Monday, November 19, 2007

At Cancun Christian University

I arrived in Cancun last night and stayed at Caribe International Hotel which is one block from Gilberto F.'s apartment. Almost as good is that it is across the street from 100% Natural Restaurant where I get my favorite papaya juice!!

We just drove through the jungle to see the progress at the site of the future Cancun Christian University. It is less than one mile from the main highway, the Cancun-Tulum Highway. We are just leaving Puerto Morelos which is a small beach front community, some 2 miles south of the University. Gilberto has a condo project he is developing in this quaint community. If you are a GPS buff the co-ordinance of the this project is N20.51.2278, W86.52.3912. There are 4 of the 8 condos available. I can't send you pictures right now because the cameras we have won't load to my laptop. I hope I can send you these photos tonight.

What is really amazing is that we are driving all around Cancun, Puerto Morelos, and now heading south towards Coba while I am connected to the internet through my wireless card on my laptop. I am writing this as we drive, connected to the internet all the time. Even I am amazed at how technology has advanced in the Yucatan region. The result of how quickly technology can advance when wireless is being introduced into previously un-developed areas around the world. Only a year ago we had no cell phone coverage at the University site. Now we have a signal that is stronger than at my home in San Diego. Amazing progress!!

I haven't been to Cancun in almost a year and the development around here is astounding. I barely recognize the areas around the University. Huge resort developments popping up every where. There is even a McDonalds around the corner from the entrance to the University. In some ways progress is good and others disappointing. Driving from the Cancun Airport seemed more exotic before the McDonalds appeared. Such is the cost of progress. On the other hand, the coffee was great.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

UPDATE ON SOUTH AFRICA

What an amazing couple days we have had. This will be a shorter post than normal since I have had to rely on sending an email to my blog by sending it via my cell phone- using my numeric keypad! Gayla and Jordan told me it was easy. I don't think so. We visited a Nazarene Conference Center and Univerisity for a possible group dormatory site. Its a beautiful and safe site. We then went to our hosts Christian radio station, Rainbow FM 90.7 FM, for a tour of the station and to meet their staff. To finish the day we met with with some pastors and a expert Christian liaison with the housing department. I can only finish this post by saying we have been hosted by the South African people with the most amazing hospitality that its almost impossible to describe it and give them justice!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

REPORTING FROM ISTANBUL, TURKEY

The flight from Manchester, England to Istanbul, Turkey
(on Turkish Airlines!) was full of great experiences and stories.
Most of us didn't sleep a bit again on the flight, which might have
had something to do with the fact they served dinner around
midnight on the jet. I think I finally fell asleep around 2am to 6am.


















Steve Cosgrove sat next to a girl from Indian whose name was Markeet.
They talked most of the flight and much of it about his involvement with
Amor and his faith in God. She couldn't imagine that people were flying
from all over the world to build houses for poor people in Africa, much
less Mexico. She grew up Hindu and attended a board school all of her
youth. She recently finished her undergraduate degree in Information
Technology. Steve at one point told her she should go on one of the
Amor mission trips. She said she would love to go but didn't know if her
family could arrange or have the resources for her to go. Steve said that if
she wanted to go he would find a way to get the funds for her to go. She told
Steve she was, "Kind of jealous of you are getting to do all this." She later went
on to say she had applied for for graduate school at UCLA, USC and the
University of Chicago. Steve said she should tell him when she gets accepted
at one of these places since he knows people at all of them. He handed her
his business card and they continued to talk as she flipped the card in her hand,
clicking the edges, and looking closely at the card like it was a precious antique or
or something. As we often see, Ministry doesn't just occur at the work site or
at evening camp, it happens whomever we come in contact with.


















The Istanbul Airport had an array of unique sight and smells.
Never in my life did I imagine I would visit Turkey someday.
OK, it was for just 5 hours, but we did eat there.















Bill Hebner ordered what looked like a pastry. The first bite
surprised me, it tasted like peppermint! That was as adventurous
as I got at the airport.

While waiting at the airport we found a free wireless Internet spot
and we all did some Internet surfing, checked our emails, called
our families on Skype, and blogged. I found the way point
that our host in South Africa, Humprey Birkenstock had sent us of our
future work sites. The map below has a yellow pin showing the location
of our five work sites for next March. They are just outside Johannesburg,
near Pretoria.



















As you can see in the satellite photo below, it doesn't look
all that different from many of our typical work sites in Mexico.

Monday, November 05, 2007

WALES YOUTH RAISE FUNDS FOR AFRICA TRIP

Last week 13 kids from North Wales, UK set up a shanty town in the rain and the wind to understand what it was like to live in squalor. BBC did a radio interview with the youth to help raise funds for their upcoming trip to South Africa with Amor. Its about a three minute spot. Click the "Play" button on the link below to hear it:

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A DAY IN WALES

A long flight last night over the Atlantic ocean without any sleep had us arriving in Manchester, England around 8:30 am.

















A one hour drive north west to Rhyl, Wales and we arrived at Bill Hebner's house, just a block from the beach. We spent the day enjoying time visiting with each other, discussing our plans for the next day's flight to South Africa and meeting some of the people who had gone on Amor Mexico trips in the past. We spend part of the day looking at a shed that was on one of the Mexico team members from Wales property that was build from concrete posts and sliding concrete panels. This was an informal discussion of the possibility of using concrete type products to build homes in South Africa.

Jet-lag was reeking havoc on us throughout the day since none of us got any sleep on the crowded plane last night. It only reminded us why stopping in Wales for a day of meetings and one night was a good idea- recovering from jet-lag being one of those great ideas.

















