After spending a week south of the border in the states of Veracruz and Oaxaca Mexico, I return encouraged by the work of the Gospel among our partners as well as national brothers and sisters who have been called, equipped and released to see the Gospel carried through channels of agriculture, community development and rehabilitation/restoration. Here are a few reflections ..
“I thank my God on every remembrance of you” – Time and again you see Paul on his missionary journeys returning to churches he planted and people he poured the Gospel into. He went back encouraging the believers and being encouraged Himself that God continues to accomplish his redemptive plan through disciples who are making disciples. I hadn’t been back to Oaxaca since 2010, my first journey there. UBC had sent a few teams between then and now, but I wanted to get back there and see how the Gospel was bearing fruit. While this particular trip had me splitting time between working in Ellen’s village of Atlahuilco in the state of Veracruz and in Oaxaca, both places reflected what I had read and heard in updates, the Word going forth both declared and demonstrated. We were able to experience first hand the work of translation happening among the Nauwhatl people (see more below), work alongside those in Oaxaca who had come from abusive and broken pasts and are in need of restoration (that only the Gospel can give), as well as serve local pastors leading out in agriculture development in closed villages where these projects open doors of proclamation. I was able to meet many who I had never had the chance to, but had heard from a distance (Gaspar and Estella), to reconnecting with church planters like Chincho in La Cumbre, to seeing the work of La Cosecha bringing those who’ve rebelled or had their lives wrecked to the Redeemer.
“Faith comes by hearing …” – Many of you have read either on this blog or through personal updates of Ellen Burns’ IMB project of translation work among the Nauwhatl people. This group spans throughout a few different states of Mexico and is predominantly an oral culture. Statistics show that 85% of of the world are oral learners and yet so much of our evangelism is based on written materials and logical outlines. However, when we step into a culture that either doesn’t have a written language or if they do, isn’t accustomed to using it, we must adjust and adapt our methodology. Even if a people does have a written language, as do the Nauwhatl, different dialects can determine the forming of words and their meanings. There has been a written New Testament in the Nauwhatl language, however it is a collaboration of varying Nauwhatl dialects and so it can’t really be of comprehensive use across different pockets of this people. Not to mention, if they don’t understand the value of literacy, to what use is the written word. All that to say, it was a great opportunity to watch 12 people from Ellen’s church gather in her and Candace’s home on a Sunday afternoon and translate the first of twenty-five story set that they are working on.
Ellen had written the story in Spanish and allowed the group to tell it to each other in Spanish to make sure they understood the meaning and could retell it to each other. After that, those that knew Nauwhatl the best were able to translate it from Spanish to the indigenous language and tell it to another native speaker. After they got the story to where they felt like it was close in meaning within the Nauwhatl language, they recorded three takes. These three takes will then be shared with an unbelieving, older generation Nauwhatl speaker to back translate it from the indigenous dialect to Spanish, to see if the original rendering has held it’s meaning in the heart language.
The hope is that this story set will speak to the heart of the Gospel and ultimately be the Word planted in the lives’ of those within this particular village of Atlahuilco to bear eternal fruit for years to come.
“Whatever you’ve done to the least of these my brothers, you have done unto me …” – Numerous villages throughout the state of Oaxaca, not to mention the country are closed to a Gospel witness. Whether that is because of fear of the indigenous culture being tampered with or just outright rejection of
the Gospel in exchange for a syncretistic mix of Catholicism and Animism doesn’t matter. These villages still need the hope of Christ. We were able to work with both rehabilitation centers and an agriculture center that are led by indigenous pastors who have hearts to see community development lead to Gospel declaration and demonstration. Many times taking rabbit or sheep production into a village that is closed to the Gospel by local officials will create avenues for physical and spiritual needs to be met.
Each of these types of missions has their role and function in the mission of making disciples. While the methodology may be different the focus is still the same – the Gospel of redemption, reconciliation and restoration. I found myself on the last day in Mexico digging in fertilizer and using shovels and hoes to break up the dirt to mix together. I was reminded as a hit some very hard pieces, that while Mexico seems to be ‘reached’ that there are many who remained unreached, because there are still yet to be churches established in these villages and pockets of people groups to be able to reach their own
through disciple-making. We must not stop tilling the soil, planting seed, watering the ground until we see a harvest of churches rooted in Gospel declaration and demonstration.
Written by Ryan Martin