We first met a group from Valley Bible Church way back in 2002 (maybe). One thing led to another, and in 2007 we were invited to visit the church, and speak at their missions conference. I TREMBLED at the thought of preaching in Pastor Phil’s pulpit, but somehow we survived. Later that year VBC took us on for support. Valley Bible has to be one of the most diverse congregations we’ve ever encountered.
I wrote a journal entry about the group at the time, and thought I´d share a couple paragraphs from that journal. If you have a few minutes, read it!
The team’s composition was remarkable. Among them, Salvador and Adrian from El Salvador, fluent Spanish speakers. Joel Chan (nicknamed Chadby me) was second generation Chinese. Noel was part Cuban and part Irish. Leah boasted to having every possible major ethnic group in her background. Bernie and Ted were second generation Mexican. Jonathan had Hungarian roots, and could have easily appeared in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Mike had a Mexican father and an American mother. I never got around to talking to Tim or Cristina much about their backgrounds. Kirby Hughes was the token white boy in the group, who I am told is headed to the armed forces, and who looks like he’s already there, with a buzz job an a wild look. I remember this last name because it is colorfully tattooed across the top of his back. Jared looked like an average American kid on the outside, but on the inside was a bi- or tri-lingual/cultural missionary kid from Senegal whose parents were with New Tribes Missions.
With a group resembling the 13 disciples I knew that God was going to do something. It was a joy to see how the Lord has carefully chosen each team member, and how each own contributed wonderfully to the good and effectiveness of the whole.
In Latin America, ministry is relationships. Perhaps that’s the case, or should be, everywhere, but certainly one of the most rewarding aspects of the team’s time here was the friendships that quickly began, among ourselves and with national Mexican believers. What further promoted this dynamic was the fact that all the team members stayed in homes of Mexican church families. When you eat and pray and laugh and worship and get sick with people, it sure helps you bond.
Some relationships were tested in unique ways also, like when Ted and Salvadorgathered up fire ants and put them in Kirby’s bed, or when Jonathan played harmonica until two in the morning, and used his harmonica case to provide temporary housing to a small scorpion he found. But without a doubt the highlight of the trip for all of us happened Thursday night.
The church of Jesus Christwas one of the best ideas God came up with, and He’s come up with some good ones in eternity past and future. The church, however, is unique. It is family, community and faith wrapped into one, joining diverse people through their common relationship with the living Lord.
So many times I look over this city and try to see what I cannot see. So many times I think of Elisha and his servant. “Behold, there are more on our side than those who stand against us.” “Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world.” “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Mountaintop experiences remind us of those truths.
Most missionary life, most Christian of the life, is not lived there however. It is lived in the day in and day out struggle to be faithful, to obey God, to avoid sin. The team returned to California. Jonathan said that he was going to be open and truthful to his friends as to his experience down here. Has he been I wonder? We once again return to the weekly schedule of prayer and Bible studies, of exhortation and confession. Maybe it’s not very flashy…but oh, it sure is powerful.
The supernatural world, always present, always around us and just beyond our sight. The enveloping security of divine protection and the haunting void of eternal despair…reflected in the faces of ordinary people in ordinary places made eternal with the passage of time. So normal, so subtle, so unnoticed, so permanent. The righteous walk, carrying the message of an incredible truth, the merriment within. We dance to an otherworldly song and to all who hear the voice of the Lamb on both sides of the veil…we will dance. A smile on the corner of our lips. A hope that surges and swells, barely concealed. A fantasy wilder and grander than all others is about to be ours. We are friends of the Almighty! We know how this story ends.
Jesus is not an innocent, helpless baby in a manger or a bloodied, miserable victim on a cross. He came off of that cross, and with eyes of fire and dressed in breathtaking glory He desired to be worshipped. He will be worshipped. I close with a quote from C.S. Lewis:
“…if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilization, compared with his, is only a moment.”
Thank you, team from Valley Bible, and all those who helped you come, for your participation in the party that is called the Church of Jesus Christ! Please continue to pray for the Iztapalapa Bible Churchand Mexico City.