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By Jeri Labell

„Mama Jedi, Mama Jedi!!!š The children stopped their play and came running toward me, arms out stretched, calling my name, „Mama Jedi, Mama Jedi!š Within seconds I was being smothered with hugs and kisses from the children I once worked with in the San Matias Valley of Baja Mexico. I awoke from my dream~ My cheeks were wet with the tears, the comfort, the joy to have seen my children, to feel their hugs and kisses, it was only a dream~ the sweetest dream ever! It was a dream that took place almost nine months ago~ a dream in which I was told to go visit the children in Mexico before going to work with children in Africa!! It was a dream that that began to unfold in reality February 28th 2004. Thanks to the Lord‚s unfailing love and my dear friend Gerri De Vos. A little significant history: In May of 1993, the words found in the Book of Isaiah chapter 54 were grafted into my heart~ Sing oh barren sing, many are the children of the destitute∑.. 8 years later I arrived in Mexico. I entered the land on May 25th 2000 to serve as a House Mom for the destitute children in the Northern Baja region. (My 85-year-old Mother went home to glory on May 24th, 2000, the day before my departure. One of Mom‚s last words to me were „Jeri, keep on with your plans to go to Mexico! I have released you to the Lord, the children in Mexico need you~ keep going,∑∑∑. I pray I die before you leave, don‚t wait for my funeral.š My last picture of Mom was our exchange of blowing kisses as I left her hospital room the night before she died.) I was told by the Children‚s Home Director to return to Canada November 15th 2002 (My Mother‚s birthday) ~One of the saddest, most confused days of my life, I could not hold back the tears, grief beyond words, I thought I would die. The 31 months in between my arrival and departure were filled with the glorious bitter sweet of my call to this missionary journey~ I would not trade one second of it. Working amongst the Baja circle of Children‚s Homes was like serving as a Red Cross Personnel among the war torn zones of the world. It was impossible to not be hit by the land mines planted by the rumour mill. There was much grinding of the heart from the pestle and mortar of all the politics ~ the Baja Big Crunch~ it hurt, but no pain, no gain; it came with the turf of vulnerability and love. An so were many of you hurt by the turbulent chaos of the Children‚s Home in the Baja battles ~ But be of good cheer~ the cup of cold water you gave to these little ones, was given unto Him. The words of a wise mentor from the North, a season Missionary for over 50 years responded to my plea to, „what in Heaven‚s name is happening down here??š His reply to me, „Welcome to the Baja School for stout hearted Missionary Women!š He went on to remind me how others, way before my day were treated, I was no exception. My calling and purpose in coming to the Baja was not about me~ it‚s all about Jesus and loving His innocent children caught in the cross fire of corruption, poverty, the injustice of fallen men. At the time I didn‚t realize the price would be so high, the pain would be like nothing I ever experienced before. It was a journey that would make me better or bitter, the choice was mine. The injustice, misunderstanding, the pain was just a micro spec of dust compared to His Passion and love for all of us children in this world~ that includes you and me! Amazing Love~ Getting back to this dream come true! My friend Gerri De Vos asked me to be her travelling companion on her winter vacation. I had just complete a 6 month őfill in‚ sabbatical for the Children‚s Pastor at my Church and was in between the, őwhatever next‚ phase of my life. Gerri‚s desire was to go to Hawaii for a month, at which I wrinkled my nose up~ mercy Lord, my heart was stuck in the Baja, and by some miracle I got the desire of my heart and she got the Baja experience of her life!!!  As arrangements and contacts were made for this journey the pieces to this dream come true, one by one fell into place, it was miraculous!! My friend Mary Saubert from Indiana offered me the use of her home at Eldorado. We would have the joy of overlapping into her vacation with her friends~ more is better!! The director's of Gabriel House, Ted and Reni Favor, (where one of my special needs gal, Magga was placed) confirmed that many of the families I once worked with still live in El Zorello south of Manudero.  Mary wanted to join us from San Felipe on our journey to find the children. On our arrival to San Diego, we picked up Ardith Stewart who worked as my helper/translator at the home where I served as house Mom. With a prayer of faith we set out on our quest, ~the gathering of the children in my heart. The first miracle to happen was rendezvousing with Mary and her company at a gas station in Ensenada. What my map had shown and what was on the street didn‚t match. With no way to contact Mary, I left a note with the gas station attendant with the address of Gabriel House, if by chance she stopped at this Gas Station. My friend Gerri decided to purchase a cup of coffee, that was the God-incident delay needed for those extra few minutes. Suddenly my name was called, „Jeri, Is that you??!!