Meet America in the Firehouse

So here is the scoop…

We left Springfield, IL at 2:00 pm with some thunder, rain and 50 degree weather.  We enjoyed lunch with Floyd Pierce and other believers after the meeting.  As we drove north we saw the temperature drop and pretty soon cars were in the ditch off the interstate on either side.  Traffic was still moving but it seemed like some reasonable caution was all that was needed.  As the snow really started falling and thickening we watched most of the traffic divert off the interstate at a rest stop.  We continued on thinking that may be a good thing but pretty soon the wind and snow was something to worry about because of the visibility.  At the next exit we decided to at least go for a full tank of gas and consider carefully what to do.  This turned us sideways to the wind and what little visibility we had went to a strict white out in the cross wind.  There were two miles from the interstate to the town of Andover, but we only made it one mile before we felt ourselves slide over the edge and the car started to spin its tires.  

After calling emergency and giving them our situation we watched cars slide off in front and behind us.  The snow kept coming and drifts started to build up.  Different people came by to knock on our window and see if we were hurt. Eventually when the fire department suggested it, the ladies went to the firehouse to spend the night.  Isaac and I were hoping for a tow truck or a pull out of the ditch but after an hour the firemen let us know there was a ban on towing and we chose to shut down the vehicle and tuck into the fire house as well.  

The fireman pointed us to a car waiting on the icy road and told us to get in — as the wind howled around us and we tried to keep our spare change of clothes dry.  Since we had gone out into the snow a few times our clothes were soaked thru and we were quite cold and unprepared for this weather.  As we pushed into the little car the first thing the driver said to us was “Hi, I just got out of prison yesterday”.  To which I responded, “can you drive a car?”  So we got off to a great start and this time realizing the risk of loosing the road we opened the passenger side and measured the distance to the plow furrow.  

Once we got to the firehouse and checked on Janel we realized we were going to be the first of many visitors that night.  Janel and Fionna had met and welcomed some of them, there was the style consultant from LA who had missed her flight out of Chicago.  Another young man who went into the ditch near her and helped her deal with the crisis.  A nice Indian family with their daughter and big labrador dog under the table also took on the hosting role and started setting out chairs, tables and 10 cots that were available.  As I went down the line a fellow with a police type uniform had his 3 year old son in his arms and worked as a corrections officer at the nearby prison where our con friend had just left.  This officer lamented picking up his son from the ex-wife’s place and stoping for pizza, they were only 5 or 10 minutes from home but could not continue.  The next person was a nurse who had come off shift and was also divorced, had two kids with different fathers but these kids were with other friends or family.  Janel got talking with her about homeschool curriculum as she was attempting that with her older daughter.  As we moved on I noticed the officer slide down the table and start a conversation with the nurse and then observed the progress thru the night.  When the officer’s son finally got tired of climbing everything and playing he settled down on both their laps.  Soon the nurse was wearing the officers overcoat, then they were helping each other out with food and taking turns on the cots in the back… needless to say they had a wonderful date night.  When morning came around the nurse’s father came by to pick her up with a 4×4 but she was hesitant to leave.  The officer was also offering to arrange for her car to be towed, meanwhile the father was stomping his feet trying to get back on the road.  It would be an interesting story to follow.

The firemen were great.  The chief was an older but quite active gentleman looking after everyones needs, accommodating new people and answering phones plus directing his crew.  To add to his evening a fire alarm was called in early in the evening as the Lutheran parsonage house had a small emergency with a fireplace leaking some flames down into the basement.  All these guys were volunteers and very willing to spend time to talk when they had it.  One of these firemen we decided had a “knight in shining armor” complex.  He would come in to the firehouse in his snowsuit stomping his boots and informing us on his latest excursion.  In one case he was rescuing folks and directing them back to firehouse, bringing news fo people staying in their vehicles and more.  He always made a big show of his entries and exits.  One couple of locals chose to disregard the mandate to stay in the firehouse and left in their car, only to get stuck again.  So our knight in shining armor went out to find them and instead of rescuing them he chewed them out and told them to find a friendly house instead of bothering the firemen again.  The whole conversation was repeated with colorful language included.  

