Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Most Mexicans Focused on Survival

Mexico is a mess these days.  I know most places on the planet are.  But it seems to me that now, perhaps more than ever during our years living here, Mexico is in crisis: economic, political, moral, social, family, health, security, etc.  The newspapers and television programs are full of story after story of crime, sickness and corruption. 


This morning, as I read the newspaper, I saw a summary from anthropologist and sociologist Roger Bartra.  Bartra is an award winning researcher and author who teaches at the UNAM (National Autonoumous University in Mexico City).  He will be speaking here this weekend on how he sees Mexico’s unfolding future.  The title of his keynote is:  La Sombra del Futuro” –“The Shadow of the Future.” 


But what caught my attention was the way he describes the state of mind of most Mexicans these days:


“…(Bartra) perceives that the Mexican society is depoliticized and apathetic; that common Mexicans are tied up in survival.  Their lives are preoccupied with family, security and the problem of finding a job” (my translation).


Bartra puts into words what I sense as I live among and talk with common Mexicans.  For the most part, they seem to me apathetic—disinterested in discussions of politics, religion, world issues.  They’ve heard and reheard all the proposals.  They’ve gotten their hopes up too many times.  Just not interested anymore.  


Or maybe it is not that they aren’t interested—but that most just don’t have the time and luxury to think of these things right now.  They are focused on survival: family, security, trying to make a dignified living. 


Often I wonder what God is really doing here…  I think I see evidence of hope—yet still so much darkness.   


This morning I’m thinking about the incarnation—about God’s presence among Mexicans. 


“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14a).  

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Last Sunday--My Kind of Day

This last Sunday was my kind of day.  

I was encouraged to be with the church this past weekend.  We almost always spend time with one of the younger and less mature groups, but this past Sunday we decided to spend time with the house church that lives and gathers in the Jardines del Valle Colonia on the northwest side of Guadalajara.  This particular group goes way back relationally, but specifically began forming as a house church about 5 years ago.  The core of the group are 3 families that all moved onto the same street—over time God became the center of their relationship and formed them into a family who together are now trying to flesh out the life of Christ to the people around them.  As much as any group I know, they really live as a family of God.  

About 20 of us gathered at Gerardo’s and Carola’s place and for the next couple of hours centered ourselves on Jesus—praise, prayer, mutual encouragement, reading of scripture, discussion, etc.  After remembering Jesus specifically in a simple taking of the Lord’s Supper, everyone chipped in to buy chickens, tacos and trimmings and we spent another couple of hours laughing, playing and eating together.  My kind of day! 

One of the things I really liked about that day was the way God’s Word came to us.  While the group was reading Acts 13, the conversation kept coming back to these verses:

“While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3).  

The group noticed that in a similar way as they gathered as a small church, among them were many “missionaries” who the Holy Spirit is sending out each week.  It was cool to hear the group put into words what they think this looks like.  Adriana is a single mom who is a “missionary” to children in a park near her home.  Arturo is a single man who has been following Jesus for nearly 10 years—he is working for a microfinance business that makes small business loans available to the poor—he sees himself as a “missionary” to the poor—and to those who work among them.  The Garcia family talked about the Foundation for Kid’s with Diabetes and their “missionary” work among so many families who are now lost in the same trauma they themselves were in a few years back.  Hector talked about his work as a psychiatrist and his desire to be a “missionary” to those who are marginalized and abused.  Martín, who began a new church a few years back among friends who worked at a factory with him, described his “missionary” desire to see this happen again soon.  It was cool to hear them articulating the way they see themselves as together a family of Jesus—but each one as missionaries sent from the community to incarnate Jesus to others.  

I noticed that a lot of the kids were listening to and participating in the conversation—including my three daughters.  I wondered what will come of all of this. 

Yep, it was my kind of day!  

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Saturdays and a Group of Young Disciples

Every other Saturday several of the youth have begun meeting for Bible study, prayer and fellowship.  This past Saturday night, they gathered at our house.  These kids (mostly high school and college aged young people) live in different parts of the city and each is part of one of the house churches.  The Saturday youth gatherings provide a sense of unity among the youth—one of several practices that emphasize that the house churches and their members also belong to a larger fellowship of Jesus’ people in this city—that they are not expected to walk alone as disciples.

One of my good friends Cory is working among these young Christians—he has a heart to help them and other young people grow into leaders who will join God in making a difference in God’s world.  Two things specifically encouraged me about their time together last night.  One was that Cory is helping them to consider “obedience-based discipleship.”  Last night they were working through the story told in the Gospel of Luke (8:19-21) where Jesus says that his family—his true “mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”  I was encouraged to hear that they were each trying to name something that they wanted to put into practice from God’s word this week. 

