MEXICO - Ensenada: Puente de Vida (Life Bridge) School

Escuela Puente de Vida was built to provide hope and a future to the disadvantaged children in the Ensenada area who are living in poverty.

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Today, about half of the youth population graduates from high school. The opportunity to complete basic education diminishes signifantly among indigenous people. In addition, many indigenous families in Mexico have been displaced or are transient in their search for sustainable income.

Puente de Vida School, a ministry of Rancho El Refugio in Ensenada, Mexico, has the goal of providing hope and a future to disadvantaged indigenous children of Ojos Negros, a small town in northern Baja California just east of Ensenada. The program includes breakfast and lunch; core educational courses math, language arts, science and social studies; and personal and skill development in art, music, physical activity, gardening, food preparation, and anything else that volunteers and staff can add to the student’s experience.

Students are recruited through Puente de Vida’s national partners, like Pastor Oscar from Ojos Negros and Fernando, our Jr. High teacher. His students this year, ranging from 13 to 22, have dreams of being doctors and teachers and engineers. Our international volunteers support the program with supplementary lessons, supplies, materials, ideas and help. Supporters like you from around the globe are the backbone of the ministry, supporting our staff and teachers as they work passionately to share Christ and be his hands of mercy among the disadvantaged of the Ensenada area.

Together we are opening doors to a bright future for the students of Puente de Vida.

Tim and Hannah Pauls

timandhannahpauls@gmail.com
For more information, visit Puente de Vida Escuela on Facebook
 

Project Updates

  • Rancho El Refugio

    December 2017

     

    It has been an awesome year at Rancho El Refugio! We have seen the Lord’s hand watching over us in so many ways as lives have been touched, protected, and changed.

    Some of the highlights have been a new school bus for the Puente de Vida school and multiple teams coming from both the US and Canada to minister to people in Ensenada and Ojos Negros. We were protected from a major fire in the nearby countryside, only losing 3 bunkhouses in all of it. Other events include 3 firemen training events for the local people, continued schooling at Puente de Vida school, a prison ministry that is touching people in prison and when they are released, many local teams holding retreats at The Ranch, and so much more.

    The ministry done through The Ranch has been and continues to be an exciting step of faith. It’s only possible by your partnering in the ministry with us through prayer support, by bringing teams to The Ranch, and by your generous and much needed financial support. We love you and thank you. Here’s a couple of stories of what’s been happening lately.

    Familia Fajardo Tinoco

    In the month of October, the family Fajardo Tinoco left the Michoacan state of Mexico. They left their town, Apatzingán, fleeing from a host of evils: drug cartels, delinquency, kidnappings, gangs, and inequality, (which allowed their lands to be taken from them.) In fear that the cartels would recruit their children to help sell drugs, the family decided to migrate to Ensenada, Mexico to start a new life.

    With help of an acquaintance, they began working at a small ranch near Rancho el Refugio. After settling, they began looking for a school for their children. The neighbors told them of the small school at Rancho el Refugio, and the family approached the school. Had they requested places in another school, it would have been much more complicated since the school year had already started. We were able to offer space for Ruben, (Jr. High) Johan, (4th grade) Seany, (1st grade) and David (Preschool) to attend Puente de Vida. The family is very thankful, and readily share that the school has made an impact on their lives. The family Fajardo Tinoco say that the school has made a great impact on their lives. They feel protected, loved, and understood, thanks to the Word of God that is spoken and lived by the school’s staff.

    Ruben Alejandro’s Testimony

    Ruben Alejandro, the oldest son of the family and a student in Jr. High, says that he is glad that his family doesn’t have to run from danger, proud that he’s part of a beautiful school, and thankful that his family is happy. In school at Puente de Vida, he has learned how to pray, sing praises, and have a good relationship with God-- in Michoacan, there aren’t any schools like Puente de Vida. He says, “Thank God for this beautiful blessing!”

    September Highlight

    In September, different workshops were held with the participation of the student's parents. The carpentry workshop for the students was provided for the Elementary and Jr. High students, who worked with Ruben Dos. The general objective was for the students to learn how to use work tools like the electric sander, the drill and, of course, the hammer.

    We want to prepare the students in all areas of life, not just academics.