The ethnic situation was worth observing thru the night.  In one case a Mexican family came in with 3 chihuahuas and a large husky.  I went to visit with them and soon started talking to him in Spanish.  Soon he switched back to his heavily accented English and would refuse to answer me in Spanish.  Another family entered and these were American blacks.  The father had a tie down bandana and saggy pants.  The wife and maybe a sister with a couple of small children all walked in but lost their swagger as they filled past the growing crowd and went to a back table.  I went to say hi but got little response so I started talking to their 5 year old son who was a bit more open.  Finally as I left them alone, the mother thanked me for visiting with their son.   

Soon after we heard news that a van with a choir group was stranded and would be joining the crew.  First 4 brilliantly black children walked in looking understandably lost and cold.  After 15 minutes the rest of the crew, all 15 of them finally arrived all of them shiny black from DR Congo and talking their own languages.  The older ones could not communicate very well but our chief promptly got hot wet towels wrapped around the women feet, they had only worn sandals.  The young people in the group came right over and started talking music and telling us that white people don’t know how to really do praise music.  At some point I pulled out a harmonica and that created some conversation for a while.  

There were more colorful individuals in the group an at the end we must have had more than 40 people sitting mostly at tables with a pillow to lay a head on and blankets.  The 10 cots were used at any given time but no one slept a full night.  The dryer was being used almost constantly by firemen or by the guests. The coffee maker was used nonstop all night and the local grocery (only grocery in town) delivered chips, soft drinks, water, pizzas and donuts.  After the grocery store closed the attendant joined our group in the firehouse as she could not leave either.  There were only two bathrooms, one for ladies and one for men, so these also were maxed out and you had to wait your turn, especially considering the coffee and soft drink consumption.   It was overall an amazing opportunity to experience America and all it’s diversity.  

So next morning most people began to solve their individual situations by getting rides or driving home if their cars were not ditched.  A tow truck was out getting vehicles back on the road after the plows were done.  The firemen worked out a way for the Congo choir and our family to be moved to a Lutheran Church basement.  The Firemen would not let us go dig ourselves out for liability reasons and the tow truck could not get near our vehicles because we had been buried by drifts and the plows.  So we got caught in a holding pattern.  The Lutheran hosts kept feeding us and visiting with us.  Finally we started questioning what could be done to get back on the road and our host started making calls.  It turns out that our host was the mayor of town (population 600) and had some pull.  A friend took a front loading tractor and dug the bulk of the snow from around our truck and we finally got gloves bought and went out to dig out close to the car so we could get in the door and start up.  It was a long hard dig but we got back on the road by 2:00 pm the following day.  

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Mission update… short version


2018 peru update from Jesse Mattix on Vimeo.

Our family has begun our furlough out on the east coast at CMML.  We have picked up a vehicle and plan to drive across the country… slowly.  This is the video that we are sharing as part of our missionary update.  We hope you enjoy.

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Graduates away! YES!!!

IMG_2657This is a birthday month for our family.  Janel just had her 24th birthday (oops a little dyslexia there).  We went on a nice hike to a new waterfall beyond the town of Lamas and got lost driving there.  Once there we had the privilege to witness a baptism that an evangelical church was holding in the main pool.  After our return some ladies came over to the house to wish Janel happy birthday and say pretty flowery things as they often do in latin cultures.  The joke is that next day, Sunday, it was my birthday and I swore everyone to secrecy so when they wanted to congratulate me it was a hush hush affair.  Still, someone brought a cake to the house in the afternoon and we shared it with the carpenter’s club.  So we enjoyed getting older, not always the case you know.  


