Tunkas

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In light of recent events, it’s easy to fall to the temptation of asking: Does God see; does He even care? Fortunately, as we are observant, God show us examples of that care, how we are worth more to Him “than many sparrows.”

We witnessed one such example, in Tzalam, Yucatan. There, in a garage that served as a place of worship, we gathered in prayer. We asked God to bless the fledgling congregation led there by Pastor Eucebio Pech, and we prayed that out of that place would rise up witnesses of God’s love for that community and beyond.

Finishing our prayer, my brother, Mike, who had been visiting with his Chi Alpha team, asked me what the needs are in that community. He wanted to know the hindrances to the gospel in that place. I told him quite frankly that transportation was the big issue. The pastor didn’t own a car, and the 10 year old scooter that he used no longer had the power to drive the hills between his town and the people of Tzalam. The only way to reach his congregation was to borrow a motorcycle that wasn’t always readily available. He needed dependable transportation to be able to faithfully continue his ministry in Tzalam and in the other four communities where pastored. Mike and the team left with a burden in their heart and a mind to do something about it.

Pastor Eucebio's son, Niger with the suspect part of the broken scooter.Having returned to DC, they had found that the work that they had done in fundraising had more than covered the cost of their trip. In fact, they had $1,000 dollars to invest in a used motorcycle for Eucebio. That’s wonderful news, but we haven’t got to the good part yet.

It turned out that in the course of the month and a half that had passed from the time that the team had returned until they notified me about the extra offering, Eucebio’s 10 year old scooter had finally broken down. Without funds to fix it, not only was ministry in Tzalam in jeopardy, but also in the other missions to which he had to travel. The $1,000 blessing arrived “just in time” to fill the need.

So, as we reflect on God’s involvement in our lives, I hope that you are encouraged by how he met the need of one pastor in Tunkás, Yucatán, and I pray that, even before you find yourself questioning, you’ll be reminded that in whatever situation you may be in, He knows.

Pastor Eucebio, gladly receiving the help from DC Chi Alpha.

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The following post is a guest submission from my brother Mike.  He’s a missionary to the university students of Washington DC where he directs the DC Chi Alpha Team and pastors a Chi Alpha chapter @ American University.  This post was first uploaded to his personal blog at theGodzwas.com and recounts his experiences with us here in the Yucatan.

I will always take students on short term mission trips. It’s amazing how the simplest truths become profound whe you experience them in a different cultural context. This exactly what happened on our spring break trip to Yucatán, Mexico.

I lead a group of AU Chi Alpha students to work with my brother Dave, who’s just beginning his second term as a missionary there. We partnered with Pastor Eucebio Pech in his outreach to 4 different communities in central Yucatan. It was a full week of ministry! We led or participated in 7 services and dug out the foundation for Pastor Eucebio’s mission in the town of Tunkás.

We were able to experience some amazing moments. On Sunday night, we saw God hold back the rain so we could lead the mission’s first ever open air outreach in Tunkás. On Monday, we participated in an outreach where dozens were fitted with a free pair of glasses–a daily reminder of the love of Jesus every time they put them on. The next day brought a surprise visit to the local cenote and we got a chance to go swimming in crystal clear water 80 feet below ground level. Wednesday gave us a chance to practice our balloon tying and help a share the gospel to all of the kids in San Antonio Chuc. O our last day of ministry, we experienced God’s presence as we prayed for the churches and visited members in 2 small communities. God held back the rain again that night, and we were able to do one last open air service in the town square.

I mentioned simple truths becoming profound on mission trips. For us, it was the power of pushing past discomfort to allow God to work through us. We slept in hammocks and shared one toilet for the entire team. It would have been more comfortable to stay in a hotel, but the location of the house helped us to maximize our work and opened a door for the owner to hear the gospel. It would have been easier to hide behind our limited Spanish and keep the Yucatecos at a distance, but when we pushed aside our embarrassment, relationships were formed and the love of Jesus was expressed. It would have been much more comfortable to use our lack of construction experience as an excuse to give a half-hearted effort, but when we pushed past inefficiency and sore muscles, wer able to see a hole turn into the foundation of a church. It was a lesson learned in Mexico, but it wasn’t left there. Our team prayer is that God would help us to step into the uncomfortable places we avoid on campus so we can depend on His power to do what we can’t. Profound truth, learned on the mission field, but meant to live by.

It’s interesting how God seems to speak more clearly to us as we move from our familiar surroundings and everyday routines. Did this article bring to mind something that God spoke to you when you were pushed past your comfort zone? Share it with us!

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A picture of our STL vehicle in downtown Tunkas. More on why we were there later. On January first, instead of being in bed recouping from the events of the night before, we hopped in the STL vehicle and headed to Tunkas, where we had expected to go a few days before, for the laying of the first stone of the mission being planted by Pastor Eucebio Pech. I had been invited to preach the service by Manuel Diaz, the Regional Presbyter.

It was, in fact an opportunity that I had almost missed. I had been invited previously to preach this same service on the 25th of December, Christmas Day, but as we had already decided to spend that day at home as a family, I had had to say no. Fortunately, the calendars had been confused, and, when the confusion had been cleared, a way was made for me to participate.

