Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Progressive Connections

One day, while driving the moto past a hillside of rubble, rocks, glass, and a chicken or two, we saw a gang of kids playing. We dubbed them “The Hillside Gang” and prayed about bringing them shoes, as we saw none on their feet.

The next time we passed by we stopped and struck up a “conversation” with a few of the kids, traced their feet on paper, and promised to return with zapatos. After some quick shopping, we brought several children brand new zapatos, and they rewarded us with huge smiles and hugs. It was fun driving by “The Hillside Gang” after that, and seeing them running around with shoes on their feet.

After a few months, we stopped by again with shoes to replace the ones that were falling off their feet, and many of the parents came to meet us. We noticed a little girl in desperate need of new shoes for school. We took her photo, and prayed for money to buy

her some school shoes. The next day, we got word that some dear people sent us shoe

money! One problem…. we didn’t know the little girls name, we only knew the area she lived in. But, we had her photograph and knew what she looked like.

On a random errand to buy something from a local store, Greg was surprised to see the little girl in need of school shoes standing next to him, so he was able to get her name. The very next day we saw her walking down the street with her mother, and we were able to set up a time to take her shopping for shoes. Her mother entrusted her into our care, and she went with two virtual strangers to go shopping.

That excursion led to 2 more school shoe shopping excursions, with parents entrusting their children into our care. From that experience, we were invited into the home of one of the children, and soon after that we were invited to a birthday party.

From total strangers, to occasional contact, to being entrusted with the children of others,

to an invitation into a home, to a family party, God is making connections for us.

As we seek to be used by God, to be an extension of His love, He is going before us and lighting our way. We marvel that He would use a couple of incompetents like us to do His will, and are humbled beyond belief by His grace in doing so.

One glance, one child, one foot, one shoe, one life… in a sea of people, He continues to make the world a beautiful place transforming one heart at a time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Connecting, connecting, connecting!

These photographs are all about connecting!
One of our connections has been Benito and his family.
As we go into the communities here, our constant prayer is that we will connect with people on a more consistent and long term basis. God blessed us with one such connection in Benito.
As we handed out shoes with the "New Jersey Girls" , one man approached us and asked in very limited English if I (Natalie) was a Christian. After a brief and hilariously stunted conversation, we said goodbye to our New Jersey friends, and Benito led us through a maze of houses. (Well, houses is a relative term here. They were more like little tiny rooms sprinkled all over with maybe a wall or two and a hammock!)
Anyway, we visited Benito's "dwelling" and as the smoke from their cooking pit kept the pests away, he proudly showed us his sons certificate of baptism and explained he and his wife are recent Christians. He also showed us a family photo album, minus a cover, and his prize possession, a Bible. Benito's shoes were barely staying on his feet, and although we usually just supply shoes for children, we promised to return with shoes for their whole family.
One sweet connection!
Another picture shows Miquel. We had no shoes for Miquel, but he gave us gifts of little shells he collected and glued together in the shape of small animals. We returned to bring Miquel shoes, and he gave Gregorio a prized stuffed animal. How can we out give a heart like that? He is another sweet connection.
Finally, there are two photos of Ajani, one with his sister Maria. We have supplied shoes to them several times over the last year and a half and never met their parents... until last week! We finally met their mother who was so very thankful that Jesus came to send the gift of shoes to her children through a couple wacky gringo's. Another sweet connection.
One foot, one shoe, one word, one heart at a time... we keep connecting! Thank you so much for your prayers and giving.

"And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;" Matthew 18:5

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blessings from another Country

Greetings from Isla.

As we enter another season on the Island, God keeps blessing us with shoes from all around the country. We had three ladies from New Jersey come down with 60 pairs and also clothing for a special family. It is always fun to watch others bless the community here and take photos of them. We get to interact with the recipients rather than have your head down and fitting shoes. Another donation came in from Oregon that allowed us to buy from the local merchants around 120 pairs of shoes. That was such a neat evening as Elly usually sees us line up 25-35 pairs of shoes in one buying spree, but this night we just kept lining them up and she thought we were joking with her. We finally ran out of the types of shoes we feel are the most durable for the kids and told her we needed more. She was almost dancing in the street as we handed her the pesos and told her we would be back when she got more in. With this approach, we have found that it is a double blessing as we bless the shop owners by spurring on the economy here and then give them away around the Island. Our one purchase paid her rent for the month and then some.

