Arrival Day was filled with anticipation, excitement and expectation! Going through the border crossing was very easy, and applying for our visas was quick (with exception the lady sternly scolded me in a heavy Spanish accent for scribbling on the visa application…”Next time get a new one!!”) Whoops…
Driving through Tijuana and Encendas was full of new sights and smells. The beach looked just as beautiful as the pictures posted in the last blog. We then turned off onto the bumpy dirt road to the ranch- a short 10 miles takes us an hour to drive. We pass the extremes of life. A respite for women and their children, farms, shacks, ranches, even an estate where rumor is an elite Indian Sikh vacations (*if you look you can see the Sikh symbol on the gate!)
As we arrived to the ranch, all the pictures we had seen online were coming to life. Then we saw a mattress truck leaving the drive…looks like the Ranch was
cutting it close! I have been overwhelmed by the base leaders’ (Brian & Sue McCoy) faithfulness. They originally had 14 cabins built. When the they opened up registration for the 2022 DTS, the family requests just kept trickling in. They really do live by the theme of Rancho Abierto: “Open hearts, open hands, open home”. They decided if the Lord brings them, the will build the cabins! Just months before it was to begin they accepted their 20th family (10 of those are staff), and had an immediate need for 21 total cabins total. Six of those cabins were built just in the last 8 weeks!
I imagine their faith was being shaken as the arrival day was approaching! Could they really pull this off in time ? As someone quipped last week, “the bigger the leap of faith it takes the bigger the fruit you see!” So they were literally finishing flooring and making the beds as families were arriving. The Lord equips us if it’s His plan however big or stretching it is!
As we turned into the long drive for The Ranch, the beauty of the land was just overwhelming. We pulled in, were quickly assigned homework for our marriage small groups and started unpacking into our cabin. The cabin is quaint- 12x12, our bed is right as we walk in
with a loft upstairs for Karissa with a sweet peacock quilt, and a small side room for the boys to sleep in bunkbeds. There are windows everywhere- *which I found out later is so useful to air out the cabin when sickness hit 😬*, sweet white lacy curtains. As it approached sunset I quickly realize there is not a lot of privacy. With barely enough room to walk around the furniture, or places to escape…the introvert heart in me was starting to worry. Our bedroom was central station!
The next few days and weekend they allowed time for orientation and settling into our new homes. Meeting families from all over the world that were faithfully stepp
ing into a season of transition was such an honor. The kids settled into their spots, immediately made friends. Karissa was in heaven- submerged in a community where a friend was literally living 10 feet from her. The McCoys threw a fun Mexican celebration for the new families, hiring a band and having a dear friend of theirs make tamales for us all.
Sunday we enjoyed a family outing to the nearby beach where the kids discover a plethora of sand dollars! We were full of excitement for the week to come.
Then Monday came…and the first week got hard fast. Getting used to a new schedule, getting to know 19 other families (remember the introvert here) and it it rained….and rained. And it was cold. Brian told me it doesn’t rain down here so I didn’t pack an umbrella, rain jacket…neither did the kids. Our bedroom quickly turned into a mud pit. Our
classes and worship meet outside in a beautiful pavilion, we eat outside…life at Rancho Abierto is designed to be enjoyed, well, …outside. Which makes it difficult when it's raining. Then Tuesday- the water ran out/ wasn’t flowing. No water all day...which also happened to be our laundry day. Then…the flu started to run its course through the families, including our own. Also a day the power went out - the base runs on solar power and a generator. So if it’s rainy and the solar power isn’t able to store up energy it stretches the ability of the generator to cover the electrical needs. By the end of the week a crunch was created with laundry….only 1 dryer that can only be used and only when the the generator is on. Which can be difficult when everyone is washing sheets from well.. you know
By Friday I’m crumbling. I feel like I'm suffocating, no privacy, I just want my own bed, the comforts of home! I won’t even detail how humbling it is to parent in front of a community!! I was looking forward to the weekend to hide….I didn't realize I was sliding because I was also the next in line for the flu! *Despite the handfuls of supplements I've been downing daily 😩!* At this point I’m done and ready to pack my bags, call an end to the family vacation. Like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz...There's no place like home, take me back to Kansas!
One aspect of the lecture of the first week really impacted me. Sue's "Stones of Rememberence". Just like Joshua crossed over the Jordon and stacked the stones of remembrance of what God had done for the Israelites, each stone in Sue's jar is labeled with just a few words to bring what God has done with them. We all encounter God's Goodness in unique ways. As we encounter Him, we then become stewards of His grace and knowledge.
