As the capital of Mexico (and one of the largest cities in the world), Mexico City is known for its rich culture and delicious food — but it’s also known for its political corruption and crime. The needs may seem overwhelming, but there are signs of God’s light penetrating the darkness. Through healthy churches, partnerships, leadership development, and holistic ministry, ReachGlobal is doing its part to promote spiritual transformation in Mexico City.
We believe we are witnessing the dawning of a new day in Mexico City — light breaking into the darkness. How will you help transform this mega city?
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“A New Day” is part of the Moving Latin America Pictures project. It is the fourth of five videos produced by a short-term mission team of videographers to capture the essence of the ministry and the needs on the field. Please stay tuned as we post one final video next week.
by Joshua S., EFCA ReachGlobal missionary in Mexico
Many American evangelicals have found a way to make peace with Halloween. Harvest festivals, Spiderman costumes, and generic pumpkin carving contests have provided a more biblically sound alternative to the gloom and doom origins of Halloween.
However, Mexico’s national Day of the Dead celebration was a challenge for our missionary family in Mexico City. We knew the day would come when the culture would clash with our Christian values, but we didn’t realize just how difficult this holiday would be for our three children.
The Day of the Dead is not about dressing up in costumes and getting candy. It is centered on three key elements: (1) an altar is built for the dead, (2) offerings are given in honor of the deceased — including pictures and favorite foods and (3) people communing with dead relatives.
As we talked with Mexican evangelicals, it became clear that there was little that could be done to redeem this holiday.
But it would also be impossible to ignore.
On the Day of the Dead, school is cancelled for the national holiday. The day before the holiday, though, school children are expected to participate in a school program focused on the dead. Much of the preceding month, the children prepare for this program — and that is where the struggles began.
Our children were repeatedly commanded to bring offerings for the school altar and engage in other activities associated with death. We encouraged our children to graciously refuse, and that seemed to be enough for the teachers of our two youngest children.
However, we knew something was wrong when our oldest son, Malachai, came home from school distraught. He had to do the assignment. He had to bring an offering, he told us. If not, his teacher had threatened to give him a zero on all related assignments. For our overachieving 8-year-old, this was too much. He was nervous and fearful to go to school.
So we talked with him. We talked about the importance of following Jesus no matter what and about how glorifying God is more important to us than good grades. We talked about pleasing God versus seeking man’s approval. We talked about death, about the dead, and about life and the God of the living.
The next morning, we read the story of Daniel. And then I walked him to school and waited to speak with his teacher.
Catching her just before the bell rang, we only had a moment, but it was important for Malachai that I not wait any longer. I told his teacher that I knew we were a bit strange in terms of Mexican culture, but that as a Christian family we would not be celebrating the Day of the Dead. I asked her to please give our son alternative assignments. And I told her that if there was no alternative, we would prefer that he simply receive a zero.
She gave him alternate assignments. That was the end of it.
We didn’t send our kids to school for the Day of the Dead celebration. And we didn’t celebrate the Day of the Dead. But we did spend two days at home celebrating life together, sharing stories from the Scriptures about the God of life, playing games together and enjoying the many gifts the Lord of life has given us as His people.
Perhaps we cannot redeem a holiday like the Day of the Dead. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot redeem the day on which it is celebrated.
“But Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God… He is not God of the dead, but of the living’” (Matt.22:29, 32b).
by Brian D., EFCA ReachGlobal International Leader, Latin America/Caribbean
“What will you do when ‘they’ tell you to leave or face death?”
A godly Mexican pastor (we’ll call him José) was asked this question by a trusted mentor in reference to the work he is doing to expand his church’s ministry in a difficult area in Mexico. José and his congregation are running Awana programs for kids, job-skills training for adults and other outreach ministries in an area of town controlled by drug gangs.
I was struck by how open José was when he told me, “It took two months to think through the answer. I discussed it with my family and we came to a decision together.”
Their answer is evident as the ministry continues to reach those without hope in a region facing daily threats to life.
To this point José has not personally received death threats, but he knows what his answer will be when they come. Far from being a theoretical possibility that invites glib responses, José and his family know it is just a matter of time before the threats become reality.
As I travel all over Latin America and the Caribbean, there is theoretical danger — but the risk is miniscule compared to that faced by José and other faithful believers like him. While I come and go quickly, these amazing servants increase their risk the longer they persevere in reaching the lost and hopeless.
And still, it makes me honestly consider — what would my response be if asked the same question?
by Naomi S., EFCA ReachGlobal missionary in Mexico
I was talking to a kind friend the other day about how I was adjusting to life in Mexico, and I told her that I can compare my transition into my new culture to meeting someone new.
Has this ever happened to you? You meet someone new, and you notice some flaws about her. Maybe she laughs too loud or she has crooked teeth (or maybe she is very short and has freckles)…
Then, time goes by and you spend time with this person. You laugh with her and cry with her and pray with her. And before you know it, she is the most beautiful person you know — her smile is lovely and her laugh is magical.
So I think I’m there in my transition to Mexico.
I’m noticing the flaws, but I’m also hopeful because I know that day will come when it will all be beautiful to me.
Her eyes are often downcast as she speaks. Her words are soft and even.
Yet, when she opens her notebook, filled with hand-written poetry and thoughts, she offers a deeper look into the heart and soul of a young single mother.
