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Monday, July 25, 2011

Mexico Update from the US

Hello from Tucumcari, New Mexico (We have made it safely about halfway home)!

It was difficult to say goodbye to the few remaining kids this morning (most had already left for vacation--the home shuts down for a couple weeks to let its staff take a break and has the kids stay at other homes or with a relative if they have one). At first when we said we were leaving they thought we just meant back to the house, but when they understood we meant to the U.S. there was a visible change in some of their expressions. One boy, in particular, went from a relatively neutral expression to one of visible upset. I could tell he understood that we had to go but that it hurt him still to see us leaving. I am definitely planning to come back if only to see that one little boy.

Once we got across we had a very long day in the van. God did provide some beautiful weather to drive through including some distant thunderstorms, pretty rain-showers, and some gorgeous sunsets over New Mexico mesas. (I suspect Dawn will post some of those photos).

I would ask that you all pray that each of us can sleep deeply tonight, wake rested and recharged in the Spirit, and that we all be peacemakers and at peace in Christ all day tomorrow. Thank you for your continued prayers!--Brandon

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mexico Last Night in the Cancha Videos

Here are three videos of our last night playing with the kids in the cancha--they are pretty fun (especially the first one).  Enjoy!--Brandon

Video 1:

Video 2:

Video 3:

Mexico Update (Last Evening Here)

It's our last full day in Juarez--we will cross the border and begin our return journey tomorrow; it is not, however, the last day of this trip.  The Spirit will still be using us on the return trip and after.  I would request that you pray that God help us be sensitive for when and how to share about how He has worked here and to help us treat every day as it should be--surrendered to Him.  This place is amazing, and the children are even more so...  they are precious beyond words.  I cannot explain to you how it feels to see their cute eyes and huge smiles as they sit down and pull your arms around them.  Even the most disruptive ones--especially the most disruptive ones--want to be loved.

This morning we played with the littlest boys--the most disruptive group of all--so that the dorm mother (hermana) could clean the bathrooms for them.  I watched as one of the more disruptive little ones at the time got knocked down and started crying.  When Dawn came near he raised his arms and she held him as he cried.  However, long after he had finished crying he refused to let go and clung tighter and tighter to her.  The precious nature of the moment and his deeper need were so evident that it hurt.

This evening we played in the cancha for the last time with the kids.  They had found a pool of water under a bus from the storm the other night and were running around enjoying the change of pace.  As they played a few got too cold and I had to help run them inside with some of our ladies so they could clean up.  One of the most disruptive boys of all didn't want to change because he wanted to stay outside so he found a towel.  Shivering, he came up next to me and huddled into my side to stay warm.  As we sat there I helped him cover his head and put my arm around him.  Long after he had warmed up he continued to sit there; this young kid who loved to be loud and make as much trouble as possible really just wanted to sit with someone quietly who would put their arm around him.

God is an amazing God, and His story and love are beyond words, and I pray that these truths would be clear to these little ones and to all of those who walk by the house we stay in here late at night.  So many walk by to smoke marijuana, do harder drugs, find comfort in the opposite sex, and try to find something that fulfills them in this life.  So often too I can go through my day living for my kingdom, worrying about foolish fears, and ignoring the true life God freely gives me and His providence.  Though I don't embody Christ nearly enough I dearly wish that I could show those who have never seen what little bit He has shown me, and I hope that I can live more and more for Him.  It is so hard, yet it is so simple...  Dear God, help me let go of the reigns to you, to surrender, follow, and be transformed by your Spirit.  I pray that I may let go of my foolish worries, fears, and selfish pride and walk hand in hand with each brother and sister across the world--that they may know we are Christians by our love and by our oneness in you even as you prayed for us before you died.  Thank God for the humbling honor of being used by Him for His Kingdom.  May we all be forever amazed as we are part of it as it advances...  as we are part of Him.  Thank God.

Mexico Update from Vicky

Dear friends,

Thank you for all your prayers and support for us and the people we come into contact with. I have especically bonded with Karen. She is only 9 years old, but she seems at least 14 I had thought because she is so good with taking care of the other kids, like a little momma. She is trying to teach me Spanish. Thursday, I felt led to share a short testimony of my life as a single mom to one of the groups we had been teaching a lesson and craft. I wanted to share with them how even though things can be bad God can turn it around for good to give you and your family a new good life. I love you forever and always Teagan, my daughter. You are by far the greatest blessing from God to me. Chelsea, one of our group, inspires me so much with her sweet spirit, patience, servant's heart, Godly wisdom, and unselfish ways. She is an example of Jesus to me and a great blessing.

We all have sin in our lives, the question is will we choose to embrace it or God when He shows us a better way of living and if we will embrace God and let Him show us a better way. Will we embrace our own selfish will for a lesser life than God intended for us or will we obey Him for the greatest life of all beyond our imagination or dreams.

I am sad to leave, but I know the children here are in great hands with the loving staff and the Loving God.

