By way of review: our family has begun prayerfully considering with which people group we will work in the years to come. In November, we wrote of plans to begin visiting church plant locations in Mexico – the shortage of workers right now makes opening a new work highly unlikely, so we have focused on existing teams and their needs. We wanted to begin visiting some of the more likely possibilities, so that we could see firsthand what God has been doing through the current teams among these people groups.
Initially, we’ve focused on two locations and the people who live there – the Nahuatl people of ‘Las Moras’ and the Tepehuan of ‘BG’. We enjoyed visiting Las Moras in December, and returned to plan a visit to BG (discovering along the way that we were expecting our fourth child!). I greatly looked forward to returning, as I’d previously visited BG in 2015 as part of a work team. This time our whole family would go together! With Don and Chrissy Chubb (a couple with whom we might work in the mountains), we finalized plans and got ready for the second trip.
The Chubbs drove one day before our scheduled flight in… but the flu bug caught up with us both! Their daughter Lilly got sick en route, and Elayne followed suit that evening as we prepared to leave. Don and Chrissy made it to BG alright, and our departure only had to be delayed one day – but we all heaved a sigh of relief once we were together, safe and at least somewhat healthy, with our travel days in the rear-view mirror!
Once there, differences between BG and Las Moras (from our December trip) were easy to detect. Las Moras is a village, where the missionaries live in adobe houses with solar power and collect rainwater. In contrast, the New Tribes team in BG live in a town of thousands, with concrete housing and access to city utilities. BG has grocery stores, mechanics and a gas station – so supply runs are more focused and less frequent. The contrast felt sharpest when I was surprised we could just walk down the street to buy milk!
There was another surprise in store, however – one of a more fundamental nature. When last I visited BG, the Tepehuan response to the Gospel seemed muted. A handful of faithful believers met together, encouraging one another and studying God’s Word, but so many were lukewarm at most. Historical division between the Tepehuan and national Mexicans complicated everything, and it was difficult to imagine how the local church would grow in maturity and numbers.
Not one year later, everything had changed. We watched as Matt and Starr Arnold, members of the BG church planting team, continued chronological Bible lessons with a large extended family group. The adults followed closely and asked clarifying questions, and several kids stayed the entire time, hanging on every word. We later heard of multiple other groups requesting this teaching from the Arnolds, more than they can manage to meet! And national Mexican believers are growing in desire to make Jesus known among their Tepehuan neighbors. A field which so recently seemed packed hard and full of rocks now looks clear and prepared, lacking only workers to plant seeds and reap the harvest!
While in BG, our family stayed with Chris and Rachel Thomas – NTM missionaries there over four years, whom I first met last March (Rachel fed us so well during that week!). They have an amazing rapport with kids, which has led to fruitful weekly Bible classes! While working to expand that ministry, the Thomases also serve in the mixed Tepehuan-mestizo (a term referring to national Mexicans) church. Chris teaches and plays guitar, and together both work to see the church grow in eagerness to reach the Tepehuan.
Matt and Starr Arnold are the other half of the on-location team (another couple, Kevin and Wendy Case, are still working on New Testament translation but can no longer live in town). These recent requests for teaching are a long-awaited answer to prayer! However, the Arnolds face questions about how long they can remain in BG. They’ve had to step out multiple times in recent years – often for health-related reasons – which disrupts their teaching. Matt and Starr don’t want to walk away from the needs of the Tepehuan church, but believe they will need help from additional team members.
Visiting BG gave us an extended opportunity to talk with the Thomases and Arnolds about the big picture state of this work. We’d had a pretty good grasp on some aspects, like the involvement of the local bi-lingual church and exciting progress in Bible translation. Other areas, like the growing requests for Bible teaching, had been pleasant surprises. Yet we and the Chubbs both had additional questions. We wanted to know what plans the current team had, and how we as potential new team members could fit in to what was coming.
Some of our questions had more concrete answers than others. We learned where in town new families might live, the status of the Tepehuan literacy program (lots to do, lots to build on!), and how Old Testament translation needs would follow as the New Testament comes close to completion. In other areas, the answers were less definite – especially considering the number of years it would take to gain proficiency in the local language and culture, and how much that time would change! Still, we left with a much better understanding of what is happening right now, and what it would practically look like to work in this context.
Well, our time in BG quickly came to an end. We were all fairly tired at the week’s end… Amy had dealt with morning sickness throughout, and illness affected nearly all five kids at various points. Amy flew out with Chrissy and both sets of children, while Don and I drove the long way back. The travel home was a great time for discussion – Don and I had Matt with us, as he needed some emergency dental work – and we started processing all the things we’d encountered during another week in the mountains.
Now that both tribal trips are over… what happens next? The simplest answer is, a return to studying Spanish! Amy’s morning sickness has been particularly difficult, so I will work hard to test out of Spanish as quickly as possible – then take on extra work to give her more study time when she feels better. Wherever God leads us, we’ll need a proficiency in Spanish which allows us to communicate nationally, get a foothold in our third language, and minister among some who do not actually speak that third language. Our job for the next several months remains quite clear!
As for deciding which tribal team to join, we are putting that question before the Lord. Both Las Moras and BG interest us, each needing timely assistance, and we are considering if God would have us examine other works as well. We pray together daily, asking God for wisdom, clear guidance, and the ability to walk where He directs. We are not concerned that we might somehow ‘miss the boat’ – our Father, who knew us before Creation, knows how to lead in ways we won’t miss! Rather, our desire is to continually look to Him: watching for His direction, trusting His faithfulness, and excited to learn how He will move us.
Praise God with us!
- We had a safe, successful trip to BG, and God sustained us through some difficulties which came up.
- My mom recently came and spent a week with us, encouraging our family and helping us with so much!
- Have you heard? Amy is pregnant! The due date is October 2nd, and we’re excited to meet our new baby!
Ways you can pray:
- For wisdom as we consider tribal teams: the two we’ve visited, the possibility of considering other works as well, and the timing in which God would have this take place.
- For Amy as she battles with worse-than-remembered morning sickness, needing patience and encouragement. She is taking a step back from intense Spanish study for a time, and will not go on the coming cultural trip to Mexico City. Everyday life is just harder when you don’t ever feel well.
- Finally, please pray for me as I push harder to wrap up Spanish study as quickly as possible, while still meeting the needs of Amy and the kids. My hope is to finish this summer.