Christmas Greetings from Way of the Cross Ministries (WOTC) in Harlingen, Texas, the location of our latest SOWERS project. There were three SOWERS couples on this project. The men assembled bunk beds, built display panels and a number of other tasks to help prepare for the influx of volunteers (close to 300) that will add to the regular staff of 30+ to form 14 teams to reach out to a number of Mexican villages on December 28th and provide a "Big Feed" in Matamoros, Mexico on December 29th. The Big Feed is an all-day carnival type event with many activities and gifts as well as hot chicken meals for more than five thousand inhabitants of one of Matamoros' poorer areas. Many come looking for free gifts, but not one person attends without hearing of greater eternal gifts available for the asking and many accept that gift.
The SOWERS women cleaned up the landscaping in the area where the volunteer groups do devotions, did painting and stuffed gift bags.
Thursday was the last SOWERS workday and yesterday Juanita and I had the opportunity to travel about five hours South from here near the border to the town of Soto La Marina. We traveled in one of four van loads of WOTC staff members, crammed in there with a large number of suitcases packed with zip lock bags each with a handful of candy a toy and a tract. We got to the first of three outreach locations arriving just before noon. There was a stage at the end of a park (think - basketball court) with a p.a. system already set-up and playing Christian music. There were maybe a hundred people milling about, but as the singers from WOTC started playing their instruments and singing their songs people arrived from all directions and soon there were over eight hundred there to listen to the testimonies and preaching and participate in the singing and prayers. With the exception of a number of older adults, especially men, most of the people lined up and came through in single file to accept a gift bag. The crowd dispersed and the group rushed to another location - this time in the middle of a street blocked off for the occasion. Eight hundred gift bags were handed out at the first location for an approximate total of 2,100 handed at the three outreaches the team we were with did yesterday. Over three-quarters of the participants raised their hands to acknowledge their need and to pray the sinner's prayer of acceptance.
Being new to this type of mass outreach one has questions, since it is easy to discount the validity of such "decisions". Between sessions Juanita talked to a staff member who had done her first "Big Feed" three or four years ago, as a volunteer. She told of witnessing to a young girl who did not know English. Since the woman did not know Spanish she used an English - Spanish Bible. The girl accepted Christ as her personal Saviour and the woman wrote that off as an interesting experience, but was skeptical of any lasting value of the exercise. The next year she came back as a volunteer again. The little girl came, bringing a bi-lingual friend who she wanted the woman to talk to. The woman talked to her and led her to the Lord, but then she turned her attention to the little girl from the previous year and, with the bi-lingual person's help, began to interrogate her as to her faith. The little girl just beamed as she explained that she "had Jesus in her heart", but was a little perplexed that the woman didn't remember since she had been the one to introduce her the previous year.
In addition to the Big Feed, The Way of the Cross has many short and long term opportunities to serve ranging from the medical outreach in January to the many teams that come down to do projects. You can put together your own team or arrange to join one. Check out their web site using the link above and e-mail them if you have questions about how to get involved in this dynamic ministry. One Sunday evening Paul had the privilege to join the WOTC founder and an interpreter in going to Matamoros to attend the celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of the first church built by WOTC volunteers. It was an incredible event. In Mexico, girls have a special celebration for their fifteenth birthday and the church was decorated just like one of those celebrations with pink banners and balloons and even the musicians wearing black suits and pink shirts. There were many young, married adults who had been children when they and their parents came to the Lord and now they were there in that church with their own children - evidence of long-term results from the right decision made many years ago. Seeing these joyful people is such a contrast to the harsh family life so many others have in that area. That was the first church built by WOTC and they have lost count of the number built since.
Well, this letter is longer than intended, but it could easily be longer if I kept writing of the wonders the Lord has wrought. I close with a paraphrase from missionary to Tepic, Mexico, Debbie Mellberg's Christmas letter last year. Christ came as a babe and could see the cross from his manger, but came despite that because He could see the world from the cross. That world includes you and me. Praise be to God for His wonderful gift of the babe in the manger who came to deliver us.
Have a Blessed Christmas Paul & Juanita Alton www.paulalton.com (306) 240-2034 summer (956) 778-0413 winter
PS. Our rig goes into the shop near Houston on the 26th to complete (we hope) the repairs that were started last month. We have been told we can live in our rig in the evenings. I guess we will visit family and more than a few malls during the days. Hopefully repairs will be completed in time to be in Alton, Texas, our next SOWERS project, by January 5th.
