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Tabitha is one of the pillars of Agua Viva Ministriesâ?? work in Agua Prieta. She moved here in 1997 with her sister Lola from Obregon, which is about a 9 hour drive from Agua Prieta. In Obregon, Tabitha and several of her sisters were members of a womenâ??s co-operative farm. Due to a complex series of events and corruption on the part of various officials, the women lost all their assets.
Tabitha says that when she and Lola came to Agua Prieta they were very discouraged. However, now they see Godâ??s hand in bringing them north to be actively involved in Ebenezer Christian Church. Their experience in legal matters and outgoing, persistent personalities have been an asset to the Ministry at various times. Tabitha and Lola each live in an apartment in the 4-plex owned by Agua Viva Ministries and during the day they can often be found helping out at the church site or supporting poor families. Each evening the two ladies sell roses for $2 a stem in the downtown tourist areas, which they purchase daily from a wholesaler. This provides enough to eke out a living.
Tabitha has to have all of her teeth removed ($10/ tooth) and have dentures made for her. She has not been able to afford to do this; many of her teeth are loose, causing her much pain. Several months ago she could not cope with the pain so she removed one of her teeth herself. Needless to say there are many food items she cannot enjoy. Many evenings neither Lola nor Tabitha sell more then 1 or 2 roses...or none at all. Perhaps someone or several people might be willing to help her financially so she can purchase dentures.
Tabitha has a burden for impressionable children. She grew up very poor in a family of 16 children and received no formal education. However, she is blessed with an inquisitive mind and learned much along lifeâ??s pathway. She says, â??I have a desire to teach children all I have learned to spare them embarrassment.â?? Teaching children to pray, listen attentively to bible stories, eat neatly with a knife and fork, etc. are some of the priorities Tabitha continues to work on. Warm but firm, she demonstrates great leadership in our Sunday school efforts. Tabitha has 5 grown children and 17 grandchildren, who live in Obregon.She phones and visits them on occasion but not often. Although she misses her family, Tabitha feels that right now God wants her in Agua Prieta, as Tabitha in the early church who was known for her "good works and acts of charity.â?? (Acts 9:36)
Posted Sep 28 2010, 1:56:32 PM UTC
Written by Janet Les
Gabe and Zoraida and their boys Gabe and Allan attend Ebenezer church and Gabe sometimes works for Agua Viva Ministries. Gabe was introduced to Godâ??s Word in an Arizona prison where he did time for drug running. He believes in Godâ??s forgiveness but says he cannot forgive himself or feel forgiveness for his sins, especially the sin of supplying poisonous drugs to young people.
Gabe was discharged from the Mexican army in 2001 and moved to Agua Prieta to look for work. He says his military training and mafia interest filled his head with big ideas and he was soon enticed to earn $1500 US for drug running trips. He spent his illegal earnings on â??drinking, women and clothes for two years.â?? Then he met Zoraida and started to be afraid he would be caught. But he wanted a family and property so kept going.
Gabeâ??s drug running assignment was to carry 50 lb of marijuana through an isolated area from Agua Prieta to Wilcox, Arizona. These trips were about 5 days and 5 nights of walking. At first he refused to cross the border and made the drop in Mexico but after about 7 trips he also crossed the border into America. When he was caught by the U.S. border patrol it was discovered he was carrying cocaine as well as marijuana. This made it a federal offense but as a first offense his sentence was reduced to 6 months. The judge told him if he was caught again, he would receive at least a three year prison sentence. While in prison, Gabe was visited by an evangelical minister and he joined a bible study group.
Zoraida started coming to Ebenezer church with her sister Plinia, and Gabe joined her when he was released from prison. He says the church community helped him integrate back into a normal life. He soon got a job in a twin plant* making wire cable for tractors, earning $70 US per week. Zoraida earns $50 per week working a morning shift in another plant while her mother baby-sits their boys. Bit by bit the couple is building a home on a small lot which Gabe bought from drug earnings.
On the day I visited them, Gabe was disappointed at Pliniaâ??s husband who had promised to help work on his house and then went out drinking instead. But Zoraida reminded him that he falls into this habit as well. Gabe replied, that yes, like the apostles asleep during the storm when we walk with the Lord the Lord is with us even when the storm is strong. He knows he needs a closer walk with God.
* Twin plants are US/Mexican border ventures where cheap Mexican labor is utilized by an assembly plant on the Mexican side and a smaller processing and distribution facility on the American side. These plants are a major reason for the population growth in Agua Prieta. Many people come from the Interior of Mexico to work in the plants or with the hope of moving to the US, only to find there are far more workers than work available.
