Names and Faces of the New Certificate Students

We already wrote here about the new group of Certificate students here in Mexico City, but this weekend we took a photo of the students after class so we could introduce them to you.


From left to right, the students are: Patti, Ari, Esther, Angelica, Harim, and Bersabi

Please be praying for them this year as they study. Inevitably there are always things that come up and obstacles that try to stand in the way of them finishing the program. Please keep them in prayer this year as they study and come to class each Saturday.

Sofia the First and the Daily Christian Life

We have a little princess in our family. Our little girl loves princess things, and her bedroom wall has princesses all over it. She puts on her princess dress, her tiara, twirls around, and sings, “I’m gonna be a princess.”

This also means that she’s a big fan of Sofia, one of the latest Disney Princesses that has a show on the Disney Channel called “Sofia the First.” We watch it at least once a day.

Sofia and her mom live in the village of the kingdom until, one day, Sofia’s mom marries the king, making Sofia a Princess. They move to the castle, and of course this means that she has to learn all about how to act like a princess. The whole show is about how she messes that up but learns in the process.

To understand what the show is about, read the lyrics to the (as always) catchy Disney theme song:

I was a girl in the village doin’ alright
Then I became a Princess overnight
Now I gotta figure out how to do it right
So much to learn and see
Up in the castle with my new family
In a school that’s just for royalty
A whole enchanted world is waiting for me

I’m so excited to be (Sofia the First)
I’m finding out what being royal’s all about (Sofia the First)
Makin’ my way it’s an adventure everyday (Sofia)
It’s gonna be my time (Sofia)
To show them all that I’m Sofia the First!

As I was walking to work this morning, I couldn’t get that song out of my head. It really is catchy (Click to watch it on Youtube). I was also thinking about how Sofia’s story is like our story.

We are just ordinary people who God chooses to bring into His family through Jesus, making us heirs to the Kingdom. We are now in the process of learning to live according to our new position as His children. We struggle, there are things we don’t understand, but our loving Father the King is right there to guide us through it all.

We truly are adopted into the Royal Family.

We should be like Sofia:

  • Excited to be part of God’s family
  • Exploring what it means to be children of the King
  • Making our way daily in the adventure that God has for us

We ought to be living like princes and princesses today.

Certificate in Youth Ministry Begins Again

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This weekend we started another round of the Certificate in Youth Ministry at the Mexican Baptist Theological Seminary. Huberto, our first graduate from the bachelor’s program, is teaching this month’s class.

The Certificate level program was needed because there are many youth leaders in Mexico who are volunteers. They want and need training, but they still have jobs during the week. Many of them sacrifice to come to the program every Saturday for a year.

Saturday we had a student from Ixtapaluca, a suburb of Mexico City about 2 and a half hours from the Seminary (on Saturday in good traffic). Another student came from Morelos, a state about 3 hours south of where the Seminary is located. They are willing to make the trip to get training.

The classes are every Saturday morning from 9 to 1, and the program lasts a year. Please pray for these students and their professors as we spend this coming year teaching youth ministry to these dedicated leaders.

How I Used Evernote Peek for Seminary Class

In case you didn’t know, I’m going for my doctorate from Southern Seminary. My Master’s degree, however, didn’t have enough of the required courses in order to get accepted into the doctorate program yet. So, I’m taking a few more Master’s level classes this year. The two I took this summer were Old Testament Survey and New Testament Survey.

This weekend was my two final exams, and I think I did pretty well on them both, considering the fact that I’m doing other things besides taking Seminary classes. The New Testament exam was the hardest, with 75 passages that had to be correctly identified. An example would be “The Woman at the Well” with the answer being John 4:4-42. Having to memorize the location of 76 stories (or “pericopes,” as I learned in class) in the gospels was overwhelming, so I turned to a handy tool called Evernote Peek.

Lately I’ve been using Evernote for a lot of my work related organization and notes, but I didn’t use it much for class. Evernote is a service that allows you to save information like notes, images, and PDFs in a searchable way. There are so many uses for it, since it syncs across all of your devices.

But the people at Evernote also have this great flash card like app called Evernote Peek, which is designed for students.