Our Bible students have graduated and are gone away.  YES!  Three have gone to a village to encourage a small church as a group and Aaron joined in on that venture.  I am sure they are enjoying their freedom but hopefully are wiser in what they choose to do.  The Bible School is an intense program for all involved so we are very glad to take a break from the responsibility.  Towards the middle of the year we were worried that we may not be able to continue for lack of a family to partner with.  The Lord has provided and at this point we have the Sosa family from Uruguay coming up to join the effort here for the next year.  Since their visit earlier this year they have been praying and confirming their decision as well as handing off responsibilities in Camiri.  So after a trip back to their city, Maldonado, Uruguay, they will join us in February.   

IMG_2712The local church is doing well here as well.  I look forward to stepping down from being an elder – mostly so that national brothers will grow into that role.  Just this week the elders invited Victor to meet with us and consider taking on this responsibility.  Next we want to present the matter to the church for a period of consideration before presenting him as a full elder.  This is great news for any church and a deepening of their understanding of the Word.  I am afraid they will not let me step down just yet but someday soon, I hope.  

IMG_2658The family is finishing up with homeschool for the year – we are off sync but fit better with our school year in Peru.  One more week of school and Mom is really looking forward to that.  It is also time to prepare for our furlough to the US.  As some have heard our plan calls for arriving on the east coast – CMML to start with and then driving across the states to Washington.  We will take advantage of some family visits, church visits and Bible college visits.  We anticipate this may be one of the last times we will be able to show Fionna around on furlough before she needs to choose a college or something like that.  By the way Fionna is learning to drive – big prayer request right – so hopefully we can get some driving hours in as we go across country.    

IMG_2727Once in WA state we hope to see various congregations and of course family on either side of the mountains.  If anyone would like a report from Peru or just a speaker let me know as we are filling our schedule about now.  We plan to be in WA, after Dec 5 or 6 and we will be flying back to NY Feb 7.  E-mail is the best contact for now.

We appreciate your prayer in the ministry here and for our plans as they develop. 

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Jungle Storm

Oh man you would have loved or hated our experience yesterday… Either way strong feelings.

Janel had the bug to redo the roofing on our home, the sheet metal was always wimpy thin and we suspected no insulation between the tin and the super board (ceiling).  Sure enough we found all to be true. Yesterday with half our roof off a nice wind started kicking up somewhere between a tornado and a hurricane – it did have a wide open twist in the wind.  Well our roofers were up there (men from church) and they just had to lay down flat on the partially finished roof, no time to cover up the rest of the open stuff.  The rain dumped and it was raining upstairs and passed thru the wood floors to the downstairs as well.  What a mess.

We brought in the students to help squeegee the floors and towel up what we could… set buckets out for bigger water spouts coming in thru light fixtures mostly.  I am repairing and drying out various electronic devices today.  My battery charger for the drill guns was blinking funny, fixed now I think.  Computers drip drying, need to look at our bedroom fan.  Of course our bedroom took it the worst since it was uncovered at top.

Janel and I slept in the guest room and are drying our mattress out today.  Then the power went out for the evening as trees and roofs blew down around the city.  Today we went out to see some of the damage with Janel on the bike.  Quite impressive really.  So we are getting things washed and fixed today.  Going to add a few more projects for the guys to finish up now that the mess is here to stay.  And I am glad my notes are ready for next week’s class.

We are thankful the guys did not blow off the roof or get sliced up by some neighbors roof.  Rather scary for a jungle storm.  Asking around few people remember a storm that bad especially with the hail mixed in.  On the other hand we have a regular once a year kind of storm with sideways rain and wind, hopefully that was it for the year.

