Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wasting Time, Water and the Gospel...

I'm wasting time today.

Or, to put it another way, most people would think I am wasting time.

Years ago in one of my philosophy classes, my prof, Phil Hanson encouraged all 8 of us to become good at wasting time.  It was, he told us, the only way to get all of the stuff out of your mind and focus on what was really real... or as he defined it, the God stuff.

And yet as I try to forget about the busyness of life, even here in Oaxaca, I am learning just how difficult that is.

As I walked into town today looking forward to a day of rest and reflection, my mind was racing.

Pastor Chable and I got back to the ranch last night after a busy two days in the Sierra Mixteca, north of Oaxaca City near Tlaxiaco.  We had spent our time sharing and learning about rabbits, tilapia, water and the Gospel.

To say that I am excited is a understatement.

How often, in this day and age, do you get a chance to be part of bringing water to a community?  Can you imagine living today in a place where literally there is no water source and you must steal from another town?  Welcome to Benito Juarez, Coquilla, Oaxaca.

I was there yesterday morning and saw the excitement on the faces of the people as they pumped about 1000 gallons of water from the city's first well.  And then started digging deeper to get even more water.

Now 1000 gallons may not seems like a lot to you and me, but for the 70 families living there, it represents hope.  Hope for a better tomorrow for their families and their kids. In the indigenous areas of Oaxaca, more than 10% of the kids die before reaching age 5. One of the main reasons is dehydration related to a lack of water.

The men, and women of Benito Juarez are working to solve this by digging wells and pumping the water.  Adventures in Life will come alongside this community and help them make sure that water is safe to drink with Sawyer Water Filters.

And then the hard work begins.

It hit Pastor Chable and me last night when we were sitting in the bus station waiting for the ride back to Oaxaca... we are planting the first seeds of a new church in this region.  First by addressing the very practical need of water to live, and then by addressing the need for living water...

Pray for us, and if you want to be part of this work, contact Adventures in Life through our web site.

Monday, February 18, 2013

AIL Ministry, Evangelism and Being Fishers of Men...

Sometimes you give a man a fish, and other times you teach him to fish.

My friend David Phipps of The Global CHE Network explains it this way... sometimes the situation is so dire, you have no choice but to give someone a fish to keep him alive.  It's called relief.  But effective relief should always be followed with development.  That's called teaching people to fish.

Sadly, because development is painstakingly difficult and time consuming, it has been very hard for short-term mission to be effective in this realm.  In our growing Facebook and Twitter culture, anything that requires an attention span of more than a few moments, gets pushed aside for the instant, the quick and the demands of a 140 character lifestyle.

Think of it like this.

A lot of short-term mission has become like the greeter at the church door who asks everyone how they are doing, never hearing anything other than not bad, and certainly not having the time, or skills necessary to do anything if someone was to say, "You know what? Right now my life is falling apart."

One of things that has been pressing hard on my soul the last few years in Oaxaca has been the question of development.  How, in a Christian context, can Adventures in Life come alongside people in a way that not only provides relief when necessary, but also development to make that relief long lasting.

What I am talking about here is a way for short-term mission to see long-term impact in the lives of some of the poorest people in Mexico.

Last week I was at a meeting with leaders from about 20 different communities from the mountains around Oaxaca.  Places with names like Eloxochitlán, La Raya San Pedro and Llano de Cedro.  These are people who work hard to provide for their families and communities in areas where electricity is spotty at best and water, if available is never clean enough to drink.

I listened as a dedicated group of Christian activists with whom I work in Oaxaca shared about opportunities to have clean drinking water and not only to get some fish, but learn how to fish.

We shared about Sawyer Water Filters, answered questions and then moved on to the subject of fish, specifically, tilapia.

Adventures in Life was in the process of setting up a hydroponic garden and tilapia farm the leaders were told.  In this "farm" regular people can raise up to 200 tilapia at a time and have tables full of fresh vegetables like lettuce, broccoli and tomatoes.

You could sense the excitement in the room from the leaders of these communities.  Many of them returned, at great time and expense, later in the week when we were up and running.  Lots of people, they told us, had heard about this, but they had never seen it in practice.

Government leaders, colleges and university representatives from around Oaxaca were showing up at our demonstration farm to see how, not to give people fish, but to teach them to fish.  And then came the biggest question... Why?  And each time, Pastor Chable was able to explain that we are trying to live out our call to love one another as God has loved us.

Next week I will be in some of those very communities with Pastor Chable.  We've been invited to come and speak to the town councils, and to different groups of leaders about what we are doing and how together, people can learn to fish.  Few of these people are Christians and most have a pretty jaded view of both the Catholic and Protestant church.

The problem with Christians and development has been that historically we have failed to connect that aid and help to the living Gospel of Jesus.  This is the hard word work that us in country missionaries must do.  It is our part of the unwritten contract between long and short-term mission.  

Short-term missionaries come to help us and support our ministries, oftentimes through development projects and we then take that development and the Gospel message to areas where we have learned to communicate within the local cultures.  

It is wholistic Gospel missions work.

It's not just about fish... it's about teaching people to fish... and then being "fishers of men!"

Please be praying for AIL Ministry and our efforts with Pastor Chable to do just that in the next few weeks.