Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hurricane Patricia

I just wanted to express our thanks to all of you who prayed for us and the people of Mexico.  Our hearts go out to those who suffered damage and loss during the hurricane.  Fortunately for us, we were far enough away that it didn't affect our area.  It appears that because of the high mountains near the coast, the hurricane had dissipated quickly and pretty much only affected it's direct line.

I have copied a couple of photos.  One is the google map showing Cofradia's location.  The other is a photo I found in an article from the Weather Channel showing the Hurricane's path.  For those of you who are interested, you will see where the hurricane travelled and how close/far away it was from us.

Notice below that Cofradia (the red dot) is north of the city of "Tepic"in the state of Nayarit...

Below you will see the path of the storm.  Notice that it was south of Tepic, but north of Guadalajara as it traveled the state line of Nayarit and Jalisco...

As you can see, it made landfall quite a ways south of us, but travelled closer.  It passed by about 1 ½ to 2 hours (driving) away.

Friday, October 23, 2015



After five weeks of exciting activities, competitions, and identity topics, the participants of EL RETO joined together for one last week.

The traditional "Finale" of EL RETO consists of worship, speaking, acknowledgments, the raffle, the disclosure of the hidden treasures, one last challenge between the team with the most points and the team who finds a treasure sending them to the final challenge to determine the winner, and showing an exciting video compilation of the whole event.

This year, EL RETO FINAL started with each team presenting their drama project as they acted out the story of the Bible that their team represents.  This proved to be a fun and funny time as usual.  It's great to see some of the leadership skills learned by the students put into action and the lively humor of the apparent comfortable students that kept everyone amused.  In addition to that, some teams shared a more serious message with their story showing impressive effort.

After Worship and a message about our Identity in Christ by Pastor Luis, we had the opportunity to spend time praying for students who came forward.

This was a nice transition to acknowledge a few people for their service.  One acknowledgment in particular was for a man from the Cofradía church who was helping as a Staff member during the event each week.  While at work during the week, he found one of the hidden treasures.  Two treasures were hidden at the bridge that connects Cofradía and Arrayanes.  Both of those treasures were found as a number of workers (not related to EL RETO) had been cleaning away brush and making the road more presentable.  "Chano", our Staff member, returned the treasure to the leadership of EL RETO while the other one was kept by someone else who found it.  Chano could have easily given this treasure to his daughter, who was participating in EL RETO, but because of his conviction to do what is right, he decided to hand it in and we re-hid the treasure for the students.  We acknowledged his integrity and leadership as an example to us all.

Then, the RETO RAFFLE!  While in the states, we were given a few items to raffle off in order to help the students be actively involved in raising money for the event.  The Garzon family from Arrayanes (Pastor Horacio's family) alone bought probably half of the tickets that were sold.  As DJ Macx announced the numbers, their name kept coming up and they won three of the four items!

After all the prizes were distributed, we read all the clues to each hidden treasure one by one.  The first disclosed treasure was tied by wire inside one of the trees at the mission base and found by the black team, The Recognized by God.  The second disclosed treasure was hot-glued to the bottom of one of the benches to the picnic tables at the Church and found by the yellow team, The Christ-sent.  The final disclosed treasure was the most difficult one to find and was not found until the very morning of the Finale.  This treasure was buried in a field where cattle rest, 105 degrees SW and 39 feet from a cement post situated underneath a big fig tree near a river.  This treasure was found by, again, The Recognized Ones.

There were three undisclosed prizes written on a sheet of paper inside an envelope.  In the same order we disclosed the treasures, we allowed the captains choose an envelope. 

The first envelope chosen: Recover all points used in the RETO AUCTION (the black team recovered 6,700 points!).

The second envelope chosen: 5,000 points (for the white team).

The final envelope: An opportunity to challenge the team with the most points in one final challenge to determine the winning team of EL RETO (the black team).

Immediately after announcing the prizes for the hidden treasures came the announcement of total points for each team starting with 6th place:

In 6th place with 10,360 points, God's Sowers.
In 5th place with 11,654 points, The Brotherhood.
In 4th place with 18,241 points, The King's Kids.
In 3rd place with 34,787 points, The Recognized by God.

The final two teams, The Christ-sent and The Bravehearts, came forward and the excitement rose as Pastor Luis read the final two standings:  2nd place = 41,741 points; 1st place = 57,476 points.

The team with most points would face off with The Recognized by God team in one last challenge to determine the champions of EL RETO 2015.  That team was...
The final challenge consisted of team members coming up on stage one by one to assemble a puzzle.  Once all the pieces were up on the easel, five members were allowed to rearrange the pieces in order to form the final product. 

For 15 to 20 minutes, the two teams struggled with intense focus to complete the puzzle as others watched.

With only a few moments to spare, The Bravehearts came out on top.  This was the first time in the history of EL RETO (since the induction of the hidden treasure in 2008) that a team with the most points in the end won the final challenge against a team who had found the hidden treasure. 