Fall
has arrived in Wales and the colors of the trees are amazing. The reds and oranges are stunning. It is a bit warm for this time of year and it still seemed to get cold to us tonight. We attended a church celebration with Bill Hebner at his church by helping cook hot dogs and hamburgers, enjoying fireworks and bonfires for a special holiday. We also had the pleasure of talking with members of the local community who have been on mission trips with Amor. On one street we visited there were 11 people from different homes who had been on one of our mission trips to Mexico.

Tomorrow we catch a plane in the morning to South Africa with five of the Wales/UK team. Its a long flight, close to 14 hours, with us stopping briefly in Istanbul. I am not sure when I will be able to post a blog next since I don't know what internet access awaits us in South Africa. Hopefully I will be able to sent a blog each day. If not, then you will know that I couldn't find an internet connection!


Perhaps the greatest news of all was Bill Hebner telling us that he got the job he had been asking us to pray for. His new role is the Emerging Leaders Coordinator for Urban Saints, a collaboration of Youth Life-UK and Crusaders-UK (similar to Awana in the US). Part of Bill's strategic responsibilities will be to facilitate mission experiences for some 3,000 youth. The South Africa mission that we are now on is a significant event in the emerging partnership between these organizations to provide life changing mission experiences for the youth of the United Kingdom.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Cosgrove Joins South Africa Trip At Atlanta Airport

We arrived at the Atlanta Airport to catch our adjoining flight to Manchester, England. Steve Cosgrove joined us here from Indiana. "Its exciting to see what God has in store for us. We can plan all we want, but God has a way of having his plan come about regardless of our activities", said Steve.



















Steve is a key part of this trip having run numerous companies and brings extensive leadership develop experience. Steve is tremendously passionate about this trip and is really thrilled with how this project is an international coalition of people in the ministry, lay persons, and business persons coming together in a part of the world that really needs.

The flight from San Diego was very uneventful except that, much to my surprise, we had live television on the flight. I got to watch a great football game between Navy and Notre Dame! I know what most of you are thinking, Scott's preoccupation with college football is getting out of hand. I sure hope the plane from Atlanta to Manchester has the USC game on!!!

This is the last time I can blog using my US Sprint wireless internet card. From here on I will have to rely of Cyber Cafes, free WiFi when I can get, and who knows what else. And, more importantly, I hope I can manage to sleep some since the flight is leaving at 8:20pm.

AMOR GOES GLOBAL

Today is the day that Amor took a huge leap into expanding its ministry from international (Mexico) to global (Africa). Steve Horrex and I have boarded a plane in San Diego for Manchester, England. Steve Cosgrove from Indiana is joining us when we change planes in Atlanta. When we arrive in England we will be picked up by Bill Hebner who will drive us to Rhyl, Wales were we will be joining the Wales/UK team.

Twenty seven years of ministry and we are finally going global. This trip is really ten years in the making after Gayla and I were invited to a conference in South Africa by Gary Barnes who was with AD2000 at the time. We have been dreaming and planning this trip and outreach since then.

Its an exciting time for Amor as we expand beyond our borders.

[Posted with hblogger 2.0 http://www.normsoft.com/hblogger/]

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In the Presence of Goodness and Forgiveness

During a recent visit to San Diego from South Africa, Bishop Lazarus, Pastor Abel and I had the pleasure of meeting with one of San Diego's most respected pastors- Bishop George McKinney.

















Pastor Abel(left), Bishop McKinney(center), and Bishop Lazarus(right)

Bishop McKinney is most known as the founder and pastor of St. Stephens Church as well as for his amazing work on racial reconciliation. He is also known world-wide as a speaker/preacher and author. The church that Gayla and I were a part of starting in our home in 1989, Community Christian Church of San Diego (now known as Fairmount Community Church) was blessed to have had one of Bishop McKinney's right hand pastors as well as his long time devoted friend, Pastor Charles Clark.

I felt it was important to tell you about this, especially as it relates to how our recent meeting began. If you recall in a previous blog that I wrote about Bishop Lazarus, I discovered only recently that I had seen him some ten years ago in South Africa. Bishop Lazarus was the first black pastor who ever shared the pulpit of a white pastor in South Africa after Apartheid was dismantled. This world class event occurred at the Global Conference on World Evangelism in 1997 in Pretoria, South Africa. Gayla and I were there with more that 5,000 delegates from all over the world.

Bishop Lazarus was present at the very opening of the conference- when the lights were turned off. We heard sounds of a distant drum. Then the song of a local African. Then a drum. Then the call of a native bird. Another drum. And then a huge lion roared. And the lights came back on. Before us on the long stage was a black African dressed in an elegant white robe. He proceeded to stretch out his arms and say, "Welcome to South Africa." Shortly thereafter a white African pastor and Bishop Lazarus shared words of reconciliation, forgiveness, then tears, and then a huge embrace. All to the standing applause of 5,000 delegates. It was a moment in our lives we will all never forget.
























Bishop McKinney and Myself

I have shared all this to prepare you for what happened in our meeting in Bishop McKinney's library recently. Bishop McKinney came into the library to meet with us and when he sat down Bishop Lazarus proceeded to apologize to Bishop McKinney for what he said was, "The reason you are here and not in Africa." He said that it is widely known, that African families and neighbors had sold and abandoned their relatives during the slave trade that enabled the slavers to ship them to the United States. Bishop Lazarus said that he was there to say, " We are sorry for what has been done." There was barely a pause when Bishop McKinney leaned over close to Bishop Lazarus and said. "All is known, and all is forgiven."

This was another moment in time I will never forget. The power of God's grace and reconciliation is an amazing and humbling thing to see in action. It was not all that different the day Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years of prison during Apartheid and shared a message of forgiveness and reconciliation. As Nelson Mandela himself once said, "If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness. "

As we embark for South Africa in nearly a week, these meetings and experiences have been keen reminders that God's love and grace are essential ingredients of our vision for Africa.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Amor Headquarters Opened After Fires

Amor Headquarters in San Diego re-opened today after fires in San Diego forced it closing last Monday and Tuesday. Four of our team member's families were in mandatory evacuation areas and they have all now been able to return to their homes.














