Friday, November 23, 2018

Tough Times in Tuxpan -- Hurricane Willa

Willa was a Category 5 Hurricane before it weakened in strength and made landfall at Category 3 almost exactly half way to Mazatlán from here.  We had rain all evening and night on Tuesday, October 23, but very little wind.  As the storm continued inland through southern Sinaloa and into Durango, the rain that it dumped caused rivers from the mountains to rise.  One of those rivers was El Rio San Pedro which winds down from the State of Durango and curls behind us before it crosses the interstate in Peñas and on into Tuxpan.  Water rises during the rainy season, but nothing like it did the next day, Wednesday.
Screen shot of a video showing the San Pedro River almost reaching the bridge in Peñas
Picture of Tuxpan taken from the internet.  Usually there is no water except for the river that runs between two rows of trees at the bottom of the screen.  Rebecka's High School is the uniformed buildings at the center-right with a field in the back of them.
Pastor Abimael was with us in Mexico City and his wife, Martha, stayed behind with her brother while she was to have some dental work done.  We dropped him off at his home on Tuesday morning at 6am in Tuxpan.  After dropping everyone else off in Cofradia, we rested a couple hours before getting things ready for the storm that was to hit later that afternoon.  We had rain all evening and through the night with a little wind, but everything was calm the next morning.

At noon, I went to my office and found that there was no internet, no cell coverage, and realized that our phone service was out.  I connected to our satellite internet to get a few things done and opened Facebook.  Just after 1pm I saw a video someone uploaded about Tuxpan beginning to flood.  I then saw another video of our friend Pastor Vladimir on top of his roof, showing how deep the water was, his family's two trucks were both under water and you could barely see the roof of his van.
Screen shot of the video Pastor Vladimir showed from his rooftop as the water was rising.  You can see the top of his green van, the top of the his property fence along the street, and his wooden pulpit floating on it's back.
By then I was a little concerned for the people, but continued on with my day and went to our bible study at the church.

It wasn't until I returned later in the evening that my heart began to break.  More videos and pictures were being posted.  I had peace that Pastor Vladimir was ok, but I had not received a message back from Pastor Abimael whom we had just dropped of the previous morning.  A man from his congregation contacted me via messenger and sent me more pictures.  He cried out for help saying that all of Tuxpan was on their rooftops and asked for us to rescue them.  By then, the river we cross to leave Cofradía had risen to the point that we were stranded as well and could not leave Cofradía.  I felt helpless in the sense that I could not do anything but pray.  I could barely sleep that night thinking about the people on their rooftops and me in my comfortable bed.  A message came in from Pastor Abimael, "We're ok; we only have material loss."  But I had no idea about what he was to tell me a couple weeks later...

The next morning Pastor Goyo and I decided to take some water and food and see if we could help Pastor Abimael and anyone else.  On our way out to his house, we drove passed the esplanade that had broken which caused the town to flood from the north side.  There was still water in the road.  Here's a video Goyo took as I was driving...

We ended up staying with Pastor Abimael all afternoon until dark helping him clean his house.  His house is one of our Dwellings houses; built on a mound of dirt about three feet high.  The water was still up to the doorway and came up to our waist as we walked to the house from the road.  After nearly twenty minutes of trying to pry our way in, we saw that had a huge mess to clean.  We tossed their sofa, china hutch, dressers, books, cds, shoes, computer, printer, etc. into the water.  It was sad to watch them as they watched their stuff float away.  Everything was full of mud: the stove, washer, tools, welders, air compressor, dishes, clothes, etc.  The water had risen above the windows at it's highest point.
Pastor Abimael took this picture of his house Wednesday afternoon while he was standing on the border-dam that protects the town as the water was rising.   
Saturday, Geña and I took Rebecka to visit one of her friends who lives in town.  Most of Rebecka's classmates are from Tuxpan.  We were able to find the house where she lives with her grandmother and brother.  They were still cleaning and removing mud from the house, but had a lot of work to do.  I had Doctor's orders to not return to Tuxpan due to a toe infection I got on Thursday.  We stayed and visited, gave them food, pillows, and some blankets.

We returned to Pastor Abimael's house a few days ago with the team that was here from Utah, which is the same team and many of the same people that came to build his house.  That is when he shared his experience with us.  They live at the edge of town.  There is a border-dam with a road on it that blocks flood waters from coming in to the residential area which is where Pastor Abimael was standing when he took the above picture.  The river began to rise to the point that it started to come over that road.  That morning, he was able to take his Mom and daughter to another town where his other daughter lives.  When he returned, he took his motorcycle out of the house, put it in his truck and parked them on the border-dam road.  As he was returning back to the house to shut the door, he had to swim because by then, the esplanade downtown had broken and water was coming in from the opposite side now, too.

