Hermanos y Hermanas en Cristo
Reflections from the Mexico Mission Trip. By: Jenn Clauser
It all happened so fast, we were playing tic tac toe when the rumblings of the train came and she had to go. She didn’t leave without saying good bye to her new “hermana”, her new “amiga” (that’s me). When I looked in her mom’s eyes I knew her mom wouldn’t put her life in danger unless where she was running to held more hope than where she was running from. Her mom and I both started crying because we both know the dangers that they face on their journey, and the desperation that must have set their journey into motion in the first place. I gave her mom a hug, told my new amiga “Sé fuerte, be strong,” and we showed each other strong arms. Then, they ran, and I cried, “God, this is too much for them.” That was the middle of our Mexico Mission trip and, in full disclosure, when I had landed in Mexico City earlier that week, I never expected that I would see the levels of hurt and joy that I saw. I didn’t expect to walk away feeling so deeply connected to my new hermanos y hermanas en Christo.
For my husband James and I, I believe our short-term missionary journey began in prayer. Several years ago I personally realized that I had been asking God to be the God over select areas of my life, but I had not asked God to be the God over my entire life. So, in my prayer closet, I prayed a prayer of full-surrender (from the book The Battle Plan for Prayer), “Lord, I know I’m in skillful hands as I pray for You to show me your will and lead me faithfully into it. I accept from You specific guidance through Your Word to give me “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105) for this moment. Thank you for being heaven-and-earth beyond me in size and scope (Isaiah 55:8-9), yet somehow stooping down to involve Yourself in my details. Tune my heart to the desires of Your heart. Align my mind with Your thoughts. Guide my path to the center of Your plans. And help me pray and live in accordance with Your will. I love You, and will follow You. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Unknown to me, outside of my prayer closet, God was stirring in the hearts of Coker leadership and members to begin sending mission teams into Mexico. In August of 2017 I began working as the Director of Communications at Coker and in May of 2019, James and I said “Yes” to being on the Coker Mexico Mission Trip team. This was the first time James and I had ever been on a mission trip and was Coker’s third year in a row to take a team in to Mexico.
In June of 2019, we landed in Mexico City, snapped a selfie, posted it to my Instagram story, opened the “Google Translate” App on our phones, and began our nine day journey. On mission, we were joined by: Rev. David Blanco, along with his wife and daughters, Irma Blanco, Aimee Blanco, and Ashlee Blanco. Rev. Esparanza Baltazar from El Buen Pastor UMC (The Good Shepherd UMC) in San Marcos, TX. Rev. Dr. Robert Lopez, District Superintendent of the Coastal Bend District. Rev. Guillermo “Memo” Niño from the Methodist Conference Offices in Mexico, along with his five year old son, Mateo.
Coker’s Outreach committee, Coker leadership, Coker members, Pastor David, and Pastor Memo from the Conference Offices in Mexico all work very closely in prayerfully discerning where God is leading us on these mission trips. We book-ended the trip with visits to Misíon Juan Wesley and to Neza and the heart of our trip was in Apaxco.
We began our time in mission at Misíon Juan Wesley:
The first Saturday and Sunday of the trip were spent at Misíon Juan Wesley. As we made our way up the hill to the mission, we saw a gentleman from the village wearing a Coker UMC T-shirt that had been handed out there the year before. Pastor David explained that the T-Shirts carried a witness, that every person who wore the T-Shirts had been touched by Coker in some way. The fact that they were wearing the T-shirts speaks to the radical hospitality of the people in Mexico. Because they knew we were coming, they wore T-Shirts in support of us being there and made a welcome sign that said “Bienvenidos Hermanos De Coker” (Welcome Brothers and Sisters of Coker) and had pictures of past visits all over it. We were greeted by that love and hospitality everywhere we went.
Pastor David and Aimee were well acquainted with the leaders and members of the mission, but for many of us we heard their mission’s story for the first time. We learned that Mission Juan Wesley began in worship under a mesquite tree, the mission has grown quite a bit since then. Now, thanks to the support of Coker UMC, they are finishing out a roof terrace that has already hosted student events of 100+ local students, and a women’s ministry event of over 70 women. While we were on-site, we served alongside the Doctor in consultations, helped with the Saturday’s children’s program, helped clear land to be used for recreation, and planted trees. Misíon Juan Wesley “plants trees” and sows seeds daily in their ministry; in that, many of the people who grow up in the love of Jesus at Misíon Juan Wesley go out to serve in ministry in other areas of Mexico and beyond.
On Sunday we visited the mission again for worship, we were all handed tambourines which allowed those of us who do not speak Spanish to still join in making music for God. Just as Pastor David was about to begin preaching he received word that a woman in the village was passing by the mission and was feeling a large amount of sickness and depression, so the members of the mission invited her in for worship. Pastor David delayed the start of his sermon and invited anyone who felt led to lay hands on the woman and pray over her. After praying over her we continued in worship and Pastor David preached his sermon on the fruits of the Spirit. That Sunday happened to be Pastor’s Appreciation Day so the congregation prayed over Pastor David, fed us all a wonderful lunch, an incredible Tamale dinner, and sent us on to our next mission stop with their blessing. The members of Mision Juan Wesley follow Coker on Social Media and collaborate on ideas for outreach events into their village; as well as, watching the weekly sermons. (As a side note to anyone considering going on mission to Mexico with Coker- you will be warmly loved and well fed).
