Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mexico: Part 10

Thursday, March 16

Today on our agenda was going to the capital of the state, Guanajuato, Guanajuato (like New York, NY!), which was about an hour's drive to the east of Leon. Since Nancy had taken us to the Landrums' house yesterday via oruga, we now knew how to get there; so we went alone.

Just before the team time started, Oscar showed up. He was supposed to have come yesterday to help out with the tract distribution, but got the day mixed up, and so here he was! Once he understood he arrived on the wrong day, he decided he could go with us to Guanajuato since he had the day free anyway.

I fail to remember who brought the devotional today. Perhaps it was Marshall. Oscar understood English fairly well, so we didn't feel bad about speaking in English the whole time! When it came time for singing, we sang some songs in Spanish and some in English, including Maravillas (God of Wonders), Señor Tu Nombre Exaltaré and it's counterpart Lord I Lift Your Name on High. Then we sang a unique song in 5/4 timing: How Deep the Father's Love for Us. Wonderful, deep words in that hymn!

Ryan, Celina, Emily, Beth, Amy, Willie, me, Marshall, Caleb

Willie said he didn't know most of these modern "praise songs" very well and was happy to hand his twelve-string guitar over to me to accompany the singing, since I had gotten familiar with them while I was in college.

Oscar volunteered to help drive us to Guanajuato, so Amy, Beth, Marshall, Emily, Celina, Scott, and I all traveled with him in his Mercury van. The middle bench seat was taken out so Emily, Celina, and I all sat on the floor. For an hour drive. Mexico is such fun!

Amy, Beth, and Marshall

Some typical scenery outside

First glimpse of Guanajuato nestled in the mountains

The road into the city wound around tightly as we made our way up a mountain where there is a good view of Guanajuato. The government pays the people to paint the houses and buildings vivid colors so they look good for the tourists!

Right next to the lookout was a statue of El Pípila, a historic figure who stormed the fortress in Guanajuato some centuries ago. I didn't learn the story.

We browsed some souvenier shops, and some of the others bought shirts or mugs. Then we took another group photo.

Oscar, Willie, Ken, me, Scott, Emily, Caleb, Ryan, Marshall
Beth, Celina, Amy

While Craig and Oscar parked the cars in a lot, the rest of us walked down from the overlook through narrow alleys and stone steps, finally reaching the streets. They were all cobblestone and only one car-width wide. It's quite an old city, not built for cars. We met up with Craig and Oscar at a tree-covered plaza, where Willie continually distributed tracts.

There we also met Atsushi, a Japanese graduate of Emmaus Bible College and friend of many of the students. He was living in Guanajuato, teaching at the University. Interestingly, his Spanish was better than his English, so he would talk to Craig and Brenda in Spanish. I had learned from Caleb previously that Japanese and Spanish basically have the same pronunciation, so it makes sense that Atsushi could pick up Spanish easier. He took us around showing us some of the sights of the city.

Us at the top steps of the University. Inside an opulently decorated church building.

A pretty veiw outside the church building

Now I must digress a little at this point to fill in some detail from earlier. It may have been a day or two earlier that this was brought up after our team time ended: Ryan and Caleb and Scott mentioned something about a group of men at Emmaus (perhaps that one or more of them are part of) that decided to be gentlemanly—opening doors for ladies, standing when a lady enters the room, pulling out her chair when she sits at the table. We had all affirmed those are good practices, the young ladies said that they appreciate them and that they make them smile, and the young men said as long as they smile when they do such things for them, they will continue to do such things! ;)

Back to the point: as we headed back to the green plaza from our tour, Ryan spotted a little stand selling all kinds of beautiful flowers, and went over to it as we passed by. The rest of us continued on, and he soon he caught up with the group, carrying four red carnations, which he then gave to each of the young ladies. This was another evidence of that "gentlemen's club," and a touching reminder to us all that we appreciate godly young ladies. Caleb made a point of complimenting Ryan for that gesture, and I know the ladies must have all felt special.