    We have been able to engage the parents at the school, and they have supported the program in different areas, such as cooking, cleaning, sewing workshops, crafts and devotional time. Parents feel blessed to participate in the school activities and witness the progress that their children make in all areas. God is working in a great way in the life of each one of the students, and the staff takes to heart the opportunity to sow the word of God in their lives.

    Where do we need help? Help us build up the Ranch! We need to recover the bunk houses that burned, finish our school building, keep the generator and vehicles running, and pay our staff so that we can continue to tell our story to those who are looking for hope! The story of the Good News of Jesus that reverberates in every good deed we do together. Only through you are we able to provide space for this school and local conferences.  

    During these winter months when we do not have as many teams coming to the ranch, the funds start to get tight.  We need your help!  It costs about $11,000 per month to run the ranch, school and educate the children. Would you be willing to sponsor a student, or support the ranch directly?    See how YOU can be a part of changing lives for eternity. 

    Blessings, The Ranch Staff and Board

     

  • It is has been ten years since the cold rooms and sandy playground of elementary school for Maribel. Ten long years, from her 12th birthday till now, working with her hands, planting, cutting, picking, sorting, washing, bundling and boxing 100’s, 1000’s of pounds of onions, cilantro stalks, tomatoes, cauliflower, peppers and the rest of the bountiful harvest that fills our fridges and saturates our stomachs at every meal.  All these years of productivity while the pots around her own family meals have been ever half empty, grudgingly giving up their short supply of cheap beans and rice.

    But she shows no rancor. There is no hesitation in her smile. She shares her happy emoticons with us on facebook like any of our friends who share our daily trust that she and her people and the system that connects us will provide the nutrition in our next meal. She is proud of her new English that she is practicing at Puente de Vida. She is 22 and working through her three Jr High grades this year, 7,8 and 9. I see her message to my wife, “Hello good nifgh, Hannah Pauls!” with a smiley face. I am suddenly and swiftly rebuked for every selfish moment of my life as this young woman who has worked to my benefit for these ten years shows her gratitude that we are a source of her new hope. I am stung and I am grateful. That the smallest act of benevolence can  outweigh all her long suffering stuns me; I will rejoice in the possibility she brings. She wants to be an agricultural engineer. Someday she may return to the fields in Ojos Negros with a voice.

    The irony of her choice is the perfected denouement that only an author could create, and in the real world the exacted end to evil that only God can orchestrate. I laugh because I am overcome by goodness. That my own sins could be washed away confounds me, and in this young woman’s cheerful acceptance of our good will, I feel it, and I know that my salvation is entirely of others. Christ first, and all who surround me thereafter. If I am in this benevolent, I know that I am also absolutely bankrupt, much like Maribel. Though we find ourselves in a scheme of powerful oppression, it cannot squash even the smallest virtuous acts, and so we are joined in a chorus of reflective praise to our common Savior: “There is peace on earth, and good will among men!”

     

     

  • Look carefully at these students...Yes! They are in Jr. High, or Secondaria in Mexico. We are excited about the new hope this brings to our students, and that we can support them through the challenging time as young teens. We have 7 students, 6 from Ojos Negros and one from the local area. Alejandro our Jr. High teacher has worked diligently over the last 4 months to get this started, and we are extremely grateful that God has brought him to start this work. Celebrate with us!

  • To view the newletter go our website at www.lbmi.net and click on the newsletter link.

     

  • I trust you are secure on the end of your rope!  Living by means may not always be easy street, but living by faith is pure danger!  Like scaling a severe cliff.  Let the wind blow, let the sleet fly, let the earth shake: we have a secure nut in this Rock we climb!  (For those outside the climbing world like me, a nut is a device used to secure your rope to the climbing face.)  If you browse Hebrews 11, you will find that “by faith” the supers of the past did things like give away their best, escape death, build ships, move to new countries, bear miracle children and give them right back to God, see the future, hide under their enemy’s nose, choose pain over pleasure, saunter through the sea, break down stone walls and so many times choose death over the easy path.  I trust you are secure.  I trust you are exhilarated, flying on the end of your rope, unafraid of the heights you have scaled, and unperturbed by the scorn others speak with about your certain fall.  For we can say, even death cannot slow this ascent with our eyes fixed on the Master of the Summit, our Mighty One who has endured and conquered and stands High, and now has turned over the keys and the equipment to us.  Let’s climb!

