A Mission to Mexico

While most Carter Countians were spending the holidays eating turkey, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce, six members of the Ardmore (OK) Church of the Nazarene were eating roast pig marinated in hot sauces, and lots of tuna sandwiches.

And instead of being snuggled in warm sweaters in front of a fireplace, they were wearing short-sleeved shirts and sandals, sweating in a hot Mexican jungle and learning to say “Feliz Año Nuevo.”

This was “Commission Unto Mexico,” sponsored by Southern Nazarene University in Bethany. Its team of around 260 who spent December 27, 1991 to January 4, 1992 in the area around Cuidad de Valles, Mexico, included local volunteers Dr. and Mrs. Lloyd McArthur, Wes Blount and his son, Casey, Rev. Duane Brown and his son, Duane.

The trip to Mexico was no escape to a tropical paradise. There were long bus rides, hard labor with primitive equipment, seemingly endless hours, and communication barriers. But each member of the group said it was an experience they wouldn’t trade for anything.

“We all went with the idea we were there in service to the Lord,” Mrs. Mc Arthur said. She and her husband were the “seasoned travelers” of the group, having taken a similar trip the year before.

This trip, a jungle ministry to aid the Huasteca Indians in rural Mexico, included pouring the foundation for a parsonage, repairing buildings, doctoring the ill, and spiritually educating the unsaved.

“Our group was split up into different teams,” Rev. Brown said. “On two sites we were working on parsonages for pastors. There were evangelistic teams and doctors at all sites. The teenagers taught Vacation Bible School and performed an evangelistic outreach to the children.”

Members of the local team said they experienced a bit of “culture shock” when they arrived in Valles, but quickly adjusted and learned to appreciate how the Huasteca Indians live and have survived for hundreds of years.

“It was very inspiring and became a very profitable time for us to gain new insight into the physical and spiritual needs of the Indians,” Rev. Brown said. “We also learned how much wealth God has given us.”

“And how much we could do without,” Mrs. McArthur added.

The different areas of service performed by the group showed a vast contrast in the needs and the “riches” of the Indians.

Dr. and Mrs. McArthur spent most of their time in a makeshift doctors’ clinic treating an array of illnesses. There was a medical team of three doctors, a dentist, and 18 nurses who set up a clinic in one of the churches.

“The first day we worked in the clinic people were lined up. We saw 450 (total) patients come through there,” Dr. McArthur said. “We also set up a dental clinics and saw 90 patients in three days.”

We were seeing patients from the time we got there until the time we left.” His wife said. “People were lined up before the buses even got there. Some of the people walked four miles to get there.”

The conditions treated at the clinics were basic- respiratory illnesses, gastro-intestinal complaints, parasites, skin disease and poor hygiene. But Dr. McArthur said his abilities as a physician were hampered by his limitations as a linguist.

“They had to go through two interpreters -- one from English to Spanish and another from Spanish to Huasteca,” he said.

The construction team had no less barriers to overcome as they scaled steep hills to reach work sites, and built a parsonage with less-than-modern equipment.

“Most of the time we used primitive tools,” Blount said. “They cut metals by laying it on a rock and hitting a machete with a hammer. They mixed concrete on-site. Here they were using hand tools not like the power tools we’re used to, and they could outwork us any day."

“They were very capable people,” he said. “We’d work five hours and be dead tired and they could work eight to twelve hours.”

Rev. Brown said seeing how the people lived taught him more about the value of “things.”

“These people, considering all the items we have here, they don’t consider themselves poor,” he said. “They have life and they are happy.”

The Huasteca Indians are not large people, Rev. Brown said, but it was not uncommon to see men and women carrying heavy loads everywhere they went.

“They carried sand and cement up ladders to mix together,” he said. Blount said he saw a thin man carrying a load of wood around his waist, while Mrs. McArthur said it was a common sight to see a woman with a load on her head, one on her arm and a baby on her back.

Casey Blount, a sophomore at Lone Grove and Duane Brown, a Plainview junior, had their own loads to carry, as they were put in charge of 200 children for evangelistic teaching. Casey said he was quick to learn how different the lives of the children were as they tried to eat bars of soap given to them and almost trampled him for the chance to hold a puppet.

“We were going to start with the puppet ministry, and I took out the first puppet and looked up to see 200 kids running for me. After the first few times of handing out things, we finally got organized and figured out how to do it without getting killed.”

Children are not highly valued in the Huasteca society, and Casey said it was fulfilling to him to see how happy the children were with all the attention they got from the mission team.

“It makes some of the problems and struggles you have seem small,” he said.

It was his experience in sharing a simple quarter with one of the children there that confirmed his call into ministry, he said.

“I realized what little you give them, they appreciate,” he said. “And I realized that we all have something to give and that anything we do can mean so much to others and that’s our call.”

His father said the whole experience changed his outlook on ministry as well.

“To capture the vision (of ministry) you don’t have to go to another country,” he said. “It can happen at home and just your neighbor across the street can be reached out to.”