The other thing that encouraged me was that some of the youth are bringing friends who don’t yet follow Jesus.  I wonder what God will do among this group in the days to come.  I can imagine!

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Diana and ministry in the park

I want to tell you about Adriana (Diana) and how she is ministering in the park near her house.  Many of you know Adriana.  She has been a part of us for 12 years.  Her ongoing transformation is encouraging.  She has been involved in teaching the children in the church for a long time.  Although she has shed tears of frustration she has continued to train herself.  A couple of years ago the little girls in the neighborhood started knocking on her door asking her if she would read them a story, a Bible story.  In between breaks of selling candy and raspados (snowcones) at her puesto outside of her house, she would sit with the neighbor kids and tell and read them stories of the Bible.  God has continued to bless the kids through Adriana and her faith.  On Saturdays, 8 young girls consistently knock on her door saying that they are waiting for her outside.  One of the girls is deaf and her mother sits and translates for her.  Last Saturday she told the story of the creation with resources she herself had made.  Four mothers sat at the table with her.  One older lady passed by and said, “Doña Diana wait right there…I’m bringing you another 10 kids.”  Diana told her it would have to be another day because she was limited on resources for that day.   I wonder what seeds God is planting in their hearts through Diana’s ministry in the park.  

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Sunday, October 11, 2009


I spent the last week in Texas.  With school and responsibilities at home, Nancy and the girls stayed in Guadalajara.  But I was blessed to spend time with dear friends, family and new acquaintances in Lubbock, Abilene and Lamb County.  This weekend, I’m unpacking—literally of course—but also “unpacking” the experiences with people, thinking about the last week or so and what God has left on my heart.  A few of those things:

  • I was encouraged as always by God’s people, their generous heart and the desire I see in so many to join God and make a difference in the world.  I’m specifically thinking of the Sunset Church of Christ and their generosity and desire to participate in world missions.  On October 4, they took up their annual mission contribution to fund their mission efforts for the next year.  Even in a year with so many financial struggles and worries, they surpassed their goal of $261,350.00 and ended up giving $276,555.29.  

  • In a similar way I was encouraged by listening in on and participating in many conversations with folks in Lubbock, Abilene and Lamb County who are seriously considering how they can live and encourage others to live a more missional lifestyle in their own neighborhoods, fleshing out Christ among unreached people there, and seeing new churches spring up.  One of those conversations was at a Church Planting seminar at the Sunset Church of Christ on October 3—cool to hear them talking about the possibility of planting new churches in Lubbock.  

  • I continue to notice that when we tell simple stories (especially ones that are recent and ongoing) of life on mission with Jesus, it is encouraging and even life-giving to the hearers.  Whether male or female, old or young, educated or not—there seems to be a general interest in what missional life looks like and a desire to participate in this life at deeper levels.  I think I understand more all the time the grace it has been to get to live the life of a missionary—and I am more convinced than ever that this life cannot end when we no longer live in Mexico.  I feel sure I will die if I can’t continue to live these stories of life and experience the blessing of sharing them with others.  

  • Finally, I am impressed with the brevity and frailty of human life.  Last Monday, on a farm road in Lamb County a truck driven by a farm worker lost control and collided with a car driven by a mother and her high school aged daughter.  All three lost their life.  On Tuesday night, Jorge, an old friend and Christian brother died in his sleep in Mexico City.  Some think he may have had the flu.  He was in his 30’s and had a newborn child.  Then on Wednesday, I heard of another tragic accident involving a school bus.  My reading this week has had me “chewing” on James 4.  These words leap off the page at me:  “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:13-14).  I think a lot about the future.  I desire to live my life squarely in the present and centered on Jesus.  

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Thursday Nights with Young Leaders

Thursday nights are fun.  For several weeks now, a group of us men—mostly young leaders—have been gathering at my house to talk and pray together.

Last night was typical.  A couple of the guys arrived early and we played a game of PIG (actually PUERCO) at the basketball net out back.  When the others arrived, we spent some time allowing each one to describe the state of their heart—sadness, worries, anger, happiness, excitement, etc.  Then, we each shared something that we had received from God in our personal walk with him this past week.  We have committed to each doing an inductive study of James, taking a chapter each week and “chewing” on it in our quiet times with God.  It was cool to hear each describe how they are wrestling with Scripture and discovering God’s Word—a Word that requires obedience.  

Finally, we spent 30 minutes or so reading and discussing Luke 5:1-11.  Last night we read the text aloud two times.  Then, one of the guys, Hector, retold the story in his own words to help us turn it over in our hearts and minds one more time.  Then, we began asking open ended questions of the text—discovering together what God wanted us to see about God, humans, disciples, sin, etc.  We each ended the time mentioning at least one thing that we believe God wants us to obey out of that passage. 

We ate together afterwards.  Thursday nights are fun!

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