    We are excited to tell you that despite facing some challenges, Puente de Vida escuela has opened its 2012/2013 season with over 60 students.  We are also excited about our staff, with Pastor Ruben leading a staff of 7 teachers and 3 support workers.  Our government partner, CONAFE, has supplied three lead classroom teachers and we are excited about each one.  Together with our own teacher assistants, Jacqui, Josefina, Antonia, Laura, the school is set up to fill up the young lives of our students.  Rossy has brought back her smile, her warm hugs and her huge heart into the kitchen as she models Christ in loving each child every day, and praying diligently and fervently before every bus ride.  We will be hiring a kitchen helper for Rossy, and a second part time bus driver to ensure we maximize time in school.  Ruben 2 will continue to keep our school sparkling.  We are thankful and proud of our national staff who have risen to such great stature in such a short time.  With faith, all things are possible!

    But we need YOUR HELP!  We are facing some challenges.  Currently the school is operating off of the Ranch property.  As a result of some concerns about financial liability, APU has asked us not to operate the school on the Ranch.  We have started school in Ojos Negros at Oscar’s church, and have proposed a plan to APU that will move the school back onto the Ranch.  We are hoping this will happen by the end of September.  Please pray with us that God will move the hearts of all parties involved, including the local Ensenada notary, local Ensenada lawyer, APU legal counsel and APU executives, to make this happen quickly.  Please pray as well for our teachers and support staff as they manage and work the school in Ojos Negros.  It is a challenging situation, with a small space, adjoined classrooms, heat, limited bathroom facilities, limited cooking facilities, and no play or field area.  Our teachers are amazingly motivated and I am so thankful they have been sought out by God.  I am trusting in faith that their motivation will hold!

    Secondly, we are stretching our budget!  We have mouths to feed, buses to drive, teachers to pay and desks, toilets, chairs, tables and floors to clean.  We don’t want to leave even one student out in the cold!  Daily, Puente de Vida stands between our students and the risk of life without access to adequate nutrition, hygiene, spiritual guidance, emotional care, and education.  Please consider this a call to participate and join us in providing the opportunity that our students need to find their worth and grow towards their potential.  Sponsor a student.  Sponsor one of our teachers.  Sponsor our new bus driver.  Sponsor Ruben or Rossy.

    And always cling to your rope!  Do not grow weary in climbing!  Like our heroes from the past, we are doing many things by faith!  We are looking into the future, we are guiding those who will live there on a straight and narrow path, we are dodging fear and hunger and frustration, we are winning our enemies with love, and we are writing His story of misery lifted and grace granted.  In your praying, remember our teachers who with love labor to grow great hope with little means.  Remember Ruben and Rossy and Oscar, who’s hearts are rent and broken daily as they heal and hone their charges and each other.  And remember our students.  God is tilling the soil of their lives.  Pray with Him as He labors and weep with Him as He loves. 

    Yours in the labor of His Great and Unending Mercy,
    Tim

  • Maximino jots down his current sugar level on a scrap of paper and shows it to me. Today it is low enough that he is happy. Soon he will go back to work, and with a low sugar level his doctor will be satisfied that he can work hard. He needs to work hard here in the burning onion fields. He needs to work hard to raise his family and recover from his bankruptcy.

    Seven years ago Maximino left Oaxaca for work in the fields in northern Baja. He was told that he could make $6000 pesos a week there if he, his wife and their two oldest children under 12 worked in the fields. That would bring in $500 a week, a wopping four-fold wage for Mexico. The best laid plans based on good information can go awry and the original information was clearly misleading. After the first two years at his first job here, the family was bringing in $100 pesos a day. That’s about eight dollars a day. Over the two years he had lost everything. They had no home, no property, no vehicle, and no money left under the mattress. The last time his oldest daughter had attended school was preschool, and that was five years before.

    Bankruptcy in Mexico is different than in the rest of North America. There are no miracle answers. There are no easy, low-interest mortgages. There is no social security beyond basic medical help. School is free, except for the required uniforms and supplies.  For families living on subsistence wages when the children work, even attending school is a burden.

