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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“There’s No Crying in HomeDepot!”

(All names in this blog have been changed. The stories are true.)

After years of working with children who’ve been orphaned and abandoned, if you’re not careful, you can sometimes become immune to the nightmarish history so many children have. It’s not that one stops caring; emotionally shutting down is just a survival mechanism. Week after week, it’s hard to listen to the horrific stories, see the physical bruises and broken bones, and walk with children as the emotional wounds come to the surface.

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“It’s Good Enough For Orphans.”

Over the years, I like to think I’ve become a patient man, my wife might disagree, but I still like to believe that I’ve mellowed. A few comments can still get me angry to the point that I reach for my blood pressure meds: “It’s good enough for Mexico,” or the more offensive “It’s good enough for an orphanage.” Or the similar thought process that’s the absolute most offensive: “It’s good enough for orphans.” There are times that behind my smiling facade, I want to punch someone.

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Peter Was a Jerk

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When we look at “our” ministry or walk with God, we frequently fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to the “great men of God” that we’ve seen or read about. Today, many people reflexively bow their heads when they speak of Frances Chan or Rick Warren and ask “Why can’t I be like that?” In orphan care, Jorge Muller is the legend that everyone refers back to. He was a Christian evangelist and the director of an orphanage in Bristol, England in the late 1800s. He cared for over 10,000 orphans during his lifetime. Everything written about him shows that he was impressive, Godly, and upright. I can’t relate. I identify with the apostle Peter; he was a slow learner and a profound jerk. My kind of guy. Continue reading