Pastor Abimael could not return to his truck.  There were three currents surrounding his house and were too strong as they saw it sweep away two horses that were trying to cross.  He and two others stood on the road from 2pm on Wednesday until 5am Thursday morning next to a bush with the cold mountain water rising above his knees.  All night long with no sleep.  He said for the first time in his 47 years of life that he told the Lord, "Here's my life"; he thought he was going to die.

Thank you to so many who had been praying for all of us and for those in this region.  It was the Lord that kept Abimael safe that night.  While we were in Mexico City the weekend before the storm, his wife had a dream Friday night, four days before the flooding, but she did not say anything.  In her dream, Tuxpan flooded.  Everything that happened came true except one thing and we believe it is because of your prayers.  What she didn't say until later was that in her dream, Abimael had drowned.  Praise the Lord he didn't.

This could have been a lot worse and we praise the Lord for having mercy on Tuxpan.  This happened in the middle of the day.  If it would have happened during the night while people were asleep, it would have been a complete tragedy!  The last time I heard, they had counted nearly 30 deaths, three of which was of a young family who had been trapped inside their house with their child and drowned.  They were found inside a couple days later.
This is what whole neighborhoods looked like in Tuxpan.

Please continue to pray with us for the emotional state of the people and that sickness would be at the bare minimum.  Many, many animals drowned and the stench began to quickly fill the air.  They have since buried all of the animals in one spot, but in some areas, there is still the smell from all of the garbage.

We have set up a donation link titled "Cofradia Disaster Relief".  There has been help from many local people, but there are things that will take a lot of time and money to replace.  You can help.  Pastor Abimael and his family need new closets, tables, chairs, mattresses, nice clothes, washer, stove, computer, printer, study books, tools, kitchen appliances, and more.  They need a completely new sound system for their church, new instruments, a projector, and bibles.  Everything was under water, covered in mud, and ruined.  This is the same story for just about everyone on the east end of Tuxpan.  In addition to those material needs, Pastor Abimael's house needs to be repaired.  The whole back end broke off and sank about 6 inches.  Please consider how you can help.

Here are some more pictures...
The water recedes

The next day...the main street leaving Tuxpan

This was the sight we saw as we arrived the next day.  The water was three feet deep to get to the house. 
The back of the house.  As the water continued to recede, the back porch and wall continued to sink.

Nearing the end of the day after cleaning what we could.

Days later.

The back side of the house showing where it broke off.

This mattress shows what most of their stuff looked like.

Two weeks later, some streets were still in dire need of help.

We took some food and clothes that were donated by some people in Tepic  and dropped off some bibles for Pastor Abimael's congregation.
Thanks again for your prayers and help.  We will continue to do what we can to help our friends and spiritual family in Tuxpan recover from this unfortunate event.  God is good...all the time!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Called To Freedom 2018

Four pastors and their wives joined Geña and I on a trip to Mexico City to attend the annual Freedom in Christ conference; it was their 10th anniversary. 

Freedom in Christ has become a very crucial part of our ministry.  As we raise up leaders, we see the importance of them knowing who they are in Christ, how the enemy tries to confuse and trick us, dealing with our past and current hurts and habits, and how to maintain our freedom.  It has been a life-changing adventure.  Not only are we teaching conferences in Cofradía, but also other churches have asked us to share this with their congregations.

The morning sessions at the conference had roughly 200 attendees for a very practical teaching on "Prayer that Works" presented by Clay Bergen.   The focus was on expectations.  "It's not what we pray, but how we pray that makes a difference."  We should be observant, discerning, and have knowledge of God's Word and His promises. 

William Gallardo followed with "The Christ-Centered Marriage" as he introduced the newly translated material of the book Experiencing Christ Together by Dr. Neil T. Anderson.  They will be focusing on this at next year's conference.

In the afternoons, the conference was divided into two simultaneous sessions: "Anger and Depression" presented by Psychologist Judith King and "Spiritual Protection for Your Kids" presented by Ed and Linda Smith.  Our group split in order to hear both.  We were extremely blessed and learned a lot.

