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Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Trip South, Part 2

Day 4

Pastor Waldo's Church
                Today was Sunday. We went to Pastor Waldo’s Church.  There was a missions team there from Sonora. They had gotten to Tepic late last night and spent the night in the Church. They were headed to the cost to work with the natives there. Apparently this time of year most of the natives move to the cost because they can find better work there or something like that. They left before Church started. I’m a little confused about how everything is going to work out, but it sounds like Pastor Waldo is going to meet them there tomorrow. I was under the impression though that we were going to be going farther inland tomorrow…unless Pastor Waldo isn’t going with us…
                One of the people from the team was actually from Mexico City. I’m not sure how she found out about the trip, but she had met up with them last night and was going with them. She spoke English pretty well. She told me that she had gone to Bible School here in Mexico but the school was based out of Oklahoma or something like that. She had never done any work with the natives before and had only heard about the trip two days ago. I told her about what we are doing and we exchanged e-mail. I want to find out how their trip goes and see if I can possible get any pictures that could help with documenting the work that is going on here with the natives. Also, It would be good to know how their trip went, how they were received, are there Christians where they went or not? ….etc. From what I can tell, there are not very many people who are willing to work with the natives.  It is exciting to see and meet people who are excited about the ministry going on here.
Day 5
                We drove several hours to a different dam than the one we were at the other day. It is on the same river, just further up. Pastor Waldo said that this dam supplies Las Vegas and a large portion of southern California with power. Because of that the security around it is very strong. Apparently after 9-11 he was not able to get through until after Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden were killed.
                After signing in with the military we crossed over to the other side of the dam and met a man named José. He spoke a little English. Apparently he lived in Washington State for a while. Pastor Waldo left us with him. (I guess he was going to the coast after all) José had arranged a boat taxi to take us up river. The ride took about 30-40 min. When we finally put in to shore, there were two mules waiting for us, one of which was the one that Koenes Ministries just purchased for Pastor Waldo. Ramon and I rode while José Walked. The mission is located about just north of and about 800 ft. above the river.
Pastor Lupe's house/church 
                The mission consists of a small piece of land with a single building on it. One side is the Pastor’s house and the other is the church. The pastor used to live in a camping trailer but that rotted to pieces a long time ago. Then finally some people from California came and helped him to build the house and church that they are in now. They finished the house for which the pastor is very thankful, but the Church is not finished yet…. Basically the walls, which are adobe, are not plastered with the traditional mud plaster and half of the floor needs to be poured still. Pouring the floor could be solved by buying concrete and having it shipped out to him, but plastering the walls is going to be quite the project. The dirt that is used for the plaster is located several hundred feet above him in elevation. (he lives on the side of a mountain) It would take three or four people almost a week to haul all the dirt, mix and plaster the church.  Right now he is too embarrassed to ask people to walk from all over the place to come to church in a building that is not finished so most of the services are done in the next town up. Also, he said the door is not safe enough…not sure what he meant by that.
                Here in the village we are at right now there are several other families, all relatives of his, however only his sister is saved. Apparently there were other converts at one point, but the local witch, who is very influential in over this whole region, threatened them back into their traditional ways. After a lunch of fried onions, beans, potatoes and fish we met most of the people in the village.
Pastor Lupe's niece and daughter making us chicken soup. 
                There are 18 missions in the area, most of which he walks to. (As I understand it, the word ‘mission’ refers to a location in which one or more Christians live.) The farthest missions he stays and preaches for 3 days because he can’t make it to them as often.
                We rested in the church during the heat of the day. Late in the afternoon we saddled up and went to the next village. There are two families here apparently. I have only seen one so far though. The family we are with is the pastor’s niece. After a very plain but tasty dinner of Chicken with salsa and corn tortillas, the pastor asked me to preach. (The chicken soup consisted of chicken, water and salt.)
                The preaching was over walkie-talkie. There are 16 villages that each have their own walkie-talkie. Every night at a set time they tune into the same channel and listen as the pastor preaches from wherever he is that night. I shared the same story that I shared earlier this week about trusting God. I didn’t feel like I did as good a job as the first time though. I think that part of the reason was that I couldn’t see the people I was talking to.
Our means of transportation. 
                After the walkie-talkie service was done the pastor asked me to share something from the Word with the family we were staying with I was nervous because I didn’t feel like I really understood these people enough to preach something that would be relevant to them. I had already used up the one story that I felt like would be relevant to them…What do you preach to a family that is from a completely different culture than I am? They are a completely different culture than even anything I have experienced back in Sonora….After praying about it I read from John chapter 1 and shared some thoughts about Jesus being the light of the world. I illustrated that light can overcome darkness by turning on a flashlight and shining it at a tree. Then I pointed out that no darkness in the world is able to put out light. I hope that this is an encouragement to them sine they are experiencing firsthand the battle between light and darkness through the persecution of the witchdoctors.
                The family here is very happy, content and hospitable. I am quite sure, based on the number of chickens that I have seen here that chicken soup is very rare.  The pastor’s niece made sure that I knew that I was always welcome in her house any time I wanted to come and visit.
                After the message we sang several worship songs. There were no instruments. We worshiped beneath a cathedral of stars and to the tune of the crickets and the wind in the trees.  After the worship service we spread blankets out under a tree in front of the house and went to sleep.
Day 6.
