I had been dreaming of going to Oaxaca with Ilene Nagle since my first trip to Papalote, in Baja California, for a church mission trip.
On that trip, in 2011, we met a woman named Nati, who was planning to move to Oaxaca with her husband Beni and plant a church there. Now, Papalote is a three-day bus ride from Oaxaca, so I was curious about the reasons for going to Oaxaca. I learned that Beni and Nati were among the students and spouses who attended the Bible institute in Papalote, but had moved to the Baja from Oaxaca and were returning there to start church plants. I learned that this represented a huge leap of faith for these families as they had left Oaxaca years ago and some had left abusive family situations and difficult living situations (limited resources in terms of work, money, water, electricity, and most things we accept as “normal” living).
As I heard some of these stories, they made me want to go and see the people and villages for myself. So when (seven years later) Ilene Nagle called and asked if I would accompany her as a photographer, I jumped at the chance.
I learned so much on this trip, but one thing that keeps coming back to me is the urgency our Mexican brothers and sisters have to share the gospel. From Junior's aunt in the hospital, to our hotel keeper in Chalcatongo, opportunities abounded to share Christ's love with others.
Among my favorite things on this trip was traveling with Pastor Francisco (Junior) and Maria Campos, who I met on my 2011 trip to Papalote. They had planted a church in a nearby community that met on a bus. The bus church eventually turned into a church building and home. Those two are not ones to sit on their laurels, however. Since that first church plant, they have planted a church in Oaxaca. Currently, Junior is the back in Papalote and is pastoring the church there. My guess is they will plant more churches in the future. They will be in my prayers for a long time.
I made many new friends on my travels. You'll see their photos in the slide show. What amazes me about the Papalote mission, the student and pastors is how easy it is to start a relationship with strangers who speak a different language. This is because we are knitted together through Jesus Christ and his saving work on the cross.
I also loved getting to know Ilene. She and her husband Don are missionaries (with Northern Light Ministries) who, among many other things, help make trips to Mexico possible for our church. Don wasn't able to take this trip, so it was up to Ilene and me to be the estadounidenses. We had a lot of fun together and she was always pushing me (in a nice way) to go a little bit out of my comfort zone. She speaks wonderful Spanish. I have promised myself that I will learn some more Spanish before my next trip to Mexico. I'm practicing now because I hope that trip is coming soon.
Hover over the photos to see the captions. I hope you enjoy them! And if you'd like to hear the audio of me sharing last Sunday in front of the church, you can tune it in here.