My aim in the past year on this blog was to write at least one blog-post every month related to the mission work here in Queretaro. However, not every post is an update per-se. Often, I write about some specific aspect or story related to our work, instead of giving a general update. That is intentional, not only because specifics are more interesting, but also because at times a traditional update can be hard, and boring, to write.
Anyways, hopefully this year-in-review fills in some gaps and provides you all with a summary of our year and the different aspects of our ministry here. It was a year of exciting change and of challenges and, as always, the unrelenting faithfulness of God.
As the year began we were already making plans to move into a different area of the city where we would focus our ministry efforts and begin the first steps toward seeing a church planted. In December of the previous year we had come to an agreement with the Pan de Vida children’s home to rent a house they owned in the Santa Barbara neighbourhood. This community is located south-west of the city and is only ten minutes from Pan de Vida.
The house needed a bit of TLC and it was also agreed that the kitchen would be expanded and updated. So, for the months leading up to our move we could often be found at the house, cleaning, organising, and worrying a bit that the renovations wouldn’t be done in time. Thankfully, by the time May arrived the house was ready, more or less, and we were happy to settle in and begin a new chapter in our lives.
The neighbourhood where we were living was in the city proper, close to the main roads and highways, and the downtown area. Being in this location served us well, especially while we learned Spanish, but our plan was to eventually move into a different area once we had decided on the particular focus of our ministry. Looking back, I think it worked out well, not only because it allowed us to experience life in the city and get to know the area well, but it was an easier transition to life in Mexico. If we had come from Canada and moved straight to Santa Barbara we would have had a much more abrupt cultural shock.
Santa Barbara has a very different feel than our old neighbourhood of Carretas. Not all those differences are bad, and there is much that we enjoy about our new community. We enjoy experiencing a more traditional, small-townish Mexican way of life; the slower pace of things; being able to walk everywhere; street food everywhere; seeing the same people every week; and the many trails in the hills behind our house.
With that being said, there are “choques” as well, or things that irritate or frustrate – the garbage; the lack of parks; the constant “cohetes” or fireworks used to celebrate the saints; the town drunks; the intermittent electricity, etc.
Our first week in our new house we had an unlawful entry of both a mouse and a scorpion; a reported thief roaming the street at night; and the power went out twice. Thankfully, the subsequent weeks have gone much better and, apart from the choques mentioned above, we are adjusting to life here and learning to love our new community.
Of course, the greatest demonstration of love we can show is the gospel, and that is what our aim here is: to proclaim the gospel both in word and deed. To that end we started a ministry through which we could be a source of gospel truth and love for the community. And so, in the month of April we officially started Ministerios La Fuente, or The Fountain Ministries.
That was obviously an exciting moment for us as months, even years, of planning and preparing were finally made reality. We found a space to rent close to the main street that would serve as our outreach centre for the ministry. We also use this space to hold a Sunday evening service. We believe the church should be the centre from which the gospel goes out and so it is our desire to see a church planted in Santa Barbara. With that end in mind, we wanted to start with a Sunday worship service to which we could invite people and provide them with a church home.
As we oft confess, it must be the Lord who gives the growth, because we sure can’t do it by our own strength and wisdom. This is one of those doctrines that we believe, but have a harder time living it out. Attendance at the Sunday service has been sporadic and apart from a handful of people, not many from the community have come. Thankfully we have Duane and Maribel Visscher and their two girls who are committed to helping us. There are few others that come on a fairly regular basis and ensure that we have a small “core” group. But there have also been many Sundays with just our two families.
In addition to our Sunday service, we regularly have a book table at the local market. This has been a good way for us to get into the community and meet people, and while there is generally not too much interest in reading, we do sell a few books as well.
In the summer we hosted a small team from British Columbia and Washington State. They stayed at Pan de Vida, helping a bit there and then assisting us with a kids club in the afternoons in Santa Barbara. We had two days with a good number of kids and overall it felt like a success. We tried to keep the momentum going by having a weekly kids club at the sports court – basically just playing sports with the kids. But those plans were halted when new lights were put in the sports court and for reasons unknown to us the court was out of use for a couple months.
Now the sports court is open we have been able to go on Thursday afternoons and play soccer or basketball with any kids who stop by. We are planning that in January we can start a sports night and us that as a means to present the gospel. We are also planning to have a weekly kids club at the outreach centre, with games, crafts, and a bible story. For both of these new outreaches we need kids to show up so we are praying lots for that to happen.
As you can probably tell, one of the big challenges with starting a new ministry is dealing with the disappointment of no-shows. We put the word out, we advertise, we invite, and then no-one comes. Are we doing it wrong? Do we need more patience? Are the people’s hearts too hard?
One of the outreaches that we thought would be easy to start was the English classes, but that too has proven challenging. The first set of classes we offered in the late spring fizzled out and when we started again in the fall we got little response. We advertised again and got a few students and lately there has been some more interest. Hopefully in the New Year that interest translates into more students.
In addition to our ministry in Santa Barbara we continue to be involved at the Pan de Vida children’s home, teaching English classes and helping with the Sunday school. Not only does this give us a broader Christian community to be part of, but it is also our hope that the relationships we build with the kids would be able to continue once they leave the childrens’ home and are faced with the many challenges and temptations of life on their own and with their own freedom. We already have some contact with youth in the area that grew up at Pan de Vida and some have attended our Sunday service.
There is a lot more that could be written about the last year, but suffice to say that it has been a very exciting year, yet not without its challenges. It has been exciting to move into a new neighbourhood and to be able to focus our ministry efforts on a particular place and people. It is exciting to have all the planning and preparing result in something real and tangible – a ministry with a name and a place. And it is exciting when we have the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus with others and to demonstrate the love and service that flows from such good news.
Of course, it has also been challenging. It is challenging to start something new and to go through the highs-and-lows, and ups-and-downs associated with that. It has been a challenge not to get discouraged when people don’t show up to a service or outreach. It is challenging being the obvious foreigners who don’t fit in. And it is still challenging to communicate accurately and winsomely in a second language.
But I do not want to end with a list of challenges and frustrations, even though they do reflect part of life on the mission field. Instead, I want to end by witnessing to God’s faithfulness and goodness.
We know that our labour is not in vain, and that the fruit of our labours are not guaranteed. We know and confess that our task is to remain faithful to what God has given us to do and that the fruit, the conversion of the people to life in Jesus, is not up to us.
We know all those things to be true, but we are still working at really living as if they are true. And that often painful process of congruency, of lining up one’s thoughts and actions with what one believes to be true, always brings us closer to God. It brings us nearer to God because the faith that we confess, slowly becomes the faith that we live and feel. And the God we believe in, becomes the God we love, not because he can give us a better life or peace of mind or a successful ministry, but simply because He is good and faithful and He loves us far more than we can imagine.
A missionary once said to me: “Catching fish is always hard. Cleaning them even harder; and it’s messy.” Continue in faithfully in your ministry, that’s all the Lord is asking of you. Whatever you do in faithfulness to Him, accomplishes His will, even if it means being a Jeremiah rather than an Ezra. Rely on God, He goes with you. Count your blessings (you did a great job in this post of doing that.) Blessings for the New Year!
Thanks for the encouragement! and the quote 🙂
The Lord bless and keep you and your family. And may His face shine apon you and give you peace! Know that you are thought of and prayed for more than you know! Love, Uncle Jack and Aunt Linda
Thanks for the review, Trust that the Lord will bless your endeavors as you work in practical ways to spread the good news in your neighbor hood. Praying for a blessing on the beginning of the church plant.