In relief, much less celebration, the Amor team held an all team lunch at Headquarters today.
While we enjoyed the all team lunch, the skies above continued to be full of smoke and dust from the fires that have now turned their direction eastward, away from the communities surrounding the offices of Amor.

While the numbers of San Diegans still evacuated from their homes is well over 300,000, much of San Diego is getting back to a somewhat normal rhythm. The latest statistics on this fire are:

  • 512,000 people evacuated
  • 375,000 acres burned(470 square miles)
  • 1,300 building destroyed
  • Estimated 1 billion dollars in damage

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Amor Headquarters Remained Closed

With 513,000 homes evacuated in San Diego, a second day of closure for Amor's headquarters as instituted today in light of the Harris fire that has been threatening the communities just east of the office. This afternoon the fire reports are looking much better though most communities east of the Amor offices are still under volunteer evacuation. There has been very little wind at the office, which is good news, though our Ranch in eastern Tijuana is not so fortunate. High winds there continue to knock over trees, tip over water tanks, and damage the wood bathrooms. In a cell phone report from Amor Team Member Forrest Fowler just recently, there is no sight of fire at all from Rancho.

An amazing satellite photo below shows the ongoing fire and smoke activity we are facing in San Diego today:

Fires Nearing Amor Family's Homes and Amor Headquarters

Here are some pictures I took from my backyard in San Diego last night around 2am- after a neighbor woke me up to say, "the mountain is on fire!!"































Monday, October 22, 2007

Amor Headquarters Closed Due To Fires

San Diego has been declared in a State of Emergency. Over 250,000 people have been evacuated in San Diego due to fires that have ravaged well over 100,000 acres. According to the news, its only going to get worse. The fires are zero percent contained.The Mayor of San Diego has asked that people stay off the roads and not use they cell phones unless absolutely necessary.


















While Amor's Headquarters is not in any immediate danger from the fires, some of our team members have been evacuated from their homes.

We have no groups in Mexico at this time. The fire most concerning to Amor is the Harris fire that is burning north of Amor's Rancho (main camp), in east Tijuana. The fire is currently burning west in the direction of Chula Vista and San Ysidro, which is where Amor's Headquarters is located.


















Satellite photo showing smoke plumes from San Diego fires

For frequent updates about the fire and Amor's ministry locations look
at the "What am I doing" section at the top left of this blog. You can
go directly to this blog at www.simplyscott.blogspot.com or click
"Scott Congdon's blog" on the front page of Amor's blog at www.amor.org.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

VeggieTales and Amor

Phil Visher, founder of VeggieTales, was the general session speaker at last night's National Youth Worker convention in San Diego. Amor has a booth in the trade show area and is leading daily trips of conference participants to Mexico to build a home.

I attended last night's general session to catch up on all things 'youth work' and to hear Phil speak. Phil's story has caught Amor's attention as I recently gave our entire Amor team copies of Phil's newly released book, "Me, Myself, and Bob".

Phil's story is about a small town boy who becomes a huge success. He was thrown out of bible college because he flunked chapel to go on to become fiercely sought after by Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and the likes for his "dream comes true" story. He made his first animated film at the young age of 8 and at the pinnacle of his success sold 50 million children's videos.

People were saying that he could be the next Walt Disney. "That sounded pretty good," said Phil. His company soon reached 200 employees. Right about then is when everything went wrong. To handle the incredible growth of the company, Phil had hired a team of executives that it was soon discovered couldn't get along. The President of two years left after Phil told reminded the executive team of the Christ-based purpose for their being.

Then the finances started struggling at VeggiTales. Layoffs ensued. From a high of 210 employees, the workforce was slashed to 180, then 140, down to 100, and then 65. One morning only 13 people showed up for their staff prayer meeting.

Phil had been praying though this entire process. "God could have rescued us, but he didn't!" said Phil. Everything that had built in the last 14 years was sold off as a result of the impending bankruptcy.

A pastor once told Phil how the stress of daily ministry had gotten to him so much that he laid in his bed for nearly 9 months. "If this is what its like working for you," said the pastor, "then I don't want to do it anymore." That's when Phil realized that we have to ask: what's more important to you? Your dreams or God? Phil eventually realized that he had to "let go of everything", so that God could say, " Now I can use you." "Anything you're not willing to let go of is an idol, that's sin", said Phil.

If you don't know what God wants you to do, wait on him. Walking with God on a daily basis is the truly the most important thing. When asked what the 5 year vision for his newest project was, Phil responded, "To be in the center of God's will." Phil now spends from half an hour to a full hour each day in prayer, in the word, and waiting on God's will.

In closing, Phil stated, "The most important thing is not what I can do for God, its to make God the most important thing."

I highly suggest you get a copy of Phil's recent book, "Me, Myself, and Bob" and get a copy of the 2007 National Youth Workers Conventions general session talk by Phil.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Julian Wisdom

Gayla and I had lunch today at the Julian Cafe & Bakery, home of the famous Julian Apple Pie."
Definitely finger licking good. And we didn't have chicken!




















What made the visit inspiring were some quotes that caught my eye in the cafe. I think you'll enjoy them like I did:

  • "God never makes us conscious of our weakness, except to give of his strength."
  • "To see God's hand in everything, makes life the greatest adventure of all!"
  • "There is no better exercise for strengthening the heart , than to reach down and lift up another."
  • "You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day -- by the deeds that you do, by the words that you say. Men read what you write, whether faithless or true, what is in the gospel, according to you."
Looks like we fed our tummies as well as our souls!!