Once we got back to the plaza, we met a missionary family based in the city—Joel and Amy Hernandez, and Ivan and Sarah their children. Ivan was attending university and was practicing his very good English with us as we ate lunch (late in the afternoon of course). We were eating in a nice restaurant next to the plaza, where there was a jazz pianist playing lots of American big band/jazz on a keyboard with its accompaniment styles. My brother, Ken, who is a piano tuner, remarked that was the closest he came to seeing a piano all week!

Sadly, Marshall wasn't feeling well in the stomach, and only had a glass of water before heading out to rest on a bench in the plaza.

After lunch we said goodbye to the Hernandezes and Atsushi, and went to the market. The Market was huge—a big building with hundreds of little shops selling shirts, leather products, food, sunglasses... I don't even know what all. Here's a view from the second level:

I was not going to buy anything unless it was useful to me, so as not to waste money. Not far inside the building I saw a shop selling leather belts. I knew I had been in need of one, so I bought a genuine leather belt for about $8.50. Good deal.

As we headed back to the cars, we stoped at the Teatro Cervantes where there was a large statue of Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho.

Beth, me, Amy, Emily, Scott, Caleb offering Don Quixote a tract, Willie
Atsushi and Ryan

Ryan, Atsushi, and Marshall

Atsushi, Craig, and Brenda

During the trip back to Leon it got dark (because it was late), and we began to see some thunderstorms.Ooh! I thought excitedly, we finally get to experience some weather other than sun! Ha! The rain lasted a couple of minutes at the most. It was a sprinkling of large raindrops. I guess March isn't the rainy season, right? Anyway, Scott got a couple of good photos of lightning with his camera, so he was happy.

We drove directly to the kinder on the east side of Leon for the Thursday night church meeting. It was pure joy to see the believers once again, assembling in the name of Christ. Normally this mid-week meeting consists of a testimony time, sharing prayer requests, and praying, but since we were there, Craig recommended that six testimonies be shared, alternating Mexican and American, with Craig translating.

Craig joked that they didn't know what to call us.
Americanos? No, Mexico is part of North America. (The USA is usually called Estados Unidos in Mexico) Are we estadounidenses? No; technically Mexico is the United States of Mexico (Estados Unidos de Mexico). So what's left? Gringos? That's a derogatory term in the USA, so let's not use that. Now what? Gueros! Yes, let's use that! When Marshall and I were playing dominoes with Nancy and Cuco, I learned that guera is the term for the blank/white tiles. So the Mexicans joked that we should be called the same thing, since we are so light-skinned! It was hilarious!

The testimony from a man named Josue (introduced on Sunday) was especially moving. As he recounted how he came to belive in Christ as his Savior, he could not hold back tears. He came from a violent, alcoholic home, and followed in his parents' footsteps. He became a boxer and a champion in the state, but nothing satisfied him. Finally the gospel was preached to him and the Holy Spirit opened his eyes to the truth and he was saved. He had only been saved about a year and two months at that time, but he obviously loves the Lord and is growing daily, though his parents and siblings are still un saved. Thankfully his wife Lupita is also saved.

That testimony time was such good fellowship, and enabled us to get to know one another a more on a deeper level. We ran out of time for prayer, unfortunately. Afterward I gave Josue a hug and said "Voy a orar por tu familia" (I will pray for your family). With tears still in his eyes he thanked me.

We had some refreshments afterwards—Coke of course—and some more fellowship. Eventually someone got us visitors together for a group photo...which quickly turned into a visitors-and-instant-brothers-and-sisters photo as some dear Mexicans joined us!