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Finishing well… or just finishing

This morning we were invited to a 4 year old birthday party.  Ezequiel is the son of another missionary couple in town and quite a handful.  Before I was able to go, I went on a quick errand with Isaac to pick up some roofing for our house.  We special ordered 26.2 foot tin roofing to redo some of the original work on our house.  It was quite a sight to have 8 or more feet of roofing drooping off each end of the pickup truck.  We drove slowly!
I was able to see so many folks this last month with the quick trip to Seattle for my grandfather Gino’s funeral.  The trip was a bit crazy as you heard in brief panic burst as Janel kept everyone updated on flights missed or rebooked.  Also you may be interested to know that my headaches and most of the dizziness seems to be clearing up as time goes by.  Thanks for the prayers.
Once back in Peru, our team has started focussing on finishing the school year.  Last week the professor responsible for Marriage and Family/counseling called and said he could not make it.  This of course put a last minute kink in the works.  I moved Aaron Campbell up to teach his class in End Times Events or eschatology.  He was almost ready and after failing to find a last minute teacher, I decided to bite the bullet and put a course together for the final 2 week module on Marriage and Family.  So as you can imagine… I stayed home a lot this week and now have a course, printed and ready to teach a week from now.  For those who have ever heard me give advice – you should all be laughing up your sleeves wondering what kind of whacked out ideas I will spout.  
Along the lines of giving advice, there is a young couple at our church getting married in a couple of weeks.  They have been visiting us and working out various details with parents and church.  My shocking advice to soon-to-be-weds is “learn to fight the right way”.  Janel keeps me balanced when the crazies take over.
The week after this wedding – and probably using some of the same decorations we will have our 3rd graduation for IBEM Selva.  These events will be high on the agenda next week.  Once the Bible School year is over we get a short break and a week later will enjoy the Missionary Retreat, right here in Tarapoto.  Janel has been pursuing details and coordinating hotels, outings, missionaries in Peru and a little beyond.  Yesterday we went to test the pool out. 
In the midst of all this the kids are plugging along on homeschool, ups and downs.  We have had a wonderful bit of help from Mrs C. who has made herself available to teach/coach Fionna thru her English lit. class.  It has been a particular challenge to Fionna so having the outside help and voice of reason has kept things sane for all involved.  Both kids have been involved in the children’s club on Sunday afternoons – the Carpenters Club.  Fionna is out there now working on a project on her own and sawing away.  Isaac is working on other experiments, but we have not had time to finish projects very well this last season.  He keeps getting half-hearted offers to buy his modified motorcycle – cafe style 125cc.  
Once again thank you for being part of the Lord’s work here in Peru.  We are praying for the next year and the Lord’s provision of a couple to join us.  It looks like there is a couple from Uruguay who will answer the call.  Now we need to work out logistics preparing a place for their family to comfortably stay thru the first year at least.  We will keep you informed as things move ahead.  This November we are planning a furlough with the family and we will provide more information on that next month.
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Grandpa Gino Picini

I just got back from a quick trip to the US.  Grandpa Picini passed away on August 7 in Tucson.  There was a burial and memorial for him on the 18th of August in Seattle / Lynnwood.  As I was looking a to travel up and see family some memories came to mind that I would like to share especially from a grandchild’s perspective.  


An old photo turned up one day, it was not quite black and white more of a tinged sepia color but there was a very handsome dark eyed fellow in the picture looking back at you.  Since none of the grandkids could recognize the young man we asked grandma who the guy was in her picture collection.  Well, she started blushing as she explained that’s your grandpa Gino in the picture and added her comments on what a good looking Italian he was.


The story we heard was that Grandpa started going to church as as a young man, very interested in the young ladies there.  Back in the day they did not have youth group or just for fun activities.  The youth met at old Mr. Fleming’s place for singing practice, and Grandpa faithfully showed up.  He came to Christ in his late teens or 20’s thru the presbyterian church but was later drawn to the open brethren by some men who were active in street evangelism and the Union Gospel Mission.  One of his memories of church life was sitting in the men’s meeting when they were discussing the commendation of Peter Fleming and his interest in Ecuador as well as that young, hot-headed Jim Elliot from Portland.  Church is an interesting thing and he had many joys and some disappointments.  Over all, he was very careful to remain faithful, sometimes it was principles or customs, but mostly it was to his local church fellowship.

