LOS HYPKI

Church Planting among the Nahuatl


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April is for Traveling

Is it June now? Yes it is. Has the blog not been updated for a while? Yes, that’s true too. So we can pretend nothing happened, and start the updates with where we’re at today, or we can give you an update over the past couple months. Let’s go with the update. We’ll start with April.

April was awesome. It started with time visiting with my mom and sister, an amazing lamb roast at Musky’s for Easter, and then things got crazy. From April 10th to May 2nd, Liesl and I were on the road visiting friends, supporters, and family throughout the Midwest, South, and East coast. Here’s a quick map of where we went:

Our April travel route

It took us 3 weeks, but this is where we went!

First stop was with our good friends Matt & Tara in Chicagoland, the same Matt that did this to my truck:

Matt fixing up our truck

Matt fixing up our truck

Great people, good times. From there, we headed to northern Indiana, where we met with some close friends and coworkers. Then it was down to Indianapolis for a couple nights with Liesl’s cousins, and some of our supporters, who took us out to see some of the fun Indy sights:

Indy 500 Speedway

Indy 500 Speedway

On the canal in downtown Indy

On the canal in downtown Indy

From there it was on to southern Indiana to visit some close friends and former fellow NTM’ers Ryan and Sarah. It was our first time meeting their two kids, who engaged us in some epic NERF battles.

After Indiana, we headed to beautiful Gulf Shores, Alabama, for a week with Liesl’s family. Being in Mexico, we’d missed out on the past few Muscanero family vacations. This turned out to be a memorable one, as you can see below:

Kester & his great-grandma Carol at the seafood market

Kester & his great-grandma Carol at the seafood market

Kes in the pool

Kes in the pool

Out for oysters!

Out for oysters!

Lovin' the beach!

Lovin’ the beach!

Muscanero family photo on the beach!

Muscanero family photo on the beach!

We loved our time with all the Muskies, and look forward to the next one. From Gulf Shores, we then headed off to Charleston, SC, to visit friends from our training. In between visiting at their home, riding around their neighborhood in their golf cart, and just generally having a great time, we also got to check out downtown Charleston. We now get why people love Charleston.

Charleston!

Charleston!

From Charleston we headed north to visit friends in Suffolk, VA, which included a trip to the Norfolk Zoo – Kester’s first zoo! – some golf, some fried crab balls, and an overall great time. From there we jogged north to visit friends in the Annapolis area.

Getting around Annapolis

Getting around Annapolis

After spending a couple days with Michael and Jen there in Annapolis – checking out the charms of Maryland, their new candle line, and even learning how to eat crab – we began the long trip back to Wisconsin.

There was packing to do and goodbyes to say. If April was for traveling, May was about more traveling…this time, back to Mexico. But that can wait for the next blog post.

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A Return

Well, for those of you who once regularly viewed this blog, you probably noticed something. It hasn’t been updated in a while. Hence, the title of this post: “A Return.” It’s a return to blogging, a return to sharing a glimpse of our lives with you. It also seems apt since, at this point, we’re nearing the end of our big return to the U.S. – an eight-month furlough/home-assignment/whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

US Arrival

All smiles arriving in the US!

Since this is the big return to the blog, though, we should probably get you up to speed on a few things. First, we stopped blogging last March because that was right around the time our satellite internet in the tribe failed on us. It took about three months, but we finally got it up and running in late June of last year. So that’s good.

Tom & Pete working on the dish

Satellite internet – when it works you love it; when it doesn’t…you don’t update your blog.

What’s interesting, is that we now aren’t even there. We returned to the States in September for the first long period of time since we left for Mexico in 2010. We’ve spent the past few months reconnecting with our sending churches, our supporters, and of course, our dear family and friends.

CHICAGO!

Having a blast while reconnecting with friends in Chicago!

It’s been a good, though busy, time. We’ve spoken at churches, small groups, youth groups, Sunday schools, you name it, and we’ve enjoyed sharing what God has been doing in our lives and in the village of Las Moras.