At 15 years old, Marisol is just a girl herself — too young to be the mother of a 2-year-old girl. Yet here she sits at the DAYA house in the Federal District of Mexico, struggling with the desire to be a good mother and the guilt of not knowing how to do it.
“I write what I feel,” Marisol says. “I like to write what happens with us (my daughter and me). It helps me to pull out what I have inside. At times I’m sad, angry… I can write about it.”
What is DAYA?
Fundación DAYA (Give and Love Foundation) provides housing and care for needy and abused teenage mothers and their children. For the nine girls like Marisol who live at the foundation, they provide education, skills training, parenting help, counseling and support.
Although it is not a Christian organization, DAYA — through a group of Christian women volunteers (like Karla, EFCA ReachGlobal missionary in Mexico) — is a place where these young mothers can hear the gospel and receive discipleship and mentoring.
Growing up emotionally abused in Puebla, Mexico, Marisol ran away from home at 12 years old. Before long, she met the father of her daughter, Lupita. He didn’t stick around for long.
“When he left me, I suffered a lot with my daughter,” Marisol says. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have money. I didn’t have work. I didn’t have anything… I began to take drugs and all that.”
Life continued in a downward spiral for Marisol until about 10 months ago, when she and Lupita were sent by the National System for the Integral Development of Families in Mexico to receive help at DAYA.
“At first, [being at DAYA] scared me. I wasn’t adapting. I wasn’t used to being with strangers,” Marisol says. She feared how they might treat her or what they would say about her. “But with time, I was able to adapt. Now I like it.”
Today she has friends in the group of young mothers. She also has the support of the women who regularly visit DAYA, volunteering their time and gifts to minister to the girls and their children.
Learning about Christ
Jeanine* is one of those women. She has been volunteering at DAYA for the past five years, teaching bi-weekly group studies on topics such as self-esteem, depression and suffering. When initially approached by the former director to come help at DAYA, she would only agree on the condition that she could openly share the gospel with the girls. DAYA accepted.
“At the end of each session, I invite the girls to talk with me personally,” Jeanine explains. “We can share freely, but we can’t pressure them. We give them opportunities and offer help, but they must come to us.”
Earlier this year, Marisol went to speak with Jeanine. She had been cutting herself.
“There are times when I’m sad, there are times when I’m content,” Marisol says. “But I know I have a problem. With my anger, I take it out on myself. I cut myself.”
Marisol showed Jeanine her scars and told her about her depression. Jeanine explained the gospel to her, and Marisol identified that she was a sinner in need of salvation.
“Marisol cried and she accepted God. She prayed to receive Him as her Savior,” Jeanine says. “I told her that her body is now the house of Jesus Christ.”
A process of healing
Jeanine remembers personally how difficult the healing process can be, coming from a background of emotional and physical abuse herself.
“I always offer a special time to share — a personal time in confidence to see what God is doing in their lives,” she explains. She takes special care to encourage Marisol each time she sees her. A couple of months ago, Jeanine also invited Marisol and Lupita to spend a weekend with her.
“She came to my home and we went to the park. We spent precious time with her daughter,” Jeanine says. “In the past, she didn’t have patience with her daughter. She sometimes hurt her. But I was blessed to see a different relationship with her daughter [during this time].”
Marisol’s poetry and writing reflect this changing relationship with Lupita, as well as her growing relationship with God.
“I want to be your path so that you can walk it and not get lost. I want to be the light that illuminates your dark soul. I want to be your world, love,” it says in her notebook. The poem is dedicated to Lupita.
“Sometimes she still experiences depression,” Jeanine says. “The same thing happened to me in my Christian life, but I found peace in the Bible.”
That is the prayer of the volunteers at DAYA (Jeanine, Karla, and others) for Marisol, as well — that she would continue to heal as she comes to know God better.
“I thank God that He put good people in my path,” Marisol said. “Before I had thought that, for me, all people were bad. That I was never going to know people like this. But now I see that I was wrong… I love them.”
Bring a short-term team to Mexico City. Serve the Lord through creative evangelism, construction or renovation, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), job or skills training… or other projects that match with your skills.
For God to be glorified at DAYA in the lives of the girls and that He would heal their wounded hearts.
For Marisol as she begins her Christian life and comes to know God better. Pray that she would find the strength in Him to care well for her daughter.
That God would continue to use Jeanine, Karla, and the other women who volunteer at DAYA to lead the girls to a saving relationship with Him and to show His love to them in a practical way.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what about a video?
Help ReachGlobal Latin America strategically tell the story of God’s work through the creation of short promotional videos. Capture the true spirit of the culture, the people and the ministry in places like Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; San José, Costa Rica; or Mexico City, Mexico.
ReachGlobal Latin America is inviting 4-6 video producers to join us on a two-week video production mission trip in January 2012. Producers will each travel to a different city to film for four days — interviews, b-roll, city footage, etc. — before spending a week in Costa Rica editing and producing the final product.
Who should apply?
Video producers with:
3+ years of years of production experience
An eye for composition, an ear for the story, and a heart for God
All needed equipment for video production
If you or someone you know might be interested, find out more about this incredible opportunity. Don’t pass up the opportunity to unite your love of video with your faith in the Lord.
You’ve read our stories. Now help us tell them in a new and powerful way.