Wednesday, April 18, 2012


In Russia there are well over 400,000 orphans in state institutions.  Its generally believed that less than one third of these children are actually orphans.  Many of them have lost their families when their parents lost their parental rights as a result of losing a battle with drugs and alcohol.  Nearly half of them had disabilities, either physical or mental.  In countless institutions, these children often interact less than ten minutes a day in one-on-one interactions with an adult. Countless cases of routine abuse of children in orphanages continue to be reported by Human Rights Watch. According to the Interior Ministry University roughly 20,000 children run away from orphanages every year and that of the 15,000 children released from orphanages annually, some 10 percent commit suicide, 30 percent commit crimes and 40 percent are unemployed and homeless. By my math - this leaves only about 20 percent who are able to make it on their own.

So, what happens when these damaged souls group up?  Most are let loose on the world, unless they are severely mentally disabled- where they “risk drifting into unemployment, poverty, and crime.”
When I was a youth one of my passions was tennis.  I loved attending professional tennis tournaments and assisting on the court as a “ball boy.”  Once I had the thrill of working on the court with the world renowned Arthur Ashe.  What a gentleman he was.  What a family man he was.  He once said, “I have always drawn strength from being close to home.”  There is something about home that provides a sense of security, of being grounded, of protection, of family.  It isn’t until we contemplate not having a home that we can really even begin understanding all the results, the benefits, and the affects of having a home.

Even Proverbs 27:8 sheds some light on the need for being connected to a home, “A person who strays from home is like a bird that strays from its nest.”  It as if a man who wanders from his home is restless and disconnected- shrinking responsibility and failing to build anything substantial and solid.  Yes, a home takes more than the foundation it is built on, the walls that surround it, and the roof that covers it. It takes a family and the values and love that are essential to turning a “house” into a “home.”

Every time I look at a house that we have built in Mexico, or South Africa, or on the Apache Reservation I wonder how many children we have kept from being sent to an orphanage or taken to an institution.  While I wish it were the case- an orphanage should be the last resort for a child.  Keeping families together and building homes, not just houses, continues to be why constructing homes is essential for showing God’s love and providing hope to those in need.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Is Mexico Safer than the U.S.?

Is Mexico Safer than the U.S.?
Posted on February 25, 2011
by Patrick Osio
Here comes Easter break again and young people will be young people; high school and college kids will travel to distant places where the drinking age is either less than it is in the U.S. or where authorities don’t care to enforce minors’ drinking laws. For several decades Mexico has been one such place of choice where the legal drinking age is 18. Mazatlan, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun were the “fly-to” favorite places and Rosarito Beach and Ensenada the favorite “drive-to” places from Southern California. But not this year, or for that matter neither was it last year.
Our government and the U.S. media have convinced most Americans that Mexico is not a safe place to visit as drug traffickers are fighting it out to see which gang will have the right to sell their illicit drugs to the very group that will not be visiting Mexico. They will have to wait until they return from Easter break to get their Mexican smuggled drugs at home.

But what really struck me was that the preferred country to visit this Easter break in lieu of Mexico is the Dominican Republic. It struck me because Dominica is rated as the number one country with the highest propensity for crime in the world. According to facts gathered by, their total crime per 1,000 residents (per capita) is 113.822 –Compared to the U.S. that is 8th in the world in total crimes at 80.0645 per 1000 residents, making chances of being a victim of a crime in Dominica better than 10%, and slightly less than an 8% chance of being a victim in the U.S.
But here is the real clunker: Mexico, the country our government tells us not to visit and the media has a field day reporting any crime be it significant or not to further put the fear of God into staying away from there – well, it ranks 39th in total crime in the world with a per capita of slightly less than 13 crimes per 1000 residents that is a 1.3% chance of being a victim of crime in Mexico.
So Mexico is out, Dominica is in, yet the chances of being a crime victim there is greater than in the U.S. and the chances of being a crime victim in the U.S. is greater than in Mexico. But, for our own safety we need to stay out of Mexico.

Have you ever felt like you’re being duped but you can’t quite put your finger on why; what’s the motive? Is it to keep us from facing some bitter truths? We keep reading how crime is down, how safe we are compared to most other parts of the world. But is it true?

