Going to Puebla was my first international experience aside from Canada, which we all know doesn’t really count. I’m not a great flyer so I knew coming in I would have anxiety regarding the flights at the very least. Post flight the muscles from my waist up are sore and my lips are extremely chapped because unlike LL Cool J, I cannot nervously lick mine constantly and avoid looking like I just came from Antarctica the way he seems to be able to.
Once arriving in Puebla the first “foreign” experience was the traffic. Our IMB missionary driver, Aaron Woods was an awesome chauffeur all week but it had to have taken him some time to adjust to that madness.
Now, this is where it starts to get really fun. I am borderline OCD when it comes to germs, so naturally a place where you can’t even rinse your toothbrush in the water is where I go. The first hotel we stayed at in Zacatlan wasn’t terrible but certainly wasn’t my greatest cup of hotel tea, if you know what I’m saying. I got along fine though and the next morning prepared to head for Puebla and the villages. Obviously since I am a germophobe I attempt to avoid illness if at all possible, particularly anything stomach related. Seriously, I would cash in on ten colds a year if it meant avoiding the stomach bug, I hate it. So again, Mexico is naturally an awesome choice for me in terms of first mission experiences.
Post ordering hot cakes, which are miraculously exactly the same in Mexico as they are in America, we headed up to the mountain villages and to the first two churches of the day. What we saw on the way was God’s beautiful and masterful design of creation. Just an unbelievably gorgeous view heading up the mountains. Breakfast and a trip to the mountain village churches was the routine for the rest of the week, visiting two churches a day.
Based on the testimonies of other first time mission trippers it seems that most Christians are awestruck by the lack of the Gospel in these remote areas. For me, it was something entirely different. Since we were there to help Freshwater Springfield with their partnering strategy we were mostly among believers for a good majority of the time. Because of that, I got to see some amazing Mexican Christian leaders. Due to the conditions they have to travel in to get to their churches and the sacrifices they have to make to do their ministry I was constantly asking myself, “wow, what am I doing in ministry that requires this much sacrifice and dedication?” I was so incredibly motivated by these leaders in their faithfulness to serve the Lord regardless of their circumstances.
The people of their churches were so gracious and sweet. Every church fed us a meal and at one church they gave us chicken, rice, beans and mole sauce. They put out the finest tablecloth they had and served us our plates. As we finished and got up to let the church eat I noticed they removed the nice tablecloth and put on a plastic liner. Next they began serving their church members plates of food. Their plates of food consisted of rice, beans and mole sauce but no chicken. They had given us the best they had. It was all I could do from that day on to not hand a church the meat product they served us back and say “please eat this!” “I can have this whenever I want back home and you have worked so hard for it.”
Churches in the Puebla partnership sector need Missouri Baptist Churches just as badly as Missouri Baptist Churches need the Puebla churches. I can promise that if you go to Puebla to prayerfully consider a partnership with a church there that it will be hard and dirty but you will be inspired. We got to see one older couple get saved in our time there and JT Patton, the pastor from Freshwater Springfield said that after giving them the gospel he asked them if they had ever received Jesus as their Savior and they said no. He then asked them if they would like to and their response was “that is why we came.” The people are hungry in Puebla. The lost are hungry for a Savior and the saved are hungry for training. If your church is considering a partnership somewhere, consider a vision trip to Puebla. Whether God leads you to partner there or not, you will not leave as the church that came, you will leave as something greater.