What’s Happening?

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We continue to live and work in Tijuana. We love the ministry, our work, our house, the food & fruit, the beach and the noise at night, well, not so much. It’s not all sunshine & waves though. We miss family, friends, our church & sometimes we feel isolated. But God is faithful.In November Kathy & I left the kids to serve with the Caravan staff in Ecuador. It was a great trip &we got to be where Jim Elliot served as well as be in the room where the wives were when they got the call that their husbands were dead. Too many other details to share, but it was amazing & refreshing working hard & interacting with our staff on a different level.

Josiah joined us in September and is selling shoes and serving with local ministries to improve his Spanish skills. He’ll be testing soon!

Bekah is finishing Bible school in Michigan & deciding on next steps. Whichever way she chooses, the end goal is to take the gospel to people that have no access to it. She is now sending her own updates. Let me know if you want them.

Jerem, an 11th grader, gets good grades & is quite the servant often seeing & filling needs without being asked! He also drives to school daily through TJ, the border & rush hour San Diego traffic both ways. Pretty impressive!

Rachel, 10th grade, is becoming a beautiful young lady working hard in school, getting nearly straight A’s & being on Year Book.  She enjoys friends & last weekend went to an old-fashioned roller skating party. She actually wore skates with 4 wheels! Who knew they still existed.

Gary is running the Boston Marathon on April 17th and is training hard. This will be his 13th marathon.

Kathy still thinks he’s crazy & he probably is. She continues to serve & is such a good example of true servanthood. She enjoys all the staff, but really likes book study with the female interns. Her biggest job, however, is taking care of Gary who needs to eat daily & he eats a lot!

Thanks for reading. Drop us a line or, better, plan a visit!

The picture is us at Playas de Tijuana with friends from Ohio. Melissa not only gets the award for 1st non-family visitor, but ties Kathy’s mom Miriam for coming twice. We welcome one & all if you are so inclined!


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The Current Crop of Interns
The reason Mexico Caravan Ministries (MCM) exists is to mobilize Christ followers for missions. This means that we educate people about the over 3,000 specific socio-linguistic people groups that do not have access to the good news of Jesus Christ. One of the ways MCM does this is through an Internship program. High school graduates move to Tijuana to live in community with other young folks, participate in an intensive discipleship program to serve & lead the groups that come. Besides spiritual disciplines & exposure to life in a developing nation, they learn many other skills including how to change a tire, check oil and navigate an unfamiliar city.

Interns usually arrive in groups several times a year depending on our needs. They stay for at least one summer and some stay up to 15 months. During summer we have 12-14 Interns, which is our busy season. Our hope is to have an experienced core group ready to go when June rolls around.

We try to have them to our home for dinner at least twice a year, but not in the Summer because it’s just too crazy. They only get about 24 hours off a week. The other six days they are up very early, work hard all day & get to bed very late. Our oldest daughter Rebekah was an intern for the summer of 2014. She lived at Caravan & even though her home was only a mile away, she was not able to just visit whenever she wanted. She didn’t get any special privileges either, but it was easier for us to “send” her care packages. She loved being an Intern & she made many life-long friends. It was a great experience for her.

The Interns come from the US & Canada & most have served at MCM with a group. Last year was great because we had two young ladies from our hometown of Mansfield, Ohio. One was from our church who had remained a friend throughout her time at Ohio State. We knew the other from a different church & she attended the same school as our kids. It’s nice to talk about the Buckeyes & have other people understand. OH–! The latter did not get enough and came back for more this January.

The picture above was taken at our home when they came over for dinner. Kathy made Coney Dogs, a common midwest meal, at least in our home. It turns out that that two of our current Interns from the West Coast had never had them before so Kathy had to give them the experience. They don’t know what they are missing in California. We don’t know if they liked them as much as we do, but that’s the way it goes.

We don’t spend a lot of time with the interns on a daily basis, but we do have weekly staff meetings with dinner and weekly book studies so we get to know them pretty well. Jerem & Rachel attend the dinners the first week of each month & have connected with different interns over the years. It is good for them to see young people endeavoring to serve Christ. it is great watching them grow in their faith, often through struggles & it is an honor for our family to be a part of their journey.