Preaching

Pete preaching at our sending church Walnut Hill Bible Church in Baraboo, WI

We also had our first Thanksgiving and Christmas with our families in years. Some people asked why we came back for the coldest months – we reply, we came back for the best ones – holidays with family are hard to beat.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving with Muskies AND Hypkis!

Christmas

Christmas morning at the Hypkis!

The last big holiday we’ll be here for is Easter. Even though it seems like we haven’t been here that long, we’re already gearing up to return to Mexico in May. We’ll spend a couple weeks visiting friends and supporters out south and east, then return to Wisconsin for a couple weeks, and then begin the long trip back to Las Moras.

Our friends Matt and Chris helped get our truck ready to face the mountain roads again

Our friends Matt and Chris helped get our truck ready to face the mountain roads again

By mid-June, we hope to be back in the village, working with the Nahuatl. Once there, we’ll begin preparing lessons in concert with our coworkers who are preparing the Bible translation and literacy lessons so that we can begin teaching the Word of God for the first time in the Nahuatl language. That’s right folks, we are all done with language study – we tested out of it back in April of 2014, you know, when our satellite internet was down.

Pete & Ben checking one of the lessons

Pete & Ben checking one of the lessons

Liesl and Jan doing some comprehension checking

Liesl and Jan doing some comprehension checking

Our coworker Rachel checking translation with our consultants and a language helper

Our coworker Rachel checking translation with our consultants and a language helper

It will be an exciting, though busy, time in the tribe. Lots of work do, lots of adjustments, cleaning our house after a long break away, and oh, getting used to parenting out in the village. Yeah, we had a kid. His name is Kester Lewis, and he’s awesome. By the time we get to Mexico, he’ll be six-months already, and we’re looking forward to sharing life with him as we seek to serve God and bring hope to those living in Las Moras.

Brand new parents with a crying baby

Brand new parents with a crying baby

Liesl and Kester at Thanksgiving

Liesl and Kester at Thanksgiving

Our son showing some personality

Our son showing some personality

Almost 5 months!

Almost 5 months!

That was an incredibly brief summary of where we’ve been and what we’re up to. I’m sure I’ve left things out, and I’ll try to bring them up in future posts if need be, but at least you’re caught up enough now that we can begin posting and hopefully you’ll come along for the ride.

Our home awaits us in the village

Our home awaits us in the village

Salud!

The Three of Us

The Three of Us


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Playing to Win

They play for money.

The men here, when they play volleyball, play for the reta – a challenge, a bet, laid by each team on opposite ends of the volleyball net. Sometimes it’s as low as 20 pesos per game, sometimes as much as 100 pesos – standard scoring to 15 points.

Volleyball

Playing volleyball in Las Moras

Teams are made of at least four guys, but usually five or six to a side. The money they put down on each game is often money they don’t have to waste. A day’s wage is only about 150 pesos, so 20 pesos a game can be more than an eighth of what they earn.

Do the math – if you earn eight dollars an hour, that’s a full hour of work you risk on one 20-minute game. If you play best out of three, and lose the first two, you just lost about a third of what you earned in a day.

Or, you could win that much, too.

The desire to win what you haven’t earned, at the cost of losing what you have earned, is nothing exclusive to Nahuatl culture.

Before we came to Mexico, I spent seven weeks living with the Keetoowah – a band of the Cherokee people – in Oklahoma. The local casino served good, cheap burgers – and even at 12 noon, had a number of people working the slots.

A friend of mine who was teaching me to speak Cherokee would often join us for lunch. His wife worked there at the casino, and he spent a fair amount of time there as well.

He knew which slot machines were hot, which not to touch. At times, he’d point to a certain machine, saying it was “hot” – others, he would say, should not be touched.

Behind all of it was his assumption that the system could be played – it could be gamed – it could be beaten.

That’s the same assumption my Nahuatl friends have as they play volleyball, hoping to serve, set, and spike their way to a few extra pesos.