Monday I got to catch Kimberly from the cement slide as she began to trust more as earlier in the day she would not even give me her name. My home is wherever God has me at the time. Rana is so unselfish and sweet. I was tying water balloons, for her I thought, but then she gave them all away. This is from the day of the water war. It was refreshing to see Patti get involved in enjoying the water war. At first, she seemed not to want to get wet at first as I squirted her a little and she screamed, and then Ben doused her with a bucket of water, and the fun began. I helped her lay in a stash of water balloons. I need to learn the string tricks from Chelsea as the kids really enjoy them. James is my tech man, when the internet went down he was the one to save my first post from being lost and saved it to the desktop. Brandon is our fearless leader with much Godly wisdom and insight and keeps us organized and on task although he wants us to have much input and is not a dictator at all. Dawn is my tech support as I use her labtop to post. Ben is the crafty man as his mom and him provided most of the craft ideas. God has put together a great team of believers. Chelsea has much Godly wisdom and when she speaks you definitely want to listen. She suggested for one of the lessons to read to the kids parts of Job 38. I read this passage myself after Brandon had read it to the kids in Spanish and it touched me so much that it made me cry.

Wednesday night, I had been wanting to sing worship songs, and had just asked James who was playing guitar if we could do this, and he said sometime when we have some time. Just then Becky and Adam came to the door and asked if we were worshiping, and I said I want to, and then we did. What a great time we had. I thought it would be great to do this for the kids, too, and guess what, Brandon was already thinking this too. I didn't even have to speak. God works so cool. It was great ministry for the kids hearts as a few of them broke down into tears as God touched them and we prayed for and comforted them.

Thursday, we had a fiesta including pinata and face painting. I wanted Patti and Karen to paint my face like a cat and then paint me wherever with whatever design that they wanted to. Most of us were painted up with God's glory and love by the children. We all love it and the designs were quite funny too as you will see as Dawn posts more pictures from her camera. Friday, we did a craft with the roots of the tree the bad things they had experienced and the leaves of the tree the good things they experience or like with the crosses they made earlier decorating the trunk of the tree. Kind of like how God gives us beauty for ashes. Here is looking forward to tomorrow and good night all.

Love in Christ,

Vicky Cowana

Mexico Update

Yesterday we had a good lesson (the kids listened more actively then they had yet all week) and we had a fiesta with pinatas and face-painting.  A few of the kids also decided that WE needed face paint, and that led to some 'interesting' results...

That evening I had a chance to get to know some of the littlest girls better.  One decided she was my teacher and had me do 'homework'.  Most of the others wanted what every little kid here wants--to play 'bolantine' or 'avioncita'.  Bolantine involves grabbing both arms of a little one and spinning them in a circle; avioncita is the same but with one arm and one leg so they can be like a 'little airplane'.

This morning went very well.  We had a much more difficult lesson (in terms of its emotional impact).  We had the kids each draw what they saw as the worst darkness in their lives (pain, sins, difficult things they have experienced, failures).  We also reminded them of all that God gives--from the stars in the sky and cool evening breezes to magnificent thunderstorms to family, love, and friendship.  We then asked them to draw that.  After reading a few verses about surrender and transformation (Luke 9:23 until end of thought and Romans 12:1-2) we drew a very large tree on a few large sheets of paper we'd taped together.  Earlier in the week each kid had made and decorated two crosses--one to keep and one for us to use.  We put the pictures they drew of their darkness in with the roots of the tree, we put the crosses along the trunk of the tree, and we put what they saw as the best things of God in the branches as fruit.  The final project was a perfect visual for transformation--their dark paid for by Christ on the cross (each had their own cross on the tree as Christ had died for each individual) and grown and transformed into God's best by the Spirit.  (We discussed that this transformation happens as we surrender our lives and follow--embodying faith/trust in Christ; an earlier lesson was on trust in Christ within relationship with Him).  The staff had us hang up the final project on the wall.

I could see in the eyes of some of the children that it was difficult for them to draw the dark in their lives--many drew weapons and pictures of violence, and a few had some teary eyes.  To my surprise, the youngest boys (who can be some of the biggest troublemakers) actually wanted me to re-read the verses on transformation and read more to them!  I could feel God's Spirit move at times in the lesson and see in some of the children's eyes that they understood it--at least in part.  Thank God for such a morning.

Afterward we took a group photo and prayed over the children.  On our way out of the building, one of the staff told me that she really wanted prayer for her and the other workers...  so we offered to pray for them and she assembled the staff.  During this time I REALLY felt the Spirit move; one of the staff even broke down and cried--praying in Spanish.  I couldn't fully understand her words through the sobs, but I could feel in my Spirit that she was dealing with some intense pain.  We prayed for them for quite awhile, and I prayed internally that God give me the words as I prayed for them in the Spirit in Spanish.  I must simply trust that He answered even though I only felt that I had partway gotten the meaning across that needed prayed.  Thank God for that opportunity as we felt Him move.

The rest of the day went well--we organized our things and gave most of our items to the office (the extra craft pieces that they could use and crayons, glue, paper, and other supplies along with a large box of maybe 100 bags of spicy Cheetos we had received from Joe's Addiction Coffee House).

While I was cleaning up this afternoon, I was VERY excited to hear the sounds of a full-out Juarez thunderstorm.  When a real one rolls of the mountains, they are VERY fierce and drop more rain than I have ever seen.  The wind blows like mad, and the rain rolls down in torrents.  It was beautiful.

