Saturday, September 2, 2017

2017 - "HELP! We're Hosting a Short-term Missions Team!!!"

Bloomingdale Church Missions Team & the Beards
July 2017

A recent highlight for us at Rancho Oasis was hosting the first ever team from Bloomingdale Church, my original home church. 

Over three decades ago, I, Jon, started attending the church with my family before entering junior high and accepted Christ as my Savior before my senior year of high school!

Rather than share my perspective on the trip, one of the short-term team members gave me permission to share his first time experience. 

Enjoy & be blessed!

Short-termer John Wilkes with Mathias.
“Jon, Thank you for the opportunity to tell you my story of this great experience…

Our trip began a few months before we actually set foot on Honduran soil. Seven of us from Bloomingdale Church in suburban Chicago gathered together on a regular basis to learn how a successful trip is achieved. Some of us already had mission trip experience and others none; I was in the “none” category. We learned about the Honduran culture and each other during these meetings. So many subjects spin off of these two main topics and the missions guide book, “Help! We're Going on a Short-term Trip”, was used to help keep things on track. Regardless of prior missions experience, this group had never traveled together before. We came together well and by the time we departed I felt very much accepted and the group had become a team. When we loaded the bus from the church parking lot I remember feeling so relieved to finally be going and the fear I had months before when I committed to actually do the trip was gone.

Almuerzo @ Las Tejitas! Que Rico!
Once we arrived at the airport in Tegucigalpa we were met by Jon Beard. Jon greeted us and after a couple of quick currency exchange transactions we swiftly navigated to our transportation. Once in the rental, we stopped at a local restaurant where Jon had pre-arranged a great meal to welcome us to Honduras. Following lunch, we were underway to the retreat center; which would be our home base during the trip. Once at the retreat center we met Irma and her daughter Marcela who are the proprietors. This property is so beautiful with many succulent plants and quiet places of refuge for prayer and reflection. “I could live there,” I thought, and then when we ate our first meal there and I knew I was right...I could actually live there! We had two meals a day there: breakfast and dinner. The accommodations were very clean and inviting. Hot or very warm showers and all that stuff but the hospitality and clearly the blood, sweat and years of effort to cultivate this place was the real allure.

The retreat center, La Posada del Pescador.

I would wake up around 0500 and spend time alone with the Lord in one of the many places available to do so. When everyone was up and about we would meet for group prayer for the day and the Ranch then have an awesome breakfast. (Did I mention the great chow?) We would then load up in the van and head to the ranch which I is about 40 minutes up the mountain. Many times this drive was through the cloud as in we were actually driving into a cloud. Each day we would depart the ranch around 1730- 1800 and head back to the retreat center for dinner, group discussion/ prayer and turn into bed around 2000-2100.

RO4Y Prayer & Property Tour
The first full day in country we visited the Ranch. Right away I was inspired by the property. On the slope of a mountain and the vast view of the valley that in the distance holds the capitol city of Tegucigalpa. Jon introduced his children and we took a tour of the whole property together. We made a full perimeter hike with a Google Earth map that Jon laminated. I really liked this, reminded me of my military days, and it helped set the location in my mind geographically. We continued around until we visited all of the ministries and support operations for the ranch;
- The ministry building
- The staff building (under construction)
- The soccer field
- The horse training ring
- The barn and chicken coop
- The work shop (If I HAD to pick a favorite...)
- The Beard home

Along the way we prayed for each ministry. Once we completed the prayer hike, we went into the house and were able to meet Marillyn, Jon’s wife, who was working away with preparing lunch for this big group of people. It was a fine meal and gathering, yes indeed.

Practicing "Canciones" de VBS!!!
After lunch we discussed all of the week’s projects and bible studies, skits and songs, crafts and children's activities scheduled for the rest of the trip. I will say that the level of communication and group interaction was great. This tool is used well and helps keep things running smoothly. Jon Beard and our group leader, Stuart Guild, did a great job with communication.

