I finally got around to downloading skype on my computer, yay! So...

1) If you have skype and we're not contacts yet, my screename is brettincasie. I'm not really sure how to find people, but I'm sure I could figure it out if you emailed me your screename.

2) If you don't have skype, it's just a good (free!) way to talk, computer-to-computer, with voice and video if you have a microphone and camara. If you would like to download it, that's free too - www.skype.com.

So, I look forward to talking to you guys sometimes. We'll just have to plan ahead to be online at the same time. Easy enough.


Venice, henna, and a water hole

Friday we went to Xochimilco with Norma and her family and the LSTers. It's the closest you get to Venice in Mexico, if you can imagine. We floated down the little river and ate wonderful food prepared by none other than Norma and Sara themselves, and at one point a littler boat with a marimba (xylophone-type intrument) attached itself to us. Next thing we know, we're dancing the macarena. Who knew that dance would ever come in handy? Toby had his own special version of course, drawing the stares of many other boats. Yikes.

Saturday most of us went to Cuernavaca with Sean to get his van and eat with the AIMers there. Zane, Chutney and I stayed the night. My favorite thing we did was going to the center, where there was a hippie market, Aztec dancers, and a System of a Down cover band. We made some friends - Jennie bought these sticks from a couple of people who were teaching us how to play with them, and we got henna tattoos from this other lady. She's really good with dreadlocks too, but I didn't have time or money for that. Maybe next visit. We also played our new favorite game, Perudo, and I laughed until I cried on several occassions. I had really missed Jennie, and it was really good to see the whole team.

Sunday we made it back in time for church, and to witness four baptisms! I was so excited for Eric, Sandra, Maritza and Luz. The first two are a couple that we just recently met and is living with one of the church families. Maritza is visiting from Vera Cruz, and Luz is one of our good friends here. We don't have a baptistry (since we don't even have a church building), so we have to trek down to the water hole. I felt bad for them as they were trembling in the less-than-clean water, but I guess that's just a tiny extra sacrifice that makes it even more special.

That evening we had our last LST party to say goodbye to Tony, Shea, and Kelsey, and to meet more of our readers. I have six readers for now, but I have only met 3 so far. The one that's on my mind the most is Grecia - she's 15, broken family, bitter towards religion, brutally honest, extremely smart, and really into Tim Burton movies. I can tell that we're going to be friends. :) Along with the LST workbook Tony suggested doing some English lessons with song lyrics and poetry, so I'm looking into some Switchfoot lyrics that can provoke good discussion and maybe some more emotionally-charged Psalms. My first session with her is today, and I have another lady named Lupita tomorrow. I still have to schedule the rest. Be praying for us!

Oh, and one more thing: remember that baby shower I went to several weeks ago? Well we got to meet the baby last night. Immanuel just turned one month old yesterday, and he is precious with his full head of hair. We might be going to their church with them on Saturday, and Ivanna's her mom wants to start some kind of small group. It was really good to see Ivanna again, and her whole family.


People, not objects

I'll start by telling you guys about Pedro. We met him at the park yesterday, and he had some pretty atypical religious views, like a melting pot of gnosticism, Christianity, and mysticism. His basic point was that you can't know about God by learning in the usual methods, can't learn a thing about God from the Bible (though the Bible is a good book, it's flawed, and can only make you hungry for "real knowledge"). You can only know God through the incarnation of God that is currently on earth (in other words, Jesus isn't unique), by this man teaching you God's NAME, and then you will KNOW God and SEE God. He couldn't really tell us who had taught him, or if he even knew. I mean, he's not entirely fluent in English, but he was good enough for me to be able to tell when he was avoiding pertinant questions.

(As a sidenote, I'd like to say that I was very happy with how the conversation went. None of us got angry or defensive, just curious and inquisitive, and maybe a little passionate. :) But also, none of us were threatened by this conversation, which, looking back on my life, is saying a lot. I can trust in what I've learned, in what I know. No one is beyond the reach of the Gospel, but it's not my job to convince anyone of anything. I love, I listen, I ask, and I share when there are appropriate opportunities. No pressure is necessary.)

Anyway, I have this man in the back of my mind now and I'm praying for him. Earlier, I was also thinking about one of my friends in the States, whom I haveto admit, I still don't really know all that well. I forget that sometimes about people I meet when I fill in the blanks by myself. I thought of what my friend Daniel said, how it's bad to make objects out of people. People are not objects or flat characters in the play called my life. They have big lives of their own with a history and lots of other people that they love (or sometimes hate) and reasons for being who they are, complete with emotions, thoughts, and convictions. And even more basic, but still forgettable, people don't just exist when I see them; they exist even when I haven't heard anything about them in years - doing things, changing.

Then I started reading Colossians and saw how Jesus has a big life too - the image of God, the fulness of deity, the head of the Church, our Redeemer... and I'm thinking, how could I ever limit this person, God himself, to being a baby in a manger? A dying man on a cross? Even an empty tomb? All of these things are a part of who he was, who he is, but to think that's all is to be very foolish indeed.