So here are some multiple choice questions for you:
1. Which country has a higher crime rate per 1,000 residents?
Mexico, b. Germany, c. Canada, d. U.S.
2. Which country has the highest murders with firearms?
Mexico, b. El Salvador, c. U.S.
3. Of the following countries, which has the least number of drug offenses?
a. Germany, b. United Kingdom, c. Canada, d. Switzerland, e. Mexico
4. Which country has the most prisoners?
a. United States, b. China, c. Russia, d. India, e. Mexico
(Answers: 1. d. U.S., 2. c. U.S., 3. e. Mexico, 4. a. U.S.)
In one of the only bright spots due to its recent gang related murders, Mexico, on a per capita, ranks as more dangerous than the U.S. occupying No. 24 and Mexico No. 6 in the world, but in total number of murders the U.S. is No. 5 and Mexico No. 6.
In fact, much of the crime data per capita 1000 population suggests that in many respects Mexico is safer than the U.S.: in assaults the U.S. ranks No. 6, Mexico No. 20; burglaries the U.S. No. 17, Mexico No. 34; car thefts U.S. No. 9, Mexico No. 22; fraud U.S. No. 18, Mexico No. 29; Rape (Canada No.5), U.S. No. 9, Mexico No. 17.

No doubt that, at the expense of Mexico, we are being duped. Is it to hide our insatiable appetite for illicit drugs and cheap labor, and so by pointing the finger of guilt to the biggest supplier of both we exculpate our actions or, at minimum, pacify our own guilt?
 Maybe it’s time for “the home of the free, and land of the brave” to take note.

Patrick Osio is Editor of He can be reached at:

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Using the phrase "Politically Correct" evokes numerous responses and differing perspectives. Some cultures over use the phrase, others laugh at the very mention of it. This week a prominent public figure sent a letter to the White House apologizing for a comment he made last Friday on a Denver radio station. He used the phrase, "like touching a tar baby" in reference to being linked to a specific side of the debt debate.

While this term has been used to refer to something which is "hard to remove oneself from", it has long been recognized as a derogatory term for black Americans. It is something that Amor is all too familiar with. The commonly used term "tar squares" is used when building an Amor house which can best be describes as a small black square of roofing paper with a nail running through it. It is used to hold the long sheets of tar paper on the side of an Amor house that provides the backing needed to support the wet stucco when it is applied.

Long ago it was a common thing to hear someone ask for or ask someone to make more "tar babies." But as time passed we became well aware that this was offensive in many cultures so we specifically eliminated and requested others to eliminate the use of this phrase. Thus, "tar squares" has become the commonly and appropriate acceptable way to describe this product.

A great description of how to make a "tar square" is in our latest "House Building Manual":

I find it quite interesting that something as insignificant as a small black square could have such offending power if described or used inappropriately. Recently when I was helping build an home at the San Carlos Apache Reservation I was reminded that the Apache are generally a very gentle culture compared to your mainstream American . They aren't generally comfortable looking you in the eyes and their handshakes tend to be very gentle and relaxed. This is quite contrary to how I was raised to interact with people- "a strong, firm handshake and look them in the eyes, son!" Even something as simple as a hand shake or eye contact can offend someone from another culture.

Its perhaps one of the greatest challenges of short term missions. How do we serve those we have been called to or sent to help and understand their culture in a very short time, with the hope of reducing or simply not offending them- when we are doing our best to love and serve them? Its why many missionaries around the world cringe at the thought of short term [visitors] coming to serve with the very people they have served and patiently learned to understand their culture and their ways.

I would highly recommend anyone interested in this challenge to read one of my favorite books on this subject, "When Helping Hurts" by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. I would also recommend you visit their website at and definitely check out the "Video and Audio Interviews with the Authors" under the "About The Book" tab.

A good reminder, if there ever was one, is to follow the words of Paul from Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

Friday, April 01, 2011


I have heard Billy Graham speak on the radio and television, and read of his ministry most my my life. The "Gospel" he spoke was so basic, simple, and sincere that it seemed impossible to be confused on what he spoke about. I think of all the Presidents that Graham ministered to, President Johnson had to be one of the greatest challenges. Once President Johnson asked Graham to preside at his funeral, without notes, just from the heart. He wanted Graham to "preach the Gospel."

What came next has never left me after I read about it. When Graham got home he wrote a letter to President Johnson expressing his love and assurance about the afterlife for him. "We are not saved because of our own accomplishments," Graham wrote. "I am not going to Heaven because I have preached to great crowds or read the Bible many times, I'm going to Heaven just like the thief on the cross who said in the last moment, 'Lord, remember me.'"

In a Time interview with Billy Graham, he once again broke it down,

"I think we all need forgiveness. I look at my own life and my own heart, and someday I will stand before God, totally naked. I won’t be preacher, or whatever I’ve been. It'll be just before God, and I’ll need forgiveness. I’ll need the mercy of God and the grace of God."