To finish out the night we played with the children in the cancha.  I had quite a bit of fun chatting with several of them and was very pleased when a couple of the younger girls whom I get along with really well came over and sat in my lap.  One of them pulled my arms around her and promptly pretended to be a baby while the other pretended to be a concerned adult who was trying to care for her.  The whole thing was very fun and very sweet.  They are such beautiful little girls--I don't understand on any level how anyone could not treasure them.  I realize that they may be treasured and merely have family who can't financially care for them, but that is not the case for all of the children here, and each one is definitely a treasure.  Thank God for the time with them all and for this evening.  Thank you and please pray for us as we finish our time serving here and prepare to cross back to the U.S. and travel home in a van with a leaky fuel neck.  Buenas Noches!

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Greater things have yet to come...and greater things are still to be done in this city!"

So, the past couple of days have been so absolutely chocked full of action and AWESOME that I haven't taken the time to update. But I would suggest that this is a good problem to have. :) I have been experiencing life here and enjoying every bit of what God has us doing in and through us.

We have had lessons and crafts with the kiddos every morning this week and in the evenings we spend time playing with them in las canchas. It is often very exhausting, but God always renews our energy! We have also had some enjoyable afternoon activities with the children at the home...such as a WATER WAR! Which was a perfect thing to do on such a HOT Mexico day! I think several of us agreed the phrase "hace mucho calor!" was SUPER appropriate for that particular day....however being pelted with water balloons and having buckets of water dumped over your head....definitely gave the afternoon a bit of a refreshing touch.

The next day (yesterday) SO MANY things happened! I must say, quite like last year, that a day here often feels like 2 or 3 days chocked into one! So many things happen and it just feels as though the days blend together...sometimes it is difficult for me to determine what happened on which day and if it weren't for my journal I would probably not have a clue! hahaha, it is so easy to lose track of time here...but, in a sense, that is part of what I enjoy about being in Juarez. A week can feel like a month... :)

After lessons yesterday morning and an afternoon spent with the kids in las canchas we, as a mission team, had a good bonding experience. Our friend Adam, who we met last year, and our new amiga Becky came over to the casita where we were relaxing for a little bit after dinner and before heading back to the canchas again. We had a really fun little worship session in the living room! Adam even used one of the empty water jugs to play "drums" on. It was pretty cool, so cool in fact that we decided to relocate to the canchas and sing with the children! This was ALSO a very good time...and very moving. At the end of the singing time some of the little girls wanted to pray for their families and different situations...and there were some tears. I don't know why it always surprises me when things like this happen, but one of the little girls who is the most rambunctious and needy when it comes to attention from the "Americanos" was one that broke down sobbing. God is truly at work here. There is no doubt in my mind, and he finds little ways to encourage me of this SO MANY times throughout the day.

After that, since we hadn't had much of a chance to hang out with Adam much yet and have been looking forward to doing so again since last year, Adam invited us and Becky over to his apartment (on the compound right there by the home) for a game night! IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! What a wonderful time to just take part of the night and relax and fellowship with our brothers and sisters! It was definitely a much needed change of pace, and a blessing to spend time with friends that we only get to see this one time a year...

We played games and pretty much danced the night away (quite literally) and at the end of the festivities we had the opportunity to visit with both Adam and Becky about what we could be praying for them about individually. It was a touching moment and one that I will never forget. What a tremendous BLESSING it is to know hermanos in Christ in a place far away from our everyday norm, who are still working for God's kingdom...still striving to make lives better for these kids....and to know we are all connected. The thought sincerely blows my mind and I PRAISE GOD for the opportunity to get to be here and witness light in this place, a place where I never thought I would ever find myself....and now I've been here twice! I am blessed beyond all reason to have this opportunity to connect with our familia here in Juarez, Mexico. I wouldn't trade these experiences for anything.

~Dawn Rickerson

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mexico Update/Prayers

While Tuesday was a good chance to chill with the water war we had with the kids (photo above), Wednesday was truly refreshing. The week had been excellent but very long, and it felt as though everyone was tired. The Wednesday morning lessons went well, and we had a break from the usual when we went to paint one of the rooms in the school for the early afternoon.

The change of pace was just what we needed. Afterward, we played with the kids in the cancha (playground) and had a wonderful supper.

That evening we were surprised by Adam and Becky who came over to visit us at the casita (little house) we stay in. Adam lives here at the home and helps with the kids and administration work. He has taken on a bigger role in the local congregation, as well. Becky is an El Paso student who has been visiting the home for the past three weeks. She may end up helping out here for a longer period of time in the near future.

Becky and Adam spent some time with us in worship; we had two guitars and a water jug that we used as a drum. It was a VERY relaxing time. (You can check out a video of part of it here: We enjoyed it so much that we decided to take the worship to the cancha for the evening with the kids instead of randomly playing whatever they want to in the evening (which is what we usually do).

This was one of the better moments in the trip for me, personally. I sat down and two of the little girls who I get along with especially well climbed into my lap to sing with me. One of them was on my left leg and one was on my right. Both of them pulled my arms around them, and the little one on my right put her tiny little hand in mine. It was a very sweet moment; I felt so very large and old compared to these tiny little precious girls in my lap. They were so happy to be there and so sincere in the easy way that they trusted me. I felt a burden to protect them because of how precious they are, and it made me realize that I definitely want to be a father one day.

After singing and having a very good time together, we hugged most of them good night and headed down to Adam's house. Adam had invited us to play games late into the night. We usually go to bed somewhat early to prepare for the next day, but everyone wanted to go, and I wanted to relax and have some fun, too (even if it cost a bit of energy early the next day).