So what I'm trying to say is, in order to really know anyone you have to be willing to admit that there are many things you don't know about them and be willing to learn those things with time, respect, and understanding. This is one way we can be compassionate. And the same, to an extent, is applied to our relationship with God - willing to admit there are things we don't know, willing to learn more, willing to understand. This is respect. And how are we to be renewed in his likeness if we never find out how and why he feels and acts the way he does? Little by little, we get to know someone. And if we desire, little by little, we become like someone. May my desire always be to become like Christ.


Can I just say that one of the little things that makes me the happiest is when our washing machine sings to us? It's so cute and it always makes me smile. :)


I don't have a lot of time, but something is better than nothing.

So we've been really busy! There's a group from Atlanta, GA here and we had a VBS at one of the missionary kid's schools. It was exhausting (children are so hard to understand!) but I'm glad I was able to help. I met a 92 year old lady at Wednesday small group, and I couldn't understand hardly a word she said to me either. At one point she started crying and I had no idea what was going on, but she was talking about God's good gifts so I think they were good tears. This situation kind of motivates me to learn more Spanish, but I think even if I were fluent I wouldn't be able to understand her, haha. Oh well.

We also started a small group on Thursday with some LST students. I think it will be good to have a group at our apartment to invite friends to. We spoke a lot more English than I expected, but maybe once the LST team has to leave we'll speak more Spanish (they don't know Spanish at all). I'll miss the LST team, seems like they haven't really been here that long. I'm excited to start doing LST sessions too though.

I'm going to learn to sew now with Sara, our Mexican grandma. But first, lunch.



Just wanted to let you guys know that I now have a youtube account. That way I can upload videos for free, and everyone can see them even if you don't have a facebook. The ones on facebook take longer to view anyway. I'll let you know on here when I upload new videos. Here's the link:



I have friends!

This weekend was spent getting things done (getting a couch, a toaster, etc.) and resting (aka reading Harry Potter). Yesterday was really long, mostly because we didn't eat lunch until about 5, but I think yesterday was the first time I was very aware that I have friends here in Mexico now. Miguel hung out with us yesterday, his sisters want to hang out sometime, I was talking and laughing with Clara and Grecia, and I would have seen Chely on Saturday if she didn't have to work. I have people that I miss when I don't see them for awhile, people who I can call and go do something if we get the chance. It makes me really happy to remember that I don't have to be awesome with Spanish before I can have friends.

Also, I've been struck with the thought lately of how God is good. We were singing with the church yesterday, "Yo se que Dios es bueno" (I need to figure out how to type accents...) and I just thought, you know, that's really profound. That's quite a thing to proclaim. A lot of people don't believe that God exists, let alone is good, or don't define good in the same way. God is good, and worthy of my trust. That's been important lately. I've missed home some these past few days.

But like I said, I have friends, and that's a huge step. And our apartment looks a lot more like home now - we have the last bits of furniture we were planning to get, and we decorated and cleaned up clutter. So now I'm sitting at a table/desk and all my family is looking at me through frames and it's great.

Now I'm going to go make good food and go to the park to visit the LST people.


El Campamento

We're back from camp, yay! Although it was great, I'm not gonna lie, I'm glad to be home. :)

We left early on Monday and got home yesterday evening. It was like a 4 day small group, or intensive Spanish class, haha. I did my first Spanish devo that was all of 7 minutes, maybe. :) And I had some legit conversations with some of the people, which was great. Some really encouraging things were the three baptisms (be praying for them, Misael, Beatriz, and Alberto) and my idea to copy off of my old youth group camps with the encouragement notes went amazingly well. The kids were so positive a lot of the time, and sometimes it was hard to get them to focus, but I think I noticed that more this time since I was a bit more "in charge" whatever that means. :) There was a pool, but it was inexplicably cold and rainy even though we were off the mountain. All the Mexicans swam anyway, but us AIMers were babies. haha

One funny story is about this one guy, Alexis. He's the one who gave us all nicknames when he met us (mine is chonguitos because of my hair) and he wanted me to give him a nickname. I'm horrible at giving nick names, so I just pointed at his Jack Skellington wristband (from the Disney movie, Nightmare Before Christmas, he's way popular in Mexico) and said "Well, you've got Jack." He said "If I were a woman, I would marry Jack" hahahaha so I responded, "Ok, you're Sally then" (Jack's girlfriend in the movie). Not sure if that's the kind of name he was going for, but there you have it. The rest of the time Chutney and I spent singing Sally's song to him. "I sense there's something in the wind..."

So this weekend's objective is to get a couch. We're starting small group here on Thursday so we definitely need to get our apartment entirely settled by then. We've also got a pretty big group of high school juniors and their parents coming from Kentucky in a few days.

And now I'm off to go read. And mop.


An excerpt from a book - not meant to offend, just to provoke your thoughts, which I would love to hear.

Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President, pp 280-283 [bold is my emphasis, everything else as is]

Immediately following the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11th, President George Bush proclaimed, "Our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil."


