Church Planting among the Nahuatl

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Our Favorite Part of Living in Las Moras

This is Pete again. My time running this blog may be coming to an end, so I figured, why not take the minivan out for another spin. That’s a lame joke based on the lame joke I made in my blogpost earlier this week.

Is this the face of someone who would repeat a lame joke? Yes, yes it does.

Is this the face of someone who would repeat a lame joke? Yes, yes it is.

Those of you who wrote in had some great questions, so I figured I’d answer another one. One of you…I won’t make up a fake name this time…asked us this:

What’s your favorite part of living in Las Moras?

I think my favorite part about Las Moras is its remoteness. After living in a city of a million people while we learned Spanish, it was a stark contrast to move to a village of 250 people – a contrast we both enjoy.

The urban jungle we used to call home

The urban jungle we used to call home

Instead of the pollution and smog of the city, there’s fresh mountain air and the occasional wood smoke from our neighbor’s cooking fire. Instead of concrete, there’s dirt, grass, and trees, and every month, a different wildflower seems to be in bloom. The view out our window isn’t radio towers or concrete jungle, but canyons and mountain peaks as far as you can see. So few vehicles come through Las Moras, that people stop and stare when a truck comes into town – and it’s so quiet you can hear the engine when it’s still 10 minutes away. At night, there’s no streetlights, and few homes have lights – all you see is the light of the moon, and the vast array of stars; if you stay up late enough (or wake up early enough), you can even see the Southern Cross. Oswald Chambers once wrote that “Nature is communion for the saint.” When you live in a place like Las Moras – where the world around you seems bigger and more tangible – you’re reminded of the One who made it on a daily basis.

Our home in Las Moras - not exactly urban

Our home in Las Moras – not exactly urban

Despite all that, our favorite part of Las Moras isn’t Las Moras the place. It’s the people. Liesl and I considered three other locations before settling on Las Moras, and the big pull for us wasn’t the beauty of the place – it was the people. Many indigenous groups in Mexico are closed to outsiders; they often refuse to let people from outside their own village live among them.

Some smily Nahuatl kids

Some smiley Nahuatl kids

Yet the Nahuatl of Las Moras accepted us and even helped us build our home. They are warm and generous, quick to offer you a seat and something to eat. Their culture is different than ours – for example, a compliment is often met with simple agreement. (Liesl: “Your hair is pretty.” Random Nahuatl lady: “Yes it is.”) But their generosity, their friendliness, the way they look out for us, recognizing we’re in a land not our own, and trying to make us comfortable there – means that should we ever leave, it’s the people we will miss the most.


More Questions Answered, This Time by a Man

Most of you who read this blog know that Liesl does most of the posting. However, I offered to take over the blog for a little while as Liesl gets her new blog, Fitness in the Kitchen, up and running.


Liesl’s new blog, Fitness in the Kitchen, is about getting you to jump like this

I won’t lie – I’m kind of excited about taking over our blog for a little while. It feels a little like the first time my parents gave me the keys to the minivan.

That's right - l learned to drive in one of these bad boys

That’s right – l learned to drive in one of these bad boys

However, just like with my parents’ minivan, I knew if I didn’t take good care of it, I would never get to drive it again. So I’ll do my best to take good care of this blog, too, so Liesl lets me keep writing on it.

A couple weeks ago, we asked many of you what questions you had about our lives here. I’ll spend this week answering some of them. First up, a question from Suzy in Cleveland (I actually have no idea who submitted this question):

What is the biggest challenge, besides learning the language, in really building relationships with the people?

Well fake Suzy, that’s a great question. Most of us like to think we’re likable people – that we could develop a deep relationship with pretty much anyone. But generally we gravitate towards the people that are most like us. For example, I enjoy watching and playing sports, especially basketball, listening to good music, and discussing books and theology. And I enjoy people I can discuss those things with. Most of my friends back home in Wisconsin (or wherever they have since dispersed to) have at least one of those things in common with me – my best friends have most of those in common with me.

However, here in Las Moras, there aren’t any people with those same interests. Nobody plays basketball, nobody thinks my music is “good,” and no one has read the books I’ve read. I am an outsider here, and most people view me as such. Last spring, I was even shown a document where I was referred to as “Pedro Gabacho” – “Peter the Foreigner.”

Can you tell which one is Pete?

