Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easter Camp 2018

Easter Camp is always a highlight. This year was different as I had very little involvement in the organization and preparation of the camp. I wasn't sure what to expect from myself, as I have been struggling to find energy for every day. As we left for camp, I prayed that God would do something special in spite of my lack of readiness mentally and emotionally.

We were going with 17 campers from our sports ministry, Transformados, which was a huge change from the 7 last year. We squeezed them into 4 vehicles and had to come back for some gear with one more vehicle.

God spoke to the youth through many different ways and activities, and the main speaker was great. He had them laughing, anticipating and learning every day. On the 2nd day, he already gave an invitation and I was over joyed that one of the youth we had brought accepted Jesus as Savior. He had been moving in that direction in the last 3 months, from atheism, to believing in God's existence, to adopted into God's family, but this was how God moved him to take that final step.

When camp was over, we had seen our youth singing, dancing, jumping, praying, reading their Bibles, encouraging one another, and very content with their experience. The weather could not have been much better, and the spiritual growth was tremendous, I believe. I saw Karlene, my wife, get back into camp ministry, which she had not done for a long time, and really have a wonderful time and great impact.

I praise God that I was also able to bring a friend I mentored a few years ago as a leader, and he had a great experience as well. He was put in a position as a group leader which was more than he expected, but did a great job. God is great, and showed once again how he is moving in La Paz, Mexico. 130 campers, 40 some staff, and 5 days of great camp ministry, and now it is time to follow it up as we continue to love on our youth! Please be encouraged, your prayers are moving mountains!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Catching Up

Jose* has been with Transformados for about 2 and a half years. When he first started to come to basketball, he came because a friend invited him. He was friendly, spoke English quite well, and was open to talk about everything. He came to Bible Study early on and I found out he was an atheist. He had done a lot of reading of different religions and with the evolution theory presented in science classes, he was cynical and skeptical. But he said he was open. Yet he didn't come back to the Bible Study.
He continued to come to basketball practices, games, and other fun activities we hosted. This last summer, he was a volunteer leader and was very involved. When it ended, he was interviewed by another missionary living in La Paz as part of an attempt to produce some videos about the Transformados ministry.  When I talked to the missionary later, he seemed to think that Jose was a Christian.
So the next time I talked to Jose, I started to ask some probing questions. He smiled and told me that he had become a Christian 2 weeks ago. He hadn't told anyone because he wanted to see if it was real first. He was certain now, was experiencing peace and joy that was from the Lord. What had made the difference was spending a lot of time with our ministry, playing games, hanging out and feeling loved and accepted. He also was reading a book by Lee Stroebel that was given to him by the Eagers, our missionary partners. It had helped him get past the scientific doubts he had.
Mateo* is a bit younger. He has been a part of Transformados through basketball , but would come for a few months, then disappear for almost a year other than saying hi here and there. This summer, he started coming very regularly, and dropping in at our house too. He showed up one day with a big grin, and told us that he was now a believer. He had been an atheist as well, due to science classes as well. What had made the difference for him was a dream that he had. We were so glad to hear his big turn around. We are hoping to disciple both these young men and have started to try to meet weekly, and keep them involved as much as possible. For Jose, this means connecting him with missionaries we know in his new city. For Matteo, it is finding time in our schedules to meet here.
In all this, we are blessed to see God moving and drawing youth to himself, and that in some way, we are able to be a part of this. Praise God! And in some way, you may be a part of this too, and for this we thank you! *Names have been changed to protect the privacy of each person.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Thiessen Talk'O - Winter/Spring 2017

It's been a while since you've heard from us and for this we apologize. Life is full and busy and sometimes carving out the time required to put together a good newsletter is hard to do. A lot has happened in our lives since our summer update but time and space do not allow us to share it all, so here's a few highlights we hope you will enjoy.

This Is Our Rapid-fire, #TBT Attempt....

August – September 2016: We returned to Canada and were blessed to take in a family wedding (Keyana was the flowergirl) and to re-connect with loved ones. We managed to fit in some medical appointments, got our children registered to homeschool, collected Alberta curriculum and visited/shared with a few of our supporting churches. One of the highlights for Josiah and Keyana, while in Canada, was building a tree house with Grandpa Foster.

