Monday, May 29, 2006

Mexico: Part 7

Tuesday, March 14

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!

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan! thanks for the Blog update-- wow, you really typed a lot on this one!! CU tomorrow LW, SC

BrittLeigh said...

Wow! What an incredible experience that must've been. I have friends who were recently in Mexico, and seeing pictures of all the Catholocism and idolatry really tugged at my heart as I also saw how poor they were. Especially seeing the poor little children in ill health and not adequately fed. How sad that these people have so much religion, yet have nothing. I'm so glad that there are people like you who are reaching out to them. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Owen Family said...

Great post! Thank you for taking the time to share a detailed account of your journey in Mexico.

Interesting info on the "Queen of Heaven" and the scripture references. Those poor people who take all that this religion says as soul-saving truth. How sad their plight is!

Monica said...

Wow what an experince. I would love to be doing what you are. Thanks for sharing about your experinces.

Hannah Michelle said...

Hey Ryan! This is Hannah L. in Ohio...I had NO idea that you had a blog!! Really neat! It sounds like you had some trip to Mexico...I'll have to come back and read more when I have time. I found you through your comment on my friend Britt's blog (Aletheia Liberty) and about fell over when I saw that it was you. How did you happen to come by her blog?

I hope you, Ken, and your parents are doing well! It seems like forever since we visited with your family...but I guess maybe that's because it has been. LOL! Your Bible verse CD still gets plenty of playing time...one of my classic favorites now. ;-)

Take care and God bless!

Hannah

Ryan said...

Hi Hannah! Yeah, my friend Chelsea Owen got a blog, then I found Britt's blog, and I decided to start one up. I found her blog when she e-mailed us saying she got a Bible verse CD from a Hannah L. and wanted to order more! In the signature was the link to Aletheia Liberty. ;-)

It's hard to believe it's been almost three years since we last saw your family...time sure flies!

--Ryan

Hannah Michelle said...

Ooooh, ok! Now I remember that Britt had said she wanted to get one of your CDs after I posted about it on my old blog. I'd totally forgotten about that! I used Blogger for a year, then I switched to WordPress for more customization options, including having public and private posts. But the html stuff still drives me crazy...I'm trying to figure out my sidebar right now. LOL

Anyway, thanks for the compliment on the new look, but I can't take much credit because it was a pre-created template that I downloaded. (I'm all for the easy way if it's what I want!) All I did was add the text layers on the header...Christopher has taught me enough about Photoshop that I can have some fun dabbling in graphics. I don't know if he knows how to do that weathering effect, either, though I'm intrigued by it.

Wow, almost three years. That makes me feel old. ;-)

Hannah

Rachel Marie said...

I've really enjoyed reading your blog, Ryan!
Your experiences, and your pictures in and of Mexico reminded me alot of many of my own, while I was there in winter of '04.
If you don't mind my asking, where exactly were you in Mexico, geographically? How many hours south/west/east were you from the border, and nearest which big city? And when were you there?
I remember fondly the "pay restrooms" at which the person collecting your pesos would hand you something like 3 squares of toilet paper, and you just hope for the best!=/ (I'm not so sure personally that the money they collect really goes toward helping with cleaning services, since in many of the restrooms I used, there was little or no water, and no soap, and no seats on the toilets!)
I noticed also that in Mexico there is much of a middle class--- there's the very rich, and the very poor, but not a whole lot of in-between--- did you notice much of that also? I got to visit a Wal-Mart supercenter in Xalapa (a huge city in Mexico, rated as the cleanest, most beautiful city in Mexico) and I was surprised to find out that Mexicans must by nearly everything on credit! All of the price tags had the price *per month typed in big bold letters, and then in small letters underneath, the cost of buying the item outright. Thankfully, the restrooms there was almost as good as the States, and they didn't make me pay to use them, either!=D
There was a McDonald's right beside the Wal-Mart, as well, but I didn't visit it at all.=) I even heard that in the smaller, nearby-town of Tezutlan, there was a Dominoes Pizza Resturaunt...
I noticed the strong struggle to "be American" all over everything, and it was so sad. I think the immorality is worse there, as well, an their lackadaisically minded government does nothing to help. Did you have much fun with "Topes"?! (Huge cement blocks or bumps right in the middle of roads or highways every few hundred yards or so) Wow, if someone misses a tope sign and goes speeding over one of those things, you'll have a pounding headache for the rest of the day! (I know from many times of experience!=/) I tell you, I was so very sick of topes by the time we left Mexico! And when I'd tell the Mexicans that we didn't have those in the States, they'd look at me dumbfounded and say, "Well then why doesn't everyone crash into each other, and run over pedestrians?!"
Mexicans are such sweet, polite people, so I don't understand why they can't implement that same atittude into their driving...!=D
My heart was torn apart at the sight of ragged little children begging for money in the streets, and by the drunks (possibly their fathers) laying in the middle of the roads. I noticed alotof pagan, cultural and local voodoo mixed in with Catholism, as well. And the pictures of Catholic churches that you posted look so exact to the ones in the towns we visited and stayed in!
In a society where everyone wants more money, and everything's for sale, I enjoyed passing out tracts in the markets and saying with a smile "[Senor] Esta es para ti, y es gratis!" (Sir, this is for you, and it's free!) It was extremely rare for someone to turn down something free, even if it was a gospel tract!
The drama of Jesus' death and ressurection sounds like it was a good idea, something sure to catch everyone's attention!
Well, I gone on long enough.=) Thanks also for linking to my blog, I returned the favor!=) Keep seeking Christ!
God bless you!

