My mission trip to Mexico was a little dangerous. The day we were to travel, the front page of my Yahoo had an article on the drug wars in Juarez, stating that 4,000 people had been killed recently and a total of 13,000 in the last three years in Mexico. We had to travel through Juarez twice for this trip and as stated in the article - one of the most dangerous cities in the world. We prayed that our car would be invisible!
I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, one of my favorite states. Bill Baker and myself, with our interpreter, Eva, stopped off along the way to pick bags full of apples to take. I saw a Roadrunner (the state bird) run along an adobe wall and I was very excited. I took this as a sign of blessing from God as the mission trip we were on was for Roadrunner Ministries International.
We drove through to El Paso, Texas and stayed the night on the border. In the morning we crossed Juarez and got our visas - Bill finally got his visa approved and we prayed our way to Chihuahua City. We then prayed our way through several thunderstorms and watched them move to our side. In the evening we made it into the Copper Canyon and Creel - a small town that reminds me remotely of a ski resort town. It snows here in winter but the weather was lovely this time of year. Bill told us that last year the entire police force in this town were killed by the drug lords. Hmmm more prayer!
The next morning we drove into the Copper Canyon and found small villages along the way to minister to. We gave out CD's with the gospel in Tarahumara. The CD's had testimonies, the Gospel and some worship songs in their native tongue. All who received them were grateful and some had tears in their eyes, as this was the first time they had received such a gift. Some of these CD's will be played over and over and over and shared with their extended families.
We continued through incredibly beautiful landscape - enormous rocks, fir trees and fields of bright green corn. We passed through many rivers and past log cabin villages. We decided to go to a remote town deep in the canyon. We took the 4WD up incredibly steep roads on mountain ridges till we thought we were lost on an old logging trail. Finally we came down into a valley where we could see houses. We had made it! We found a place to stay in the dormitory of the school. I played basketball with the kids and 'hide-and-go-seek' with some of the local boys around the huge magnificent boulders out the back. I had bought school supplies to give out and bubbles.
The next morning we walked to each house taking photos and giving out CD's. The reason we took photos was because Bill Baker is an incredibly talented artist and he takes these photos back home and then paints with pastels beautiful scenes of these people to raise money for more trips. Bill has been to over 50 countries sometimes hiking for days to find the most remote people to share the gospel. He has many amazing stories of God's provision and protection from his travels to the ends of the earth!
The Tarahumara are an incredibly colorful but rather shy people. They wear sandals made from old tires called huaraches and are known for their stamina as they can run for days chasing a deer until it drops from exhaustion. They are the fastest endurance runners in the world. They live in the valleys of the Copper Canyon, four times the size of the Grand Canyon. They evaded the Conquistadors for the most part, yet still attend a Catholic service every Sunday and hold festivals mixed between Christianity and their own religion.
When ministering to a different culture it is important to consider the impact you may be making. Doing aid work, even being generous like giving a candy or a dollar to the children, can be very damaging to an entire community as they may not have dental services. Children may not go to school when they can earn more than the average daily wage by begging from tourists. Native people around the world are always in danger of losing their traditional culture and we as missionaries need to think 'in what ways will I be impacting and influencing this area'. The traditional dress of these villages is slowly disappearing with the men no longer wearing their "zapetas" (loincloths). The Mexican government is planning to bring hotels into the Copper Canyon to bring the tourists. This will increase employment in the tourist industry and the desire and ability to purchase western products. Coca Cola bottles and cans already littered the road on the way to these remote villages but Coca Cola built the dormitory and the beautiful school where we stayed.
When entering these villages it holds a sense of sadness for what is to come. The young people are already out of control with drunken violence. They are poor yet with television are starting to see an outside world full of material goods and temporary relationships. What can we bring to them as Christ's followers that will not damage their unique identity and culture but treasure and strengthen it and bring them new life, freedom and joy. Will it be a western form of religion that tells them to worship in an 19th Century European style that isn't really working even for our young people? How often have we built churches with pews and given them some hymns in their language and suits and ties to wear and told them this is the true and only acceptable way to worship? Is this what we should continue to do? When will we start to think outside the box and see church as not a building or a set of behaviors but as a group of broken people living in community. The Tarahumara already have a Catholic form of religious worship yet have no real understanding of the gospel.
