It’s been awhile since I have written much on this blog and, to tell you the truth, so much has happened during our first month here that I haven’t really had much time to process it all. It has been such a blessed endeavor. In some ways this month has been the most humiliating month of my life. I can’t ever remember being so misunderstood and unsure of myself.
For example, I met a sweet middle-aged woman my first week here who had come over to ask for prayer. I told her as sincerely as I could in my best Spanish “Quiero conocerte mejor” “I want to know you better.” Unfortunately what I actually said was “Quiero conocerte mujer” which means “I want to know you, woman.” Although this unintentional mistake had Biblical undertones she seemed a bit taken aback. Thank God there was another person there who could explain what I really meant. Another time I was asked to give my testimony to forty or so people who had come together for a night of prayer and song. No one had told us we were going to give a talk so I was completely unprepared. I tried my best to talk about an experience when I was younger and I really came to know the Lord. I talked about a time I encountered God on a retreat, unfortunately what I said was “Me encontré con Dios en un retrete.” “I met God on a toilet.” The people blushed and laughed and a few probably felt sorry for this poor gringo missionary.
It has been like seventh grade all over. I have had to learn the culture mostly by humiliating myself, my family, or my mission team. I have called Moses my best son “major” when I meant oldest “mayor.” I have agreed to things I could never do, thinking it was something else. We have done things common and quite acceptable in the US which have brought us near scandal here. Who would have thought recycling could bring shame upon the missionaries! These times of humiliation and at times utter abasement and confusion have been the ugly side of mission life.
Nevertheless, notwithstanding our blunders, there have been some things here that have been hard to erase from my memory- scenes of poverty and tragedy that still fill my mind with pain and my eyes with tears. We have seen lives drenched in despair and apathy, some completely washed away upon alcohol. We have seen children without any visible hope of living to maturity, starving for attention, affection, and food. We have visited arid villages whose wells no longer give water and we have stood by at funerals comforting parents who morn the death of their children and families that grieve for their loved ones who have had their lives sucked up by the dry, unforgiving desert. This is perhaps the hardest part of mission life here-the bad side of mission life.
In spite of all these common evils here, we have seen a people who long for God. A people who truly understand what Jesus meant when He said that “Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.” I have seen these rivers. I have seen them in the beautiful children laughing and running throughout the church yard holding hands with my own children and offering them one of the only toys they have. I have seen them in the worn and cracked faces of the women, each crack preserving a story or faith and prayer. I have seen them in the strong and pious fathers who struggle against the culture of alcohol and machismo to lead their families in a religious culture often devoid of men. I have seen them as people drop everything they are doing in order to partake of the bread of life. We have visited ranchos and ejidos where people crowd the chapel to sing songs and pray together, they pray for rain, for healing, for their families, for Mexico, for faith. These times of sharing the Gospel, of really coming to understand its power, of seeing it transform a person’s self-image and impart a deep radiant hope have made any of our difficult times endurable, this has been the good side of mission life.
Over the next few posts I would like to share with you a few stories of our first month here in General Cepeda. I want to try and give you an understanding of what we do here, its challenges and its difficulties, and our great hopes for what God is speaking to our hearts. Sometimes we walk upon the chaotic waters upon which our Lord has called us to walk, at other times we simply ask Him to save us just like He saved Peter so long ago. In spite of all our faults and weaknesses, we know that He who is in us is greater than anything or anyone we may encounter in this place. He is our hope, our joy, and the reason we live. He is our entire message. Without Him we can and have done nothing. Thank you Jesus for this missionary life.
 This story deserves a post of its own, so I will wait until next post.