Well somewhere in there Grandpa, that handsome Italian, and Grandma, the red headed English lass, married.  What may be forgotten now-a-days is just how contested and racially charged that marriage was.  Italians were in the unskilled working class of immigrants and low on the American social scale.  The English on the other hand, were into the middle class and owned businesses.  Not much was said about the mix by the time the grandkids came along, but there were elements of struggling up into society and acceptance on both sides.  And then he did it again, that handsome old gent.  This time he married Hilda with all her Mexican flare.  They started traveling and grandpa went to learning some more as he absorbed new foods and culture.

Grandkids seldom imagine their grandparents as young people, mostly, you know you have to hush up and be on best behavior in the big house on Queen Anne hill.  As kids our family rotated thru the big house once very 4 or so years and sometimes we stayed 3 months, others more.  Early on grandpa was working with the heating supply store selling parts.  Watching grandma prepare his lunches and packing his metal lunch box was cool.  Our boxes were partly packed as well – at least the goodies were added in by grandma.  Later he retired and life got busier.

The big house on Queen Anne was interesting because it was always functional but never finished-if you know what that means.  Grandpa made sure everything worked – basically.  Somewhere however his sense of what the final project should be, conspired against him getting these finished.  So as you went thru the house you would see a set of tools laid out under an unfinished piece of trim, or a piece of the kitchen wall temporarily patched as he figured out the new electrical additions he started some years back.  The back steps that grandma made kids sweep always sagged and creaked, but that’s because that was just a temporary fix grandpa started twenty years ago.  On the other hand there was always something to do around the house and grandpa was a great teacher.  His projects served to teach grandkids the right way to drive a nail, sharpen tools, use a saw, pour cement and on it went.  A big lesson was “use the right tools for the job”.  Never use a wrench to drive a nail for example, big no, no.  Those who learned his ways still look over their shoulder when using a pocketknife for a screwdriver.

Among grandpa’s great weaknesses were cars and various collections.  Once he boasted that he had never spent more than $1000.00 for a car and these would always be worth more when he sold or passed them on.  There is no known registry of how many cars grandpa owned in his life.  It wasn’t a business as such, fixing up old cars and selling them, more of a hobby.  He got into all sorts of major repairs, like dropping a transmission and then finicky details, like the antenna that should motor up when the radio went on.  And yes, eventually he did spend more than $1000.00 buying a car.

Collections were a general weakness but there are multiple categories to mention.  Little boys might expect to drool over his pocketknife collection for example and young girls would often be gifted some collectible wind up watch in working condition.  Cameras were a big thing and it was sad to see the digital age come along and ruin his fun and sage knowledge.  Railroad watches were something that only came out for truly appreciative guests as he pointed out the jewels and made sure you did not overwind the mechanism.  The big house doubled as a nearly complete library on most things mechanical and other interests, long before DIY web pages.  Some of his collections were not intentional, they just happened, like the coffee maker collection in the basement.  The new one was better but the old one still worked – sort of.

Accordions were maybe his dearest collection.  Grandpa may not have been a world class accordion player but he sure loved the music, the instruments and those who could play it.  In fact if you had any musical ability, any at all, he would ask if you brought your: harmonica, guitar, tuba or musical saw, then sit you down for a little music time.

Grandma Ruth was certainly the socialite by most estimations but no one could forget grandpa when folks visited the big house.  Usually he did not greet you at the door because he was in coveralls under some car or house project.  When you were ready to go however he would meet you half way to your car, some how he had popped the hood and had a verbal 10 point analysis on what maintenance you should be aware of.  Never knew him to hot-wire a car but somehow he could determine why that engine was acting up.  This was maybe his most memorable contribution to guests and in fact it was a christian service he performed for many people.  Though it was intimidating to have your car and personal driving habits so scrutinized.  He had a tender heart for youngsters starting out in their first car.  Often Grandpa would double as a triple A service when a car was stalled on a roadway and needed to come home.

