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Hi :^)
our dogs and me in our front yard
So much has gone on the past few weeks that it is mind boggling to think about writing it down but we want to let you know how everything has gone, so here goes...

After we got back from Kathleen's (Tim's sister) wedding

Kathleen, Dan and their bridesmaids
Kathleen (left),  bridesmaids and Husband, Dan
in SC, our main project was preparing for three upcoming conferences.  We spent a lot of time reading and trying to distill the essentials of youth work in the mexican context into two 50 minute presentations.  One of our goals was to not just TELL how to do it, but to MODEL a more interactive and creative style.  We also wanted to give them some really practical handouts, stuff they could use the very next sunday to improve whatever they were already doing. Our tutor, Dora Luz, translated 8 pages of games for one handout, I put together 5 pages of resources, and Tim worked up a handout with specific instructions to make any Bible lesson more active and applicable to the youth's lives.
Dora Luz Flores - our tutor and friend
Annette with our tutor, Dora

On Thurs., July 9, we were off and running:  we drove in to the airport early to pick up our friends from Florence, Scott and Emily, at the airport in Mexico City. We were tired from the push of getting everything ready for the conferences. They were tired after leading a two week high school missions trip, but we just had to take them to Mexico City's main plaza to see the Cathedral and the Diego Rivera mural in the national palace. Ducked into the National Palace of Fine Arts to see the architecture, ate at Sanborn's house of tiles, and even paid a guide to explain the cathedral to us.  Then we drove back to Toluca and got a good night's sleep. 

Scott Murphy, Emily Smith and us
Scott, Emily and us

Friday we all left early to drive to our first conference in Jilotepec, Mexico.  Because it's the rainy season everything was green, which made the drive lovely.  Having never driven the road to Jilotepec before, we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there (knowing that a drive is 45 miles isn't all that much help in knowing how long the trip will take because of the inevitable curves, speed bumps, and slow moving semis.)  We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived within an hour... but then almost had to turn around and go home.
Any time we leave town we have to put our problem solving skills into practice.  At each conference we dealt with different kinds of problems and stresses, in Jilotepec we almost had to turn around and go home because we couldn't get a hold of the pastor or find the church.  All we had in the way of contact was the pastor's first name and telephone number.  Tim had called the pastor the day before and gotten through just fine, but when we reached town and tried to call the number wouldn't go through.  We drove around the little town looking for the church (a needle in a small haystack is still a needle in a haystack) but had no success.  We didn't know what to do next. We were parked outside a hotel and after praying for guidance, Tim looked up at the hotel sign (which had a telephone number) and saw that it had only 5 digits - *AHA* - we'd been dialing 6 a digit number like the numbers we have here in Toluca, but apparently they have a 3 digit area code and a 5 digit local number (and we were calling locally.)  He jumped out of the car, called, it went through, and we were only a few blocks away from where the conference was being held.


We met up with Steve Young, the conference organizer who like us trains youth workers. He works for Reach Out Ministries (based in Atlanta) and is moving to Mexico in January.  Emily and Scott had the experience of being in a Mexican family's home and we were served a really great lunch.  The conference took place in one of the two small protestant churches in town.  There were a few pastors, a few lay people who work with youth, and the other 25 people in attendance seemed to be church members who came because something was going on. The first night Steve Young gave several really good talks (all unfortunately poorly translated) and two Mexican girls from my Bible study (Gaby and Vero) lead a game.

Vero, Gaby and Annette
Vero, Gaby and I
Saturday morning the girls led more games and Gaby, Scott and Emily briefly told how time spent with someone in a discipleship setting had deeply impacted their lives. Tim gave a talk entitled "Youth: the key for the church in the 21st century" in which he stressed the importance of working with youth and of addressing their specific needs and cultural context.  The talk starts out with an icebreaker - "Signature Hunt" - which introduces all of his main points.  It also includes a skit in which the people who got the most signatures in the icebreaker act out the roles of parents and youth to show the differences in the cultures.
Tim also discussed the findings of our survey of youth workers and led up to my talk by getting the audience to say what they are most in need of in their work with youth (from our survey and their responses it is always resources.)  So then I followed with practical helps in the areas of developing a vision statement, understanding a basic model for youth ministry (Steve also did a great talk on this and ours dovetailed well.) We walked them through our handouts on creating fellowship, resources, and active learning.
youth conference
one of the youth conferences at which we spoke

In the active learning section Tim leads a powerful exercise where he calls about 8 people up front who don't know the others in the group. He has them all say their names and then asks if anyone can remember all of their names.  Of course no one can remember since they all said their 3 or 4 names, like "Maria Guadalupe Fuentes Carranza,"  quickly and quietly. Next they have to say only their first name and an animal that starts with the same letter, like: Tim Tarantula. After this usually one or two people can remember the names but never the shyer people. Then  they play imaginary volleyball saying their names as they "serve" to each other (Maria Monkey serving Carlos Crocodile.)  Tim makes sure that they have all served to everyone and then asks them to say everyone's names.  Everyone has a really good time through the whole process and at the end everyone can say all the names.  It's a vivid example of how active learning is more effective than just hearing something once.

We had asked Gaby and Vero to come to the conference to help us evaluate it.  They said that it was a really helpful time and we felt good about it.  We took off with Scott and Emily immediately after our talks for a trip to Oaxaca in south of Mexico.  We had a great time talking in the car on the way down and back, and the scenery was really incredible.
Two days after returning we presented our workshops at two other conferences in two different states. So there is a lot more to tell but so as not to bore you, we'll call this the first installment and continue later.


 Thanks for your prayers!
BYE - thanks again for caring!

(for both of us)
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