. Then, we gave a bonus shot to the team that won best attendance (by percentage). The Chosen got another shot. Now, before we continue with the questions, the score is The Overcomers 7, The Chosen 3.

When we were done asking the questions, each team had answered correctly 11 of the 20 questions. That made the score, The Overcomers 18, The Chosen 14.
Then, we continued with a relay race. Five members of their team had to bounce on a ball the length of the meeting hall at the base where we were, bounce around the staff standing at the other end, then bounce all the way back. The winner of this event would receive five shots! This was so far the most exciting event game.
Pedro rounding staff member Mili.
The fifth Overcomer started bouncing on his ball while the 4th Chosen team member was still trying to round the staff member. But, oops, the Overcomer falls off his ball and looses control. He gets back on and starts uncontrollably bouncing his way down to the staff member at the other end.
By this time the final Chosen member, Ruben, gets on the bouncy ball. He glides his way down to the staff member, rounds him and is catching up to the Overcomer who is nervously struggling to keep “on the ball.” As each team is literally yelling at their team member, “Go! Go! Go!” the excitement builds.
Ruben flying around staff member Juan Pablo.
And amazingly, Ruben in what seemed like three hops, bounced past the finish line within a couple of feet of the Overcomer team member! It was exciting! The score then was, The Chosen 19, The Overcomers 18.

There was a final mini challenge for them to do so I had them line up facing each other. This can sometimes be a challenge in itself for a leader. Sometimes people don’t follow directions very well. The Chosen were having a tough time, probably the excitement from winning the last bouncy ball race. However, The Overcomers were very obedient, and made formation just like they were told right away. I was amazed and told them thank you because during the whole RETO they had always been “on the ball.” In EL RETO we give out what is called a “Filipo.” This, in Spanish, is the city of Philippi where the Philippians live. Paul’s letter to the Philippians was an encouraging letter. Whenever we want to give an encouraging word for something great that someone has achieved, we give them a “Filipo.” So, I gave The Overcomers a Filipo and the score before our last mini challenge was; The Chosen 19, The Overcomers 19.

What they were to do now was to stand on one foot with their eyes closed. They could not switch feet or move around. This was a pure test of skilled balance—try it! The person who was standing last won 3 more shots for their team. In the end, Pedro stood the test and won three more points. The score; The Overcomers 22, The Chosen 19.
Pedro stood the test!

Now, for EL RETO FINAL. This is where the teams were to try to guess where the other team had chosen squares on the grid. The team with the least amount of shots, The Chosen went first. We had them use all 19 of their shots before we gave The Overcomers a chance to guess. If they chose a square that was of their own team, the other team received a point. If they chose a square that had both teams, neither team received a point. When The Chosen were done guessing, they had found 7 of The Overcomers’ squares and accidently hit two of their own. The score was; The Chosen 7, The Overcomers 2.

Now it was the Overcomers turn. They only needed to find 5 squares of The Chosen and they had 22 shots! All they needed to do was to tie the game. If it ended in a tie, they won since they were the ones being challenged. In their first four shots, they made four hits on The Chosen making the score 7 to 6. Then, a miss. Then, oops, they hit their own square making the score 8 to 6 in The Chosen’s favor. With 16 shots left, they only needed to hit two more. Four or five more misses, then a hit! Eight to seven was the score and it was starting to get really exciting. Now, with the soundtrack of The Passion of Christ playing in the background, people were starting to bite their nails. Ten shots left, a miss. Nine shots left, a miss. Eight shots left, a miss. Seven shots left, a miss. Six shots left, we turn on the video camera because it was more than exciting. None of us could believe that these guys kept on missing! Six shots left with the camera rolling and the soundtrack of The Passion of Christ in the background, everyone was quiet, everyone was waiting in anticipation…A MISS! WOW! Five shots left…another miss! FOUR shots left…a miss! THREE shots left…now, all they need is to find one square of The Chosen, if they hit their own square, they’ll have to find two more of The Chosen with only two shots left! With three shots left…a miss! TWO SHOTS LEFT and the score is The Chosen 8, The Overcomers 7. They only need to find ONE square! Two shots left…OOOOOPPPPPSSSS!!! THEY HIT ONE OF THEIR OWN SQUARES!!!! The score now is The Chosen 9, The Overcomers 7. ONE SHOT LEFT! You do the math. Yep! With that mistake, THE CHOSEN WON!!!!!!! This was wilder than wild! The students from The Chosen were going crazy that they had won EL RETO! The students from The Overcomers sat in disbelief. They had dominated all month long in EVERYTHING. The margin between them and 2nd place was incredible in the final tally. But, because of the hidden treasure, The Chosen were given an opportunity to challenge them in ONE FINAL CHALLENGE. What can we learn from this?