Its very easy to get so busy with all the activities and responsibilities of life that we often forget that it was God who brought us into this world, and it will be He who accepts us into the next. With all our frailties, all our mistakes, and all our imperfections. Try ,as hard as we may, to accomplish great things, yet we just aren't perfect. We need God's grace.

It reminds me of a typical Amor home that has been build by volunteers with little or no skilled labor. The house isn't perfect when its done- the slab has crack a little as it dries, the wall's may not be perfectly straight, the door may not fit just right. Yet, when the home is done it is received with great joy and appreciation by a very needy family . The slight imperfections and the irregularities are simply forgiven and overlooked. Its the thought that counted, its the love and the "heart" that the family who receives the home recalls. We know that we tried our best and in spite of it all we still need the grace of this family.........and we will always "need the mercy of God and the grace of God!"

Monday, February 07, 2011

Scott Heads to Cienega in Cancun, Mexico

Scott Heads to Cienega in Cancun, Mexico

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Monday, June 22, 2009


The EV Free Church “A” team has come home from South Africa as the “E” team. We are all EXHAUSTED! This team worked so hard and yes we played too. The SS. Simon and Jude team from Phoenix, Arizona, led by Jen Pitera were awesome. When our team was departing from the Johannesburg Airport Saturday evening we stood in a long line because "Don’t Expect Luggage To Arrive" - DELTA computers were down. When the SS. Simon and Jude’s arrived a huge round of applause and whoops went up. Everyone in the airport stopped in their tracks because it was so loud. You could tell what they were thinking, “what’s that all about?” What it’s all about is exactly what we should all be doing as Christians, stopping people in their tracks and making them think, “Hey, look what those people are doing! I want to know.”

What a week; so much living, seeing, hearing and interacting. Amor Ministries is incredible. Scott Congdon, staying home and coordinating Amor’s website so thousands all over could see and hear what we were doing - as we were doing it! Thank you Scott! This was the most promoted Amor project ever, and for good reason – the future of hope and reconciliation, which God has been working on and planning for all along. We are all so blessed to be part of it.

So many stories to talk about. So many people to thank God for. Let’s start by thanking Humphrey Birkenstock and Rainbow 90.7 FM for making so many wonderful things happen for us in South Africa; the meals out, SOWETO, the tented-church service, the buses, the historical information and the Lion Park, he along with his beautiful family, Anita, Raymond and Jerod accompanied us every step of the way in love. Thank you Sir Humphrey! “Amor,” what can we say about Amor Ministries who worked so hard to make this happened. The ones who are seen and the ones behind the scenes. Thank you Steve Horrex, Luke Makwakwa, Forest & Carrie Fowler, Scott & Gayla Congdon and all of their unbelievable staff. You are AWESOME MAN!

How can I sum this trip up? God did it for me last night at the airport. Understand, we left on Saturday and some of us (thanks to DELTA) didn’t get home until Monday, meaning many of us spent Father’s Day traveling and in airports. To be honest, my brain is fried! It is like mashed potatoes, but God has sustained me. We had numerous groups coming in at different times because DELTA split us all up in Atlanta instead of holding our flight for ten minutes. Sure, they did what man does when the opportunity arises; they resold all of our tickets at three times the price to their line-up of standbys, even though at every stage I spoke to DELTA asking them not to do just that. They told me it would never happen; they said we would make our connecting flight in Atlanta no matter what. By the end of this trip, I could only think $(#&@ DELTA - So, I hung out at the Sacramento airport waiting for our final group to arrive (and of course much of our luggage was missing… again). I was “Dog Tired.” I fell asleep right where the passengers come down the escalator, hoping the last group would see me. As I sat there in what has become known as the “Lou Diaz Deep State of Prayer” – head bowed down, eyes closed, looking to be in prayer, but actually in a deep sleep, I felt tapping on my leg. I opened my dreary eyes, he was a blur at first; I then realized it was my son Sean! who couldn’t join us in going to South Africa because he recently took a job with HP. Sean learned Dad was sitting at the airport all by himself and he came down to wish me a “Happy Father’s Day.” It was the best Father’s Day Gift I ever received. I stood up and hugged him. Then I heard a voice, “Hey Dan! Dan Irving!” Hearing voices on this trip is something I’m come accustomed to. I looked around and just saw a blur of people. But the voice would not go away, it was persistent and was coming from above and it was getting louder, “Hey, Dan Irving, Up Here!” I looked up and right above me was Bryce Lundberg, his wife Jill and some of the infamous Lundberg clan (they were returning from a family visit in Seattle). “Hey Bryce, how are you!?”

