Mar 28, 2013

Happy Easter and Thank you from Armonia

Dear Friends,
Thank you for your generous support and prayers for our Christmas Appeal. Thank you also for your wonderful hospitality during Saul and Pilar's visit to the UK earlier this month. We thank God for your love and faithfulness in these trying times.

Over the week, Saul and Pilar related many stories about the students at Armonia and the families brought closer to God through their Christian Transformation Centres. We wanted to share these stories, positive and unfortunate, to all our supporters.

Positive news:

- Building work on the second residence in Oaxaca keeps advancing and the first floor has been completed. This will allow Armonia to house boys and girls in separate buildings possibly by next September. It will also provide a larger kitchen where everyone can eat inside together. (Volunteer groups are needed this summer to help finish, paint and furnish the house!)

- An Armonia graduate, Irene, was the first woman in her village to go to and graduate from University. She has also been accepted to have a voice  into her village's eldership (another first)!
-One of the indigenous students, Jose, who left Armonia two years ago out of a very sad episode in his life, ended up working in the city for an abusive employer. When asked if he would like to come
back to Armonia, he said no because he didn't think that the other students would accept him back but when his brother convinced him to visit Armonia, the students begged him to come back and told him that they missed and loved him. He was their brother in Christ and would always be accepted back into the fold! He has since rejoined his classmates and thanks God for his brother who found him and his classmates that welcomed him home.

Unfortunate news:
- 14 Students had to be sent home in the last 10 months because there was a large decrease in scholarship funding over the past year. This is a huge issue right now and something that Armonia (UK) Trust really wants people to know about. Many individuals like to give money for buildings and sending the kids on holidays, but Armonia needs volunteers and funding for scholarships to help support the students. It costs £1000 per student per year to pay for their lodging, food, and schooling. This is £80 per month (much cheaper than it costs to go to school in the UK). Could your youth groups help support a student?
- 8 out of 9 volunteer groups cancelled their trips to Mexico last year after committing to at least a week of projects and fellowship with the students and families in Oaxaca and Mexico City. Please volunteer to send a group and stay committed! Armonia will help your group by preparing a mission seminar about what volunteers can expect when they arrive and what their daily tasks will entail. If you are not able to volunteer with projects then maybe you would like to schedule a group visit instead. Visitors meet with Armonia's students and visit the Christian Transformation Centres. They witness the poverty endured by local individuals and learn how Armonia is helping local communities take care of themselves.

May the promise of Easter be fulfilled!

God Bless you and keep you,

Irish Sirmons
Armonia UK Trust
On behalf of the Armonia Ministries Team

Feb 18, 2013

Saul and Pilar to Visit the UK!

Saul and Pilar will be visiting the UK during the first week in March!  Their journeys will take them through London, Cambridge, and Gloucester.
Please visit our online calendar at for more details.

Saul will also visit the UK in the autumn. Please contact the administrator if you would like to schedule a meeting in the late October, early November time frame.

Dec 18, 2012

Christmas in Armonía

'I can now see it would be better to do things for others during Christmas to let them know that I love them, and that in that way I express the love that God has for us all.'
Leo arrived in Armonía 4 years ago from the small village of Tepuxtepec in the State of Oaxaca. One of his cousins was an Armonía student for many years while we were in Yalálag, in the southern mountains of Mexico. Leo was 14 years old then and was hoping to study the last three years of secondary school (Senior High). He has one brother who is seventeen years old, their mother lives in their village and comes to Oaxaca City when there is an opportunity for work. Leo's father passed away very tragically a couple of years ago.

Leo has enrolled at University to start on the 7th of January next year. He will study the technical degree of Industrial Processes near Mexico City. He is excited about the prospect of eventually being able to help his village using some of the resources they have, such as fruit and vegetable processing, and make products that can bring a few jobs and income to his homeland.

Yesterday, as we were on our way back from the Students Residence Leo was telling us how he heard about Christmas for the first time when he arrived in Armonía. 'The first time I visited Mexico City for the Christmas celebrations with Armonía, was the first time I really heard about Christmas... I thought our trip was just a treat, a trip so we could see the City for the first time and have parties with my friends. I had heard almost nothing about Christmas in my village and all I thought it was, was a time to decorate different places.'