EL RETO UNCOVERED. Words cannot express the excitement and the feeling of fulfillment as EL RETO 2008 comes to an end. We will live out its wake in the coming weeks as we talk at youth group about things we learned and as we hang out with each other during the week. I think the two words that would best sum it all up would be…TEACHABLE MOMENT. There is SO MUCH to get out of this whole event. Especially, when we look at it through the lenses of “What can I learn from this?” Knowing that the Lord is the one who ordains all the events for us to be able to know HIM more and GROW in our spiritual journey with HIM gives us confidence and trust in HIM throughout our day-to-day life. DECIDE YOUR DESTINY is what each of the 72 students encountered one time or another in EL RETO. From the beginning when each team chose a name for their team from a Bible story, to the end when The Overcomers made a mistake by choosing one of their own squares in EL RETO FINAL giving the victory to The Chosen.

It’s interesting to note that the two teams who had the names that had the most relation to our theme “Decide Your Destiny” were the two teams that made it to the Final Challenge. “The Overcomers” overcame all the other teams and came out on top in the final score. However, “The Chosen” it seems were “chosen” to win in the end. As I have mentioned in a previous post, there was another team who decided to give themselves a close to blasphemous name out of pure rebellion and trying to be “cool.” That team was in last place from the beginning until the end. They are the one’s who said,"We have lost this challenge, but God is still with me." They stayed in it and didn’t give up! Does what we label ourselves have anything to do with our “Destiny”? My answer is, ABSOLUTELY! The hard thing for most people is renouncing the lies that the enemy has so often placed in our head. Paul says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV; Romans 12:2).

Another interesting thing is how this whole thing ended. Looking at it from the perspective of the winning team, The Chosen; The Overcomers had a lot more points by the end of the month. The Chosen really had no chance to win coming in to the final day. There were not enough points available for them to reach The Overcomers, especially after they came up with the 1000 point prize! The Chosen’s only hope was GRACE. This was a picture of God’s grace and how he gives what we don’t deserve…forgiveness of sins. The Chosen experienced grace of another form by winning the final challenge. It was not in their hands, they had to sit and wait for the final outcome.

The Overcomers on the other hand deserved to win! They dominated in almost every activity coming in first place in most. Now to have this hidden treasure come in to play just didn’t seem fair. In fact, that’s exactly what the leader told me, “This is not fair!” This was probably the biggest lesson we could have learned this year. LIFE IS NOT FAIR. Sometimes we go through things that just don’t seem fair to us. Things happen to us and things happen around us that affect our lives. It’s up to us to DECIDE how we will respond to certain situations. Are we going to stay on the ground and “label” ourselves as incapable people, losers, helpless and hopeless? That part of life is in our hands. We don’t have to stay there; we can get up, dust ourselves off and DECIDE to change our mind. We don’t have to be “victims.” We are in Christ, and Christ is in us. We are capable because Christ is capable. We are not losers because Christ is not a loser. We are not helpless and hopeless because Christ loves us and he has a plan for us. Again, I am completely convinced that God ordained what happened at the end of the RETO. For as much as The Overcomers tried and wanted to hit a square of The Chosen, they couldn’t. They hit their first four and missed on the next 17! That night, I sat down with everyone to talk about what had just happened. This was an awesome teachable moment. In the morning, we had just heard Sergio who preached the night before give his testimony and it was interesting that the same scenario came up. For as much as Sergio tried and wanted to kill himself, he couldn’t. He had the gun up to his head, pulled the trigger and it was a blank. The gun didn’t work. With the gun still in his hand, he hit his leg and the gun went off discharging the bullet as it immediately lodged itself in the brick wall. How does that happen? God. God was protecting Sergio’s life because his mother was praying for him. He told himself, “I can’t even take my own life!” He felt like a loser. The students heard that in the morning, and experienced it in the evening. 17 shots and they couldn’t hit the target after nailing the first four! They felt like losers! How does that happen? God. God allows things to happen in our life to teach us to depend on him. He is in control! The Overcomers learned a tough life lesson that night and it’s something that will help them in their future when they encounter struggles and issues that just seem unfair. They can overcome!

EL RETO 2008 is over, but it still lives in our minds. Thank you, Lord, for keeping us safe and for teaching us so many different things. Help us to remember what you have taught us.

Monday, October 06, 2008

EL RETO 2008 (week 4)

Hot, hot, hot! That’s what describes the beginning of week 4. I don’t know what the temperature was, but it had to be over 100 degrees. With no shade, it seems even hotter. We began the activities in Santa Fe where we left off the previous week. After each team had a time of devotions, we all headed down to the soccer field where we had everything set up for a very involved relay race.

