"Oh, That is Different!"

Last Sunday night seven members of the Alva (OK) Church of the Nazarene recounted experiences and impressions from their Commission Unto Mexico mission trip from December 26 to January 4 in Monterrey, Mexico.

They had been warned not to say, “I don’t like that.” Instead, they were asked to try new things and say, “Oh, that’s different.”

This was the second such trip for Pastor Bill Kalfas, George Kilmer and Dusty Stephens. All three went to Juarez, Mexico last year. This was the first Commission Unto Mexico trip for Barbara Hiett, Renea Haight, Derek Green and Zechariah Kalfas.

When Pastor Bill asked his first impressions of Monterrey, Derek remembered thinking, “Wow! This is really big!” He recalled, “There were four million houses everywhere – up on mountainsides and all over!”

Team members helped with outdoor painting and construction jobs as well as inside with Vacation Bible School. They found it different to paint the walls around the church with only brushes. There was no money for rollers or electrical equipment.

Pastor Kalfas described the people as “resourceful rather than wasteful.”

They found many ways to save money such as watering down paint to make it go farther. They also covered the tops of walls with broken glass to keep people from climbing over them.

George Kilmer said it was different to mix concrete with spades right on the ground. Sometimes they carried it in buckets and dumped it where they wanted it, or they used pulleys to pull the buckets of concrete up to the roof.

Derek remembered having to communicate with hand gestures in stores. He especially found it difficult when they went to McDonald’s without their translator. But he still managed to get what he wanted. Another difference was the shock of seeing $35 when ordering at McDonald’s. They had to remember Mexico uses the same symbol for pesos as Americans use for dollars and that a peso is worth one tenth of a dollar.

One five-year-old Mexican girl thought these Americans were different. Frustrated, she complained, “Everyone here keeps asking me what my name is, how I’m doing and how old I am.” Bill Kalfas explained, “That was the only Spanish we knew!”

Derek described the service at the Septima Church of the Nazarene as “a lot of standing up and sitting down that last for two hours.” At this point Pastor Bill added, “So, don’t ever complain how long it is here in Alva.”

George said it was different to have to quit working on New Year’s Day and go to a large park where everyone played soccer and volleyball. “There they respect holidays faithfully.”

Kalfas explained, “Everything shut down on New Year’s Day,” and out of respect for the culture, the American group was forced to rest. They even watched OU play in the Rose Bowl. He continued, “I don’t know if you knew, but Brent Musberger speaks perfect Spanish.”

Seven-year-old Zechariah, who, according to his dad, “likes every kind of food if it’s peanut butter and jelly on bread or is ice cream,” found the food to be different. After Derek told him that something wasn’t too hot, Zechariah tried it and said that he “ate lots of bread to get the hot out.”

Dusty said that Pastor Bill make him eat menudo. He swallowed it. But after he heard it was cow intestines, he was glad he didn’t chew. When asked the next time he would eat it, Dusty replied, “Never.”

After seeing someone cut a notch in an orange slice and fill it with green salsa picante, Pastor Bill decided: “If he can do it, so can I.” Then he admitted, “I’m never going to do that again! It made my eyeballs water.”

Derek and Dusty said that it was different to see the people of the Septima church go out around town. When they came to a house, rather than knocking, they would beat on the gate with something plastic or metal until someone came out.

Lastly, team members remembered someone from this trip who had impacted their life. Renea Haight described Mary Johnson, a fulltime missionary who overcame the turmoil of her husband’s death and went on to fulfill his dream of planting churches in Cuba.

Bill Kalfas explained that originally Paula Heaton planned to go, but then could not. Then her replacement, Charlotte Swain, get sick on Christmas day. Bill said that his oldest son, Christian, was also sick while his daughter Hannah was too young. So, he and his wife thought of Zechariah.

They asked Zechariah to pray and see if God wanted him to go along. “Zechariah went into another room and jumped on the pogo stick he had gotten for Christmas. Pretty soon he came back and said, yes, he thought that God wanted him to go.”

Pastor Bill said that Zechariah carried his pogo stick to Mexico, let two girls dress him up , and walked through Monterrey neighborhoods as a clown missionary. Pastor Kalfas concluded, “This little boy witnessed to me.”

After the team finished speaking, Zechariah’s mom, Sheila, admitted being glad there was no time to think about it before Zechariah left for Monterrey. Originally, he was supposed to have had his tonsils taken out on January 2. Then, the doctor’s office had called to reschedule it to January 15. Sheila said, “We felt like it was the Lord opening the door for Zechariah to go on this life-changing event.”

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Article originally appeared in the January 10, 2003 edition of the Alva Review-Courier. Used by Permission.