Leo continued saying that he now realises that there are many people like him that are celebrating in order just to have a party. 'Now I understand that celebrating Christmas allows us to see and try to understand more how much God loves us... I can also now see that the actual celebration invites us to do things with others, but especially, do things for others. This is important because, lets say I go back to my village and just put up more decorations like others do, they wouldn't necessarily understand why I'm doing that. I can now see it would be better to do things for others during Christmas to let them know that I love them, and that in that way I express the love that God has for us all.'

The Armonía students have come back from a week of visiting their families and friends in their villages for the Christmas holiday and are now getting ready to receive their parents at the Student Residence and help with the construction of the second building of their residence. As they prepare to celebrate Christmas together, Leo thinks that in that way parents can also understand what Christmas is about. 'Decorations are nice, we enjoyed dressing up the tree and laying out other ornaments...  if I was to tell someone about what Christmas is I would do a little of what we did yesterday, tell them the stories that the Bible has about Jesus so they know what it was like when He was born. I will also explain what we are doing these days, helping with building the second house for the residence together so more young people like us have a place to live and can continue with their studies.'

Eidi Cruz

New Ways to Stay in touch with Armonía

Dear friends,

New Website:
Thanks to the generosity of we have a new website,! Our Armonía UK administrator, Irish, has been uploading pictures and information onto this freely hosted site. It combines the information we held on our Armonia Ministries site and the Armonia (UK Trust website, as well as a link to the Armonía US website (an USA version of the UK Trust) . We hope you find easy to navigate and explore.  As with any good website, it will be updated regularly with photos, stories, and information.  Please let Irish know if you see any problems or issues. 

If your a Twitter fan you can follow us @ArmoniaMexico

If you have pictures and stories that you would be willing to share with the Armonia Community, please send them to !

Oct 20, 2012

Update from Yalahui

Dear Friends,

During the first week in September 2012, a group of Armonía friends visited Yalahui, a village in the mountainous region of Oaxaca, Mexico, in order to set up a health clinic for the villagers.

Prior to their arrival, Irene, one of our resent graduates (and a 'Yalahuian' herself),visited this small village and started preparations for the health clinic under the guidance of Saúl and Pilar.

Irene and Leo, one of our university students, stayed in Yalahui to finish orchestrating all the logistics for receive the group which consisted of doctors, nurses and an optometrist from different parts of the world - USA, UK, Australia and of course, Mexico. Along with their skills, the visitors brought thousands of prescription eyeglasses!

Everyone did a wonderful job and the community was very loving and gracious toward our guests!
Armonía was able to serve around 600 people over two days, as well as acquaint ourselves with most members of the Yalahui community.

We look forward to posting a subtitled interview we did with Irene and letting you know more about Armonía's work.

Sep 5, 2012

Clinic at Yalahui

Dear Friends,

Over the past 24 years we have been blessed with an annual visit by a volunteer healthcare team consisting of members from the US, UK, and Mexico. This week, a multinational team composed of GPs, pediatricians, optometrists, and dentists will form a temporary clinic in the small mountain village of Yalahui, Oaxaca. The Orangewood Presbyterian Church of Orlando organises the annual trip in cooperation with Armonia, assessing the local needs of the community and what the group can provide to meet those needs.

We were invited to the village of Yalahui again this year by a former Armonia student who studied with us in Yalalag. Visiting the village will help us form even greater bonds with the local community and provide Irene, one of our resent graduates, an opportunity to give back to her hometown.  She is currently in Yalahui with other students getting everything ready and will help host the clinic along with several other members of Armonia. Our clinics will see more than 500 people each day!

This year we will have two clinics in the City of Oaxaca and three in the mountains. A main focus of the team is eye care. This involves allocating thousands of eye glasses to visually impaired residents. Since the team has been provided with a list of requirements, they can offer accurate prescriptions for complicated lenses.

This annual visit (during the first week of September) provides an excellent time for other volunteers to visit Armonia!

Aug 9, 2012

Irene's Graduation

Excellent news - Irene has finished her Human Resources and Administration Technical degree and turned in her dissertation! Soon she will also receive a legal professional license.