PS. The apple pie is......words can't describe. You have to come up and get one yourself some time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

VERTIGO

No, its not the movie- VERTIGO. It was me last week in New Mexico. I'm not sure what brought it on but maybe a lot of air travel didn't help. In case you are wondering what "vertigo" is, its typically an inner ear syndrome that completely throws off your balance. I woke up one morning last week at 5am, in the dark, with the room spinning like crazy. I tried to stand up and get out of bed, but that was a bad idea. I was then laying on the floor. Not having any clew what was going on, I crawled out of the camp trailer I was in to the front porch for some fresh, frigid air. I thought maybe I was dizzy from a gas leak or maybe even carbon monoxide.

A lot happened in the next two hours, leading to me ending up in a bed in an emergency room over an hour away in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Hooked up to an IV with my head still spinning and my stomach rolling, I was wondering what was going on. After spending nearly a day in the emergency room, I was released around 4pm with the explanation that all my vitals were normal and that I had "vertigo". I couldn't drive, walked quite unsteadily, but fortunately the medicine they prescribed took away the ill feeling.

The good news is that after recovering at the home a great friend in El Paso, I managed to get on a plane last Thursday to fly home to San Diego. I had an unsettling, dizzy/ill spell just one hour before the plane was to leave however . Just at that time I got an email on my cell phone from, of all places, South Africa. It was from Pastor Abel Govender saying, "We are in prayer for you at this time and trust that the Lord will continue His healing and favor upon you. " I felt a wonderful peace fall upon me and the dizziness and illness passed. I was able to board the plane and I soon found myself landing in San Diego.

What a roller caster ride last week was. Actually the last two weeks. I started in Indiana, then traveled to Ohio. I flew home on Friday and flew to Texas on Sunday. I then drove to New Mexico and then this adventure started.

I had all kinds of great meetings in the last week but the time I had hoped to spend updating my blogs and answering emails ended up being recovery time. So, stay tuned for catch up posts.

Oh, one more thing. If you have every had a "Vertigo" experience I would love to hear them. Just comment to this this post.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Day 2 With Home Depot Supply- The Final Day!!

The Home Depot Supply Team completed their home today at 4:00pm! It was a joyous time as the new owners walked into their new home for the first time with tears streaming down their faces. See todays pictures in the slide show below:


CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE SLIDE SHOW OF HOME DEPOT SUPPLY DAY 2

Josh Tells About Family HD Supply Built A Home For

Amor Field Specialist, Josh Carter, worked with the Home Depot Supply Team from beginning to end of the project. Below is an audio recording of Josh telling us about the family that HD Supply built a home for. Click the play button at the bottom left hand corner of the Gabcast player below to hear Josh.




Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Day 1 With Home Depot Supply


Amazing progress was made today with the team from Home Depot Supply. The walls went up the and roof went on before the day was over.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW TODAY'S SLIDE SHOW



You can also click the picture above to go to the slide show!

Interview with Home Depot Supply In Tijuana





Home Depot Supply Builds Home In Tijuana

I am writing this blog from my truck on my Treo while a team of executives from Home Depot Supply are building a home some 50 feet from me. The family we are building for lost everything in an electrical fire that started in the bathroom. Just 9 executives are building this house in 2 days. They have their work cut out for them, but its going well. I will try and send some photos from the work site if I can figure out how to do it. So far I keep getting an error message when I try.


Friday, August 31, 2007

I Am Only One

While attending meetings at the University of Southern California recently I saw a student athlete with the most amazing quote on the back of his shirt. Here's what it said:

"I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
What I can do, I should do.
And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do."
Edward Everett Hale

As I read this quote I was reminded why we started Amor Ministries in the very beginning. We saw a need and we knew we needed to do something. We didn't really know what we were doing in those early days. We just saw children and people living in abject poverty and we did everything we could do to help.

As we do today, we simply trusted in God to guide us and use us to share "love" to those in need and give glory to God. We simply said, "Here I am, send me," as quoted in Isaiah chapter 6. And God did the rest!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hurricane Dean Hits Cancun

The much anticipated Hurricane Dean has finally hit Cancun and the eastern coastal region on the Yucatan. Fortunately for Cancun, and the Cancun Christian University, the hurricane center is some 100 to 150 miles south of Cancun.

















I called Gilberto who is at his apartment in downtown Cancun to see how things were going. To hear our phone conversation click the link below:



Phone Call Update From Gilberto In Cancun

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Week Of Changes

What a week. Changes, changes, changes! First, the book writing was put on hold. Too many events at work to get accomplished while writing a book. We didn't anticipate our summer participants not meeting our goals, we landed about 1,000 participants short, so we have to place more attention on recruiting more groups for this spring and increased fund raising. Our directors did a great job making budget cuts that will help us through the remainder of the year.

As I write this I should have been on a plane with Gayla on the way to Cancun for a meeting regarding Cancun Christian University. Well, it looks like Hurricane Dean decided to invite himself to Cancun also. Currently the hurricane is projected to hit Cancun sometime this Monday. All Nations Seminary President, John Lee, was also heading to Cancun, but from Peru. He was in Peru this week at the time of the 8.0 earthquake, which currently has killed a reported 500 people. John was glad to hear that we were not insisting that he meet us in Cancun to experience a hurricane. We will rescheduling this trip sometime this fall. When Gilberto called me from Cancun yesterday he was packing his things and consolidating his non-perishable foods in case he needs to ride out the storm. We'll keep him and all our friends in the Yucatan in our prayers.

