The empty lot had been set up for the service. This was the first time that we had ever attended a “stone-laying” service in this our 4th year of experience here in the Yucatán. In this case, all four missions overseen by Pastor Eucebio were present for the event. On the lot, where there had been not much more than a pile of rocks, there were now chairs and a tarp under which the groups assembled. Also there was a table on which was set a glass box. In the glass box was a Bible, a hymnal, a scroll, and a series of peso coins.

Manuel Diaz explains the significance of the various items in the box: a Bible, the basis of the mission's faith, the hymnal, the praise of the believers, a scroll with the names of the founding members, and peso coins to signify the prosperity of the mission. I asked Manuel about the box. He explained to me that the box would be set into the actual foundation of the church, where a cement vault had been prepared to receive it. The items in the box were symbolic: the Bible signified the beliefs upon which the church is founded, the hymnal signified the praise and adoration of that would be soon lifted up in that building, while the coins signified the prosperity that the believers hoped would be a part of its developing story. The scroll contained all of the names of the founding members of the church.

We sang, I preached on Psalm 121, a pilgrim’s song, about the journey upon which the church was embarking, and scriptures were read. At the end of the service, we moved to the laying of the stone. Manuel Diaz asked the members of the mission to come forward and place their hands on the box while he prayed. After the prayer was over, Pastor Eucepio and I carried the box to the vault and placed it inside. We sang as the workers present sealed the vault. Then Pastor Eucebio and Manuel Diaz placed the first stone (an actual rock) on top of the vault.

The glass box was placed in a vault in the foundation of the church. As the celebration continued into the evening, we shared a meal, greeted many who had participate with us, and tried to take in the significance of the event. It had been a great beginning. Our prayer that night was that it might be as well the beginning of something great.

Note: You can see these and other pictures of the event here: http://www.disciplemexico.org/gallery?album=LayingTheFirstStone_DiscipleMexico


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Work Among the Maya

One of the missions that Pastor Eucepio serves. During one of the sessions of our past ACLAME Summit there was a bit of discussion regarding our role as American Missionaries. The general concensus was that our role had moved from that of a pioneer to that of support of the national church, and looking at the growth of Christianity that has ocurred in southern hemisphere in the past years it is easy to arrive at that conclusion. Nevertheless, one statment, made by fellow missionary and Director of Intercultural Doctoral Studies, DeLonn Rance, stuck with me. When the group was asked whether they considered themselves pioneer or support missionaries, he stated, “Every missionary should be in some way a pioneer.”

At the same meeting, even as DeLonn’s words were fresh in my mind, God was opening up an opportunity to fulfill our roles as pioneers here in the Yucatán. Mike Hadinger, a missionary to Oaxaca, Mexico, spoke with me about the initiative that the Mexican Assemblies of God had been organizing over the past year. He told me of the several ethnic groups that had been targeted by the National Department of Missions and the need that they had of missionaries to partner with those who were being sent to reach these groups. As we met with Dave Greco, our Area Director, we began to see a vision materializing for pioneer ministry among the Maya people of the Yucatán, the largest ethnic group on the peninsula.

Cooking handmade tortillasAs the Yucatán becomes increasingly urban, many Maya are leaving their ancestral villages for the city in order to find work in the cities of Mérida or Cancún. Those that are left behind, either because of age or inability to speak Spanish, find themselves marginalized as resources, including spiritual ones, are distributed according to population. Those who feel a burden to reach these forgotten groups, some who live without even the basic necessities, find their remoteness and relative poverty a challenge especially in the current economic situation. Our desire as we begin this our second term is to facilitate indigenous ministry among these populations, focusing on church planting, discipleship, and social outreach.

From left to right: Carlos Baeza, Eucepio Pech, Manuel Diaz, Antonio Mendez Our first trip to one such population center took place on December 5th as District Missions Director Antonio Mendez, District Director of Missions to Ethnic Groups Carlos Baeza, and I joined with Regional Presbyter Manuel Diaz to visit Eucepio Pech, pastor of 4 missions in the Tunkas area. Eucepio drives a motorcycle from village to village over some difficult terrain to attend to each congregation, whose meeting places range from family homes to church buildings and seemingly everything in between.

On the day we met we visited the work in Tzalam where a pickup truck serves as the only public transportation. It traverses a rocky path twice a day to reach the inhabitants of the village. The mission meets at the home of Antonio Gamboa Gonzalez. There we spoke of the work while women spent the afternoon preparing handmade tortillas over a wood burning stove. It was easy to see during the course of the day that Pastor Eucepio had a mind to work, and we were excited to be able to help. Before we were through, we had prayed and committed to helping him realize the vision he believes God has given him for the region.

Antonio Gamboa chiding me for not having learned Maya. We realize, however, that this trip is just one of several that we’ll need to make to get a true picture of the need among the Maya. As we have continued to speak of our desire to reach out, we have heard more and more of areas of need. Fortunately, we’ve had help along the way. Cruz Velazquez, the National Director of Missions to Ethnic Groups, himself a pioneer among the Tarahumara Indians, in Chihuahua stands by to help us navigate the path to be trod, and relationships are developing that may even lead to a church planting network.

As we move forward in this pioneering effort, we ask for your prayers. Pray for wisdom and pray that our eyes might be open to the opportunities as they present themselves to us.

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