We spent each of the first few days tackling the list of facility maintenance and system upgrades to keep the Ranch in bounds and moving forward. Painting, door and hardware repair, septic system installations which are actually a bio-digester system for the staff housing. There was some demanding manual labor involved and I will admit to wishing I had not enjoyed those last couple of milk shakes before I left the States... but all was good. We came together well as a unit during these days of labor for Jesus and the Ranch, the actions of faith in place of the words about faith were in full motion.

Installing Staff Housing "Bio-digestor", a human waste composting septic system.

Back filing dirt over sand & gravel leech field.

Yah! Projected completed!

Karen Julisa preps her VBS craft!
The last few days we were able to meet one of the main reasons for the Ranch: the youth!  The vans, the Ranch 15-passenger van and the rental van, would bring in the children. One group in the morning and one in the afternoon. I will say that my often grumpy fifty-two year old self was choking back some emotion on more than one occasion.

I learned that children are children everywhere. When we sang the songs and the skits were performed, the faces were cheerful and laughter was present. The kids truly love the Ranch. When the lessons turned to activities (either crafts or games) the facial expressions and laughter were those of truly excited and happy kids. These children brought me back to when times were simpler and interaction was itself an activity to anticipate with excitement. I did not see any smart phones interfering with their fun… except mine... but, hey, I was documenting! The last couple of days there were so many kids and I believe the last day had close to sixty.

Final photo with afternoon VBS kids!

John shares from the Word & his testimony.
A highlight of the trip for me was giving my testimony, as well as leading a bible study with the staff. I do not speak Spanish, so translation was needed, a first for me. All went well and I believe there was at least one person there who needed to hear my story and how Jesus has always loved me even when I could not love myself. How He surrounded me with so many good people that I could not possibly deny it and how He watched over me while being such a self-righteous fool.

John teaches the afternoon "readers" VBS group!

El Picachu
Our trip was so busy and full of interesting days that I look back on all of it and see how much can be done when good people do something together. We did all of this and still went to church in the capitol city on Sunday. We also did some tourist stuff, like: we visited a couple nearby "pueblos" and picked up souvenirs, we visited a park that had a giant statue of Jesus looking over the capitol city and I visited a couple of hardware stores and bought materials for the Ranch (This is the equivalent of a shopping trip to the mall of America for some people) but to me it was awesome!

My perspective was changed one day when I was asked by Jon if I would like to go with him to drop off the kids at their homes. We made our way up and down the very rough terrain roads. Up to this point, I had just been playing activities like soccer and group races with these kids. I see their spirit and laughing faces and genuine enthusiasm for life through all of these things. Now, outside the Ranch, we pull up to a small structure made of miscellaneous materials and not big enough for two motorcycles. Jon calls out for three kids that we are here and they hop out and walk down the trail to this place, their home. My heart sank and I know this is a fine place for people to live who don't mind figuring out how to cultivate and manage the meager resources available.
However, I saw young lives with not much more to hope for, but the RO4Y mission offers them as a way to real hope! Their other options are hard to comprehend, especially for a person who has so much at their disposal, like myself.
The contrast of the joy at RO4Y and the reality of their daily struggle hit home for me this moment and I will never forget the seriousness of Gods calling on the Beard family in Honduras.

The reflections I have from the trip are clear as a bell and also not so clear.
It is very clear to me that scripture speaks very loudly on a mission trip,
particularly Matthew 9:37-38:

[Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

"La Cosecha"

Las Cinco Barbas worship band
I also see the massive work load on Jon and Marillyn with five children. This alone is an enormous responsibility and work. There is only one who can make it possible for a man and a woman to have the courage, determination and love to take on a family of seven AND a mountainside of children: Jesus!  The strength that come from a faith in Him is clearly evident when looking back on their mission. Their desire to help is cultivated when looking forward toward their vision God has given them. The task is worthy and I highly recommend putting faith into action with a trip to Honduras and see what the Beard clan has in store for you. I personally can’t wait to go back."

Mil gracias, John!

It is awesome to see that God continues to use short-term missions experiences to not only "lengthen our reach" into the community & build up the Ranch's infrastructure, but to touch the lives and hearts of the short-term missionaries; ultimately, strengthening their faith and emboldening them to continue to serve Christ in their own "backyard" mission field. 

