Sequestered high up in the Sierra Madres in Southern Mexico is an Unreached People Group (UPG) that Urbancrest recently adopted to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since this blog can be read by anyone on the internet, I cannot mention their name for fear of those who will not want us there. This people group is very religious and knows about Jesus Christ, yet they have no idea they can have a personal relationship with Him. They are told they must keep a set of rituals and regulations in order to earn eternal life. What a privilege we have to tell them that Jesus has already paid the full price for their sin through His suffering on the cross. They are only required to repent of their sin, receive the gift of salvation, and invite Him into their hearts!
Jeff Clem, Mick Lovely, and I made a trip this September seeking to work out logistics for our future teams. We were traveling with IMB missionary Jeff Holeman, two missionaries in the IMB Hands On semester program, a retired missionary that was helping Jeff connect churches like ours to UPGs, and a national pastor who was driving and translating for us. We had just a few days and much to accomplish. Although I had only been to the small village one time previously, I had learned then that in their culture the village leader’s approval was needed to do almost everything. Our hope was to find a place to spend three nights in the village, and in that time we wanted to meet with the village leaders to gain approval to be there long-term. Our goal was to return and bring teams to work and minister among the residents. If that approval was granted, we would need to find and rent a place to lodge our future teams.
It seemed nearly impossible to me that all of these goals could be accomplished in the short time we would be there. Even while I was in the U.S. asking people to pray for these tasks to be completed, I was having my doubts. After flying most of the day Sunday, we finally arrived in the city and stayed overnight. We experienced several delays after picking up the rental car early Monday, and when we finally started our journey the transmission went out on the vehicle. Therefore, we had to remain in the city another night and wait until Tuesday to head to our adopted people group.
As we finally began inching our way up the mountain early Tuesday morning, I quickly realized that the small car I had rented was not appropriate for this trip! A hurricane and a tropical storm had brought rain to the region every day for the past two weeks, therefore the gravel road was washed out in many places and the car was dragging bottom on every bump. I am sure it had nothing to do with the fact that Mick and Jeff were riding in the back seat! (Note to self: Rent a van or SUV for future trips!) What should have been a three hour trip turned into six hours. By the time we arrived at the picturesque little village around 1:00pm, I assumed that the likelihood of accomplishing our goals in the time remaining was slim. I felt certain I would be returning in early October to try again.
Elizabeth, the restaurant owner, remembered us and welcomed us once again. She had a chicken/salsa dish prepared, which she shared with us. We learned that the village leaders were meeting that very day to elect a new village president. Our missionary commented that it was best to stay away from those meetings due to the fact that the atmosphere could be contentious. I agreed with his wisdom, but wondered whether there would be another time to meet with them since we only had two days left.
After lunch we found that the building next door was a place that rented rooms. We met the lady who owned the building and she quickly rented three rooms to us. I think she even moved someone out of one of the rooms to accommodate us. It was fairly primitive for the area with an outside toilet (no seat of course), and everyone had to carry their own flushing water. We had air mattresses to make up for the shortage of beds.
We set up the rooms for our stay and then decided to take a walk around the little town. I took this walk on my first trip and already knew my way around. The main road sat on a ridge overlooking the tops of a few houses and other buildings. We passed a few stores, a bakery, and several homes as we explored. In the center of town, the most prominent building was the church. Behind the church was the community center and the primary school. Most of us ended up in the courtyard of the church at the same time, but Jeff walked past the church and straight up to a group of people who were gathered outside of the community center. He told them that he was a connector for groups in the U.S. who were interested in working in Mexican villages. After a few minutes, he walked back to us and asked if we would like to talk to the village leaders now. Of course, after traveling nearly 2500 miles, we were more than ready to talk with these leaders!
As we approached the group I could not tell which man was the leader, so I decided it was best for me to talk with the aid of Manuel, our translator. With his help, I told them of our desire to work in the area through humanitarian efforts. We were able to meet the man who had just been elected the new president of the village. We could not have been there and talking to them at a better time! They told us of some of the things they hoped we could help them with: medical teams, ESL, and programs for the children. They asked for more time to make a list, but gave us their blessing to be there and to return with the people that can help in those areas of need. Our next question was about housing: If we were going to bring in teams, would we have permission to rent a place to lodge them there? Once again they were quick to grant us what we asked for. We decided to go ahead and present our final request: Did they know of anyone that had such a place that we could rent? They all pointed to a little lady named Luz that had been standing a few feet away listening to our conversation.
Luz and her husband were building a hotel next door to the community center where we were standing. Her husband was out of the country, but she told us they had a new unit that was nearly finished except for installing the windows and doors. Half of the motel was completed and would be available at the regular rate. I had anticipated that we would be renting a house and sending construction teams to remodel it, wire it, and install bathrooms to make it suitable for American teams. To our surprise, these rooms were already complete with bathrooms and showers in each room! We made the offer to rent on an annual basis the six rooms that were near completion. Within three hours after arriving, God had allowed us to complete all of our goals! Seemingly impossible goals are very possible with our God!
The next morning we packed up and traveled back to the city. With our remaining time, we were able to get cost estimates on the furniture and equipment that will enable us to keep our team comfortable and safe. God amazed me once again as He answered your prayers for this UPG project! The Word of God is clear that we must reach across cultural barriers to preach the true Gospel of Jesus Christ to tribes and families that have never heard. Please continue to pray that God will continue opening doors so that we can build relationships among this people group. Pray that many will accept His offer of salvation and become discipled followers of Him. Please pray that a church planting movement will be established among this group. Finally, please continue to give to the Faith Promise Fund as we send teams to proclaim His truth in love.
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." ~ Matthew 24:14
~ Doss Estep, Minister of Missions