Posted Sep 28 2010, 11:50:52 AM UTC
Geronimo comes from a village where she grew up learning to sew. Years ago she had purchased a peddle sewing machine for a 50lb sack of nuts. Recently it has been falling apart. A group from Desert View Baptist Church in Gilbert, AZ began looking for a machine. Since she doesn't have electricity, they needed to find her an antique. They found a 1902 Singer and brought it down for her. She sat down and started putting the things together to make it work. She knew exactly how to do it. She and her family were thrilled with it. One of her teenage boys said, "Mama, we can sew again." The whole family knows how to sew.
They live in a cardboard house and are in the process of building a house out of mud bricks. We are planning to provide the 2X4 rafters and the tin for the roof.
When Geronimo first started coming to our church she was very skeptical, because she was from an apostolic background. She would send her sons to us if she needed anything. Now she is very comfortable and happy in our church. She said the other day that she would really love clean the church once itâ??s built. She doesn't have any money, but she wants to do her part.
Posted Sep 28 2010, 11:50:01 AM UTC
Pedro is one of several fathers in our church who sometimes works for Agua Viva Ministries helping John with construction and maintenance. Like many poor families in Agua Prieta, Pedro built his family a home out of salvaged materials: wooden pallets, rusty sheet metal, scrap lumber, cardboard and plastic.
During the Christmas holidays, members of the Michigan work group gave Pedro a ride home from work and met his two young children and wife Celena who was seven months pregnant and not feeling well. The familyâ??s only bed was wet from overnight rain and the home was cold. They made plans to spend the night with another church family.
The next day, while Pedro was at work, team members donated materials and built a water-tight roof on Pedroâ??s home. Pedro and Celena were amazed. A week later the church ladies had a baby shower and gave the family a baby crib filled with baby clothing, diapers, food, etc. The family was very happy.
Then, in the early morning hours on February 23, tragedy struck. Pedro and Celenaâ??s house burnt to the ground. John says,
â??It was of the mercy of the Lord that He spared each of their lives. They were sleeping in the back room when someone came up to their house and yelled for them to get out. They had to go through the room that was on fire to get out. All Pedro could do was grab his 2 kids and get out. The inside was all cardboard and it went up very fast. They weren't able to save anything. This is a photo of the pile that is left. Rosemary and I were there this morning trying to help them. We got them some clothes, blankets and other things. We couldn't help but question why this happened. But we trust that the Lord knows and will work it out for good.â??
â??I was impressed that our church family also cared for them. Many of them are giving things to them to help them out. One family said â??I have a bed,â?? another said â??I will give them a stove.â?? Others opened their homes for shelter. Maybe that's what the Lord is showing us. That he provides for his children using his people. That really impressed me because these people don't have much and yet are willing to give what they have. I know each one of you is impressed with that when you are here. And now we really see it again.â??
After this message from John and Rosemary went out by email, many hearts were touched. Ontario supporters Gerald, Hieno, and Ken decided to do something about it. They raised funds, traveled across the USA to Agua Prieta, bought supplies and spent three days building Pedro and Celena a new home! On February 8, the family moved into their new home (or as Pedro called it â??a palace.â??) The family is in a state of awe. Pedro jokingly told us that Celena is very careful about them not scraping the floor with the new chairs because it will mark up the floor plus ruin the new chairs. She is also keeping the plastic covers on the chairs and keeps reminding them not to sit on the chairs with dirty hands or dirty clothes. Celena said they have never been able to buy new things so she is very grateful for every item.
On behalf of the family "Gracias y Dios los bendiga".
On behalf of Agua Viva Ministries, "Thank you...God bless You!â??
Posted Sep 28 2010, 11:47:14 AM UTC
A petite, white-haired lady, her smile surrounded by a mass of wrinkles, shuffles her way slowly down the church aisle escorted by Rosemary. The children lining the aisle burst into song as Ramoncita is seated on the â??throneâ?? at the front of the church. Pastor Pina and his wife gently place a crown on her head. The church community is celebrating Ramoncitaâ??s 100th birthday!
The Pastor spoke about Ramoncitaâ??s faithful church attendance for the past ten years and compared her faithfulness to that of Abraham who was also blessed with a long life. He also spoke about Ramoncitaâ??s sorrow that most of her family do not attend church. He reminded her that she had a special place in the church family of Agua Viva Ministries and also in the family of God. He stated that the Lord willing, God would honor her prayer that her great-grand-daughter, Yahira, who attends every church service with her, will grow up knowing and serving Christ.
