Oaxaca, Mexico, Short-Term Mission Trip
March 24-31, 2018
Oaxaca. Travel day...
I like traveling on missions trips. God shows us his power.
Detroit...we were worried that we wouldn’t have enough time to change flights and especially that our bags wouldn’t be able to make it. But, no worries , our flight came in early and then the flight going out was delayed due to the flight crew getting delayed. So the bags came through.
Now we were worried about the reduced time in Mexico City. Trying to get 7 adults, 4 kids, 16 large bags and a plethora of carry-on luggage through customs.
Wow. God is so good. We landed here and then got through immigration. Then we went to get our bags and they told us that we didn't need to pick up our bags until Oaxaca and that we don't have to go through customs there either. So we saved time. Saved our backs. Stopped worrying and praised God. This flight is delayed by 10 min, but we got here right when the boarding was supposed to be starting. I love it. God answers prayers in ways that we don't expect!
What a bunch a worriers. Edgar and Amy were preparing a grand speech for customs, all of us were trying to figure out what time is was in Mexico City (central time, but not on daylight savings time yet for those of you wondering), Jeff had gotten a hotel recommendation from Paul. Maybe one of these years we will learn.
We are here now, in our host homes and getting some sleep.
Thank you for your continued prayers.
The Oaxaca Team
Oaxaca - Saturday March 24th
We got to sleep in and relax for a little bit this morning to recover from getting to sleep so late last night...err this morning.
At breakfast, we started our discussion of spiritual gifts and how they play into the team. We also discussed how we need to work together as a team and let the Holy Spirit do its work to keep us unified. We ended the time with Pastor Carlos giving us the history of the church and we prayed for him, his family, and the ministry. He told us how God has been faithful to the church even when things were not bright. His father had received many donations and they had earned a lot of money through bazaars for the church to purchase the home right next to the church for a pastoral home. When he went to the bank to pick up the money to bring it to pay for the house someone in the bank notified someone else to follow them and they were held up at gunpoint right near where they needed to drop it off. So, they lost nearly 20 thousand dollars. But through friends and donors hearing of the story on the internet, they were able to replace that money. The church building has come a long way from when they started and the congregation has been tackling projects one by one as they have the resources.
After breakfast we worked around the church. Some started sorting out all of the stuff that we had brought. It was a big job, as we were able to bring down a lot of clothes. A few people worked on pulling weeds out from the patio blocks, and then the rest were working on cleaning up a play area for soccer.
Pastor Eleazar has arrived now, so the team is complete. It was good to great him with blessings and greetings from many brothers and sisters in Christ.
After this, we had a little siesta and then headed out to “lunch” around 4:00. I don’t normally talk about how good the food is because most people just don’t care. However, this buffet was quite large and had all sort of typical Oaxacan food. The food and selection was amazing. They had 6 different kinds of mole. And to top it off, this restaurant has a large park attached with gorgeous views of the mountains, lots of things for the kids to do, and even a zip line. Truly a nice treat- the sunset at the end of the evening was really beautiful. On the way home we stopped to pick up some trees that we are going to plant on the church property to give it some more shade in a few years.
Back at the church, we had a meeting to prep for our next ministry day. Tomorrowwe will be guests in their service and will be performing the puppet show as well as the drama during the service. Pastor Eleazar will be delivering the message and we will have a kids program to talk through Palm Sunday.
After going back to our host homes I was able to stay out and talk with my host family who run a hamburger and hotdog stand by the street. It was a great time of fellowship and we were able to communicate enough. Dani, a 16 year old, spoke English pretty well so she was able to pick up where my Spanish left off. We had a great conversation about prayer, faith, and where we get our worth from. We get our worth because we are made in the image of God, not because of anything that we can do. This was timely because this was a topic that Chris Creech had covered in his lesson the previous Sunday. We also talked about why someone goes on a missions trip and some of the past miracles that we had seen in answers to prayers on previous trips.
As we head I to Sunday worship, please pray that we can encourage the church here in Oaxaca and that they will be bold with the name of Jesus. Please pray that our spiritual gifts will be used and that deep meaningful conversations can occur.
Oaxaca - Sunday March 25th
It is such a blessing to be in a service with our brothers and sisters in Mexico. We were able to contribute to their service this morning by doing the puppet show in addition to the drama. Larry gave a powerful meditation after the drama and Edgar said that he almost brought him to tears, then Edgar said “Don’t do that again.” I think he was joking...