Those of us who attended the Anger and Depression sessions had the opportunity to hear some excellent teaching accompanied with many examples of how anger and depression, if not dealt with, can become dangerous and lead to mental and physical illnesses.  This we know from the Bible and from other books we've read.  However, listening to this Christian Psychologist who is married to a Christian Psychiatrist made things more real.
William and Lourdes Gallardo are the National Leaders of Freedom In Christ Ministries in Mexico
We were asked to give a quick testimony of the impact Freedom in Christ has had in our ministry.
Clay Bergen
All of us together with the Gallardos at the end.
Our trip to Mexico City continued as we visited our friends' church, El Jardín de Edén (the Garden of Eden) on Sunday.  I had the honor of speaking that day and talked about what our voices sound like "outside the camp" and shared some stories of Christian persecution in history and today.  We had a great visit with Pastor Gerardo and his wife and family afterwards.  Then, in the evening, we met with the lawyer who has been working on our Religious Association paperwork, which as of November 6, we are an official Mexican Religious Organization.

The final day we walked around the center of town site seeing.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
Mondays aren't too crowded downtown.

Our plan was to leave early Tuesday morning, but the warnings of Hurricane Willa compelled us to leave Monday evening and drive through the night to beat the storm.  It was forecasted to hit our area and all of us had kids back home.

A big thank you to those of you who generously donated towards our trip.  We were able to purchase some materials for our ministry as well.  You are making a difference!

Thursday, November 08, 2018


This year's finale featured guest speaker youth specialist and author, Ernesto Ramirez, from Mexico City.  It was one of the top closures we've had for EL RETO.  He was very dynamic and spoke directly to them.  Many came forward for prayer as he challenged them to choose truth and be someone that makes a difference in this generation.

We enjoyed worship with Pedro Castellanos and his band from Tepic including the drummer, Hernán Mercado, who has visited us many times.

Last August, we brought four bikes to raffle off.  Many people were asking about buying them, so we decided to sell two and keep two for the raffle.  I also included a soccer ball.  We had lots of fun with that.

Pastor Goyo's son, Goyo, proceeded with revealing the hidden treasures and made it very suspenseful.  Three of the four were found and many teachable moments were created.  One that stood out was that no one looked for the fourth treasure because someone from one of the teams said he found it.  Of course, the lie worked and people chose to believe it.  Thus, our theme, "Choose Truth" comes in handy here.  How many times do we believe someone's testimony just because they say it's true?   Also, of the three remaining, each one who found a treasure had to choose an envelope.  On the outside was written, "You have chosen the truth" in the code language we used this year.  Apparently no one knew what it said, but as they chose an envelope, they were told to "choose truth."  Only one envelope contained the prize of being able to challenge the team who won by points in one last game to be named the winner of EL RETO 2018.  The other two envelopes taught us what it says in Proverbs 14:12, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death."  We can strive all we want to be good people or join a certain religion and it all may seem "right".  However, we need to make sure that what we believe is TRUTH.  Otherwise, we will end up with an empty envelope in the end.

Angel, the captain of the red team, was the one who chose the "truth" envelope and won the opportunity to challenge the point leaders in the final challenge.

Karo and her team (green) beat out Jesica's team (blue) by a very narrow margin.


EL RETO FINAL was a series of questions by video in a similar format to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.  In the end, the green team (The Decided Ones) held off their opponents, the red team (The Warriors), and became the champions of EL RETO 2018!


Thank you all for praying for us during this time of another successful season of EL RETO!  There are so many things that we can learn from in this event and the seed has been planted in the hearts of over 200 students!

Here is the final video of EL RETO 2018!!


Wednesday, November 07, 2018


Greetings from Cofradía, Mexico! What a month!  I have not had time, nor do we have sufficient internet to report on our blog.  I will get the reports done as soon as I can for those who are interested in reading, watching videos, and seeing pictures of everything that has gone on.  Be looking for a special email with links to those reports.

A mixture of emotions flew through our ministry and lives this month as they ranged from experiencing extreme excitement to sincere sadness.  In the midst of the ups and downs, our hearts remain at peace and our faith has been firm.

Here’s a glimpse of this past month...

Our annual Student Ministries outreach, EL RETO, has come to a close (see below in last month’s requests).  The team, “Los Decididos” (The Decided Ones), came out on top this year.

The Freedom in Christ Conference in Mexico City was a huge blessing (see below in last month’s requests).

Hurricane Willa devastated nearby city Tuxpan, Nayarit.  There is so much work to be done; it will take a long time to restore this city.
Our friend, Pastor Abimael (in the red shirt in the above picture) and his wife’s house was flooded and everything they had was inside their house.  They are trying to salvage what they can and trust in the Lord as they continue to serve him.  Their church building, church family, and community all have the same story.  Many houses were under water and two weeks later (today), some streets are still full of water and mud.  There is garbage everywhere from people emptying their houses.  We have gone to help a few times to clean and hand out food and supplies.  I will write more in the upcoming report, but I have set up a link for you to contribute in the meantime.  Please consider helping.
This is Pastor Abimael’s house as the water was rose a little more than a foot higher than the windows...