š „Mary!!!š We agreed that this was a miracle find. God is with us!!~ Onward to Gabriel House! As we entered the gate of Gabriel House we were welcomed with the love and enthusiasm of many precious special needs children. We received the blessing of many hugs~ we were overcome by the exchange of love, not a dry eye among us. Then I discovered my little Magga who has now grown up to be a beautiful young pre-teen lady. There are no words to describe the joy of finding a child, who against all odds of their culture is thriving in a loving wholesome environment. I had placed Magga in the care of Gabriel House November of 2000.  I was unable to provide the care for her special needs. We had gone through two agonizing 6-8 hr seizures; I was helpless in helping Magga. I cried to the Lord for help. Then I found out about Gabriel House and appealed to them to make room in their heart and home for her. Ted and Reni Favor had actually tried to intervene for Magga when she was an infant, but her parents declined the help. Now 5 years later they were given the desire of their heart. Ted and Renie came to the Baja to retire~ God had another plan; they obeyed the call and are blessed beyond their wildest dreams. They now have two special homes, one for the severely disabled children and another to care for the abandoned „border Babies.š These babies are born to prostitutes, precious little ones that are HIV+. Ted and Reni now have 44 children in their home. Gabriel House is most impressive with it‚s homey setting, clean, fresh, bright, cheery~ beautiful lawn and garden, nothing institutional about it. It‚s a happy home overflowing with joyful content children. The privilege of being part of Magga‚s journey into a safe loving home is a gift from the Lord. There are 3 brothers with the same genetic disability who were rescued out of San Felipe that are now receiving the TLC from Gabriel House. These are just some of the golden threads woven through the burlap of the Baja Children‚s Home tapestry. For more info about Gabriel House you can reach them at gabhouse@telnor.net Onward to the Hills of El Zorello~ 90% of the Children receiving help from the San Matias Children‚s homes were from a migrant Oaxacan settlement on the hills of El Zorello, located about 1 hour south of Ensenada. The big challenge in my heart was to remember which shack belonged to one of the families whose children I cared for. I recalled that Magga‚s family lived across the street from a School. The dirt roads were thick with mud, some roads impassable after the earlier rainstorms that week. I found the school, I recognized the shack, did they still live there? Would there be anyone home at 12 noon on a Saturday? I tooted the horn of the car as I stepped out into the mud. Mercy on our mud covered rental car. (Fuller Ford in Chula Vista Ca. rents cars you can take across the border, contact agent John at: jdalberiste@thinkfuller.com). Three faces appeared from behind the plywood door. „Mama Jedi, Mama Jedi!!š It was a missed Kodak moment~ a picture forever engrafted on my heart~ my dream coming true! Marcelina, Esmerelda, and Melquesidec greeted me with hugs and kisses. These were my very first children I received into my home in San Matias, what an awesome reunion with my first familia. I asked if any of the other children were still living in El Zorello. „ Si, Si Familia, de Loraina, Familia David, Familia Israel, Familia Griselda!š A total of 18 children that I once worked with lived in this community. I told the children I wanted to have a fiesta with everyone. So they split up to climb the hillside and call the children together for a family reunion fiesta. The local store was thrilled when I came to purchase a ton of food to feed my family. We made ham and cheese sandwiches on the hood of the car. I bought extra~ more is better!! With 30 pieces of pastry, 30 apples, Milk, and orange pop we had enough to share with the on looking timid neighbour children. It was a precious moment of joyful celebration~ for me to see my children, for them to know they are not forgotten~ a forever for always „I love you!š In San Diego I was able to find 5 Spanish copies of a book, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. I received a copy of this book on route to Northern British Columbia back in November 2002~ it was a lifeline of hope in the midst of my despair. A good read for all. I had just enough copies of this book to give to the eldest child that represented each family. As hard as it was to say goodbye, it was good, something was happening in my heart~ the hole was being stitched up with the golden threads of love. Precious Friends It was such a blessing to visit with my many friends, Oaxacan, Mexican, and American, from Valley de la Trinidad, San Matias, to San Felipe~ people I once walked with, shopped in their stores, ate in their restaurants, worshiped in their Churches. People I did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to, now were embraced as precious lost friends. The Baja sights, the sounds, the smells~ the taste of the Mexican flavours, I savoured them all. More treasures found in Mexicali. Another