The more we speak it out, the more we remember. Like the story of the Passover, God commanded His people to tell the story every year of how the Israelites were delivered so they would know that God was their God and how He delivered them. Psalms 45 : God is OUR refuge, OUR strength- we experience and are encouraged by Him collectively!! So although the week was messy, I asked God to really start unveiling His grace and goodness, so I can start my own "Stones of Remembrance".
The Lord is our Creator! We saw the rain bring the land an even richer lush green, new wildflowers we hadn’t seen just days before. I love sitting in the Pavilion during the lectures and hear the owl hoot, the birds chatter, the breeze across my face. The surrounding mountains are breathtaking in the early morning!
He is our Provider! The rain provided the wells and springs to be replenished for the land and the many people on the ranch! I found my "quiet spot". A place before everyone gets up in the morning I can be still with the Lord. Despite water and electrical shortages, the Lord has provided what we need! (And we have power now after 9pm which was unexpected due to a generous donation of solar panels!)
The Lord is Faithful. The McCoy’s have shown by following the Lord’s leading to open their own home and create a place for families to learn to disciple as a family. It's such a privilege. No, it’s not the Hilton! But they have created an oasis amongst the desert- physically and spiritually. Despite barely hanging on some of those days, we saw who true leaders lean into the Lord instead of self-pity. In their faithfulness the Lord has brought so much fruit!
The Lord is our Redeemer! Each of these beautiful families has a testimony of the Lord redeeming their lives. They are thoughtful and reflective about of God’s goodness and praise Him for His redemption. I have been so encouraged by the lectures and discussions in class.
The Lord is our Helper! Through the rainy days, the lack of clean laundry and family
sicknesses we saw families that didn’t know each other well were quick to hop in and help others do their laundry, hold their babies, words and prayers of encouragement.
The Lord Rejoices over us! Worship with the family is such a sweet time. I love rejoicing with others! Zeph 3:17 "He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing"
The Lord is our friend! I love the sweet cross cultural & generational friendships that have already formed. Above is Emil, the CUTEST 2 year old German boy who Karissa is just smitten with!
The Lord is our Comforter! I’m thankful for a husband that took me into Ensenada so I could buy a few things for our cabin. We moved furniture, threw a new rug on the floor and comforter on the bed and voila! When I walk into the cabin I feel the comfort of home now.
So that's a wrap for our first week! It's stretching and encouraging, there's invigorating discussion and restorative quiet time, it's been cold and been scorching hot (97 degrees last week!), and overall we are excited to see how the Lord continues to mold our hearts over the next 10 weeks! (Hoping to reveal where our outreach will be next post... It will either be Mexico, Panama or Denmark/Norway!!)
Soli Deo Gloria! - Jenn
And finally, a *shorter* word from my better half....(Brian)
The rain this week has sustained the beauty of the Baja desert. In contrast to the twenty-shades of dusty brown we experienced last July, the desert is lush and green with patches of flower carpet. I especially enjoy the hammock hung in a large live oak with sheep grazing on knee high grass. The idyllic environment is matched by the warm community here at the ranch. Twenty families, with a diversity of culture, age, and experience all stained with sin and touched by God’s grace, are alive with anticipation of how God is going to change the narrative their families. Orientation of toilet paper in the outhouses, toothpaste in the sinks, and lost & broken treasures have not become the top priorities; we are still very much in the honeymoon season.
The Christian community described in Acts has been allusive to me and simply stated unbelievable. I have seen glimpses of beauty in our churches; especially in the community Jenn has cultivated in Louisburg. But there are always dark clouds looming that threaten to divide over ideology, theology, and which sports team you favor. Much like the desert sun that quickly weathers the spring flowers. Within my soul, I yearn for a better, more authentic, and closer community in Christ. I want to believe that the beautiful community here is sustainable; a touch of God’s Kingdom being pulled into our reality. I want to believe we can be unified by Jesus Christ and the Way that infected the early church.
The first week as been filled with testimonies, tears, learning names, a flu bug, empty water tanks, and sharing stories. I am not experiencing nor do I expect utopia; our joy has to bridge over circumstances and differences. In July, I was taken back by the oak tree canopy that covers the cabins, the picnic tables, and nearly all our activities. I ponder how such large trees exist within the desert and how the leaves remain ever green. There must be a large subterranean stream flowing down the dry riverbed unseen. Likewise, I know that the health of this community must remain tied to the root and unseen living water if the spirit of this week can be sustained for five months. I write with anticipation, hope, and excitement of how God may change our reality of community.