She continues to teach the children at the Santa Cruz Community Centre and has also begun to carry on a few administrative tasks for the Armonía Indigenous Mexican Students Programme.  She is now 21 years old and wants to, in the next couple of years, convert her technical degree into a Business Development Engineering degree at the same university.  She knows she can continue to hope and dream for her future and her community’s future, trusting that God will continue to be with them.

Irene's Story
Irene comes from Yalahui, a remote village in the highest mountains of Oaxaca.  At fifteen, she decided to start the equivalent of her GCSEs by enrolling in one of the few Secondary schools available in the region.  She was a good student in previous years, but had also become a bit mischievous, so her parents were unsure about her leaving Yalahui.  Nevertheless, they chose a school in Yalalag for her to continue with her studies - it was far, but had recently acquired a very good student reputation.

Five years earlier, after their little shack of a home was almost entirely destroyed by a storm, Irene’s father left Mexico searching for work in the US.  And just prior to her journey, he had returned from the US, after living there for eight months.  He had been deported on both occasions.  We, at Armonia, have seen many young men take this route in life, moving back and forth illegally between the US and Mexico, because they believe they have no other choice. We try to offter them another choice through education and a supportive christian community, providing them with an opportuinity to find diginified employment in Mexico. This also provides hope for the future of our country.
Fortunately, Irene was able to convince her father to stay in Mexico for long enough to accompany her on her journey to enroll.  In 2006, Irene joined the Armonía Students Programme in the Oaxacan village of Yalalag beginning her first term in August.

Disappointingly, however, in January 2007, Armonía had to leave Yalalag, due to a very corrupted municipal government.

Irene continued studying and earned good grades, but was having a very hard time with other students.  Once Armonía had left Yalalag, she was made to live in an ‘improvised’ student room that was being built in the middle of the forest of Yalalag, away from the normal school small residence. Irene was constantly threatened by other girls, and remembers feeling very scared in the middle of the night when men from the village would get drunk and walk towards her lodging.  They would yell at the girls that were living there and throw stones at their windows.  One day, Irene and her friend, Lola, decided to leave Yalalag and find Armonía.  So, over a weekend, without telling their teachers what they were up to, the pair travelled to the city of Oaxaca and visited Armonía's student house.

Shortly after that, Irene visited her parents in Yalahui, only to find out that her father had left the country again.  Although she was very saddened by this, she convinced her mother to visit Armonía with her so that she could be enrolled for the following term. Subsequently, Irene finished her Secondary studies in Oaxaca with Armonía and after completing her year of service, she moved to the Armonía Mexico City Student House.

Irene remembers how much she cried when she found out that her Dad had returned to the US again, and how she promised herself she was going to accomplish her commitment, finish a degree and work as a professional, just as she had promised him. She also remembers that Armonía made that “unbelievable” idea seem a real possibility and she was not going to let that opportunity go. What a joy it was to have not only her Dad, but her whole family come to her graduation ceremony this past June!

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Jul 10, 2012

Our New Administrator

Dear friends,

My name is Irish Sirmons and I am the new Armonia UK Trust Administrator!
Although I was born in the U.S., I currently live in the ‘wilds’ of Essex, England with my husband, Ryan.  We have lived in the UK for almost five years and in Europe for nearly seven.  Along the way, we picked up our little dog Charles in Naples, Italy, I graduated from University College London with an MSc in Information Sciences, and Ryan has been assigned to the Little Baddow United Reformed Church as a Pastor on Student Placement! Throughout our travels we have encountered many faith groups and families which we hold in our hearts and prayers (without whom we would not be enjoying our current livelihood).  
Though my work background is in information management and information technology, I’ve been accepted by the University of Essex to study an MA in Wild Writing.  This amazing course will allow me to study literature and the environment whilst (hopefully) improving my creative writing skills.
I am an active member of the City of Portsmouth Women’s Athletic Club.  I throw the hammer, shot put and discus for the team as we compete in the Southern Athletic League and UK Women’s Athletic League Division 2.

I am very excited to work with Armonia (UK) Trust. As soon as I met Eidi and Saul in London for my second interview, I knew that I wanted to join the Armonia family. Ryan and I want to live our ministry as Saul and Pilar have done over the past thirty years.