We will be working on compiling a few testimonies from students and Pastors of how God worked in their lives during EL RETO 2015.  We have already heard of some who were impacted through this outreach.  One previously unreached girl said, "My concept of Christians has changed.  I felt free to be myself and I had so much fun!  I want to continue coming."

The night closed with a video compilation of the past five weeks.  The previous week, we showed the testimony of Nick Vujicic.  Jay and Max were at an event in Tepic, Nayarit filming him speaking to over 10,000 people.  They were able to have Nick share a special message to all the students of EL RETO!!


Together, we are Raising up Leaders in Rural Mexico!

You can be part of this great event by making a special donation to EL RETO online here.  Your gifts provide the resources, preparation, promotion, transportation, prizes, and the opportunity for the young people to come to this event.  NOT ONE of the students is charged any kind of admission fee because we want them to come.  We thank you in advance for participating with us!


If you've missed any reports for each week, you can check them out here:

Monday, October 19, 2015


Greetings from Cofradía, Mexico! We had hoped to get this out sooner, but we wanted to have all of the reports done for the RETO outreach.  Everything is done with the exception of the final week.  A lot has happened this month.  Thank you so much for your prayers!!

In our last update, we asked you to pray for... 
  1. Civil Association Status.  We are very close to getting this done. One more meeting and we will be functioning as “La Cofradía United International”.  Thank you for your prayers on this matter as it has and will continue to take a lot of time. 
  2. Mexican Religious Association.  We’ve decided to wait until we have finalized the civil status in order to begin focusing on the religious status.  We are excited about this; please continue to pray. 
  3. EL RETO.  What an awesome time!  You can read about the five weeks of outdoor activities on our blog at the links below.  The Student Ministry has been doing some debriefing and there has been a number of testimonies from students who don’t go to church.  “My concept of Christians has changed”, said one girl, “I felt free to be myself and I had so much fun!  I want to continue coming.” That is just one testimony of many who’s lives and perspectives have been changed; not only this year, but in years past, too!  A big THANK YOU to all who prayed for us and sent donations to help us reach our goal of $2,000 US Dollars.  This is not the end.  The concept of EL RETO will continue throughout the year as the student ministry travels to different towns and churches to continue to build relationships and share the love of God.  
  4. Bible School. We are three weeks into the Fall Quarter as we study Marriage Counseling and Advanced Leadership.  Thank you for your continued prayers.

Read about what happened each week in EL RETO with lots of pictures and videos:

Here are some links to more:

This month, will you please pray for...

  1. The Ripples of EL RETO Pray for the Holy Spirit to move hearts as the Student Ministry Leaders continue to debrief with each team.  Pray for new converts and successful discipleship. 
  2. Civil Association Status.  Pray for a quick finish to the process as we meet with Hacienda (the Mexican IRS) and start functioning as a legitimate Mexican organization.  Pray for wisdom as we carry it out to do things correctly. (Thursday, October 22). 
  3. Religious Association Status.  Pray for guidance and wisdom as we put all the documentation together. 
  4. Bible School. Five or six students will be finishing up their requirements this quarter in order to graduate next June.  Pray for them as some continue to struggle financially for their tuition.  Pray for the three Masters students who will be working on their graduation exam soon (Pastor Goyo, Martin, and Angel). 
  5. Lain and Kelly Grant as they head out to Guadalajara today for their first level of Language School.  Pray for their retention of all the new vocabulary and grammar they’ll be learning.  We look forward to them returning in December for a couple of months to help with teams and other events we have at that time of year.  They have been such a blessing so far helping keep up the mission base property, writing reports for the ministry, and being available to serve where needed.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever!

Thank you so much for being part of our team as we work together to RAISE UP LEADERS IN RURAL MEXICO!!!!


Steve, Geña, Rebecka, Emma, and Mackenzie Silberman
Missionaries to Mexico
La Cofradia United International
Alternative Missions
Area Director

ONLINE. Click here to donate to our personal support.

BY POSTAGE MAIL/CHECKS. Send a check made out to Alternative Missions to Alternative Missions / PO Box 3107 / Ferndale, WA 98248.  On a separate note, indicate that it is for The Silbermans.

Saturday, October 17, 2015



This ain’t no walk in the park! 
Known as “the walk” this was the week for the annual ‘stroll’ through the challenging terrain of Cofradia.  Before they ventured off, the night started with a mini-auction.  The red team won a taco night and the white team won all of the clues to the three hidden treasures, plus the code to read them! Once the auction ended teams quickly made their way to the start of the trail just outside of Cofradia. 

Teams were led by Cofradia's Pastor Goyo and Pastor Abimael from Tuxpan who were armed with bug and wasp spray along with machetes.  This first leg of the walk allowed the youth the opportunity to reflect on the past 4 weeks and provided a great backdrop to connect with God. 

About a third of the way through the walk, teams met up with Staff for their first team challenge.  A simple tug-of-war game was played, only this time you and your opponents’ team are standing in ankle deep mud/water.  Most of the youth were already filthy at this point, but if they did happen to bypass some of the messier parts of the fields, this was a sure way of getting them properly broken in.

