As far as I can remember, I’ve visited the country of Mexico six times, one of those times before I arrived at Chapel Hill. These visits have always been worthwhile, sometimes challenging, sometimes surprising, and always memorable. But never before have I been so excited for our church to revisit our southern neighbor. This year will be a year of firsts for our men. We are working with a new organization, called Agua Viva.
For the first time we will be intentionally participating in projects alongside people from the local church. In previous build trips, we’d hope to work alongside Mexican nationals (maybe the family whose house we were building) but, more often than not, we’d work alone. Now we’ll be joined by local church members and directed by a Mexican foreman. Never before have we worked with power tools in country! Unlike previous years, our accommodations will be indoors and we’ll have actual showers instead of using buckets of rainwater to bathe (oh, the luxury!). Besides our build trip work, some of our men will have the opportunity to share their testimony and share from Scripture at local rehab clinics.
I could go on and on with the variety of changes and opportunities that will be newly presented to us. Some will be challenges as we learn a new way of ministering in Mexico. Some will be fantastic opportunities that I hope to see more and more men experience in the coming years as we continue to visit Mexico. This year, our team is intentionally smaller because of how ground-breaking this trip will be. These men will be the “beta” group that helps lay the groundwork for future teams. Ironically, because of the smaller size of our team we’ve been afforded one particular opportunity that may not be possible on future trips: to host a retreat for Mexican men.
In December 2016, I went down with a small group of staff to meet the people who work at Agua Viva and discern whether we could work with them. While we were there, we met with one of the local pastors, Pastor Marcos. Pastor Marcos’ church is called El Gran Rey, and it’s located in a part of Ensenada called simply “89.” It gained that nickname because in 1989 the local government granted land rights to the squatters who had gathered there, and to this day it remains one of the poorest areas in the locale. This is the context Pastor Marcos ministers in.
While we were getting to know Pastor Marcos, we asked him how we might be able to serve his church if we came with a team of men. To our surprise, his wish was that we would help him host a men’s retreat. Now, with 50 or more guys on our usual trip we would have dwarfed his congregation. It just wouldn’t have worked. But with 20 guys, we’ll probably be even.
So, we have this really unique opportunity to come alongside Pastor Marcos and share with the men of his church (and probably a few other churches) about matters relating to marriage and sexual purity. As you can imagine, this will be stretching for all of us, Mexicans and Americans alike. Putting guys in a room together to talk about some of the most intimate concerns of a man’s life is stretching already, adding cross-cultural challenges to the mix ups the ante. At the same time, we can’t underestimate the kind of impression it makes when men travel hundreds of miles to be with their Christian brothers in Mexico. Because of that, we can provide a different kind of ministry than Pastor Marcos can. Exciting!
As we are in a season of imagining what the future of Chapel Hill could be, our history of Men’s Mexico trips helps remind us that we’ve already been going beyond our walls in significant ways. In a way, these changes in our Mexico trip mirror our church’s overall efforts to redouble our impact in our world, locally and globally. Please pray with me that this will be so, that more than ever before we will be able to serve the Mexican people in true and lasting ways.
Watch a video about Agua Viva and a message from Pastor Marcus.