It is Thursday afternoon as I write this, so I have had several nights of normal sleep after returning from Mexico, without the benefit of two other men in my room who are adept snorers (but they were wonderful roommates otherwise!). One morning I woke up before the sun rose. I turned on the bathroom light and was preparing for the day, when two yellow jackets somehow entered the small space. I swung and missed several times before laying them low with a bath towel. After dunking my head under the water to tame my hair, I heard multiplied buzzing, only to find 8 more had taken the place of their fallen comrades, which I imagined to be a revenge tour. I quickly turned off the light, slipped out the door, closed it and slapped another few as they attempted to invade our sleeping quarters through the crack in the door. Soon enough they were all dead and no one was stung. We learned that morning – wherever the nest was (in the small hole where the electrical ran to the light?), best to keep lights out in the morning, lest the bees think the sun had risen. The night posed no such threat, as apparently they were already tucked in and sleeping.
Breakfast was at 8am at the Woods, followed by our assigned tasks. On that particular day of the bee baño offensive, we worked in 94-degree heat to tear down an old church structure down the road from the new one. We pulled out the old bent rusty nails, and to my surprise gathered them in a bag so we could reuse them for the next step in the construction. We moved what lumber we could reuse up the hill to the space next to the new church. Next, we “painted” the lumber with used motor oil, an unsuitable flavor for termites. It is remarkable how resourceful construction projects are in Ometepec! This particular project was the raising of a Sunday school structure adjacent the worship space. The heat and humidity were oppressive, but we worked through it until about 2:30pm.
In Ometepec, the main meal is in the afternoon. A sweet Christian woman named Patti, whose sense of humor transcended the language barrier, cooked our meals. It was the most fabulous Mexican food I have ever tasted. Each meal was delicious, and usually included fresh juice to drink as well as dessert. After the meal, we would gather for daily devotions, and then either go back to our work project or to the school to meet with students, or head to the town athletic complex to play basketball and talk with students we met earlier in the day. We also taught at the kindergarten class a couple days. We planted flowers at the future high school (also opening “in the Fall”). My favorite task of all was driving in the back of the pickup out into the bush, clambering down a hill, across a ravine, and up the opposite hill to carry 150-lb, 12-foot freshly cut wood limbs (which would be the supporting structure of the new Sunday school structure) back to the pickup truck. I would have complained, but 70-year-old Tim Wood, the pastor and lead missionary with whom we partner, was too far ahead of me carrying his own wood pole to listen. After the labors or playing were finished, we would return to the Wood’s for a lighter evening meal at around 8pm, and then walk back a quarter mile to the hotel.
To be a missionary is to operate within a framework of improvisation, resourcefulness, prayerfulness and reliance upon the Lord. And to not mind risking or winging it. My favorite line of Tim’s was, “I guess we’ll find out.”
“Will we be ok in the bed of the truck next to the the huge heavy wood poles since the tailgate only halfway latches?”
“Do you think Jim and Zach know where to find us after you sent them on that errand into the city?”
“Do we need any prep time to teach the kindergartners English?”
For each of these questions, see the line above.
Tim and Barb are remarkable people, devoted to Christ and the people of Ometepec. They are doing an amazing work planting churches and leading the school they started 20 years ago. They are the second generation of missionaries in that town, an evangelical mission begun by Tim’s parents who in the providence of God had their efforts come to an abrupt close when their small plane crashed back in 1964. Tim’s parents were both 42 when they died. Tim and Barb are known by many, perhaps even most, of the people of Ometepec, a town of 68,000. As an example, a couple of us went early in the morning to the towering, beautiful Catholic cathedral in the middle of town to take a look around. We met the custodian, and in my broken Spanish told him we were evangelical missionaries here for the week. He replied, “Tim Wood?” Yes, I said. He then ushered us through a locked door to ascend the stairs and take a look at the city from the roof.
It was a privilege to see the fruit of the work of the Woods, and the fruit of the our church’s investment and ministry there. Jim Haley and Zach McMichael have maintained our partnership by serving there annually over the last seven years. You have helped through your generosity, since we send a significant part of our mission tithe to invest in the Woods’ mission. This year it was a joy to watch the next generation serve as well. The five teen girls who served on our mission team served faithfully and joyfully.
Another aspect of the fruit of the ministry in Ometepec is that it fueled the founding of a partner ministry of ours, the 28:19 center in Linden. Jim Haley, Tom Skoulis and Patrick Smith decided to take the plunge and open that center after NAPC has started ministry in Linden. There seemed to be a need for space for programs ministering to kids and adults. Jim, Tom and Patrick decided to open one a few years ago after talking with Tim about it while they were in Ometepec a few years ago. Did those three men know it would work out? “I guess we’ll find out.” The decision to open 28:19 has resulted in a vibrant, growing ministry that includes a monthly worship service live-streamed to our acoustic worship, with a family meal afterwards (every last Sunday of the month, you are welcome to join them).
I was blessed to return to Ometepec after seven years with our team of 11 people. The encouragement of being with 10 other brothers and sisters in Christ is hard to overstate. As we left, we thought about the verse that inspire the name of the 28:19 center, that important Great Commission at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Our challenge to each other – “find your Ometepec.” In other words, find the place God is calling you to love and serve and share the Gospel with people. It might be Linden, or it might be your neighborhood or your school or your workplace or your extended family. But we all have our Ometepec. May we all find it and labor faithfully for the Lord, wherever He leads us.