Why Mexico? And more specifically, why Cruz de Cristo, our mission in Costa Maya, Mexico? Why should we organize mission trips there, or offer our support in other ways? Don’t we have plenty of missions we can be supporting? Let me give you just a few reasons:
- The Costa Maya area is hungry for the Gospel. There is only one functioning Christian Church in an area populated by thousands – Cruz de Cristo.
- Costa Maya is just a small portion of the Yucatan Peninsula, an area larger and more populated than all of Wisconsin. Cruz de Cristo is the only Lutheran Church in the Yucatan Peninsula. Our church body, with its solid declaration of the Gospel in its truth and purity, has so much to offer a part of the world that is steeped in what I’ll call “superstitious Catholicism” – a belief system that is part Catholic doctrine, part Mayan tribal custom, and almost all works righteousness.
- Poverty, addiction, abuse, and illiteracy run rampant through this area, leaving significant human need in their wake. Along with the primary goal of making disciples, we also want to show the love of Christ to people in need by helping them with their human needs. We are blessed here in America with an abundance – let us reach out to those in need.
- Cruz de Cristo is not funded by a World Mission Board or supported by a Synod. It grew up organically, and can only continue through the support of individuals and their congregations.
It is for these reasons and more that I’m excited for what we can do working alongside our missionary and the members of Cruz de Cristo. Sure, there are missions all over the world – and even in our own backyard – that we can be helping. Yet, God has not prescribed, “Here you must do work!” or “This is the mission you must support!” He opens doors and invites us to serve him. But if you’re wondering how we got connected with Costa Maya ministries, and why I see this as a great opportunity for us, I’ll need to tell you the story. As I do so, I want to start with an interesting part of the book of Acts:
“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” – Acts 16:6-10
Every time I have read this section I’ve been somewhat fascinated by the question of how exactly the Holy Spirit showed Paul and his companions that they were not to enter Bithynia. What obstacles did he throw in their way, and at what point did they finally conclude, “God doesn’t want us there right now”? I don’t have answers to these questions, and it’s probably good that God doesn’t give them, because then we’d be looking for signs far too specific. Instead we’re left with the simple understanding that sometimes God has a plan for our ministry and the spread of his Church, and whatever plans we might think make sense, he knows better and will guide us the way he wants.
While I don’t know what Paul and his companions experienced, I can say that I’ve seen the hand of God pushing my ministry around at times. I’ve seen it recently, and though I haven’t had any visions or heard any voices, I can see in the circumstances how God has directed my work.
If anyone ever asked me, “Are you interested in any kind of foreign mission work?” I would have said, “Absolutely! But…” I might have talked about the practicality of trying to care for my family in a foreign place. I might have talked about the many opportunities to reach out to people right here in our own country. I might have noted that the Call I currently hold involves serving people here in southern Minnesota. I might have expressed my interest in specific cultures; I’ve always been interested in the Far East, its languages, culture, and food. If anyone had said, “How about Mexico?” I would have said, “Not my first choice…”
A few years ago some of our leaders on our Board of Outreach were looking for a way to connect with a specific mission and pursue a mission partnership. We got in contact with one of our missionaries in Eastern Asia and were working on establishing communication and finding out what we could do to support them. I was pretty eager for the project, thinking that maybe down the road this would be a way to connect with mission work in a part of the world that really interests me and also coincides with the Call I hold.
But it didn’t work out. There were technical difficulties that disrupted communication. There were logistical problems that made it hard to connect with or support the missionary, or arrange meetings with him while he was on furlough. One of our board men, who was invested in the project, had health issues that got in the way of him being able to keep pursuing it. At the time I saw these as frustrations. Looking back, I suspect something larger at work.
About eight months ago I had a few conversations that inspired me to start working on a foreign mission trip opportunity for my teens. I had an inkling that we’d find our best opportunity in Latin America, but I wanted to go through the process . I started by contacting our Synod’s administrator for World Missions. He pointed me to our coordinator for Latin American Missions, who pointed me to a man named Jerry who, along with a handful of others, worked to organize our mission church in Costa Maya, Mexico.
Jerry and I started communicating, and his response when I talked about bringing a teen mission team down to help was enthusiastic and encouraging. He told me a little about what was new with their ministry, and it was clear that we had an open door.
This door is not open only to us. Without Synod or Mission Board support, Cruz de Cristo had been blessed by the Lord to have the people of Bloomington Lutheran supporting them financially. A few of them made a plan to go down for a few days, get to know the mission better, and help with the work. I was invited to join them.
The days we spent down there showed me how much the people there need our love, our kindness, our compassion, our help, and above all, the saving message of the Gospel. The entire Yucatan peninsula is starving for the Gospel in its truth and purity. There is an enormous amount of work to be done, and the door is open.