    Maximino had heard that the onion fields of Ojos Negros held promise of real pay. He brought his family here and began to work again. Now after three years he has a small lot with a large monthly payment to show for his hard work. Hampered by the onset of diabetes, this year has been extremely difficult. He hasn’t been able to work even when the farmers started planting onions in May in Ojos Negros, and he’s worried he may miss a mortgage payment and lose what he has again.

    About a year ago Maximino discovered Dios de Pactos, the church we at Puente de Vida School are working with in Ojos Negros. He has found hope there. People who love, and the message of Christ who loves without condition. Six months ago his oldest son led the family in church to accept Christ. The three children, 14, 13 and 6 attend Puente de Vida where they receive two meals a day, uniforms, and an entirely free education.

    Maximino has begun working again this year, but the ends of his daily income do not go far. He makes less in one day than you will in your next hour, while food, gasoline and clothing costs are nearly equal to yours. His family is living in a borrowed house so that without rent he can make his monthly mortgage, but the home owners are due to come home this month. They don’t know where they will live then, perhaps a tent.

    We want to help Maximino. We want to ensure that his children will be able to keep attending the school and won’t need to work. Please join us.  If 20 people find $100 to give, we can help him buy enough material to build his family a simple house.  He needs one today.

  • Considering Fransisca’s House

    What would your life be like if you were Fransisca? Fransisca is one of our students at Puente de Vida Escuela.  Let’s consider: Who would you be if you were her? To do this we’ll have to revise your story. We have to shrink you and trim you down. This won’t be comfortable or easy, and may be painful, so beware before you read further. Beware because you may not be who you think you are.

    First the easy stuff – let’s eliminate the clutter. Clean out your garden shed and put it and all the contents out in the back alley as a freebee. Take out your storage bins and the stuff you have staked away in the garage attic and pile them out there too. Don’t consider too long the trophy’s from grade school sports, or the project work from junior high, or the baby clothes from your first born. Throw it all out. There was no school and there is no time for inventory. Just keep one tent and the camping blankets you have. You will need them. 

    Clutter gone, now tear down the garage, burn the wood, and sell the cars, all of them. Keep one tire rim.  Save that for your fire pit. 

    Now for your house. First rip out your water supply and sewer system, electricity, gas, internet and telephone. Take an imaginary chain say and cut away all the portions of your house above the first floor including the roof. Trim away the bulk of what’s left, cut it away until you have only your kitchen. There are no beds, closets, showers, bookcases, or laundry room. You have no toilets, mirrors, sinks, towels, hangers, dressers, computers or desks.  Shovel in the basement too.  You can’t have a furnace or a games room or a bar sink or even a little extra space.  All you have now is your kitchen, and the tent.  Set that up beside your kitchen.  It’s a gift and you can use it for a bedroom.

    Now shrink your kitchen. Shrink it down to a small open rectangle 6 feet by 10 feet and 6 feet tall.  Gut all the cabinets and appliances and throw them away.  Throw out the junk drawer too, with all those goodies like tape and pencils and staplers and pocket knives and flashlights.  Fill in the doors and windows with old pallets.  Just leave one opening. Peel away the drywall, remove the warm insulation, and tear out all the electrical convenience.  Pull off the siding, remove the sturdy plywood, take out all the studs and rebuild your kitchen with scraps, old pallet wood and some long tree limbs.  Hang a plain piece of plywood, weathered and grey, for your door and pull two old leaky tarps over to cover your kitchen.  Duck while you do this, and maybe set up a tree limb or two to shed as much rain as possible. Chop down the trees, kill all the grass and dig a hole.  You’ll need a bathroom.  Find a stump for your clothes washer.  Find a bucket to buy water with.

    Take down your event calendar.  Throw out all your school books, your back pack, your lunch box.  Burn your list of contacts. Forget all your holidays. Restock your supply of clothes with used hand-me-downs. You’ll have to keep them in your tent. You’ll have to wash them every day because you may have only one set. Reset your taste buds to one flavour. You’ll have low cost, low nutrition staples every day now. And don’t forget, you are sharing the tent and your kitchen with your 6 younger siblings and your parents. You have very little room to breathe here. Can you feel it? A shiver that chants, “You are small and insignificant.”

    Stand there now on your barren lot with a tent and a crooked structure and consider. Who are you? Do you matter? You are 14 and desperately poor: can you matter?