PPS: This monthly/ bi-monthly update goes out to 599 addresses. If your is one of them you don't want on the list please let me know. Usually there is more nuts and bolts and travel stuff, but it is hard not to get enthusiastic and want to tell you about a ministry that meets the physical and spiritual needs of so many people.
November 15, 2006
Mid October we migrated South with the geese and started on a SOWERS project here at Victory Camp in Alvin, Texas on October 30th, just in time to help set up for Hallelujah Night - an alternative Halloween evening that raises funds for the school next door. Over 2,500 people showed up to ride the miniature train, the go-carts, zip lines and other camp stuff as well as play games and partake of a variety of foods. Since then Paul and Louie (one half of the other SOWER couple here) have made cabinets and are making faux gingerbread Christmas tree props for one of the scenes on the Christmas Train which runs in December. Over 5,000 people are expected to experience the fifteen minute miniature train ride which goes through various scenes starting with modern/traditional Christmas themes and ending with a strong message of the ultimate meaning of Christmas and Christ's advent and life.
Juanita and Jane (the other half of the other couple - but you probably guessed that) fluffed Christmas trees that had been stored since last year and have worked at getting some of the many Christmas Train props ready to set up.
The trip down here was relatively uneventful, except for one problem with the fifth wheel trailer - the crack that started in Mexico this spring and which had been stable at a drilled hole for over six months decided to start growing on the trip until it went from the corner of the bedroom slide to the outside molding on the overhang. We took it to a local RV dealer who had the capability to fix it, but who could not do warranty work for the manufacturer. After a bit of a runaround with the local dealer for R-Vision products who was not set up to do large repairs and was not willing to pay the two or three thousand US dollars and wait for the manufacturer to reimburse him the Edmonton dealer agreed to get involved (Thank you, Guarantee RV!).
We finish up here on Thursday and take the rig to the repair shop and stay at Juanita's sister's place until the work is complete in a week or three. Hopefully it will be done in time to get to our next SOWERS project down near the border at Harlingen, Texas by December 1st.
The mailing list for updates started as a compilation of people we knew or had had e-correspondence with prior to retirement. If you no longer wish to receive these updates drop me an e-mail. Thx - Paul
September 10, 2006
Summer is over. The days may still be warm (25 C. today) but the nights are getting chilly, the leaves have started to turn colour and the geese are vee'ing past in increasing numbers.
Tomorrow we take down the satellite Internet dish and get the truck and trailer ready to move on Tuesday 80 kms South from Bethel Gospel Camp and Jeannette Lake to our property near Meadow Lake.
Sometime in October after Thanksgiving we will head South to Texas to be in Alvin by the SOWERS project start date of October 26.
Month of November - Alvin, Texas (Living Stones Church/Victory Camp) Month of December - Harlingen, Texas ( Way of the Cross Training Center) Month of January - Alton, Texas (Christian Charity Care Center) Month of February - Harlingen, Texas (Way of the Cross Training Center) Month of March - Big Sandy, Texas (ALERT)
Alvin is Southwest of Houston about twenty minutes from one of Juanita's sisters and ten minutes from where one of Juanita's late sister's daughter works as a bank manager. The project will probably be to help set up a miniature train that people ride on during the Christmas season. Apparently it tells the Christmas story with a strong salvation message in a fifteen minute ride and gets about five thousand riders a year. I am GL, but we are probably the only couple on this project so it may not mean anything different.
Harlingen and Alton are close to the border. Both work with Mexicans and have some cross border stuff. Not sure what doing - project description is mostly maintenance, but Spanish skills may mean we end up doing more than just maintenance. Also GL at the second Harlingen project - expect it will fill up closer to the time.
Big Sandy you know all about from our travel writings (see www.PaulAlton.com and click on chapter 77). Good chance we will be at the SOWERS re-union there after the project, but we haven't talked about that yet.
We may get some bus travel done in Mexico in between projects or just go over to help in a border town. We have a long break of almost two weeks over Christmas that we also haven't figured out what we are supposed to do with.
August 13, 2006
We have been pretty busy at Bethel Gospel Camp this past six weeks with little time to keep up with e-mail let alone send out newsletters on time. September should be better.
One development is a web site you may want to check out www.PaulAlton.com which will be used for a developing a portfolio of writings in the near future. Meanwhile it has links to the Mexican travel writings.
We have finalized this winter's plans with five months at four different SOWERS projects in Texas. More on that in the future, as well.
