Well, I got back from Mexico late last night, worn out and yet inspired from a week of ministry among the poor of Monterrey. Unfortunately, the Internet connection at the hotel was so erratic that I wasn’t able to post all week long. Hopefully my Tonstant Weaders (as Harlan Ellison liked to call the fans of his 1970s TV column) will come back now that I have.
I’ll be producing a video about the trip that I’ll be presenting at Redeemer, and will post it at YouTube as soon as we’ve used it locally. For now, here are some photos of the week:
This is the full team–Christians from Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee; doctors, nurses, a physical therapist, a physician’s assistant, a lab tech, two pastors, and several lay people. That’s me in the lime green polo shirt on the right. We are standing in front of the Mountain of the Saddle, one of many mountains that surround Monterrey.
I was privileged to preach at Iglesia Bethel Presbiteriana, our host church, on Sunday. I preached from Matthew 16:13-20, and my colleague Pastor Francis Smith from Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Winston-Salem, a former missionary to Chile, translated.
Monterrey is as much a city of cars as any American city. It’s also a combination of Mexican and American businesses. And while you can’t see much through the haze, the seemingly omnipresent mountains are in the background, several miles from where this was taken.
We went to two nursing homes, which are fairly rare in Mexico because aged parents are typically kept in their families’ homes–as a result, those in nursing home usually have little if any family, and few visitors. This shot is of Dr. Mike from Pensacola, translator Lisa from Faith EPC in Kingstowne, a resident (sitting) and a staff member from the home.
The second nursing home was much smaller than the first (15 as opposed to 45). At both, the staff did a terrific job taking care of their patients, especially considering their limited resources. Here, Nurse Helen from Tennessee is taking a patient’s blood pressure.
We set up the clinic at Iglesia Bethel on Wednesday. Five doctors and a physical therapist saw patients, nurses helped doctors as well as doing lab work and triage (which in this case simply meant taking vital signs and determining symptomology, to see if there were any serious cases).
We also had a local dentist whose services were much appreciated, but the most popular doctor was Optometrist Arturo, who came from a city five hours away to be with us for five days, as did his wife, Nurse Alma. Arturo didn’t have the kind of complicated machinery that we’re used to seeing in an optometrist’s office, of course, so he had to carry his tools in his case, swapping out lenses until he could pinpoint a prescription.
For the first three days, I had the privilege of working with and getting to know Pastor Rafael, a Mexican Presbyterian pastor and church planter who is now on the staff of Team Northern Mexico, the permanent cohort working for the PCA’s Mission to the World agency. He’s a former stated clerk and moderator of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, but mostly he’s a gentle pastor with a loving heart and a passion to win people to Christ. The young lady in the photo, standing in front of her mother, Blanca, is Fanny, who is 21 years old, but because of birth and childhood illness problems only looks 13 or 14. She captured me with her ready smile and charm, even though she’s in pain much of the time.
Everyone on the team agreed that the medical aspect of the mission, as important as it is, was secondary to the mission of bringing the gospel. One of those we were able to do that with was Maria Theresa, who came to us ready and wanting to hear the message of Christ, and received it with great joy from Pastor Francis. I prayed for a lot of people this week, but praying with her was one of the highlights of the week.
One thing I should make clear at this point. We didn’t come to Monterrey seeking to “steal sheep” from the Catholic Church, and if someone said they were a faithful Catholic, we left it at that. What we found, however, was many people who had been baptized as Catholics, but had long since ceased to have any connection to the church at all. There were a lot of reasons for that, but one that we heard over and over was that their experience was that the church seemed unconcerned with the concerns and struggles that made up their lives. In fact, many people seemed to have no clue about what the gospel is, even at its most basic, or to have any form of relationship with God in Jesus Christ. Those folks we didn’t hesitate to speak to about their faith, and in the course of the week at least four people that I know of declared their desire to turn their lives over to Christ.
We saw marvelous spiritual fruit throughout this week, and none more gratifying than that between our team and the good people of Iglesia Bethel and Pastor Eraclio, the warm and gracious leader of the community. To a person, everyone I spoke to, Mexican and American, agreed that the relationships that come out of these kinds of trips, the support that builds for the work in the host country, and the prayer that flows from one to the other and back again, make the expense of the trips worth it. Could Iglesia Bethel use the money that was spent to give 23 Americans a week ministering in a foreign country, which I estimate to be about $30,000 in MTW fees and travel? Of course. But those I spoke to said that they would rather have the personal contact, the opportunity to pray and laugh and talk with brothers and sisters from another culture, than all the money in the world. I have to agree with them.