Now for God’s loving and welcoming story! When I first went on the EV Free Amor Mission Trip I started calling Bryce “My Main Man” because of something he did, something from his heart which made me think twice. On that trip in Mexico our campsite was hit with a nasty, tent shattering, rain & mud producing Pacific storm. It was a horrendous night. You couldn’t even go out in it to help others whose tents were being blown apart. It sounded like a war zone; girls were screaming, crying and calling out for help. You’d couldn’t walk in the 60 mph winds and there was no footing in the slick, snot like mud. When a window of opportunity finally opened there was lots of work to do. Kids were shattered, wet and cold, covered in mud. Bryce went out, got a bucket of water and a wash cloth and set up his station where he knelt and washed everyone’s muddy, cold wet feet. Two of those feet belonged to Allan Fleming. As I watched Bryce, I could only think of Jesus washing His disciples feet. That’s when I started calling Bryce, “My Main Man!” That was the voice calling out to me at the airport, and the voice behind that voice is the One who is calling out to all of us.

Then I saw a familiar face in the crowd, it was Steve Raley who had driven down to help transport our last arrivals. Then I heard another voice, I turned around and there was Eleanor Southwick with a group of her family, lots of teenagers all holding up signs that read, “Building Hope, one Home at a Time. Amor. Welcome Home Amor South Africa. EV Free Chico, We love U! Welcome Uncle Brett and Happy Father’s Day – Harlo!” There they stood at the bottom of the escalator with a gift box for the last group of arrivals. When Pastor Lou, Laura Diaz, Rich Willman, Dave Newquist, and the last of our group appeared, another loud round of applause went up and everyone at the airport stopped in their tracks, looked and listened for the moment. When they kinda figured out was happening you could see heart-warming smiles everywhere. So no matter how difficult our travel was, no matter how tired we were, no matter what a pain in the @$$ Delta was, there God was with us every step of way, making this A Trip of a Lifetime!

Now, before I forget, (I’m going to do it right now, after I finish this blog) I’m going to write a check and send it to Amor Ministries and on the memo line I’m going to write: “You are Awesome!” I pray you will too, because God’s ministry needs that kind of help.
We all made it back and we are HOME. It is good to be home, even though we left part of our hearts back in South Africa. God Bless you Amor Ministries. God Bless you Humphrey Birkenstock and Rainbow 90.7 FM. God Bless you SS. Simon and Jude’s God Bless our team leaders: Pastor Lou Diaz, Dave Newquist, Jim O’Bannon, Rich Willman. God Bless the EV Free Church of Chico California and God Bless all the hard workers who came on this trip. God Bless you all!
Dan Irving

Saturday, June 20, 2009


By now the Amor South Africa teams from Chico EV Free Church and SS Simon and Jude Cathedral are either at the airport in Johannesburg or in-flight heading back home at last. This will be the final blog post on this trip while the team is actually still in South Africa. The Chico EV Free team had a long day on Friday having completed their final work day (#5), checked into the Sunnyside Park Hotel, and attended a special dinner celebration at Sunnyside Park Hotel. The photos below show some of the completed homes they put their hearts into building this past week. What a fantastic testimony of how God's children can share His love around the world!! Well done good and faithful servants!!

Friday, June 19, 2009


South Africa sunrise on the last day of work.

It's oh so cold here in South Africa but we were charged to work on our last day of our "labor of love".

Finishing touches on the roof of a new home.

A finished housed. Home sweet home.

More roof work.

The roof boards are up and all we need is this last day to put on the roofing.

The rising African sun is a welcome arrival as we finished breakfast and head to work sore, yet enthusiastic to finish our work on this, our final day of work.

Its time to head to dinner in Johannesburg at the Sunnyside Hotel and check into our rooms and get hot showers!!

Its time for to celebrate our work of service with the famous group photo.

Look at all those happy faces. See anyone you know?

Even after all that work, the group has energy to horse around. Or should we say "zebra" around.