The devastating tragedy of the first missionaries to Mexico and the Native Americans
brought the threat of conversion to Catholicism or "we will chop off your hand"! How will we bring in the simple life changing power of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, who bought liberation from bondage and healed people physically, spiritually and emotionally? How will we teach the power of a personal relationship with Jesus, to receive the Holy Spirit and learn how to hear the voice of God, to learn the power of prayer and how to love extravagantly, in families and in communities?
I have been a missionary in the past and have seen the danger in being untrained in social anthropology (or another's culture) and even untrained in the basic gospel of Jesus. I could have done a lot of damage (I didn't do any good) and I felt that I had accomplished almost nothing except taught some people English and had fun in an exotic country. A few years later I attended a Discipleship Training School which changed my life forever, and I realised I had missed out on some essential training. Before I had been doing it in my own strength without any understanding of my true power in Jesus Christ, without an understanding of spiritual warfare or the importance of hearing God's voice.
There are different ways of positively impacting different cultures, that don't detract from their God-given uniqueness, around the world and even cultures in our own countries. We need to be very aware of the impact we are making, the assumptions we make about what is good and evil in another culture, and we need to open our eyes to see where the real spiritual warfare is. Lets start to think about how to treasure the uniqueness of other people's cultures and help them deal with modernity that will help maintain their identity in God. Religion, church and Christianity doesn't need to look the same in every culture. Why do we think the way we do it is the way it should be done for everyone else? Maybe we should stop building church buildings that open one hour a week and start building community centers or discipling the Church as the group of sinners called the Body of Christ and think outside the box?
Does anyone know any good books or articles suggesting a new form of missional approach to bring the power of God through discipleship to other cultures without the baggage of religious structured tradition?
If you would like to discuss this article and give suggestions please comment at the end of this article.
More photos of the beautiful Raramuri/Tarahumara in the Sierra Tarahumara/Madre of Mexico.
For more information about Discipleship Training Schools around the world check out this video.
If you would like Nicki to come to your school, conference or church to help infuse a passion for prayer please email: BlissfulMinistries@yahoo.com
I am currently in the UK meeting some incredible people and attending some alternative worship events. I am preparing to join the European leaders of the 24-7 Prayer movement in Amsterdam for a conference before heading off to create prayer rooms in Kenya and Malawi. I am currently needing over $3000 to cover the airfare and other expenses so if you would like to be part of this incredible mission opportunity by sponsoring me I would be so grateful. I am looking for monthly sponsors so if you would like to partner with Blissful Ministries and become part of this creative ministry sharing the passion for prayer, it would be a great blessing.
Because of the spiritual warfare in these countries I need a solid covering of prayer. I invite you to become a prayer warrior and whenever the Spirit prompts you to pray for the work I will be doing, for protection in mind, body and spirit and for adequate financial resources.
I am grateful that God has provided for my needs and even for the desires of my heart, I am constantly amazed by his provision. He is a God who spoils and gives above and beyond. I have not regretted living this lifestyle with the adventures and faith and dependence it is teaching me. For a while it may seem easy and possible to live on almost no income but for the long term there definitely needs to be money coming in for bills and health insurance.
If you would like to support this ministry financially (either with a one-time gift or monthly support) please contact me (donations are tax-deductible in the USA). Checks can be made out to FLASH Ministries (the non-profit 501c3 that is sponsoring my ministry). Please include 'Prayer Ministries' on the subject line and send it PO Box 495 Ooltewah, TN, 37363 USA. Donations by credit card are also accepted. Those in Australia or overseas can email BlissfulMinistries@yahoo.com for further details.
Thank you for blessing this ministry and helping to change the culture of prayer.
PS. The above photo has been selected by Bill Baker to paint and I am very honored. If you would like to bid on the finished product please let me know! This church in Cusarrure looks after all the poor children in the community and these two precious girls are sitting at the foot of the cross in the church yard.
Prayer Rooms Update
If you are in the location of a prayer room and would like to help or participate in a conference or mission please contact me.
NOVEMBER: Malawi, Africa
Three week Prayer Room and helping at an evangelistic meeting.
OCTOBER: Amsterdam, Kenya
Women's Mission and Safari, Masai Mara, Kenya
Building a 24-7 Prayer Room
Attending the International Gathering for 24-7 Prayer Leaders Europe
SEPTEMBER: Ireland, UK, sharing at Newbold College.
AUGUST: New Mexico, USA
Mission trip to the remote Tarahumara People in the Copper Canyon Mexico. Sharing the gospel.