Prayer Requests:

1. Continued grace to do God’s will.
2. Strength for long days for the kids & Kathy.
3. Safe Travels to/from school.

Family Updates:
1. Rachel is studying hard & enjoying time with friends in San Diego.
2. Jerem will be in Ohio for the summer roofing houses. Before returning to us, he will visit his namesake in Massachusetts.
3. Kathy has been getting her baby fix in the nursery at church & she has a friend with a newborn!
4. Gary is training for the San Diego Marathon in June.

Partnership Development Tour

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the fam

I returned from what I called the Partnership Development Tour on February 2nd. This trip was made possible by the generous support of Mexico Caravan Ministries (MCM) & the Board of Directors. We must be doing something right for them because they want us to increase our support base so we can stay long term. I also want to thank the Directors of MCM, Eddie & Maggi Passmore. They support our family in so many ways, from helping us with home repairs to vehicle issues to everything Mexican. They have become great friends & have helped make Mexico home to us. They are the real thing when it comes to walking with Christ and it is a privilege to live and work so closely with them.


This trip took the whole family home to Ohio for Christmas and me in January to Michigan, Indiana, Massachusetts and Dallas & Houston, Texas. It was a whirlwind, but I was so encouraged from all the interactions. There were a more than 20 events including home groups, church services, youth groups, 2 Bible school chapels, at least 5 dinners, 1 Prayer group, 1 radio show on WTGN in Lima, OH, 1 TV interview on WTLW also in Lima and one family Christmas party. I also met with extended family and connected with our Mosaic family (Mosaic is our sending church in Mansfield, Ohio). Kathy & I spoke there in December.


I spent extensive time with my parents, Kathy’s parents and my oldest son Seth. Seth accompanied to many meetings in the Mansfield, OH area while Kathy’s mother, Miriam Roller, drove me to Michigan where I spoke to the students of New Tribes in Jackson and we stayed the night there. They treated us like royalty and we had a great time, punctuated by getting to see our oldest daughter Bekah! We also drove to Grand Rapids where we got to be with Rolland & Clarice Ice. We had a great visit! My dad drove me to Terre Haute, Indiana where I spoke to a youth group and spent time with Matthew & Leah Boutell and their lovely children, and Sugar, a beautiful velveteen rabbit owned by the family and cared for most by their youngest, 8-year-old Anna. Anna is a sweet young lady and Sugar is the softest rabbit I have ever touched! Anna took great care in explaining to me how she feeds, waters & cleans up after Sugar.

New Tribes Bekah & MiriamNew Tribes with Bekah



A special thank you goes to my brother John Russell and his pastor Jeff Perry, who not only gave me the chance to speak at his church, but also recommended me to three others (ultimately four) who allowed me to speak to their congregations! There were two times that I did not have anything scheduled for the upcoming Sunday and both times, God opened doors for me. One was a different church than Jeff originally spoke of and the second came through Regis Killiany. One of these was scheduled on a Friday and the other was Saturday! I really could not believe how the Lord provided opportunities.


On a long run in Mansfield, I saw two people that I would not have seen otherwise. I interpreted this as God telling me that I would see & speak to everyone he wanted me to. This eliminated a great deal of pressure that I placed on myself. All I could do was make the offers and the results were out of my control.


The second to last leg, a trip to New England, was delayed by snow and one event was cancelled. I was scheduled to speak to the youth at Grace Community Church in New Canaan, Connecticut. My connection to them is that they bring groups of young people to MCM every year. Unfortunately, all the flights were cancelled so we could not get there. They ended up canceling the church services too. Dad, my driver again, and I flew into Boston instead and made it to Northpoint Bible College as the snow storm did not hit that far north. It was great seeing their new campus and many former teachers. From there, we went to our old stomping grounds in east central Massachusetts and spent time on the Levanitis Horse Farm where I got to ride a black horse named Night. I had a wonderful time reconnecting with friends, some of the best ones Kathy & I have ever had.


