We've got a little time before we head back out to another service so I wanted to try to update you on the happenings of the last couple of days. I don't have time to write a lengthy blog (don't say "Praise the Lord" too loudly!) but I did want to update you as best I could. One of the best ways to update you is you show you some of the pictures we've taken. I've added descriptions that should walk you through what was going on. Here are two links to pictures from Monday and Tuesday:
Monday - http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathanmartin/sets/72157610684432550/
Tuesday - http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathanmartin/sets/72157610693350040/
Here's as brief a recap as I can give you -
We left around 7:00AM to head for the mountains of Oaxaca where we used to live. It took quite awhile to get down because the roads are (still) in poor condition. We headed into Matias to check into the hotel, because we wouldn't be back until very late and we wanted to make sure we had rooms. Then we headed out for a two-hour+ drive to Zacatal, the home of one of the main churches that our team founded in the mid 1980's.
On the way out we stopped at a little store we used to visit frequently, curious if the same lady was still there. She was, and she squealed when she saw Joel! It was a great visit!
On through the narrow streets of San Juan Guichicovi, home of an ancient Catholic church that looks like a fortress (I'd love to know the story of this church) and then on the narrow, muddy trail that leads to Zacatal. We arrived to a great welcome from Pastor Eleuterio and his family. They had been awaiting our arrival and someone had donated a cow for a meal for everyone. The BBQ was delicious! Several other pastors from other churches we had planted arrived and we had a wonderful reunion.
Bro. Eleuterio asked us if we would baptize four new believers but we didn't have changes of clothing and it was pretty cold so we asked if we could just witness and participate that way. We headed down to the river/creek in two borrowed people-haulers and had a wonderful time seeing four new believers being baptized into the body of Christ! Then it was back up to the church for the evening service.
The church was severely over-crowded and overflowing all around with people. The pastor's son, also named Eleuterio, led out in worship, after sharing about our impact on his life as a child. More worship, and then the children of the church presented a song for us in Spanish - "Lord I lift Your name on high". It was beautiful. I shared some songs and Joel preached and then we had a time of prayer for the needs of the congregation. So many came up for prayer that it took a long time to finish. Just like in the olden days!
It was getting late and we were concerned about the muddy condition of the road so we decided to skip the after-church coffee and head back to Matias. The pastor sent another truck to follow us out past the worst of the muddy spots, just in case we got stuck. We made it back safely to Matias after midnight.
Before we turned in for the night, Lori and I walked around the downtown, reliving some of our memories from those days. We walked past the places we lived and then came back by the market where the hot dog/hamburger carts hung out at night. We wondered if we'd find the fellow we used to do business with on a regular basis, and sure enough he was still there! We shared a hamburger and visited with him until it was very late. I thanked him for his friendship and shared the gospel with him, telling him I didn't want to go to heaven and find out he'd not made it because I had never shared the good news with him. He was very sober as he listened intently and affirmed his faith in Jesus. We had never tried to raise a church in Matias because we felt it might distract us from the mountain churches, but leaders from the Coatza church are feeling a leading to begin a work in Matias so we gave them his contact information. Then it was off to bed.
We woke up to a wonderful breakfast and headed out to do a little shopping in the market and headed around town to view the sites in the daylight, including the houses we lived in and the post office that we visited every day to see if we had any mail. (Remember, this is well before the days of email!) We visited with some old friends who were still around, surprising them all. It was a great reunion - and amazing to know that they remembered us after all these years. One of them actually saw Joel walking by and chased him down, calling out for him in English: "I know you, I know you!"
One of the more emotional visits was with Augustin, our mechanic. Joel thought he would recognize me easily because of my hair but wondered if he would recognize Joel since he's bald now and somewhat heavier. He walked into the mechanic's shop and Augustin looked at him with a puzzled look on his face. Then Joel said, "I need a mechanic" and Augustin began running towards Joel with his arms open wide! I stepped out around the corner and joined the celebration! This tough Mexican who had helped us through many scrapes had tears in his eyes as we visited and reminensced about old times. It was hard to leave.
We headed back towards Coatza with our planned stop for evening services in the Agua Viva Restauracion church in Acayucan that had been started after we left. They used to meet in the Chamber of Commerce building but about five years ago bought a large stripper bar in downtown and completely renovated it. It's now paid for and they've outgrown it so they're looking at other properties on the edge of town.
We had a wonderful service - incredible worship led by the Pastor Sergio's sons, who had written some of the songs themselves. Then Joel and I did something we've never done before - we tag-teamed the sermon, each one taking turns sharing truths we've learned over the last 20 years, since the founding of Agua Viva. Here's what we shared:
- Nathan: The most important thing for a Christian is to know how to hear the voice of God.
- Joel: You must learn to be flexible, or you'll be broken.
- Nathan: Your relationship with God is affected by your relationship with His children.
- Joel: If you're going to err between justice and mercy, err on the side of mercy.
After church we stopped by a taco stand for some delicious "shepherd-style" tacos. Joel and I tied, eating 14 apiece!
OK, I said I wasn't going to post a long blog, but apparently I don't know how to post a short blog!