Blessings Paul & Juanita Alton (306) 240-2034
June 26, 2006
This is a bit early, but with us heading up to camp later this week, thought we should get something out before we shut down the Internet connection for a few days.
The web updates continue. You can read our travels at Bob Hoffman's Retirement Tips Travel Log chapters 69, 71, 73, 74 and 77. *
It's hard to believe that June 30th marks a year since retirement from Maintenance & Engineering Manager at MWP(ML) and how many changes we have all seen in that year. Speaking of changes, please note our new telephone number (306) 240-2034. The old one still works for a few days and it will probably be easier to reach us at Bethel Gospel Camp over the summer, but we plan to keep the voice mail on the new one active even when we head South next winter.
In May we continued our work around the home site. Paul went out to Powell River for, his niece, Kelly's wedding and a week of intense visiting and damage to his weight control program. Juanita traveled to Edmonton a few times as airport chauffeur and to visit with Rebekah.
Most of June has been prep for the wedding, especially for the females in the family. "The wedding?" you say. Well, Saturday June 24th Nick and Rebekah were wed at a lovely not a dry eye in the house ceremony in Meadow lake. All survived and the happy couple leave on Thursday for a three week honeymoon in the British Isles.
We did take some time to do other things. On June 8th we attended Rebekah's convocation in Civil Engineering ("with distinction") at the University of Alberta. She completed the studies toward her degree in December and after joining us for Christmas in Mexico started work at Amec Engineering as a junior geo-technical engineer.
On June 28th we plan to head back to Bethel Gospel Camp for the summer and have already been checking out the work list and started itching to get working on it.
We don't know yet what next winter holds for us, but as my current profile says:
Took voluntary, early retirement. This was self initiated to pursue personal interests and volunteer work in Canada, the USA and Mexico. Work in the first year included kids’ camps in Canada and California, work at an orphanage in Oaxaca, Mexico and work with SOWERS at a training academy in Texas. Future possibilities include more of the same, plus participation in employment or commercial endeavors that fulfill long-held goals to participate in start-ups, financial turnarounds or similar short-term events with intense workloads and well defined outcomes.
This is a mass mailing. Please let me know if you get multiple copies to your various e-mail addresses and want it to go to a particular one. Feel free to pass on the update or the links to the web to others that might find them interesting. Also feel free to bring to our attention any activity or ministry or even employment that we would bring value to and might choose over the ones we already know about.
Blessings Paul Alton MBA Phone (306) 240-2034 Fax (347) 823-2072 P.O. Box 3038, Meadow Lake, SK Canada S9X 1Z7
* Chapter sixty-nine describes our travel down to Oaxaca, chapter seventy-one our time there, and coming soon is chapter seventy- three about the trip out of Mexico, our time at ALERT and our trip home. It has been sent to Bob Hoffman for converting to .html and will be posted when it gets converted. Sorry for the lack of individual links, but one of the things that spam filters look for is multiple links.
April 28, 2006
We have been back in Canada for a couple of weeks now, catching up with friends and family and gradually getting the area around the pad graveled well enough that we can hope to get away to the camp this summer without a repeat of the sink-up-to-the-axles scenario we had last summer.
This is going out globally so bear with me if some of this is old news to you - hopefully it isn't to everybody on the list.
After retirement on June 30th last year we worked at Bethel Gospel Camp for the summer and part of the fall then we headed West and South. The write-up of that adventure and the time in Mexico is at http://retirementtips.homestead.com/Index.html# at chapters sixty-nine and seventy-one.
Chapter sixty-ninecovers the travel down to Oaxaca and chapter seventy-one talks a little about the time at Tlacolula, Oaxaca and one trip up into the mountains. The subsequent chapter covering our journey back to Texas and staring down predatory Mexican policemen and our time at the ALERT academy in Big Sandy, Texas working with the SOWERS will be in chapters seventy-three, and seventy-four. Chapter 77 includes the travel back to Canada and driving through flood waters on the interstate highway in North Dakota, Now there is more gravel to haul and a niece's wedding to go to in Powell River in May and Rebekah's convocation in Edmonton in June and Rebekah and Nick's wedding in Meadow Lake on June 24th. Then camp season starts again for the summer with a possible one week break for Paul to scout out a potential ministry location for next winter.
Please note the new e-mail address and new fax number.
Blessings Paul & Juanita Alton Phone (306) 236-8003 until June 30 Fax (347) 823-2072
Last Updated January 20, 2007, Updated font size and Bob Hoffman's links - March 17, 2021