On January 31st we woke very early to drive to Boston. Dad was pretty nervous about this, but he did a great job and GPS helps a lot! Dad was flying to Columbus and I was flying to Dallas. Dad’s flight left first so we said our good-byes at his gate and I went to catch my flight to Dallas where I met with the Martin’s and the Wagner’s. It was great being in Texas and I think Grapevine, Texas may be one of my favorite places to be. We weren’t there long, but it was such a quaint town. Todd described it as similar to Belleville, Ohio, just a little (ok, a lot) bigger. The Wagner’s hosted a home group where I got to share who I am & what I am doing in Mexico. It was interesting as two of the men worked in the oil industry which is in a bit of a quandary right now. It was also cool being in a Texas church and talking about “spurring” one another on to love and good deeds. He says we all know horses. (I don’t!!!) “Horses don’t like to be spurred. It hurts them…” I obviously know what a spur is, but his familiarity with them provided a new & clearer insight. When a brother comes to me to “help” me along the trail a bit, it hurts, but it is ultimately good.


After two days in Dallas, I flew to Houston to be with the Reuter’s. They are a great family we have known for years. It was great spending time with their family, though quite brief, and seeing where they live. On February 2nd, I flew to San Diego to rejoin my family and get back to life as usual.


I was able to maintain my running schedule for the most part. I ran in rain, snow, 4 degree temperatures & cloud cover in Ohio, Michigan & Massachusetts and sunny & warm temps in Texas. We were only in Indiana one night and though I could have run in the morning, I thought my time would be better spent with good old friends. And the delicious breakfast was worth it. Thanks Leah Boutell!


To summarize, the trip was fantastic.

  • Observation 1: Some friends stay in your heart forever no matter the distance and the infrequency of contact. I experienced this with so many people. I think it is a small glimpse of what heaven will be like.
  • Observation 2: Dunkin Donuts rules New England, at least where I was. I never even saw a Starbucks store or sign. I did see a Starbucks cup in the hand of someone in the airport on my way out of town. I had DD a couple times and I must say I like Starbucks better.
  • Observation 3: Traveling is tough & tiring, but I liked all the speaking engagements.
  • Observation 4: “Home” is tough to define. Where is it? What makes it home” Is it where you grew up or where you bought your first house? The book of Hebrews says Christ-followers are aliens & strangers on earth so “home” should not even be on this planet. I think “home” describes a place where you are loved, accepted, free to be yourself and safe. We can have short glimpses of it here, but the fulfillment of everything “home” has to offer will only be experienced by Christ-followers when we enter eternity.


And finally, a buddy of mine owns a bike store, Bike Works in Swansea, MA. He called one day to ask if I wanted to hang out with him. Of course I did. I love this guy. He has a huge store & I knew him when he was kind of frustrated working for other store owners. Now he has his own shop! Awesome! At the store, I was checking out the water bottles. He asked if I needed one. “No.” But I added that mine was broken, but still functions, you know what I mean. He is such a generous guy that he gave me one. I love it and think of the whole Polakowski clan every time I use it!!! What a great guy & friend.


You can watch the TV interview at the links below. It is in 2 parts:

Part 1 –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-Ak0f6CNM

Part 2 – http://www.wtgn.org/listenlive.php


You can see Kathy & I at Mosaic by going to www.youtube.com and searching for Mosaic Mansfield and clicking on the video for 12-17-15. There are two services: 9 & 10:40.


Radio & TV

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Gary did a radio interview in Lima when he was in Ohio. It will be aired today & tomorrow (Feb. 6 & 7) at 5PM EST. It can be heard at this link. You can only hear on line or on the radio @ WTGN 97.7fm at this time.


AND he did a tv interview in Lima also. You can see it online. It is in 2 parts.

Part 1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-Ak0f6CNM

Part 2 – http://www.wtgn.org/listenlive.php

Home Sweet Home

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I made it home yesterday and though the temperature numbers are not near as small here, we had a really cold soccer game last night, especially after the sun went down. All in all my trip was a huge success. I connected with lots of people in 27 individual events, some of which were one on one. This does not count my time with Night, the black horse that I was able to ride. I will post some pictures (maybe). It was so much fun, but I am so tired. I did not roll myself out of bed until 9:00am and I have fought the urge since then to take a nap. I am excited to meet the new staff at Caravan and I will get to do that at our Wednesday afternoon staff meeting in a couple hours.

