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.

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:


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.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Great Example of Anticipating a Customers Needs

Terrible customer service experiences as well as excellent ones need to be told. I, like most of you, am continually amazed at how bad customer service has become. A truly great customer experience almost appears to be the exception, not the rule anymore. So here is a great, no, amazing story that just happened to me. It gives us hope that the art of truly serving the customer isn't dead.

Gayla and I took some friends to Casa de Pico in its new location in Grossmont Center. Many of you may remember "Casa de Pico" when it was located in Old Town, San Diego. A great loss for San Diego, but the Bazar del Mundo plaza was recently taken over by a Delaware company after it beat a San Diego icon, Diane Powers, at the State Park bid process. I need only mention that Diane took this dilapidated project over 25 years ago and turned it into the most successful lease operation in State Park history. Many claim it was a political move. All I can say is, I did visit the Bazaar and its has lost all of what Diane envisioned and created. Needless to say, I haven't eaten there or taken guests there since the East Coast company took it over. And now I hear they are planning on turning it into a Western theme. Now that's what San Diego is all about.....the Wild, Wild West. NOT!

OK, back to the real story. So Gayla and I are eating at Casa de Pico in Grossmont. I order their new Salmon Salad. Before our food even arrives the waitress comes to our table and tells me that in the kitchen she noticed that the salmon on the salad was rather small. She said she told the chef to cook a larger one for me! I didn't even ask her to do this, or even anticipate it! When our food arrived, mine was not included. She apologized and immediately got my salad with the original salmon. As she was placing this salad in front of me she said she didn't want me to wait for my food while the rest of my table was already eating. "The larger salmon is on its way", she said. Not ten minutes later she arrived with another plate with a huge salmon on it. She again apologized again and said it was a new item on the menu and and the cooks were still learning about the new items.


We all obviously really like having our complaints addressed and fixed by someone. But to have them even anticipate a customers need is amazing. I don't know if there is such a term for this, but in my book , this should be called something like "Proactive Customer Service". It reminds me of Disney giving font line sales and ticket agents up to $250 per employee a day to immediately solve customers concerns and complaints. They instituted a policy that was pro-active. They didn't have to say, "Let me get a manager" or "Let me get a supervisor". They were empowered to take care of the problem immediately.

Diane Powers, wherever you are, you continue to wow us with your incredible dedication to quality, finesse, glamor, and phenomenal customer service. Thank for making our experiences shopping at your stores and dinning at your restaurants such a truly artful and satisfying experience.

PS. I am no way am related to Diane Powers or any business she is involved it. I am just a customer that has come to love what she has created and instilled in every business she touches.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Shame on Scott

Its been three weeks! Three weeks since I last wrote a blog. That's just crazy. It only seems like yesterday that I had a discussion with at least one of our directors at Amor that I would need to write at least two (that's the minimum) blogs a week. I agreed. Ha. Three weeks later I am astounded. Can I promise I won't let that happen again? Better not, just in case. I might be traveling or something. Lousy excuse you say? Your are right. OK. Maybe you asked for it. Whether I have some good material or not I will blog at least twice a week. Ha, got you again.

So, to get you caught up... here are a few developments I am working on that might interest you.

We had a little glitch with our planned trip for South Africa in the last couple weeks. I can't be too specific but it required us to begin expanding our thoughts about where in Africa we should go first. In addition to organizational challenges in South Africa, the cost to fly from the UK to South Africa is significantly higher that other central, much less, northern African countries. A meeting has been held in South Africa with our key contacts there to work out some of the support details. My hope, and dream, is that it will all get sorted out in the next week or so. There is still time for us to keep on track if we get things sorted out in the next couple week. The Wales, UK team, under Bill Hebner's guidance, is ready to pull the trigger on tickets for over 100 people. Expect to hear something from me as soon as I hear something.

The final thing on South Africa I would like to share it that contacts and developments in both South Africa and all over Africa are coming in like crazy. Bill is getting new contacts almost daily and there is rarely a day that goes by that someone calls me or talks with me about a new contact in Africa.

Our benefactor in Cancun, Gilberto, is busy getting the foundations for the classrooms built "off site". Yes, I did said, "off site". You would think that after over 27 years working in Mexico building homes I would know that you could build foundations "off site". But.... I didn't. Gilberto told me this recently and I was really confused. How can you possibly build a foundation or a slab for classrooms "off site". Well, it really is happening! All the foundations for the classrooms are going to be build in the main city of Cancun and then transported to the campus in the jungle. I am having a hard time envisioning this (part of the dilemma I face all the time since I am a "visual" person) but be prepared to hear more from me on this subject as I find out more from Gilberto. Transportable foundations? What will they think of next? Mobile homes? Oh yea, we already have those, don't we.

