As our family’s first rainy season in the mountains unfolds, life continues moving forward at a rapid pace. At times, it seems that another monumental unexpected shift inevitably follows its predecessor… and were perseverance to depend on our strength, we would long ago have been swept away! Yet God’s faithfulness remains when our strength is small, and by His grace we take each step – rejoicing that His plans for the Nahuatl church, our team, and our family are never threatened by mere circumstance.
Following our last update, Pete and I worked on the house – connecting a boiler, putting up some insulation and drywall, installing a toilet and bathroom sink – including retroing in sink drainage – and building outhouse fixtures. After three days of work, our house had its first functional half-bath.
As that work finished, we learned that two of our coworkers – Pete and Liesl – will be leaving our team around year’s end. Their transition into mission leadership is the result of long and prayerful deliberation, and will bolster our national ministry among all of Mexico’s least reached people groups.
That said, their loss to the Nahuatl church and our team is profound. New roles will need filled, time for existing work is diminished, logistics are complicated, and painful voids open in our personal lives – all reasons our leadership resisted this option for a long time.
In the end, our confidence remains not in the awesomeness of our coworkers – for that, too, is a reality! – but in the deeper Reality of the God whose hand is at work in Las Moras. We ask your prayer for our hearts in all of this, for His provision and enabling day by day, and for the flourishing of Nahuatl believers building their lives upon the Firmest Foundation.
Later that same week, we were visited by Tom and Beth Carlton – friends since Chihuahua who are now among our culture and language consultants. Their visit provided an official ‘kick-off’ for our Nahuatl studies – helping us begin well in this multi-year process of ‘becoming’ like the people around us, that we might speak clearly here as ambassadors of Christ. Our meetings and discussions were productive, but the unquestioned highlight of the trip was sweet fellowship with good friends.
With the Carltons’ departure, my formal research into the local culture and language began. Together with Amy, who started a couple months ago, we are creating time to systematically delve into Nahuatl communication and ways of life. Learning common daily-use phrases, investigating everyday objects in our neighbors’ lives, and working on basic vocabulary… these are all things we have already been doing, but now pursue in a more comprehensive and structured fashion. The road ahead is long yet worthwhile, and we are so excited to have truly begun!
Just as we got underway, a wave of (non-coronavirus) sickness hit our family, team, and parts of our community. Though non-serious, a different family member seemed to be out for the count every day – in significant discomfort, and in some cases physically drained. This would last a day or two, and in some cases recur a few days later. We managed to keep things moving forward in shifts – finishing out some major desk projects along the way – and were grateful for restoration to good family health a week and a half later.
During this time of sickness… a relatively poorly-placed leak in our house was repaired by our coworker Pete. Water had been running down drywall and threatening to cause mold issues – Pete saved it on a day when I was so sick I could barely walk! At a later point during our unofficial plague week, the power pole for Rachel and Katie’s house fell during a powerful storm. Pete helped with the planning and work to replace it as well – for which we are incredibly grateful!
Having recovered – just in the nick of time! – we were visited by a mission work team from Chihuahua. John, Don, and Stephen came out to finalize as many basic functionality issues as possible in the house before our mid-September move-in – with primary goals including a working shower, kitchen, and finished upstairs drywall. Our brother-in-law John Van Wormer flew them out in one of the UIM planes, and helped both with resupply while off-site and working with us when here.
By the end of our seven-plus work days, our major goals were accomplished – and more! God blessed our work, and in many things more progress was made than we thought possible. Our outhouse was nearly finished, some doors put together, and some worrying leaks were investigated and resolved. Our time together was filled with laughter and encouragement, and our family is incredibly grateful for the gift of these servants’ time and talent.
During the work team’s visit, the Las Moras community mourned the loss of our neighbor Happy’s 20-year-old daughter, Dalia. She had medical issues her whole life, which had worsened significantly in the past year. The pain of her death was palpable throughout the village, and hit us hard as well. Dalia leaves behind a 15 month old child, and his father Dave. Please pray for her extended family – one which includes some who are incredibly opposed to the Gospel, and others who are secretly interested but restrained by that first group.
Rainy season weather has been having a large impact on our recent travel! During one run to the airstrip for our recent work team, our truck got stuck in mud on the final ascent, threatening to go off the side of the road. When we tried using the winch to get out, we ran into the following comedy of errors:
- A wire carrying power to the winch had come loose
- The winch remote control needed an unexpected twist to connect
- Badly bound towing cable from previous use
- Our truck battery was too weak to run the winch
- An important hex nut was lost (temporarily, but thoroughly) when servicing the batteries
These issues diagnosed and field-corrected, we were very grateful to finally successfully extract the truck from its precarious position and complete the supply pickup from the UIM aircraft.
That has been far from the end of our ‘adventures’ on soggy mountain roads. Two days after hauling a an approximately 50-foot, 1750-pound wooden beam for the local high school – which itself was an experience – I went out to a nearby village with a couple neighbors to bring back sheets of tin roofing. When rain and hail hit 20 minutes into our hour-long drive home, small hills in the road became impassable… and we expected to spend the night on the road.
Thankfully, we instead successfully – if via precarious means – made it back home that evening. I still thank God for His provision of a window without rain, savvy neighbors who figured out a way to get traction, and His care through the treacherous sections of road remaining after that hill! Since our safe return, things have been much simpler: we merely needed 18-20 attempts to climb a slope to reach our town’s airstrip (losing a fog light in the process), and needed to rescue coworker Pete’s truck when it got firmly stuck in our yard. No big deal!
August has given way to September, and the time has come for our official move into our own house. The process is challenging: with things to transport, old space to clean, the destination still needing preparation, and things we did when moving in urban areas unavailable as helps. Yet, with the final coat of poly going onto the kitchen counter this afternoon (and drying for the next couple of days, in this humid weather), there is light at the end of the tunnel! We have made a lot of progress, and continue forward each day relying on the Lord to direct and strengthen us in His service.
As we move, the joy of Rachel and Katie’s return to the village is upon us. We look forward to a season full of whole-team fellowship, linguistic and cultural exploration, and NOT so much of a house-building focus. What does God have next for us in 2020? This year may be full of surprises for all of us, but we serve a God whose strength is demonstrated through our weakness. I for one am excited to see how He works through the events of this year’s final months… no matter what they may be!
- For house work accomplished, both with and without teams
- For safety during myriad and diverse rainy season challenges
- For encouraging visits from friends and family despite the circumstances
How to Pray:
- For a hunger for Jesus in the Las Moras community
- For our family’s moving process under hard deadlines
- For wisdom in serving both Jesus and the Nahuatl church