Back: Fernando (the guitarist), Ken, Scott, Caleb, Ryan, Marshall, and Josue (who shared his testimony)
Middle: Fernando's sister, Samuel (who preached in the street) holding Betito (whom you will see later), me, Amy, Emily, Beth, Celina, and Alberto
Front: Willie, Josue, and Oscar

There was setting on a table in the room a can for collections to help fund Fernando's trip to Turkey, coming up soon. He was going to visit the Landrums' oldest daughter, Sarah, and her husband Jerry who are missionaries there. He is burdened for the Turks and may become a missionary. I was happy to contribute some to his trip. Fernando also had a handful of leather souvenier bracelets he gave to each of us as a reminder of him and our trip to Mexico. I'm not a bracelet-wearing man, but I couldn't say no. It was a gift from a beloved friend!

When it came time to say good-bye, we knew we would see some people the next day when we would go to Lagos de Moreno to a swim park, but for those we wouldn't see, it was sad. Might we return next year? I don't know, but the common bond in Christ ties our hearts together forever. We shall see each other again some day, even if it's in heaven.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Mexico: Part 9

Wednesday, March 15, continued.

After the afternoon tract distribution, we drove back to Craig and Brenda's house. We hung around on the sidewalk talking to Alberto until he had to go to work. He is a dentist and works in the afternoons till about nine o'clock PM.

It was around this time that Beth and Celina arrived from their day of outings with their host family.

Somehow or other, some believers from the Leon West church helped transport us all over to a neighborhood on the west side of the city for evangelism. The neighborhood over there was poorer than where we all were staying. The roads were rather beat up and the houses didn't seem as nice. Some of the men set up a power inverter to their truck's battery and plugged in a large amp to make a rudimentary PA system. Then they took turns preaching the gospel to the whole neighborhood!

We Americans were handed many home-made tracts to hand out to the inhabitants of the neighborhood. Those soon ran out, so some others and I were writing the contact phone number for that area on the backs of the other tracts we had, and the rest of the Americans passed them out.

There were quite a number of young people from the West church there too: Chuy, Samuel, Stephanie, and more that I didn't meet. When one of the men finished his address from the top of the street, they moved down a block, set up the amplifier again and another preacher took over. Samuel, who was 16 years old took a turn too, and it was awesome to see him despite his youth unashamedly preaching the gospel.

Once again, Celina's fluency with Spanish was a blessing as she was able to explain the gospel to several children on the sidewalk. I'm sorry the photo quality is poor, but it was at night under street lights. Celina is at the 11:00 position in the circle on the ground, looking at the girl on her right.

You may recall my reluctance on Sunday to hand out tracts, but thankfully this evening was different. Especially because of observing Alberto's method in the afternoon, I was more comfortable and more eager to give tracts to people and converse a little in Spanish.

I felt rather put to shame by those who knew very little Spanish but used what they could. Here I was, knowing more than they did, but fearing to use it: What if they respond too fast or say something I don't understand? How silly! I have an ability; I should use to the fullest what God has blessed me with and let Him worry about the details! So I did.

"Buenas noches, señor. Le regalo un folletito." I could be pleasant and personable by using the greeting, like Alberto did, and be confident they would be happy to take something free. We passed them to people riding by on bicycles, people walking by on the cross street—everyone.

Oh, if only all those people would take the best Gift that's free! Everyone wants a handout, except when it regards his eternal destiny.

It was getting rather late and we had to get back to our homes, so we began to say goodbye to the West church believers, knowing we wouldn't see each other again on this trip. However, Ken found out that Stephanie knew some English and also had Skype on her computer, so he gave her his e-mail address. Then she went around gathering as much contact information from us all as she could.

(Fast forward to back home, she had some problems with Skype for some reason, so we have communicated using MSN messenger. Samuel also has Messenger and he and I have chatted a few times, he in English and I in Spanish!)

We enjoyed some joking and laughter together and then shook hands and hugged everyone good bye. It was delightful to know them all as brothers and sisters in Christ, and that gave us special comfort, since though we may not see each other again in this age, we shall see each other in eternity!

Back at our Mexican home again, we had supper after 9:30, I think. Typical. We stayed up with until around midnight, playing dominos. And of course we joked a lot. ¡Nancy es muy chistosa! She jokes a lot, and we had some running jokes during the whole week! You had to be there, you know?