We ended up having a great time chatting and playing on his Wii gaming console. For much of the evening we played a crazy dancing game that senses your movements and gives you a score. I think that many of you will find the videos of it quite funny, so I posted one here for your enjoyment: (

After we finished dancing, we gave Adam a small gift and prayed over both him and Becky. I feel that this was also one of the more important moments in the trip. The work that both do here is absolutely critical, and I felt very much led to encourage and support them. Thank God for that opportunity. :) I went to bed pleasantly tired and slept VERY deeply. It was an excellent respite and a day that restored much needed energy. That brings us up to today, which I will likely post about later.

Thank you all for your prayers; please pray that as we begin our last interactions with the kids that God be very evident and that they would desire relationship with Him. I think that the lesson tomorrow has very strong potential--pray that God help us help them see Him through it and through our lives.... Thanks again for coming with us in spirit!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mexico Update

While everyone was resting after morning lessons, I had the opportunity to play chess with two young people in the home.  To my surprise, one was a young man whom I had a very serious conversation with about his family last year and whom I was able to pray for.  I was able to ask him about it and also let him know I'd been praying for him.  It was a very unique opportunity--I think it really surprised him that I remembered.  Thank God for that small interaction.  --Brandon

Mexico Update/Disclaimer for previous post

Vicky strongly wanted to share with you about her healing and how it has enabled her to minister on this trip.  Since she felt it was valid and wanted to share it in the Spirit, I told her she could post about it.  I was unaware at the time that any product would be mentioned in the post, so I do need to make a disclaimer.  Unite does not have any relationships with Juice Plus and does not endorse this product (or discourage its use).  The post below that mentions it is solely the experience of its author and in no way is intended as an endorsement by our ministry or trip.  That said, we are excited that Vicky is doing so well on this trip and has not had to use many medications.  It has been fun to see how excited she has been interacting with all around her and how God has already used her.  I hope that clears up any confusion!--Brandon, Unite Ministry Leader

How God has healed me

I feel I must share with you how God has furthur healed me and prepared me for ministry. I no longer have ADHD, migraine headaches, dizziness, and prescription eyeglasses. I have quit several medicines with my doctor, Dr. Harris, two of which are blood pressure medicines, and I plan on quitting more meds with my doctor. I don't need the vitamins,etc. I had been taking. The heat doesn't bother me anymore. I sleep great for the first time in my life with no medicine for that. I am healthier now than I have ever been in my life. Praise God! I have all this energy I have never had before as before I was plagued by fatigue. I can hear God like never before. God has given me mega faith to pray for the blind to see literally. Wow, this shocks me too. God has provided this and more to me through Juice Plus, a fruit and vegetable supplement through whole food nutrition, that was introduced to me by Diana Fowler, a lady at my church, Liberty Christian Fellowship. Although it can take up to 4 months, God gave me results in 2 weeks, and I know God has more for me. My only regret is not knowing about this sooner. It costs $1.50/day. God has healed me to better prepare me for His Ministry, give me financial independence as I had not been able to work, and more income to further support God's Kingdom. Juice Plus is for everyone no matter what condition or age. If you are already healthy, you can get healthier, as God has a more abundant life for us that we don't always realize until we experience first hand. With each paid adult, you can sign up a child for free which the cost is shared by Juice Plus Distributors such as myself. We are not just distributors but also educators as well. I thoroughly enjoy this ministry of health that God has given to me to help others with their health through Juice Plus as well as praying for their healing. This child qualifies for free as long as they are still in school and have not yet received their bacholer's degree in college. Anyone can be a distributor of Juice Plus. I believe as I talked with Jamie Zumalt at Joe's Addiction, this would be a great way to help single moms and others in their community to get out their hopelessness, prostitution, and poverty. My website and phone number for more information is and 785-259-5052. We are having a Wellness Event on health, wellness, and fitness at Diana Fowler's house at 3405 Summer Lane in Hays, KS on July 26 at 7 p.m. I would be excited to share and answer any questions you have about the mission trip.
Love in Christ,
Vicky Cowan

Mexico Posts--Interact with Us!

Just a reminder--if you want to encourage us, share with us, have us pray for you, or ask us questions that we can respond to on this blog, email us at  Thanks again for your prayers!!!

Brandon's Mexico Update

Wow—it has been such an amazing trip so far it is difficult to put it into words.  From the minute we began it seems to have been loaded with powerful interactions with God and others.

On our way down (July 14) we ran into a hitchhiker who needed to get further down the road.  In praying about it I felt that we could help him without compromising the safety of our crew, and we had some very illuminating conversations with him about life.  All of a sudden, it sounded like someone hit us as a car passed us, so we pulled over.  It turned out that the treads had entirely come off our rear driver’s side tire, and our passenger helped us change it out.  As we were changing the tire he smoked a cigarette, but I thought I smelled something strange about it.  Sure enough, as we continued down the highway he showed signs of having taken something—agitation at sound, aggravation over bumps in the road, a vacant stare and mutterings.  It became apparent to those sitting near that we needed to pull over and let him off.  Interestingly enough, as I needed to figure out how to tell him that he couldn’t ride with us past this stop without angering him further (whatever he had taken had him very agitated at this point), we sprung a major leak in the fuel neck (the part form the gas cap to the tank).  Since he could see the fuel shooting onto the ground from the hose as we fueled, he didn’t want to ride with us for safety, so we were able to part ways peacefully.  After I had finished repairing the leak to the best of my abilities, he returned.  Since we were now only going to go into Oklahoma City and couldn’t drop him off in the country outside it, he didn’t want a ride from us.  He also seemed to have come down off whatever he had been on.  What he actually wanted to do was to apologize for having gotten angry earlier.  He said he’d been trying to change his life and become righteous but had been struggling for a long time.  As we chatted more, it became apparent that he genuinely wanted to be on a path towards change and was striving as best as he knew how.  After getting him some food we were able to pray for him as he walked off to camp, and then we limped on into Oklahoma City with the little bit of fuel we had been able to get into the tank.