For more updates on Hurricane Dean go to my other blog: Cancun Christian University.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Board Chairman Spends Two Days At Headquarters

Amor Board Chairman, Mike Mirau, spent the best part of two days recently working together on technology issues and helping write the business plan for Cancun Christian University. Recent team member changes on the IT team made it advantageous to have Mike fly out from Dallas to spend some time with Travis Hall, Bob Brewer and myself. We reviewed the current technology and information systems of Amor, discussed present and future needs, and assessed our contingency plans. Mike spent well over 17 years as the Director of Information Technology for Interstate Batteries and has frequently provided oversight and consulting for Amor as it relates to our information system needs.















In preparation for the November Amor Board meeting, Mike and I also spent time working on the Business Plan for Cancun Christian University. For the last seven years Mike has been the President of a company called Personnelity as well as actively coaching executives leading all sizes of companies. While the Amor Board approved the Executive Summary for the University last February, the board is anticipating a consolidated business plan at the upcoming November board meeting. With Mike's expertise, we made significant inroads in the initial stages of drafting a proposal for the board.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Where Did The Short Term Missionaries Go?

As its been on a lot of our minds lately, I have also been wondering why this summer our number of participants didn't meet our projections. The estimated number is that we are going to be 10% below our projections. Now on one hand, that doesn't sound like much, but in real numbers we are talking about some 1,000 fewer participants than expected. That translates into 50 few homes being built this summer for some very need families. Its this revelation that hurts the most.

So what did happen this summer? We have had a lot of discussions about this lately. The answers range everything from a normal three year grow cycle that Amor goes through, to concerns about the upcoming passport requirements, and even to the effects of the immigration issues being in the news all the time. Lone Tree Director, Tim Worrel, recently commented to me that its even possible that larger churches are taking a more active role in organizing their own mission trips to facilitate projects that they have more control over.

I would like to add my own thoughts in this regard considering a recent article in USA Today. The article estimates that well over 500,000 faith based volunteers have participated in the Hurricane Katria recovery. " Most donate a week or two to the recovery", the article went on to say. Now, at the height of volunteer season, one supervisor is overseeing nearly 1,000 volunteers a week. The past two years have mostly been spent just gutting homes, stripping off materials from the walls right down to the studs.

This kind of short term mission endeavor has never been seen in the United States before. It has been a time when our "neighbors" were right in our very own yard, right here at home. Considering the staggering effects of this hurricane, it brings a great deal of appreciation to the fact that our fellow servants remember that its not whether you serve overseas or in your own US backyard.....its not one or the other....we still must do both. Thank goodness for the faithful servants who flew and drove to the hurricane devastated regions to face heat, humidity, mosquitos, lack of electricity, lack of privacy, and basically extremely unsanitary conditions. Thanks also to those who have traveled across familiar borders, to destinations far beyond the comforts they left behind.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Man Killed For a Loaf of Bread

I was shocked this week when I heard about a man in Zimbabwe who was killed in a fight over a "loaf of bread"! No doubt the economic and political situation is worsening by the day as inflation is pushing to 10,000% and food shortages are worsening.

But to hear that someone actually lost their life over a loaf of bread is utterly disheartening. Among other instruments, the man was actually stoned to death.

It can only bring more meaning to me about when Jesus said, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" Mt. 7:9 I may never be able to wrap my head around such tragic consequences for such meaningless actions. But being the father of a son tears deep at me I consider that everyone is a child of someone. How could anyone kill someone over a loaf of bread? It humbles me greatly in such refection that our Heavenly Father would never give us a stone in place of a needed loaf of bread. Neither would I do such to my own son. Neither should we to anyone in need. Not even for a Samaritan. Not even for an enemy.

Are We A Movement or An Organization?

USA Today had an eye catching article today entitled, "Young Adults Aren't Sticking with Church."

According to the author of of the suvey, Ed Stezter, "People are looking for a faith that can change them, and to be a part of changing the world."

This is the missing link??? How tragic this is when you consider that this is the number one reason people keep telling us they come on mission trips with us. Its a real reminder why so many of the churches across the US that bring groups with us are growing. They are the churches that are providing opportunities to develop a living faith as well as empowering them to be a part of changing the world.

What an opportunity and what a privilege it is for us to once again recognize what a pivotal and strategic position Amor has been placed to be a conduit for such a need.

This also lead me to recall a conversation I recently had with two good friends of Amor, Dan and Wayne. They both have a long history with the British non profit organization called, Toc-H.
They have both described the work of Toc-H as a "movement" not an "organization." It think that as we look closer as to how Amor goes forward, it becomes increasingly obvious that we as as much a "movement" in present times as Toc-H. We are, no doubt, in part, a product of the very "movement" that Toc-H has been described as. It will definitely be very interesting for us to process and understand our role and definition as a "movement" rather than an "organization." Both, in reference to who we are today, as well as how we "move" in the future!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bridges

For once I would like to indulge myself by letting my artistic side reveal itself. While driving through one of the Tijuana, Mexico communities called Amparo Sanchez today where we work I came across a road that had a plethora of walk bridges built across a dry river bed. The unique construction was actually picturesque in spite of them traversing one of the most poverty stricken areas we work. See for yourself how amazing these bridges are. I would say they all qualify as "appropriate technology",or maybe "alternative technology" would be a better phrase.












Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Correct Craft Press Release

Correct Craft President/CEO, Bill Yeargin, sent me a press release about their recent trip with Amor to Mexico:

Correct Craft, Inc announced today that a team of its employees recently traveled to Mexico to spend part of their summer vacation building a new home.

The team of twenty-one Correct Craft employees built the new home for a family of seven living in Tecate, Mexico. The project was coordinated by Amor Ministries, a non-profit organization operating out of San Diego, California. Over the past 27 years, Amor Ministries has coordinated the building of over 10,000 homes for needy families in Mexico.

