Twelve of us set out on Friday April 3 at 1pm for a 24 hour drive to Oaxaca City. Our purpose was to help missionaries Jeffrey and Sylvia Simons start up a youth ministry in an un-churched Zapotec Indigenous village called San Juan Guelavía, located thirty minutes outside the city. As a team we wanted to “Serve, Give, and Connect.” That was on our mind the whole time we were there, and our students did a great job of serving the Lord, the ministry, the missionaries, and the youth of San Juan Guelavía; they did an excellent job of giving themselves to be used by the Lord and useful to the people; and they had a lot of fun connecting with others and made friends with students who don’t know Jesus.
Missionaries, Jeffrey and Sylvia Simons and Kaleb and Gracie (above).
Here are some pics of the Zapotec people in the day-to-day lives (below).
Saturday night we were able to spend some time in the historic downtown plaza. Oaxaca is overwhelmingly full of culture and history. We had our first taste of culture with the Oaxaca “tlayuda” (a huge flower tortilla with beans and anything else you want on it).
The next morning we shared at the Simons church, Torre Fuerte (Strong Tower). This church is involved in ministering to San Juan Guelavía on Sunday nights with a Home Group. We got to share about how God is moving in our student ministry and why it is so important to intentionally minister to the younger generations, and we invited their youth to join us during the week to participate in the outreach activities. That evening we went out to the village and met the people we have been reading about and covering in praying for a couple of months now. Many of the families represented in the Home Group are receiving support from the government and the church in order to get a one room house to live in...the Judge called it a dream come true for many of them. We would be working with one of them in the mornings for the next three days.
Our host family in San Juan Guelavia.
We were told to be careful with our Christian jargon because of the testimony of previous Missionary groups who have come to town to try to convert them. As a result, they place Christians in the same disdainful category as Politicians and Drug Traffickers. Our goal was to minimize our “christianese” ways so as to prevent any further barriers from going up among the people. Right before we arrived at the home were the meeting was to be, a drunk man with a couple rocks in his hands came up to Jeffrey as he had just gotten into the van and sternly asked hum what his purpose was for being there. After a few moments of Jeffrey calmly talking to the man, he apologized and told him, “I can see in your eyes that you come with good intentions.”
At the Home Group, we found out that the host is the Judge of the town and in charge of overseeing the house-building project that the government and church are helping with. Most of the people who were present were people who are receiving help with their homes. Many of them were Christians. During the study, three of our students led a Bible story with the children while another student, Martin, shared the Word with the adults. He shared about the two men who built homes -- one on the sand and the other on a rock -- and did a great job of connecting with the people because that is exactly what was on their minds! By the way, he did not know about this beforehand.
Home Group and children's class pics...
Our schedule was basically the same for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. In the mornings our team split into two; a group of guys went to do some construction and our Student Leadership team led a Leadership Workshop with some of the more involved youth in San Juan Guelavía and a few others who came in from the Oaxaca City Church, Torre Fuerte (Strong Tower).
The Leadership Workshop was well done. They spent the first day talking about the importance of having a personal devotion life with Jesus as being the foundation of our leadership. The next day, they talked about service and set the example by washing the students’ feet. The third morning they put into practice their service as a team, and we poured a floor in a room that was built for a family in need. The construction team spent Monday and Tuesday preparing for the pour.
Leadership Workshop...Day One (above).
Pouring the floor (below).
In the evenings, we wanted to connect with the youth from San Juan Guelavía through what we’ve done in Cofradía: EL RETO. Monday was dedicated to getting to know each other and finding their team identities by choosing names from Bible stories. One team used the story of creation, calling themselves “Creation.” Another team used the story of David and Goliath, calling themselves “La Onda” which is a play on words: it means “The Sling” and also slang for something similar to “Happening” (usually used to ask “What’s up?” as well as refer to understanding what’s going on or a person who is deservedly well-liked). The final team used the story of Abraham’s calling, choosing to call themselves “Abraham’s Descendants”, which was another play on words since their team leader’s name was Abraham.
Each evening we had an event similar to pin the tail on the donkey where they had to tape together a whole body searching for the wall blindfolded and following the directions shouted by their team members. The first day focused on the head with eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. The next day was the torso with arms and hands, and the final day was the legs and feet. After this was all finished, Luis shared a short message on how we are all part of one body and need each other.
Each evening also had a “Final Challenge” which determined some sort of punishment for the loosing team. Monday night was “King of the Circle.” It ended with one of our students winning, but because he had stepped on the line he was actually out. We gave a trophy to Francisco from San Juan Guelavía who was the runner-up.
Francisco (left) is a young man that is struggling with a number of difficulties, and everyone was happy to see him participate, especially his Aunt and Uncle who hosted us.
On Tuesday we had a number of active games such as the Olympics with javelin (toothpick), discus (paper plate), and shot put (balloon) events. The winner of each of the three events also won a medal. Following the Olympics event, we had relay races and brain teasers to keep it exciting.
Wednesday was the finals, and after a devotional by Luis, the #2 (Abraham’s Descendants) and #3 (Creation) teams participated in a balloon launch activity. They had to throw a water balloon onto a bulls eye about 20 yards away, and they received a certain amount of points depending on where they hit. Their team leader from Cofradía was standing at the top of the bulls eye, and they got even more points if they hit them!
Abraham’s Descendants won and played the finals with the #1 team (La Onda) in a nose blowing contest: they had to stick an M&M in their nostril and try to shoot it into a bucket.
The team that made the most shots won EL RETO. Congratulations to...La Onda!