Mexico

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As I write this update, Mexico is celebrating its Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May), the anniversary of the unlikely defeat of the larger, better equipped, and expertly trained French force near the city of Puebla by General Ignacio Zaragoza and his smaller Mexican army in 1862.

The event is a source of national pride and a cause for celebrations of Mexican identity, especially in the United States. However, it’s also a reminder of what it means to win the battle but lose the war. The French went on to defeat the Mexican army and the Mexican people were subjugated to French rule for three years under Maximillian the I.

Over Easter Week, we had the chance to join together with fellow Assemblies of God missionaries serving all across the country to reflect on the work here in modern Mexico. We rejoiced to hear of:

  • Indigenous pastors being trained and launched into ministry.
  • Church planting movements rising up in unreached areas.
  • University students waking up to the message of the gospel.

It’s truly exciting to be a part of a group of men and women who are piercing the darkness that has shrouded Mexico, turning back the enemy in some of his key strongholds.

Nevertheless, we are facing some sobering facts:

  • 9 out of 10 Mexicans do not have a relationship with the Lord.
  • Quasi-christian cults like Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons are gaining influence.
  • Organized corruption is a continued threat to social transformation.

Battles are being won, but the war for the heart of Mexico is still being fought. So we appeal to you, our supporters, to intercede with us this month, praying for:

  • Anointed leaders: Winning the war calls for strong leadership. As district conventions are being held across the country, will you pray for the right people to be selected, people with a vision to reach Mexico?
  • Divine strategy: Here, in the Yucatán and throughout Mexico, initiatives are being considered to stimulate evangelism and church growth. Will you pray that the plans made and the structures put into place would be effective in reaching the lost and discipling believers?
  • Perseverance: The work of transformation requires consistency and patience. Would you pray that we will stay the course to see this change take place?

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Inspire
In a series of articles starting with our winter newsletter, we’ve been communicating our vision and stepping through how we see it being realized. In this update, we are covering the essential element of inspiration.

On Easter Sunday, I heard Jeff Peterson, pastor of Central Assembly, speak on the resurrection. In his sermon, he quoted the fictional character, Anne Shirley: “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.” As he mentioned it, I couldn’t help but think of the situation in which Mexico finds itself.

In the year 2000, Mexico was striding boldly into the future. It was emerging from economic crisis and, for the first time in 72 years, had elected a president from an opposition party, a sign that the corruption of the past was giving way to a modern democracy. However, with the war on drugs claiming an estimated 120,000 lives, and recent allegations linking the government to cooperation with the cartels, Mexico is seeing its hopes and dreams buried again.

Still, though the picture may look bleak, it is not beyond redemption. On the first Easter morning, Jesus and the cause He stood for had been dead for three days, His disciples were scattered and in hiding, but, when He arose, everything changed!

In his message, Pastor Jeff brought this home with Job 19:25-26, encouraging us to remember that, even in the darkest of times, our Savior lives to redeem, resurrect, and restore us.

As we return to Mexico one of our key tasks will be to inspire the non-believer to trust this resurrected Christ for their salvation and the believer to follow Him into a life of purpose. This will be our aim on a daily basis, whether we’re meeting with ministry leaders or our our next-door neighbors.

Speaking of inspiring, if you haven’t seen it already, check out the story of Joseph’s first half marathon. I guarantee it’ll be an encouragement.

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Maybe they heard that heat, storms, and and the recession would have Americans looking elsewhere to get their fireworks fix, because as of this morning (July 4th), the sparks were certainly flying.

It’s hard to imagine after the relative calm on Election Sunday here in the Yucatán, where, despite record turnouts at the polls, the act of voting seemed to be carried out without major incident. Still, following the allegations of abnormalities in a large majority of the country’s voting locations, the Progressive Movement Party, headed by their candidate Andrés Miguel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) is calling again for a recount “vote by vote.”

Yes, again. In 2006, a razor thin victory for the National Action Party (PAN), brought about complaints of electoral fraud and even the naming of an alternative “legitimate government” headed by AMLO. This time, the election was not so close, he was second by almost 3 million votes, but the outcomes threaten to be similar, and in the process of investigation, bombs are going off.

There are allegations of tampering being leveled against the incoming Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of having tampered with the elections as far out as five years ago, creating an image for their candidate Enrique Peña Nieto through purchased media coverage. Prediction polls, thought to have been unbiased and accurate within 2 to 3% have been proven off base by the results at the ballot box, some by 20 points or more. Vote buying has also been suggested.

To date, the rhetoric has been limited to the news outlets and perhaps isolated protests, but depending on how the process is handled, the situation could change. Reports say that the recount is underway to certify the returns. What the recount uncovers may well determine if this show is simply underway as a fireworks replacement for Mexico’s neighbor to the north or if it’s a sign of future instability for a nation that’s ready for some peace and quiet.

Protest photo used under Creative Commons by User:A1437053 and is available on wikipedia.org.

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Checking In

The kids experienced spring, fall and summer in one week!

Our last few weeks have been loaded with activity. Saying goodbye, hello, goodbye, and hello again in the span of six short days. Yes, you heard right. We left Costa Rica on Sunday the 31st of October to land in Springfield, MO, where we stayed with friends for the remainder of the week, unpacking and repacking our bags and picking up our dog Kaixin for the journey to Mérida, Mexico. By 9:30 PM on Saturday the 6th, we were back in Mérida, greeting our good friends from our home church, Gólgota, as they picked us up at the airport, 18 bags, dog and all.

We are currently residing in temporary housing as we look for a place to call home for the next four years. The kids are enrolled in their former school, and we’re all getting our exercise as we walk and utilize public transportation until we can purchase our Speed-the-Light vehicle.

That brings us to some prayer points for this post Please pray:

  • That we’ll be able to acquire a versatile vehicle at a good price that will serve us well for the next two terms. (Suggestions anyone?)
  • That we’ll find affordable, safe, and comfortable housing that will facilitate our life and ministry here in Mérida and the Yucatán
  • That we’ll be able to re-enter wisely and gracefully into the lives of our Yucateco friends and ministry partners.
  • That our residence visa, basically the key to everyday life here in Mexico will be available soon

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Dave Greco, our area director, emailed us in anticipation of this Sunday’s celebration of the Resurrection. In his email, he reflected on a missiology lecture given during his days at language school. In the lecture, the guest speaker recounted the events of Christ’s passion–the betrayal of a friend, the abandonment of his followers, the mockery of a trial that led to his execution, even a plot used to cover up the resurrection. He reviewed them all to emphasize his point. “God is not limited by circumstances. He is well able to work His will, even in corrupt situations.”

Even though it seemed that Satan was given a free hand to accomplish his will, even though it seemed that everything that could go wrong did, the empty tomb on Sunday morning proved that God still won the day.

As we look at the situation in Mexico, it may seem that evil has had it’s way. The news reports of assassinations, kidnapings, and war between drug traffickers and the government paint a desperate picture, but God is not limited by circumstances.

So this month, on the eve of the celebration of our Savior’s resurrection, I’d ask that you’d pray, that in the midst of this corrupt situation that God would show himself to be sovereignly in control in Mexico. Pray that in this country where sin seems to increase, that grace might increase all the more. Pray that where evil has held this country in slavery redemption might occur, and that where hope seems to have died, a resurrection might take place.

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Police Officers don masks for protection.

Police Officers don masks for protection.

The early afternoon is usually a usually a time of hustle and bustle here in Mérida. Students are heading home for “comida” the normal big meal of the day. Families are planning for the rest of the day–sports activities, a trip to the mall, an evening downtown, or school meetings to attend. But everything is strangely quiet. There is noticeably less traffic on the avenue near our home. There is no sound from the loudspeaker that normally broadcasts the names of the students whose parents have arrived to drive them home. That’s because there hasn’t been school since Monday. All public events have been canceled and activities that would gather people together, from churches to team practices have been prohibited, all to prevent the spread of what is now the scourge of Mexico, the Swine Flu.

Our understanding that something was awry began when our friends, Josh and April Amiot notified us that they were returning to Mexico City to attend the funeral of one of their good friends and ministry co-workers. An otherwise healthy mother of three, Nelly didn’t fit the profile of those who die of the flu. Normally the very old or the very young, under six, are those who succumb. Of course, this was just the trickle before the flood. By last Friday the 24th, we had heard of hundreds sick and dozens dead as the Swine Flu spread rapidly across central Mexico. At the end of the weekend, there were reports of sicknesses in 19 of the 32 Mexican States and drastic measures taken to stem the spread of this highly contagious, and surprisingly deadly, conglomeration of three different flu viruses.

Here in Mérida, and across Mexico, all schools have been closed until the 6th of May and all public gatherings have been prohibited until further notice. Labor Day, May 1st here in Mexico, will be observed without the customary parades. Sporting events have been held without fans, and our district convention, set to have begun yesterday has been suspended until a later date. Even church services are against the law. Those that need to work in the public sector have taken to donning masks to protect them against the airborne virus.