We were blessed this past weekend with a visit from our dear brother and sister in the Lord from Truckee, CA. They have moved to Belize and are ministering to the locals and helping out in the school. Jim and Anna encouraged us more than they will know with thier fellowship and worship over the weekend. They went and did a shoe drop with us on Saturday night and then had church here in our casa. Thanks you guys and we hope we can come to Belize and bless you half as much as you did us. A few more tourists are starting to show up but is is really slow here. We keep noticing the beach vendors are disappearing one by one as they return to thier home towns since the trade is almost at a standstill. We pray that they will be able to come back and reconnect with us as we have made some neat friendships and miss seeing them coming down the beach from day to day. We continue to keep our eyes fixed on the Lord and do what He asks of us each day, which is to LOVE these people. This is what we want to do as we keep trusting in Him for our provisions.

Friday, September 11, 2009

We Can't Do It All But We Do What We Can

This is a difficult time for the people of Isla Mujeres. Between August and November, the people struggle daily with earning enough money just to feed their families. They never complain, but they share their hopes that perhaps "tomorrow will be better", and they will ALWAYS say, "It is a good day, I have my family." Family means everything to the people here, who don't have many material things. They believe that their family ties make them rich! And to watch them, we know that it's true! They cherish each other in beautiful ways, and spend most of their spare time together playing and hanging out. They do, however, share their concerns that they may not be able to keep their kids in school during the "slow season" here. School is not free, and they must have uniforms and shoes to go. That is where we come in! We were blessed, not only to bring a load of practical shoes to a new community last week, but we also found out about 6 kids who needed shoes for school. What a treasure to be able to provide that basic need. The kids were THRILLED with their new shoes, and we want to thank all of you who have made it possible for us to go and do shoe ministry. Your donations enable us to reach out into the heart of the communities and the people. The parents are also mightily blessed when their children benefit from shoes. The close family ties make them want to provide for their children, and although giving them a pair of shoes may seem like a small thing, in the end it frees them up from one more financial burden. Giving shoes to the children says to the precious people here that we care, and your regular giving enables us to maintain a constant presence. We can't thank you enough for your prayers and support. The children always look forward to seeing Gregorio and Natalia drive up on their moto with new shoes for little feet.
Like the title says, "We can't do it all, but we do what we can." Helping people get one more day down the road of life.
Sending Love From Mexico,
Gregorio y Natalia

Monday, August 24, 2009

Time Management

Well, another month has almost passed and new adventures keep coming our way. Since the passing of my father in June, we have had some down time to look at life with a different view. Thinking about the things that weren't said, the things that should have been said, or just the things that seemed important to get done with my father that did not happen. The final week that we spent with him was remarkable to say the least. Nothing really mattered anymore except to love on him and to enjoy every passing minute we had together, knowing that his final days were near. Now that we are back in the groove of things here on Isla Mujeres, we find ourselves approaching life in a whole new way.

Removing anxiety from our lives is a big one, as Mathew says in Chapter 6:25, "Do not be anxious for your life." Mathew 6:34 says"Do not be anxious for tomorrow." In Luke 12:25 the scriptures ask, "And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?" I feel that Philippians 4:6 says it best, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

We worry about a lot of trivial things during our life span, and to no avail, it usually comes out differently than we had assumed, predicted, or desired after we mulled it around for hours, days, even weeks at a time, and for what? Hoping for a better, easier way of life here on earth? Desiring our walk be a bed of roses all the time? Maybe a truck load of money will be dumped into my garage today and everthing will be OK. Our children will never do anything that might rock my pride among the community members.

