Mexico Mission Trips
Diane Andrews of Bellview Community Church has built her ministry out of encouraging women. She has spoken to women in churches throughout Colorado, the United States and the world. Not too long ago, she presented a message to missionary women in Thailand and most recently she decided to continue to share her message – a special talk on Psalm 23 – with the women of Iglesia Cristiana Vida, the church of Ruiz, Mexico.
When Diane first proposed to do something for the women in the community, we were very excited. Occasionally groups will decide to reach out to the women – especially those that are most visible during the trip, such as the cooking staff – and they are always very appreciative of the special attention.
When Wednesday morning at 10:00 arrived, however, our attempts were almost stopped by an abnormal daytime storm that raged throughout the morning. As rivers of water ran down the road in front of the church, we knew that most efforts to come to the gathering would be thwarted. We sent Jim out in a car, however, and after traversing the muddy streets he came back with one woman; he had found her walking in the rain, and she explained that since she had decided to miss work to come to the sermon, no storm would stop her. Not too long after, another car pulled up and out piled more women.
All in all, there were five in attendance for Diane’s message. It was one of the smallest crowds that Diane has spoken for, but her ministry was no less effective. Diane explained that she really wanted to make the women feel loved so besides simply giving her talk, she bought beads to make bracelets that went along with her message. Each color of the bracelet symbolized a different section of the Psalm. The women mediated on the Psalm and joined together in fellowship and prayer, each leaving feeling as though they had truly been blessed by the experience.
Plan an upcoming Mexico mission trip. Visit www.ExperienceMission.org
Jump rope, beads, pipe cleaners and more captured the children in Ruiz this week. Kids Club took place at the church in Ruiz where fifty children gathered for games, crafts and singing. The team from Kansas practiced their Spanish with the children through interactive activities and acting out the Bible story in a drama.
The children learned about the life of Saul and the fruits of the Spirit by creating their own fruits of the Spirit with cut out fruits. In addition they heard the story of the lost sheep and lost coin. In order to learn the memory verse the children came up with their own actions to present in front of the group while saying the verse.
Songs got the group energized and excited as they tried to sing louder and faster than their neighbor. One new song talked about all the animals that God has created and lastly stated, “los ninos que aman a Cristo, oran, alabran y se van al cielo (the children who love Christ, pray, praise Him and go to Heaven).”
Mission Trips to Mexico
For the past week, our two small teams of women from Canada and Kansas have been doing their best at staying true to the old saying “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” Their commitment to experiencing the Mexican cultural has produced a week of activities that can only be found in Ruiz.
We started out the week with a tour of the local market. The group of eight got up early and we walked through the stands of fruits and vegetables, meats, and craft supplies. The market is usually buzzing with activity by 6:30 am and the bright colors of tropical fruit mix with the smells of tamales and the sounds of quick barters in Spanish. Our group walked through, briefly stopping to sample some pan dulce before heading out to breakfast and our day of work. Though our official tour ended that day, many of the girls returned the following morning for souvenirs, gifts, and more experiences with the sights and sounds of early mornings in Ruiz.
Later in the week, a few of the girls bought some embroidering threads, needles and napkins. Many women in the community embroider decorative tortilla napkins to use in the house, so making these napkins has become a hobby of some of the interns. Although the napkin itself might be used for other purposes when we return to the states, it has certainly been fun learning the craft from other women in the community and passing it along to the groups this week.
One of the activities that brought the most laughter was an informal tortilla making session. Since the cooks typically make handmade tortillas for a meal at least once a week, we asked if the small group could join in on the fun. The simple task of balling the dough, flattening it in the tortilla press, and flipping it onto the grill turned out to be much harder than the women made it look. Everyone took a turn at the process and almost everybody lost their tortilla on one step or another, whether by smashing it too thin, ripping it while taking it from the press or folding it over while placing it on the skillet.
Overall, this week has been a lot of fun. Though we come to Mexico to serve the community, it has been a great week to also experience what Mexico has to give.
Go to www.experiencemission.org to view our Christian youth mission trips to Mexico.
By Matt Grager
Today, the doctors say that the tumor inside Sergio Efrain Rochin Avila’s brain has minimized to a manageable size and his migraine headaches that he has suffered constantly for the past three months are gone. Only fifteen days earlier, on the day it was discovered, the tumor was so dangerous to Efain’s health that it demanded immediate surgery or he risked losing all of his five senses.
Efrain is a 19-year-old Ruiz resident who is now recovering from the benign brain tumor, but the doctors cannot explain his progress. Efrain and his family believe his recovery is a miracle from God.
“My family and I were scared and shocked,” Efrain said through a translator, “I’d had no previous head injuries and could not explain how it happened.”