Grandpa’s middle name remains a mystery, but it may as well have been Gino Fix-it or Help-em Picini.  There was usually straight talk and often gruff advice given, certainly to youngsters.  That was a bit intimidating to start out with, it was part of taking your lumps and learning to listen.  On the other hand he was mostly right and he was never uncaring, especially when you really messed up.  There was a lot of compassion shown for people, especially those who really were down and needed it most.  Sometimes it looked like he was too compassionate and might be taken advantage of for his generosity.  But this was the nature of Grandpa’s love for people, all people really.  He made some really interesting friends along the way, including you and me.   He liked to help people as well as fix things.

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Pesky update letters

“Forgot to write those pesky update letters.  Lose support for the next two rolls.”  That is what our game card reads on our new Missionary Board Game.  The kids and I have been working over making a missionary game combining some of our favorite games and writing up our funny experiences into the details.  “Drove off swinging bridge and spilled coffee on my father-in-law.  Need students to help get out.  Lose a favor.”  I think the little frustrations add up so this is our chance to laugh at them and share the experience with those who like board games.  Order up and I can send you a PDF copy for you to print out and play – free of course.  
Every month adds interesting experiences and novelties to life.  This last month I was sick for most of the time, as was Janel.  The kids were on sick duty and thankfully survived, also no students were infected with our virus.  My head is still loopy at times.  I have had a hard time getting my stabilizers working in my eyes and ears which mucks up the balance and makes driving motorbikes an adventure.  The doctors analysis was a viral infection… not any of the common ones, apparently.  
However the show must go on.  Our students returned from the river villages the 1 of July excited to go back to school and telling some of the great things they were a part of.  Like Jesus’ disciples returning after their 2 by 2 canvasing of the countryside.  No miracles or demons cast out this time around.  Overall a very positive experience and upon their return they jumped into Jurgen’s devotional course on the Magnificence of Christ.  Teddy was the next teacher with Theology 3 and this week they have a change of pace.  Monday thru Wednesday they were out working at a local Bible camp, the property of other missionaries in town.  They had to clean up and prep fields and bathrooms for this weekend’s camp.  They are involved as staff and as counselors in the event so it is a great experience to learn what it takes to organize a bit of a jungle camp.  Isaac and Fionna joined as campers and there are some 25 campers aside of staff.  Everyone returns this afternoon.  We will get the bandaids, Neosporin and sting-stop meds ready.
In past letters we have mentioned the need for a family to join us in the ministry.  This past week we hosted a couple up from Bolivia – though they are Uruguayan.  Franklin and Adriana Sosa are looking around and seeking the Lord’s guidance in joining us here.  They have a couple of daughters and have sunk some roots into the Camiri scene with the Bible School there and pastoring local churches plus other opportunities.  So coming here would take some clear direction and some reorganizing.  Financial support is another thing they look at but so far they have simply packed their family and tools and set to work alongside their ministry.  Of course my Dad and Mom in Camiri may be a little less than thrilled to lose good people in the local ministry scene.  
Today we pick up another couple.  Franco and Danyelle are a younger couple but also from Bolivia.  Franco will teach the course on Church and Mission and we are also planting a bug in their ear about joining us here in the ministry.  They are quite involved in Cochabamba and Danyelle at least is commended from her church in Texas.  Franco studied at the Bible School in Camiri and has then continued on with children and church ministries for the last 8 or so years.  Wonderful how the Lord uses the church to train through the practical opportunities it opens up.  IMG_2578
Thank you for your prayers and support and if there are some items you want to ask about, feel free to contact us.  Not every detail makes it into these “pesky update letters.”IMG_2583
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