Philippians 4:7 gives us the support we need from being anxious, so read verse 6 again from above and then meditate on this one for awhile. It says in verse 7, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehesion, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." That is a promise we can dwell upon until we see Jesus face to face, yet one thing is still required of us to have this truth dominate in our life. We must apply verse 6 day in and day out. We take those anxious thoughts and turn them towards heaven in our prayers daily, with thanksgiving. Life might not get any easier, but we sure can enjoy Gods peace through it all.

Time Mangement you might be asking? We all have the exact same number of hours per day to try and achieve our goals, missions, fulfill our dreams, etc. Are we doing it with Gods peace each step of the way or are we striving in our own strength, abilities, or desires? The two of us have taken the approach of starting the day saturated in Gods word each morning, praying, and then deciding between the two of us, what is the most important things we have on our plate today. Natalies job is always on the front burner so that we can continue to reach out in the name of Jesus to the the locals here. After that 4 hours is set aside, we get to ask God to bring us ministry each day, large or small. He has shown us that all we need to do is simply step out the door and be a conduit for His love to flow through. I know that everyone does not have the same work loads as we do, yet we wonder if we are all willing to allow Gods' love to simply flow through us no matter where we are? Can it flow freely if we are anxious, stressed out, burdened with the worlds problems, struggling in our marriages? That can only be answered by each of us as we take it before Him and ask him to fill us with His peace that surpasses all comprehension so that it will guards our hearts. Time Management, lets see, if I can remove 2, maybe 3 things from my plate today that are not pressing, and they each might be a 1 hour job, oh my goodness, I have an extra 3 hours to spread out and use for the other tasks at hand. I might be able to stop and show "The Toms and Sarahs of my life" a peace that dwells inside of me by actually taking a few minutes to talk and love on them.

Time management here on the Island to truly different than anywhere we have lived. We still face the struggles of life, just on a different level. No matter the level, Gods word still stands firm for us in these trying times we face. Finding time to observe the drag races they held last weekend on the air strip. Time to hold Natalie's hand and stroll along the beach with her to hear her thoughts and in the midst of that, still take the time to say hello to each person we meet as we walk.

It is a special time for Natalie and I here on the Island as we continue to seek out His will in our time management. We don't want to miss the wonderful things He has for us due to our trying to keep up the "JUST GET 'ER DONE" mentality that is so easily slipped into during our walks of life.

Here are a few photos from this last weeks TIME MANAGEMENT we got to experience. Hoping your time is being managed in a wonderful way as the days continue to slide into the FALL SEASON of 2009. Oh no, did I say Fall? Yes another year is headed for the history books and we hope is has been a good one.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

You are now my true Mayan sister

Oh what a treat to have gotten invited over to Alex and Cecilias' home for an evening of sharing and giving. We brought back some very basic gifts from the States for them as a gift of love and as usual, we are the ones that walked away blessed. As we were giving them the shoes, a basketball, necklace, and other little things we brought them, they were filled with anticipation for something that blew us away. As soon as the opportunity arose, I looked up and saw Cecilia , with her older sister dressing Natalie in an authentic Mayan outfit. They took such pleasure in wrapping her all up from head to toe and then stepping back and saying,"Now you are my true Maya sister." They are a Maya family that believe in Jesus and attend the Assembly of God church here on the Island, so this was a very special moment for us to be a part of. We have birthday parties to attend in the days ahead, had Samuel and his precious family over for pizza and gave his two daughters new shoes the other night. These connections continue to provide us with avenues to learn more about this wonderful culture as well to love on them in the name of Jesus. Little Thomas.. the young boy who we had reached out to many times just down the road from our home has left the Island along with his family. They sold seashells along the road at this end of the island and we always looked forward to waving to them everytime we rode pass. One day, they were not there... no biggie, we will see them tomorrow... well some 14 tomorrows have passed and we have seen a new elderly man there selling shells in their place. They have had to move on to who knows where to make ends meet, and we are once again reminded that we need to make every opportuniy count because we might never get that chance again in Gods economy. We pray for the seeds we planted and that they are well. We are finally getting back to the Island pace of life after being in the U.S.A. for almost a month, between the two trips made in June and July. Life is very slow here and we realized how precious it is once we were gone from it. It was great to see so many faces of the past and we look forward to the future that is held in the palm of Gods hand for us, when we will all be reunited for the final call to sit and worship Him for eternity. Thanks for your prayers and support.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Images of Isla