New England Leg Winding Down

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Dad & I flew to New England on January 25th and it has been great reconnecting with many friends. I spoke at the Bible College we attended 20 years ago and it was a huge blessing being among them. Then I met with many of the people that we were friends with during the 90’s. It is amazing how the relationships survive time and distance. I have been so blessed to be here. Tomorrow we fly out: dad to Columbus, Ohio and me to Dallas, Texas. God is good and has given me the strength necessary to accomplish my task. I have also been able to run regularly, which is an added bonus. Warm weather here I come!!!

Trip to Michigan

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There were many highlights of the trip to New Tribes Bible Institute in Jackson, Michigan: hanging out with Kathy’s mom @miriam roller, various former MCM staff and Rolland and Clarice Ice in Grand Rapids. It was a great trip!!!

The best was seeing Rebekah, but second place occurred the day after. We arrived early Monday morning to speak at 9. I was up at 5. No problem, but I did miss a run…not good, but also not a huge deal! I shared the same stories about the car accident & football injury. We sat in on class & I was impressed in every way by the school: Facilities, faculty, staff & students. It was extremely clean, served great food and the students welcomed us with warmth. We met many great preople.

I am getting to #2: In my talk I mentioned running and my running philosophy: First Step, Stand Firm & Finish Strong. They were all “impressed” with my Cincinnati Flying Pig Medal (which is awesome) and when I finished someone mentioned going for a run. I’m always up for that!

On Tuesday morning it was 4 degrees, but not snowing. We left @ 5:30 and went 6.5 miles. Four students joined me: Rebekah Russell (one mile), Jacob, Martina & Preston who set a new PR for distance!!! What great young people I got to hang out with.

Schedule for January

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Kathy & I had the opportunity to speak at both services of our sending church Mosaic on 12-27-15. Both services are different so you can listen to both.

Kathy, Jerem & Rachel flew home today & we left Bekah in Findlay last night. Now the fun begins…Here is the schedule for January. Let me know if you want to schedule a meeting or attend one of these.

Date What
1/3/2016 Church: Centerburg
1/3/2016 Home Group: Ashland
1/4/2016 Home Group: Mansfield
1/5/2016 Home Group: Ontario
1/6/2016 Church: Youth, Mansfield
1/8/2016 Home Group, Mansfield
1/9/2016 Home Group, Mansfield
1/10/2016 Church: Ashville
1-11–1-13 Home Group, Terre Haute, IN
1/13/2016 Church: Mansfield
1/14/2016 Home Group: Bellville
1/16/2016 Church: Delaware
1/17/2016 Church: Johnstown
1/18/2016 Chapel: New Tribes: MI
1/19/2016 Home Group: MI
1/24/2016 Commercialx3 & Youthx2: CT
1/26/2016 Chapel, day of fasting: MA
1/27/2016 Church: Taunton, MA
1/28/2016 Home Group: Taunton, MA
1/30/2016 Home Group, Texas
1/31/2016 Home Group, Texas



Home in Ohio

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We flew in last night & were met by Seth & Bekah at the airport. What a great reunion. Then it was on to my parents house for another great reunion. We went to Mosaic this morning for church and received a very warm welcome from everyone. We are meeting with the pastor tomorrow and will be participating in the services next Sunday. Also, more home groups, youth groups & churches have been scheduled!!! God is so good. The only thing left is I have to deliver a message that is coherent. I would rather have had all these things set up completely, but, alas, they are not. I have been studying the Book of Hebrews for the last few months & God has given me lots of material. Please pray that I would be able to communicate what is necessary for each opportunity. God is so good!!!

Heading Home

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We will all be going home in 10 days! We are very excited and looking forward to seeing everyone. January is filling up for Gary as he meets with people to broaden our support base, which is not only a financial thing. We need more people to put our picture on the fridge, pray for us occasionally and maybe even send us a note once in a while. He will be speaking at two Bible schools, several churches and many small groups and will be in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts & Texas! This is a daunting task, but God is good and will carry me through. Though the schedule is filling up there is still room if you would like to get together. I would love to tell you about what God is doing in Mexico & with us!