The Tortilla Lady Showed Up.

This week marks the first anniversary of the fire that burned through our town. It threatened our orphanage, my home, and much of our town. Over the course of about ten hours, a wind-swept firestorm swept through our valley. We evacuated over one hundred children and staff and fled along with many of our neighbors. We watched dozens of homes, ministry buildings, and businesses burned to the ground. No one was killed or seriously hurt, but it was a long night that everyone who experienced will remember for many years. Countless details stand out about that night and the days that followed; one detail I’ve been considering lately is a peculiar one: the tortilla lady showed up.

We are going through an incredibly odd time in history, and it feels like it’s reaching new peaks as COVID spreads, and the election is right around the corner. There is a sense that things are coming to a tipping point. Sales of guns and military gear have spiked, and no one knows what will happen, but I want to point out something: the tortilla lady still shows up.

So what do I mean when I say, “The tortilla lady showed up”? We had been up all night as the fire swept through. We evacuated the orphanage once and then had to move the children again as the fire chewed through the town and burned up to where we thought they would be out of harm’s way. A wall of fire six miles wide had moved across half our valley; amid the firestorm, it felt like our lives would be altered forever, but life has a momentum that most people underestimate. Like the famous quote from Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” The morning after the fire, we slowly moved back to the orphanage to clean up and settle back in. Through the smoke and heavy ash that was still blowing through our town, the lady who delivers fresh corn tortillas to us every morning drove through the ash-covered front gate as if nothing had happened. “How many kilos today? She asked in Spanish. It was an odd, comforting moment that felt really out of place with what we had just gone through. She didn’t care that the world was burning down around her, she just wanted to deliver her tortillas.

We’ve all seen the rioting in cities around the US. We’ve read countless articles trying to convince us that if the “other side” wins the election, life as we know it will end. Many people seem to spend hours a day posting memes on social media. But in the end, life finds a way; the tortilla lady still shows up.

I know there will be different opinions on this, but I know people who live in some of the cities that have had rioting. The general response is a shrug as they head to work. Life goes on. I’m convinced that despite the media-driven fear, the vast majority of people just want to have their morning coffee and get on with their day. They want to spend time with their kids, hug their spouse, and maybe lose a few pounds. They might feel strongly about masks, or politics, or some other hot-button topic, but in the end, they want life to go on. They want the tortilla lady to show up.

In caring for orphans, we deal with people who really have had their lives upended, who have lost everything. Although their “new” lives take some getting used to, they eventually settle in and move forward. Life finds a way.

As we move into the final stretch of this election, as we see what will happen with COVID over the next weeks and months, please remain calm. Trust that in the end, nothing that is going on matters in the eternal. Even if the US does collapse, it will be one of countless countries, regimes, and empires that have fallen throughout history. The US will probably make it through this. Most people just want to get on with their lives. God is in control. Breathe. The tortilla lady will show up.

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“I’d Rather Help Kids in America.”

This is a re-post of one of the most commented on articles, I hope to have a fresh post next week. Blessings.

It doesn’t happen often, but now and then, people have an odd reaction when they hear that I work at an orphanage in Mexico. They say, “I’d rather help kids in America.” This statement brings up so many uncomfortable and unhealthy issues. The snarky side of me really wants to say, “Great, what are you doing for kids in America?” I can almost guarantee they aren’t doing anything for anybody.

The idea that we should only help people in our own country goes against everything Jesus taught. We are called to help wherever there is a need. The fact that mankind has set up arbitrary lines and fences across land masses doesn’t change the fact that there are needs everywhere. When I get asked, “Why Mexico?” my response is, “This is where my feeble efforts can have more of an impact.” In much of the US, children in need have a variety of safety nets, both private and government run. In most of the world, kids fall through the cracks. The other reason I like serving here is “return on investment,” a small donation in the US can help, the same amount used in poorer countries can dramatically change lives. We need to be helping wherever we feel called, and where we can have the most significant impact.

The bigger question about where and who to serve is, in-spite of our first reaction, what’s the difference? More and more, it’s becoming a little “gray” as to what nationality is. I don’t want to go down the road of the current immigration debate, but it’s not always clear where a child should be. Questions of nationality are not always easily figured out.

Although our children’s home operates in Mexico, we sometimes find that a child in our care is, in reality, a legal American citizen who wound up in Mexico. It’s always interesting to see the reaction to that, both from the child and from others who find out. It shifts identity, expectations, and entitlement. We are in large part defined by our history; it’s who we are. Our heritage also identifies us, it’s where we come from. But sometimes it’s hard to pin down. A child born in the US to someone undocumented is legally a US citizen; it’s in our constitution. If the parent winds up back in Mexico for whatever reason, what should that child’s nationality be considered? They are legal US citizens with all of the rights and privileges that brings; they are also Mexican by blood. But why should that matter if the child is in need?

Years ago, we received a cute little blond-haired, blue-eyed, little boy. Wow, the drama that caused. He was an American, born outside of Chicago, abandoned by a parent on drugs with a neighbor here in Baja. It was interesting to see and listen to the reactions people had. We had a few American children in our home at the time but because this one child was “white” people went crazy. Someone called Child Protective Serves in the US, a network news crew showed up, it was a big deal. We kept asking ourselves, “Why is this child more deserving of attention just because of his skin tone?” “Why is everyone stepping over other needy children to get to this one with blue eyes?” We know the answers, but it’s still frustrating. Because of the attention this one child received, within 30 days he was placed with a family in Southern California. A child going back to the US almost never happens, and never quickly. This little boy just happened to win the genetic lottery. Why are the other children not deserving of a healthy loving home?

Ultimately, we are all the same family. The plot of dirt we happen to be born on should not impact whether or not we’re deserving of help, opportunities, and people who care for us. I’m not blind to the differences between countries, but if we share one Heavenly Father, aren’t we all by definition one family? If we have the right perspective, if we see the bigger picture, we need to be working to balance the scales. We need to raise children up, wherever they’re from, with opportunities to grow, learn, and become all that God has laid out for them to be.

Should we be helping kids in America? Sure. We should also be helping wherever there is a child in need, wherever there is an injustice, wherever God is looking down and asking, “Who will help this child of mine?”

Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

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What Matters as the World Collapses

When I’m asked to share at churches or with short-term mission teams, my opening line is usually forcefully telling my audience, “You are all going to die!” I then go on to remind everyone that our time here is limited, don’t waste it. Is it a cheap way of getting an audience’s attention? Absolutely. But the point is still important, we all end up in a box someday. Some of us sooner than others, and we never know when that day will come.

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Giving Bacon to Vegans

I like bacon. A lot. Bacon is the meat candy of the food world. Bacon is compelling proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Few things are not made better by adding wonderful, crispy bacon to them. I once made bacon chocolate chip cookies, and the salty, sweet, gooey combination was life-changing. I want everyone to experience the joy that is this greasy aromatic gift from God, but some people just don’t appreciate it.

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