Church Planting among the Nahuatl

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Who tilts the water jars of heaven?

Several nights ago a howling wind, driving rain and lightning reminiscent of U2’s Vertigo concert filled the sky. I tried with all my might, but could not fall asleep. As I listened to the rain drops pound down I could not get God’s goodness out of my mind. His goodness in bringing rain to Las Moras.

The rain is filling up the creek that surrounds the village.

The dark clouds settling over our house. The rain is coming!

Living here, among the Nahuatl people we have begun to see glimpses of the hardships they suffer when there is no rain. Their corn crop has no water, begins to dry up, and does not produce corn. If their corn does not grow, they will have little to eat. The Nahuatl people subsist on tortillas mostly, made from corn that they grow themselves, and when they have extra money, they will buy beans. Some people grow a few vegetables or beans near their homes, but not many. To stay alive they depend on the rains…and yet they do not know the One created the clouds, and who’s hand tilts the water jars of heaven.

Pete took some of the men to a nearby town to pick up corn they had ordered to feed their families.

Two Sundays ago our team listened to a sermon together about God’s goodness. The speaker had some profound examples that got me thinking about my own perception of God, and His goodness. Actually, more than my perception, but rather how often I forget about His goodness.

In my last post I wrote about how confused and frustrated we often feel as we grope about, reaching for words,  trying to speak our 3rd language to people who live in such a different world and culture from us that we feel they must often think that we are crazy. In fact, one of the most common questions our Nahuatl friends as us is “Are you guys comfortable living here?” Ha…I laugh, if they only knew how uncomfortable at times that we feel. But, I think that feeling of being uncomfortable doesn’t necessarily come from actually being “uncomfortable.” Our house here in Las Moras is rustic, but very comfortable, much more comfortable than anything the Nahuatl have ever seen. I believe our feeling of uncomfortability comes from forgetting how good our God is.

Clouds rising over the canyon a short walk from our house.

With this topic swirling in my mind, I turned to the book of Job. Job went through it. Bad things happened, precious things were taken from Job, and yet he served the Lord. He was tempted to turn his back on God many times, he was even tempted by his own friends and family to forsake God, and yet in all the hardship he persevered. Towards the end of the book of Job in chapters 30 and 31 Job is pleading his case, reminding people and God of who he was how he’d always served God and done what God had asked, he was beginning to have a pity party of arrogance so to speak. He’d done the right thing…now where was God.

Then in chapter 38 God begins to challenge Job “Who is this man who questions my wisdom, with his ignorance? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you that you must answer.” Job 38:2,3 God goes on to remind Job who He is, His creation of the world, and His power over all of nature. His ability to rise the sun, and set it in the evening, to control the rain, floods, lightning, thunder, the seasons, and the laws of the universe that He has written. His knowledge of the number of clouds He has created and His great hand that holds the water jars of heaven deciding when to send the rain. And of course, His goodness regardless of the hardship that Job was suffering. God never left Job, and even in hard things, God was good, and is good.

Some Nahuatl friends take us on a hunt for wild mushrooms.

Right now we are right in the middle of rainy season here in Las Moras. We have planned to be here without a supply run, studying language, and building relationships full time until late October. And there are days that are hard. There are days when I can’t get a word out of my mouth that is right and I feel like my Nahuatl friends would rather visit with anyone else at that moment than me. There are days when I’m tired, and an iced coffee and chat on the porch with Mom seems like just the thing…except she’s 50 hours away.  There are days when I study verbs in Nahuatl with all their affixes, and suffixes, and prefixes, and mid-fixes, and who-knows-fixes and I want to quit. I want to say God this is hard, why didn’t you chose someone other than me to go through this thing, to learn this language, to love these people, because God, I’m just not that great at it.  And you know what God, we haven’t had tomatoes in two weeks, and now we are out of carrots…things just aren’t the same without carrots.

These things are not nearly as severe as what Job suffered, but in Pete and I’s  lives they are realities. They are things that can pull us down, and discourage us from the race God has set before us. They are the things that can take our eyes off the Nahuatl people’s need for a Savior. Their need for truth, and lives free of fear.

As I read the last few chapters in the book of Job I was reminded of how I overlook who God is and how good He is to me. He has brought us gallons of rain, so that we no longer have to spend 3 hours a week or more hauling water. Last Sunday, He unexpectedly  brought the vegetable vendor to town and we were able to re-stock with fresh veggies, fruit, and eggs. He continually provides for every single financial need, month after month. He provides us with working internet, so even though I can’t have the porch chat, I can still make an iced coffee and sip on it while I send my Mom and email.  God continually gives us opportunities to practice language and love people, and on top of that, He gives us the energy to do it every.single.day.