We are in the states today, catching up with friends and family, but ever mindful of the friends on the island. Cecilia, on the far left, is a Mayan woman we have the joy of knowing. She has 3 children and is married to Alex. Thanks to God and His precious people, we have been able to provide her children with shoes. She walks the beach all day selling handcrafted goods from Chiapas, and some days goes home without a sale! But... she believes in Jesus and that He is a rewarder of those that seek Him. Her attitude is one of love and joy and trust. A true gift to our hearts. The little boy with the blue shoes just wanted to hug his new sandalias!

You can see video games, la isla style, on the left, and our new friend Enrique. Enrique has been a recipient of the shoe ministry and, as a result, the door to connect with his grandmother has been opened to us. We pray for connections with people every day. People are all that matter, and so we continue to go because you continue to give. We thank God for you all everyday!
We thank God for the brilliant Blaine and Bethany Franger, who supplied us with a few of these photos!
Please pray for us as we sojourn in the midst of Mexico, and travel for a short time in the states.
Hebrews 13:20-21

Friday, June 26, 2009

We hope that all is well with everyone and that your summer is warming up. The thermostat has been turned up another few degrees here on the Island as our home stays between 85 and 87 24/7. We are trying to stay away from the air conditioner as much as possible but sometimes it must be used. We have had a few events since last updating the sight. My father(pictured above) graduated to be with the Lord on June 8, 2009 after living out an outstanding life before us for one week short of 87 years. He was a hero to me as we were able to be home with him and my family for his final days here on earth. He invited in with peace and dignity his final walk here and took the hand of Jesus with confidence to sit at the foot of his throne. See you soon Dad. We have returned to the Island but are getting ready to go back to Central Oregon for a previously scheduled trip from July 2-16. The shoes that so many of you have blessed us with are still seen running around the Island and we keep returning to the locations that we handed them out in to see if they are in need of another new pair. We are connecting with a dear friend Marisa and her husband to meet with new families. She has an inside track to alot of the poorest of the poor here so we shall use her as another means of reaching out in the name of Jesus.

We thank you for your prayers and support as we press on for His glory and honor. We will be back the middle of July and kick off another round of shoes for the children.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

outreach ministry to Rancho Viejo

Well... today we went to Rancho Viejo, the providence of Isla Mujeres over on the main land back of Cancun. We took Rance, Bender, and Andrew, the three young men from the States that came down to do missions work. Alfonso, the minister from a church in cancun picked us up, took us out to his church where he dropped us off, left. We were in the midst of strangers for the next 4 hours. What a treat is was to come along side of fellow believers who were there in the little church to serve food and share Jesus with the 30 plus kids that we gathered outside of the school and walked them over. We made friends on the way, even though the Spanish is not happening from my perspective, but God is a God of universal languages and love. He broke down the barriers, we loved on them none the less and had a great time watching and helping. The photos speak for themselves as we sat and listened, danced and sang with them, and then ate. Afterwards we went out and played soccer in the street, since we were pretty much in the middle of a jungle but the street was a wonderful soccer field. Lots of laughs today and warm smiles from all. The staff there are true servants of the Lord as they ushered in the kids, taught the word with the felt board, fed the hungy little tummies, and then off they went after a little bit of legos and soccer. They even had Vegie Tales in Spanish for them. Sweet stuff since it has been many years since we have watched Larry boy go for it. God is so amazing as we see new things, meet new brothers and sisters in our walk down here. Enjoy and talk with you soon.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Evelyn Gidalti Colli... Her Grandpa works down at the beach club here in front of our Casa. He wells up with tears each time we talk about her over his excitement that she is getting the opportunity to learn English at the La Gloria English School. (www.folges.org) I was able to get her a sponsor so that she can go free. What a blessing to see her blossom as she learns new words and grows in confidence when using them. Another chance to see how God is using us to touch and reach these precious kids on Isla.