I would say that is one of the greatest challenges in developing relationships here: the simple fact that we’re different, culturally, from the people here. Yet we believe God called us to Las Moras – we believe He’s the one that led us there – so we also believe that He didn’t call us there just to sit in our house and feel bad for ourselves (even if, in the midst of culture shock, that can sound like an appealing option).

So what do you do then, when you know you’re different from those around you?

First, you find some similarities. Sometimes this feels like small talk, but at the end of the day, when you live in a house with little to no insulation, talking about how cold it was last night is actually a worthwhile topic of discussion. Talking about family is something we all have in common. We have family, they have family, and we miss our families, just like they do when they don’t see them for a while. Last summer, I even planted a large garden – partly because Liesl and I both like fresh veggies from the garden, but also because I wanted to have something in common with our subsistence farmer neighbors. Losing half my sweet corn to worms and cows wasn’t fun, but it gave me something in common with my neighbors.

Our garden early last summer

Our garden early last summer

After a while, you begin to find that your desire to build relationships with people different than you actually changes you. Over time you become interested in the things that interest them, and your former interests, which you thought defined you, become less important. You in a very real sense adapt and become more comfortable in your new culture, and that allows you – us – to feel more at home in a place like Las Moras.

In some ways, that’s like what Jesus did by coming to earth. In Philippians 2:7-8 it talks about how Christ humbled Himself and became like us. In his 30-ish years on earth, He taught us what it meant to know God by becoming like us and showing us God incarnate, right before our eyes.

It’s our hope that as we build relationships with the Nahuatl, and in many ways become more like them, that we can point them to the living God as well, following the example Christ gave us.

Thanks again for your questions! I’ll keep posting, answering questions (feel free to add more to the comments section) throughout the week – or at least until Liesl takes back the proverbial keys to the proverbial minivan.

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Recent News and Your Questions Answered

About one week ago we left Las Moras to start the paper work process of renewing our VISAs to serve in Mexico another year. This all has to be done in the capital city of Durango State. We have handed in the papers, fingerprinted everything, and now we are just waiting for our new VISAs to arrive from Mexico City.

However, before we left Las Moras we finished some much needed cleaning projects. As well as getting the woven bags that the Nahuatl ladies make ready to take down to the coast to sell in a few shops there that are interested in helping the tribal people in that way.


Pete inside the tank that holds our drinking water. He was cleaning it out with bleach to keep our water supply as clean as possible.


Some of the beautiful hand woven bags made by the Nahuatl ladies of Las Moras. We have found two stores on the coast interested in helping the tribal ladies by selling their handicrafts, and we are praying the Lord provides more opportunities like these.

While we are out of Las Moras we have been helping our co-workers, Tom and Teresa Elkins pack up their home here in Durango City, to make the permanent move to a home they were able to purchase on the coast. This was a strategic move for our entire team as it puts the Elkins closer to Las Moras, a one day drive instead of two, and they will also be living in the town where we have all our work teams, dental teams, and family fly to in order to make the trip out to Las Moras. We are all excited about the move, and praising the Lord for providing an amazing house at an affordable price for the Elkins. They hope to be completely moved by April.

In other important news, we have a date!  After talking with Living Water yesterday, we’ve set March 17th for the official well drilling date in Las Moras. They’re estimating it will take a week to complete the two wells  – one on each side of the village – to provide the people of Las Moras with clean water. Thank you for your continued prayers for the well drilling as it officially begins.


It will be nice to no longer have to haul water with our truck every few weeks to keep the tanks we have at our tribal homes filled. Mike experienced hauling water on a very cold day in December.

A month or so ago I put out a request for your questions about life and ministry out in Las Moras. I have received a list of great questions, so while out in town I would like to take the time to answer them. I will answer a few in this post, and several others next week. If you think of a question that you would like to ask, it’s not too late! Send your question to me via my facebook, or to our ministry email, peter_hypki@ntm.org.

Thank you to those that did submit questions, and now your answers…

Q: What are the Nahuatl people like? 

This is a great question. As we live amongst the Nahuatl people in Las Moras each day is a learning experience. We learn more about their culture, their beliefs, their way of life, how they show love,  what kinds of things are important to them, what they think is funny, and the list goes on and on. However, I would like to answer at this point in our ministry as to what we think the Nahuatl people are like.