But we are not writing to scare you. Our family is well, and to date, no officially recognized case of Swine Flu has been recorded here in Mérida. Still, there is a definite tension in the air as anxiety and fear have taken hold. There is a sense of helplessness apparent as society waits for word of progress against this disease.

But we are not helpless, we can cry out to God and know that He will hear and respond to our requests. So we ask you to join with us as we intercede for this nation. Ilona Hadinger, a fellow Mexico Missionary and the coordinator of our prayer devotions on MexicoAG.org offers these points to guide us in our intercession:

  • Pray for the sick; for an end to the suffering.
  • Pray for families who have lost a loved one to the virus.
  • Intercede for believers as they boldly pray for the sick and proclaim the Good News of eternal life.
  • Ask for the peace of God to be felt across the land, and for many to commit their lives to the Prince of Peace.
  • Pray for pastors, Christian leaders, and missionaries to remain healthy with a steadfast trust in the Lord
  • .

Please join with us during this crucial time.

Photo provided by sarihuella on flickr.com

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IMG 1612Those of you who have read the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and recognize the style of the title of this post are possibly anticipating a story of magic and mystery or an epic struggle between good and evil. In that you may be a bit disappointed. This story is instead about the reality of missionary life. How, try like we may, we are unable to set aside one role for the sake of another. We are missionaries, but we are husbands and fathers first.

It all started on Saturday, November 9th, following a long night and an early morning of family activities. (Jonathan had just celebrated his 6th birthday, and had a basketball game the next day to boot.) I was set to embark on a 18 hour bus trip to the Mexican Assemblies of God General Council, a once every two years meeting of ministers, in Puebla. I boarded the bus at 10:00 and began an adventure that would span four days and about $30 in cell phone credit.

The first two days were fairly uneventful, a stop for seafood in Champotón, Campeche, a late night taco feast in Cardenas, Tabasco and then the push to reach Mexico City for a bit of a tour of Chapultapec Park and the Plaza Garibaldi, all expected preliminaries as we prepared to participate in what was shaping up to be a fairly important council. However, the excitement that was generating as we were arriving at Puebla was not related to the council issues at all.

“Hi. Hurt my foot. Icing it now,” read the message from Kelly at 11:00 AM Monday morning. The rhythm of the council had been broken, at least for me. I had tried to dedicate myself to the role of council participant, but the role of husband and father had turned my attention back to a different reality. Kelly had fallen bringing groceries in from the car. A false step on entering the house had left her with pain and a rapidly swelling foot.

Kelly was putting the best face on the situation, grabbing info from the Internet about how to treat the injury at home. I advised that she head to the hospital for an x-ray, but she was still hopeful that it was only a sprain. A few hours later, I sent another message asking how she was: “peor (worse),” read the reply. So, 18 hours apart, I sat praying and wondering, while Kelly picked up the kids and headed to the hospital for x-rays.

The x-rays were taken, and the diagnosis was a slight fracture of the left foot. A splint and complete rest for the foot was the prescription. Bravely, Kelly told me to stay in Puebla. I recommended that she call on a few friends to help with the chores around the house, something that was already in process. Still, the next 8 hours would change Kelly’s situation from difficult to near impossible.

A call at 5:00 am on Tuesday woke me up from my uneasy sleep. Jonathan had thrown up 2 times. Now, Kelly not only had to maintain a functioning family, she had to attend to a sick child. I was no longer a council participant, I was a husband and father trying to get back as fast as he could.

Phone calls to friends were made, flights and buses checked, and I was on my way. In the taxi at 6:30, on the bus for the two-hour trip to Mexico City at 7:00, at the airport at 9:00 and on the plane by 10:00. In 6 hours, I was back in Mérida, amazed and thankful for a return trip that took only a third of the trip there.

So here I am again in Mérida doing minstry, ministering to my family and injured wife. Instead of voting on measures I’m measuring servings of cereal for breakfast, instead of trips to the convention center, I’m taking trips to school, but I know that I’m where I’m supposed to be.

Reflecting on the events of the week, I was reminded that God doesn’t just call individuals to the field. He calls families, and those that He calls he doesn’t leave to fend for themselves, nor does He give any member the ability to specialize (i.e. “My ministry is preach and teach, yours is to the family.”) He has sent us all so that when one is weak another can be strong. It just turned out in this case that the one who was called to be strong had to travel 750 miles in order to get home.

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