Saturday, September 23, 2006

Laura's 54-year-old brother, Pepe, died unexpectedly Friday night
after a week-long illness. She called me crying at around 7 pm saying that he wasn't responding to treatment, and she wanted me to come pray with them. I dropped everything and headed for the hospital, but by the time I got there 20 minutes later, he had died. Thankfully, we had talked about how to lead someone to Christ, and she was able to share the plan of salvation with him earlier that afternoon while he was still conscious. He was anxious to pray with her, and 4 hours later, he was in heaven! Nothing is easy about death, but there's nothing that takes the place of the "hope" we have when a believer dies. She had to go to her house to get Pepe's papers for the hospital. Their mother, who is 80 and blind, lives with Laura and her family, but Laura said that there was no way she was going to tell her mother that Pepe had died. I can't believe how easily people in this culture lie! I told her I would go with her, but it was her obligation to tell the truth. Not easy, but she did it, for once in her life! Then the wake... all night and all the next day and night at the funeral home.

I didn't stay long after midnight since I still had to come home and make "my" birthday cake and get stuff together for "my" big birthday dinner on Saturday night after the young people's meeting...after 9:30! Sounds crazy, but that's the custom. The point is to express to everyone who comes how much their friendship means to the birthday person. I made an extra cake while I was at it to take to Laura's family. When I got home from delivering the cake at the funeral home (the wake goes on until Sunday morning), there were 10 Huichols on my front porch...hungry! So thankfully, I had extra beans prepared for "my" dinner that night, and I whipped them up some quick burritos, just in time to head to OANSA.

I had made up little bags of candy and tied them with a bow for each of the AWANA kids honor of "my" birthday. They were so happy! I passed them out as they were leaving, but they had to give me a birthday hug and kiss before they got their little bags! I made exactly 80, and there were exactly 80 counting the leaders! Sure glad there weren't 81!

Then the youth meeting, then dinner, then clean-up, then getting the music together for Sunday morning, then crash! I've already planned next year's birthday, I'm heading to one of the Huichol villages and pretending my mother never knew or told me what day I was born!!!!

I am absolutely in awe of how Martin has matured and taken on the horrendous task of pastor/leader of the Tepic church and counselor and champion for the Huichol believers. His message on Sunday was well-planned, organized and very moving. Half the congregation was crying by the end of the invitation! No one can communicate like Kirt did, but Martin is sure working on it, and between Eren and me, he's got his hands FULL of ideas to carry out and jobs to do! I hope we don't give him a heart attack! After church on Sunday, we had our annual, pre-anniversary work day at the Tepic church. Not everyone, but lots of people stay to scrub, trim, paint, polish, re-arrange and work while a few stand around leaning on their broom handles watching everyone else work. Then we eat lunch together around 4:30 or 5 and work another hour or so before we all head for home...exhausted, but satisfied.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

… it’s WHO ya know that counts …

Pastors José and Manuel and six companions just returned from a two-week trek to various villages in the magnificent Sierra Madre Mountains. It sounds like a promo line from Vacations Magazine, but don’t let the mental image fool you. It was no holiday, and the pleasure they derived from the trip was not due to the change of routine, nonetheless they returned home invigorated and with strengthened faith, renewed vision and increased determination to continue pursuit of their divine call to evangelize and disciple their Huichol brothers and sisters.

They left before dawn on the first day of their missionary journey. After 15 hours on a rural transport which stops at what seems to us like the “end of the world,” they set out on foot for another 5 or 6 hours for their first stop, the village of Los Aires, where they taught and encouraged their brothers and sisters for two days until they left for the village of Mojarras. The people from Mojarras had heard by way of the proverbial “grapevine” about “Cacáüyári,” the One True God Who sent His Son to forgive their sins, and their need to place their faith in Him. Not long ago, they sent a group to Los Aires, 5 hours away, to investigate. Several Mojarras villagers accepted the gift of salvation, and they returned to their village with the Good News.

The eight Huichol missionaries spent three days explaining, teaching and discipling in Mojarras, then they set off for another week of the same in Guásima del Caimán, the village that recently has been the site of much persecution. The Guásima believers, proving their love through great personal sacrifice, butchered a “fatted calf” in true Christian style, to share with the missionaries during their week-long stay/celebration in the village. Nearly as soon as the missionaries arrived in the village, Professor Clemente, the teacher of the village school who several months ago had deprived the children of the believers their right to attend classes and had refused to give the Christians the food staples that the government of the state of Nayarit allots through him to each tribal family, arrived on the scene. Clemente went directly to Pastor José Lopez (the main pastor/leader of the Huichol believers with whom we minister) and virtually begged him to convince the Christians to send their children to the village school. It appears that Timmy’s childhood friend, Roberto, from the Department of Human Rights followed through on their July meeting and summoned Clemente along with the municipal judges to give them an "applied civics lesson" issuing them formal reprimands and to remind Professor Clemente that the Mexican Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and the right to an education for all. Clemente left Tepic with the clear understanding that his job might be at stake!

… it’s who ya know … and it helps to be a child of the King!

The new believers of Guásima, to whom 8 more have been added during this last mission trip, are grateful for this answer to their prayers. They are still sad, however, and are praying for those of their village who continue to reject the Truth and continue to mistreat their Christian neighbors.

To see more digital pictures of the Aires/Mojarras segment of the trip, click here.
To see more digital pictures of the Guásima del Caimán segment of the trip, click here.