Correct Craft President/CEO Bill Yeargin, who worked with the team in Mexico, said "It was great to see so many of our employees raise the money to go and then take their time to help with this important mission. I know that while the family in Mexico will significantly benefit from this new house, the employees who traveled with us also had a life changing experience." Yeargin added “To see our Board Chairman, Ken Meloon, hand the family the keys to their new home was a very emotional and rewarding experience.”

Correct Craft Board Chairman Ken Meloon added, "For many decades our company mission has been to build boats to the glory of God. To actually live out our values by helping this family was an incredible experience. I enjoyed my time working together with the Correct Craft team on this worthy cause."

Celebrating 82 years of excellence in the marine industry, Correct Craft is a family-owned manufacturer of Nautique water ski and wakeboard boats and boats for recreational enjoyment. Correct Craft, Inc. is known for superior quality product, cutting-edge technology and innovative hull designs. To see the complete line of Nautique boats, visit www.correctcraft.com.














Correct Craft team hands keys to recipients
of their new home

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fly your troubles away

There is something about being in a plane that totally relaxes me. It didn't used to always be this way. I used to be terrified of flying (that's another story in itself). But these days I do really look forward to it. I think in part its because I am less connected, for once, when I am 35,000 feet above the earth. I wish it was due to a sense of being closer to heaven, but I think it really has more to do with being further from the earth for awhile.

Being that I am a seriously digitally connected individual, you might think the opposite for me. How can Scott not stand having an active cell phone connection and a wireless broadband connection? I wish I could answer that. All I know is that once I walk on a jet, I immediately feel more relaxed and look forward to the opportunity of having far less on my plate to juggle for awhile. My choices are limited, my opportunities minimal.

It makes it very understandable why Jesus would head into the wilderness to get away from it all. So he could spend some un-distracted time with his heavenly Father. I often wonder how he could even manage this time alone when he knew his time was very limited on this earth. If anyone should have been in a rush to reach every person on this earth is just three years, I would have imagined it would have been him. What an amazing example of keeping life on this earth in perspective.

I needn't wait for the next jet ride to find time to disconnect from the hectic pace I face everyday. I need to find alone time even when I have the ability to be "connected" in every way. Let's see, where is that bookstore/coffee shop I love in Sea Port Village? Hey Jesus! How about we meet there for coffee this Friday at noon? Awesome! Its a date!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Making Friends- Best Business Practices

I just spent a couple days with a wonderful friend and great supporter of Amor. We spent countless hours discussing the history of his involvement in the early 1970's with a British organization (a movement is really a better way to describe it) that had a huge influence, if not fathered Amor Ministries. I can't wait to share more about this in future writings but something that my friend Dan said I can't resist sharing.

We were talking about success, business ethics, and the likes when he quoted a business person who meant a lot to him in the past. When Dan asked him what the key practice was that he believed led him and his business success, the CEO said, "I strive to make everyone a friend."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Essential Business Philosophy of Amor Ministries

I am borrowing a practice of the San Diego Business Journal were they interview entrepreneurs and other industry leaders. I find these articles to be extremely interesting as I get to take a peek into the heart of these leaders and their businesses or organizations. SDBJ has a long list of questions and subjects they ask these leaders about. I am going to periodically blog about one of these topics. This first top is about what is Amor's "essential business philosophy".

As Jesus chose Peter to be the cornerstone of the church, Amor has chosen the church to be our leading core value. Many a para-church organization actually believe they are the replacement for the church or have no interest win working with churches. Since it founding in 1980, Amor has always focused on serving the church in Mexico and well as the United States. Our Mexican local pastors meet monthly at our Mexico Ministry Planning Boards to select needy families to receive homes, to determine which churches Amor should build, and even to help Amor determine which programs most appropriately meet the needs of their local Mexican communities.

Equally important is Amor's National Advisory Board which consists of church leaders, pastors, and youth leaders. Annual they participate in reviewing our community programs and give serious attention to new projects being developed.

At Amor, we are very proud of our dedication to serve the poor in Mexico by working with, through, and for local churches. No one knows the needs of the local community better. Every house that Amor builds is consider a gift to a needy family from the local Mexican church. Such a home is only one way the local church shows God love in caring and appropriate ways. When a group builds a home for a family they can be assured that the home is not the end of God's amazing outpouring of his love. The local pastor will continue to follow-up with the family; ministering to them if they need; praying with them if they desire; coming to church if they decide to.

I am very humbled knowing that each of us are truly a part of God's church as we serve him and glorify him by our serving hands and hearts. We serve a powerful and truly amazing God. He loves his church and we eagerly join him in doing the same.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

We want Chelsea!

One of the pleasures of working with work groups in Mexico is watching them have such a great time with Amor team members. Yesterday and today I had the pleasure of working with Chelsea with the Correct Craft group. Today we ended the day having built a double wide home in two days. The slab was poured by our Mexican pastors before Correct Craft arrived.
Chelsea left the work site a little after three pm today and the group said they wanted to finish by 5pm. At 4pm we started the second coat of stucco. They wanted to set a record or something silly like that.

I knew they would have to really work hard to do the second coat in one hour (they were exhausted already) so I poured on the enthusiasm. I coached them to move faster!! Mix harder!! Keep the stucco going!! I guess they didn't appreciate it like I thought they would and they started chanting, "Shut up Scott, we want Chelsea! Shut up Scott, we want Chelsea!". No one ever said leadership was easy....or even appreciated. I think I'll just drive across the border and craw onto my favorite couch and feel sorry for myself.

Or...Maybe I'll make a t-shirt that says, "Shut up Chelsea, we want Scott!". Not really. Great job Chelsea. You won their hearts!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Depend on God

One blog I am bragging about technology, the next I am dreading it. My previously wonderful Treo 700p cell phone was killed today when I was attempting a software upgrade to it. An upgrade I was instructed to do.