BrittLeigh said...

Hey Ryan, I love the new header! And the quote is incredible! You do a great job.

...oh to be so HTML savvy...

Rachel Marie said...

And you know what, Ryan, I was just thinking the SAME thing!
Your new header looks great!=)
Love the change!

Jessica said...

Ditto to Rachel Marie and Britt! The new header looks great! : )

Ryan said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! Being a graphic designer, the blog title finally annoyed me in it's absolute boringness. The photo I took at a Christian getaway my second year of college; my friend Nick went down to the lake to pray, and I thought it would make a good photograph.

Rachel, I was in the city of Leon, in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. If you use IE and go to http://www.virtualmex.com/newmap.htm, Leon is located centrally, East to West, and south of the tip of the Baja California peninsula. Leon is a black square above the red word Guanajato. You can even zoom in to see Lagos de Moreno to the Northwest and San Juan de los Lagos to the West of that.

I don't know how many hours across the border it is, but it must be a long drive! ;-) We flew into the Leon/Guanajuato airport between Leon and the city of Guanajuato. Our stay there was from Friday, March 10 to Saturday, March 18, 2006

Thanks for sharing a bit of your trip to Mexico! It's interesting you say there's not much middle class, because in the city where we were, that was mostly who was there. I am aware Leon is quite a wealthy city! However, my dad has been on several business trips to Queretaro—Southeast of Leon—and he did see some extremely poor people and their cardboard-box-and-cinder-block houses. I was surprised at how similar Leon was to America. There it seemed normal to buy things cash, not on credit, as far as I could tell. It's quite amazing how many economic differences there can be from one place to another in the same country!

Topes. Hmmm... I remember there were a lot of steel bumps about 1 foot in diameter occasionally lined up across the road, but traffic was usually heavy enough not to go flying over them and incur injury.

Though in the area where we were I did not see much obvious influence of superstitious/indian beliefs, however the seemingly fanatical devotion to the Virgin of San Juan or the Virgin of Guadalupe was a reminder that the Catholic church in Mexico does leverage the ancient superstitiousness.

I agree with you that it was a joy to pass out tracts and be able to say "free!" Who would pass up anything free? Of course it may be different here in the States, because people don't want you to sell them anything or push anything down their throats or speak of God on government-owned land! Well, with the Lord's guidance and our initiative, we hope to be doing more tract distribution and evangelism here, so I guess I will find out for sure, eh? ;-)

May God bless you as you seek Him! By the way, congratulations on your graduation, Rachel!

Rachel Marie said...

Ok, Ryan, I guess Mexico is just a very diversified country!=)
Actually, in 2002, the first time I was in Mexico, just over the border, looking back I don't think that I really saw the REAL Mexico. At least, I don't feel that the just-over-the-border city that I was in really represented the whole country, because of all the money coming right across the border. In Nuevo Laredo, (which is a really big, touristy city) I did see mostly only middle class. I guess it must just to be the farther you travel down, the poorer it can get. I saw alot of flimsy, corn-stalk houses and cardboard boxes for houses. Plus, come to think of it, it makes sense that you would not have seen alot of cultural, superstitious/indian beliefs mixed in with the Catholism, if you were not in a highly indian populated area, as we were. The indian culture tended to dominate the area where we were. Oh, and we also experienced the kind if topes you were talking about... I know what you mean; those ones weren't much of a pain, actually.=) I guess the closest thing I can think of to the topes in the middle of the road where we were, are concrete parking blocks... can you imagine hitting one of those in the middle of the road, at 55mph?! It's definitely a headache waiting to happen!=D
But it sounds like Baja Mexico is just very different that where we were... but I've heard that before.
Oh, I meant to ask last time, but I forgot(if you don't mind!), did you get to try any "Mole"? If so, did you like it? Maybe they didn't really serve that food where you were, but generally, it's a really greasy, hot and spicy, chicken dish that Americans don't like...=D LOL!

Oh, I also want to say that even though many people here in America don't accept tracts that you offer them, you will still recieve a blessing if you do start doing that kind of thing! It's true, Americans have a totally different attitude toward the message of the Gospel. But I'll let you find out on your own! And if you have any interesting encounters, do tell us about it!=)
Thanks for the "Congratulations," too! It's nice to be finished with highschool...=)
And I'll have to look at your link to the map of where you all were in Mexico, thanks, and God bless you!

Ryan said...

No, I didn't get to try mole. I would have if I could. My dad had tried it years ago and didn't like it. Maybe someday... ;)