During their service today, they were celebrating the 7th anniversary of the church. Pastor Carlos’ father-in-law Gabe a history of the church
Celebrating 7 years as a church today. This church started with a young college age student who accepted the lord. He is the pastor today, his name is Carlos. March 21st of 1998 was the exact day he accepted Christ. When he received Christ, he also received a calling to bring Christ to his family. God lead the path of Carlos to be where he is today.
Initially there was a church called Reign of Grace. There is a connection with Minnesota for them because a missionary from Winona would come to visit them from time to time. As part of the ministry of Reign of Grace, Carlos’s sister accepted Christ. When she received the Lord, she wanted to be discipled. Sara’s dad and mom would visit homes to disciple as well as leading Bible Studies. Therefore, they started discipling at Carlos’ house.
In a different home, there was a family that was renting a house. The owner of the home kicked them out of the home because of the Gospel. He didn’t want them to be following Jesus. So they started to meet in another home, but they had to move to many different homes and rent them in order to congregate.
They started to dream for a church...To pray for it in earnest. The ladies would sell food and drink after church, they also sold possessions in order to raise money to buy a church. When they had enough saved up, they started looking for a place to build. They were told that there were places available behind the middle school and they decided to purchase it. The person selling was very nice and pleasant. But as they were going to finalize the plan, an acquaintance heard of their plan and warned them that the land was not available for construction because it was part of the ruins national park area. Therefore, many people had bought land, but none of them could build in it.
Then they heard that there was some land in the Alamos area. They went to find the land, but he initially had some trouble because the land wasn’t empty. But when they saw the building with walls and a roof already there it was quite exciting. It wasn’t perfect and beautiful, but it was a place to start. It had walls and a roof and some empty land. They have built it up to where it is today.
So now, with a lot of hard work, they have come from a migratory home church to a church with a nice permanent home.
After the church service we had lunch with the whole congregation. We also passed around a beach ball with questions written on it to help us all to get to know each other.
Then we went to a place with some very old ruins and walked around there with some members of the congregation. It was really a beautiful place.
We then went to the city park and had some ice cream and walked around the park for a bit.
Many of us commented that we have had our desserts before the meal because we have been able to see some sights around Oaxaca before we really have gotten into our ministry.
We had a late supper to close out the day and we talked through the logistics of the next day. And Suzy shared her testimony. Tomorrow we will be painting the church eating area in the morning and then in the afternoon we will be inviting kids from the neighborhood to come for a movie and some English language practice.
Please continue to pray for unity within the team, for hearts to be opened, and for spiritual gifts to be used.
Oaxaca - Monday March 26th
Today we were able to get a big part of the painting done in the eating area. We prepped the walls, painted them a tan color and the base and top trim red. The kitchen will be tackled on Wednesday. It is difficult to find a good time to paint that area as it is constantly being used to cook amazingly delicious food. Some of us were also able to unpack some of the remaining donation bags to sort by sizes of clothes and get the crafts organized for the week.
During our work we took time to talk with some of the members of the church that were helping to serve food for us or help paint. Hermana Eva was listening to Nancy talk about her life story and was touched. Eva was orphaned as a child and lived with someone else later on (while foster families aren’t common in Mexico, that is almost what it was). She became a Christian a few years ago because of Pastor Carlos, Sara and the church and her life and family are no longer the same. She is closer to her daughter and their relationship is mending. Praise God for the connections made today!
After lunch (eating at our typical 2 pm or later start time) we got ready for the neighborhood kids to come for VBS activities. We sang songs, did a Salvation bracelet craft and listened to Suzy share the gospel following a video. Afterwards Pastor Carlos’ wife Sara shared with us that one little boy, Carlos, hasn’t come for several years as his dad doesn’t want him to come to any activities at the church. He was there tonight, Praise God and may this be a start to not only Carlos attending the church but also his Dad.
This evening we planned for our early morning prayer walk tomorrow in the hills behind the church. There are many stories of evil and satanic practices that occur up there, so please pray that the Holy Spirit goes before and with us to cover the area in prayer and that the enemy flees. We will then travel to another church to lead them in an afternoon VBS with crafts, testimonials and our puppet show/drama. The pastor from that church traveled to our church service yesterday and shared that a young member of the church had become ill over the weekend (his body was becoming paralyzed from the feet up) and we all prayed for him. When we called today to get the final details for tomorrow he shared that the boy had gotten much better since we had prayed the day before. All the glory to God!
Please continue to pray for strength for the team. Usually illnesses will come around at this point in the trip and we pray for the health of the group.
Thank you for lifting the community of Oaxaca up in prayer. We pray that we can be an encouragement to them and Pastor Carlos and family this week and that the church grows stronger and reaches others for Christ!