As they started at one end of the field, they had to race the length of the field in various different ways to move themselves. First, they had to have five team members hook themselves together and move like a “centipede” 20 yards.
Once the back person had passed the 20 yard mark, another team member had to hop 40 yards in a gunny sack.
Once that person had reached 40 yards, three team members where tied together at the ankles with duct tape and had to run/walk in a four-legged race for 20 more yards.
Once they reached their mark, three more team members went the remaining 20 yards in the form of a wheelbarrow. One person walked on their hands while two other people grabbed one leg each of that person as the “handles” of a wheelbarrow.
Once those three reached the last mark, five team members had to spin around 10 times with their forehead on a stick (traditionally it’s a bat). Once they were done spinning they had to run the length of the field to where they started. This was quite hilarious! Here are some funny pics...

The last person to spin around received a bag full of puzzle pieces of a map of Paul’s missionary journey’s.
Also, they had to situate all 22 cities that are related to his 2nd missionary journey.
If they needed help, they could one by one, run out 20 yards to see map that was already put together. The catch for that was, they needed to spin around 5 times first, and then they could look at the map. Oh, and spin around five more times before heading back to their team’s station.

The first team to actually arrive at their station to start putting together their puzzle won a prize that would be reveiled later on. That team was Los Vencedores (The Overcomers).

The team to finish the puzzle first won the relay race. It took The Overcomers around 45 minutes to finish the puzzle, even then, they won the relay race. The final team finished their puzzle about 15 to 20 minutes later.

From the soccer field in Santa Fe, we got in the vehicles and headed back to Cofradía to give the students some time before their next activity to practice their choreography for next week.

The next activity was led by Mili. I was pretty impressed with her leadership and I could see her directing EL RETO in the future. She has some awesome potential!

The activity was to have one team member paint the face of another team member. They had to paint the logo of this year’s RETO the same way it was painted on Sandy’s face…

The thing that made this interesting was they person painting had to do it blind-folded! The person being painted could only voice help, and not use their hands. There were some pretty interesting faces! In the end, Los Mensajeros (The Messengers) won this event.
The next thing on the agenda was to give the Overcomers their prize for arriving at their station first in the relay race. They had to choose from door #1, door #2, or door #3. They chose door #1 which was a very good choice and they received 500 extra points to use in the next event.
What was behind the other two doors? Door #2=200 pts for their team and 200 pts for another team of their choice; Door #3=NOTHING.

The final event of the day was one that I have been looking forward to for a long time. We had our first RETO AUCTION. Each team was given a small piece of paper with the amount of points they had in order to use in the auction. These were the points that they had at the end of last week; they ranged from less than 900 to over 2,600. If a team wanted to buy something, they had to give up points in order to buy it.

The first item expectedly went really cheap, 50 points! Once everyone saw the ladies bring out three pizzas for them to eat right there, the other teams started bidding! The next item went for over 400 points! No one knew what they were bidding for; each item was inside a tote box and was a surprise for the team who bought it. This was such a fun event that we will absolutely do this again someday!
The Overcomers with their pizza!
Making a bid.
The surprise items that were auctioned off were: cooked pizza (Overcomers-50 pts); Immunity from chores (Messengers-420 pts); adding points to another team’s total (Temerosos The Fearful-270 pts) they were also reimbursed the 270 points they used; a bag of candy (Fearful-650 pts); a bag of chips (Angeles Del Bien Angels of Good-500 pts); a 3 liter bottle of coke (Aguilas The Eagles-600 pts); 500 points (Fearful-550 pts); The final clue to a hidden prize of 1,000 points (Fearful-700 pts); The final clue to the hidden treasure (Messengers-710 pts); Finally, we put a picture of a cruise ship on the outside of the tote box and told them that this was a trip. What they didn’t know was that it was a trip to another town to eat tacos. These tacos are very good, and once they found out where they were going, they cheered with excitement! (Overcomers-700 pts).

This was definitely one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done. There was one team Los Elegidos The Chosen who played it safe and didn’t participate in the auction in order to not loose any points. Needless to say, they came out on top in the week’s final score.
Once again we finished the evening in THE VALLEY OF DECISION where each team entered the decision room one at a time to vote for the team of their choice to do chores. The Messengers won immunity during the auction; however, they gave it to The Chosen. So, once again, The Chosen could not receive a vote.
Staff waiting just inside the entrance to the new church where we have held THE VALLEY OF DECISION every week.
Gena and I inside the voting room, waiting for the teams to come in.
"The Chosen" making their vote.
In the end, the Angels of Good received the most votes and had to wash the base trucks the next day.
"The Chosen" showing their vote for "The Angels of Good"
EL RETO UNCOVERED. This was an unusually relaxing week leading up to Saturday in comparison to previous weeks. There was some much needed “down time.” I am impressed with all the staff that has shown up faithfully each week to donate their time to the youth ministry; that is something that encourages me. Everything went really smooth and I am pleased with how things are going.