Category Archives: Opinion

Patty LaRoche: Changing Children’s Lives with Shoes

Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. And after He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there… Matthew 19:13-15

Andrew and I had driven to Urias, Mazatlan’s poorest colonia, to work with the ministry team there. Andrew was frustrated. Placing his hands on the shoulders of Estelle, a mother of five, he translated to me in English the scolding he was giving her in Spanish. Two of her sons, Paco, 10, and Miguel, 11, stood by her side. They are part of Andrew’s Bible study/soccer program.

The mother’s life is not to be envied. As a dump scrounger, she works 10 hours a day sifting through trash, looking for recyclables. Five children depend on her $8.00 a day wage. Paco and Miguel are not in school, and Andrew was warning their mother that the drug cartel would find them if they continue to walk the streets all day. The police had already been called to stop the boys’ gang fights, so this was not going to end well.

“Paco has no school shoes,” his mother explained. Andrew turned to the youngster and asked if he would go to school if he had shoes. He would. Andrew told him to meet us by his car when the Bible study/soccer match was over. When questioned about her oldest son, the mother insisted he attends school. She had “found shoes in a second-hand store.” Andrew asked to see the shoes and the boy’s report card. She hustled across her dirt road into a house no bigger than a single car garage, and within a few minutes, returned with the ragtag shoes and the paperwork.

Cecilia, her older daughter, joined our conversation. She, a senior, wants to be a cosmetologist and works with her mother at the dump. I made a mental note to contact Debbie Rodriguez, owner of the local beauty salon, who dedicates her life to helping others. I asked Cecilia if she would stick with cosmetology if someone sponsored her to attend. She would.

Andrew then pointed to Roots and Wings, a two-story, under-construction, adobe building on the corner. It is a ministry started by Robin and Rochelle, 25-year-old American, Christian women. They came to Mazatlan on vacation four years ago, saw the desperation of the dump scrounger families, and opened a small day care for six children. Because of others’ generosity, within two years a 1,600 square foot facility was built, and now a second floor is being added. Today they—and local volunteers—teach more than 20 young children about Jesus Christ. The two women, like Andrew, live out Matthew 19:13-15.

As our day came to a close, Andrew and I packed up our things and headed to the car. Waiting there was Paco. “Jump in,” Andrew told him in Spanish, and he did. Paco contained his excitement. I couldn’t. Once we were in the shoe store, even the attendant seemed to catch on. She said nothing about Roberto’s dirty feet, but instead handed him a sock, telling him it would help the new shoe go on easier.

Within ten minutes we were driving Roberto back to his colonia. If we heard “Gracias” once, we heard it five times. A pair of shoes would change Paco’s direction forever. The Christian volunteers in Urias know the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these, and, putting feet to their faith, live sacrificially for these children to end up there. I owe them a huge thanks for allowing me to tag along and be a part of their ministry. So here it is: Gracias, Andrew, Robin and Rochelle.

But most of all, Gracias, Jesucristo.

Patty LaRoche: Fasting for Lent…And Life

In elementary school, my St. Mary’s classmates and I prepared ahead of time to answer the notorious, pre-Lenten question, “What are you giving up for Lent?” My friends’ answers paled in comparison to mine. “Candy.” “My bicycle.” “Ice cream.” “Bonanza.” Naturally, no one was crazy enough to say “Nothing”… especially when the nuns had us stand beside our desk and share our answers. It was a spiritual opportunity to one-up each other.

Probably because of jealousy, my noble sacrifice never received the acclamations it deserved, even though mine really, truly eclipsed everyone else’s. I would give up, for 57,600 LONG minutes, my absolute favorite snack, a snack I pined for all day long, a snack that could keep me satisfied for an entire evening, a snack upon which I was dependent for happiness—salt on ice cubes. Had my classmates starved for 40 days, their sacrifice wouldn’t have come close to mine. They, unlike me, had no idea what withdrawals were all about.

With a glass full of ice in one hand and the salt shaker in the other, I could sit for hours licking away. And refills, well, they cost me nothing.