Long story short, I am writing this blog on my backup Blackberry on top of a hill in Tecate, Mexico. The view is quite expansive over the Tecate valley, but the smell is quite poignant since I can also see the sewage treatment plant. Guess which way the wind has been lowing this week? Straight into us.

The group working on this house where I am is a team from a company called Correct Craft from Orlando Florida. Twenty one hard workers are building a double wide for a family of seven. Presently they all live in a small two room shack on the side of a dirt cliff.














The father, Felipe, is carry stucco around to those who are applying the stucco to the walls as I write. Its a team effort all the way around. We have the likes of boat builders, sales people, executives, and the CEO working on this greatly needed home.

Correct Craft is a great company. A company with strong ethical values. Its founder, W.C. Meloon, once said that success comes primarily from God, not from following a business formula. He concludes, "I've tried both ways, and I'd rather depend on God.".

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Why People Give To Amor

Why do people give to Amor? I often ask myself that one. Is it because we show the huge needs in Mexico and compel them to eradicate poverty? Are they touched by the field person who listens to them at a work site? Is it because we produce great brochures that show compelling conditions of poverty?

In "MegaGifts" by Jerold Panas, the author states that "People do not give because there is a need. Countless thousands of organizations and institutions have great needs. But donors run from "needs". Large donors give to heroic, exciting programs rather than needy organizations. The case must catch the eye, warm the heart and stir the mind."

Alex Spanos, owner of the San Diego Chargers stated that he never gives because there is a need. "There are lots of needs. I give because I'm interested in and I think I can make a real difference", says Spanos.

As Amor embarks on many significant endeavors we must always remember that it is God who guides our steps. He leads us to the needs, and he reveals to us the solutions. I love seeing how he then provides in miraculous ways to serve those in spiritual and physical needs around us. People serve in Mexico with Amor because they know they are a part of making a real difference. As we continue to provide such opportunities, God will then provide the resources, the people, and the passion to continue making a difference.

One of my favorite things in ministry is to see other people catch the vision that Amor has to show God's love in tangible ways. Our mission and our vision is extremely compelling. I truly believe that we must simply continue helping people make a difference in this world.

The stories we tell and the differences we make, by the grace of God, are truly the reasons people get excited about giving support this ministry. I'm excited every day when I see how the families we build homes for are changed. I can never hear enough stories about people coming to Mexico on a mission trip whose lives are never the same.

We must keep telling the stories,
and we must keep helping people make a difference.
Its our calling, and its why people give to Amor.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Facing The Dire Effects of AIDS in South Africa

I just finished reading a book called, "Shades of Difference" by Padraig O'Malley. Its a fascinating, but very detailed read about South Africa's struggle for freedom from once imprisoned and ANC activist Mac Maharaj's perspective. What really caught my eye was the stunning statistics about aids in South Africa.

"Within the next ten years, an estimated 4.4 million people will die of HIV/AIDS- more than ten percent of the current population. One in four people is HIV positive. Life expectancy, sixty-three years in 1991, is now fifty-one and will drop to below forty, perhaps as low as thirty-six years, by 2010. "

If this doesn't break your heart, I don't know what would. And to think that South Africa has the best economy of any African country. They also have the most cases of aids of any African country. No doubt, we will be building homes for many families who have been drastically affected by the consequences of aids... loss of a parent, parents, or grand parents.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

And The Story Begins

After 27 years of amazing history, I am finally taking on the task of writing the Amor Story. Yes, today is officially the first day that I am seriously taking on the grand opportunity of writing a book about Amor Ministries. You probably won't see much of me during the entire month of July. I have cleared my calendar and have mostly locked myself into my home office to write, write, write.

I have been inspired, in part, to do this as the result of several books I have read in recent times. "Me, Myself, and Bob" is an incredible story about creator and producer Phil Vischer. In this amazing work, Phil describes the rise to success of "Veggie Tales", as well as the challenges that eventually lead to its decline. Previously, I had also read "From the Bottom Up: One Man's Crusade to Clear America's Rivers" by Chad Pregracke who tells an wonderful story about his journey from a one-man rubbish remover to an internationally renowned river campaigner.

As I read Chad's book about cleaning rivers I reminisced about how we had first built homes in the Tijuana, Mexico dump in the early 1980's. I began to recall the life changing events that happened in those days. Ones similar to my recent blog about when Rocco Ferrario recorded the story of a woman having her baby on the dirt floor of her shack in the Tijuana dump. Several years later, and close to 300 homes being built, the Tijuana dump was closed down and a community was transformed. This story alone inspires we to write about the remarkable ways that God has transformed our lives for the last 27 years.

Say a prayer for me as I undertake this very challenging project. I am both very excited to have this opportunity as well as being awed about the enormity of writing this story well. But then again, isn't this what Amor has always been all about, taking on things we have never done before as we continue to seek God's wondrous guidance. To Him be the Glory!!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Meeting About Cancun Christian University

Steve Horrex and I met with Cancun Philanthropist, Gilberto F., near San Jose today at Saratoga Federated Church. Gilberto was there visiting his sister and brother-in-law for over a week and invited Steve and I to fly up to meet with him. What an incredible setting Saratoga Federated Church always is. This is a church that has been involved with Amor for a very, very long time. It seemed only appropriate to have such an important meeting for Amor at this church. As expected, they made us all feel right at home and even brought a cart full of breakfast rolls and coffee for our meeting.















Gilberto and Steve at Saratoga Federated Church

Gilberto brought new architectural plans for the CCU Campus as well as a contract to donate the 12 acres of land designated for the University to of Amor Ministries. The reality of this moment set in as we went through the contract, line after line. Gilberto was legally donating the 12 acre campus to Amor!















