I'm a little late getting this blog out, but I wanted to post about our last day in Mexico. Thursday started with us all packing up and getting ready to leave. Lori and I had a leisurely breakfast at a brand new restaurant overlooking the Gulf of Mexico called California. It's round and all the walls are made of glass so just about every seat looks out over the malecón (beachfront bullevard) onto the Gulf. Beautiful! I had my favorite, "huevos motuleños" - a dish that originated in the town of Motul in the the Mexican state of Yucatan. I used to love "huevos rancheros" as my favorite breakfast dish, but the motuleños have definitely replaced the rancheros, at least on this trip. (Who would ever think of putting green peas on a breakfast dish? And the fried plantains are a touch of genius!!!)
(BTW, pictures are available on my Flickr account at:
After getting packed up we headed back into town for some last minute souveneir shopping. (I got my shoes shined instead. I also saw some motorcycles for sale on the street - I had to take a picture for my friends in CROP.) We also headed by the famous malecón for a couple more pictures, like this one of a man fishing in the Gulf with a hand-thrown net. Then we headed back to the Agua Viva offices for another wonderful lunch - but not before stopping at my favorite taco stand of all time for a quick "tacos de barbacoa" appetizer! (Thanks, Joel!) Back at the offices, they had taken the flowers from Sunday's service and created even more beautiful centerpieces, making the room stand out with elegance.
BTW, the men's bathroom at the Agua Viva offices reminded me of the bathroom in the first apartment Lori and I lived in back in Matías Romero, Oaxaca. You could literally sit on the toilet, wash your hands in the sink and take a shower all at the same time! When I brought Lori down to Mexico, she didn't know what to expect. She thought I lived in a mud hut with a thatched roof, so she was happy to have running water! However, she did spruce it up by hanging a beach towel over the doorway for some privacy. Ah, the woman's touch!
After lunch Joel and I met with a couple of the leaders about a long-range leadership training initiative that Agua Viva is taking in cooperation with John Maxwell and Marcos Witt's ministries. Over the next 3 years Agua Viva will be hosting free leadership conferences for over 100 pastors in the region. Joel has invited me to participate and I'm praying seriously about the commitment to make regular trips down to sow into the lives of leaders from church all across the region. I admire Joel and Jose for taking this step of faith and investing in the lives of so many others.
After the meeting we hopped in the vehicles for our final trip out of Coatzacoalcos. We were headed for Las Choapas, Veracruz where the Agua Viva church is pastored by one of my favorite people, Pedro Chulin Gordillo. We first met Pedro when he was the chauffeur for an oil executive's wife who started coming to Agua Viva when we were in our first building that only seated 75 people. Doña Dora would come in but Pedro would sit out in the car, not wanting to come in. Eventually he started coming in, but would stand agains the back wall with his arms across his chest, almost daring God to love him. Eventually God's love broke through his tough exterior and he surrendered completely to the Lord. He soon led his brother, Alfredo, to the Lord and they became quick disciples and part of the group we called "Los Hijos del Pacto" or "The Sons of the Covenant". We met every Tuesday night for leadership training with a small group of men, including Jose, who is now the General Director of all the Agua Viva work. Alfredo is the pastor of the church in Agua Dulce, where we were on Wednesday night, and Pedro started the work in Las Choapas that has now grown to several hundred.
The Lord has really blessed them and their faithfulness. When I last visited with them 5 years ago they were just starting out in a rented building downtown and they had a decent sized group. now they own several acres and have built a beautiful sanctuary that seats almost a thousand and are just finishing up a Children's ministry center that will serve several hundred children. It should be open in January. And all of this is paid for!!!
Pedro is a dynamic leader who loves to praise and worship. His daughter Norma is now married to the worship leader and they have an exciting worship experience. Pedro bubbles with joy and enthusiasm and it's obvious his people love him and his wife Coqui very much.
I was privileged to get to preach in Las Choapas again and I shared a message to men from Psalm 127-128 about keeping their priorities right, not being work-aholics but instead loving their wives and demonstrating Godly character to their husbands. At the end I called up the men who wanted to retake lost ground and who wanted to be the Godly husbands and fathers God had called them to be. I then called their wives up and had them stand behind their husbands, praying for them. It was a powerful time of ministry that ended with the couples embracing in love and forgiveness. We also called up the single mothers who have to serve as mother and father and prayed for them, exhorting the church to reach out to these women and help them. Finally we had a time of ministry for the ushers and leaders before Pedro led out in an extended time of celebration and praise! Wow! What a night.
After a quick supper we loaded back up for the 2+ hour trip to Villahermosa, Tabasco, where we would catch our plane back to Houston. We got to the hotel around 1:30 and set a wake-up call for 4:30 since we had to leave by 5:30 for the airport. We made it just in time, some of the last passengers aboard the plane, and settled in the for 3 hour flight back to Houston.
Once in Houston, after passing through Immigration and Customs it was time to say goodbye to our traveling companions from Life Church West Monroe. It was such a pleasure to get to travel and minister with our old missionary partners, Joel and Angel Dyke. It felt like "old times" and it was hard to say goodbye. After changing our pesos back into dollars (at a HORRIBLE exchange rate) we took the shuttle to our car and started the drive back home (after filling up with gas, of course!
I wish I could summarize this trip in just a few words, but that's not possible. I will say that this has been one of the highlights of my life. I honestly don't feel worthy of the honor they bestowed on us. We simply planted the seed and others watered, but God caused the growth. When Lori and I moved home to Pineville in November, 1990, the Agua Viva Coatza church was running somewhere around 200 people in attendance. We thought that was a significant thing, having started with just a handful in weeknight bible studies in an apartment and Sunday services in our living room. Now there are thousands of believers in several Agua Viva churches across southern Veracruz. And the mountain churches have continued, and have begun another generation of leadership. And they are investing in the region by providing training to pastors from churches from all denominations.
This is the work of God. He gets all the glory. Joel, Angel, Lori and I just happened to be the vessels He chose to use because we were willing. And we were simple enough to do what He said. We didn't know what we were doing. Everything was an experiment. But God worked through simple vessels and brought glory to Himself. It's like this:
He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES." (Mat 13:31-32 NASB)
That's how God grows His kingdom - one seed at a time that He then multiplies.
Thank you for reading this blog, for praying for us, for supporting us. Thank you to the churches who took a chance on a 22-year old kid who said he had a call on his life to be a missionary in Mexico. Thank you to the family who stood behind us and believed in us. And thank You, Jesus, most of all, for honoring us by using us. "Here we are, Lord. Use us again!"
I *love* serving Jesus with YOU!