We visited with him last Monday; his spirits are up and he continues to clean inside his house...

Religious Association--it has become official, we are now a registered ministry in Mexico!


Last month, we asked you to please pray for...

  1. David Medina.  Thank you for your prayers for David.  He had a very successful surgery, but was left with partial facial paralysis which the doctors are saying is due to him being nervous.  We are praying that that is completely healed as well.  They continue to do studies on the gigantic rock-like substance to confirm there is no cancer. 
  2. EL RETO 2018 came to a close the first Saturday of October with special speaker and author from Mexico City, Ernesto Ramirez, and worship leaders from Tepic; Pedro Castellanos and Hernan Mercado.  “Choose Truth” proved to be a very appropriate theme this year as it opened up many opportunities to talk about what is truth.  Please consider how you can help with next year, EL RETO 2019, by becoming a monthly sponsor now: $25 a month goes a long way for us!  Click here to become a sponsor of this event. 
  3. Called to Freedom 2018.  We had an amazing time celebrating with William and Lourdes Gallardo and there team in Mexico City for the 10th anniversary of Freedom in Christ Ministries in Mexico.  We drove all day Thursday and spent all days Friday and Saturday in the Conference.  It was a very refreshing time and we really enjoyed meeting the speakers and the staff.  On Sunday, I spoke at a friend’s church and we met with our lawyer who has been working on our Religious Association papers (which have been finalized now!! Yay!!).  Monday we spent the day in the center of town site seeing and keeping an eye on Hurricane Willa as it was set to cause damage from San Blas to Mazatlan—we’re in the south part of that projection.  We left Monday evening and drove through the night in order to beat the storm. 
  4. The Well Church from Salt Lake City will be with us on Saturday to build a house for a family in Cofradia.  We have poured the floor and are working on the final preparations for the team. 

Here are some links to more:

This month, will you please pray for...

  1. David Medina.  Continued prayer for a full, healthy recovery from surgery.  
  2. Disaster Relief for Tuxpan.  Most of our friends who are from Tuxpan have lost almost everything.  Please pray that the Lord would use this for His glory and draw people to Himself.  This is the city where Rebecka goes to High School, which had over 6 feet of water go through the campus and destroyed the property wall in front.  They have been forced to rebuild and have cancelled classes until January.  Many of us have been going to clean and taking food and supplies to help our friends and spiritual family.  There is a lot of rebuilding to do and if you would like to help financially, you can make a tax-deductible contribution and send a check made out to “Alternative Missions” and mail it to the support address below marking it as Cofradía Disaster Relief, or donate online here
  3. The Well Church from Salt Lake City will be with us on Saturday to build a house for a family in Cofradía.  Pray for safety, good health, wisdom, and opportunities for the family to commit their lives to Christ.  Here is a video of when we informed the family of the news (the audio is really bad, but there are sub-titles). 
  4. 18 Year Anniversary!! Yep, it’s been eighteen years since we were married.  We both feel very, very blessed! (November 18) 
  5. Freedom in Christ Conference in Cofradía.  Pastor Goyo, Pastor Luis, and I will be leading another conference soon.  We are really excited about this and ask for your prayers of protection over our lives and families and for openness and honesty in those who attend.  Many times, not being completely honest makes the road to freedom that much longer.  (November 29 – December 1) 

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
Alternative Missions
Cofradia Area Director

Online, you can make a one-time, tax-deductible gift, or set up to make automatic monthly donations to our personal support at this link.

Send a check made out to Alternative Missions to Alternative Missions / PO Box 3107 / Ferndale, WA 98248.  Indicate that it is for The Silbermans for our personal support.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Visitors From Home

Marion and Loretta Sluys came to visit us in Cofradía while they were vacationing in Mazatlan.  They brought their son, Dan, and his wife, Stephanie.  I was personally really excited to have someone from Poulsbo come to visit!  We felt blessed with their presence and had a wonderful time talking with the Pastors and their families after church on Sunday over carne asada and habiscus juice.  The family they sponsored for a house build was with us that afternoon.  One of the biggest blessings to me was to see the look on their face as they took every word in when the Sluys talked about their marriage, child rearing, and relationship with God.  We also visited Florentina who received a house built by Cy-Fair Church from Texas with the help of a matching gift from the Sluys.

Thank you, Sluys family, for visiting with us, attending a church service, and staying the night.  We appreciate it very much!

After the church service

The Sluys with the Romero family

Loretta with Florentina