Last week our family was privileged to spend time with a special group of people from among one of Mexico’s indigenous groups living their lives in the beautiful Mexican mountains, the most special thing about them being that they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
You can drive for hours across seemingly endless mountain ranges here in northern Mexico. Up and down and winding around and around. Occasionally you see a cowboy riding along the side of the road or a person trudging along with a bag on their back and you think-were did this person come from? Where do they live? Where does this person belong in this vast expanse of land? Thankfully for us we knew our destination as we traveled and could pay close attention to the directions we had been given as we made our way toward a very special area in these mountains. A few times I felt like joking that the directions could have read something like, “when you pass the third spotted cow take a left” or “at the tallest cactus-go straight”. It was a good thing the missionaries who wrote our directions were a bit more specific than that and we enjoyed the beautiful trip through the mountains to get to them.
The very last stretch of road before arriving at our destination was all dirt and very rocky. We had to head almost straight down in our van on the super rough road and it was quite a thrill. My whole body was tense as if my own ability to tighten my muscles was actually helping our van survive the rocks and ditches. Tom did a great job driving and thankfully the amount of times we heard large scraping sounds and “clunks” was manageable although still alarming. 🙂
It was certainly beautiful! Breathtakingly beautiful! One of the last turns we had to make was such that our van felt like it was positioned straight up a rocky hill above which we could not see what was ahead. Tom put the van in park and decided to climb the hill and look around just to make sure we could clear whatever was on the other side. I was cracking up watching him stand there re-reading our instructions and trying to make the judgement call. We were seriously less than a quarter mile from the house at that point! Ha! As the missionaries stood watching us from the top of hill, we gunned it and smelled burning rubber as we bounced over the last deep ditch and came to a stop in front of the house.
We had arrived later than expected because of our cautious approach to the mountain roads so after a brief chat and making the kids some pb&j’s it was time for us to head to the church service!
As we approached the church building we saw many people gathered outside waiting. It is very important to personally greet every single person in this culture so that is just what we did. Using the only language we could, (Spanish) we went along one by one and tried to shake every persons hand while saying hello and good afternoon. It did not take long for me to pick up on this groups strikingly different way of “hand shaking”. Instead of a typical firm grip of the hand, people would almost stroke the palm of your hand starting just above the inside of your wrist and moving down with the palm of their hand. Instead of a squeeze, your hand would more like rest on their hand briefly. It was incredibly interesting and I tried to do my best at “shaking” the way they do. Another thing I noticed right away was the fact that most of these hands were the coarsest hands I had felt in my life! It was unbelievable. Between the dry climate and the hard work these brothers and sisters do everyday its no wonder! I couldn’t help but wonder how “lazy” my hands probably felt to them! Jude & Iris also enjoyed shaking everyone’s hand as well. 🙂
After a few little things that needed to happen before the service were done, we entered into the church building with everyone and I sat with both kids in the center section of chairs along with all the other woman and children filling the center and right sections or chairs. Tom sat with all the men in the left side section of chairs. It was nice to be in a church service again with random dogs wandering around too. Two dogs could smell the kids pb&j’s in my bag and decided to hang around. 🙂
It was such a treat to watch the church service take place and see the believers take the lead roles. The missionary husband played an instrument on the music team and sang up front, but he wasn’t the guy in front. Two men led the singing time and we listened intently but of course couldn’t understand anything aside from the few Spanish words that popped up here and there. 🙂 I stayed in the main service with the kids for the first little bit of the teaching time. A lesson was being taught having something to do with the Israelites time at the base of Mount Sinai..I could only tell because of the picture that was hanging in front..like I said, we could not understand their language! After a little while I decided to take Iris with me to the children class next door so Jude joined Tom on the men’s side of the room.
Again Iris and I sat down on the girls side made up of narrow benches that were each filled to bursting with sweet little girls. The boys side was less full but no less energetic. We had joined the class just as they were all singing so we were given a song book that was written with Spanish on one side and the local language on the other. This way I could at least attempt to sing along by reading when the song wasn’t in Spanish, although it didn’t seem like any of the girls could decide what the tune was supposed to be. Haha. The teacher of this class was also one of the believers and again it was great to see the missionary wife just sitting to the side watching and listening but not leading. The woman teaching ministers in this church alongside her husband who is one the teaching elders of the church. She herself has been discipling women in the church, leading Bible studies and teaching the children faithfully for several years. I enjoyed watching her do a good job giving a lesson on Elijah as she made use of a flannel graph up front as well as a free standing laminated picture. She kept the kids attention well and occasionally had to get after a few of them who were giggling and letting their attention stray.
I loved hearing the kids answer her questions about the lesson. Seeing their faces light up as they knew the answers to the things she asked them. Here we were, sitting with this group who are among the few of their approximatly 120,000 population group who is being taught the word of God. The gospel message is available here to any who are willing to hear it! This group is coming and faithfully listening and many of them have believed! Those who have believed in the Son are new creations in Christ! They are raising their kids and trying to teach their kids God’s word and because of it there is a children’s Sunday school class here. It was a privilege to see just a few examples of what the Lord is doing among this group of His beloved people.
The body of Christ in this mountain pueblo was not birthed over night. It took many years, many missionary units have worked among this group and the going has never been easy. I wish we were face to face so I could share with you some of what God has done here. The ways He has preserved the missionaries, the things that have come against them and the times when God’s leading and provision were so clear and so specific you can’t help but shake your head, quiet your heart and thank Him for His mercies and wisdom!
We truly enjoyed and benefitted from the countless hours of discussion we were able to have with the missionaries we stayed with. It was valuable to ask them tons of questions, hear their wisdom and thought into many aspects of ministry here in Mexico. We can say with surety that our perspective on ministry among the unreached peoples of Mexico is fuller and more informed than it was before this trip.
The second day of our trip unfortunately was when our kids both got very sick which sadly effected our time. Thankfully our missionary hosts’ were extremely understanding and did everything they could to help us keep the kids comfortable and as they burned up with fevers and basically slept constantly. 🙁
Even though the kids were sick we still enjoyed the remainder of our time spent in the mountain pueblo. I specifically enjoyed walking around and seeing the area a bit as one of the days came to a close and the people attended to their evening work. The cows, horses and goats roaming free were a bit intimidating to me (because a few of them looked like they might feel like charging me) but very young children herded them along with stones like they were cats. 🙂 Fire wood was being chopped, women gathered their chickens in their arms and placed them safely up in the trees and squealing pigs let their families know they were ready for dinner!
Seemingly tranquil at a glance there is a spiritual battle for souls going on here. Again, I wish you could know the details that this blog won’t allow me to share. Men and women are living their lives within sight of the church in this area but still themselves are trapped in a life of fear and uncertainty about the reality of what awaits them after death. Strongly held animistic beliefs are controlling the lives of many of these people who have yet to place their faith in Jesus Christ.
One encouraging thing about our visit was experiencing the attitudes of the missionaries serving here. Their humility and attitude of dependance on the Lord was evident and it was a joy to hear them share of how the Lord has used their humble efforts and weakness and done what only He could do with them. These servants are well aware that this task is too great for them and that it is only through the strength of the One they serve that any fruit can be had out here in these mountains. So they continue to serve Him in faithfulness, trusting that He will take what they can give and make something incredible from it-bringing people once lost in darkness to the everlasting light.