October 2016: Transformados 1st intern, Ben, wrapped up his 7 months with us and headed back to the US. We were sad to see him go, but so very thankful for his sacrifice and service! The end of October brought us our 2nd intern, Taylor, who was with us for 9 weeks. It was a blessing to have both of these young men pour their time and energy into the work of Transformados and the hearts of the youth in our community.

December 2016: We put on our 1st Transformados Christmas Posada! We rented a local fiesta place, just 3 doors down from our home, decorated, prepped and cooked a meal of taco soup with cupcakes for dessert. We planned group games and competitions like the best slam dunk and a turkey shoot for the parents and even put together a little band, including some Transformados youth on guitar and drums, so we could provide our guests with Christmas dinner music. The turnout was great and the opportunity it gave us to meet some parents for the first time was prayer answered! Taylor shared his powerful testimony about the transforming work of Christ in his life and we know that hearts were touched and some amazing conversations have since followed. This excites us and shows us that God is moving and working in the lives of those with whom we are building relationships! God willing, we'd love to see this become an annual event!

We enjoyed having Karlene's parents visit us during December and January as well as Anthony's sister and her family. It's always a wonderful encouragement to have family and friends make the effort to come and visit us and experience the ministries we are involved in.

Between Christmas and New Years, Transformados hosted a 3 day basketball camp for our youngest age group. We were blessed to have the help of our older Transformados youth and our family visitors. Each day during water break, Phil, Taylor and Anthony took turns sharing about the Love, Joy and Peace found through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

January 2017: ESL classes are back up and running with a good size group and regular attendance. Anthony enjoys teaching this class and spends time hanging out with those who like to stay after and visit. Ideally, we'd love to have an ESL teacher join our team and expand this part of our ministry.

Remember the elementary school in our neighbourhood, who a year ago, allowed us to use their basketball court to hold a 3 day camp during Christmas holidays? After this camp, they gave us permission to use their court on Saturdays for our elementary basketball club. Part way through the year, they entrusted us with our own gate/bathroom key which is a testament to having earned their trust. Then in February, they allowed us to come and teach basketball during the afternoon recess on Mondays and Fridays! After just 1 week of teaching basketball during recess, the number of students who attend our Saturday club doubled!!! We now have on average of 28 elementary aged children each Saturday! Two weeks ago, Anthony had a meeting with another Principal of an elementary school in a neighbouring colonia who is inviting us to provide a morning recess intramural program for their students. This is an exciting opportunity!

February 2017: Anthony, Karlene and Phil had the opportunity to take an 18 month course from Global School of Sports Ministry and in February, the executive director and her husband traveled to La Paz to evaluate our ministry and to give us our exams. We all passed with flying colours and they were excited to see what God is doing in and through Transformados.

We were also blessed to have another of Anthony's sisters and her family come and spend a week with us. Doing life together, in La Paz, was great!

We made some changes in Transformados this month. We split our older age group into Sr. and Jr. high and added 2 extra nights of basketball club to accommodate this change. This was a stretch and it meant that we had to give up hosting our El Faro cell group which was a very difficult decision for us. But when Anthony met with the leader of the group to share what God has been doing in Transformados, he confirmed that expanding the ministry to better meet the needs of the youth and to give us more times of interaction with them, was the right decision. He assured us that we would always be a part of their group and welcome to attend when we can and then gave us his blessing to pursue the course that God was setting before us.

The second change we made was to our Saturday youth nights. Now the girls meet at our house for a fun activity and Bible study while the boys meet at the centre for the same. Then we all congregate together at the centre for group games, activities, snacks etc. It seems to be a good change and we look forward to being able to delve deeper into spiritual discussions and the Word as we continue to build relationships with these precious youth.

We are excited, that after a hiatus to organize documents and become a registered civil entity, the Christian life coach we partnered with last year has returned to renting our Transformados Centre 2 afternoons per week, to meet with, encourage and work with at risk youth. It's a blessing to be able to help him provide this much needed service to our community.

March 2017: Our third change took place this month as we held our first 3 on 3 basketball tournaments in all 3 categories of our club. The idea is that this tournament will happen every month (except during summer) and the teams will change each time to give more youth the chance to win the trophy for their category. Each individual, on the winning team, gets a framed picture of their team and themselves with the trophy, to take home. While we hope for increased numbers in our Jr. & Sr. High groups, we were blown away with the turnout in our elementary category! All the groups seemed to really enjoy the competition and are looking forward to the next tournament.