This interaction with the hitchhiker was a very powerful example of how God can use the bad for good; the fuel leak actually was very much needed so that we could safely split ways with the hitchhiker, this man was 100 miles closer to home and had received food and prayer, we had help changing a tire (he gave us the idea to use a block so the jack would reach), and this interaction prepared us spiritually for much of what we would experience at Joe’s in Oklahoma City and even the stories we would hear in Juarez.

Yet our interactions the first day weren’t over.  At Joe’s Addiction in Oklahoma City, we talked with Chris (a local ministry leader who has been a believer for almost two years).  He told us a recent story about how God had powerfully used him and his abilities to help a local named Mike receive disability pay.  Though this sounds like a simple story, you HAD to be there to hear the emotion in his voice, feel the way the Spirit touched our hearts, and see the way that the groups’ eyes lit up.  God powerfully encouraged us by the way He was working in that situation.

The next morning, the Spirit again touched our group as Jamie (one of Joe’s owners) shared how God has been moving in the community.  I could see several in our group almost crying at points, and I myself held back tears a couple of times as Jamie shared how the Spirit moved in the lives of those in the community there.  Many of the stories were very similar to the situations the children at the home often come out of (sexual abuse, neglect, violence, drugs), and the connections were very obvious.  Throughout that entire day as we worked at Joe’s, many individuals in our group had powerful conversations that God moved in… but I’ll let them share about them.

July 16 was a LONG day of driving, but after some good conversations about the home and the church here we had supper and got to play with the kids.  Many of them remembered us and were VERY glad we were here.  It was good to be with them again.

July 17 after church service (which was powerful in itself—one can always feel the Spirit move mightily during praise and worship at this particular Mexican congregation) we had ANOTHER powerful conversation.  Joel (the principal at the home) shared with us the story about how he had been kidnapped for ransom and beaten last October.  He spoke of his faith and how he knew many were praying for him.  Even after being tortured, he said he slept deeper and more peacefully than he ever had before.  He shared that this experience brought his faith to life for Him and really showed Him God’s presence and providence.  Even more, seeing that most of his abductors were local teens inspired him for his work at the children’s home by showing him how VERY critical what they do is if the cycles of darkness are ever to be changed.  Our discussion with Joel was deeply encouraging.

That night we again played with the children and got to know more of the new faces of the home (while enjoying our interactions with the old ones).

Today (July 18) was powerful in different ways…  but I will let the others share more about that (Dawn just did in the previous post—you should read it).  In general, our interactions with the children were very good and very touching; it shows clearly in their faces that many are extremely happy that we still care about them and remember them.  I thank God that we can be here for them and with them—our little brothers and sisters.

Finally, I want to quickly mention two pertinent things from today.  First, when we went to a local store at the base of the hill we found out that it had been shut down.  After talking with some locals, it turns out that the owners had been threatened and didn’t have protection money so had fled.  This was actually very sad for me as I have had good discussions with that family each year that we come back.  It continues to highlight the difficulties in everyday life in this place.

Second, we had a couple of great conversations with Becky, an El Paso student who is here for a few weeks.  It is very apparent that God is using her to serve and build bridges between El Paso and Juarez.  Her heart clearly belongs to Jesus, and her passion for others and God is inspiring.  She shared many things with our group that inspired us and encouraged us, and we are very thankful for time that we get to spend with her.

Thank you all for your prayers— If you want to share something with us, encourage us, ask us to pray for you, or ask us questions email us at and we can hopefully respond on this blog.  Please keep praying—it has been VERY important already :)  --Brandon

Juarez, Mexico

I already feel sad and hate to leave, but I do plan to come back next year. I got to experience Kimberly as she began to trust me tonight as she jumped into my arms from the playground equipment and as I caught her as she went down the cement slide. I too tried this of course if you know me at all, and I greatly enjoyed this in God's providance as I slid down a bit out of control and did an Aikido roll over that I obviously do not know how to do yet but loolk forward to learning . It is basicly the same kind of roll over that I have done when out of control on rollerblades. It was good to see her open up as earlier today when we did the lessons and crafts, she was shy and wouldn't give her name. I was disappointed to not see them do the plastic, flattened trash can slide tonight but then as we were about to leave they brought it out Praise God, and I got to slide a couple of times. This makes me think of people like Eddy at Joe's Addiction that had their childhood stolen or damaged in some way. Eddy would do great working with children as he said he really feels drawn to children's toys because he didn't have much of an opportunity as a child for this. It was rewarding as the girl's wanted us to stay and show us their bedrooms and share more of their lives with us. We exchanged doing each other's hair. It was good to hear stories from Becky that despite the corruption here even from the police and government that God is alive and well in Juarez. Bye for now.