We have also been given loads of peaches from our neighbors.

We also enjoyed mushrooms from our mushroom hunt with Agustina.

Some “zapote” fruit that were given to us by some Nahuatl friends. I think they taste kind of a like a pear, but with a more gooey texture. We saved some seeds to try and grow our own.

So, how do I so easily forget His goodness?

The hybiscus planted right outside our front door, reminds me that God is good.

This week I challenge you, when that bad day hits, or whatever it is that you are going through that makes you feel like God has abandoned you, or is working over time for someone else. Read Job 38-42, and be humbled, as I was, of the Lord’s blessings all around you even in the things that seem the hardest to bear.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

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His Timing not Ours

A voice startles me from where I stand at the kitchen sink. My right hand scrubs the last of the pancake batter from the bowl and even though I am staring out the window, my mind has wandered to a dazed state and this voice has just shattered my thoughts. I peer out the window into the thick morning fog that hangs like a down pillow over the mesa on which we live and see the face of my 17 year Nahuatl friend Julia standing at our gate. Oh shoot, I’m still in my pajama shorts, I throw on a hoodie and head out the door. Her boy, Alex is sick she tells me. She needs powdered milk, because he won’t eat, and just some nutrients will keep his body going. I scoop some into a small bag, all the while using phrases that maybe she understands, and she nods and smiles.

Julia is on the left side with her son Alex sitting in her lap.

Several days later, standing again at our gate is the family from across the river, they are worried about their Dad. He’s been sick for weeks, and has a good day, and then the next is really bad. The pain in his chest is overwhelming, and he can’t stop coughing. Can Pete take them to the nearest town where they can see the doctor? This is their plea. It is a 5 hour drive and it’s mid-day so Pete will most likely be spending the night down there before he can come back to Las Moras.

It’s a beautiful drive down, but also very tiring as Pete can only drive about 10-12 mph. Sometimes it seems as if you are going to be on the road forever.

This is nothing more than a glimpse of what our lives are often like here in Las Moras. Each day we have opportunities to interact with the Nahuatl people and our co-workers and we never know how God is going to lead us, or what He may ask us to do. We do know one thing, that He is already using the way that we respond to begin shaping the Nahuatl people’s view of Himself and the Body of Christ.

My friend Leucadia, in the blue skirt, who does our laundry, with her daughter and daughter-in-law.

“So, dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” ” Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.”  1 Cor. 15:58 & 16:13,14

The ministry here in Las Moras is not only about the physical and felt needs of the Nahuatl people, but about their spiritual need, their need for a Saviour. For this reason, Pete, myself, and our co-workers Katie and Rachel are in full time language study of the Nahuatl langauge, better known as Mexicanero. Each day we spend around 8 hours learning and studying the language. We do this in a variety of ways. Having a structured language session with a designated language helper.

Liesl sitting on our couch learning language with one of her helpers, Andrea, while Andrea’s children play and look at picture books.

Studying at home listening to recordings, writing them out, analyzing the usage of verbs and identifying connector words and phase usage, and planning our future language sessions with helpers.

Liesl caught studying.

We also spend  time asking the people about the Nahuatl culture. Whenever there is an event or happening here in Las Moras or any of the surrounding villages we try our best to attend, take pictures, ask questions, and record our findings. We not only want to show the Nahuatl people our interest in their culture, but we want to have lots of examples on hand for when we begin to teach the Word of God in their language. These examples will be referred to so we know best how to explain concepts and truths in the Bible in a way that our Nahuatl friends can relate to and fully understand.

Attending a fiesta in a nearby village.

Pete helping a few guys fix the village truck that was broken down about 45 minutes outside of Las Moras.

Working with local ladies to mud and seal the outside of our house to protect from the rains.

Attending the closing ceremonies for the schools here in Las Moras.

Each teacher’s class represented themselves with several dances. These are the primary school age children.

Also, throughout each day, since the Nahuatl culture is a visiting culture, many people will come to our home to visit. They usually want to chat a bit, and we often do that over a steaming cup of instant coffee, or they love hot chocolate. Also, their children love to play with matchbox cars, and look at books with pictures.

