— ‘Alabaré, alabaré, alabaré, alabaré, alabaré a mi Señor!”
Hundreds of Mexican children who flock each spring to Vacation Bible Schools in Aquiles and four other mountain villages served by the Edmond Church of Christ in Oklahoma love that song.
So does my friend James Lauderdale, a missions committee deacon for the Edmond church, my home congregation.
I discovered this as I rode shotgun while James steered a white rental van filled with care packages from village to village, avoiding cows, donkeys and goats that shared our rocky, twisting path.
my brother sang loudly, with a distinct Okie accent and mucho enthusiasm.
“What’s that mean?” I asked when he finally stopped to take a breath.
He winked as he quickly launched into “Cristo Me Ama”
(“Jesus Loves Me”).
I learned later that “Alabaré a mi Señor!”
means “I Will Praise My Lord!”
Coincidentally, that is exactly what James was doing.
That same day, as James kept delivering 30-pound boxes filled with rice, beans, sugar, flour and other foods to appreciative villagers, he switched to hymns in a language I understood: English.
In the van with us were Ishmael Resendez; his wife, Ofelia; and their children, Brandon, 9, and Alejandra, 7.
Ishmael preaches for a 175-member congregation that is the largest Church of Christ in Victoria, Mexico, a city of about 300,000. He also directs the La Sierra Youth Camp, a summer Bible camp in Aquiles launched three years ago by Edmond minister Kent Risley and elder John Trotter.
The Resendezes do not speak English. But as James belted out “Our God, He Is Alive,” “Amazing Grace” and “Victory in Jesus,” the Mexican family happily sang along — in Spanish.
Talk about perfect harmony!
I don’t recall James singing “Precious Memories” that day:
Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious, sacred scenes unfold
Nonetheless, my sixth trip to Aquiles provided me with precious memories — not to mention chiggers from my ankles to my knees, the apparent result of unwelcome guests in my tent.
Concerning the chiggers, kudos go to Dora Chambers, an Edmond member and the trip nurse, for packing plenty of bug spray and anti-itch cream for our mountain adventure.
In all seriousness, praise God that bugs turned out to be our biggest worry on this trip! If you read this month’s front-page story
on drug-related violence in Mexico, you know that safety concerns have wreaked havoc on mission efforts south of the U.S. border.
In fact, the day our group left Oklahoma, a Facebook friend was so kind as to post a U.S. State Department warning for all of us “crazy enough to travel to Mexico.” That same day, I read a wire service report where one source suggested that mission groups going to Mexico “bring a body bag along.”
I chose to trust in God and not share the above information with my three children who joined me on the trip. But I prayed hard when a convoy of trucks filled with men toting machine guns and sporting green military uniforms zipped past our church vans and set up a makeshift checkpoint.
As it turned out, the soldiers behaved extremely professionally as they examined cargo in our caravan of 13 vans. They assured us they were trying to protect us from any potential threats.
Once here in the remote mountains of northern Mexico, we felt extremely safe — away from cell phone signals, paved roads and modern civilization.
In the daylight hours, we focused on doing God’s work — feeding entire villages, teaching children about Jesus, fumigating homes and installing concrete floors. On the final day of VBS, the Mexican boys and girls and the short-term missionaries alike shed buckets of tears. It happens every year.
At night, we played cards (my 12-year-old daughter, Kendall, and I lost in the first round of the trip’s annual Spades tournament) and worshiped God under a star-studded sky.
After a remarkable mountaintop experience, we began our journey home on a spiritual high.
“Alabaré, alabaré, alabaré, alabaré, alabaré a mi Señor!”
Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected]