Courage & Christ's Call


I want to share with you all how the story ends. As most of you who have been following the Ace Hoops blog know, recently a close friend of the Ace Hoops family was kidnapped in Juarez. (To read more of this incredible story, see “Remember the Mountain Top” blog entry from a few weeks back.)
And actually, the ending to the story is really just the beginning for Joel and for the Emmanuel Children’s Home, as his story and his testimony speaks volumes about courage and following Christ’s calling, no matter what!
Email from Joel Barraza Rodriguez:
Dear Friends and Faithful Prayer Warriors,
“Although I walk through the valley of shadow or death I will fear no evil for YOU are with me.”
I stand today blessed to be alive and a witness that our God hears our prayers in our times of anguish. I thank God for each and every one of you who lifted a prayer on my behalf. As I was in the midst of this terrible experience, I could feel the prayers of all of you and all my family like a covering of grace over my whole being. Thank you, thank you so very much for your heartfelt prayers.
Today I stand convinced more than ever that being the Principal at Isaac Newton is where God has called me. The “kidnappers” that held me were just boys no older than 17 years old, broken souls with no love or fear for the Lord. I thought about all our children at Emmanuel and how the opportunity to know about Jesus and His love can make the difference between becoming a criminal and becoming a good citizen. More than ever I feel called to be part of Emmanuel’s calling to be a Home to the fatherless and Home to the children at risk who need love and guidance to be the citizens of tomorrow of Mexico, the country I love, the country I ask the Lord to change with all my heart.
More than ever I am committed to be part of this incredible place where with your help we can be the hands and feet of Jesus. I feel blessed and privileged to have the opportunity to touch these children’s lives day in and day out.“Love one another, be kind, love like Jesus loves us, be respectful” are phrases I use over and over in my office when one of the students needs some direction. I want to continue to do that and more because I have hope in my heart that the lives of the children here will be touched by God’s amazing mercy and they will be changed forever. I want to be part of this, I want to be able to know in my heart that God did not spare my life so that I could run… but He spared my life to make a difference, and every day when I walk to my office on the hill of Emmanuel Ministries this will be my prayer “Let me make the difference in one of the children’s lives today”!
I thank each and every one of you who supports Emmanuel and has partnered with us in believing that Jesus’ love is sufficient, that His love transforms and heals and restores. I will witness for the rest of my life that prayer is powerful and it is life saving. So thank you, thank you for your prayers for me, for your prayers for Emmanuel, for your prayers for each of our children. I know that each of your prayers is heard. Mine were heard and with gratitude and humbleness I share with you my joy and the joy of my children and loved ones that I can continue to serve Him and be a father not only to my own to children but to the other 140 students God has placed under my care at Isaac Newton Academy.
Please continue to pray for us. Please continue to give what is within your means. Without your support these precious children would not have this wonderful Children’s Home and without your support I would not have the privilege to be the Principal of this blessed family of 100 children. Your love gifts make our work possible. Now I understand so much deeper. I prayed that not one penny would be given to the kidnappers, because my heart is that every dollar that is sent to Emmanuel is to bless the children and their lives. So I want to thank all of you who were willing to send money to go towards the amount for my ransom. I am so happy that was not necessary, but what makes me happier is that any amount that is in your heart to send will be used for the children, their care, their education, their future.
May our Lord, the Lord who heard our prayers, bless you today.
Joel Barraza Rodriguez
 It takes courage to follow where Christ leads, and guts to take up your cross and follow Him. But as Joel attests, there’s no better place in the world to be!