    We Hope so.

    We built you a new house today. We found a way with friends to pray and save and give and ask. We drove all day to come and build you this house. It is small, with small windows, grey, stout, weatherproof walls, and a locking, solid-core door. It has a roof with brand new waterproof asphalt roofing, and inside are three rooms. One will be your new kitchen, and the others your bedrooms. In front, there is a porch roof for you to sit under.

    Fransisca, we want you to sit under your porch and have this solid comfort of your new house behind you and consider: you matter to us. You are important.

    We are convinced you matter. You matter to us. You matter to the world. You matter to Jesus. We believe He has you in His Mind, and that He has His Heart set on you. So as you start out from this house every morning, out from under the new roof, out from between the stout walls, and out from the front porch, we want you to go out bravely into the world around you. And we Pray and Hope that you find that you matter, even now at 14, Fransisca, because you are significant.

  • News from Ensenada!

    Our new year started out well-we had visitors from Nebraska and help with the start of school.  Over the Christmas holidays we purchased crisp looking uniforms, navy with white stripes with Puente de Vida logos on the jackets.  As students arrived we made sure the size was correct and quickly wrote their names on the inside tags.  They were thrilled.

    Our friends, the Tenneys, helped wash tarps, fix showers, and bake dozens of peanut butter cookies which we delivered to families in Ojo Negros.  Later in January our first Canadian friends came down, the Teskeys.  Joyce and Elliot built cubbies for all the uniforms and an awesome 40 slot toothbrush holder.  Projects like this make our daily routines run much more smoothly and efficiently! Joyce also organized 2 fun crafts for the children.  Thank you all so much!

    Towards the end of the month, our intern Danny from Nebraska was getting ready to leave for home.  Danny is bilingual and was a vital part of our ministry and ongoing communication with the teachers, parents and students.  The weekend before he left we had a school wide sleep over at the ranch-using all 4 bunkhouses. What a bunch of excited kids!  After many games and relays organized by the teachers, we took them into the city to watch a live soccer match.  Then, back for brownies and a movie.  They were so excited to get into their sleeping bags and onto their bunkbeds that they didn’t even want to finish the movie!  It might just become an annual event.  All the teachers, and even our bus driver and cook Rossy stayed the night.  It was a great event for all of us.

    February brought some rainy days and cold nights.  Many of the students got sick and missed school-including the teachers.  Our kids included.  When it rains-it pours!  Tim’s brother Dave and his parents and friend Ben, came down from BC, Canada and helped us work on the erosion problem here.  Lots of trenches were dug, and pipes put into the ground.  Seating was designed for the chapel area.  Grandma and Grandpa watered all the plants and helped us plan the gardens not to mention Grandpa fixed the Ford tractor.  It was great to have family here.  Rossy and Grandma singing together-half English and half Spanish, was music to our ears.  Later in the month we celebrated Valentines day.  We had time to make colourful and glittery valentine cards for each other, and the children drew names and gave their card to a friend.  We played games like the 3-legged race, don’t drop the balloon, and potatoe sack races.  Just like a church picnic!  After school our family exchanged chocolates and cards with the teachers, and it was a nice chance to relax.


    Since then a great group of families came down from Seattle and worked on some very much needed staff housing here on the ranch.  Sheri brought some great craft projects for the students like hat decorating, bracelet making, pencil cases, design your own frisbee and more.  Thank you!!!  Also, we visited Ojos Negros, and the team put on a delicious spread for the congregation and families.  Late nights were spent by the teens playing games, laughing and getting to know each other.  We adults had time to dream about the future of the school, brainstorming and identifying strengths and needs.  It feels great to connect with the outside world!


    Shortly after a powerful group of men from Nebraska came to conquer the bathrooms and outdoor kitchen at Oscar’s church in Ojos.  They worked with a vengence to finish what no man has finished before.  They didn’t get a lot done-but they sure can feed a hungry group of Mexicans!  Just kidding-I’m sure they got a lot done?  They came to the ranch the next day and we really put them to work.  Thanks Nebraska!!!