I didn’t sleep very well last night. We slept outside in front of the house. Someone laid a tarp out and covered it in blankets. Sleeping on the ground and outside were both fine, I’ve done that more times that I can remember but there was a little boy that kept talking to José until late. About the time he stopped talking someone started snoring and the local cats and dogs started a fight on the hill above us that sounded like a death match. When that finally died down the rooster in the tree behind the house started crowing….That was @ about 11pm and he kept it up all night. At about 2am the bees started harvesting nectar from the tree we were sleeping under. It sounded like we were sleeping in a bee hive.  The family started their day about 5am, probably to get some of their work done before the heat of the day.
                The witch seems to play a very powerful roll in these communities. I have asked several different questions about the openness and receptiveness of the Gospel as well as the spiritual health of the church etc. Almost always the witch is brought up as playing a major defining part in how the Gospel is received. Traditionally the village is subject to the witch but when people are saved they  no longer serve the witch. For this reason the witch will threaten new converts in different ways. In many cases theses converts will recant their faith out of fear of the witch. For this reason converts are referred to as ‘believers’ and are not baptized right away but have to wait for a while and be able to look into their own heart and know the faith that is there is real. After baptism they are referred to as ‘Christians.’  Baptisms can happen as young as 10 ½ years old. The ones who understand Jesus’ authority over the enemy are the ones who stay faithful. This practice seems to be very similar to the practices of the early church during the beginning of the Roman persecution.
A native worship service.
                After breakfast we rode for an hour to the next village. We had a service there. If I counted right, there were two families here. They were very energetic and danced to guitar music after which Ramon and I preached to them. I talked about choosing your path through life and trusting and honoring God in the different paths that you choose. They insisted that we eat lunch with them even though it was only mid-morning. Lunch was something similar to spaghetti.
                The next village that we stopped at was not native, but a native man came to our service. I shared again about choosing your path. Then Ramon shared about being a new creation. After the service the man asked for prayer. He was afraid and didn’t know why. I thought of Phil 4:4-7 and asked Ramon if it would be appropriate to bring that particular passage up. He read it and thought it was really good. At first I was envisioning me sharing the passage but right then I realized that Ramon could probably do a better job than I could so I told him to share what was on his heart. I don’t know what all he said, or if it had any bearing on what happened next, but as soon as he was done the man declared that he was ready to give his life to Jesus. This was a big decision for him because his mom is a witch.
Two of the families who we visited. 
                On the way back we rode past a drug deal. Most of our ridding had been on trails, but there was a short stretch where we rode on a dirt road.  At the end of the road there were several truck pulled off to the side. I didn’t notice any details because when we were still a good way off Ramon told me just not to look at them. He grew up in I had wondered if it was a drug deal when I first saw them, but wasn’t sure until Ramon said something. I asked him later and he said that the giveaway was when he saw one of the guys with a machine gun. There were at least two vehicles and half a dozen men. We rode past them and Pastor Lupe told them ‘good afternoon’ and that was that.
Day 7
                We got up and left late in the morning, met Pastor Waldo back at the dam and drove back to Tepic. After dinner we went to the mall for ice cream. While we were at the mall we interviewed Pastor Waldo about his work with the natives. I thought that the interviews went exceptionally well.
                Through the course of the interviews we were able to see even more clearly Pastor Waldo’s heart for his ministry. One thing that I was particularly encouraged by  was that it was increasingly obvious that Pastor Waldo has a good understanding on the importance of discipleship. His goal is to train native converts and send them back out to be missionaries to their own people. When someone is saved, they are taught and trained for roughly a year or so. Once they have completed this discipleship stage, they are sent out to make disciples of their own. He pointed out the way that this model is taken from Jesus’ ministry and that if done well, the training of disciples who make disciples is a powerful method of spreading the Gospel. It’s like a virus, it just takes over everything!  
                Another interesting story that he told was about a family who got saved but who lived a long way from any church meeting location. Because of their hunger for the Word they would put their youngest kids on their shoulders and start walking on Friday afternoon. They would walk into the night and all day Saturday and would be the first ones at Pastor Waldo’s church in Tepic on Sunday morning. Then after the service they would walk all day Sunday and Monday and get home Tuesday afternoon. This is the hunger of the people here.
Day 8
Posing in the print shop with the Printer (center)
                We went to see the print shop where the Bibles are going to be printed. I would have liked to interview the printer, but he didn’t seem to understand the concept of an interview and was getting frustrated with us so I had to settle with getting video of him operating his machines. He had four machines in his shop. Each one was for something different and all of them were way out of date. By out of date, I mean some of them by his own admittance should be in a museum on printing machines. His machines range from anywhere between the 1880’s to the 1960’s.  The oldest one is a foot operated machine and is used for printing the numbers on pages.
                The owner of the shop is committed to printing the Bible in Huichol and is going to dedicate his shop solely to the printing of 2,000. This process will take about 2 months to complete. Right now however he is still waiting for the money to purchase supplies such as paper and ink which will cost roughly $9,000 USD.
                We interviewed Pastor Waldo some more, prayed with his family and got on the bus and headed home. Pastor Waldo seemed to be very encouraged by our visit and interest in what he is doing. I was originally going to use this footage to make a documentary about mission opportunities that are here in Mexico but I won’t be ready to do that until next fall at the soonest. There is so much going on here though that I think that I will have to put together a video specifically for Pastor Waldo.As soon as this video is finished I will upload it to YouTube and post an update on this blog along with the YouTube address.
                Before I close, There are a few quick things I would like to mention that are not related to the trip. First, my home church just sent their youth group down. Out of the team of 20+ people there was only one person I didn’t already know. I also had two siblings on the trip, so it was nice to be able to see so many familiar faces.