The Nahuatl people are friendly, some of them a little shy at first, but very welcoming and curious about us and our way of life. For the most part the Nahuatl are trustworthy, they believe that doing what you say, talking good about people, and respecting other people and their things are important values. The Nahuatl love their children. A respectable Nahuatl man provides for his family by working in the fields all day and building a home.


Pete helps Evodio and his family harvest corn in their family field.

A respectable Nahuatl woman isn’t lazy and works in the home taking care of the children, making tortillas, doing the laundry, sweeping, and sewing clothes. The Nahuatl people love bright colors, especially neon yellow, orange, and pink. They wear these bright colors in their clothing or carry woven bags made from brightly colored yarn.


Eve weaves a bag while her daughter watches.

One of the Nahuatl men and his brightly colored bag.

One of the Nahuatl men and his brightly colored bag.

The Nahuatl eat corn tortillas, that is their main diet staple. However, when they have access to them they like to eat beans, drink instant coffee with milk and lots of sugar, and eat bread; they love bread. They also plant small gardens near their homes. Their favorite vegetables to plant are radishes, cabbage, onions, zucchinis, tomatoes, and chili peppers.


Making tortillas with a Nahuatl friend in her kitchen.

The Nahuatl like to pass the time talking and visiting. Part of their culture is visiting each other’s homes, just for that purpose, to visit. Since we are part of the community now they come and visit us as well. These times are perfect for us to practice speaking Nahuatl to them. They like to talk about all sorts of things, from clothes, to planting, to food, and even strange and unusual topics like birth control.

Some of the Nahuatl ladies like to dye their hair when they can afford and find a way to buy color, and the younger gals really love nail polish. The guys like to borrow tools, look at our tool catalog, and drink coffee. The little Nahuatl boys love playing with matchbox cars, and trains, and learning special skills like arm wrestling.  All the Nahuatl love pictures, especially of themselves and other people in the village.

Some Nahuatl boys playing with toys in our living room.

Some Nahuatl boys playing with toys in our living room.

Most of the children love our cat, Quito as well. They say he feels so soft.

Most of the children love our cat, Quito as well. They say he feels so soft.

Liesl sits on the couch and looks at photo albums with two Nahuatl boys.

Liesl sits on the couch and looks at photo albums with two Nahuatl boys.

What I’ve written above paints a lovely picture of the Nahuatl, and they are an incredible people, but like many people across the world they live in fear. Fear of things they don’t know exist, but believe stories and myths they have heard. They are gossips, hurting one another with their words. They are a non-confrontational people, hoping that time alone will heal wounds between them and other family members or people in the village. Many of the men have problems with drunkenness and drinking related violence. The women live life believing they have no worth; Nahuatl legend states that they are descended from dogs. These are their realities, the truth of who they are without Christ.

Thanks for praying for the Nahuatl. They need Jesus. We love them dearly, and know He does too, and desires that they would come to know Him.

Q2: What do you and Pete do for your down time?

Ahhh, downtime, if only we knew what that meant. Often our days are busy from when it gets light in the morning, until the sun goes down in the evening. During the summer months we can have some very long ministry days. In the evenings we usually get a few hours of down time before we go to sleep and we usually spend these reading, or watching a few different shows that we have collected on DVD and enjoy together.

Pete likes to read all sorts of books from books about sports, to literature, poetry, and spiritual enrichment books, and Liesl enjoys lighter reading like mystery novels, or fitness/health/healthy cooking related books and magazines.

Usually once or twice a week we plan a team time with our co-workers Rachel and Katie as well. These can include a movie or game night, dinner together, bonfires, making pizza, or coffee night.

Launching a globe outside our home with our co-workers and the local Mexican teachers of the tribal school in Las Moras.

Launching a globe outside our home with our co-workers and the local Mexican teachers of the tribal school in Las Moras.

Also, I would say our daily workout time, usually early in the morning is a down time for both of us. Working out has always been something we enjoy doing together, and it keeps us healthy too.

This is an old picture. :)

This is an old picture. 🙂

Q3: When is Pete growing a mustache?

When do you think he should grow one?

When do you think he should grow one?

I think…never. 🙂

Thanks for the questions, this is all for today’s post, but check back soon as there are many more good questions to come, I am looking forward to answering them all. Also, we will do our best to keep you updated with pictures and the progress of the well drilling once it begins. Thanks again for your prayers and support!