By the time Marshall and I awoke, Josue had already left for school. (By the way, I don't think I have explained that Josue is pronounced Ho-sway.) We did all those normal morning things that you do and ate breakfast. Because of the time I have allowed to slip by between the trip and writing about it now, I don't remember what we did for breakfast each individual day. I do know that one day (perhaps not this day) we had tortas. They are sandwiches made from little oval loaves of white bread, on which is spread cream (kind of a cross between cream cheese and sour cream), a slice of cheese and some sliced ham. Jalapeños were optional, which of course I accepted. The tortas were great! Since returning I have even made my lunches like that, spreading cream cheese on bread and making sure to load up on jalapeños or chopped hot peppers.
Again this morning, we were going to the Landrums' for Team Time, but before we left, Josue returned home. He explained that he arrived at school too late and the doors were locked. So since he had a suddenly free day with nothing else to do, Marshall suggested he accompany us. Nancy agreed to let him go, and we headed out to the bus stop. Soon we got off at the stop for the Landrums' house.
During the team time I felt sorry for Josue because he doesn't know English, and that's all we spoke in! Eventually it came time to leave for the bus station to take us toward San Juan de los Lagos. We would be stopping to eat in Lagos de Moreno, where the Landrums used to serve several years ago.
On the walk to the station, we passed a construction site where they were putting up a commercial building. It was right at the street, and we were walking on the sidewalk only a foot or two from the construction--there were no fences, barriers, tarps, etc. keeping people away from the action!
The fare to Lagos was only about three dollars on a coach for the near-hour ride. It was a pleasant ride, providing ample opportunity to see the countryside, which was quite deserted: few trees, much scrub brush, and few houses. At one point, traveling through a more populated area, we saw a lot of sizeable white stucco houses with terra cotta roof tiles. "Casas de ricos," Josue explained. Rich people. It was ironic, because when you think of a southwestern style house in America, or see things like Taco Bell with their stucco walls, you tend to think of that as being a Mexican style house...which it is, only for the rich.
In Mexico they do have a lot of familiar stores. One which was on our normal bus route home was Wal-Mart supercenter ("Precios bajos. Siempre.") There were also Home Depot and McDonald's, and this Goodyear service center Ken saw in Lagos.
When we arrived in Lagos de Moreno (which means Brown Lakes), Craig took us to a shopping mall, not heavily patronized in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, to eat lunch. There were several restaurants to choose from, but most of us ended up ordering from the same traditional Mexican place. They had enchiladas, quesadillas, hamburgers, the like. I ordered chicken enchiladas: three enchiladas on a large plate, with lettuce, cheese and red or green salsa (I don't remember which one I got). The salsa was sufficiently hot, rather liquid, and soaked all the food, so every bite was spicy! I have since discovered I can achieve the same effect at home by pouring the water from a jar of sliced jalapeños over my food.
While we were ordering, a ten-year-old boy came around, apparently begging for money (not an uncommon sight in Mexico). We all turned him down, but he took a seat at a table next to us. Willie did give him a tract, though, which was in the style of a comic strip.
Marshall also ordered some enchiladas, but began to feel a little bit nauseated. He didn't push himself and only ate a few bites. A little while later, he had an idea.
"Ryan, why don't you ask that kid if he wants my food? He may not have had anything yet today."
"Yeah, okay," I agreed, intrigued by the fact that in the U.S. we (or I) don't usually talk to people so freely whom I don't know. But this is how you can minister to people and practice the love of God.
"¿Quisiera esta comida?" I asked him ("Would you like this food?"). He gladly took the plate and got some utensils from the restaurant, and proceded to clean the entire plate. Not a normal feat for a ten-year-old.
After most of us finished eating, Celina, who was fluent in Spanish, went over to the boy's table and began talking to him about the gospel and what it said in the tract.
While many of us were praying for the boy and Celina's witness to him, Celina later reported that he did make a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus! She gave him the phone number of some believers in the area, but only the Lord knows if he was able to contact them. Again, He knows what kind of a family he has and what living conditions he is in; they might discourage any faith in him. His name is Juan, and he could use our continued prayer.
Meanwhile, as Willie and some others were passing out tracts to the few people around, a policeman in the building discovered them and stated they couldn't do that here. As I heard the story, he wanted/needed contact information for people who could explain more about what the literature was about, so they gave him the contact phone number on a tract! Perhaps he read it later.
After everyone was collected, we walked back to the bus station to continue on to San Juan de los Lagos (St. John of the Lakes). We got there in time to miss the most recent bus, and the next would arrive in half an hour. Craig was kind of dissatisfied with that amount of waiting time and inquired at another bus line's ticket desk. They said a bus would be there in twenty minutes. Well, twenty minutes turned into an hour! (That's Mexico.) To pass the time, we talked and some of the students played a card game on the floor of the station.