April 2017: Anthony had the privilege of helping out again this year with an inter-church Easter Bible Camp held at Rancho El Camino (another TEAM MI here in La Paz). Josiah was old enough to attend this year and he obviously enjoyed it so much that he's already talking about next year. It was a record attendance year with 141 campers and enough volunteers/staff to take the number over 180. We were super excited to be able to take 4 of our Transformados youth! Last year, when we offered, none of them showed any interest in attending camp. Praise God that this year, 4 of them went and all enjoyed the experience. We continue to pray for their hearts and know that God is working and drawing them to Himself.

We enjoyed having Karlene's parents here for 3 weeks over Easter. Their help, support and company lighten the daily load, which we truly appreciate! This past week, Anthony's parents were here for the first time! It was great to have them visit and to show them what life is like for us in La Paz! Hopefully they enjoyed their experience and will want to come back again someday.

Other Exciting Spiritual, Language Updates...

Anthony and Phil have been discipling one of our Transformados youth who recently shared that he gave his life to Christ a year ago at a youth event in another church. Their journey through the Gospel of John has resulted in great discussions and the realization that his salvation is not based on his good works has brought him further understanding and freedom in his growing relationship with Jesus Christ! It's exciting to see God at work in his life and heart!

I (Karlene) have had two exciting opportunities to share my faith, for the first time in Spanish! Those of you who know how difficult this language learning journey has been for me, will understand the significance of this! I've shared a sentence here and there before, I've been trying to live out God's love in the relationships we're building and the situations we find ourselves in, but actually having a deeper conversation about God and salvation has felt next to impossible for me. But God provided the opportunities, gave me the words (in Spanish), caused my speech to flow, albeit with mistakes and far from perfect and the courage to just do it! In both instances, I was so blessed in the process and am praying that the words He gave me to share will have encouraged and caused those with whom I shared, to think more about God. I pray that one day, His amazing love will draw them into relationship with Him!

El Faro Church Update...

The roof has been raised! Many of you will remember that 2 years ago, a work team from Nampa Gospel Fellowship came and served by helping to get the construction started on the new worship sanctuary at El Faro. Since those first great strides were made, the congregation has been working toward raising funds for a nursery and church office, which they have since built as well as funds for pouring the roof over the sanctuary. We are excited to report that just last month, they raised the roof! We thank God for His provision and we continue to trust Him to further provide the funds needed to put in the windows, doors, A/C and sound system! What a blessing this new space is going to be to the growing congregation of El Faro!

The Future....

In May we have our annual Transformados Team retreat and are helping to host a group on a TEAM vision trip by letting them experience the ministries of Transformados. Some of these people could possibly become future teammates!

In June, our next intern arrives. She will be with us for 8 weeks and we're excited to have her return. She first served here last year as part of the short term team from Cedarville University and loved her experience so much that she's coming back! In July, we will have a short term volunteer join us for 2 weeks helping us prep for and put on our first week of summer basketball camp. Following that, will be another 2 weeks of camp, put on with the help of a returning short term team from Cedarville University! It's going to be a crazy, busy summer and we ask you to cover us in prayer!

One Final Note Of Thanks...

We are so, so incredibly blessed to have you standing with us through financial and prayer support. We recognized that it would be impossible to continue serving here without this much needed and much appreciated help. Your prayers, your support, your sacrifices, your emails, your cards, your visits, these are all blessings that we do not take lightly or for-granted. It is humbling to be on the receiving end of the outpouring of love from the Body of Christ. We pray and hope that we are found faithful in passing on this love to those we've been called to serve.

When we first arrived on the field in Mexico, we were very close to being fully supported. We have now been here for 4 years and with the addition of renting the Transformados Centre, the loss of our Alberta Health Care* which has caused our monthly health insurance premiums to increase substantially, a 20% government hike in gas/fuel prices this January and a recent rental increase for our house, we are facing the present reality of being under supported.

Our desire is to keep on serving here in Mexico with Transformados and we are trusting God to continue to provide for us as He has in the past. We know His mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness! Please join us in prayer regarding this situation.

*(Alberta Health Care has a policy where they will only allow Missionaries to be gone a total of 4 years and will reinstate AHC only when we return to permanently live in Canada.)
We want to thank you for your continued support and prayers and trust that you have enjoyed reading our latest update!

