Commission Unto Mexico: Juarez

Commission Unto Mexico is a yearly mission trip organized by Southern Nazarene University take takes place between Christmas and New Year's. The location was Juarez, Mexico for the second year because an ice storm that covered Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas with about an inch of ice last year made travel difficult and limited attendance to about 75 people. So this year’s trip was appropriately dubbed “Finishing the job.” This year the weather was great and we had nearly 180 people.

For the 45 people that took the Southern Nazarene University bus, the trip started bright and early (well actually dark and early) on Wednesday December 26, 2001 at the SNU campus around 4 a.m. The 16 hour bus trip was filled with fellowship, balloon-making practice, and of course sleeping. We arrived at El Paso Texas around 8 pm and were taken across the border to the hotel in Juarez that night. We had a team meeting in the hotel to get information and form 8 different ministry/construction teams to go to different parts of the city.

The very next day we started our work. Our team had about 20 people in it so we divided up between a construction group and a VBS group, which changed members everyday because we had our choice of the two each day. The construction group built walls at 1st church to create a pastor’s office and kitchen, which 1st Church wants to use to serve meals to the needy people of the area. After they built the new walls they had to knock down the existing brick wall and baptistery behind it. That turned out to be a fun task that everybody enjoyed participating in. The women went in with pretty brown hair and came out with gray hair (and gray clothing) because of all the dust. And as you can imagine there were plenty of jokes made.

The outside of the church is painted with a two-tone color pattern with a rusty red on the bottom and tan on the top. The group from last year painted the bottom so this year we painted the top. We started it and the pastor hired a local professional, who happened to be walking by, to repaint the artwork for the name and Nazarene logo. The construction group did several other smaller projects like this to help remodel the church in addition to putting up the new walls. It looked like a different church when we were done.

Work and Witness trips like this always tend to have multiple benefits in addition to remodeling or building churches or houses. The greatest benefit is the affect it has on us as we go and fellowship with humble, loving and sometimes needy people. And this year we saw another benefit. Our workweek was broke up by a Sunday so we went to the churches and worshiped with them and then returned to work on Monday. During the Sunday evening worship the pastor said if American’s can come over to their church and work why can’t the local people. So the next day we enjoyed working with several of the local people and hopefully several people were motivated to keep helping in the church so the pastor has more people to help him throughout the year.

The ministry group went to 3rd church in the morning and 1st church in the afternoon to do VBS. The pastor of 3rd church took them to a different neighborhood each day and used the VBS as a great evangelism tool. They drove into a neighborhood and set up a loud speaker announcing VBS for the children. Then the ministry group members went around passing out candy. Before long there was a big crowd of children and they would start a puppet show. To perform the puppet show they took the back seat out of the van, hung a blanket across the back, and conducted the show from out of the back of the van. The puppet show was a pre-recorded audiotape in Spanish and the people working the puppets took their directions from a translator working with them. Then one of the ladies who was dressed like a clown told them a Bible story and the translator interpreted. And we finished up the VBS with face painting.

During the face painting you could really see the Indian ancestry come out in some of them when they asked us to paint both sides of their face and the forehead and chin. But you could also see their love for the U.S. Like when I was painting the third figure on the face of one young boy; it was a rainbow and I was going to paint the Mexican colors: Red, White, and Green. I had the red and white done and was looking around for the green. Then he said the Spanish word for Blue and pointed at the blue paint. So I finished painting this boy who was starting to look like a real Indian with a nice U.S. rainbow. I got the feeling that the Mexican people, at least the Christian people, really care for their American neighbors because we also found out that 3rd church had been gathering for prayer EVERY morning and praying for the U.S. since Sept 11.

When we worshiped with them we learned that the different Mexican churches are as different in their worship as the different churches in the U.S. We went to 1st church and the worship was lively and what we would consider normal volume. Then we went to 3rd church where they sang basically the same songs but the music was so loud I’m sure you could here it down the block. They had singing and testimonies before the preacher got up to preach. We were also invited as a group to go to the front to introduce ourselves and our interpreter gave a short testimony. The pastor was a very humble, loving, and friendly man, which is typical of Mexican Christians. During the singing and testimonies the pastor sat in the back while the laypeople led the service. While he was sitting there a little boy came by with a toy car and showed it to the pastor. The pastor acted very interested in it and held the boy on his lap for a while before getting up to give a great holiness message.

Monday was only a half workday so in the afternoon we got to go to the market and shop. There were all kinds of souvenir items like blankets, vanilla, leather articles, clothing, ornaments, paintings, and many more. On Tuesday we had the choice of more shopping, mountain hiking, or touring all the different churches that the other groups worked on. Then Tuesday evening the whole Commission Unto Mexico group (almost 200) got together with all of the Mexicans we worked with and had a huge party called “Norte Americano Noche” which means “North American Night”, {is that right Howard} since we are all North Americans. Hundreds of us worshiped together in song and ate together. Various presentations and gifts of gratitude were given back and forth between the different groups. The closing of the festive party was actually quite sad because it would be the last time we saw these people since we were leaving early the next day. We had grown very close to them and it was really hard to say goodbye, knowing we would probably not see them again until heaven since the Commission Unto Mexico group will go to Monterrey in 2002-2003.