former staff member from the Children‚s Home, Gloria, now lives in Mexicali. I had contact with her brother Pedro and his wife Renada and they urged us to come visit, as they knew where we could find the other children formerly from the home where I once worked. Before Mary returned to Indiana, we took a day trip run up to Mexicali to visit the children there. In a Mexican round about way, we finally met Pedro at the Mexicali Wal* Mart. He took us to Casa Timoteo, a Children‚s Home bursting at the seams with 50 children. The conditions were strained by being under staffed, under funded, ill equipped over liced~ however, they are making the best with what they have, and apparently this facility was a much better than where they had just moved from!! Most of these children are from the parents who are participating in a rehabilitation program from prostitution and drug addictions. Some of the parents are incarcerated and their children have been place by DIF. Their rent is astronomical, no kitchen except for a built on shack that now housed a brand new industrial gas stove, a stainless steel sink and counter, however, it looked liked they weren‚t hooked up yet∑no gas line, no water tap∑.Mercy Lord, now for the Lord to provide the people/resources for the plumber and the propane. They have no refrigeration, so what donated food comes their way perishes before it can all be used. The last house parents burnt out, taking their furniture with them. The living room was empty except for one school type folding table and bench. There is one old domestic washing machine that strains to keep up with the laundry needs for this family of 50. One paint-peeling table is used for rolling their tortillas and cooking on a gas griddle in a dark dismal shack~ mercy Lord, these are the tortillas that they sell on the streets to generate their cash flow. They need help. Here in Casa Timoteo resides the familia of Rosa, her sisters, Teri, Pati, and Favi, vulnerable girls who have experienced too much of life already. Their brothers returned to San Quintin to be with their mother last year. I wanted to gather these girls up and take them out of this better than nothing place to call home. My beloved Maria Elvita from San Felipe clung onto me like a little girl; I am connected, attached at the heart with these children. There was another family represented that had arrived in San Matias after I had left, beautiful 13 year-old Socorro and her younger brother Fabien. Heading home we wondered how we could make a difference, was this Ministry worth taking the chance? I think so! Gerri and I returned to Mexicali to spend our last 3 days and 2 nights in Mexico. We shared the delightful experience of Mexican hospitality living in the home of Pedro and Renada Rodriguez Vergara. Gracious hospitality and honour were bestowed upon us. They made us feel like part of their family. Their entire clan of siblings are involved in out reach and are looking for ways to help the destitute children in their community. For info on how to join them in helping the children in Mexicali contact Pedro at: pedrorgzvergara@hotmail.com On Saturday afternoon, we met with my children from Casa Timoteo, taking them out for a Pizza fiesta in the Park. How I wished I had the means to take all 50 children out for this special event, sometimes life is not fair. On Sunday evening, we met once again at Victoria Alliance Church and were able to provided snacks for all the children from Casa Timoteo. Once again, we found some copies of the Purpose Driven Life book and placed them in the hands of the 3 families birthed in my heart. I believe for these children, that they‚ll receive the same impartation of hope and life purpose that I received when I read this book during the darkest days of my life journey. Father God is faithful, He will do it! Back Home the dream is still unfolding! When I returned to Lethbridge, Alberta this week, I met with one of my Pastors, Daniel Zopoula. Daniel is the director of Bridges of Hope Ministries Inc. He asked me to prayerfully consider joining this ministry. Here is a quote from Bridges of Hope pamphlet, ABOUT US Who we are~ Bridges of Hope Ministries is a Canadian based charitable organization which holds three fundamental convictions - to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Nations, to meet the needs of children in destitute situations around the world, (Mexico!!) and to empower the poor to meet their own needs. We pursue these goals in partnership with other like-minded agencies∑∑. For more info check out this website;   www.thebridgesofhope.com   Or bohope@telus.net Pastor Daniel is taking a Missions team to his home land of Burkina Faso, West Africa Departing from Canada April 30th 2004~ Burkina is the 3rd poorest nation in the world. In faith I am making myself ready for this journey to Africa, believing for the vision of the Bridges of Hope Ministry to be imparted into my heart that through them I will have the opportunity to fulfill the passion and calling on my life. There is a place where dreams come true!! Thank you so much for this opportunity to share my story, and share my heart~ Sincerely, All For Him, Jeri Labell jlabell@telus.net