Yet when I ask them if they’ve won lately, like my Keetoowah friend, they usually tell me they’ve only lost.

Deep in the heart of man is the desire to beat the system. We often believe it’s possible, even probable. But the outworking of that assumption both in volleyball and slot machines, is usually loss.

Some of the vollyeball players

Some of the volleyball players

In the same way, we like to believe we can win at life. If we play our cards right, as my late grandfather-in-law once said, we can get past St. Peter and pass through those pearly gates.

In doing so, we try to win a game that’s already been won. All we have to do to join in that victory is believe.

But as my same grandfather-in-law said, that’s too simple.

And so, like him, my Nahuatl neighbors choose to work, and strive, and play that volleyball game in the hope they’ll win – without thinking about what they’ll lose.

They don’t know about Him who won it all yet. One day they will. One day soon. And when they do, my hope, my prayer, is that they’ll believe He’s won it all, too.

In doing so, they’ll live in victory, just as each of us can through Christ.


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Grasping Grace

A couple months ago I wrote in our newsletter about a woman named Agustina.

Agustina is a single mom of three. Her husband was killed in a shootout three summers ago. She gave birth to his son a few months later. And a few months later, her mother left to work on the coast. She lives alone in an adobe house across the creek from our home.

Pic

Agustina is sharp. She’s quick to laugh and to smile. She sometimes has a short fuse. She works hard.

She’s also the first Nahuatl to trust in Christ.

A year ago, she was talking to Liesl on the couch while I walked through an Old Testament lesson with a man at our kitchen table. Agustina overheard us, and began listening so intently to what I was saying that she couldn’t continue her conversation with Liesl.

As she left that night, she said to Liesl, “What Pete was teaching, I want to learn that, too.”

So she did. Over the past few months, our coworkers Rachel and Katie took Agustina through the entire chronological teaching. Agustina had read the whole Bible before. Now she said it made sense.

But as we talked with her, it seemed clear that after a life lived in folk religion and its constant attempts to earn the favor of the spirits and patrones, that the concept of grace – the fact that there was nothing she could do, good or bad, to earn God’s favor or separate herself from Him – was a hard one for her to grasp.

I wrote about that in our newsletter, asking our friends to pray for Agustina that she would more deeply understand the meaning of grace.

Months later, I received a note from an old friend whom I very much respect, saying that she was praying for Agustina – but also, that she recognized Agustina’s struggle to understand the depths of grace within herself.

I was inspired by this honesty, and then convicted.

Grace is the greatest enigma the world has seen. It defies the world’s system of give and take and you-get-what-you-deserve. Grace is undeserved and delivers the undeserving. Grace is love, hope, newness, relief, rebirth, the imperfect made perfect and accepted by a perfect God.

And while I can say that, and claim that I understand it on a cerebral level, sometimes, in the ups and downs of daily life, I struggle to live as an object of grace. I try to earn what can’t be earned. I try to deserve what is undeserved. I try to obtain more of what I have in limitless quantity. I marvel that I do not lose what cannot be lost.

Grace reveals my lack of understanding, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand it at all. I know the feeling of rain on my skin without understanding the formation of the clouds, and in this dry season, I am grateful for it. I can feel the power of my truck as it climbs these mountains without knowing the individual working of each piston, valve, seal and gasket, and I am grateful for its work when I arrive at home.

Even though I don’t fully know Him, I know the peace, the hope, the joy of receiving God’s grace.

His grace only makes me want to know Him more.

And the more I understand of grace, the more I am convinced that over the course of my life, I will never fully understand it, but will see grace in new lights, live it in new experiences, find it where I didn’t know to look for it. In so doing, I will find the unascertainable depths of grace always sufficient, always life-giving, always hope-filled, yet never fully grasped.

In that way, my prayer for Agustina is just as much a prayer for myself – that I would daily more deeply grasp grace, live grace, and know the God who gives grace freely to all who accept it.