Thank you, Jesus!

If you, you're family and/or a small team are interested in visiting & serving at the Ranch, please don't hesitate to contact us to began discussing dates, cost and projects!

We look forward to seeing whom God brings to Honduras in 2017 & 2018!!!

Please continue to PRAY for Rancho Oasis & the Beard fammily!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

2017 - Fleshing Out the Vision: Being a Refuge and a Place of Healing & Hope

Nazareth displays her "God's best creation" craft!

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

Weariness can easily become a way-of-life on the mission field... click this tag line for more explanation. We long to arrive into that season of reaping, but there is so much preparation for the harvest. Pressures mount to give up and yet we fight on, doing good for God's glory.

This is our 7th year in Honduras.
During this time many have come and gone
to Rancho Oasis. 

We are forever grateful for allowing God to use this ministry to touch so many lives…

Here are a few lives that have been touched over the last few months & years of ministry:

Monica and Marillyn share a final embrace.
After nearly four years of studying with us in the trade school, Monica informed us that she would be leaving to pursue a job opportunity in the capital.

Initially heartbroken to say good-bye to one of our most faithful and talented students, it was very rewarding to reflect upon the tremendous growth in this single-mom's life.

When she first came to the trade school, by invitation of her sister, she was outspoken, sassy and pretty difficult to love. However, over time she became one of Marillyn's student leaders and one of the most creative student-artists!

 Not only did her talent increase, but the weekly Bible studies grew Monica's character as she began to pursue her future and family under God's guidance. She thanked us specifically for teaching her what her Biblical responsibility was as a single-mom.

We are so thankful that Monica showed the maturity to let us know of her exit from the school. She was a model worker and we'll miss her deeply.

PRAY for the trade school as we have undergone many changes in 2017:
-Marillyn is managing the school by herself (Jon does some administration).
-3 of the 6 student leaders have moved on to permanent jobs (Though we never had a goal to create a permanent jobs for these students, there is still an adjustment to the changes.)
-4 of the 5 new students have left the school without explanation
-PRAISE for special sales requests like wedding gifts and non-profit/fair-trade collaborations. (Please let us know if you or a friend have an interest in bulk whole-sale orders.)
-PRAY for sales opportunities to help support these students

Darlin works on a "bulk" order of earrings for the Ragini Project.
I was recently teasing our one-and-only male student, Henry, when Darlin made me laugh pretty hard.

I teased Henry that I knew he enjoyed coming to class every Tuesday because he got to work alongside so many talented and beautiful women. 

Suddenly, out of the blue, quite and shy Darlin burst out, "I'll accept that!"

It has taken several years to build that level of comfort among these youth. 

PRAISE God for His presence & peace in the trade school!

Jon with Lesly & her newborn, Eric Josue.

Life can take many twists and turns for a young person in rural Honduras. 

We've known Lesly from the very beginning of our work in Ojojona in 2010.

What a unique opportunity we've had to be a light for Lesly in so many different ways over the years:

We've ministered to her in the youth group and were instrumental in sending her to a youth camp where she came to know Christ. She took a turn for the worse when her grandmother passed, but was prayed out of a deep depression by a close friend she developed from one of our short term missions teams. She has been involved with the trade school for years and most recently employed as a cook for our family. 

Now her newest and greatest adventure has begun: Motherhood!

PRAY for Lesly as she is still in the first year of her marriage and first weeks as a mom.

Oscar works with Elder, a fatherless at-risk-youth from Ojojona
One of the greatest privileges we have at Rancho Oasis is to watch the Word of God shape lives in the next generation.

Not just the lives of the ones receiving the messages,
but those giving the teaching, too!

Not only does Oscar continues to serve faithfully as our primary farm-hand, watching over our myriad selection of animals and the upkeep of RO4Y's 17 acre property, but as the head coach of both the men's and boy's soccer teams and a co-teacher on our Friday kids Bible study.

PRAY for Oscar to mature in his walk with the Lord
as a spiritual leader in his own home and at the Ranch.