                Things winding down here. Our last team left Yesterday morning. Lord willing Art, Brenda and I will be leaving Monday. They will drop me off in Phoenix on the way back to Montana where they farm during the summer. From Phoenix I will be flying back to Alaska where I will spend the summer working. It has been an amazing year full of amazing opportunities and experiences and I have learned a lot on the way. As I head from one extreme to the next I look forward to the things that God has in store for me through the summer. (Which will probably seem more like winter to me.)

              Every month it cost $450 to live here at the Casa de Esperanza. This covers my meals and other living expenses. I am still trying to raise a total of $2500. Currently I have raised $1,550 and have $1450 to go. If you have not already done so, please prayerfully consider supporting me. To everyone who has supported me, both finantually and through prayer, I would like to thank you once again. Your support has been a huge blessing to me. 

Pleas send checks to:
Koenes Ministries
3565 Veltkamp Rd.
Manhattan, MT 59741

Please Note: Checks should be made out to Koenes Ministries. Also, please be sure to write my name on the memo line of the check to distinguish it form general support for Casa de Esperanza. 
                Finally, last but not least, after many hours of work I have put together a promotional video for a ministry that I have had the privilege of working with over the past few months. The ministry is called Agua y Mas (Water and More) and is a shelter for single mothers. The mission also offers local children English/Bible lessons 3 days every week after school. The video can be seen at: 

Friday, April 5, 2013

A trip South

                To start, I will say that I am sorry for missing my post from last week, the internet has been out since the day that I got back from my trip down south. Until today I have been unable to get online to update my blog.
                 As I was thinking about how to best share the experiences of this past week with you, I thought that perhaps the best way would be to simply copy some of my journal entries. Also, I have decided to take use both this week and next week to cover the trip simply because there was too much that happened to cover in one post.
                Just to fill in a little background information, Ramon, my brother in Christ and fellow missionary from Casa de Esperanza, and I recently traveled to Tepic Nayrit Mexico. Out purpose was to meet and document a mission to the natives of the area. The mission is operated by Pastor Waldo, a Hispanic pastor for Tepic Nayrit. Pastor Waldo reaches out to the Huichol people of Nayrit Mexico. The following is the first part of a two part post about and is taken from my journal of the trip. 
We drove all through the night From Guymas to Tepic. It was about 17 hr total. Pastor Waldo met us at the bus stop and took us to his house for lunch of fried fish. After lunch Pastor Waldo took us to see a mission which was just outside Tepic. On the way we drove past numerous sugar cane fields, 60% of Mexico’s sugar is produced here.  There are a lot of Mango orchards too.
                The mission was on the outskirts of a small native village. It consisted of several houses. By houses, I mean structures that looked like the forts that we used to build as kids using yarn and dead corn stalks. The walls were of cane stalks, (not sugar cane, some other type) lined up side by side so that you could still see through them with either tin or palm branches for a roof. The actual area where they have their church meetings is just a large open area that is partly shaded by several large trees. About 50 families meet here for Church. They have plans to build a roof over the area but haven’t been able to yet. They also have plans to build a brick wall around the south side of the property because the neighbor man doesn’t like their services and shoots his machine gun into the air to disrupt their services. There are about 7 families that live at this mission. The purpose of this mission appears to be to train native converts as missionaries and send them back out to their people. Later we met an old native pastor who is 86 years old. He used to be a witch and now he walks 3 days a month through the mountains to spread the Gospel.