If you haven't already heard, I am taking the entire month of July to start writing the Amor Story. You may not see me at the office during July since I will be deep in a scholarly mode at my home office writing what I hope will be a wonderful story about how Amor Ministries has come about. I'm not at this immense task alone, thank goodness. Screen play writer and author, Dan Irving, has agreed to coach me in this endeavor. We will be talking and meeting periodically to discuss this book as well as several writing projects he is involved in. One of his current writing projects is about an organization started in the early 1900's in England called, TOC-H. There is an incredible connection with Amor and TOC-H that Gayla and I learned about from Dan. We had an even greater opportunity to learn about this connection when we traveled to England last year and stayed with the Executive Director of TOC-H. I will write more about this in future blogs as well as keep you informed on Dan's book about this very subject.

Two other projects greatly on my mind are the ongoing discussions and plans to buy land in Juarez, Mexico for our camping needs as well as the possibility of buying Rancho in Tijuana. Actually I should say that the later is "Tecate". I am always humored by the fact that the Tecate/Tijuana city borders run on the street just south of the barbed wire of Rancho. Steve Horrex says that Rancho is really in Tecate! You can walk under the barbed wire fence by the banyos and immediately enter into Tijuana. Steve and I are meeting with our board attorney tomorrow morning to discuss progress on both properties.

Yes, Family Camp directors Dean and Amy are here. The rest of the set up crew arrived yesterday. They are busy setting things up for all the family members to arrive this weekend. Gayla and I will be in Rancho next week working with Family Camp. I will be writing next week a lot about how things go with Family Camp. You should know by now that I am a high tech, gadget guy and I will be testing out a new USB wireless card from Sprint at Rancho next week. Yes, I already have one from Verizon but it does't work in Mexico. Sprint does! It even works in Cancun. So the testing begins at Rancho during Family camp. I'm not sure I will have good reception at Rancho since my Spring Treo doesn't get a signal there very often. Isn't is weired to think that Nextel gets one of the best signals at Rancho. Who would have thought that was possible?

Sorry it took so long to write another blog. I plan on doing you better in the future!

Scott's Current Favorite Phone-
Sprint Treo 700p

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Another Great Board Meeting

The Board of Directors of Amor met last week for another outstanding meeting. As normal we commenced on Friday night at 6pm in San Diego. One of the highlights of the board meeting was having our Director of Operations, Ryan Perkio, present the Operations Report in person. At each board meeting one of our Directors is asked to attend a board meeting and personally share their report. Its a real high point of each meeting since the respective director and the board get to see each other first hand. Its always a great time of getting to know each other better and a perfect time for the board to ask insightful questions. Of great interest to the board was the status of camp properties, relations with Mexican community leaders, and filling of open team member positions.

I thought it might be interesting for you to hear a little about the transitions that have taken place over the last few years. I would like to share several key elements that the board has instituted that have make significant developments in the effectiveness of our board. One of the true challenges that a board for a non-profit faces is continuing to function and develop in a manner that is appropriate to the development and progress of the organization they are responsible for governing. These are just some of the ways the Amor Board and its Committees are meeting these challenges!

From its founding days in 1980 board members were elected to unlimited lengths of term. This was very appropriate and necessary in the early years of the ministry since potential board members were more scarce and the demands on the organization to run the day to day operations of the ministry was the highest priority. Just three years ago the Board of Directors instituted maximum 6 year terms for Amor Board members. After a sixth consecutive year of term a board member must take minimum of one year of before being re-instated on the board.

For nearly 24 years the Board of Directors met three times a year for a Saturday meeting.
The Board continues to meet three times a year but now meets for 2 days. This is a direct result of the growth to the ministry and the increased amount of issues the board needs to discuss. The Friday evening agenda varies meeting to meeting from having a guest speaker to educate the board of critical issues that are important to the ministry or hearing the ministry reports. The following day, Saturday, the board continues meeting usually discussing reports and dealing with new business issues.

Several years ago the Board felt that it was important for board members to have a board meeting each year at a different ministry location. Based on the overall availability of board members schedules the Board endeavors to hold one board meeting a year at a different location. This November the entire Board will again be meeting in El Paso, Texas and spending a significant part of their meeting time personally seeing our ministry in Juarez, Mexico.

As the ministry has grown from four mission trips group in 1981 to some 600 in 2006 the need for active board advisory committees has grown. For most of the first 15 years of the ministry Amor did not have any committees. Once Amor became a member of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability the ministry was required to create a Finance/Audit Advisory Committee. Since that time the Board has created and maintains some 5 different advisory committees. Currently they are comprised of both current Amor board members, past board members, and non-board members.

Here is a list of Amor's current active "advisory committees":
  • Board Governance Advisory Committee
  • Camp Advisory Committee
  • Finance Advisory Committee
  • Fundraising Advisory Committee
  • National Advisory Board

Expansion of the Board of Directors and all the Advisory Committees have required advanced tools to facilitate the ongoing management and leadership of the Amor Board and its respective Advisory Committees. To help facilitate this, Amor has maintained a secure, password protected Board and Committee Web Site that contains such tools as a board calendar, document folders for the board and each committee, discussion boards, voting polls, and more. Its an extremely valuable tool for the board and Amor Ministries in general.

Its really exciting to see how the Amor Board and its Advisory Committees have continued to develop and expand over the years. They are a huge, often unseen asset of Amor Ministries. We are all very grateful for the time, expertise, and passion they each put into enabling Amor to change the world through Christ's example.