I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

The first year I proudly broadcast my answer in class, Sister looked at me like I was a wack-a- doodle, told me this wasn’t a joke and had me sit down. (Seriously! Even I had limits as to how much I would lie. I mean, who’s going to be stupid enough to fib when grace points were involved?) Sister had no idea what discipline it took to pretend to be holy.

For the entire Lenten season, it was all I could do not to sneak an ice cube. It was simple. Remove the ice tray from the freezer. Pull the silver lever to loosen the cubes. Grab a sliver that fell to the linoleum floor. Add a couple of salt granules, and voila, I would be in Heaven.

Figuratively speaking, I mean. Literally, not so much.

After all, violating a sacred Lenten oath was serious stuff. And since I feared Hell for a number of other sins I recurrently committed, adding this biggie just might do me in.

Now that I’m older and have turned my addiction to potato chips instead of ice cubes, I see great merit in this 40-day sacrifice. But maybe there is something more that could be done, like the suggestions I received in an email recommending other ways to fast during Lent.

  • Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
  • Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
  • Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
  • Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
  • Fast from worries and have trust in God.
  • Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
  • Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
  • Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
  • Fast from selfishness and be compassionate with others.
  • Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
  • Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

Serious stuff, don’t you think? Of course, this should be a life list, not a 40-day one.

I have to think salted ice cubes or potato chips would be a whole lot easier.

Patty LaRoche: Colorful Soccer Balls

Last week I wrote about the connections God made possible through Debbie Rodriguez, the owner of a beauty salon here in Mazatlan, Mexico. Debbie introduced me to Heather and Andrea, two YWAM (Youth With a Mission) workers who are involved in several local ministries. Before long, connections were made involving people I know who could help the ladies’ outreach.

Little did I know how far back God’s plan extended. One connection had begun two years earlier in Nevada, Mo., with Mike and Betty Morris. The Morris’s had met with me to describe their ministry of using color-patterned soccer balls to share the gospel. They donated several balls for me to bring to Mazatlan. For a year, they stayed in my closet—the balls, not Mike and Betty– because I had no clear direction as to how they should be used. Not surprisingly, God did.

Last December, a former professional soccer player, Andrew, spoke at church, asking for help with his soccer ministry involving some of Mazatlan’s toughest youth. If he could turn them to Jesus, he said, he could turn them away from the drug cartel that was actively pursuing them as delivery boys.

I about tackled him after the service.

Two Saturdays ago, Andrew and I drove to the colonia where he ministered to those kids. His rule is simple: If you want to play soccer, you come to the Bible study first. Twenty boys and girls—ages 8-16, attended. Holding the multi-colored soccer ball, Andrew explained the gospel. Pointing to the black patch, he spoke of sin. The red patch represented the blood of Jesus. The green one was new life. White was how God sees us after we make Jesus the Lord of our lives, and gold is Heaven. He spoke for 30 minutes, but since it was in Spanish, I just stood at his side, nodded, and pretended to understand. (I think “Amen” makes me look bilingual.)

Fifteen minutes into his talk, a flirtatious young girl sashayed onto the concrete slab where we were meeting. No language necessary. Her skimpy dress and heavy make-up caused the young men to almost salivate. Andrew invited her to join the Bible study. Not on her radar. She then was asked to leave, much to the young men’s frustration.

Five minutes later, Mr. Cool Guy arrived. Donning several gold necklaces, GQ clothes and shoes, he was out of place with these shoeless, dirty-clothed adolescents. He jumped on the concrete water bin next to one of the boys. Immediately he had the adulation of everyone there who laughed as he tussled the hair of his seat-mate. Clearly, he loved the attention. Clearly, Andrew did not. Andrew gave him three chances to pay attention and then told him to leave.

Following the Bible study, the “futbol” game began. It was rough. Bare feet and flip-flops blasted the soccer ball as hard as any shoe could, and not infrequently the boys ended up on the concrete. When a fight broke out, Andrew broke it up. My job was to stay out of the way, guard the two extra soccer balls and not break up any fights.