Miguel, one of the many fatherless & directionless kids in town.
Miguel, in the green shirt, has been one of the newest additions to our Friday Bible study.

Like most kids they are drawn by the mini-soccer field on sight (pictured below) or the trampoline, but Miguel is uniquely attentive to the Bible studies...
most of the time!

One particular Friday, I called Miguel out for unruly behavior. He was pretty ticked and refused to apologize to another kid for something he did. He wouldn't talk to me for the rest of the study, nor greet me when I saw him over the next few days in Ojojona.

Nevertheless, he came the following Friday to Bible study! He admitted his error and all was restored. A little Christ-centered tough love won him out!

I love that we can practice what we preach at the Ranch and kids keep coming back because they know it is a place of healing and hope! I can't tell you the number of kids who have received some "tough love", walk away for a time, but always return! Always!

PRAY for the youth in all of our activities to have a spiritual awakening and an awareness for their need for Jesus in their daily life.

PRAISE that the Friday Bible Studies (AM & PM) have maintained their increased attendance.

A full house Friday Bible study!

"Best Disciplined Team" Trophy 2 years in a row!
(a.k.a. - the least amount of fouls)
Nelson Omar, better known as "Machi", is another example of the longevity of our witness in the community.

Machi joined our boy's team years ago,
but was soon kicked off the team for being a bad/negative influence.

Now he plays for the men's team and has even captained the team!
He also works full-time at the Ranch alongside Oscar as our farm-hand!

Our men's team has now completed two tournaments in Ojojona, but is struggling to keep our focus on discipleship. Low to non-existent attendance for practice and limited opportunity at games has been a growing concern.

Soccer is arguably the strongest religion in Honduras, next to Catholicism, and is one of our greatest evangelistic tools.

PRAY for wisdom on getting the team back on track!

The well attended championship game came down to PK's!
(No worries, we weren't playing.)

Another blessing of the ministry at Rancho Oasis is to partner with churches in the United States who have caught on to the vision of providing a place of refuge, healing and hope to the hurting youth in our community.

Our most recent collaboration was with Calvary Chapel Santee:

CC Santee Youth Team's Fun Day: Picnic in Ojojona
This was the second team sent down by CC Santee since 2016,
but the first team consisting of youth group members and their adult leaders.

                        KP Duty                            Painting the Ministry House

Co-leading Trade School Devos                  VBS Bastketball fun!

Short-term teams are always a boost in the morale at the Ranch,
but the teams also experience the blessing of serving Jesus
and the unity that this brings to the group.

PRAISE that the Ranch can also be a place of refuge for our visitors, too!

Mil gracias, CC Santee!!!

Checking Naomi & Tabitha into immigration before their month in the US of A.
Generously sponsored by friends and family!

Don’t be fooled!
The Beards will NOT be making their yearly furlough to the States in 2017.

Mathias was really looking forward to his first extended stay in the States.

Sorry. But it is hard not to share our disappointment.

 Though not a “vacation” per say, furloughs introduce a necessary change in routine… a breath of fresh air in the challenges of daily life in a third-world country. Okay. I’ll stop before I get too romantic! There are some undesirable things about furloughs, too! (Multiple beds, strange foreign food, long car rides, etc.)

In an effort to be responsible and do the right thing, we decided to not visit the West coast this year. Reality is money is tight and flying a family of 7 doesn’t come cheap.

We’ll miss those rekindled relationships with churches and opportunities to share about what God is doing at the Ranch. Along with those special family moments that only come on road trips. The decision comes with much difficulty.

So, what can you do? 

PRAY for us & the ministry of RO4Y! 

Consider becoming a monthly supporter to Rancho Oasis and/or give a one time gift to help with these needs:

-Paying back the balance on an interest free loan for the 17 acre property purchased in September of 2013

-Saving to purchase a 4x4 pick-up.
(Our 15 passenger van is doing ALL the work right now and we haven't been able to sell the Durango!)

- Paying off our first electric bill… it is pretty hefty after a 16 month waiting period!

-Completing the staff housing project 

Adding colorant powder to concrete exterior stucco finish

-Not to mention our monthly expenses as a ministry, including staff salaries, and a family.