Oaxaca - Tuesday Morning March 27
Please pray for us today. We just found out that there are road blocks on the way to the town that we are going to travel to today. They are going to try to take us another way.
The roadblocks are protests against the government. There was a blockade that was put up two years ago from a conflict and during that time there were some vehicles that were burned. They were left there for 2 years but some traffic could get around. Yesterday the government came in and moved the vehicles. It is a peaceful protest without arms, but it will impact our ability to get to the town that we are heading to.
Please praise God that the group is feeling good today. Please pray for safe travel. Please pray that hearts will be open in Adequez. The church there only has a few families but they have been faithful. Please pray that we can encourage them, and bring new believers to God. The Catholic Church is very strong down here, but the people are just going through the motions and there is no true faith. Please pray for eyes would be opened to the truth and their need for a savior. We will be using the puppets and the drama today.
All is well! We were able to take a shortcut before the protest area...and it happened to be a beautiful pass through the mountains that made me think of Montana. Our time was great in Adequez and we are now back in Oaxaca. I will send out a longer update later. Thanks for your prayers!
Oaxaca - Tuesday full update
Today started out a little earlier for most of the group because we went on a prayer walk about 30 min up the mountain from the church. We prayed over the city, read psalms 58, and sang some songs. We also prayed over the hill that God would touch the hearts of the people on the hill and that He would own the hill. There are apparently some people who go up into the hills from the city to perform rituals. It was a very sweet and powerful time. It seemed though that this triggered a spiritual battle.
When we got down to the church and were eating breakfast we learned that there was a blockade that was impacting the normal route to get to Adequez where we were planning on visiting. We immediately started praying that we could still find a way to get there. The blockade was due to political reasons surrounding a police/civilian conflict 2 years ago. At that time, there had been some burned buses that were blocking most of the way. They hadn’t been moved for the two years, but the government came in the last day or two and removed them finally. This sparked tensions to rise again and they were forming another protest.
We got on the road quickly so that we could avoid other problems because we heard that there was potentially another road that they were going to try to shut down as well. On the way, we passed a place where a large number of trucks had pulled off to the side because they knew they couldn’t get through the blockade. But, thankfully we were able to get to a back road to Adequez without any issues. This road that we went on was pretty close to a forest service road with lots of bumps, lots of turns, and many drop offs. The views were amazing! It was like being in some big hills in Montana. Rough on the back (due to all of the bumps) but beautiful to the eyes.
The church in Adequez is very small, but there have been 4 faithful families that have kept it going in the small town. They were incredibly encouraged to have us come there. They gave some testimonies from the church members about how God had been faithful even through tough times. Nancy was able to share her testimony as well about how she wanted revenge for the death of Kyle, but when the verdict came it wasn’t satisfying at all and she felt sorry for the condemned person. She felt in her heart that that was her before the judgment seat of Christ and she was guilty, but Christ had paid for those sins and she was redeemed. It touched many hearts. While in Adequez we performed the puppet show and the skit and Eleazar preached the message.
After the service they fed us a traditional soup called pasole (sp?). We were able to sit and talk with the members of the congregation and hear the stories of how God had brought them from 2 families having a church service in their ranch homes to buying some land and building the church building. Such faithful hearts are truly an encouragement. We did some crafts with the kids as well and praise God we had the exact number of boys and girls cards from Cross of Glory that we needed, we had 1 extra beanie baby, and the exact number of soccer balls that we needed! We had just thrown the stuff into the bag...only God can orchestrate it that well!
Afterwards, we went to the house of Felix where his son Levi was sick. Levi was doing much better now. We had prayed for him on Sunday because he had lots of pain and was losing feeling in his lower body. Felix told us that they had gone to three different hospitals trying to get him in to see someone. When they finally got to see a specialist they were told that the disease he had would take a long time to heal. But just the next day he was getting much better. It happened so fast that the doctors thought that he had just been faking it when he came in. Levi is at home now, still in a bit of pain, but should recover. We were able to pray over him for his healing.
We were also introduced to Omar who is Felix’s son-in-law. Omar’s wife (Felix’s daughter) had left him a couple of months ago. So he is raising the two kids and staying with Felix. Please pray for wisdom, healing, energy, and a renewed sense of God’s will in his life.
Our trip home was uneventful, which was good. No new blockades, no car trouble, etc. However, when we pulled into the Los Alamos suburb, we spotted a fire close to where the church is. When we pulled up to the church, the neighbors were carrying buckets of water to put out the grass fire. When I initially saw it I didn’t think that we were going to be able to put it out. The grass here is so dry and you could hear the fire crackling away. A few of the guys jumped in and started hauling buckets up and splashing the edges of the fire. We hit both sides and were working it towards the center. 30 to 45 minutes after we showed up it was contained and put out. We are guessing it was at least two acres that were burned. The closest part of the fire came within a couple hundred feet of the church. Thankfully, the church and all of the neighbors’ houses were not harmed.
