Yesterday afternoon, following a lunch of leftover beans and rice with quesadillas (you cannot believe how much better that tastes than it sounds), Rod, Connie, Courtney, Melinda, Jenna, and I loaded in the van and headed back to the village of San Andreas, where we had held the birthday party a few days ago. This trip was Rod´s regular weekly trip to minister to some of the families there with whom he as built a relationship over the past eight years or so. These people are Mixteco Indians who live only thirty minutes or so outside Oaxaca City. The medical mission team will be holding a clinic here in September. We visited seven families there over about a five hour period. I´m not sure I can even narrate the experience. Let me try a combination of narration and simple memories of scenes.
A family of seven with no husband living in a one room cinderblock hut with turkeys, goats, chickens, dogs, and cats and no running water. The children in the family running to Rod and Connie with hugs and then greeting us with reluctant hugs as well. Every poor family we visited gathering chairs and insisting that we sit with them for a while, most offering food or drink. Rod in his beautifully fluent Spanish conversing with them about their lives, about Christ, about their concerns. A man who had worked in Phoenix, AR as a cook at a Chinese restaurant for three years to send money back to his family welcoming us into his two room, dirt floor home made of corrogated tin and bamboo. (You never know who is cooking your food, do you? You go into a Chinese restaurant in Phoenix to have your food prepared by a Mixteco Indian who lives in a hut on a hill side far inside Mexico!) The young turkey in that house that flew onto Rod's shoulder and then to my arm when I tried to snap a photo. Our host's huge smile. The family of twelve up the hill with no husband present and children whose health is fragile. The young adult woman going deaf. The shy one, Lulu, who would not lift her eyes to look at you, but who smiled beautifully. Soledad (sorrows), the little girl who is misnamed. She is full of joy. Grandmother going into the bamboo and tin hut and emerging with a 3 liter bottle of Pepsi and some plastic cups and insisting that we have a drink. Rod pouring the dark drink into one cup after another and passing them around like communion. The little girl covered with mosquito bites and Rod's promising to return next week with mosquito nets for the children's beds. The house of Tomas and his wife who have become believers. The huge grapefruit trees growing in front, encumbered with large, yellow fruit. The orange trees and the woman gathering a bag of oranges for us to take with us. The elderly grandmother, Margarita, sitting on the ground, her head covered with a green cloth, fanning flys away from the gaping hole in her face where cancer has eaten away her eye. Rod going to the van for medical supplies, donning latex gloves, cleaning the wound, and fashioning a bandage out of gauze. Margarita speaks no Spanish, only a Mixteco dialect, one of many. Her son, Tomas, was not there to translate, Rod realizing that he could not share the gospel with her and knowing that she will soon die, turning to us with tears and saying, "That is so sad." The house with two new believers, a couple who cannot read. Sitting on the covered area outside their hut and listening to Rod read John 3 to them from their Bible and their asking questions about when they could be baptized. The house where Rosindo once lived. He became a believer before he died, but his wife and daughters, and grandchildren have not. Rod and Connie have been going back to this home weekly bearing witness. A dozen people in the dirty front yard of the home, sitting under a tree until near sundown. The woman saying that without her husband her life was not worth living, she was ready to die. Rod's asking her if she were ready to meet God and her saying He would just have to take her like she is. The looks of gratitude on the faces of family after famliy as we carried beans, rice, pasta, milk, and salt to them.
I do not think that any previous experiences on mission fields compared to yesterday. I saw life being lived much as it was in Jesus' day. The people of San Andreas have only a few technological improvements over those of the villages of Palestine 2000 years ago. These were the kinds of people who followed Jesus in droves. And he was present among these Mixtecos as well. This morning I listened to Twila Paris's song, How Beautiful, and thought of the beauty of the hands and feet of people like Rod, Connie, and Courtney as they walk dusty paths and share the love and compassion of Christ with the sons and daughters of the earth.
Tonight I will teach a Bible class for married couples. Tomorrow holds Spanish class and a visit to Pastor Marcelino's church. This is a church our medical team worked with last fall. Kerry & Maurie Johnson, the IMB missionaries here, are holding a cooking class there in the evening for women (Maurie is doing the class) and afterwards we will gather for worship with people from the church.
I'm going back to the house for a cup of coffee or a siesta or both. It will be a long evening.