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Turning Pain into Peace

17 May

Marcelina with David, and Scott Simons and Cheri Steele from Terra Nova Church

I’ve never known the pain of losing a child, but through my counseling work I have met many people who have faced this life-altering experience. Recently one of my former patients lost her son as the result of a chronic ear infection that was never treated properly and resulted in an abcess in his brain. (The lack of resources and adequate health care here in Mexico could be the topic of another post sometime!)

On Mother’s Day weekend, this grieving mom accepted my invitation to join us and members of Terra Nova Church as we returned to Casa de Esperanza, a refuge for abused and abandoned mothers and their children. By being willing to move beyond her own pain, Marcelina experienced joy and peace that had been eluding her in the two months since her son’s death.

We thank Terra Nova for sharing their Mother’s Day with women in Mexico who really need to know that they are loved and valued and at the same time provide an environment where a mother’s pain could be replaced with peace.


For Roberto, Every Day is Father’s Day

15 Jul

The home Roberto is fixing up for his children

On a hill overlooking Ensenada, Roberto is working to transform his makeshift workshop into a home for his three children.  They were supposed to vacate the house they are currently renting more than a week ago, but the workshop has no windows or doors, and the walls and roof have cracks that expose the kids to the elements.

The interior of the workshop

Disabled in a work related accident and abandoned by his wife and the mother of his children, Roberto is an example of perseverance and commitment.  Even with the available option of placing his children in the many orphanages in our city, Roberto readily expresses his deep love for his children and refuses to relinquish his role as their father, despite the overwhelming obstacles they face every day just to exist.

The reasons Roberto perseveres to seek a better life

Roberto has fallen through the cracks of our government system.  Because he is a single father, and not a single mother, he does not qualify for any of the aid programs.  His attempts to solicit help from the goverment to build a small room for his family have met with lots of paperwork and promises, but no results.  However, our friend, Mimi Montoya, receives Roberto’s children in the Day Care she operates, where they play, learn, eat meals and hear about the love of Jesus.  She introduced us to him and now we are sharing their need with others who will be able to show Jesus’ love in real and practical ways to help this family.

Juan from EOC considering Roberto's house as a potential project

Through sharing Roberto’s need, our home church, other ministries in the area, the family crisis center and even some government officials have shown interest in helping Roberto obtain what he needs and build a safe and  adequate shelter for his small family.  But there are still many bridges to cross.

The waiting continues for Roberto and his children

Meanwhile Roberto and his little family wait.  Please pray with us that the necessary pieces would come together soon and that God would provide a home for this loving father and his children.  If you are led in any way to help, please contact us and we will give you further information.

Mother’s Day at Casa de Esperanza

17 May

The Terra Nova group gave each mom a beautiful and bountiful gift bag

For women who have fled with their children from violent home situations, Mother’s Day can be a bittersweet holiday. Separated from friends and family and living in a remote shelter setting, these moms can feel like they have little to celebrate.

Precisely for that reason, the families of Terra Nova church in Irvine, CA chose Mother’s Day weekend to celebrate the positive choices these mothers have made in providing a safe and nurturing environment for their splintered families. During the hours they spent at Casa de Esperanza, the group worked in teams doing construction projects on the facilities; games, crafts and stories with the kids; and varied activities with the moms.

The story of Jesus calming the storm (Geneva translating behind)

The women loved being pampered with haircuts and flat iron styling.  There was also a pizza fest celebrating a birthday from the home and one from the group, complete with lots of cakes, cookies and soda too!  Both the kids and the moms made crafts that were not only beautiful but meaningful as they reminded them of the truths from God’s Word shared throughout the weekend.

The picture frame craft that holds her family picture

Our family was privileged to be a part of this special weekend, through coordination and translation being able to facilitate the relationships being built between the families from both sides of the border.  Thank you Terra Nova and bless you for making this a Mother’s Day these women and their children will never forget.

These moms modeled their new hair styles as we said our goodbyes

GUEST POST: 20 years on with David & Karen

9 Feb

Hi Garcia fans around the world! My name is J (yep, just one letter) Steele. I’m on the Garcias’ board and even better – I’ve been friends with David and Karen for over 20 years! Cheri and I, David and Karen all knew each other when we were single. I first met the Garcias when I brought our church college group down to a camp near Ensenada called Rancho Aqua Viva. David and Karen were both on staff there and we hit it off right away. After we were all married and started our families we lost touch for a few years but then, (thank God!) we reconnected and have REALLY enjoyed their friendship.

I vividly remember the day we reconnected in person. Our family had just returned from a great vacation in Kauai but there was a nagging void inside me that determined to have more meaning and ‘others’ in the next family trip. I contacted the Garcias and we drove down to spend a weekend with them. We wanted to just live alongside for a short time, not do anything ‘special’ or ‘touristy’ and so they already had plans that we tried to fit in the best we could with our not-so-good Spanish skills. For those of you that have spent anytime with David and Karen, you know what comfortable hosts they are. We really felt at home and so we joined them and their community cleaning the beach and then a carne asada get-together. If memory serves, David gave me a chopping lesson and we had a blast! In spite of our poor language skills we could see right away that they were deeply involved in the lives of their community.