There was a blessing in all of this, the community was impressed that we would come and help them and this has opened up the door for Carlos to share with them. We also found an old abandoned well that was really deep and was not covered. The community is going to pitch in to buy cement so that we can make a cover for the hole. So, we have an additional work project for tomorrow.
When the fire was put out we had our group meeting. Our devotions for today were talking about the armor of God. How appropriate for today! Larry also shared that he had been reading a verse this morning while the others were out walking and it talked about Jesus bringing his disciples up onto the mountain to pray. Again, God is just working throughout this whole trip.
Afterwards we came down to Hermana Eva’s place and had hamburgers and hotdogs. Yes, you did read that correctly. Larry shared his testimony of how he was rebelling against God and felt that he should have died multiple times when he was younger but God protected him. He had been going through a tough time (think of the bad things that happen in Country music songs). During this time, he needed to contact his ex-girlfriend. She told him that she had gone to a camp and had been saved and was a Christian now and had found true peace. Larry was in the process of writing back that he was a Christian too, but as he was, the Holy Spirit convicted him. He knew that he didn’t have peace. He cried out to God for forgiveness and at that moment truly surrendered his life to Christ.
I also got an update from Pastor Eleazar on Sophia from Tabasco. She was the little girl that we have been praying for. She is doing good now and has been getting better little by little. Praise God! Such good news to hear.
Now it is off to bed. We have a busy work day tomorrow morning and then will have another kids program in the afternoon.
Oaxaca - Wednesday, March 28th
Wednesday was a day full of a variety of projects. After breakfast we broke into three groups. One group joined the community members to mix cement to cover the abandoned well that was discovered on Tuesday while putting out the grass fire. Another group joined together to dig holes to plant the trees in the little community park next to the church and the the third group begain work on painting the fellowship area, a project designated for this week.
The team that was covering the well laid a wooden foundation over the hole and then mixed cement by hand and poured it over the wooden base. Several of the community members who joined in this effort are not believers so Pastor Carlos and Sara were encouraged by the witness it was for these community members to see our team willing to help them as a community in the name of Jesus. We are hopeful the Lord will use this collaboration to open the doors of their hearts to the truth of the gospel.
When it was time to plant the trees, all the groups gathered, including the community members, to plant them. It was a special time in which we took turns planting and watering these 6 or 7 trees. Everyone had a part in planting these baby trees and it was neat to hear how Pastor Carlos and Sara and the community members talked about the hope that they had that one day these trees would bear fruit that all would enjoy together. They have different ways and methods of planting which just reminded us that we all have unique and different ways of doing things, and somehow the job still gets done!!
Afterwards we all joined together back in the fellowship area and finished the paint project for the week. We all enjoyed seeing the finished product. Carlos and Sara shared with us at our evening devotional that for them, the day was a day of many successes because several projects got completed that they had been hoping to do for some time. We are thankful to have been able to be a part of helping them get some of those projects done. Sara continued to say that the greatest success, however, was seeing a little boy from their community, Carlos, come to our afternoon kids program.
After a late lunch at one of the church member's homes, we rushed back to church to welcome the kids for another night of programming. We spent time singing together, reviewing their memory verse, John 3:16, and then they finished the movie they started on Monday that ends with Jesus' resurrection. After the movie, Pastor Eleazar shared the plan of salvation in a dynamic, memorable way and gave the kids an opportunity to respond in prayer to receive Christ. All the kids enjoyed the craft and then a very special treat of ice cream and cookies. Sara told us that the little neighbor boy, Carlos, that I mentioned above, has wanted to come to activities at the church for several years and his parents have never allowed him to come, but this week something is different. He has come to both nights of activities. We are so happy and we are praying that Carlos will open the door of his heart and that he and his household will come to know Jesus. Pray we might have more opportunity to talk to him in the next couple of days.
After the program we went back to the church member's home for dinner and had an evening of fellowship with several from the church. There was one woman, however, who was there to help Mary cook for us. This woman is from Mary's work which is a restaurant where they both cook. Throughout the evening we had opportunity to talk to her and she shared how hard her life was and about her daughter who has a large cyst on her back. Sara was talking with her about the hope that we have because of Jesus and Pastor Carlos ended up leading her to Christ before the end of the night.
