Friday, November 25, 2005

"American-style Thanksgiving?"

I missed my family so much, but I have a lot to be thankful for.

  It's not exactly the same as "real family," but I had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Martin and Eren brought me some beautiful Acapulco flowers. Tony and Xochitl brought a turkey over, and I made all the trimmings for a "real American" celebration.  We each took a turn reading the "Thanksgiving" verse on our place cards and shared one thing for which we are especially thankful this year.  I told the Mayflower/Pilgrim story to everybody while we were eating, and the comment was made, "No wonder God has blessed the United States.  Look at the purpose for its foundation." A point well made! 

Our 9:30 pm Thanksgiving dinner finished up at a few minutes before midnight...on a school night, no less!

Viva Mexico! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Isn't God full of crazy surprises? 

What's really ironic is that a couple of weeks ago after church on Sunday, I was having lunch with the Tepic pastors and their families.  Among the subjects of discussion was the topic of the completion of the latest Huichol church building in Picachos and the trip we were going to take to the village on Wednesday to join in the dedication ceremony. We were all reflecting on how incredible it is that God provided all the funds, the materials, and the laborers to complete the project. Erén made the comment directed at me, "Well, somebody needs to tell the Huichol pastors and leaders that this was a very special gift from God, and that from here on out, the resources for church buildings in the mountain villages may not be available. $40,000 pesos ($4,000 U.S.) doesn't just grow on trees. So, the many new believers in villages that are proving themselves faithful through the 'test of time' may just need to be satisfied with a ramada under a mango tree." I have to admit, though I'm not as quick to speak out as Erén is, she took the words right out of my heart. Nevertheless, for some reason, with her words, I found myself immediately reflecting, "How would Kirt respond?", and I replied, "Well, if God wants church buildings in the mountain villages, I guess He'll just have to provide the resources." We both (Erén and I) were honestly thinking, "Yeah, right!"  Martín just sat there with a subtle smirk on his face and a glint in his eye that I've seen hundreds of times before…different eyes, same glint. …end of conversation.

Then, bright and early the next morning, Monday, Pastor Manuel from Picachos, Pastor Lopez from Salvador Allende, and Pastor Custodio from La Quemada showed up on my front porch. I gave them breakfast, and as they were finishing up their coffee, and we were discussing the logistics for meeting the need to disciple the 36 new believers in Guásima del Caimán and some other needs in the village of Codorniz, Martín and Erén stopped by.  We were confirming with Pastor Manuel that 24 of us from the Tepic church would be needing boat transportation to the water's edge below the village of Picachos the following Wednesday, when the phone rang. It was Pastor Steve calling me to let me know about this special gift "out of nowhere." His words were, "I've known about this for about a week now, but for some reason, I haven't been able to contact you until today… My niece attends a church that has been blessed with extra funds and has made them available in my care for a one-time donation in the amount of $12,000 to be divided among three different missionaries. We will be sending a check for $4,000 to your sending church designated for a Huichol church-planting project…"  

…"Well, if God wants church buildings in the mountain villages, I guess He'll just have to provide the resources."

What more can I say?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Guasima del Caiman

Guásima del Caimán

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Gal 6:9

He was just a young man in his twenties. From the day of this birth in the mountain village of Guásima del Caimán, along with his family and village neighbors, he had adhered to the traditional polytheistic religion to which his ancestors had been sincerely devoted for centuries before. It left him empty and searching for meaning in life. His misdirected pursuit led him to a stint in the Tepic penitentiary.

When Román, the first Huichol to give his heart to Cacáüyári, the one true God, shared the truth with José Lopez, he repented of his past, asked forgiveness for his sins, and accepted the gift of salvation for which he had been fruitlessly hunting. José’s life changed dramatically, and he could hardly wait to share the “Good News” with his family and friends in Guáisma del Caimán. He hiked the long trip through the mountains back to his natal village. How disappointed he was when everybody who heard his message mocked him, rejected his pleas, and insisted that he leave the village never to return.

José conceded, but he never ceased to pray for his village.
He studied God’s Word diligently, and eventually he became the pastor of the little group of believers in his new village of Salvador Allende. He made many mission expeditions to villages throughout the Sierra Madre leading hundreds of his Huichol brothers to Christ, and though he started many new churches at great personal expense, he never lost hope for Guásima del Caimán.

