I hope that as I speak you will enjoy the photos taken by our team that capture the joy and beauty of a life-changing experience.
My husband and older kids have traveled the world for the sake of the gospel, at times guarded with AK-47’s, perilous border crossings and at one time Derek was even arrested. I was home taking care of children. Last year, we knew it was mine and Emma’s time to go along with many of you.
I’m here to share with you a short summary of our time and why we, as believers, should be encouraged to go on a mission for the gospel and in particular to Rancho 3M.
Having read books like Toxic Charityand When Helping Hurts, I had to come to terms with the why’s behind this trip. As I returned to Mexico with a clear mission in my head that the Bible commands that we help the poor, the oppressed, the widows and orphans, I still had questions. Would the closets that Billie Jeanne straightened still be organized? Would we paint the same building twice? What I found is that the work that we did last year was indeed a blessing to our team this year as we made multiple trips to the paint room and found just what we needed to complete our assigned tasks. The many man hours of labor provide much-needed support to the ongoing mission of the school and orphanage.
Anytime we choose to go out of our comfort zones for the sake of the gospel, whether at home or on a mission trip, we face risks.
John Piper writes,” Every loss we risk, in order to make much of Christ, God promises to restore a thousandfold with his ALL-Satisfying fellowship.”
In reflecting on our time in Mexico, I have come up with four particular ways that we can make much of Christ through the ministry of Rancho 3M.
- Through forged friendships. By waking each morning to share a time of worship through singing and devotions, we forge spiritual bonds with fellow believers. By joining in soul-searching prayers for protection over the ranch, for the gospel to be proclaimed, for our work to be completed on time, for cartel members themselves, and for revival in Guadeloupe, we build into a shared mission.
Working side by side in bone-tiring fatigue builds teamwork. Flexico in Mexico was often heard from the construction team as they re-engineered the community gathering place on the ranch which the locals fondly call the Sombrero. I learned my own limits. I cannot climb 20 feet in the air on a shaky ladder to paint, but Walter can. And he even managed to paint while keeping his Atlanta United jersey perfectly clean! I learned that it pays to have friends like Russ Lomas in the kitchen when you just need a little butter for your rice. Emma as a veteran having worked with Billie Jeanne last year learned leadership and ran a team of organizers. Chloe painted a ceiling with back-breaking efficiency with no less than two coats of primer followed by two coats of paint!
We made fast friends with the children of the ranch. Walter said if he ever needed to find Emma or Chloe, he just looked for a swarm of little girls. Emma and Chloe wore little girls around their necks like beautiful garlands. They played and hugged and giggled and laughed. The young boys gravitated to Walter. Walter is a picture of the gospel lived out as many men his age are in gangs, but he showed them what kindness and Christlikeness looks like.
We formed friendships with you in this church confident that your prayers were holding us up and giving promise for the gospel.
- For deeper trust in God and the display of his power.
As some of you may have heard, there were cartel attacks nearby which created anxiety and were meant to instill fear, but the acts of evil men only allowed an opportunity for the power of God to be on display.
God loves to pull back the layers of our fears and drive us deeper into our relationship with Him. On Thursday, we spent time together as a team and alone praying fervently. Removed from the comfort and “enchantment of security” our prayers take on more urgency. God had been preparing me for this time even before we left Georgia. Through his perfect timing in our ladies book study on Philippians, the Holy Spirit had Philippians 1:20 leap from the page and into my heart. Paul writes, “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”I boxed the words: with full courage. This verse again appeared on the opening page of the book that our team studied each morning, Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste Itby John Piper. God knew that I am not the most courageous person. I do not seek danger. I don’t like risk. Yet God met me in my prayers and he moved me from uncertainty and fear to a deep abiding trust in his sovereignty, even releasing my own daughter to whatever he had planned as if I ever could have held her. Why? So that the power of God could be displayed and his gospel and glory would go forth, for deeper faith not found in the supposed safety of our home.
Why should we risk?
- For the sake of the gospel:
Early in the week, our evangelism team of Spanish speakers had gone into the community of homes and businesses for the first time in about ten or so years. They passed by bombed out homes designed to display the power of the scorched earth cover of the cartel, a method they use to mark their territory. People have been killed just for entering these abandoned homes. God held off the attacks until our flyers had been handed out. The night before our outreach, another attack threatened to cause fear among the people. Dean was worried that the people wouldn’t come. As many of you prayed, God’s power and plan was on display! 250 people trickled in on foot and by car. He sent protection in the tangible form of Mexican federal police who “happened” to be traveling in a caravan by the ranch. During the event, he sent a sandstorm that forced the adults inside to hear the gospel clearly and without distraction. As pastor Ronald was preaching, on cue, whenever he spoke of the power of God, our great God literally sent thunder and lightning from heaven. The glory of God was on display and twenty-five or more souls professed Christ. He controlled the weather. He brought the people. He used the team and the ministry of Dean and Denise. He used brave local pastors. He is taking back the scorched earth from evil men. His gospel is being proclaimed. Each family left with the provision of food and a Bible to feed their souls.
We should go so that we can make much of Christ and …
- FOR his Glory:
His glory is on display in the diversity of language. As we worshipped together singing praise in Spanish, I was struck by the image that there is no language that is foreign to God.
His glory is on display in the diversity of his creation. In the unfamiliar sound of birds waking the day. In the sunrise and sunset over the wide expanse of desert. In the jagged mountains that rise in the distance. To see and witness his creative expression in Mexico and then return home to the lush greenery of Georgia is a contrast of his perfect design.
His glory is on display through a people who are poor, fatherless, oppressed, terrorized and yet full of hope in Christ. Joni Erikson Tada writes that “Christians who suffer faithfully shine the light of Christ in a way that confounds the watching world. Profound suffering positions us to be spectacles of glory for all the world to see the beauty of Christ in us.”
The people came. They heard a message of hope in a town full of fear. The school and orphanage are an oasis of hope to the surrounding community. This “spectacle of glory” is on constant display with its brightly colored buildings and a staff and family who have dedicated their lives in service to the children. It is a place where God in his kindness allows us, ordinary men, women, and teens an opportunity to share in HIS kingdom work.
I hope that when the next trip is announced that some of you will feel called to join this work where God’s word is faithfully proclaimed and revival is coming to the city of Guadelupe!
I hope that some of you will visit the Rancho 3M website and give financially so that more children from the community can go to school and learn about Christ in contrast to the local schools where impoverished children are initially recruited into the cartels and where, as Dean says, the children are taught ideas actively opposed to Christianity..
I hope that we will all remain steadfast in praying for Rancho 3M and the work that they are doing.
I leave you with one last John Piper quote from the book: “This is what we live for, and die for: to make much of Jesus Christ and his glorious, universe-encompassing kingdom. The heart cry of our lives, young and old, men and women, rich and poor, is the glory of Jesus Christ so that WITH FULL COURAGE now as always Christ might be honored in our bodies, whether by life or by death.”