Liesl playing with a little boy during a visit.

Pete’s visits often include work. Here he is putting the concrete layer over the mud on the outside of our house to protect the bricks from rain damage. He completed the entire house with his friend Elias.

On Sundays,  Pete and I like to work on home projects, work in our newly planted garden, or just take some time to rest before the next busy week begins. We also meet as a team to listen to a sermon podcast and spend some time praying and unifying as a group.

Katie serving herself some chicken nachos we made for a Sunday team snack.

This last month of June was a weird one for us…incredibly busy, but not the way we had planned it at all. Two days into the month, I contracted a terrible strain of influenza  and was in bed…yes, without getting up, for 9 straight days. I was incredibly dehydrated, and weak, but God was faithful in this time and it could have been a lot worse. Three days after I got sick, Pete had to drive a family down to the nearest town to take their Dad to the doctor. He was gone for 2 days, the man was sent home with malaria medicine, and when Pete returned he had all the home chores, language learning, taking care of the animals, and entertaining visitors as I was very sick.

I recovered just in time for our language consultant to come for our first language evaluations. The evaluation time went well and when the time was over Pete and I both felt like we had some new goals to work towards and were excited for the new learning that we will be doing over the summer months.

Liesl meeting with our language consultant.

After our consultant left, our co-worker Rachel went to a coastal city to do some buying and met up with Tom and Teresa Elkins our other co-workers there. They began their travel up to Las Moras on Sunday, June 16th and the Elkin’s truck broke down about 1 hour up the mountain road. Their truck was too large and heavy to be towed down, and the parts needed to fix it needed to be ordered from a large city. So, Pete headed down from Las Moras in our truck, picked up Teresa and Rachel and took them into town to spend two nights at a hotel while they waited for the truck parts to arrive. Pete then spent one and a half nights camping out by the truck with Tom. The mechanic came out to fix the truck at 8:30pm on Tuesday night, the 18th and finished the job at 12:00am. Pete and Tom arrived down in the city at 1am, slept the night there and then all four of them began the trip up to Las Moras together on Wednesday.

Pete hanging out with Tom by the broken down truck.

Enjoying the scenery.

Tom and Teresa spent a week here in Las Moras helping us complete some projects on our house before the heavy rains begin to come. It was such a blessing and refreshing time to have them here with us.

The Elkins and Katie at the closing of school ceremony.

It has begun to rain, not everyday, but we have had some deep soaking rains. The people are saying that rainy season has begun. Each morning and evening the mesa on which our house sits is covered in a blanket of fog and mist. Thank you for your prayers for rain and please keep praying with us that the rain would continue throughout the next couple of months to give the people a good corn harvest.

The rains are falling and the water in the creek is running once again.

Pete and I also had the privilege of attending the closing of school ceremony here in Las Moras. One of the families asked us to represent their family as their son’s Padrino and Madrina, which is kind of like being god-parents for a day. It was an honor, as we accompanied their 6 year old son to received his papers for completion of kindergarten and entry into the Primary School. There was a village-wide meal afterwards which we all enjoyed with our Nahuatl friends.

Liesl sits by Artemio, our little “hijado” or god-son you could sort of translate it as in English.

A close up of Artemio.

Today is July 1st, and we are just beginning to press back into language and culture study. One thing that we have learned this past month is that no matter how much planning we do, or how many goals that we have, that God has His perfect plan and sometimes it is so incredibly different from ours.

We are learning first hand that often when God’s plan seems to get in the way of our plans we tend towards discouragement, or feeling like some how we have failed in what we have been asked to do. However, what Pete and I are both realizing the longer we spend living out here in the tribe is that we live this life for Him, and His praise alone. He asks of us daily to walk with Him, nothing more, nothing less. If we are faithful in that there is no greater goal.

The Nahuatl people coming to know Him is why we have come to live in Las Moras because we believe that God wants to use us in some way to teach them about Himself. Doing that, means walking with Him moment by moment no matter what each day brings. Ultimately, the Nahuatl coming to know Him is God’s work. We are reminded that we need to put our agendas, ideas, goals, and energies into Him and let Him do His work. Putting our energies into knowing Him intimately and letting Him use us for His plan, and He will complete the work that He has begun.

Family photo minus Quito.

Thanks for taking the time to read our updates and pray for us. Please check our prayer page for the latest requests for our time out here in Las Moras during the rainy season. We cherish all of you and could not be here without you.