On our way back to town, Andrew and I spoke of his mission. He needed help. Immediately I thought of Heather and Andrea. Once back in my condo, I contacted them to see if they were interested in connecting with Andrew. They were thrilled.

In all honesty, I have done very little throughout this “Connection” journey. I’ve listened. Sent out a few emails. Partnered to watch other’s talents be used. God simply multiplied my meager efforts. Of course, if He can use a soccer ball and a beauty shop, there’s nothing off limits…including me and including you.

Legislative Update

By State Senator Caryn Tyson

February 24, 2017

2017 Session – Week 7

The message some are sending out is “we want a massive tax increase now!” when they demanded support of Substitute for House Bill (Sub HB) 2178. The bill would have been the largest tax increase ever, even more than the sales tax increase in 2015 (which I did not support). This huge, half-billion per year tax increase would have been retroactive, starting 1/1/2017. You might not think that is a big deal, as we are only in the second month of the year; however, it could take two to four months to implement. You would have to decide whether to increase your withholding to handle the increase for the entire year, or owe a lump sum at the end of the year. This tax increase passed both chambers but was vetoed by the governor. His veto was upheld in the Senate.

Sub HB 2178 was bad policy. I voted against this massive tax increase and to sustain the veto. Some legislators didn’t know the amount of tax increase or that the bill was retroactive; they just knew that it was a tax increase and it would “stop Brownback’s 2012 tax policy.” As legislators, our job is to govern. Understanding the policy that we are voting on is critical. It appears that too many people are putting political sound-bites before sound policy.

The last week before the halfway point of session, both chambers raced to pass legislation to the other chamber. This is not a good way to conduct business. To make it worse, Tuesday the Majority Leader told senators they would have six more bills to debate on a day they had already been working 17 bills. This would give us less than two hours to prepare for debate and request any amendments. I strongly requested that leadership reconsider this reckless schedule so that we could be more diligent in working the bills. The expedited process is not a good way to conduct the State’s business.

One such example is Senate Bill (SB) 154. The bill seemed fine but after reading it, I found that the only way to file a complaint with the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability (KDADS) would be via KDADS ‘hotline.’ You could not write a letter, email, or submit a complaint in any other manner. Why should there be a law requiring you complain via a phone call to a hotline? There were 38 Yes votes and 2 No votes. I voted No.

Another bill that needed work but also passed the chamber is SB 144. It would prohibit the use of hand-held wireless devices in construction and school zones. Distracted driving is already against the law. If we try to list every type of distraction, we are bound to miss something. I voted No. The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 21 Yes and 17 No.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your 12th District State Senator.

Caryn

Office Telephone: 785.296.6838

Telephone: 913.898.2366

Email: Caryn.Tyson@senate.ks.gov

Patty LaRoche: Beauty Salons to Boats

God delights in beauty salons. And if that isn’t true, I think it should be. After all, few places offer better therapy. Hairdressers will tell you that salons create connections. And that’s what God loves to do: Connect.

Here in Mazatlan, Mexico, I was recently in Tippy Toes, a salon owned by Debbie Rodriguez and known for its Margarita Wednesdays. You read right. Men and women book weeks in advance to be part of the mid-week fiesta for their pedicures, manicures, and haircuts. And, of course, free margaritas.

Debbie spent several years in Afghanistan establishing a beauty school for the oppressed women of that country. (I highly recommend her book Kabul Beauty School which tells her incredible story of courage and determination.) A few chapters allude to her fight against sex trafficking. I was intrigued. On my second trip to her salon, I told Debbie about my son Adam’s involvement in that field. She was intrigued. Three weeks ago, two YWAM (Youth With A Mission) missionaries came into her shop and began sharing their vision for preventing Mazatlan’s youth from being recruited by the drug cartels. The two ladies are just starting to dab into the trafficking business.

Connection #1

Debbie contacted me, and yesterday Heather and Andrea came to my condominium, and for three hours I listened as they explained their involvement in discipleship—growing young adults into a deeper walk with the Lord so they can use their talents to advance His kingdom. YWAM’s outreach in Mazatlan is exploding. They build houses for the poor, meet with state officials to teach Biblical principles to fight corruption, work to change laws that affect the youth involved in crime, offer medical assistance where there is none and share the gospel.