It took two days from his diagnosis to find a specific valve for the surgery he required. Efrain’s brother, Omar, said this is typical of the medical system in Nayarit. Efrain waited, checked into the hospital in Tepic, 45 minutes from Ruiz, scared.
While Efrain waited for the operation, Pastor Abel, an Experience Mission community partner, went to Tepic to visit and pray with him. In Ruiz, the EM youth missionary teams devoted a portion of their nightly service to praying for him and Pastor Abel’s church held a special prayer service.
“I am glad and appreciative to those people who I don’t even know me that prayed for me in those days,” he said. “I am grateful to God for bringing those people.”
When the valve necessary for his surgery was found, the doctors made a startling discovery. His tumor had significantly diminished in size, so much so that it did not need to be removed. Instead they inserted a tube from his tumor to his stomach to allow the fluid in his head to drain properly.
“The doctors could not explain why it diminished, they were confused and shocked,” he said.
Now, after his surgery, Efrain must be cautious. He has taken two months off from his job as a waiter in order to recover. He can no longer go out often with his friends, or play soccer, because his tube may be knocked out. But, Efrain can be seen almost everyday walking through Ruiz, as the doctors have told him to do.
There is still the small possibility that the tumor may grow again. In this case, Efrain faces a very risky surgery in which his skull would be split completely open and his tumor cut from the center of his brain.
At this point, with his miraculous progress, the doctors and Efrain do not believe it will come to that.
“We believe God will take care of him, that he has already taken care of him and will continue our miracle,” Efrain’s brother Omar said.
For me, one of the most challenging things about being here in Ruiz is working in the overwhelming poverty. From what I’ve seen, it manifests itself in all aspects of their daily life. The roofs over the people’s heads leak in the rain and some children swim naked in streams that double as sewers. I’ve learned to see beyond these things and become envious of the joy many of the people display even in these circumstances. They are hospitable and talkative, even as many of them go hungry. But what I didn’t realize until today was the ways that the poverty of the area affects people in ways I could have never seen at first glance.
I had the chance to sit down and talk with one of our translators, Carlos, today at a work site and ask some specific questions about Ruiz and the struggle in the area. The biggest problem, he says, is the lack of jobs. The jobs that do exist, mainly construction, pay very little even by Mexican standards. Carlos, one of the top in his class at the University of Nayarit, estimates that only about 8 percent of students make it past high school. With the lack of education and the lack of job opportunities the men of Ruiz look elsewhere. Many leave their homes, families and lives behind to try and find a route across the border to the United States risking life and limb to do it. Some make it across, some stay in the border towns to work at factories and some are sent back to Ruiz.
Carlos personally knows a man of only 24 who has tried and failed three times to cross the border. On one attempt he rode for hours gripping the undercarriage of a freight train inches from the track. He then walked for almost three days through the desert with no food or water. He was caught and sent back to Ruiz.
Once the men leave Ruiz for better pay, the true problems begin. While they begin to send back money for their families it often slows down and eventually stops coming at all. It is common for the men who left to start new families across or along the border and never look back at what they left. The money stops coming in and the boys grow up without fathers to learn the harsh reality of their town on their own.
In the United States, we tend to thing of illegal immigration as an American problem – just another topic for the pundits on television to fight about. But being here has shown me that immigration is not only an American issue, but also a Mexican one. It is not only a political problem, but a personal one as well.
- Matt Grager
When I was first informed that a few groups throughout the summer were planning on bringing productions to act, sing, and perform in Ruiz’s town square, I was a bit skeptical. Although there are people in the central plaza on Sunday nights, I never truly thought that anyone would pay attention to our groups. I anticipated that a few people from the church would show up and sit and watch their performance, but I did not expect much more than a scattered audience.
I was completely taken aback, therefore, when this week’s group from Love of Christ Church began their program this Sunday evening. Even before the first music was played over the loudspeakers, a crowd began to gather, intrigued by the group of twenty Americans in the middle of their small town. Once the first drama began, a large crowd of kids and parents were the first to get comfortable, sitting close to the performers on ledges in the plaza. As the night progressed, some groups of teenagers, couples and single adults gathered in the different benches and corners of the park, watching the production from a distance. Even the cars that past slowed down, some even coming to a stop to see what the commotion was about.
The team did a great job with their program. They put together two mimed skits: One humorous about making good choices and the other more serious, set to music, reenacting Jesus’ powers of healing. After the dramas, the team sang some songs and a few of the team members stood to share their testimony or a message, translated by Veronica. By the response of the crowd and the hard work of the team members, I would say that the evening was a success.
