Saturday, December 29, 2012

Valley Bible Journal Part 2...and Urbana 2012

The Camino Global team is at Urbana, including teammates Tiffany Taylor and Tina Barham, and our friend from Dallas Joe Briones.  I was at Urbana 1984 (a while ago, with Andy Grosh and others, back when Urbana took place in Champaign, IL) and Urbana 2006, with a mission team in St. Louis.  Follow Urbana 2012 at #U12 on Twitter.  Picture below.

A mobilization related prayer request...pray for the quick recuperation of Karin Benningfield, our mission mobilization point person.  She and her  husband Cecil were in a head-on collision last week...fortunately they walked away, but are a bit banged up, especially Karin.

Here's the second installment of my journal written when Valley Bible Church was here several years ago.  If you missed the first part of it, go back to the post yesterday.  

Relationships and Hope
In Latin America, ministry is relationships.  Perhaps that’s the case, or should be, everywhere, but certainly one of the most rewarding aspects of the team’s time here was the friendships that quickly began, among ourselves and with national Mexican believers.  What further promoted this dynamic was the fact that all the team members stayed in homes of Mexican church families.  When you eat and pray and laugh and worship and get sick with people, it sure helps you bond.

Some relationships were tested in unique ways also, like when Ted and Salvador gathered up fire ants and put them in Kirby’s bed, or when Jonathan played harmonica until two in the morning, and used his harmonica case to provide temporary housing to a small scorpion he found.  But without a doubt the highlight of the trip for all of us happened Thursday night.

Five of the guys stayed on the second floor of the López mango-colored home.  It was a perfect place for them, almost a dorm-like feel, allowing (theoretically) the López family to sleep while Ted and four of the twelve disciples engaged in all sorts of rowdy behavior, which shall go with description here.  From their rooms they had a phenomenal view of Southeastern Mexico City.  On a clear day they could see the homes of literally millions of people.  At night, the view was spectacular.  The labyrinth of streets directly below them was illuminated by dim white-orange lamplight, and provided an almost surreal spectacle of high-density Latin urban life.  In the distant, the lights of the city stretched to beyond the line of sight.  Earlier in the week part of the team climbed Cerro de la Estrella, or “Star Hill,” and were rewarded with a breathtaking view of the city from a bit farther north. 

Iztapalapa.  Known as the most dangerous, criminally active area in the world's largest city, Iztapalapa is a municipality that truly sets the standard for spontaneous growth in a city and culture where planning is not what you would say is high up on the list of cultural priorities, urban planning being no exception.  Concrete slab houses slosh in the valleys and surge up hills and dormant volcanoes that years ago found themselves in the center of this metropolis, victims of the voracious appetite of urban sprawl.  Ted said when he mentioned “Iztapalapa” to one of the people in the church in California, he got a less than positive response.  Ah, but with the Holy Spirit and a bunch of teens committed to telling people about him, the scales tipped in favor of an awesome experience

Hope sees the impossible, the invisible and the inevitable.  Someday, and maybe someday not too far away, God will rule here, and things will be different.  The King will redeem all the garbage pits of the world, and angels will direct busy intersections.  Living water will be served to us in abundance, and the air will buzz with the Holy Spirit of God.  Justice and righteousness, words so foreign and far away to this place right now, will be proclaimed on billboards and bus stops.  And perhaps more spectacular than anything else...people will be made whole.  The eternal souls of men and women, of youth and children, will be uncontrollably happy.  Sin will be banished from this place.  The King is coming, the King has come.  Everyone will bow their knee and be humbled before Him.  Corruption will disappear.  Injustice will be crushed.  The King has come!  Let earth receive her King!  Let Iztapalapa finally rest in her Creator!

It is stressful for a missionary in dealing with expectations of a group from the States.  Missionaries even talk about how church teams from different areas of the country are harder or easier to work with.  Some teams feel like if they are not constantly involved in physical labor, digging footers or painting buildings, they are not “working” and therefore not being productive, not taking advantage of their experience to the fullest.  So much of this is cultural, and generally speaking the farther east and north you get in the States, the more people are oriented towards a “work-conscious” mentality. 

Monday, during a lengthy orientation meeting, we talked about the marked differences between Mexican and U.S. culture.  Many of the team members, most notably Bernie, had lived the difference in her past, and was able to strongly identify with the orientation time.  Americans, for example, usually ask “what do you do?’  Mexicans will never ask you that, but rather “tell me about your family”…or “how do you feel about this and that?”  Americans talk about abilities, knowledge, and accomplishments.  Mexicans are more prone to talk about family, faith and feelings.

Life in Mexico, and ministry in Mexico, is relational.  Many times the times you are not “doing” anything is when you are being most effective in ministry.  It is the coffee times, the informal times, the laughter, the time around the table that builds bridges to talk about Jesus.  It is amazing how much communication happens even when one does not know the language.

I was pleasantly surprised when the group was happy with not having every minute planned out.  It’s almost impossible to do that here, because suddenly a kid from the university will say, “hey, why don’t you come and see our music group practice” or “could the group do the opening jig to a Jesus film presentation we’re doing?”  Both those things happened.  Joel and Ted were cool with that.  I love Californians…well, at least Californian Christians.

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