I just got back the day before yesterday from a trip down south and up into the mountains of Chihuahua. This was my first visit since being here in Mexico to one of our works among one of Mexico’s least reached people groups. (We called these trips “bush trips” in PNG) A group of guys- Matt, Jordan, Alcides and I, along with Marselo, one of the believers from the town we were going- headed down to help Matt with some needs in he and his wife Starr’s home. They have had some mold problems which had contributed to some significant health problems for Starr. Our group went down to do some painting and restoration in Matt & Starr’s house to help enable them to return to their ministry and remain their with no further health concerns.
We departed last Monday for the ten hour drive down towards the southwest of the state from Chihuahua city. The trip down was a great opportunity to pick Matt’s brain, as he is one of our veteran church planters down here and the one whose house we were going to work on. He is also one of our organization’s language learning and church planting consultants here in Mexico, as well as a part of our field leadership team who also spent the last few years as director or the cross-cultural ministry training center we studied at up in the United States. Conversation ranged from church planting strategy, to walking with God, to leadership, to book recommendations, among other topics. I am super grateful for the older, wiser men God has put along our path since being down here. Its something I’ve prayed for and it’s encouraging to experience His answer to those prayers.
We also got to hear Alcides’s testimony, one of our companions from Columbia who serves with our mission and another from Marselo, the believer from the town we were heading down to. It was super encouraging and I always feel privileged to rub shoulders with brothers who came to Christ in other cultures. On a lesser note, we also stopped for some gorditas at one point, which have officially become one of my favorite things to eat down here.
We arrived Monday evening and after getting our stuff unloaded at the house, we headed over to another couple’s house, Chris and Rachel, serving with our organization in the town, Matt & Starr’s teammates. Chris worked with us guys on Matt’s house while Rachel was awesome and kept us fed while we were down there working.
Getting to Work
From Tuesday morning until Saturday mid-morning we worked on the house. After some time getting the outside of the house ready to paint, I was tasked with painting inside. Besides small jobs here and there, I mainly painted every day. I didn’t mind this at all because it is a skill I have been able to develop so I felt useful! It was ideal for me, too, because I would either work in silence, or listen to some of my Spanish language learning audio segments, or listen to one of my favorite Bible teachers teaching through Philippians. On the few occasions I worked with Jordan or Matt and we would talk while working which of course was great, too.
We typically worked from about 8am to 5 or 6pm, with a couple of coffee breaks and breaks for lunch. Some of the lunches and every evening for dinner we ate at Chris & Rachel’s house. We also played games afterwards for a while until we went back to Matt’s house, showered and hit the sack. A couple of nights some of us stayed awake talking for a while.
Three of the days down there, we were able to eat lunch in Mexican people’s homes from the town, and the one time we ate out at a restaurant was actually still in someone’s home that they had turned into a restaurant. That was a good experience for us in language and culture study to see. One of the first things you learn when living in a new culture is what people eat and the way they eat their meals. Most Americans may not realize that in Mexico lunch is the main meal of the day and takes place between 2-4pm. All of our meals typically included meat and tortillas, sometimes guacamole, some limes, lettuce and salsa. Sometimes there were refried beans and rice with our meal as well.
We got a chance to tour the small town, which was beneficial because, for myself, I had only spent time in the large city of Chihuahua where we live. There were a number of stores in the little town, many of which were connected to or in people’s homes. At another point, we also visited inside Marselo’s house one afternoon, getting an inside look in a typical Tepehuan home. I would have taken more pictures around in people’s houses but I felt overly sensitive to their privacy. I could have taken pictures and they would have been okay with it, but I didn’t want to be obnoxious. 🙂
Thursday afternoon we went to a Men’s Bible study in the local church, led by one of the believers. Then on Saturday afternoon we got to see the kids club Chris and Rachel run every Saturday for the kids in the town. There was some time of playing, then a Bible story and a craft. It was really cool to see how well they connect with the kids. Children love Chris and Rachel and flock to them, which has some huge potential for the future growth of the church there. Sunday morning we went to church and got to hear Matt teach from the Word in Spanish.
I am only at the very beginnings of Spanish language study, so I was heavily dependent on others to translate for me. Jordan, whose been in language study for a lot longer helped by doing a lot of translating for me. I am very thankful for all the exposure I had to the Spanish language (and culture) during this trip, it was beneficial for my studies and learning!
Yesterday morning bright and early we began our trip back up here to Chihuahua city. We said goodbye to Chris and Rachel and then headed over to Marselo’s house to say goodbye and pray with him.
We left town a different way than we had arrived, and we were told in advance that we would be on rougher dirt roads for the first four hours. I had heard during the week that the way we were heading back was amazing in terms of the scenery. What I didn’t know was that we were going to be slowly traveling down one side of a massive canyon, part of the famous Copper Canyon (Mexico’s Grand Canyon), to the bottom and then up the other side! Needless to say it was BEAUTIFUL. Pictures don’t do it justice, of course (especially since I only had my phone to take them!). Every once in a while we stopped for pictures. Overall we were in the canyon for the majority of our first four hours and it was incredible! (I also want to mention that in the middle picture in the above set, you can see a windy path going up from the bottom right up towards the top left. That was the road we traveled up once we got down to the bottom of the canyon)
After the canyon we hit paved road and cruised back to Chihuahua, with just a couple of short breaks. The route back to the city was faster than the way we went down so I made it home in the mid-afternoon.
Overall, the trip was a huge success and not only because we got all of the work done we intended to do down there. For me, the most beneficial part was spending time with my fellow laborers serving down here in Mexico.
It was awesome getting to know Chris & Rachel. They have been living in this town for about three and a half years and have dedicated their endeavors to both learning a very difficult language and being faithful with a ministry among children that the Lord has given them. They were a lot of fun to get to know and an awesome example of pressing on in spite of challenging circumstances as their work and language studies are riddled with complexities. I am kicking myself that I didn’t get a picture of them together for this blog.
Even though Alcides (far left) and I have a language barrier between us, he was a hilarious addition to the team and worked really hard on Matt’s house. More importantly, though, it was really cool to see him at different points encourage the believers in the local church in the town we were working in, and take the time to share from the Word some encouragement for Chris and Rachel the night before we left. Jordan translated for me and I was super encouraged as well by what he shared. Afterwards we spent a while praying for them and the whole team and work down there.
Jordan (far right in above picture) and his wife are in language and culture study as well and has been down here in Mexico for several months longer than our family has. I have been meaning to spend more time with Jordan, since we are both from the Pacific Northwest and have a shared love of Cannon Beach in Oregon, but we hadn’t been able to up to this point. I enjoyed our discussions on life and ministry and I was encouraged to get to know him better during our time down south. (Full disclosure: credit goes to Jordan for taking all the best pictures in this blog)
As I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, Matt is a church planter down here as well as one of our language learning and church planting consultants, and leaders, here in Mexico. It was really good to spend time with him as we were able to talk a lot about practical ministry in a bunch of areas and for me to be challenged in some other areas as well. People like him have so much experience and wisdom for us to benefit from and I am personally thankful to the Lord for the time we had together. Selfishly, it was one of my main reasons for wanting to go. Of course I wanted to help him with his house, but I also wanted to learn from him.
In any case, our trip down south was a very encouraging time of practical help for some fellow missionaries, edifying conversation as well as lots and lots of laughter. Seriously~ I feel really privileged to spend time with such incredible people from the body of Christ, serving Him!