Until Our Next Talk'O Together,

The Thiessens :)
  • Our temporary resident visas expire this September which means we need to apply for permanent residency. Please cover this process in prayer as it involves a lot of time, energy, expense and trips to immigration.
  • Please pray for our Transformados Team retreat. Pray that it will be a time of rest, regrouping and vision casting. Pray for discernment, the Holy Spirit's leading and unity as we look back on all that God has done and forward to all that He has planned.
  • Pray for our new intern, our 2 week volunteer and our short term team from Cedarville. Pray that God will provide the support they need to be able to come. Pray for their travel, transition and time with Transformados. Pray for yielded hearts, willing to serve and glean all that God has for them during their time here in Mexico.
  • Pray for the young man Anthony and Phil are discipling, for his growing relationship with Jesus and his less than supportive home environment.
  • Pray for all who attended the Easter camp. Pray for the lives and hearts of all the teens, especially the Transformados youth who attended. Pray that God will continue to draw them to Himself and that they will recognize their need for Him to be their Saviour.
  • Pray that more youth will come out for our bible study/devotional times on Saturday nights. Pray that God will get a hold of their hearts and that they will recognize their need for Him.
  • Pray that God will continue to give Transformados favour in the eyes of our community and that He will continue to use us to help and encourage and share His love with the children, youth and families in our neighbourhood.
  • Pray for our upcoming summer of basketball camps and community outreach activities. Pray that God will be honored and glorified in all we do and that hearts and lives will be transformed!
  • Pray that God will bring us more long-term teammates. We would love to grow the ESL side of our program, have our centre open every day as a drop-in-place for youth as well as add more ministries in the area of music and creative arts. In order to do this, however, we need more personnel with a passion to reach children/youth and a desire to serve God.
  • Pray for those coming on the TEAM vision trip in May. Pray that God will direct and give discernment as they seek Him about becoming involved in the work He is doing in Mexico.
  • Please continue to pray for our marriage, our children, our family, our health, our protection, our energy, our continued language growth and the relationships we are building. We cannot continue to serve here and serve well without your faithful prayers on our behalf. Pray as the Holy Spirit leads because He knows our needs, our weaknesses, our struggles and the challenges we face.
  • Pray for the children/youth who attend our basketball clubs and youth nights. Pray that God will impact their hearts through our love, our teaching, our friendship and time spent together. Pray for lives to be transformed!
  • Please pray for the individuals with whom Karlene shared her faith. Pray that they will seek to know more and for further opportunities to talk with them. One of these individuals is a Grandmother of a child that attends basketball club. She has just endured her second battle with cancer. Pray for continued healing and that through this difficult journey she will witness God's faithfulness, provision and presence. Pray that she will experience the true peace and freedom that comes through a personal relationship with Him.
...for our interns and the ways God worked in and through them during their times of service.
...for our successful Transformados Christmas Posada, for the opportunity to meet more parents and to share the love of God while having a ton of fun together!
...for a successful 3 day basketball camp over Christmas, being entrusted with keys to 2 public schools and the favour that God is giving Transformados in our community, among members, parents and school directors.
...for encouraging family visits.
...for the increase in students in the ESL class and our elementary basketball club.
...for finishing and passing our GSSM course and a positive evaluation of our Transformados ministries.
...for a successful Easter camp and great turnout of youth.
...for our Transformado's youth who has put his faith in Jesus Christ!
...for the roof being raised at El Faro Church.
...for the encouraging opportunities God has given Karlene to share her faith, in Spanish!
...for the re-connection with a young man who Anthony first discipled upon arrival to La paz, for the exciting report of God's work in his life and the encouragement we received through his thankfulness for the important part Anthony played in his spiritual journey.

If you would like to partner with us financially:
             TEAM Ways to Give - Canada
(Type in Thiessen in the "Select A Missionary or Project" line, click on "Thiessen, Anthony & Karlene, fill out "My Donation" Section and then click on "Make Payment" and follow instructions.)
             TEAM Ways to Give - US
(Type in Thiessen in the "Select A Missionary or Project" line, click on "Thiessen, Anthony & Karlene, fill out "My Donation" Section and then click on "Make Payment" and follow instructions.)

TEAM Canada 1-800-295-4160

TEAM - Canada
#372-16 Midlake Blvd SE
Calgary, AB T2X 2X7
Thank you for considering this important role.