On the bus to San Juan, Craig met another American, not a christian, and Celina witnessed to the young woman next to her almost the whole time. God's word will not return void! We must continue to pray for these people.
From the station in San Juan, we all took taxis to the cathedral. Entering in the back, we saw the confessional booths. How tragic to think people think you have to confess your sins to another person because you can't approach God Himself!
Next, we went into the trophy room. It had a lofty ceiling, and pegboard covered the stone walls. Literally the walls were letters, photos, soccer trophies, motorcycle helmets, jerseys, locks of hair, crucifixes, children's crayon drawings, communion dresses, paintings... They were all tokens of thanks to the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos, because supposedly she answered prayers made to her at this shrine, whether for healing from an illness, a game won, or some other request. All the letters were addressed to the Virgin of San Juan. Of course the virgin is supposed to be Mary, but there is also the Virgin of Guadalupe, the virgin of this town, the virgin of that place... It's effectively not the same person, because people address the virgin of each individual place. It was heart wrenching to see the utter idolatry of the country in this room. Occasionally the caretakers of the building come through and clean it all out. I think I heard that the amount of stuff on the walls there was only about six months' worth! You see, six million people go through that cathedral every year! The disparity between the wealth the church gets and the non-wealth of the general population is despicable.
From there we made our way into the "sanctuary," where the stench of incense filled my nostrils. A mass had just begun. At other times, we were told, you might see people walking down the center aisle on their knees. At the front of this cavernous main room is an altar to a three-foot-tall doll, representational of Mary.
Back in the 1500's there was a situation where someone had supposedly died, so another person who had this Mary doll laid it on the "dead" person, who revived. Thus they enshrined the doll. The whole town was built around the cathedral and the doll, and it is now a profitable institution for the Catholic church in Mexico.
Everything in that building spoke to me of death, between the 3/4 life size dead Jesus on a cross off to the side, and the pitiable, blind worship of this image. We made our way to the back of the the "sanctuary" (nothing sanctified about it) and noticed, as the chanting prayers and songs were raised, there was an old man in the back row, on his knees, arms upstretched, rosary in one hand, whose voice soared over those of everyone else. He was dedicated or desperate, and hoplessly lost in his religion! It was a horror to see. He obviously was clinging tight to the Catholic religion to get him in favor with God.
Josue was especially glad to leave, since he is so much more aware of the hold the religion has on the populace, and the deadness of it. In the U.S., you usually don't see such dedication as the Mexicans have to the Catholic faith, nor the superstition.
Craig said that every year when he brings the Emmaus Bible College students to San Juan to show them the pitiable state of the Mexicans in their beliefs, it's a real "downer" of a day, with which I quite agree.
Just before we headed back to Leon, a couple of us took a detour to the restroom...they were pay restrooms. A rather foreign concept here in the States, but it helps to pay for the cleaning services. It was only 3 pesos, or about 30 cents, so it wasn't a bother to pay. It was just a bit funny, you know?
On the trip back, we all were seated together in the rearmost seats in the bus. Ryan was folding some origami again, and for quite a long time Emily, Josue, Ken and I were talking and having a lot of fun! I learned all the Spanish names of the fingers: Thumb = pulgar, index = indice, etc. If you want to know them too, just ask!
We got home after dark, so it was past 9:00 pm, and we had supper at our host familys' homes. Normal Mexican time for supper. At Nancy and Cuco's house, Nancy's father was there visiting, and we told him we were at the cathedral of San Juan that day. He told me to take a look at Jeremiah 7:17-18:
Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger.It startled me to see the phrase "Queen of Heaven" in there, for that is what they call Mary. It was just so similar to Catholicism in that it was creepy. The passage goes on to declare that the Lord GOD (the name used when God made the covenant with Abraham and David) would pour out his wrath on those people for their idolatry.
We too should be careful if we think we are not idolatrous like the Israelites were or Mexicans are. We all have things we put in priority before Christ, and anything like that is an idol. Before God, all sin is equal, so blatant, open idolatry is just as offensive as idolatry hidden in the heart.
Well, again I don't remember the specifics of what we did at the home. Often times, after we supposedly went to bed, Marshall and I would talk for quite a while. One night early in the week we talked about military aircraft and top secret airplanes. It was a subject I had some knowledge of and an interest in ever since I was about thirteen.
Nights were warm, the window in our room was always open, and we slept without sheets or blankets on us. The pillows were rock hard (I never got quite used to it) but we did sleep well after a long day!