Category Archives: Opinion

Trust Is A Must by Patty LaRoche

The nuns trust us!” The Gringos folding clothes at the Catholic Orphanage here in Mexico were elated. For weeks a team of 30+ have met at the complex to clean, repair, demolish, reconstruct and paint what has been ignored for decades. We are faithful in showing up and diligent in this massive undertaking.

In spite of that, the nuns remained cautious about opening the Bodega, a storage unit the size of a three-car garage crammed with bags of donated clothing. Fearing that we, like dozens of other groups, are fly-by-nights, they would not risk their treasures being stolen. After all, this was money for them. The clothes they reject are either sold as hand-me-downs or as rags.

But this week was different. The elderly nun showed up with the cherished Bodega key to allow Peter, our organizer, to peek inside. Immediately he pulled Alison off my paint crew and asked her to check it out. Alison’s main job at another orphanage is to organize its Bodega, and she’s good at it, but she never expected to see a mess of this magnitude.

Where to start? Fumigation. With floor-to-ceiling mounds of garbage bags, some which have been there for years, one could only guess what critters were nesting in the piles. Once that task was finished, seven women were assigned to the Bodega.

Peter purchased folding tables, and it was there the ladies labored over each bag. Oddly, it was the nun who was the pickiest about what clothes were kept. When a cute pair of girl’s jeans was pulled from a bag, it was she who told the volunteers those jeans were “out of style.” The nun had an opinion on every article of clothing or material the women unpacked.

By the third week, the ladies were elated when the nun had errands to run and left them alone. No longer was she concerned that the items would be stolen or put in the wrong bag. They had earned her trust. Word spread and our entire volunteer community celebrated.

When the nun confided in Peter that two teenage girls were becoming defiant and disrespectful, Peter had to convince them that he could provide a psychologist to help. Gradually, when the nuns realized that Peter was committed to doing what was best for the orphanage, their trust in him increased. It was then they gave him permission to paint the entire complex.

Trust is a must. No matter who is involved.

Nun with volunteer. Parent with child. Boss with employee. Spouse with spouse. Teammate with teammate. Coach with athlete. Teacher with student. Friend with friend. Doctor with patient. Pilot with passengers. Christian with God.

Viable relationships are dependent on such confidence.

Yet sometimes those we trust let us down, don’t they? And we feel betrayed. We forget that all of us are sinners and ignore Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart…”

Not the itsy-bitsy, happy-heart corner that celebrates when we find a parking spot or lose a pound, but “all” of our heart, even the part—especially the part– that aches when things aren’t lining up the way we know they should be (and would be in a perfect world). We are to trust, the practical outworking of faith, to allow God to fumigate the trash we have accumulated in order to give us a fresh start. For some of us, that task, like the bodega, seems overwhelming. Fortunately, God doesn’t see it that way. All He asks is that we give Him the key so He can start.

One bag at a time.

A Parent’s Love by Patty LaRoche

Beth Guckenberger spoke at our women’s retreat this week. I wanted to adopt her, except she is married with 10 children (adopted, foster and biological, combined). Her talk was about God’s faithfulness in the mission field where she and her husband, Todd, work with Back2Back ministries.

Fresh out of college, Todd and Beth had headed a youth mission team to Monterrey, Mexico, where they found themselves painting a church the same color it had been when their team painted it the year before. Frustrated and with only one day left before returning to the states, the young couple grabbed a taxi, asked to be driven to a local orphanage, and soon found themselves on the porch of a rundown building.

They introduced themselves to the children’s guardian and asked if he could use the help of 20 teens, $200 and some prayers. So began their passion to serve the orphans in Mexico, an involvement that led to their attempted adoption of two young sisters, but after months of paperwork, they were denied. (More on that next week.)

Fast forward a few years to when Todd, Beth, and three-month-old daughter settled in Monterrey. In the fall they returned to Ohio where Todd was a principal at a Christian school and their Mexico orphanage fundraising efforts were taking off. In their absence, a young woman volunteered to live in their Monterrey home to help with some caretaking duties.

No sooner were they back in the states than Beth received an emergency call from the Monterrey caretaker. One of the young orphan girls had been hit by a truck. Within three hours, Beth and baby daughter were on a flight to Mexico, leaving her husband a note on the kitchen counter: “Headed to Monterrey. Will call tonight.”