Please let me know if you need any information pertaining to Armonia UK.  I will be managing our website, the UK contact list, mailings, schedules and donations.

All the Best,

Jun 29, 2012

Hola, we have returned!

Dear friends,

After a long period without using this blog, and although we have communicated through e-mails and letters, we look forward to using this resource more --- with more news, more ideas as well as with our gratefulness and prayer petitions. 
As we go into the presidential elections on Sunday July 1st, we ask you to please have Mexico in your prayers. As you have probably heard or read in the news, during this last six year presidential term things have worsened in our country, with more poverty and more corruption, and especially through the terrible problem of the drug cartels.
We believe we have a good chance to improve the situation with one of the candidates, however, since it wouldn’t be appropriate to make a political statement in this blog, we just ask you to please have Mexico and Armonía in your prayers this weekend. As we also do this - we read this passage on Isaiah 58:9-10.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
We also have some very good news - and we will write more about this during the next few weeks:
  • Irene, who comes from Yalahui in the high mountains of Oaxaca, and Lola who comes from the Chinantec region of San Juan Petlapa, both graduated from their university technical degrees two weeks ago.
  • Lupe from Chichicaxtepec, one of the most remote villages in Oaxaca, and Alejandra, who also finished a university degree in Psychology this month, and who comes from Jalalpa, one of the most neglected and impoverished areas in Mexico City, are in Germany at the moment. They are part of an International Camp, called Baucamp, with a wonderful ministry called OJC (Offensive Junger Christen).
  • Eight students from Casa Margarita and Oaxaca and the University Students from Mexico City have had a two week Seminar with Saúl and Pilar.
  • Seven students from High School are graduating this Monday and five of them will become Older brothers for the Student Residence in Oaxaca.
  • We are having friends from Florida visiting us in July, August and September.
  • The foundation for the second student residence in Oaxaca has been layed, 
  --- and so much more news!

Last but not least we are delighted to introduce the new Armonía UK Trust Administrator to you, Irish Sirmons, who we have asked to also introduce herself to you on a blog post.

We look forward to hearing from you soon, and trust you are having a good Summer!

With love,

Eidi Cruz 

Nov 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Update from Mexico

Saul and Pilar have just sent this update through from Mexico. Happy reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

Aug 14, 2010

Further details on Saúl's UK visit

Saúl Cruz will be in the UK from 18th - 27th September:

On 19th September he will be preaching in London at All Souls Langham Place at the 6:30pm service. You can also join us from 4:45 - 6:00pm when there will be a time to find out more about the work of Armonía at the Waldegrave Hall (All Souls - lower floor).

If you'd like to see pictures from this summer at Armonía please follow this link:

Look forward to seeing you soon!

May 21, 2010

Dates for Saul and Pilar's next visit to the UK

These are: 18th - 27th September

More soon on where they are going to be speaking

May 17, 2010

Could this cloud have a silver lining?

The High School in Oaxaca that Armonía has partnered with since 2007 when AIMS was set up is under new Management and has been experiencing a few challenges lately. However, some of the parents from the locality as well as Joaquín from Armonía (who acts as an Older Brother to the Armonía Students) have had meetings recently with the directors and things seem to be on the right path again.

Going back a bit for the school’s history – the previous Director used to accept indigenous students from Armonia who were on the AIMS programme. A strong bond was formed between the 2 organisations. The school ran sports activities among many others and the Armonia International Board visited and were impressed with what they saw. The PTA were won around to the work the school was doing with the Armonia students. So successful was it that non AIMS students began to ask if they could go to Armonia! In a schools wide exam in Nov ’08 the top 3 places went to Armonia Students representing the school at State Level and also at an Olympiad – a University Challenge type event at schools level. The Director and Saul & Pilar were understandably thrilled at its success. The partnership was coming to fruition! Then, last year, out of the 17,000 University applicants in Mexico City, 5 Armonia Students were placed in the top 25 (including the three who won the Oaxacan Olympiad). Quite an achievement, I’m sure you’ll agree.