You sync one of your notes with Peek, with the question being the subject of the note and the answer being the body. Then, on an iPad you can study these notes using a smart cover or the “virtual smart cover” that Peek provides.

Here’s what it looks like:

You lift up the cover just a little bit and it shows the question. you lift it a little more, and the answer appears. You mark it as correct or incorrect, cover the whole screen again, and “peek” again for a new question. It’s actually pretty fun.

I managed to miss only 2 questions on that part of the exam, which made me happy since I spent a great deal of time with Evernote Peek studying these 75 passages.

I’m thinking about using this with my students who have iPads. Maybe I could make them special shared notebooks with study guides in them. That would help them study more for the tests they are taking with me.

If not, I’ll continue to use it for my own memorization and study. It’s a pretty great tool.

We Need a Van! Can You Help?

It’s hard to believe that in August we will be celebrating 10 years in Mexico! We are amazed at all that God has been doing in our lives and how He is using youth workers to impact young people throughout the country. We feel like He is just getting started.

When we first came to Mexico, we had no children. I can still remember the day we got our Dodge Stratus in 2003. We were studying Spanish in Cuernavaca at the time, and we took the bus from there to Mexico City (2 hours) where we then took the metro from one end to the other (1 hour), and a taxi (30 minutes), to where our car was. The first time I drove the car in the craziness of Mexico City traffic is an experience I’ll never forget.

We’ve had that same car ever since that crazy day, but we now have 3 growing children who don’t fit too well in the backseat, which hinders our ability to take other people with us. There’s also a law in Mexico City that makes you “rest” your car one day a week if it is 9 years old or older. Last month was the last month we could drive our old Stratus everyday. Now we cannot drive on Fridays or the fifth Saturday of the month, which are busy days for our ministry. Also, Nathan would love to have a bigger place to sit instead of being smushed between his brother and sister’s carseats.

So we need your help. We need to raise $8,000-$10,000 as soon as possible (hopefully by the end of August) so we can buy a minivan for our family and ministry. We’re asking everyone we know to chip in and help us get a newer used van so we can use it everyday and not be hindered in the ministry that we are doing.

If you’d like to help, please send a donation to Youth Ministry International and mark it as “Poulette Van Fund.” The address is: 1300 Envoy Cir. Suite 1306, Louisville, KY 40299.

You can also donate online by clicking the link here and put “Poulette Van Fund” in the comments box.

Ben’s Birthday Piñata

One of the most traditional things about birthday parties in Mexico is the piñata.

Ben’s birthday party last weekend was officially a “Captain America” party, but we couldn’t find any piñatas that were Captain America, so we settled for a minion from the movie Despicable Me 2. We haven’t seen the movie yet, but our kids love the minions, so we were excited to find this little guy at the party store.

As usual, they took turns whacking him until he spilled his candy. They loved it. Be sure to watch the video at the end of this post. It’s always really fun to get candy.

Shiloh walks around with her bag of “Despicable Me candy” now.

Ben’s Fifth Birthday from Dennis on Vimeo.

Sixteenth Wedding Anniversary


I can’t believe it, but today we are celebrating our sixteenth wedding anniversary! Right about this time I remember seeing Janell appear in the back of Grace Bible Church in her gown. It is something I’ll never forget. I’m so happy to be married to her and be on this journey of life together.

We’re celebrating by doing normal things, since we can’t drive our car today. We’ll be waiting until another day to go out to eat. I did buy her 2 dozen roses yesterday, so at least that’s something. I’ll grill her some steak on the grill tonight after I write an 8 page book review for one of the classes I’m taking.

Romantic, right?

It’s amazing how many things happen in 16 years.

  • We’ve been on so many airplanes, and we’ve traveled to so many places, including Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and others.
  • We moved to another country.
  • We’ve lived in so many houses I can’t remember.
  • We’ve learned another language.
  • We’ve been to and spoken in so many churches.
  • We’ve had 3 incredible kids.
  • We’ve watched a lot of Rays’ and Dolphins’ games.
  • She’s put up with a lot of corny jokes.
  • We’ve taught and mentored a lot of students.

…And we’re really only getting started. Here’s to many, many, more years!

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