We ended our time in Neza:
On our final day of the mission trip we spent the day in Neza at an urban ministry, alongside brothers and sisters who are in seminary in Mexico. The ministry we served focuses on taking care of people whose loved ones are in the hospital. The hospital only allows visitation at certain times, only allows one visitor at a time, and does not allow family members to stay over night inside the hospital (and affordable hotels are not available). We prayed with a husband and wife whose mother is in the hospital- and the husband and wife have been sleeping on the streets outside of the hospital for five weeks while they watch over their mother. In addition to providing food and prayer for families with sick loved ones, this ministry also hosts a VBS for inner-city kids and welcomes homeless brothers & sisters in for worship and a warm meal. The leaders of the ministry gave us a tour and thanked us greatly for monetary contributions. Coker has contributed funds which will assist in finishing out some much needed showers & restrooms.
At all of the ministries we visited, it was clear that God was calling us into a community with the leaders of the ministry. We continue to stay in contact with the leaders and members of Misíon Juan Wesley, and we made friends with many of the seminary students we served with as well. Carolina Zamorano has become a friend of mine, she lives in Mexico, has visited Coker, and talks with me on occasion so that I can begin to learn Spanish, and she can improve her English. While we were serving with the seminary students in Neza, we shared stories of challenges in ministry and the strength that comes from God. God was calling us into community with the leaders of the Migrant ministry in Apaxco too- that ministry had an everlasting impact on our hearts….
The middle of the week and the heart of our trip was spent at the Migrant Ministry:
The middle of the week was spent at IMMAR La Santisima Trinidad in Apaxco, it was there that we saw people on the move. This mission has received a grant from UMCOR to make dorms for our brothers and sisters who are traveling as migrants. The Red Cross has supplied solar panels for hot water showers, a space for a washer and dryer (coming soon); in addition to, supporting in other ways. A portion of Coker’s Mission & Outreach budget was used to make over 500 care packets for the migrants to take on their way. This mission has been open a little over four years and has served over 38,000 migrants- and while we were there we helped serve as well.
We were well into our second day of serving at the migrant ministry in Apaxco. We were inside the mission doing some carpentry work, assembling care packs, sorting shoes, and prepping food in the early afternoon when a group of migrants came in. They were a little early for a dinner but we were able to feed them never the less. They showered, washed their clothes in the sink, and rested for a bit. This particular group caught my eye because there were two little girls as a part of it. One was ten years old and one was two years old. Everyone is invited to stay the night but for whatever reason this group needed to continue their journey, so after they ate dinner they headed out.
A few minutes after they left, Pastor David came in and explained that a gentleman from the group had fallen ill and needed an ambulance. He asked if a few of us would go out and sit with him.
Well, I’ve mentioned that I don’t speak Spanish, and I’m not a medical professional, so I’m not sure what prompted me to agree to head out there because I wasn’t much help. But while I was out there, I caught the eye of the two year old so I went and sat beside her. We piled rocks into a tuna can and then she dumped them onto the train tracks. Pastor Memo sat down beside me and talked with her parents. They were from Honduras. The father was struggling to put food on the table, and was approached by the drug cartel. The drug cartel told him if he didn’t join them, he would no longer live. Unfortunately, reporting the drug cartel to authorities wasn’t an option for him, because where he was the cartel was woven into the police system as well. So, he packed up his wife and daughter, paid off immigration officials through Guatemala, and together they were making their way to North Mexico. When I looked in the father’s eyes- I saw a need to provide for his family, when I looked into the mother’s eyes- I saw her nurturing nature, and when I looked into the daughter’s eyes- I saw complete trust in her parents that her parents would care for her.
Eventually, the 10 year old made her way over as well. So, I pulled out my phone and used Google translate to ask her what her favorite color was- it was red. I asked her what her favorite animal was- it was a horse. She told me she was traveling with her mom, and that she had two younger siblings at home. We sat together and played Tic Tac Toe on my phone for a while.
I heard the rumblings of the train and I noticed everyone starting to stir and gather their things. It was a surreal moment. I had seen this sort of thing on the news, but I was about to see it in real life. I remember thinking “Ok God you brought me here on this mission trip and now am I really about to see the the little girls I’ve been talking to jump on a big moving train?” Well the answer to that question was yes, but, not before saying good bye. I heard the 10 year old tell her mom that she needed to say good-bye to her new “hermana” her new “amiga”- that sister and friend she was referring to was me. I tried to share a scripture that I share with my own daughters when they are feeling anxious, which is Joshua 1:9 (Be strong and courageous) the most I could get out was “Sé Fuerte, Be Strong.”
