When Porfirio Perez didn’t get into the back of the truck with the group of young people I was taking to the Bible conference in nearby Maravillas, I asked his nephew, Otoniel, why he wasn’t joining us. “He’s embarrassed because he doesn’t have any shoes” came the reply. The following day, when we returned to Chacacal, I quietly took the 15-year-old Mayan boy aside and had him stand on a piece of paper and traced his foot. When I returned to Porfirio’s village a few weeks later, I handed him a shoebox. As the photo above shows, he couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day. He now gladly jumps into the truck on any occasion and has been to two Bible conferences in his new shoes.
We do Bible conferences because there is a great hunger here in Chiapas for God’s Word. Last week I spent a good part of two days in Revelation with a group of 45 young people. Last weekend I met with 30 pastors for two days of teaching on leadership and ministry skills. Ramona and I spent the Easter week-end in the community of Emiliano Zapata presenting an Old Testament seminar, celebrating Easter and in between, helping a group of young people learn to bake in the new oven they had just built of adobe. They hope to start a business, as no baked goods are available in the village. Among other things, Ramona taught them to make pizza, something they’d never heard of but devoured as it came out of the oven with savory ham and pineapple. We taught the Pentateuch and how to make pizza, pumpkin pie and banana nut bread. On Sunday morning we read the Easter Story and remembered Jesus in our communion celebration with tortillas and coffee: the bread and wine of Zapata.
Tomorrow morning we begin a two-day colloquium at the seminary here on music and liturgy with professors from Guatemala and Mexico City. On Sunday I preach in the Presbyterian church of one of my students here in San Cristobal and in the afternoon I drive to Chilon to help the Baptist church with their first ever business meeting and to teach about baptism.
Coming up: a quick trip to the southern border to renew the permit on our vehicle and then a business and training meeting in Zapata on Wednesday, training for the new governing board of a church in Pueblo Nuevo on Thursday, a children’s ministry day on Friday in Jardin, working on a course for church treasurers at the seminary and a stewardship workshop for the church in Yajalon.
Ministry is always a blend of the planned and the unexpected, the programmed and the serendipitous. We are here in Mexico, doing, we hope, what you would be doing if you were here - making disciples in the spirit of Paul, encouraging in the spirit of Barnabas, and baking in the spirit of Sara Lee.
This is our understanding of mission - investing in people and joining them in discovering God’s Word.