                On our way back to the house we met with a man who is printing the Bible into Huichol dialect. Right now there are only 4 Bibles in Huichol. There were more that were printed earlier in the 1900’s but most of them were lost during an earthquake. Right now only the New Testament and part of Psalms and Proverbs has been translated. Many of the native people don’t speak Spanish very well, if at all. Even the younger generation, though they are bilingual are more literate in their native tong than they are in Spanish. Right now they need more money before they can start. I got about ten minutes of interview time with the printer and with Ramon translating. I which I could have known ahead of time that we were going to meet with him so I could have planned out an interview better.
Day 2
On the boat taxi
                Today we picked up several people from the mission that we were at last night. We drove for over an hour and came to a dam on a river. The driver, a man from Pastor Waldo’s church told us that the dam was dedicated 13 years ago. During the dedication ceremony the president of the Hydro Electric part of the government stood there and waved the flag while live children were sacrificed in the fire for the protection of either the dam or the people who worked on the dam…I had a little trouble understanding that part of the conversation… Apparently this is the traditional way for the Huichol to receive protection…
Part of the local congregation posing in front of their church. 
                We got in a boat taxi on the back side of the dam and went about ½ hour up river to a small community. There were 20 families who met there. Their church was a small hut, 12x12 with a roof for shade and no walls. Some of the families had to walk quite a ways to get to church. They have services on Wednesday and Sunday.  I asked several times how many people came to church here/how many people in the area were Christians, etc. Every time I was told that around 30 Christian families here. It appears that in this area there are no individual Christians, when one person gets saved, the whole family gets saved, and in this village, all the families are saved! There are several other villages many hours walking distance form here where there is only one Christian. People walk from here on a regular basis to do ministry there.
A Huchol house on stilts. 

                We had a short service while we were there. Pastor Waldo asked us to share something. I shared a story about orienteering and trusting the map and compass. I compared that to how we have to trust God and the Bible. I chose that story because I knew they would be able to relate to that and I wasn't sure what else they would….
A Huchol Boy posing in a traditional hat.
Day 3
                We drove 4 hours to a native community, 2hr on pavement and 2 hrs on dirt. Before the governor built the road, Pastor Waldo would walk on foot for three days to reach this community…. There was a fiesta in town. It has something to do with celebrating the corn. Apparently there is some demonic traditions that are associated this fiesta, it was unclear what those were however.
                We were shown to the church and met the Pastor. He owns a Huichol Bible. The church was different form the one we were at yesterday. This one is built of adobe. I’m not sure if we got a straight answer on how many people go to church here. I do know though that there are a number of people in the area that are not saved.
                For lunch we had blue, handmade tortillas. They were the best tortillas I have ever had. Along with the blue tortillas we were served chicken foot soup. I didn’t get the chicken foot, but saw one in the bowel next to me. It made me remember all the missionary stories form growing up, stories about missionaries who had to eat bugs, animal brains or intestines etc. in order to not offend their host. The chicken foot soup seemed to be a common appearance in those stories and now here I am eating it! …It was actually pretty good and seemed more normal than strange.
                On the way back we stopped in another village that a Church which is currently meeting under a tree. Their old building was too small so they had to take it down. They are in the process of building the new building. Someone donated all the brick for it, but it is still in Tepic and they need to find a way to get it to their village, which is quite a ways off the beaten path.

                On the way back to Tepic we passed through a village. Pastor Waldo told us that there were no Christians in this village. They had tried to build a church here at one point but had been shot at by either the witch or people who worked for him.

Me posing with a Huchol man who is dressed in his traditional clothing.