Mission Mahahual Part 2 – What are we doing here?

“Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Except that in Mahahual, everyone already knows how to fish, and many of them are tired of it. I heard a story while down there that some of the people who live on the beach eat so much lobster that they’ll gladly trade a bunch of them for a frozen chicken.

But one skill essential for improving a person’s situation in Mahahual is English. The main industry of the entire area is tourism, and for nine months out of the year there are cruise ships every day bringing in tourists. Many of these tourists speak English, either as their first language or their second.

The best paying jobs in town are at the port, where the ability to communicate in English is almost a requirement. Because many people in Mahahual don’t speak English, the port brings in people from Belize and other larger Mexican cities to fill its 1,000+ positions. The next best jobs are those that put people in direct communication with tourists – restaurants, beach clubs, hotels, dive shops, and souvenir stands. Once again, speaking English is a leg up in getting these jobs.

Many children in town, especially in the poorer parts of town, don’t even have access to regular schooling. And even if they are able to go to school, the schools in town do not do much in the way of English education. We saw this as an opportunity for the mission to connect with the community in a meaningful way. If we could help them develop English skills, they would have access to jobs that would not only give them a brighter future individually, but would keep more money in Mahahual and strengthen the overall economy.

The goal of every mission is to share the Gospel of Jesus with people who need to hear it. But take for example Jesus’ response to the paralyzed man who was brought to him – yes, he gave him forgiveness and eternal hope, but he also gave him physical healing. Jesus did the same with countless others. We follow his call to meet both earthly and eternal needs.

We pulled together a program where we would gather kids at the church every day of the week for four weeks and teach them Bible stories in Spanish and then teach them English skills. We recruited two awesome young women (shout out to Taylor Weber and Brittany Brassow!) as lead teachers, and organized teams to come down and provide support.

As plans often do, this one morphed to include so much more than originally intended. There was an art camp, we worked with the local community center, we played soccer with kids, took them on a field trip to the port, helped clean up trash in the streets of the community, distributed clothing and hygiene supplies, and knocked out a painting project on part of the fence around the church. As of today, the team there this week is helping with clean up after Tropical Storm Franklin rolled through.

No matter the work, our goal is to represent Christ in all we do. The name of the mission is Cruz de Cristo, in English, “Cross of Christ.” Whether we were picking up trash, or holding a kid’s hand walking through the port, or teaching kids English at the community center, we were putting in front of everyone we met those three simple words – Cross of Christ. A reminder that there is something bigger than all of us, bigger than our trials, bigger than our sins. A reminder that there is a love that is greater than anyone on this earth can ever show.

And by loving the people, we were sending the message that the love Jesus, the love that drove him to the cross, inspires his followers to care for others. Even when we don’t speak the language very well. Even when we don’t always understand the culture. As a member of the church there often says, “Love isn’t limited to speaking the same language.”

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Mission Mahahual – Part 1

Mahahual, Mexico – palms waving in the ocean breeze, restaurants on the beach, rich sights under the waves for snorkelers, and every souvenir imaginable. Also, broken brick houses, children living in poverty, heat and humidity and bugs. Also, friendly greetings for locals and visitors alike, kids playing soccer and basketball in the evening, tacos on the street for only a dozen pesos, and a few dozen places to get a drink for less than a bottle of water.

Cruz de Cristo, the Lutheran mission in Mahahual – perhaps the only place in town, other than your own home, where a person can hear about Jesus every week. Also, a place where children are not only welcomed, they are picked up in vans and brought to the mission so that they can hear about Jesus. Also, a place where the needy are welcomed every Friday for a bowl of soup or a sandwich, feeding their bodies as well as their souls.

It is a joy to worship and serve alongside the brothers and sisters in the faith in Mahahual. This summer, we put together a program to bring Bible stories and English classes to the children. With dedicated volunteers from Minnesota and Wisconsin serving on rotating teams over four weeks (and two rock star college age teachers serving for the duration), we ended up adding to that an art camp, sports down at the community center, garbage cleanup on the streets of the town, and donations of clothing and hygiene and educational supplies.

What we came here to give, however, is only one side of the coin. Equally valuable is that which we received. It is impossible to do mission work in a place like Mahahual and not be changed by it. It’s not always easy to put words to what that means, but there’s no doubt we feel the changes worked in us.

But why are we doing this? What is the point, and what good is it accomplishing? Why this project in this place? As I look at the paragraphs above, I feel like they already answer those questions, at least in part. But over the next couple weeks I will be sharing about our experiences, what we’ve seen and done, the good we hoped to do and the evidence of what God has done through it.