Ridding the world of evil by violent means only creates and sustains evil. This is the point of Jesus' politics. The parable of the weeds and the wheat [Matthew 13:24-29] is among the clearest illustrations we have of how Jesus deals with the evil of the world.

Cutting against our scientific modes of thought, hope in God is an essential part of Jesus' politics on ridding the world of evil. As the parable of the weeds and wheat illustrates, Jesus understood the destruction of evil to be not in human hands but in God's hands. Though such an understanding could be abused in a number of ways, we can't get around the fact that Jesus' nonviolent dealing with evil is founded on an eschatological hope. Jesus had faith in how God ultimately deals with the world.

**Footnote: The popular definition of eschatology must be broadened to include this present life, not simply the end of the world. John Yoder writes that eschatology is a "doctrine of what is ultimate" (Yoder, The Original Revolution, 52), and, "The eschaton, the 'Last Thing,' the End-Event, imparts to life a meaningfulness which it would not otherwise have. ... This is what we mean by eschatology: a hope which, defying present frustration, defines a present position in terms of the yet unseen goal which gives it meaning" (53). Yoder goes on to distinguish eschatology from the fashionable moneymaking work of "apocaliptics," which speculates on dates and the shape of things to come: "[E]ven when an apocalyptic type of literature occurs [in the Bible], preoccupation is not with the prediction for the sake of prediction, but rather with the meaning which the future has for the present" (54).

The New Testament view of God's ultimate dealing with the world is Jesus' second coming. Jesus has been known as the "one who is coming into the world." Christians claim he embodies hope for the wonderful world to come. He represents the coming justice for the world. Christians claim that all of the hopes for saving (or "healing") the world are satisfied through the coming of the expected one. Jesus came, he healed, he lived the kingdom, and he was killed. And yet, even when the one who is awaited finally comes, hope and expectation are not quelled. Expectation is again raised: Christ will come again. To have this hope is to politically apply the parable of the weeds: don't pull out the weeds but wait until the harvest.

The practical point of the second coming is not to look up at the sky in expectation (1 Thessalonians is written largely against this misguided hope) but to live in a certain way. The second coming imparts political and practical meaning and shapes the way we view the world.

Hope for the second coming is not just about hope in Jesus; it is about having a hope like Jesus'. His hope in God is on display in his parable of the weeks: trusting that God will sort out the evildoers. Living in hope of God's coming to us purifies us, for we live not impulsively or rashly but with the sense that matters are ultimately in God's hands. "Leaving things in God's hands" is an often abused and quaint phrase that many seem to think means "don't bother with doing anything, because Jesus will come someday and undo all your work anyway." Or even worse, some might say, "Let things get worse in the world, then Jesus will come back even sooner."

"Leaving things in God's hands" should rather be used to mean "do what Jesus did." Follow Jesus' example without regard for whether you are effectively "changing the world." Jesus demonstrated what it means to leave things in God's hangs. So if we want to know what it means for us to trust in Jesus. we should ask what it meant for Jesus to trust in God.

"For it is commentdable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because you are conscious of God ... When they hurled their insults at im, he did not retaliate, when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." -1 Peter 2:19, 23


We're done!

Today was our finals day for our "super-intensive" first term of Spanish. Yay! I even ate a Milky Way to celebrate, haha. For my oral topic I got to talk about Guadalajara, so that went really well. I got a B in the class, but we still have to go back tomorrow to get our grade reports. And our class is going out to eat on Saturday, so that should be fun.

Periodically I feel inexplicably nauseous, like tonight at small group. I think it could be the altitude still - sometimes people take a long time to get over that. But overall I'm doing really well health-wise.

Speaking of small groups, we're going to start having one at our house, primarily for inviting the Let's Start Talking (LST) readers. LST is a program where English speakers help others with their conversational English skills by listening to them read aloud selected passages from the Bible and asking questions about grammar, vocabulary, and comprehension. Best of all, it's totally free for the readers, something that's always very shocking. :) There's a group of three instructors here from Montana. They'll be here for a month, and we'll help follow up with their readers.

If anyone is looking for a book to read, Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne is very thought-provoking. I'll write more about that once I finish. I also really liked Philip Yancey's Where Is God When It Hurts? He looked at suffering from many angles: how Jesus is a God who chose to suffer with us and to work against it, how God can use suffering as a "mega-phone" to tell humanity that this world isn't how it should be, and also how suffering has a looking-forward value. He also talked about how to respond when you or someone you love is suffering. A new favorite quote: "Faith is believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse."

Ok I think that's about it for now. I'm going to try to get videos up on my facebook this week, maybe I'll figure out a way to share those type of things here too. I've been bad at visually documenting things thus far, but at least our newsletter has a lot of pictures, right? :)

Oh, one more thing, camp starts on Monday and we're having a meeting to hammer out details tomorrow. If you could pray for us, that would be awesome. I've never had to organize camps before, and a lot of us are nervous. Thanks!