Thursday, August 1, 2013

1 August 2013 Update!

Then and now: How missionaries have impacted Mexican villages
By Nick Smirniotopoulos (Summer 2013 Student Worker)

Several decades ago, there were no known Christians in this small village outside of Oaxaca, Mexico. However, one man's life was radically changed by American missionaries.

In the 1980s, Pedro accepted Christ and became the first believer in his village, yet he immediately encountered persecution.

"When they found out, they threw me in jail," Pedro said. "I was scared. I didn't know what was going to happen to me."

Pedro only stayed in jail for several days, but he endured a full year of loneliness as the only believer until his wife came to accept Christ.

Today, Pedro is a part of a bustling Christian church in the village with about 30 regular attenders. This summer, another group of missionaries, from IMB's Nehemiah Teams who were serving with the Holeman and McLamb families, joined Pedro and his church in reaching the village.

Nehemiah Teams is a 52-day mission trip aimed at reaching the world for Christ in this generation; Joseph Lewis, 
Destinie Duckworth and Ashleigh Prejean served in Pedro's village this summer.

"I initially thought people would be less inviting," Duckworth said. "I had no idea that even if people didn't want to accept the gospel, they would accept us purely because of their hospitality."

This hospitality differed radically from the days of the early church in the village, which allowed the team to make meaningful relationships. They had four or five families with whom they returned to weekly to share various Bible stories and talk about Jesus.

Many of the families were devout Catholics, who attended mass, had elaborate altars to saints in their homes, but seldom read the Bible. Many of the families were very inquisitive and interested in learning more about the Bible. However, one day they received a question they didn't feel equipped to answer.

"He brought out the Apocrypha and I was thinking, 'Lord give me the words, the wisdom'," Lewis said. "I had never read it so I said, 'Lord I cant do this, so you're going to have to'."

Since Prejean didn't speak any Spanish and hadn't read the Apocrypha either, she did the only thing she knew to do: pray.

"God clearly spoke through him," Prejean said. "He didn't understand it at all at first, but after praying it just came out so clearly."

Prejean experienced a lot of frustrations this summer being the only one unable to speak Spanish. However, God had a different plan for her.

"Even if my purpose here all summer was to pray for my team and the people in my villages then God was going to do big things," Prejean said. "Prayer is the most important part of it."

While the team encountered many obstacles sharing the Word, they had a constant encouragement in the local believers, like Pedro. They attended Pedro's church every Sunday and a local Bible study every Wednesday night.

Growing alongside local believers encouraged Duckworth to put others, whether it was the nationals or her own team members, before herself.

"I've learned that I should submit myself to others because Christ first submitted himself for the world's sin," Duckworth said. "It's a daily struggle learning to walk in humility."

Lewis encountered some similar growth in humility this summer.

"The Lord has made me listen a lot to what He and other people are telling me," Lewis said. "I realized that this summer that I have a lot of issues in my heart that I haven't allowed The Lord to heal. He's begun to heal that."

Leaving after two months of building relationships with the people in this village was hard for the team; however, God has already moved in the hearts of the national believers to pick up where they left off.

In their last Bible study, they talked about the power of sharing their testimony with the people in their village. The next day, they went out together and shared the gospel to people in a nearby village.

In that village, one man named Luiz, who had struggled for a long time with alcoholism, accepted Christ into his heart. It may have taken all summer, but they were ecstatic to see the fruit of their labor. 

Having the opportunity to share with so many people over the summer, like Luiz, made Lewis want to share more when he returns to the US.

"It's sort of like God has taken my life and turned it upside down in just a few weeks," Lewis said. "The same way I shared here, I can share at home and not fear."

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