However, publicity like this can be double-edged. News of this success spread quickly and a new scholarship scheme is being set up for non-indigenous students. Some kids from the Community Centres in and around Mexico City have been identified. This is great news and shows the ripple effect that empowering a small group of indigenous students has.

Unfortunately, news of this success spread to the wrong kind of people too. Armonia is about creating new possibilities.... it doesn’t drive for publicity but sometimes it comes anyway. Giving a voice to the voiceless can lead to negative consequences. At times politicians want to cash in on the publicity but of course this runs against the principles of walking alongside the poor.

However, there is always a strong belief in the way God rules in all things. As we know, the current AIMS Residence came out of a difficult situation. Armonia has to constantly adapt to the context it finds itself in.

Which brings us to the good news – a new community centre is in the process of being planned and built near the new residence. Though a lot of prayer and funds are still needed. This may be able to double up as a school in the future, which will not only take Armonía students but serve the local community as well.

Mar 30, 2010

The Daisy House

The newest residence for AIMS students is called 'Casa Margarita' - the Daisy House. It was named after Saul and Pilar Cruz' second daughter, who was still-born.

"For many years we didn't understand why God put us through that", explains Saul. "But now we realise that although we lost our precious daughter, God has given us many more children in the students. We're privileged to be considered like parents to them".

The railings along the balcony and stairs have been decorated with metal daisies in honour of the old Margarita and the new life that Casa Margarita represents.

Mar 16, 2010

AIMS Residence, Oaxaca

Following Saul and Pilar's recent visit to the UK, we now have some more photos to put up to update you on what's going on in Mexico.

I'll be posting some from time to time and although I posted about Saturday a moment ago, this one is so spectacular that I can't wait to next week to put it up! It strikes me that the vibrancy of the residence against the rugged Oaxacan back-drop mirrors the vibrant lives which the students have found in the Christian community of Armonia.

Armonia UK Celebration

Last Saturday afternoon, a collection of visitors, volunteers and friends of Armonia came together at St. James the Less for an afternoon of sharing, news updates and food. Saul, Pilar and Eidi Cruz were able to join the Armonia UK Team and other visitors for the few hours. Each person had their own fond memories of visits and adventures. As we shared, we found that the work of Armonia in Mexico had touched each one of us in a special way.

For some, it was the teaching on poverty that the Cruzes are so clear on. For others, the memories of summer schools and teaching kids who would otherwise have little hope apart from the work of Armonia. For yet others, it was the impression of seeing the conditions in which some live; images that never leave.

Yet all of us found our memories came a little more alive as Saul and Pilar gave an update on the work. We watched the newest Armonia promo/update DVD, which we hope to post a link to soon here. We heard of how the community centres are progressing and saw the fantastic photos of the newest students' residence. The orange walls struck a stark contrast against the deep blue Oaxacan sky. We saw familiar and unfamiliar faces and our links with Mexico were re-kindled.

To finish, we ate a simple (but tasty) meal. It was just 4 in the afternoon but seemed fitting as we shared food; just like the disciples did in Jesus' time and just like many of the Armonia communities would be doing over in Mexico.

More news from the update will follow here. But if you were there, please make sure you have given us your contact details so we can keep you in touch with all that's going on in Mexico. And if you weren't, get in touch with the Armonia UK office to make sure you hear about the next get together, probably in October when the Cruzes will return with more news.

Mar 15, 2010


It is with great sadness we regret to tell you of the death of Paloma aged 7 on Thursday February 11th during her heart surgery operation. Her parents Remedios and Jose and her brothers Aaron (10) and Josue (9) are being supported by Saul and Pilar, Saul Junior and other members of Armonia at this time and will send news when they can. Please keep the whole family in your prayers at this sad time.
Paloma was born with a heart condition and by Christmas 2009 needed urgent reconstruction of one of the valves or the installation of an artificial one. Sadly she didn’t survive the surgery. The news has shocked everyone who knew her especially her school friends and people at the community centre.
Paloma’s mother, sad but strong said to Saul and Pilar at her funeral “Thank you for making my little princess so wonderfully happy all her life”. She was buried as the song ‘children belong to Christ’ was sung.
It was at the Christmas celebration in Jalalpa last year that a spontaneous offering was taken up to help pay for the cost of Paloma’s surgery. The $1500 collected just exceeded the amount needed and was a true expression of the community’s love and support for her and her family. Without this offering, there would have been no chance of surgery at all.
Provisions for family expenses and food have been taken by the Armonia community and friends.