CCU Deed Presented to Scott and Steve

We also received and reviewed the parcel map for the entire region surrounding the University. This community is actually called Puerto Morelos ,which is a subsidiary of Cancun. We will now continue to work with Gilberto, our attorneys, and our Board of Directors to review all the legal documents that Gilberto submitted to us.

Additionally, Gilberto presented a plan to develop a Christian community surrounding the University. This would consist of some 40 lots
directly around the University property, allowing for easy access to all the facilities on the Campus. We will continue to discuss this opportunity with Gilberto and will definitely be providing more information on this specific development in the future.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Behind the Scenes

I don't know whether to write about amazing technology use in the field in Mexico or about how most people never see or even hear about a medical run to border.

Well,
technology wins for the moment. I just have to write about how amazing cell phones have changed things in even poverty stricken countries. I am sitting in my truck, in rural Mexico, at a ranch writing a blog on my cell phone (a Blackberry to be exact). After I am done writing this blog, which is actually an email to my blog, I will hit the email send button and it will send what I just wrote to my Blog. What an amazing phenomenon.

Yesterday I was
really scratching my head for something to blog about. Everything was pretty much normal, as usual stuff. Then, someone got sick, probably from dehydration, and I jumped into emergency run to the border to a US hospital mode. This is certainly one of those events that may get officially reported but they probably go pretty much unnoticed by the average trip participant or the general public.

This blog entry is in honor of all those untold
heroes who have had to lead a midnight medical run. The only good thing about one of these runs is that since they are usually late night events the border lines back into the US are usually pretty short.

When was the last time you saw five cars in the regular border lanes? Last night I did. Its amazing how quiet the roads and border are at 11:30pm. I guess that there really is other good news in that in the history of
Amor, every medical run ended up with a good ending- the sick person got well.

I thank God for the dedicated team members who have needed to lead a medical drive to the US. Thanks for going the extra miles, often late at night to serve those in need.

By the way, its also a real blessing to see how our buddies at Camping Pros always jump into help, especially in urgent camp issues. Next time you see one of the team members at Camping Pros tell them how much we all love them! They too have real servant hearts.

And now, I hit the "send" button on my cell phone and launch this Blog: Send!
--------------------------
Sent from my
BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Family Camp In Full Swing

I'm writing this from the big tent in Family Camp at Rancho in Tijuana. Its a beautiful sight and sound to hear over 150 family members singing old as well as new hymns and songs together during their evening program.

It doesn't matter that it has a dirt floor. It doesn't matter that every one is tired from building and standing up walls all day. It doesn't matter that most of them haven't had showers. No, what matters is they all have found the energy deep inside to sing such a beautiful harmony. They have all dug deep to give thanks to God after a long, hard day of building homes for some very needy Mexican families.

I truly believe we all find more energy than we ever know when we know God is using us to do his will.














One of the Family Camp participants, Rocco Ferrario, that I met tonight, is someone I have not seen for 20 years since we were at my home church in Orange County, California. Our reunion once again reminded me that the purpose for which God gives us this energy has been the same driving force since we started Amor 27 years ago.

Listen to an incredible story about how this long time friend of Amor Ministries and Family Camp participant, Rocco, remembers building one of the first Amor homes built at the Tijuana dump.

Click the link below to hear Rocco's story:

ROCCO'S STORY

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Core Value #4


Family camp has begun in Tijuana. Saturday the Family Camp members arrived by planes and were shuttled to Rancho in numerous rental vans taking multiple trips. The set up crews had spent several days getting things ready for the arriving Family Camp participants before they all even arrived in San Diego. What most people never notice are all the things behind the scenes that make a trip like this possible,. Even our our best plans succumbed to the countless variables that any trip to Mexico faces.

  • A suitcase didn't get off the plane when it was supposed to and ended up in Puerto Rico. It didn't stay very long though and arrived at the San Diego airport this morning.
  • The computer projector for the evening programs at Ranch arrived, but with out its power supply. A search was undertaken to find a replacement cable or a replacement projector.
  • The key for the Family Camp cargo container at Rancho was given to Scott to give to Camp Director, Dean Mathis. Scott went and made a copy of the key for Dean but the countless duties of the day, which included transporting arriving participants from the San Diego Airport to Ranch, somehow distracted Scott and Dean. Sometime on Saturday Dean arrived with the set up team at Rancho without the key to the cargo container. Scott had both copies back at his home in San Diego.
  • The lead foreman for the Family Camp construction teams called on Saturday to say he was sick and wouldn't be able to make the trip. Dean came down with something on Saturday and painfully had to stand in a one hour walk across the border line before he arrived at a place to recuperate in San Diego.
These are just a few of the things that can happen to any mission trip that we normally never hear about. And, these are just the things that I know about that have happened with Family Camp the last couple days, before they even begin their construction projects.

All these events and more create a real sense of appreciation for what our groups and participants sometimes have to go through. Its amazing to hear and see everyone in Family Camp improvising, jumping in, taking the lead, filling in, and serving each other. The previous list of evens I just wrote in this blog have all had solutions, thank goodness. Each event got resolved. Each problem had a solution, thanks to the dedication and patience of everyone involved.

To illustrate the spirit of working together like this, Gayla called Howard Major on the Nextel Direct Connect and asked him if he would be willing to go to Rancho several hours early to take the family camp work site leaders to preview their upcoming work sites. When she called Howard she realized that he was trying to spend as much time with his wife before she left to go out of town. Howard said he would go in early and Gayla said, "Thanks I owe you one." And Howard said, "No, that's what we do." Simple, direct, and accurate. That is what we do. We serve the groups, each mission trip participant, and one another, all by the grace of God. Core value #4.