Ramoncita began coming to church because her granddaughter heard of a group of people who shared supplies with many in need, and that it didnâ??t make a difference if the people in need were of the same faith or not. She says all her needs have been met by the Lord. It is rare when Ramoncita is not in attendance for church services and bible study.
One of the highlights of the evening for Ramoncita was a cell phone call from John VerWys who was spending the summer in Grand Rapids. He is very special to her; each summer season when he is in Grand Rapids, she prays that the Lord will not take her away until John returns and she can see him again.
Following this formal celebration, Ramoncita with the help of Yahira opened her gifts: coffee, cookies, clothes, towels and Pesos. Afterwards several of the faithful women of the church served a delicious meal. Finally, the two huge cakes were brought into the church. As the children chanted â??take a bite, take a bite, take a biteâ?¦â?? Rosemary smeared some icing on Ramoncitaâ??s grinning face and gave her the first piece.
Ramoncita later shared some thoughts with us. She expressed how grateful she is that God brought Agua Viva Ministries to Agua Prieta because otherwise she might not have come to know the True Living God. She also stated that the supplies that her family has received throughout the years have been such a blessing. She thanked those who support the ministry; for her it is always a joy to see the people who come to Agua Prieta to serve; she always cries when they leave and prays for them.
Happy 100th Birthday Ramoncita!
Posted Sep 28 2010, 11:43:51 AM UTC
Rosa Grepo invites visitors to sit and drink coffee with her while enjoying the cool, soothing shade of her very special "shade giving Mesquite bush". While there are no other trees around, this Mesquite bush is quite comfy! She simply covers several branches with Mexican made blankets and up you go! One can spend several hours visiting in the "cool of the desert".
Rosa came from the state de Veracruz four years ago because her two eldest sons are inmates in the local prison, and her two eldest daughters were already living in Agua Prieta. The family had traveled by bus in hopes of finding employment. Unfortunately things did not go well for her two eldest sons, but her daughters found employment in the Maquilladoras (twin plants). Rosa then followed her family to Agua Prieta. She brought along the rest of her family: her daughter Sara, age 10, son Adal, age 4, and her grandson, Xexto, 13, who she is raising until Xexto's father fulfills his time in prison.
Rosa began attending church with the hope that life for her and her family would improve. Her children Adal and Sara both enjoy singing and learn their Scripture verses very quickly. How wonderful to have the quick alert mind of a child! Shortly after her arrival in Agua Prieta she found employment at one of the Maquilladoras. Rosa works the midnight shift so that she can be home with her children during the daytime.
Rosa has expressed her gratitude for the love and fellowship she has found at Herencia de Ebenezer. She especially looks forward to Hermano Yan's (brother John's) Tuesday Bible studies. Her whole understanding of God has changed completely... giving her a greater purpose and the sense of a more fulfilled life. Rosa and her family still live in a black tar paper home with dirt floors. If you ever find yourself in the neighborhood...you have an open invitation to join Rosa for a cup of coffee while sitting in the "shade of the desert.â??
Posted Sep 28 2010, 11:43:26 AM UTC
Each year, the people in Agua Prieta leave an impression on our outreach team; thus, they minister to us too.
This year, we were especially affected by the plight of Felipe, a middle aged man who had attended the church for some time. Felipe suffered a cerebral hemorrhage approximately two months before we came to Agua Prieta. The hemorrhage left him severely physically and mentally handicapped. His wife Luz, with the help of her six children, cared for him in their tiny, ill-equipped home. Felipe still attended church; he would lie on the bench with his head on his wifeâ??s lap. As people entered the church, rather than avoiding him, most would greet him and wish him Godâ??s blessing before finding a seat. One young couple, who had brought their newborn baby to church to be dedicated, gently placed the child in his arms for a moment. The churchâ??s attitude towards this weakest, most compromised member of their community made quite an impression on our team. They showed us what it means to love our neighbour.
Before we returned home, we were able to help Felipe and Luz by providing them with some groceries. We had hoped that Felipe would gradually regain some of his faculties but approximately a month after we left, he passed away. For Felipe, who knew Christ as his Savior, this was a great blessing. But for the family it is difficult. Financially they are managing: Agua Viva Ministries supplies Luz and her children with some food staples and two of the children are working. However, the youngest daughter told Rosemary that the family misses Felipe terribly and that Luz often cries at night. Please pray for this widow and her family.
Posted Sep 28 2010, 11:36:56 AM UTC