Heading to the Beach for a clean-up… Cheri & I are on the left

Since then we have stayed in touch plenty. They finally talked us into going with them to a retreat at Mt. Hermon about 4 years ago. We had heard of this retreat but couldn’t really figure out what it was about…until we went. Then we knew and we also knew why it was hard to put into words. Intrigued? Come! We knew before then, that Karen was a great translator but atMt. Hermon when we saw her translating simultaneously, we realized that she has a tremendous gift that is so vital for connecting people.

with David…

The Garcias also introduced our church to some of their friends and the ministries they are involved with in and around Ensenada. We now have an ongoing relationship with a battered women’s shelter because of the Garcias connections.  When I think of the Garcias I think of relationships. They are investing in their community and have affected so many people inMexico and wherever they go.

Cheri helping out with beach clean-up

Cheri in action during the beach clean-up

I’d like to end with a challenge / encouragement: head to Ensenada, grab a coffee at Café Tomas with the Garcias, join them for a day or two and live in their world. I’m pretty sure you’ll come away with a greater sense and awe of what God is up to. I know I do. Every time!

J Steele
National Christian Fellowship

Casa Bello Update

2 Feb

We are a week and a half into the house building project and it is amazing to see all that has been accomplished. The exterior is virtually finished and much of the interior too, such as the electrical and plumbing. Our friends at EOC/Yugo estimate that by the end of next week it should be completely done!

Today our friends at EOC/Yugo sent us their video blog on this project.  Our friend, Dina, speaks at the beginning and shares the heart behind this gift. We hope you will take two minutes to watch it.

Continue to pray with us, please, as we go into the final stretch of seeing this dream become a reality for the glory of God.

For the latest pictures of the project, see the links below.

> day 4 <

> day 5 : roofing <

> week 2, day 1 : shingles <

> week 2, day 2 : electric + plumbing <

David swinging a hammer on day 5...


Working Together

25 Jan

Sometimes a spontaneous comment or a seemingly impossible idea turns into a dream come true.   Here in Ensenada many of us are witnessing and participating in just one of those times…

One of our best friends, Dina, who is also our neighbor, our stylist and a member of our home church, became aware of a need around September or October of last year.  An older couple, the husband a blind Pastor, Bible teacher and counselor, had been hoping to build a house on a piece of land they had purchased.  An unfortunate set of circumstances eliminated that possibility, along with their hopes of ever having their own home.

David and Guillermina Bello

Dina shared this couples’ story with me and commented that she would like to see their house get built through the collaboration of as many people as possible who would be willing to give of themselves and their resources to bless someone else.  I immediately pledged my support sensing immediately that this was God’s heart too.

For the past four months our friend has navigated the myriad of details, many times confronting disappointment and apparent dead ends.  She has shared this dream with churches, ministries, friends, family, our Home Church and many have responded.

The truly gratifying part for us is to see so many people in our community coming together to work for a common goal.  Our friends from EOC/Yugo are providing the human and material resources to do the actual building.  A friend from our Home Church who works for the government was able to participate in getting the building permit…for free (something she was told the Mayor couldn’t even do for her!)  A local paint store owner donated some paint.  Many professionals have donated their services for free or at a substantially reduced rate for different aspects of the project.  Students from Dina’s father’s Bible School have worked throughout the process preparing the lot, helping to pour the slab and are now working after their classes on the construction phase.  Others from our Home Church are preparing food for the workers, helping with transportation…and the list goes on.

casa de bello home construction project ensenada mexico

Dina & Karen getting their hands dirty...

Jesus once told His disciples that the world would know that they were His followers by the love they had for one another.  My hope is that this house would not only be the home of a very faithful couple, but also a monument to what can be accomplished when we trust in God and live out His commandment to love one another.

View all the the photos for this project:

> initial meeting at the Bello lot <

early shots of the lot <

pre-building preparations <

day 2’s construction <

> day 3 : siding & windows <

Reconnecting with Casa Esperanza

8 Jan

Exactly two years ago God began the process of bringing lives together to love and serve.  Friends who are an extended part of the Reflejo Community heard God’s call to begin helping a local home for abused and abandoned women and their children.  As a result, Terra Nova church of Irvine, CA, NieuCommunities from San Diego, and Reflejo from here in Ensenada began working together to bless Casa Esperanza and assist them in their faithful ministry to these families in need.

The guys God used to get the ball rolling for the work at Casa Esperanza

Over these last two years we have been blessed to meet with the women, get to know them, share testimonies together, pray and even make tamales.  We have played with the kids and made lots of craft projects.  As people have used their gifts and skills, hair cuts have been given; cars and bikes have been repaired; a chicken coop was built and equipped; the dream of a library was fulfilled; as well as several construction projects on the facilities.  It truly has been amazing to watch what God has done through this united and cooperative effort.  Another rewarding aspect of the work here is that one family in our Reflejo community continues to go on their own each month to bring food, diapers and other supplies for the ministry.

Reflejo kids clowning with Casa Esperanza kids

During the time we have been connected with Casa Esperanza, we have seen God bring new and committed people to serve full time with this ministry.  It is so exciting to see the fruit that is God is producing through the faithful service of these individuals and families.

I have corresponded with a couple of them and today one of the Co-Directors sent a message and included a link to his new blog:

I pass it on to you as it really shares in words and pictures the heart of this important and much needed ministry.

Mothers and their children at Casa Esperanza

We are expectant for how God will continue to bless the work of Casa Esperanza and all those who live and serve there and likewise, how He will lead us to be involved in that process.

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