Love in Christ,
Vicky Cowan

"You wouldn't drive without a key, you can't live if you don't bleed..."

Once AMAZING day. I know I use that word a lot...but sometimes words just don't cut it in attempting to describe my feelings towards something like this trip. Experiences are often something not meant to be fully understood by anyone but those that actually feel them. However, I will continue to do my best to capture the full spectrum of emotions that occur in me here.

To be perfectly honest, I did not think I would have much to write about today...even in my journal, little did I know what God had in store for me today. It was a good and busy day to begin with.....we did a lesson and crafts with the children this morning, which was hectic but VERY fun for both us and them....

But beyond the time spent on art projects and goofing around....I had an experience this evening in las canchas that I think will forever change me. I am still trying to soak it all in and fully understand what I have just experienced merely a couple hours ago....

This young girl named Joseline, who I remember from last year's trip had tried to teach me spanish words and even wrote them in my journal while we were here, apparently enjoys my company VERY much. I recognized her instantly when we got here, and she is one that jumps at the opportunity to give me a hug when we show up. But this evening, was different for her and I. this evening was special.....and I did not even know it.

I was hanging out with some of the other girls when Joseline came running up to me saying something and grabbing my hand, pulling me away from the other children...all I remember understanding was "Muy importante!! Por favor!!" So I told the other kids "un momento!" As she pulled me across the futbol/basketball court. She took me to the side of the play area where nobody else was hanging around in, and pulled out a piece of paper. It was written in English and she explained that Brandon had helped her translate it. It appeared to be a letter written to our friend Adam from her....but I quickly realized the miscommunication between her and Brandon. This letter...had been meant for me, specifically. It expressed her love for me and how she did not forget me, even when I left the home. She specifically stated how she felt for me as a sister and how she loved me....and she asked if I would be her sponsor.

This took my breath away! The sincerity with which this little girl looked at me and after I read the letter...she began to speak. You must understand though, my Spanish is say the least. I understand broken words and phrases and I do not conjugate verbs well....AT ALL. I struggle with speaking though I understand better than I speak. However, tonight I wished more than ever that I could understand everything she had to say....

What I did understand, was she was asking me to be her "sister". To write her letters. Send her pictures....maybe even a "regalo" (gift) for Christmas....she likes bubbles and chocolates from what I understood...hahaha. She said she loved me and gave me a very sweet hug, as though she did not want to let go.

I nearly cried.

I then said in my best broken spanish "mi hermana" (my sister) as I pointed to her. She smiled, took my hand, and we sat on the steps near some of the others who were playing. She put her little arm around me and sat there speaking words that I only wish I could have fully grasped. But I understood when she said "te quiero" ....I love you.

A bit later she wanted to show me her "room", a bunk bed and area shared with the other girls in the dorm....we sat on her lower bunk and she got out her Bible and began reading me verses in Spanish...and explaining why she liked those verses...once again, I wish I could have fully grasped every word. But God gave me enough understanding for me to handle I think. Luckily, he also blessed me with a semi-decent memory...for I remember the verses and now have the opportunity to re-read them in English.... they were the first 4 verses in Psalm 23, I recognized that immediately. The next was the first 6 verses of Psalm 118. The next Psalm 117. And the last Jeremiah 3:6-10....she said something about the Pastor reading that before...It was VERY interesting.

She walked away for a moment to get something to write with and I sat on that bed trying my HARDEST not to could I explain to her why I would be crying? They were happy tears....but more amazed and touched tears too. This little Mexican girl, calling me her hermana....was sitting here reading the Bible to me in HER tongue...and talking away about it. I can not think of a more beautiful moment that I have experienced.....