Feb 27, 2010

MANCHESTER - MEXICO CULTURAL EXCHANGE is the new website created by a group of Manchester people - promoting a trip to Armonia in June. They are hoping to spend two weeks linking up with Armonia's "family and friends" mainly in Oaxaca to make music, paint, photograph and in all ways get colourful and creative.

If you want to hear about their project - then try to get to Manchester Cathedral on Tuesday March 2nd at 7pm.
There are also places for new people to join the team. More information from their website.


March 1st-23rd Saul and Pilar Cruz will be visiting churches and groups -
if you can't meet them at any of the venues listed please Email us!
and we'll see if we can arrange a meeting.

Tuesday 2nd March


7.00 p.m. Manchester Cathedral, Launch Event
Mexico-Manchester 2010 Intercambio

Sunday 7th March


Carley Evangelical Baptist Church
Wharf Street North
St. Matthews

10.45am & 6pm church services

Wednesday 10th March


If you wish to be included in their appointments

Saturday March 13th


2.30pm-6.30pm, St James The Less SW1

Introduction Conversation and interview
Refreshments – snacks and drinks

Saul and Pilar keynote address
including premiering new film
Reminiscences from volunteers

Food and fun, networking and conversations

The Upper Room
St James the Less
Thorndike Street
off Moreton Street

Nearest Tube – Victoria / Pimlico

Sunday March 14th


Eden Baptist Church – Administrator Ruth Tricker
1 Fitzroy Street
Tel: 01223 361250

LUNCH 12.30pm-2.15pm at Eden

6pm – interviewed and preach at evening service

Thursday 18th March



St Peter’s hosted event

Stream Cottage,
ME20 6AG

Sunday March 21st


10am Church Service

St. Mary's High Crompton
Rushcroft Rd,
Shaw, Oldham,
Lancashire OL2 7PP


St.Mary Magdalene
44 Moss Lane
Ashton on Mersey
Sale, M33 6GD
Junction of Harboro Road
& Moss Lane

7pm church service

Feb 20, 2010


Most of us are accustomed to reflection before action: education precedes employment, knowledge equips us to perform particular tasks, and learning leads to new forms of living. During our year as Armonía volunteers, however, we experienced a more dynamic way of relating reflection and action.

First, we experienced reflection on action. The Armonía directors frequently encouraged this by asking the pivotal question: “What did you learn today?” With the hard work of the day still fresh in our minds, and often the smell of sweat still on our skin, we debriefed, discussed and prayed together, learning more from these times of reflection on action than we could ever glean from books.

In addition to reflection on action, we also experienced reflection in action. This type of reflection occurs by asking: What are we learning right now? Some of our most memorable insights into the meaning of ministry and Christ-centred service arose in the midst of digging a ditch, teaching an English class or washing dirty dishes. By reflecting in and on action, we allow God’s Spirit to convict and convince without giving our minds time to distill what forms of action are the most manageable. Reflection in/on action is the method for cultivating kingdom lifestyles, propelling us beyond comfort and convenience.

It is difficult to communicate the dynamic interplay between reflection and action. Perhaps an illustration is helpful. Reflection and action are related like eating and exercise. Eating without exercising is like reflection without action: we get bloated with ideas and spiritually out of shape. But the opposite is also true: exercising without eating well is like acting without adequate reflection, since we will not have the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual nutrients to keep going, running the risk of burnout. To fully convey the inseparable relationship between reflection and action, we use a new, blended word: reflaction.

Volunteering with Armonía in Mexico was a unique way to experience and grow in our ability to reflact. The challenge for all of us is to practice reflaction as we seek to know and follow Jesus in unique situations and circumstances. How will you reflact today?

Wes and Steph Vanderlugt (centre) were long-term volunteers with Armonia, living and serving in Mexico between August 2008 and July 2009. Here they are teaching visitors and AIMS students alike to dance after visiting the Oaxaca Guelaguetza (annual dance festival). They now live, study and serve in St. Andrew's, Scotland.