The teams then made their way to the river where the next challenge was waiting.  Teams needed to make a human bridge to allow a member to cross safely to the other side.  At first, the youth used this opportunity to cool off and clean up!  There is a great short video below that gives you an idea of how excited they were to reach the water and how refreshing it must have felt. 

Once teams had a member successfully cross the river, they were all back on the trail headed to the finish.  Waiting at the end of the walk were two games.  The first had team members quickly un-thread rings tied to a rope in the river.  Once they retrieved all of the rings, they brought them ashore to play ring toss.  The second game had 3 team members dig their way underneath a cross bar in order to search for buried bags in the sand which contained puzzle pieces.  Once the members found their bag, they were able to bring them back to the team and work on completing the puzzle. 

All of these games, including the walk, bring about many teachable moments.  One is that they really focus on how we are all members of one body and function better when we come together.  Each piece has a role to play that is important for the overall success of the group.  Another is that on our walk, we all get dirty, we all get tired and we all need the living water to clean, refresh, and rejuvenate us.

Exhausted, and ‘the walk’ now complete, teams hitched a ride back to the church for the Refuge.  During Refuge this week a special video was played featuring the powerful testimony of Nick Vujicic.  The youth learned about the true source of their strength being God.   It’s not about comparing personal struggles/hardships with those of others in order to feel grateful for where you are.  Nick also reminded them that God would use whatever situation they are in to glorify Him if they are open to it.  The video ended with a moving reminder to not give up on God because God does not give up on us!

Below is a quick recap video of this week's RETO!!

You can be part of this great event by making a special donation to EL RETO online here.  Your gifts provide the resources, preparation, promotion, transportation, prizes, and the opportunity for the young people to come to this event.  NOT ONE of the students is charged any kind of admission fee because we want them to come.  We thank you in advance for participating with us!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015



Once again the night started with a short game for the teams, which allowed Staff to set up four activities at the nearby soccer field. The game included twenty team members being pulled individually for about fifteen feet on the church floor while sitting on a bucket lid in a race to the finish line.  Once all twenty members from each team finished, the teams headed to the field where they took turns participating in various races and a human bowling challenge.

For the bowling challenge, team members were first primed for the lane with a cold bucket of water dumped on them.  Plastic tarps for lanes were already ‘waxed’ with soap and water.  The bowling pins were empty water jugs.  Some team members got a long running start and were hitting strikes all day long.  Others were ‘gutter balls’ making it halfway down the lane before falling to a stop and hitting zero pins.

This reminds us that often we fall off course, and through those experiences can become un-fruitful. By the grace of God, however, it’s never too late to jump back on course.

In another game the teams first worked together to build a web from rope to help carry a member down the field to pick up puzzle pieces three at a time. 

The rest of the team waited, and once all the pieces were carried back, they worked together to complete the puzzle.  The teams were given 5 minutes to finish and received points for correctly completing the puzzle.
The teams also participated in two races.  One was a modification of the classic human wheel barrel race involving a coned course.  This was set up relay style where each member got to be the wheel barrel and the wheel barrel handler.

For the second race multiple team members stood on wooden planks, one for each foot, and had to cross the field walking as one. 

This proved difficult for the teams and highlighted the importance of unity and communication.

After the field games, teams ran down the street where a truck pull challenge was waiting for them.  Each team worked together to move a truck uphill to the finish line.

As we watched, the scripture that came to mind was Philippians 4:13 which states, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Once the teams reached the finish line, they were rewarded with rest and a ride to Sante Fe for the auction. 

Teams used their accumulated points to bid on unknown items such as cake, soda, a movie night, clues for the hidden treasures as well as one very interesting prize.

Usually the last prize of the night is saved for something really special.  Almost all teams jumped in causing a bidding war and driving the price/points way up.  Captain Lalo and the orange team made the final bid.  To everyone’s surprise, they had been bidding on the un-wanted responsibility for doing the nightly chores.  He was also given a consolation prize, which added to the embarrassment of bidding on the chores.  The consolation prize?  Pastor Luis’s dog Minnie.  This was a highly pivotal moment in the night as some were elated and relieved, while others were disappointed, even angry.  The situation spoke to a number of people that compared to what Lalo had just gone through, Jesus went through so much more for us.  Lalo was a very good sport and understood the principal of this teachable moment.

The teams packed up and headed back to the church in Cofradia for worship and the Refuge.  Since  the chores were already determined through the auction, teams voted for another team to receive points gifted to them instead.  Two teams received the most votes and the points offered were divvied between them. 

Here is a video recap of week four:

You can be part of this great event by making a special donation to EL RETO online here.  Your gifts provide the resources, preparation, promotion, transportation, prizes, and the opportunity for the young people to come to this event.  NOT ONE of the students is charged any kind of admission fee because we want them to come.  We thank you in advance for participating with us!