While there, Beth received a phone call that a three-month-old Mexican boy was available for adoption. Beth called Todd who flew to Mexico to join her to meet their baby son. Even though he had “pretzeled legs, bent arms that would not unfold curled hands and mold on one side of his face,” the adopting couple called him the “most beautiful baby ever.”

Returning to Ohio, intense therapy began, but their young son cried nonstop. A trip to a neuro-surgeon was not good news. Antonio was in the “severe” category of spina bifida. He probably never would talk or walk or be able to care for himself. Todd and Beth needed “to be prepared for the worst.” The news, although devastating, was more reason to pray.

One day when the occupational therapist visited, Antonio was on the floor with a toy. His sister grabbed the toy and went to the other side of the room. Antonio wailed. Beth retrieved the toy and took it back to her son. After an hour of observing this behavior, the therapist told Beth that she was making it too easy for her son. As long as she did everything for him, he would not have to do anything on his own. When the therapist left, Beth sat on the kitchen floor, crying out to God while Antonio lay on the living room floor, crying for his mom.

But then Antonio’s crying changed. Beth walked into the living room to watch her disabled son wiggle-crawl toward his sister on the other side of the room. When he neared the couch, he clutched its skirt bottom and pulled himself up. By now, Beth was on the floor a few feet away. Antonio turned and walked toward his mother.

Beth shared that it wasn’t a normal crawl, pull or walk. Still, it was a far cry from what she ever expected. She quickly loaded the two youngsters into her car and sped to her husband’s school where Antonio showed his dad what he could do. “You know what I’m going to do now, don’t you?” asked Beth.

I’m pretty sure I do,” answered Todd.

(Next week I will share with you the rest of Antonio’s story.)

Practice Your Faith by Patty LaRoche

My brothers and sisters, practice your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ by not favoring one person over another.  For example, two men come to your worship service. One man is wearing gold rings and fine clothes; the other man, who is poor, is wearing shabby clothes.  Suppose you give special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say to him, “Please have a seat.” But you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or “Sit on the floor at my feet.” Aren’t you discriminating against people and using a corrupt standard to make judgments?

 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Didn’t God choose poor people in the world to become rich in faith and to receive the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?  Yet, you show no respect to poor people. (James :2-1-6)

If you were to meet Jorge in a dark alley, chances are you would grab your pepper spray or concealed weapon and run for your life. His scowling face, pot-marked with years of hard living, cigarette, alcohol and drug damage, as scary as it is, belies his tender spirit.

He is my friend.

I met Jorge here in Mazatlan, Mexico, five years ago when I first joined a group that bi-weekly travels to the dump to feed the scroungers (their words, not mine). Jorge was our bus driver. I was terrified of him. We met again when I volunteered to help with a Bible study for youngsters who live in squalor in the outskirts of Mazatlan. Again, Jorge drove the van. Observing his love of children and dedication to spreading the gospel with his puppet ministry gave me a new vision of who this man is. As an accomplished guitarist, he also led (leads) the praise and worship at our church. It wasn’t long before I realized he is the heart and soul of the majority of ministries at La Vina Church.

For some reason, the two of us connected. Maybe it was because every year I take him clothes that Dave no longer needs or wants. Maybe it was because I have been pretty faithful in helping his ministries. Maybe it was because God just knew I needed to be smacked for being so judgmental when I first met him.

About twenty-five years ago, Jorge was a serious drug addict, derelict, alcoholic who played his guitar nightly in the brothels. (That’s not all he did when he was there.) From the minute he woke up until he crashed at night, Jorge was addicted. Year after year. Then came the evangelist’s tent revival. For five days, Fred Collum, himself a recovering addict, shared his testimony and gave a call for anyone who wanted to make Jesus the Lord of their lives to come forward.

Jorge showed up drunk on Fred’s last day, staggered up the aisle, barely able to stand, and then made an about-face, zigzagging his way out of the tent. A few weeks later, Jorge met Fred on the street and introduced himself as the drunk man who showed up at his final revival. Fred reached into his pocket to give Jorge some money but was stopped by Jorge’s words: “I don’t want your money. I want you to know that I was too ashamed to come to the front that night, but I went home, got on my knees and asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. Since then, I have not had any cigarettes, alcohol or drugs.”

So began a friendship between the two men as together they started what now is the largest English-speaking church in Mazatlan and the one known throughout the state for its feeding centers and Bible ministries. Six days a week, Jorge drives a bus or van to a colonia to minister to the poorest of the poor. His life is all about blessing others. For me, my friend blesses me every time we are together.

But my biggest blessing? That Jorge never chose to judge me.