Our first Sunday in Oaxaca we made the two and one half hour drive to La Cumbre – a Zapotec village at about 9,300 foot elevation. Our base of operation while there was the home of Chincho and Maria. Both Chincho and Maria are new believers and have recently converted an outbuilding on their property to a house of worship. The building made of rough sawn planks was used when we were there last October for storage and is about 14 feet by 20 feet in size. Since October the dirt floor has been replaced by concrete, and a wall that had divided the room into two rooms has been removed except for a three-foot section along one wall that serves as a place for a light switch and one electrical outlet for the area. Only two small light bulbs hang from what had been the center of the two original separated areas, so the area is dimly lit. Crude wooden benches have been added along two of the walls, and a few plastic and folding metal chairs were located along the other two walls.
We were privileged to participate in their worship service, which was led by Felipe, a forty-year old young man who has been discipled by Kerry Johnson for the past few years. In addition to myself and the other seven gringos who were present there were about thirty-five people from the village who were present. About ten of these were adults, and the rest were young people and kids. The locals are either brand new believers or non-believers, so the service was much different than a typical worship service in our church. Because they have no musical instruments, songbooks, or years of tradition singing hymns, there was no music.
Because folks there have little or no experience with or knowledge of the Bible, Felipe spent about an hour of the three-hour service doing Bible drills and fun activities to help them learn the books of the Bible. We had brought items with us that Felipe gave away as prizes for winners of the drills, and everyone really enjoyed this activity.
Then Felipe began a time of teaching about the Lord’s Supper, which they were going to observe for the very first time the next Sunday. Of the almost thirty new believers in the village, five have taken the step of following the Lord in Baptism. He taught them that this step was a prerequisite to taking the Lord’s Supper.
It was during this time of the service that the Lord in a unique and loving way that only He can do chose to give me a priceless experience that I will never forget. As Felipe was challenging the believers who had not been baptized to take this action of obedience and proclamation of their new faith in Jesus my attention was drawn to a young woman named Licha. She was sitting on a bench along the wall opposite me. And, I noticed she was leaning against that small portion of the old wall that had not been removed like she needed something to hold her upright in her seat. She wasn’t looking at all at Felipe as he spoke and moved about the open room with his Bible open in his hand. I assumed she was listening and God’s Holy Spirit was touching her heart. She was doing nothing to attract attention, but as her eyes filled with tears, I found mine doing the same.
After composing myself I whispered a question to Mauri, who was seated next to me, pointing out what I was observing and asked if the young lady might be sick or need assistance. Mauri’s response was that she was sure she was okay physically – the Lord was dealing with her as a one-week-old new believer. I also learned from Mauri some of Licha’s past that might explain some of the emotion I could see in her eyes. She was a beautiful young lady in her late teens or early twenties, she had a young son about two-years old, her husband had abandoned her, and to make things even worse she was from another village.
I found myself with an overwhelming urge to get up right in the middle of Felipe’s teaching to give Licha a hug and try to console her, but I didn’t want to scare her or have her and the others think I had lost my mind. So, all I could do was shed tears of sympathy with her and pray for her for the rest of that service and since. God, who is LOVE, flooded my heart with an unbelievable love for her in that moment. Some of the intensity of that moment has diminished, but I still feel a special love for her.
I found myself first angry at and then feeling sorry for a man who could walk away from his wife and child as her husband had. I found myself so thankful that the Lord had led Kerry and Mauri to her village to not only bring her Good News, but to bring a ministry that also focuses on helping the many widows and abandoned mothers like Licha to eke out a living. (One of the things we did on the return visit to La Cumbre the following Wednesday with our second group from our church was to use a new tiller to break ground and provide seeds for Licha and other women without men or sons old enough to do this.)
I was thankful that the Lord had done all the many things He had done to allow me to be there in that little room in the mountains of Oaxaca on that special Sunday in July of 2010. I hope and pray that I can return once again to La Cumbre in the future to see what the Lord is doing in Licha’s life, to help her where I can, and to share God’s love and encouragement with her.
Written by Mike Lawrence