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One Way to Kill a Party

Last Wednesday my wife and I were sitting outside around a smoky pine fire. It was a damp 55 degrees – cold for here, but coveted by our family back in Wisconsin this time of year.

Birria being stirred

Birria being prepared at the changing of the local authorities

We were attending the annual changing of the local authorities. The indigenous village we live in has two men who are selected by town elders to lead the village each year, and the change from last year’s authorities to the new year’s authorities takes place on the first day of the year. It’s accompanied by huge cauldrons of cooking beef, what the people call birria, and a large tub of atole, a sweet flour-based porridge-like beverage that reminds me of something Goldilocks imbibed while awaiting her bear-filled doom.

Boys and a wheelbarrow

Two boys play with a wheelbarrow while the birria cooks

My truck was parked to one side, illuminating the party – there’s no power here in the village, though government promises to provide it appear to be moving forward. Shadows were cast on the different groups of people, as they alternated between huddling around the fire and getting more food from the small building where it was being distributed.

Birria!

The birria is cookin!

Most gathered with their families. Women huddled with their children, sitting on the ground and sharing small bowls of the steaming beef, using corn tortillas as utensils. Men huddled around the fires; some smoked, some held blankets around themselves.

Chopping wood to keep the fires going

Chopping wood to keep the fires going

And then another truck pulled in. “Who is it?” said one of the men standing next to me. I guessed, based on the color of the truck – white. When you live in a village where only five people have trucks, it’s pretty easy to tell who is who just based on the truck color. And I was right.

He turned off the lights, and the sounds of ranchero music drifted out the lowered windows.

People continued eating. Some began to complain – the broth in the meat dish was bitter, burned from sitting on the fire too long. Some blamed the cooks, who had worked all day. Others blamed the new judges for not arriving earlier. Still people ate it, accompanied by tortillas, some extra large tortillas called gordas, and more glasses of atole.

Liesl helps make the atole

Liesl helps make the atole

Then the man who had driven up in the white truck – stumbling drunk – stepped out of his truck. He joltingly walked up to the small building where they were serving the caldo. He asked why they hadn’t served him yet. He said there was enough food for the dogs but he didn’t have any yet.

And the people, the whole village on cue, went quiet. You could hear the fires crackling. They watched, waited, until the man received some food.

Women, with their children looked around nervously. Some whispered to their husbands, The kids are scared, let’s get out of here. Some people packed up their things and leave.

Two boys take in the sight and sounds

Two boys take in the sight and sounds

You see, when you live in a village with no law enforcement, things can occasionally get out of hand, especially when alcohol is involved. Probably everyone here knows someone who has been shot during some sort of drunken confrontation.

Here, drinking emboldens a primarily non-confrontational people; old disputes come out, words you said come back to bite you. One of my closest Nahuatl friends found that out the hard way when he took a bullet in the back a few months ago, the result of some non-inflammatory but critical words he’d said about the wrong person.

So, when there’s drinking and confrontation, fear is a common response. As if there wasn’t enough things to fear out here – most Nahuatl fear the lightning, fear the ancestral spirit that lives on the hill in the middle of town, fear the witches in the area who cast spells – and in instances like this one – they fear each other.

Adding a little more flour to the atole

Adding a little more flour to the atole

The party was basically over. I told my wife we should probably go to, so we got in our truck, offered a ride to our neighbors and left.

It didn’t occur to me until 1:30 that night, when for some reason I woke up, how sad this all was. A once-a-year party just ended early because of an alcohol-fueled spat. Women and children scared, people leaving.

And in the moment, I didn’t even think about that. I just thought, hey, we should get out of here, too.

That reminded me. In life, often times the things we allow ourselves to get used to are things we shouldn’t have to get used to. We’ve only been here two years, and I’ve already grown numb to these situations. Imagine the people who have lived here their whole lives.

It makes me sad to think about it. But it makes me wonder. It makes me wonder, if one day, when the people hear the Gospel in their own language, things like this will change.