Forrest Fowler, of Amor Ministries.....he's our hero!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Our South Africa partner in ministry, Rainbow FM 90.7, in Johannesburg, has posted videos of our teams at the Amor Ministries work sites this week. Click the picture below and go to the Rainbow FM 90.7 page with 7 short, but fun videos to watch:


Dan Irving, group leader from Chico EV Free Church/Amor Ministries sends a great update from South Africa detailing their WORK DAY # 4:

"Ladies & Gentlemen, Saints & Sinners, lend me you ears, your eyes, your minds, your hearts and if you can send a check ($) to Amor Ministries will do a lot of good. What is happening here is nothing short of God's love and His plan; His Story is taking place. I truly believe that God has planned all along for this to take place and it is getting ready to take a quantum leap forward in South Africa, where the needs are so great; where there is so much poverty, suffering, AIDS, unemployment and homelessness. Amor Ministries has been working on this for years, laying down the infra-structure, making connections, building relationships-Godly relationships-and the pieces of this puzzle are coming together in an unbelievable way. No! The pieces are coming together in a most believable way.

This is an amazing Mission Trip and yesterday I said to Steve Horrex, "Steve, is it possible that this is too good!?" I spoke too soon, because of course there are problems. What is happening here is BIG and Satan is really upset, and doing whatever evil can do to rock the boat, tip us over, even drown us in our desire to help each other. God is not going to let that happen, not here, not now, not anymore, where the suffering has been going on for so long in South Africa. This is a turning point in time, in History. Apartheid (separation) has ended and reconciliation is hard at work. Now is South Africa's time and it is always the right time to do what is right. Gandhi said, "Be the change you what to see in the world." The Pastor E. V. Hill said, "If God can get through to you, He will get it to you."

OK, down to giving "THE NEWS," which will only be a highlight of what is going on, because so much is happening here with the hundreds and hundreds of stories, interactions, and most importantly the relationships being built by the ones who are blessed to be here.

Yesterday, Steve Horrex and Luke Makwakwa met with fourteen Pastors from Delmas, an agricultural area where Amor Ministries will go from building ten houses at Ebenezer's Community Center to building hundreds, then thousands, then God only knows... how many homes. These Pastors, mostly Black, have the poorest of the poor ministries. They are meeting in a yard, a home, a metal shack and working at bringing the Gospel to their people. They watched and listened closely as Steve Horrex explained what Amor does, how these homes can be built and how Amor works with the local pastors who are the ones who will determine who will get the homes. Amor's only condition is that the family has ownership in the land so nobody can take it away from them. Amor's vision is that this will spread throughout South Africa and to all the other countries in Africa. It is not dream, it is visionary and we hope and pray it will be like a virus that will not go away, impacting everyone.

Ebenezer's Care Center was founded 22 years ago by Pastor Thomas Mirime and his wife Shirley who were both raised as orphans. They have been married for thirty-two years and their hearts and their faith are a work in action. Shirley has become known as the "Mother Teresa of Ennerdale." Eighteen months ago Tommy said he was a "Doubting Thomas." He told me was amazed by houses being built in five days with unskilled labor. He said he didn't believe it was possible. But it happened and Thomas then said we could do more to help and change South Africa by teaching the youth how to build these houses than anything else in the world; that by educating the South African youth how to build these homes they will gain confidence and hope in their lives and they will think that they can do anything. Praise God! Thomas Merime says he has changed his name to "Tommy" and he is no longer a doubting Thomas.

The Delmas area and the surrounding three communities has a population of 150,000. The
unemployment rate is 60%. Amor plans in the next 4-5 years to build every family in the four communities, those with the greatest needs a home. A good solid home, with a solid foundation, a good roof, insulation for the cold of winter and the heat of summer, and it will be impervious to termites and insects. But the most important thing about these homes is what Gayla Congdon, who co-founded Amor Ministries with her husband Scott said, "By building a family a home you are helping to keep families together."

The most incredible thing is how the surrounding community is catching on fire with this Amor building concept. We have had government officials, church pastors, local school kids, local Muslims and community leaders visiting the work site every day and they walk away saying, "I cannot believe this, this is amazing, we want to help - Thank God, Praise God!" I've learned that everyone truly wants to give, yet we usually give in a way that makes us feel good. And yes, of course, it is in giving that we receive But it really helps if there is a plan to our giving; a plan of what to do with it, how best to put it to use. Experience, perseverance and faithfulness is at work here through Amor Ministries with thirty years of experience building thousands upon thousand of homes in Mexico. Steve Horrex and I did the math. How many homes have been built through Amor Ministries? How many volunteers has it taken to build those homes? How many family members have been impacted by these homes? We stopped when we hit one million. We stopped when we realized only God knows.

This South Africa Amor Mission has been launched and is ready to move into the next phase. To everyone reading this blog, listening to the podcasts and seeing the pictures, please keep on praying for us and please give to Amor Ministries, so they can do more... And oh yes, we are having a blast; we are having the time of our life!"