We are so excited about her decision to follow Jesus and are now praying she will grow. Just like those little trees that we planted in the morning, it is our prayer that the seeds that were planted today in the hearts of the children and adults we had interaction with, will grow and bear fruit in this community of Alamos.
We ended our evening looking at Psalm 67. Verses 1 and 2 say, "God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us- That your way may be known on the earth, your salvation among all nations." This has been and continues to be our prayer, that Jesus would be made known here and now to all people in Oaxaca.
Oaxaca -Thursday, March 29
Today we went out into the community to invite families to our event on Friday. We split up into groups with a mix of locals and translators in each group and then we walked the streets with our “My History” tracts in hand. It is amazing to me how receptive the Mexican culture is to having strangers come to them with an invitation. Please pray for a awesome turnout so that we can share the gospel with as many as possible.
During our walks this mornings two different groups shared the gospel with someone who accepted Christ! One was a young girl who was out running an errand for her dad and Sara was able to initiate the conversation and Amy prayed with her. Pastor Eleazar was also able to share with Thomas the tómale guy. He accepted Christ and shared some difficulties that were occurring in his family. Praise God. It is so cool to be a witness to the Holy Spirit moving in someone’s life.
After we had invited people to come, we went to the basketball court and cleaned it up as a testimony to the community. We swept off the stairs and picked up trash, lots of trash, from around the grounds.
After that we had a lunch over at Sara’s parents house and we visited the market.
In the evening we had a prayer meeting with some members of the church. We sang some songs, prayed, and Pastor Eleazar gave a short devotional. It was a sweet time of friendship.
Please pray for the activities on the basketball on Friday. Please pray that the gospel message would be heard loud and clear, that hearts would be receptive, and that the Holy Spirit will be overwhelmingly present, powerful, and accessible.
Oaxaca - Friday, March 30
God is so good. A beautiful ending to this particular trip. We had decided to change up the plan for the day and do the event in the morning while it was cooler and then try to take it easier in the afternoon.
In the morning we did the event at the basketball court. There were almost 50 kids there and many parents as well. The community was really receptive to us. We sang some songs, did the puppet show and the drama, presented the gospel to the kids and the family, played some games, colored, and had some snacks. It was quite busy, but a very good time. April was starting to feel a little sick, but she stuck it out through her part in the drama. Larry gave a short meditation after the drama. After that, Pastor Eleazar had some cards and walked through a high-level overview of the Bible, and then presented the hope of the gospel. At the end of the event we had a raffle and gave away soccer balls, beanie babies, and a few other things. There were two boys who really looked like they wanted a prize and Larry was praying for the Lord to let them get one. On the second to last ball, one of their numbers was called. They were so happy...and Larry was too.
It was sad to say goodbye to the kids at the end of the event.
Afterwards we went over to the market where Victor works in order to support him. He does quite a bit of work around the church and is a very regular attender.
We then went over to the house of one of the ladies from the church for lunch. Her husband is not a Christian, but he was working very hard to get the house ready for us to come. While we were there, Edgar gave his testimony and told about his life. Both Edgar and Amy are good story tellers so having them tell the story and translate is really a joy to listen to. Edgar shared of some powerful moments in his life and hopefully planted a seed in the husband’s life.
After we got back to the church, it was raining a bit and we realized that if we hadn’t switched around the schedule, we would have been trying to do the event for the kids during the rain. Praise God. We did some packing stuff to prep to come home, and then came back to the church for supper and to say good bye.
Heather had invited José to come tonight and had asked some of us to pray that he would come. He had been avoiding church for the last few months and was dealing with some hard things in life. His girlfriend had passed away in December due to an illness. He came tonight! We had an incredibly powerful time with him and were able to pray for him. He shared what has been on his heart and we shared some scriptures.
We shared many thanks with the group and said our goodbyes. It is quite sad to say goodbye to our new friends, but we are looking forward to being back with our families and sharing our stories about how God worked this week.
Tomorrow morning is an early one and we have a long travel day ahead of us.
Please pray that the church in Oaxaca is strengthened and encouraged, that the seeds planted will have someone to water them, and that the desire for God is awakened in the hearts of the people in Oaxaca.
Please pray for safety, health, and the logistics of a long travel day for us.
Prayer Partners. Thank you again for your support with prayers.
Oaxaca - Saturday, March 31
We are all on the first flight to Mexico City. We had lots of trouble getting our bags all arranged and getting all of the boarding passes printed for our three flights. Please pray that Nancy’s and Larry’s tickets are printed and ready to go for us at the gate when we arrive in Mexico City. Please pray that we have a safe flight and that things go smoothly.
Looking forward to sharing more of our experiences with you soon.