Last month, two messengers from the village arrived at his home reporting from some of the villagers that they were ready to listen to him. For the first time in 25 years, José returned to Guásima del Caimán and found many villagers waiting to hear the “Good News” from which José has not deviated since the day he accepted. Thirty-six Huichols received Christ during his visit, and others are considering the Truth. Around half of them made the long journey on foot to the village of Zapote de Picachos for the dedication celebration of their new building two weeks ago.

Placing their faith in Cacáüyári and His provision for their forgiveness is not without cost. The village shaman is furious and went directly to the municipal judge to stir up trouble for them. The newborn believers were brought before the judge and his council who threatened to take their fields and crops from them and to banish them from the village.

Click here to see pictures of José's trip to Guásima del Caimán.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Gal 6:9

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Who can know the mind of God?

Every day is filled from morning to night with opportunities for service, and with activities in which I find myself totally immersed and questioning, "How in the world did I get this job?"   In my wildest dreams, I would have never dared to imagine even the fringe of the adventure, and blessings, that have become commonplace.  I find myself constantly repeating, Romans 11:33, 34 "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor?"

I just came from lunch with a family who lost their 18-year-old daughter in a car accident. She was in the accident the day before Kirt's funeral, but she hung on to life by a thread until September when she died. They are struggling with the sense of it all, and I'm not sure I have the answers they are looking for. More than answers, they need someone to share their hurt, and that I can do.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

“Faith that becomes sight" is one of the greatest joys of a missionary's heart.
Last January, Kirt and I shared the following sad news about the village of Zapote de Picachos:

“It has been more than 20 years ago since Fernando, a Huichol Indian man, settled in the beautiful mountain valley he called, Zapote de Picachos. The place nestled high in the Sierra Madre includes an artesian well of fresh, naturally-pure water. More than 15 years ago, Huichol missionary, José López, went up to “Picachos” to share the Gospel with the people of the small, newly-founded village. Four years ago, we built a beautiful little church building there for the more than 60 enthusiastic believers who have grown tremendously in this ministry. To us, the Picachos church has been a dream church. They have been exemplary in giving and going throughout the mountains of Nayarit to share their faith. In late November, their pastor, Manuel, came with some very sad news. Some Mexican government officials claim that the village of Zapote de Picachos, is too hard to reach with medical and educational supplies to meet the needs of the people, so the officials told them that they would have to leave their dwellings and relocate to an area about 9 kilometers away to a place nearer the lake about 3000 feet below. They were told that the government would provide them with housing and fresh water in the new location.”

By mid-December, the old Picachos village looked like a ghost town.
The promised “housing” in the new village turned out to be one plastic tarp per family, and the lake water is contaminated. Many of their children became sick with dysentery and boils. Because Picachos is only one of hundreds of hard-to-reach villages in the mountains of our state, the whole thing did not make sense. In meetings Kirt had with Pastor Manuel and his church leaders, they assured him that they were “OK” with the change, and they would take down the removeable parts of their church building and carry it, piece by piece, to their new location. Pastor Manuel said, “They may have meant it for bad, but as Joseph of the Old Testament said, God can use it for good. We want to consider building a larger church building, because our opportunities to reach more will be better.”

Eight months ago, in March, when we visited the new Huichol village of Picachos, a new church building was still only a dream, and a far-fetched one, for sure. None of us knew that that would be the last time Kirt would be with us in the village, and that two activity-filled weeks later, he, our “construction contractor” and spiritual leader, would be promoted to Heaven.

In spite of our great loss, Pastor Manuel never lost sight that God could provide for all of the needs of his little flock,
and that not only could He provide to replace the church building they had lost, but He could also provide to make it even larger than the original. And God did provide. He provided the funds necessary for the purchase and transport of building materials, he provided the wisdom necessary to find the best materials at the best prices, and he provided willing laborers. Many Mexican and Huichol church members sacrificed and offered unimaginable physical labor in getting the materials to the site and in the building process.

This past Wednesday, two boatloads of brothers and sisters from the Mexican Tepic church and around 200 Huichols celebrated our fulfilled dream.
Pastor Manuel chose to call the celebration, not an “Inauguration Service,” but a “Dedication Service.” He said that anything can be “inaugurated,” but this service was to dedicate the building as well as the “church” itself, the people, to faithfully continue serving and reaching out to those who have never heard the “Good News.” Many prayers, gifts of love and much special care literally made “faith become sight.”

Click here to see a slideshow of the last phase of the construction project, the roof.

Click here to see a slideshow of yesterday's church dedication celebration.