INSIDE STORY: Not-so-material world: Blessings in remote village
AQUILES, Mexico — I am lying on the ground in a sleeping bag, within earshot of a braying burro and an insomniac rooster.
A soft wind occasionally blows a much-too-strong whiff of the nearby outhouses to the patch of grass and rocks where my 9-year-old son, Keaton, and I have set up camp.
It’s the final night of our church’s annual spring break mission trip to this mountain village. Since our caravan of white vans and trailers will pull out before sunrise, we’ve already packed our tents.
Some of the women and children are sleeping in the vans. A few men and boys have taken up shelter in the concrete-enclosed building where w keep Vacation Bible School supplies. Many of the teenagers and college students mingle by the campfire, content to delay resting until the ride home.
“How would you like to sleep under the stars?” I asked Keaton hours before.
His eyes lit up, and so here we are — enjoying the experience, if not getting much actual rest or seeing many actual stars on this cloudy night.
This is our family’s second trip to this remote area of northern Mexico that is blessed with vibrant churches cultivated by ministers such as Humberto Hernandez, Kent Risley and Brent Nichols.
Each spring for 18 years, Christians from Oklahoma, Texas and elsewhere have come here to teach hundreds of Mexican children and their families about Jesus.
They have come to prepare and deliver hundreds of 40-pound care packages containing soap, rice, beans, flour, corn meal, pasta, salt, sugar, cookies and cereal. They have come to repair roofs, build concrete floors and erect new church walls.
Back home, my children sometimes complain that they can’t afford the most expensive iPod. Here, they’re exposed to children with no indoor plumbing.
My wife and I pray that Brady, Keaton and Kendall — not to mention their parents — go home changed.
But for all the serious lessons, the children manage to provide plenty of humorous fodder.
Last year, Kendall, now 7, blended in with her new Mexican friends sowell at a VBS that a few college students mistook her for a native andserved her Kool-Aid made with untreated water. Fortunately, shesurvived with no ill effects. Only this year, after not drinking thewater, did she come down with a serious stomach virus.
Felix Martinez, minister of the Spanish-speaking Southeast church inOklahoma City, said with a chuckle that his 6-year-old nephew, Elijah,learned on his first trip here that “a tent is not the same as ahouse.” But Felix said Elijah, who speaks English and Spanish, did notmiss his TV or other material amenities.
“He says he doesn’t need it,” Felix said. “He asked me, ‘When am Igoing to Mexico again?’ He tells me he had a lot of fun with the kidsover there.”
Like the Rosses, Bryan and Julie Truex from the Wylie, Texas, churchbrought their children — Reagan, Cheney and Haley — hoping that theymight more appreciate the niceties at home. As Bryan shared, Julietried to teach one such lesson while in an outhouse with Reagan.
“Aren’t we fortunate to have nice, clean potties in our houses at home?” Julie asked.
“Well, I guess so,” Reagan responded. “But here we can play outside,come in here to the bathroom and go right back out and play. We don’teven have to go in the house! We should get one of these at home.”
Just to be clear, Bryan had no plans of filing a building permit with the city when he got home.
For 7-year-old Riley Roper, the lessons began before he even arrived atcamp. After 22 hours in a rental van with his parents, Randy andKerianne Roper from the Edmond, Okla., church, Riley was fascinated bythe anorexic livestock that grazed on the narrow mountain roads.
“Dad, I have a good idea,” Riley said. “Since we are almost there, we should sacrifice a cow to God.”
Obviously, Randy said later, this is a child who has been well-educatedin the Old Testament but whose theology has not fully embraced the newcovenant of grace.
“Son, that’s a good idea, we should sacrifice something to God,” Randyreplied to Riley. “But I think he wants our lives, not one of thoseskinny cows.”
As easy as that — a complete theology lesson and no cows harmed.