It was exciting to be part of such an experience- a first time for Experience Mission in Ruiz – but it was even more rewarding when Jim reported that this morning the owner of the hardware store commented on enjoying the group’s performance.
Hey from Ruiz! So this week we’ve had the pleasure of working with the Youth Group from Grace Church in Texas. I have been very pleasantly surprised by how much the students love the children here. They don’t ever seem to get tired of jump-roping and playing soccer and football. I love seeing the smiles on both the students and the children’s faces. No matter the stress of the day, it always puts me in a great mood. The kids just have such joy, which always makes me see the brighter side of life and focus on my blessings.
There is a girl named Brenda who has been hanging out with us all week. She is around 14 years old. It has been great to see her build relationships with the students that are here. Brenda is always laughing and smiling, which is very encouraging for the students. It was really funny when Brenda, Bethany (a student from the group) and a friend of Brenda’s and I were talking about boys. Somehow that subject always seems to cross over the barriers of culture and language. It was great to see how happy it made the people/kids here that the students took the time to get to know them.
In my dad’s favorite and oldest joke he tells me that he loves work – he could watch it for hours. And as I sit here typing this blog, I think I know exactly what he means. This week, the group from Grace Church in Wichita Falls, Texas has been busy completing hard manual labor, and I have had the pleasure of watching them along the way.
I have been able to visit one work site in particular, and the youth there have truly impressed me with their constant hard work despite heat and humidity, blisters and sunburn, and tiredness and aches. In this particular site, we are building a house for a woman name Isidra. Construction on the house began over six years ago but was not finished due to money, lack of labor and a devastating hurricane that passed through the area. Since then, this 97-year-old has been living in borrowed houses, waiting to see her dreams fulfilled and her very own house finished.
With this story in mind, the students from Grace Church arrived at the site the first day and were introduced to the enthusiastic, elderly woman. She was thrilled to have all of the life and vivacity that the youth brought to her home, and she spent the entire day sitting in the doorway of her borrowed house, sending praise and blessing up to God, and watching the students finish the walls that had been started so long ago.
After a few hours of learning and observing, the students set to work with machine-like consistency. Three or four of the young men spent their days mixing cement: they carried heavy buckets of water to mix with bags of cement and calcium and shovels full of gravel and sand. Others learned to lay bricks with Abel, the church pastor and the maestro of the site. They meticulously placed every brick in line with the measurements that Abel had given, being careful to have just enough cement and the right amount of spacing. Throughout the day, the team rotated through a prayer chair, in order to have someone constantly praying over the house, the mission team, and the community.
As the week comes to an end, I am excited to report that the house is coming to a finish. Abel is hoping to begin with the roof today, and the team is eager to see their hard work pay off. In fact, I should actually close this blog and head out; it is about time for me to return to my favorite part of the work: watching it.
As much as I complain to people back at home about the temperature in Ruiz, you would think that I would not longer be shocked by the oppressive burst of heat when I first step off the bus onto the streets of my favorite pueblo. But here we go again: my fourth time traveling to Ruiz, and I still cannot believe how hot it is. As I walk to the church to meet with Abel, I grumble to myself about the relentless sun. Why did I ever agree to come back to this climate? I’m a winter girl, not a summer girl. In that moment I look up from the sidewalk to see a young man coming towards me on his bicycle. “Emily!” he exclaims, and I immediately recognize him to be Esteban, a worksite maestro who has helped with the construction the last few years. We enthusiastically shake hands and begin catching up on life – what have you been doing this past year? Did you travel to the U.S. like you had hoped? What are your plans this summer? It is wonderful to see him again.
Esteban soon rides away, and my team and I continue our walk to the church – a walk which sees little respite from the sun. Alyssa and I are getting pretty tired so we stop in a store to buy some water and Gatorade. As we sit in some lawn chairs, Jim strikes up a conversation with Rosa, the woman behind the counter, and together we all chat about the weather, her daughter’s school, and the friendly little dog that is running around the store. Heading back out to the street, Rosa makes us promise that we will come back soon.
We finally reach the church, which appears to be empty. Approaching the building, we find a neighbor outside and we ask him if he has seen Pastor Abel. He was around today, the vecino explains, but he hasn’t been in recently. We chat for awhile (his name is Jose) and before we leave he runs to grab us a pile of mangos, recently picked from the backyard. They are just ready to eat, he explains, and he sends us on our way with fresh fruit in hand.
As we begin our walk back to the hotel, my mind wandering with thoughts of Esteban, Rosa, Jose, and all of the others that I know I will soon come across, I no longer feel as hot. Mind you, there is sweat dripping down my back and into my eyes—but somehow, it just doesn’t seem to matter quite as much.
– Emily (June 3, 2008)