Category Archives: Oaxaca

Oaxaca – October 2015

IMG_0413What a blessing to see the light of Christ shine brightly in the small rehab center for drug and alcohol addiction.  It was in stark contrast to the world just outside the door that was celebrating The Day of the Dead.  A mixture of Catholicism and paganism.  The six ladies who were there for rehab were a blessing to each of us who had the opportunity to get to know them.  Each had a testimony about how God had delivered and was delivering them from a life of darkness and bringing them into His marvelous light.  That’s really what He does for each of us!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Written by Debbie Johnson

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Posted by on November 4, 2015 in General Missions, Mexico, Oaxaca, Samaria


Oaxaca – October 2015

IMG_0139After 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 moreIMG_0514 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 IMG_0250learners 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.

IMG_0214Ellen 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.

IMG_1012“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 andIMG_0485 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

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Posted by on November 2, 2015 in General Missions, Mexico, Oaxaca, Samaria


Oaxaca, Day 6 – October 2015

The group split again, with some staying with the women at La Cocecha for a 3rd day and the others going to an agricultural center/farm just outside the city.IMG_0534

The farm is run by a man named Gaspar and his wife Estella. They grow crops like corn and tomatoes and raise various animals such as sheep, rabbits, and cows. They then use that to help feed local villages in the area and teach them (and others) how to grow their own food.

The farm was started about 15 years ago. Gaspar became interested in being a part of it because of children dying in villages from starvation. He didn’t want to see that happen again. He now has 27 local churches working together to provide food all over the state of Oaxaca, the farthest of which is an 8 hour drive away from the farm.

A few years ago, Gaspar and his family were attacked by people in one village who were jealous of the prosperity the Christians were experiencing with their new found agricultural skills. They burned his house, his car, and killed 2 people. Gaspar still has machete scars on head from the attack. A year or so ago, Gaspar went back to that village with a medical mission team. He told the villagers it didn’t matter what happened before, he still offered his help and shared the gospel with them. They even brought a wheelchair for the son of one of the attackers. That’s what living out the gospel means.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled”, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.   James 2:14-17

Written by Jennifer Gidden 

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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in General Missions, Mexico, Oaxaca, Samaria


Oaxaca, Day 5 – October 2015

IMG_0404The group split, with the women returning to La Cosecha to continue the sewing projects with the women and the guys going to Etla to help with projects at the men’s facility. In two days, the women had finished multiple projects on their own and were ready for more. I was impressed by how quickly they pick up concepts and then come up with their own ideas to make more creative projects or continue ones with things they are able to get locally.

While helping the women with their addictions and physical needs is a big part of the operations of La Cosecha, everything is founded on the gospel, which is what truly changes lives. So, the women are constantly saturated with the gospel during their stay at the facility.

After lunch, we sat down with the women and they shared their stories with us about how they ended up at the facility and how God was working in their lives. There were some hard, tough stories told and I was grateful they were so willing to share such personal and heart-wrenching information with people they just met. It’s a testament to the impact that the simple act of showing the same kind of love Christ IMG_0412first showed us can have on others. The stories are also great testimonies of how God lifts us out of our miry pits and restores our brokenness, no matter how far we’ve fallen.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:34-35

Written by Jennifer Giden

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Posted by on October 29, 2015 in General Missions, Mexico, Oaxaca, Samaria


Oaxaca, Day 4 – October 2015

And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves metal images, idols skillfully made of their silver, all of them the work of craftsman. It is said of them, “Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves!” Therefore they shall be like the morning mist or like the dew that goes early away, like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor or like smoke from a window. But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior.   Hosea 13:2-4

We toured the ruins at Monte Albán today, an archeological site in the mountains of Oaxaca built by Zapotecs around 500 B.C. We went there because it’sUntitled6 important to learn about the history and culture of the people you’re trying to reach with the gospel. Cultural barriers to Christ are very real and can be very difficult to overcome (even in the U.S.).

The ruins are of numerous ‘temples’, tombs, and other structures that sill remain of the once prospering city. At the temples, the Zapotecs worshipped various gods and made sacrifices and other offerings to them. While the archeology and craftsmanship were interesting, it was sad to realize their purpose…the worship of false gods, often times involving human sacrifice. These are a people who long to please gods made of rock; ones that have crumbled away over time.