-Purchasing a solid pair of horses well trained & ready to serve at the Ranch.

(Click here to make a donation.)

Studying through Colossians with the crew.

Thanks again for your prayers, financial gifts
and words of encouragement!

"...But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 (ESV)

Friday, May 5, 2017

2017 - Called to Persevere

Bienvenido Mathias Caleb Beard!

So much has happened in our lives & ministry since I've last written.

A new life was introduced into the Beard Family.
(And some other Beards got another year older!)

Best birthday gift ever!!! Tobias turned six a week after Mathias' birth!

Mare = 32                                Jon = 4, I mean 40!

We've said good-bye to some staff & hello to new youth & children.

We've hosted three short-term missions teams,
including both of our parents!

The Ranch is officially an NGO in Honduras 
& the Durango is back in the shop (and up for sale.) NEED: 4 x 4, duel-cab, pick-up truck - option to import tax free from US! (Toyota, Nissan or Ford best models for Honduras.)

The construction of our new staff housing, Casa de Apoyo, continues to move forward
and the infrastructure of the Ranch is growing... poco a poco.

And through it all, the good, the bad & the messy, the Gospel is our beacon; guiding us through all of the changes and reminding us of the course that God has set for the ministry.

I have been teaching the staff through the book of Colossians and found great encouragement from these lines in chapter 1:

23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.

24 I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. (NLT)

As a full-time missionary, I've seen the importance of realizing that part of the "entire [Gospel] message" that Paul speaks of is our life & testimony. Which often includes suffering. Yet, it is in the challenges and difficulties of life & ministry where the Gospel can be seen the clearest.

So, thank you for your prayers, words of encouragement and financial gifts as we continue to make adjustments at the Ranch to all the recent changes! PRAY that we would continue to "stand firm" in the Gospel in our marriage, family, service and outreach.


Mare focuses inward & upward for "Baby Cinco's" arrival!

One of the many joys of home birth is to include the family.
Marillyn's mom, Brooke Goranson - an unofficial Doula, is pictured with the Beard kids and Marillyn in the birthing pool.

December 9th, 2016
(In this day of ultra-sounds, we've waited to find out all of our baby's gender until their birth.)

Well done, mama! Well done, baby!


Lesly, our family cook & long-time RO4Y participant, was wed on December 17th.

Civil unions are first & separate from church unions in Honduras.
PRAY for Lesly & her husband, Carlos.
They are expecting at the end of June.
 (Also PRAY for us as we seek a maternity leave replacement.)

Lucinda says, "Adios" to Honduras and her service at the Ranch.
She had a four-year tour-of-duty!
PRAY for Lu as she continues to adjust to life in the US.
PRAY for the Beard's as we try to nail down what our kids' education will look like. Marillyn has stepped into home schooling, but we don't see this as a permanent solution. NEED: Nanny/Teacher

Melody and her Nicaraguan husband, Roberto take a "Farewell" photo before they depart for Nicaragua.
After cutting her commitment to the Ranch short by moving up her wedding day six months, then moving to Nicaragua it was difficult to reconcile Melody's commitment to her marriage and service at the Ranch. We sadly decided to not invite Melody back. 

PRAY for the equestrian ministry vision of RO4Y. 
(Pause to read blog title, again.)
PRAY for God's timing on finding a new horse. We received a donation in 2016, but haven't found the one!

NEED: Equestrian assistant

NEED: More monthly financial givers - we're feeling the absence of Lu & Mel's "hands & feet", as well as their room & board fees.

Melody's final equestrian class given at Rancho Oasis.

Our ministry stamp:
Woo-hoo!!! The Ranch is official in Honduras! PTL!!!


Calvary Chapel Morgantown @ Parque Picachu in Tegucigalpa.

This small team of 8 had a combined experience of over 20 visits to Rancho Oasis since we begun in 2010. (That includes two first timers!)

We are not only blessed to call them friends, but family!

Bitter-sweet, final day reflections from the CC Morgantown crew!

