I met him last summer at one of our camps in Oaxaca. That in itself is no big deal as I meet lots of new students and kids in Mexico as part of my ministry. What is surprising is that Patricio came to our camp from Veracruz, almost 5 hours away in another state completely.
Abandoned by his parents and now living in a group home in Veracruz, Mexico, somehow Patricio heard about our little camp and made his way by bus to Oaxaca. Last year I heard a version of that story time and time again from our ministry partner there, Pastor Chable.
We received more than one call from parents in the middle of the night telling us their kids would be at the bus station in Oaxaca at 6:00am in the morning and asking if we could pick them up. Basically parents, like Patricio, had heard about our camp and were just sending their kids, trusting God that we would have space for their children.
|In Ensenada, one of our camp weeks each year in Mexico|
Each year these camps, [three in Oaxaca and one in Ensenada] serve between 50 and 80 kids. Three of the camps are for children ages 5 - 12 and one is for students, ages 12 - 18.
In addition to the spiritual emphasis of our camps, we also have a vocational focus each year for the student week. We have learned that if we can teach some life skills, such as music, English, or like last year, culinary skills, then we can help give hope for the future to at least some in Oaxaca.
|Our Culinary Team and Chef Yesenia Martinez from Los Angeles, in Oaxaca, last year.|
Patricio was part of our Culinary Skills classes last year. In addition to working with a chef all week at our camp, his team also got a day cooking with Chef Rodolfo Castellanos of Origen Restaurant in Oaxaca City. Origen is one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca and thanks to Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza Restaurant in Los Angeles, we were able to give our kids this unbelievable opportunity.
At the end of the day, I was sitting with Patricio, talking. I asked him what he learned from Chef Rodolfo. I was stunned by his answer, expecting to hear something about cooking. “Two things” he said. “First, love God, then pray every day.”
|Patricio with Chef Rodolfo Castellanos of Origen Restaurant in Oaxaca after a day cooking together.|
Patricio said nothing Rodolfo had to say about cooking stood out as much as “Love God and pray everyday.” Literally, that was our message for our camp that week, and Patricio heard it loud and clear. Not in a church, but in a restaurant as he was learning how to cook.
I think we should celebrate moments and epiphanies like the one Patricio had that day with Chef Rodolfo. But there's a problem. I have been told countless times by pastors and leaders both here and in Mexico that the emphasis Adventures in Life, and our ministry partners throughout Mexico put on meeting the physical needs of people takes away from the true Gospel work of evangelism.
It is a criticism we firmly reject and here's why.
|Here I am with Felix in his personal greenhouse that produced 1000 pounds of tomatoes in the first harvest.|
In many areas where we are working, helping families improve their economic station in life, and have access to better health care, gives us the credibility and relationships we need to share about Jesus. Camps, family portraits, greenhouses, agriculture aid, water wells, water filters, fish farms and medical clinics all say loud and clear, WE LOVE YOU, long before we ever mention Jesus. It's what we call holistic ministry, focusing on spirital, economic and physical simultaneously as we serve in Mexico.
This style of mission, where we focus on the person first, tells people that we love them unconditionally, whether they know Jesus or not. It is a philosophy that helps explain why kids like Patricio get on a bus and why moms and dads across Oaxaca trust us enough to send their kids to us in the middle of the night.
It is an approach that, in the words of Young Life, a long time ministry to high school campuses here in the US, earns us the right to be heard when we share about Jesus. It is also an approach that models the compassionate love of Jesus to a hurting world, and when done right, leads to an eternal life, growing in Jesus' love.
Want to help? Here are five specific ways you can bless our ministry and our work in Mexico.
1. A new dorm at our site in Oaxaca so more people like Patricio can have a week at camp, learn some new job skills, and hear about Jesus and his love. [$12,000.00]
2. Sponsor an entire week of camp in Oaxaca, or Ensenada. [$5000.00]
3. Provide enough medicine for our Annual Spring Medical Clinic. [$3000.00]
4. Provide a personal greenhouse like the one above for a family in Oaxaca. [$400.00]
5. Provide a Sawyer Water filter like the one in this video, for a family in Oaxaca. [$100.00]