We showed each other strong arms. I hugged her so tightly! I looked at her mom and we cried. I know she knows the dangers of jumping on and off of a train. I know she knows the dangers to little girls worldwide right now, and I don’t believe she would have left two other kids behind unless where she was going to holds more hope than where she is coming from. I hugged her as well.
I watched the 10 year old and her mom run. Then we watched as the parents hoisted the 2 year old on to the train. I walked back into the mission and cried “God this is too much for them.”
We talked with several other migrants while we were there and they all shared that if they had their choice, they wouldn’t be on the move, they would rather be home. Their heart’s desire is for safety, their heart’s desire is family and community. Their heart’s desire is to be home, and yet they are on the move because where they are moving to holds more hope than where they are moving from.
Now that I’m back home…
I’m thankful for God’s nudge in my life to go on this trip, because I’ve returned transformed. I’m thankful to Coker for the long-standing history of mission trips and those before me who have served in the ways of Jesus. I’m thankful that we continue to equip ministries and strengthen the leaders of those ministries so that an even bigger impact can be made.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on God’s original plan. His original design for us to be in community with Him, for us to be in community with one another, for us to be deeply-woven together and to find our rest in God… I’ve reflected a lot about all people who are displaced from their homes for whatever reason (our brothers and sisters in the military, our brothers and sisters who are incarcerated, our little brothers and sisters who find themselves in the foster care system, etc). What I love, love, love about our Jesus is he doesn’t say “sit over there and feel helpless while you watch those people suffer.” He invites us to lock eyes with them and call them hermanos y hermanas en Cristo, brothers and sisters in Christ.
To be a part of the 2020 Mexico Mission Trip, reach out to Pastor David at PastorDavid@Coker.org
Un Viaje de Encuentro
Pastor David Blanco
44 Entonces también ellos le responderán diciendo: “Señor, ¿cuándo te vimos hambriento, sediento, forastero, desnudo, enfermo o en la cárcel, y no te servimos?” 45 Entonces les responderá diciendo: “De cierto os digo que en cuanto no lo hicisteis a uno de estos más pequeños, tampoco a mí lo hicisteis.”
Todos en algún momento u otro hemos emprendido en un viaje, o jornada. A veces esa jornada es uno cuyo destino es favorable, tal como un viaje de vacaciones o de visita. A veces es un viaje que se nos requiere por parte del trabajo. Pero, luego hay aquellos viajes que no necesariamente planeamos o estamos preparados del todo para hacer, como cuando se enferma un familiar o hay alguna crisis con algún ser querido.
Cuando hacemos un viaje para vacacionar, sabemos a qué vamos y empacamos ropa apropiada para el lugar que visitaremos, y nuestras expectativas son con ese fin. Pero cuando hacemos un viaje que no hemos planeado y no conocemos exactamente el destino al que vamos, pues es un poco más difícil prepararnos.
Este verano pasado, hicimos un viaje en el que tuvimos la bendición y privilegio de apoyar al ministerio “Un Oasis en Medio del Camino, Apoyo al Migrante” de la Iglesia Metodista La Santísima Trinidad en Apaxco, Estado de México. Nosotros de Coker comenzamos nuestro viaje desde San Antonio, Texas sin saber del todo que ese viaje nos llevaría a cruzar caminos con otros hermanos y hermanas que estaban haciendo otro viaje, duro, difícil, y peligroso.
Durante nuestros días en Apaxco pudimos apoyar lo mejor que pudimos este hermoso y muy necesario ministerio de apoyo a los migrantes centroamericanos. Pudimos recibirles y darles la bienvenida, ofrecerles café y galletas mientras esperaban para cenar. Al servirles la cena pudimos observar sus miradas de cansancio, incertidumbre, y temor. No hay duda que hacer presencia con nuestros hermanos y hermanas es el llamada alto que Dios nos ha hecho…
Cuando nuestros caminos nos llevan a ese momento de estar presentes con nuestros hermanos y hermanas “pequeños” con hambre y sed físico pero también sedientos de esperanza y una palabra de ánimo, es muy difícil a veces encontrar las palabras adecuadas para compartir. Sin duda, muchas veces no es tanto lo que decimos sino lo que hacemos que hace la diferencia.
Al final de cuando Jesús compartió la parabola del buen Samaritano en la que nos enseñó cómo debemos de responder y ayudar al necesitar, él no dijo “ve y comparte esta enseñanza” sino que dijo “ve y haz lo mismo” que este Samaritano. Orar y tener fe con de suma importancia pero ya sabemos que la Biblia enseña que sin las buenas obras, la fe es muerta.
El ministerio de apoyo al migrante en Apaxco es verdaderamente una encarnación de la fe en acción, del fruto y dones del Espíritu Santo en acción. Yo he tomado y he hecho muchos viajes en mi vida, pero pocos han tocado mi corazón y espíritu como mi viaje a Apaxco. Pocos viajes han transformado mi vida como el haber ido a Apaxco. Mis hermanos y hermanas que sirven en este increíble ministerio están cada día en mis oraciones y pensamientos, así como los hermanos y hermanas migrantes. Es mi oración y deseo volver a hacer un viaje a Apaxco muy pronto…