Calvary Chapel Des Moines @ replica Mayan temple.
We were also blessed to fellowship & serve alongside our long-time friends from our home church in Des Moines, Iowa. The Beard & local kids especially enjoyed Chelsea's return visit, as she had interned with the Ranch in the Spring of 2016! NEED: Interns for remainder of 2017 & all of 2018!!!

What was really fun is that all but one of the team members had been to Honduras, but only one of those five knew first-hand our new property. Thus, this visit was like serving at a whole new ministry!

Kevin shares during the RO4Y staff Bible study about answering God's call on your life.

World Racer's first day in Ojojona: learning to shop @ the Pulperia!

One of our surprise highlights of the year was the month long service from the six gals from the World Race missions ministry.

They lived with us on the Ranch, but were completely independent: making their own meals and getting their own groceries.

Not only did they complete a variety of projects around the Ranch, they helped with the schooling of our youngest children, worked with the animals to give Oscar and Nelson some real time off over Semana Santa, ministered alongside the trade school & children's Bible studies and offered us their fellowship. 

We unofficially changed their name to "World Ranchers!"

Dropping the gals off at the bus stop. 


The trade school gals hold up their newest creations: paper bead hearts!
Marillyn has been faithfully teaching these young women for five years!
PRAY that they will not only mature in their craftsmanship, but in their walk with the Lord.

PRAY that God will also open up some more selling opportunities. He's blessed us with a few wedding/gift orders and we have applied to work with some larger State-side distributors.

What a blessing to have the multiple teams speak into the lives of these young women as they come to learn every Tuesday!

PRAY for our special sale on the Etsy website: Las Aguas Verdes,
as well as the special event May 12th at the US embassy!

The U-12 boys meet for a friendly game during the school break in January.
PRAY that we can maintain a relationship with these boys during the Honduran school year.

"And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." Hebrews 12:1

First practice for the U-25 team at the start of our second local championship.

PRAY for Oscar as he leads the boys both on and off the field. When push comes to shove and we're short a player, Oscar will step-in to play a half. (Many of the boys finish their school at 1:30 and half of our games start at 1 PM!)

PRAY for perseverance. The season is coming to a close and we are, once again, in last place of eight local teams. We are essentially at a high school level playing college opponents! The boys are a bit discouraged, but are actually playing well. Just missing that definition in the final third, if ya know what I mean!

While recently in Ojojona, I received some positive feedback about the team. This man, a player in one of the men's leagues, congratulated me for the efforts we were making with the boys. He said that most are in it for a trophy, but he sees that were are interested in forming these boys into good players and good men! PTL!!!

Win or lose - we always give thanks to the Lord!

Friday AM & PM Bible studies have been packed!
On a whim, obviously lead by the Holy Spirit, I decided to take a new route into Ojojona for Friday Bible study. Like the piped-piper, I drove through new neighborhoods and talked to every kid I saw, inviting them to the Ranch! It was crazy fun and I had no idea what to expect!

Our Friday attendance has nearly doubled in size!!!

Oscar teaches the AM class!

PRAY that Oscar, Dunia, Keyla and Saleni (Machi's girlfriend) and I will have perseverance, love and wisdom as we reach out to these kids! We've been so grateful for the help from the teams, but we want to keep this study growing strong!

We used Legos to help illustrate the parable of the house built on the sand & rock!


Both CC Morgantown and CC Des Moines helped stub in plumbing & electrical conduit for CDA!!!

PRAY for the funds and wisdom to finish CDA this year!!!
Our local Honduran forman, Jose de La Paz, has been completing the interior stucco.

We have two more teams lined up that could be helping with this process, as well as a significant donation from a supporting church to prayerfully finish the work!

NEED: Property manager / maintenance man / missions team construction manager!!!

CDA's septic tanks:
Bio-digestors that make human waste compost!!!

Beard Kid Creativity!
Enjoying washing the busito!

Arco Iris!

Blessed to ride these beautiful mountains!
PRAISE for good health!


Marsha & Dave Beard

Brooke & Wayne Goranson

PRAY & stand firm with the Beards & Rancho Oasis for Youth!