The ladies’ stories were uplifting, but the one that excited me most involved a couple who, sixteen years ago, was led by God to sell their house, buy a one-hundred- foot boat and raise their family on it. Their friends and relatives thought they were nuts, yet they never gave up their vision.

Last year they were in Hawaii and saw a docked YWAM medical ship. That was it! They immediately knew what God had planned—they were to donate their boat. Long story short—it was delivered to a nearby marina this past week. Dave and I were there when the missionary team welcomed it to Mazatlan. The plan is to gut it and reconstruct it to be a floating medical facility. Their prayer is for the right people to get involved.

Connection #2

Our friends George and Barbara have lived on their boat for five years, and yesterday they docked at the same marina. George is excellent at working on boats. I asked if he would be interested in helping to prepare the ship for ministry. He is.

Connection #3

God didn’t stop there. Yesterday I heard from Heather who had received an email from Debbie. Her newest salon customer is a retired attorney who worked in sex trafficking and wants to get involved. They hope to meet with Adam’s team to work together to make a difference. So, the next time you think your trip to the beauty salon is all about you, think again. If you see it as a place of connections that delights God, you will be blessed beyond a new hairstyle or a cute pedicure. Next week I will share how my connections were just the starting point for a much bigger plan.

Patty LaRoche: Time to Sleep

Liz Szabo of USA Today wrote an article saying that teens are deprived of needed sleep necessary to “to learn and stay healthy.” Her evidence came from the American Academy of Pediatrics that urged schools not to start before 8:30 a.m. because teens are biologically programmed to stay up later than adults. Apparently 83 percent of schools begin earlier than the recommended time, and since students need 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep nightly, there is a problem.

Patty LaRoche

Ms. Szabo cited more research. “Adolescents who don’t get enough sleep are at a higher risk for being overweight, depressed and using drugs, according to the CDC.”

The experts have spoken; kids need more sleep. However, instead of adjusting the national school start-time, perhaps we need to zero in on the parents. You know, the parents who aren’t parenting. The ones who fail to monitor their children’s bedtime activities (and time). For the life of me, I don’t know why it’s so difficult to set a night-night time of, oh, say 8:30 for the little ones and 10:30 for the teens…and mean it. With those hours, the kids would have plenty of time to come home from after-school activities, eat, do their homework, and catch some shut-eye.

I read Ms. Szabo’s article and thought, Wow, how times have changed! In my youth, boys and girls crawled out of bed at 5 a.m. to milk the cows and feed the chickens. My brothers woke up at 4 a.m. to roll the Kansas City Star and deliver it across town on their bikes. They also regularly filled in for the altar boys who failed to show up for 6 a.m. mass. (Because we lived right across the street from church, my brothers were perpetually on call.)

Those of my generation learned hard work, responsibility and stick-to-it-iveness. And let’s not ignore the fact that they also made good grades and something of their lives. I can’t recall any of my classmates burning the American flag, having their mugshots on display in the post office or cheating on tests…Well, maybe that one’s a stretch.

But seriously, what might it be like if parents removed the three electronic devices their children use as bedmates, not to mention the television mounted to their wall? What if, instead, bedtime included a devotional, a Bible or their multiplication tables? My three grandchildren in Henderson, Nevada, started school at 7:15. They made excellent grades, played sports, were involved in several activities and managed to get some impressive scholarships when they graduated. In their home, bed-time was bed-time. Not social media time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics—remember, quoted by Ms. Szabo—wrote this in a separate article: “…parents should monitor their (kids’) media diet for both duration and content. Excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.” Hmmm…

Our children are a gift from God who has entrusted us to teach them about balance in their lives. By allowing them free reign with their techno-gadgets, we are doing the opposite. According to John 10:10, The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. What delight Satan must take in kids who idolize their social media toys instead of God. 2 Timothy 3:5 considers that a sign of the end times: People will be…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

I’m afraid that’s where we are, and unless the parents wake up, their kids won’t, either.