~Dawn Rickerson

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hola from Juarez,

Thank you for your support and prayers for us and those God brings across our path. Today we went to church here at the Emmanuell Ministries church and played with the kids. I really enjoyed the whole service. Even though worship was in Spanish, I could sing along in the Spirit. Even though I know very little Spanish, God's language of love is universal. I rode a plastic, flattened trash can down a cement ramp and loved it and the kids and could have done it all night. At lunch, I learned that the speaker at church had been kidnapped October 20 last year for a day or two. The kidnappers had planned to take him from across the street from where we are now. He had a great testimony of how he had heard others tortured with him when he was blindfolded. How they usually don't keep you alive because they don't want to feed you. How people prayed and then the boss of the men who had kidnapped him for money called to let him go.He realized more than ever how important the ministry is for these kids so that they don't become kidnappers for a living. I too, agree and know I am where God wants me to be and I feel safe. I am so grateful and blessed to be here in Juarez.This trip has been full of adventure and God appointments from the time we left Hays. I believe I will be spending more of my life in Valleybrook, OK and Oklahoma City.That is where we hooked up with Joe's Addiction, a coffee house and oh so much more. They minister to many of the needs of the local community of Valleybrook, a city within Oklahoma City. Joe's Addiction has Vineyard Church as well as they are " the church" 24/7. They have a free store and food pantry. Joe's Addiction is part of Heart of God Ministries. This city is small in area but large in sin, corruption, and hopelessness of those who have been broken by life. They are some of the most receptive people to God's love and want to turn their lives around when they are given the tools and knowledge of what to do. Hands Up Ministries is just down the street from Joe's Addiction. Hands Up provides housing and guidance to previous prisoners and a large part of their population are registered sex offenders because this area is one of the few in OK and the nation where they can live because they can't live in a green zone. You can become a registered sex offender for as little as urinating in public. Everyone does not deserve judgment but God's love and mercy. You don't know what has happened in someone's life to bring them to this point. There go I but by the grace of God. Strip clubs, prostitution, alcohol, drugs, and corruption abound. God has placed Joe's Addiction in an opportune place for ministry. Heart of God Ministries also has Beautiful Feet Bootcamp where they train you for 6 months and then you do a 4 month internship for becoming a missionary. While at bootcamp, you also work at Joe's Addiction and live and do ministry at the Refugee Apartment complex. I would like prayer for Heather, Scott, Richard, Veronica, and others in this program of ministry. Jamie and John Zumalt, Jim, Chris, and other ministers at Joe's Addiction, I would like prayer for them. I would like prayer for people in the community at Joe's Addiction like Guymen, Lora, Casey, Lucy, Mike, Michael, Chuck, Eddy, and others. Chris was one of these people with a minor offense if he would have had 10,000 dollars for his defense he would not even have this label of registered sex offender. Now he is ministering to others at Joe's Addiction and also at Hands Up Ministries. He has a great testimony how God used him to defend Mike in court to receive his SSI. He says how is it that God would use him in this way after he spent years ignoring God. That is how I feel too who am I that God would use me, but I love it as I love God and God loves me. Despite my physical fatigue, I could have played with the kids all night, just like when I was at Joe's Addiction the night I led prayer and met Guymen who is only been out of prison a few days, what a God appointment. Ministry can be exhausting and yet at the same time the best energy, fulfilling ride of your life. I would not trade ministry for anything, just as I would not trade God for anything. Guymen, I know is another Chris sent to Joe's Addiction. I can't wait to hear how his testimony continues. Monday, we did lessons and crafts with the kids demonstrating God's love for us and how we can share God's love with others. I think we will be painting for the ministry as soon as we are able to find the person in charge of that. I am truly blessed to be here with this team. I know this is only the beginning for me in missions. It has been hard to wait this long, but it is truly worth the wait. Also we are missionaries always in whatever area we happen to be living at the time. God can use you wherever you are at if you just let him. Plus in order for us to do what we are doing now, you all are equally important in your role sending us with funds and prayers. We are the church with all parts working together in harmony. I can't wait to give you more details as time allows and as God unfolds the rest of the adventure. Would you please pray for my camera to go back to working. I am a big picture taker. Out of the blue for no apparent reason, as we drove by the White Sands Area of Texas, it just suddenly quit working. I know it is insignificant, but God cares about everything no matter how big or small. Thank you for everything.

Love in Christ,

Vicky Cowan

The coldest heart can be brought to life....

This first couple of days have been a blur of fun and exhaustion spending time with these adorable kiddos, and we have loved every second of it! One of the things I looked forward to the most, besides seeing those kiddos again, was Sunday morning church! I am so glad we got to go to at least one service while we were here this time! There is just something about the sight of children waving flags to the music, the feel of a thin layer of sweat under your clothes and hair only amplified by the feel of the fan circulating through the sanctuary, and the sound of worship and praises sang to our God in a foreign tongue. There is absolutely NOTHING like it!

It has been so wonderful to be here to play with these kids, you can tell just how much they crave love and affection. Don't get me wrong, they get love from the children's home, the staff there does SUCH a good job! But I know it is nice for them AND the children to have new people around....and they certainly seem to love us "Americanos" hehehe. We have had such a great (and exhausting) time with them playing each evening out in las canchas...and they always crave more! God just seems to give us renewed energy every time we go out there! It is a tremendous opportunity, and one of my favorite things is recognizing kids from last year and having them ask "me recuerdas?" ...."do you remember me?" One little girl asked me that and I did remember her from last year...she was soooo excited! What a blessing to see those little smiles!

Another thing about this night from the canchas.....if you look at the city, you can see the border lights and on the other side the light's of El Paso...on the side closest to you, which is Juarez is more darkness. What a picture! I have to say this though, as much darkness as there might be in Juarez right now...this place, this home, these children...are a light in this darkness. God is moving here in a mighty way! ~Dawn Rickerson

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bienvenidos A Mexico!

So yesterday, after a long....Long....LONG day of driving, we arrived in El Paso to meet up with our old friends Adam, Whitney, and Wendy. It was great to see them again! After a bit of visiting we began transferring all of our things from one van into two different vehicles we would be taking across the border......we filled the back of the vehicles with all of our luggage, musical instruments, crafts we brought to do with the kids, and a few things Adam and Whitney needed to take over to the home as well......we LITERALLY brought everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink!!! Here is our friend Adam loading it up!! We needed photographic evidence of it. ;)

The border crossing was fairly uneventful, the ladies rode with Whitney in her car and the guys rode in the suburban with Adam with most of the their vehicle was stopped at the border and the guys had to get out and be questioned for a minute while the soldiers looked in the vehicle. I guess they determined they were harmless musicians in their random check because of the trombone and guitars hahaha, so we were able to go on into Mexico!!