    The school is rolling along well-we had the opportunity to participate in the National Flag raising day in Ensenada, taking 5 of our keenest students.  It was an amazing opportunity for them, and us as well.  We were given a huge outdoor Mexican flag for our Puente de Vida School.  We have grown to 36 students now, ages 4-14.  Our teachers are dedicated and learning to work together as a team and meet the needs of our diverse group.  It has been an exceptional year of growth to date, and we look forward to the joys and challenges ahead of us in the next 4 months of serving here. 
    Thanks for your emails, your prayers and support.  We miss our Canadian friends and family and of course, the Rockies. 

    Take care, love Hannah, Tim, Devon, Shalayna, Stephanie, Mikaela and Rylee the retriever.
    **Contact us at timandhannahpauls@gmail.com  or Hannah Pauls on Facebook or Hope for the Nations.com /Ensenada missions to donate to our project.

     

  • Who’s Slaves are These?

    We come to their door with slow heavy footsteps.
    TB is a deadly disease. We have only been working with the school for three months.  During these three months the effects of poverty have become constant companions.  Small crowded houses built from scrap lumber, brick, metal and cardboard.   Dirt floors, bare sandy yards, earthen roads and soiled clothing colour everything brown.  Dirt is the canvas of life here.   Rarely is there a tree or bush or flower bed in the poorer communities.  We are getting used to these sites.  But here is a new enemy:  disease.  The people we are getting to know here are vigorous and strong for the most part, although bent backs, shuffles, missing teeth and weathered skin display the wear and tear of agricultural labour.  But today we are going to meet death here among our new friends.  This mother has been treated for TB and was recently released from the hospital to recover for a few weeks at home, and her youngest child of 4 months has died from TB only this week.

    We stand in their door quietly.
    Most of the inhabitants of Ojos Negros are agricultural workers.  Working in the fields in Mexico is still left for the aboriginals.  They have become a separate class.  The work pays little, even less than the small wages a Spanish city dweller will make.  There is always the certainty that during the 5 months of off-season work will be scarce, and there is certainly no social security for those out of work.  Malnutrition is common here where food may be one simple meal of beans or rice from November to March.  Owning your own house as a field worker is a dream, and this dream house is fashioned from pallets and scraps just like the neighbours. 

    We step into the house carefully.
    Bare wooden planks for benches and counters; mats on the floor made from common materials like straw or abandoned car seats; hanging cloth between the sick and the less sick; a number of tired and ragged toys lying still on the floor; two chairs long ago abandoned by a middle class family.  The grandma is sitting in one with prayers on her lips and little else.  The young mother of the second family in the house stands with no smiles rocking her youngest in her arms.  She has little to say and I feel the same.  There are no words that are strong enough to unlock the toothless, gnawing shackles that keep these beautiful and broken people here generation after generation.  The father sits on the other chair, waiting.  It is January and it is 3 months still until work will be certain.  It will be two weeks until his wife will be ready to go back to the doctor for another checkup.  It will be years until his children are old enough to graduate, and then they will follow him to the fields instead because they will not have started school yet.  And his youngest will never come home again. The mother is lying on a mat on the floor.  There is no cushion between her and the earth beneath her. She smiles slightly and weakly without moving her hands from beneath her cheek.  Her arm is thin and we can see the shape of her arm bones.  Her cheek bones are high and stark beneath her dark vacant eyes.  If this is today, I think, how will she feel tomorrow when her husband finds the courage to tell her that she has only three children left?  She is only 25.

    We stand now awkwardly in their home.
    I can’t help but feel deep down that this pain is somehow my problem.  There is a connection between this sorrow and my lavish house in snow-bound Canada.  I have eaten at my cherry wood table every day and the food I eat comes from the same Earth that this man turns over and toils on.  I feel that the little I’ve paid for my over-zealous nutrition and the stuff I don’t need back home somehow has played a part in keeping this man here beside his helpless wife in a shack destined to be the home of his grandchildren.   A deep dread rises in me as I see fields of these people working all these years for my comfort. 

    But we stand bravely.
    We pray.  The grandma prays with fire in her Spanish tongue.  She prays like she knows how all this feels.  We hug those we can reach.  We say few Spanish blessings repeatedly to everyone as we leave. .  We will buy groceries today and medicine tomorrow.  We will find ways to help these friends build floors and beds.    We will love because how can we not?  We will seek out these children and their cousins and friends who need school.  They are our new neighbours.  They are our friends now. 


     

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