Pinatas and Faith

We went to a birthday party yesterday. Karen was turning 3! We had the great blessing of bringing a pinata filled with candy! Although we mumbled our way through the social event, played with the children, and smiled a lot, we were constantly aware of the struggle to fit in! (Natalie, perhaps more than Greg, as many of the men speak a bit of English, while the women seldom understand a word!)It's a little awkward at times and helps us understand why, at the tower of Babel, the people who spoke French moved to France together, the Spanish speakers headed toward Spain, and the English huddled trying to figure out how to make their language a universal one!
However, when it came time to put up the pinata, although we could only sing a few lines of the pinata song, we felt like part of the family. As we all joined together in celebrating the life of a sweet little girl, we felt an overwhelming sense of God's faithfulness in allowing us to connect with this precious group of people.
And, we really felt like we fit in!
God has reminded us once again that we need to take one step at a time, trusting Him to make "all things beautiful in His time", and rejoice in the little treasures He provides along the way. It was so good to feel like we fit in, when most of the time we know we don't!
It was a reminder of how God tells us that, by faith, we can move mountains. Our "outsider" status is like a mountain that we long to move! I remember asking the Lord about that scripture once. It seems that there are so many mountains we have wanted to move. And in his still small voice, He spoke these words of courage and hope.
"Yes, faith does move mountains, but sometimes those mountains are moved one bucket at a time. Grab a bucket."
God is so good! Today is filled with hope for our future here as we grab our buckets and walk by faith.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Loving My New Shoes

Sojourning In Mexico

One thing we have noticed, while sojourning in Mexico, is that when we have visitors our normal life routine stops in its tracks. We still have to take care of “business”, but guests in our humble home cause us to relax, and re-enjoy the beauty of our island home. There was some guilt feelings about not doing more shoe ministry, while enjoying Blaine and Bethany Franger’s company from Hood River, and in taking that before the Lord, He reminded us, in the sweet way that He does, that life doesn’t need to be constantly busily engaged in “outward ministry” to be lived right in His sight. We have the privilege to host people that come from busy lives in the states, and if we can supply them with time to relax, re-energize, re-new, re-commit, be re-stored, re-focus on the precious treasures of life in Christ, then we need to realize that we are fulfilling His plan His way.

That said, we have been doing outreach into new areas of the island in our spare time. While driving by a mini-super store, we noticed several children playing on a small hillside covered with glass, metal, rocks, and other unmentionable items. Of course the first thing we want to check out is their feet! No shoes! So we pull over the moto to call to them. Shy at first, they slowly make their way to us as we introduce ourselves the best we can. Greg is great at making them feel comfortable as his antics make them laugh. When we get their names, we let them know we would like to give them some shoes, and ask if we can trace their feet on a piece of paper. It seems like a game, and they always laugh at the sight of their foot outlined on the paper. (They probably have no idea what the crazy gringos are up to, but they do understand us when we say we will return soon.)

After getting “feet” measured, and names written down, we make the trip to town to peruse the shops in hopes of finding the right sizes for the little adorable feet we traced.

This requires prayer as shops may or may not have shoes and we can wander for hours just trying to find them. (Plus, when they give us shoe sizes, if it is Mexican 17, how does that convert to European or USA sizes?! And, was that children or adult? These three different measuring systems are not even close to each other.) We have no Wal Mart, Costco, or PayLess Shoe outlet promising shoes, only little mom and pop stores that stock up now and then. As we make our way around town, people wonder why we are buying so many shoes, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to share Zapatos Para Los Ninos!

Once we have managed to “score” our shoes, we then return to find many happy and anxious faces awaiting us, usually accompanied now by moms and dads.

As we put feet into shoes we tell them that as God has given to us, we give to them, from our hearts, because of Jesus.

Just another day in the life!

Thank you, as always, for your love, prayers, and support. We go because you give.

Love “mucho”!

Greg and Natalie

Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Gregorio!

God's love in Isla Mujeres!

This blog spot was created to put friends in touch with the things that the Lord is doing in Isla Mujeres through our friends, Greg & Natalie Snider!

