Behind the ‘Gulf’
EDITOR’S NOTE: Instead of visiting Falls Creek last week, Mason Phillips went with his church on mission to Guerrero, Mexico. Behind the Creek returns next week.
by Mason Phillips
At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus speaks to the disciples and says something that has become meaningful for missionaries everywhere.
There are multiple keywords packed in His message; words like “go,” “teaching,” “baptizing,” etc. In particular there’s the word “disciples.” Go and make disciples. I have always been amazed to hear the stories at my church when a missionary returns and shows the pictures of a far off land and tells everyone, “it was awesome! So many people were saved.”
Indeed, the numbers can be astonishing, but who is there to tell them the next step? Who will show them how to become disciples? After all, the Great Commission is not to “go and make converts of all nations.” Instead, the calling is to make disciples.
I witnessed the meaning of discipleship with my recent mission trip to Mexico. On July 8, I boarded a plane along with 11 others from Mustang, Chisholm Heights, led by Pastor Dave Bryan to Ixtapa, Mexico. There, we would serve and continue a partnership the church has had with another church and the Seminario Teológico Bautista del Sur in Mexico for almost 12 years.
I could tell you about the weather and the food and even about the outrageous market prices, but that was not the greatness that was unveiled in Mexico.
The goals for this trip were simple: continue construction on the Seminary in San Jeronimito, lead the children in a Spanish Vacation Bible School and preach at the local missions. We had no translators on board and no expectation for any to be available when we arrived. When we landed, we discovered that God had solutions for all our concerns. One of our missionaries shared a devotional with us saying that “God has a plan for you, and He will do it,” and He did. Our concern about translators was answered by the Lord immediately as we discovered two seminary students who had chosen to stay over between semesters. Both of them were bilingual, and one of them had lived in Oklahoma, so he spoke “Okie” also!
The first thing we did when we visited First Baptist Church San Jeronimito was quickly unpack our VBS supplies and start taping posters to the walls, moistened by the 100 percent humidity. The theme was the same as in America, Adventure in the Big Apple (or for them, Adventura en la Gran Manzana). The rotations were the same as in America: craft time, Bible story, recreation and music. My responsibility was to lead the music, along with my friend, Dillon Bellamy.
The need for translators was huge. How would they learn the words and motions to the songs? We had to show them. Some days, we had somebody to translate, on others, God translated for us. The children knew the words and by the end of the week, they were singing them with more strength than we ever thought they would. Leah Decker led the recreation with the help of Stacey Briggs and Elijah Meyer. Soccer (rather, fútbol) is the national sport in Mexico, and it seemed they wanted to play it until we dropped. Leah pulled out a parachute like we all played with in grade school and those little girls played with it and laughed and laughed. No translation necessary.
Not far away, only a flight or two of stairs up was the buzzing of saws and careful thwack of hammers. The construction continues as it does each year, improving upon the seminary more and more. The big goal this year was to continue building beds. The model of the bed is a unique one, designed by Eddie McDowell of Mustang, Chisholm Heights (CHBC). The bed is bunked above a system involving a desk, a column of storage compartments and even a small closet space. Four of these systems can back up to each other, allowing the facility to hold up to 40 men. The construction workers, consisting of hands from Mustang, Tahlequah and even Texas worked diligently to connect electric lines for the residents to have power at their desks.
The seminary has seen many changes. New classrooms and dormitory space have been built in recent years, and what used to be a bare square of dirt is now a plush green yard with trees and a garden. The view from inside the walls of the seminary is more and more inviting each year.
There were two missions we visited for church services on different days. The first mission was in a small village just off the road. The small building was one room filled with a few plastic lawn chairs, one metal ceiling fan, a pulpit and one flatly-tuned guitar. The pastor spotted a baby in the small crowd of people who came to church that night and quickly invited the family up to bless the child with a prayer. As he prayed, in Spanish, it was as if we understood every word. The enthusiasm in his prayer was enough for us to understand.
Shortly after, our translator did arrive, and Scott Phillips delivered a message from God’s word in Jonah. Later in the week, we visited another mission in Zihuatanejo. The church was no more than a small awning like we have at a park in the states. The people were sitting in plastic lawn chairs (because that seems to be the church pew in the missions) and singing with gusto. After some worship led by one of the youth, Donnie Scott of CHBC then delivered a powerful sermon on faith from the story of the paralyzed man lowered through the roof.
So what now? What will happen next year? We will go back. And we’ll return at times between summers as well. The people there are growing in faith. Twelve years ago, had the missionaries backed out and never gone back, simply hoping for the best, where would the people they first ministered to be today? They might have thrived, but how would we know? Our calling is not to cross our fingers and hope for the best. Our calling and responsibility is to discipleship. And so, in less than 365 days, we will board the plane once again and fly to Mexico. In the name of discipleship and partnership.
To watch a video of the trip, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=70DhXtvBWPQ.
Mason Phillips is Falls Creek correspondent for the Baptist Messenger.