I can hardly explain the feeling of returning to Juarez!! Last year was my first mission trip to the home here...and it impacted me so much! So having this opportunity to absolutely priceless! I don't know how much I am changing things here....I just know I'm loving on these kids and it changes ME. As we drove up the hill past the church and las canchas and the home and arrived at the casita we stayed in last year....I hopped out of the vehicle and yelled over to the guys...."HEY WE'RE HOME!!" ...and it TRULY felt like I was returning home. I have this thing about falling in love with some of the places I have been and especially the people...and this is definitely one of those places. Walking back into the casita really did feel like I was coming home again. Then, after getting settled in, we headed down the hill (praying for renewed energy after our intensive day of travel)....and boy did we get it! Those kids were all over us! Most of them remembered us from last year and were calling us out by name. Lots of hugs were shared and lots of energy expended before we crashed for the night! It was well worth it!

I love being here :) ~Dawn Rickerson

July 17

Hello all!  I apologize for the break in posts; we have not had Internet access some of the times that we wanted to post, so I am logging on now to let you know that we did arrive safely in Juarez yesterday and are already feeling God's presence here as we interact with everyone.  We will be leaving for supper at the Lopez house soon and then will play with the children in the cancha (playground) shortly after.  Later tonight I hope to be able to give you a much more detailed update about some of the crazy ways it seems God has already been moving here on the trip.  We've had quite the adventure getting here, serving at Joe's Addiction and interacting with the  community there, and it's been really good to be with the children here again.  God willing we'll get some more photos and videos up soon.  In the mean-time, please pray that God help us be open to Him and his leading the whole time we are here.  Your prayers have already had impact on the way down :)

Friday, July 15, 2011


Today was another crazy day, but in a different way. You could really see the way God has changed people who have embraced Joe's Addiction coffee house, both in serving and in receiving blessings. The stories of what God has done in people's lives here and the pain he has freed them from is awesomely epic in every aspect. Listening to the stories of the way people's lives were transformed through faith in God's power was utterly captivating. Two hours seemed like minutes. It seemed as if the pastors here live by a quest to show the same love to the destitute as Jesus gave us 2,000 years ago. The Holy Spirit is and was guiding us whether we listened or not.
We made a good amount of friends even in just the last hours of our time tonight at Joe's. I was amazed to see the ministering that Vicky did to everyone that walked into Joe's. She is fearless in meeting new people and can break the ice so fast it will make your head spin. I think she impacted a tremendous amount of lives by sharing her faith. She is definitely a blessing to our group.
As far as fixing the van goes, we got a new tire and some supplies to replace the gas intake in case the patch doesn't hold. Our van still dribbles a little gas when we fill up but only enough to dampen the ground. So, we can really fix it unless we completely rip out the old hose, so the repair hose will be a backup plan.
God has definitely been guiding us to fix the van and He has been using the repair experiences to help us come into contact with people that we ordinarily wouldn't have met. We had a nice conversation with a store clerk in an auto parts store who was from Wichita but has family in Mexico. She was very helpful and encouraging.
Well, it's late and I had better hit the hay. Tomorrow (aka today) is going to be a long day which starts at 4am. We will be crossing into Juarez tomorrow. Pray for a smooth crossing and God's continual guidance. Good Night.

-Ben'jamin Galloway (once removed and twice born)

"The safest place to be is in the will of God." -Hugo Liborio

Light Starts In A Dark Place...

Thus far I have to admit that this trip has been far more interesting than even last year's! And it has only been the first two days! We haven't even made it to Mexico yet! But God has already brought us together as a team and really shown us that the only way a trip like this will EVER be successful is by HIS Providence. :)

Yesterday (1st day of the adventure) we ran into a few snags with the vehicle but we still managed to make it through! I will say this tho...I have never been in a vehicle before when the tread ripped off of a tire! That was so loud and a little scary for a moment because nobody knew what had happened til we pulled over! Thankfully we were able to (eventually) change the tire, in the heat, and got back on the road.

The adventure wasn't over! We finally made it to Valleybrook, Oklahoma (city WITHIN Oklahoma City) and spent a bit of time at Joe's Addiction coffeeshop ministry.....I think I'm in love with this place and the amazing things they do to help people get on their feet from rough circumstances! The people here love everyone that walks in and just share a genuine love of Christ with them without judgement. It's such a beautiful thing to me....this place is in the midst of such darkness and yet just shine's with the gorgeous and enthralling love of Christ. It is a place truly blessed by God.....

We have had an AWESOME time getting to know people, hearing their stories and learning more about how this ministry helps people out around here...including the way they help the community through their food pantry and "Free Store" where people can come find things that they need...and of course...THEY'RE FREE! :) It's a pretty cool ministry I must say!

Today we spent some time in the food pantry cleaning up and organizing a lot of donations and things that had been stored for a long time....I think it was a blessing to them...but most of all it has been a blessing to US. It has been amazing to me how minor my problems seem when I step into a situation outside of myself and see what other people have gone through. It is a pleasure and a blessing to be a servant to them.

Before shot above....

After shot below....

I am very excited to continue to journey to El Paso tomorrow and cross the border into Juarez!
~Dawn Rickerson

Mexico July 14th Prayer Requests/update

It is 1:24 a.m. on July 15th and I am very excited to clean up and get some sleep.  God certainly provided a very big series of adventures for us today, and it has been excellent to see Him work.  We will be excited to share them with you when we get a chance to catch up on sleep.  For now, please pray that we may find a cheap and safe replacement van tire, successfully repair the leak in the gasoline hose (from the gas cap to the tank), and that we listen and receive whatever exciting things God has for us tomorrow!