I talked with Debbie Johnson (a former IMB missionary for many years in S. America) before we got to the ruins and asked her if she thought ‘cultural Christianity’ (people calling themselves Christians but having no real knowledge or observance of the faith) was a problem with other world religions; that a new generation was growing up without any real knowledge of or caring about their ‘faith’. She said that her experience as a missionary was more of people getting fed up with their religion and its rules and finding a new hope in Christ. Pray that the Zapotecs may see the futility in their pursuit of false gods and idols that are ‘worthless, a work of delusion’ (Jeremiah 10:15) and look to a living hope in a resurrected Savior.

Written by Jennifer Gidden

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Posted by on October 28, 2015 in General Missions, Mexico, Oaxaca, Samaria


Oaxaca, Day 3 – October 2015

We spent most of our day at La Cosecha, a women’s alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in Oaxaca. (there is another one for the men in the countryside inUntitled3 Etla). The centers are run by a man named Otie and his wife Gabby. Otie grew up in a Christian home but battled his own addictions and now helps others overcome theirs through tough love and the gospel. There are currently six women in one center and nine men in the other. All of them have stories of pain, abuse, and neglect and sought an escape through drugs or alcohol.

Two years ago, we came with the Johnsons and brought sewing machines and other materials for the women to make items that they could then sell. We brought more material and supplies this year to continue that project. The goal is to teach them a skill and help them earn money to support the facility. They’ve done so well with it that they’ve been able to buy two more sewing machines from selling their crafts.

Untitled4But, I think the biggest benefit is that the women feel that they are worth something. The joy and excitement in their faces when they finish a bag or pillow is very real. May they know an even greater joy and worth from an almighty God who created them created in His image and gave His only Son that they may have life in Him.

My sewing skills are non-existent so my goal for the day was ‘to do no harm’. But, Mauri introduced me to one of the young women and told me she was quite intelligent and thought I really needed to talk to her. I learned she likes science and math – the exact things I like. You could see the excitement she had that there was someone else there who had similar interests as her. I tried to think of a way to tell her that I did ‘scientific research’ but that’s hard to do in English much less in Spanish, using an interpreter. But, Mauri and Kerry had installed a water filter at La Cosecha previously and I’m currently working on a few water projects at the U of A. Mauri happened to have pictures of bacteria in the water before and after installation of the filter. Using that, we were able to Untitled5communicate that I do something similar, studying the things in bad water to help others design filters to get clean water. She understood and you could tell she found the conversation interesting .It always amazes me to see God put people together at the right time, at the right place, with the right experiences, to encourage and build each other up.

Written by Jennifer Gidden

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Posted by on October 27, 2015 in General Missions, Mexico, Oaxaca, Samaria


Oaxaca, Day 2 – October 2015

“When God calls, will you come?”

We headed up the mountains to go to La Cumbre, a small Zapotec village in the mountains so we could visit and encourage believers there and provide for some of their physical needs. It’s a two hour drive up a less-than-desirable road that can become impassible when it rains.   Over many years Kerry and Mauri brought the gospel to the village, and encouraged them to become a closer-knit community, helping each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. They are now transforming it into an ecotourism site to bring in revenue for the village.


Zapotecs are one of the poorest groups in Mexico and are generally not treated well by other groups in Mexico. While there, we met with Chincho and Maria (local pastor and his wife) and Sabina. Sabina is an elderly widow who lives by herself. She has two sons but they never come to visit her. Chincho and the other villagers help out as they are able. She grows her own crops and has a small house made out of brick donated by the Mexican government. She completely depends on God to provide for her daily needs and I have yet to see that faith waver in the two trips I’ve been on. We brought her some food, learned about some other physical needs that we hope to take care of later, and sat and talked with her for a while.

When God calls, will you come?

I got asked this question by Sabina when we were saying goodbye to each other. She had just chastised me and some others for not visiting her sooner andUntitled2 had asked when we would be seeing her again. I had paused to think of the best answer because I honestly don’t know when I’ll be back or if she will still be alive when I’m able to come again. During the pause, she asked a different question… “When God calls, will you come?”

I thought about that question the rest of the day. I thought about people like Abraham and Samuel and Isaiah, all of whom were called by God and went. I thought about my own calls from God, both at home and abroad. How willing am I to listen to His voice and respond to what He’s said? We can sometimes get so caught up in our day-to-day activities that we forget we are a called people, of whom God has a specific purpose.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

Written by Jennifer Gidden

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Posted by on October 26, 2015 in General Missions, Mexico, Oaxaca, Samaria