They have now been in Isla for over a year, and God has opened up a door for them to minister to the kids who are in need in a tangible way...through shoes!!!! These children are simply precious, and Greg & Natalie have devoted their lives to sharing God's love and going wherever He asks them to go!

Many people have visited the Snider's in Isla, but until you get there, you have no sense of the enormity of God's plan for their lives! It is inspiring, encouraging, and contagious! So much so that people from all over the country are now supporting what they do!

If you want to support Greg & Natalie, prayer is always the most key! They never forget their purpose in Isla Mujeres, but prayer for safety, provision and endurance to run the race would be mucho mucho great! Tangibly, there is a church that is their covering in Trukee, CA and are taking donations on their behalf:

Calvary Chapel of Truckee
PO Box 2691
Truckee, CA 96160

Please designate on the memo, “Shoes For The Children” & a sticky note that says, “For Greg and Natalie Snider, Isla Mujeres, MX”

Also, if you haven't received the latest newsletter from Greg & Natalie, I'll post it below.

Please check in from time to time to get updates, pics and a slice of life in Mexico!

Oregon Friends!

Snider’s Mexico Adventure Newsletter Jan./ Feb. 2009

Hello and Happy New Year!

We have had a wonderful start to our new year by having 3 weeks of company! Aimee Bailargeon and Nicole Perkey came down from Bend, and endured the tropics in some of the coolest weather we have had in a year! We actually had to wear sweatshirts! They also joined us on a short “Zapatos Para Los Nino’s” excursion, and they will probably never know just what a help they were. It was great to see them swarmed by children putting out their little feet and hoping they would find a fit.

Natalie’s folks from Manhattan came as well, and we feel so blessed to have been able to spend time with them. Life changes dramatically for us when we have guests. We use visitors as an excuse to do a little at home “vacationing” ourselves and it is so fun to introduce them to our new home and new life. Outside of that, it is the little things that challenge us and encourage us day by day.

When we are not “vacationing” with friends and family, we walk through life very slowly here on Isla Mujeres. Greg continues to be involved with La Gloria English School on a daily basis, while Natalie works half days, and the rest of the time we just ask God to make us available. Available to Him, as He works in and through us the things that are well pleasing in His sight. It is marvelous to know that it is God’s work, pressing through the weaknesses of humanity, to bring about the beautiful things He purposes for human lives.

Sometimes we suppose all that really matter in this life is how lives connect and we touch each others hearts with God’s healing and grace. One little boy that continues to touch our lives with joy and healing is from the tar paper shack community called Guadalupana where we distribute shoes. He hasn’t gotten a pair yet, as we never seem to have his size right, or he comes too late and the shoes are gone, yet he always flashes us a radiant smile and hopes for a pair the next time. Some children weep, but he dazzles us with a smile and runs off barefoot with an “hasta luego”. Maybe next time, little friend, but thank you for your joy. It has touched our hearts with Gods healing grace.

Greg’s availability has led to another opportunity to touch the life of a man going through a difficult time in his marriage. Greg has been consistent in reaching out to him and always takes the time to sit on a rock somewhere to talk. Last week he was at our house and confessed to Greg that he doesn’t understand the Bible at all, even though he tries to read it. He asked Greg if he would meet with him on Sundays to teach him how to read and understand it. Timeless truths to bring him healing and hope for the future, while Greg is touched that God would use him to help another fellow human being walk a few more steps down the road. A special grace for Gregorio.

We are humbled every day by the grace of God. We are astounded by His desire to bring healing to a people, including us, who are desperate for something that transcends this earth. Everyday, He tells us, His mercies are new, so we cling to Him in our weakness, thank Him for His strength, and say, “Here we are, God. Use us. Use us to do the impossible, use us to do what only You can do. Use our lives to connect with others and touch them for eternity.”

Thank you all for your prayers and support! We love you and thank our great God for you. Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare to renew our visa’s, and please pray that we will be open to whatever He has for us. We are still struggling along to learn the language, but love has no language barriers, so we ask that you will pray for us to love well and live right.

May you be blessed today, and everyday, as you remember the greatest love connection of all. Jesus.

Hasta Luego, dear friends!

Greg and Natalie