Thursdays in Puebla for the Friendship Baptist Church (FBC) mission team are always the last full day we have to complete our week’s work, so it typically becomes the busiest of our time here.
Today was no exception on either our construction work projects or our visitation and evangelism efforts. It was easily the most exciting and productive day of our week. Here’s why:
As you can see from the photo below taken late in the afternoon, our guys reached the final corner for the pavers covering the former construction staging area that is now becoming a courtyard.
A couple of hours of work is needed tomorrow morning and all that will remain for the pavers project will be a final cleanup to bring out the deep red of the blocks. I think this courtyard will become a much-appreciated feature of Hananeel Baptist Church’s physical facility.
The guys doing the dropped ceiling work on the third floor of the education building are also close to being finished, with maybe an hour left to wrap it up Friday.
Once things are buttoned up tomorrow morning, the team will get cleaned up and head to the main square downtown for a great afternoon of Puebla people watching, laughing, talking, eating and fellowshipping.
On the visitation and evangelism front, today was … simply incredible. It began with our morning trip to the market where Blair and I engaged in a great conversation with a young woman who runs a general merchandise shop.
She was a very intelligent person who has nevertheless bought whole-hog into moral relativism. She hesitated whenever we pushed her arguments to their logical conclusions by, for example, asking in response to her claim that there are no absolute truths if she was proposing an absolute rule with such a claim?
Similarly, when Blair posed a hypothetical in which his “truth” was to take all of her money, her response was “that’s not my truth.” She was silent when he pointed out that she had no basis for describing such theft as morally wrong if all truths are relative and private.
Also during our market visit, Blair and I presented the gospel to a young man who operates a flour tortilla and sauce shop. When I asked him if he wanted to ask Jesus to be his Lord and Savior, he said yes.
We weren’t sure, however, if he wasn’t merely humoring us to hasten our departure and thus not sincerely acting on John 3:16’s promise that “for God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Time will tell.
Next, we visited Raoul. He’s suffering from several serious forms of cancer and his long-term prognosis is not encouraging, even though Puebla has three excellent hospitals.
“Raoul demonstrated a profound level of faith that no matter what happens to him in the months ahead, he is in Jesus’ hands and he will praise Him.”
We visited Raoul hoping to minister to him and be an encouragement, but our time with him instead turned into quite the reverse. He shared his life story with us in an amazingly transparent and candid manner, and demonstrated a profound level of faith that no matter what happens to him in the months ahead, he is in Jesus’ hands and he will praise Him.
Among much else, Raoul described how when he was a child his father left his mother, married another woman and had five children with his second wife. Raoul was never accepted by his step-mother or his half-siblings, which left him bitter and unforgiving for most of his life.
He left home at the age of 12. Somewhere along the line not long after that, Raoul accepted Christ as his savior, but then for many years tried to have it both ways, claiming to be one thing while living quite the opposite. Four years ago, however, he ended the hypocrisy and began serving the Lord.
The day’s third experience was a quick return to the home of Mateo and Maria Anton, with whom we spent an intense time of fellowship and prayer Tuesday.
Joined by Leo, our driver, and translator Doris, I brought them a plump chicken bought at the market near Hananeel, as well as a bunch of vegetables and fruits. It was a bittersweet visit because Mateo was not feeling well at all, which naturally worried Maria even more than usual. Leaving was sweet sorrow indeed.
At the end of our day, we visited an 88-year-old woman who is a shut-in and clearly nearing the end of her long life. There was some evidence of dementia and one of its most distressing symptoms, night frights.
Even so, at one point in our conversation Mark mentioned Psalm 46 and it was clear that she recalled the first verse — “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” — with surprising clarity.
You are probably wondering now about the “Three Amigos” reference in the headline above. Allow me to explain: Before concluding our day with the visit to the elderly lady, Mark K, Blair and I headed to a street near the market in a block with a lot of foot traffic.
The plan was to spend a couple of afternoon hours talking with people, telling them about Hananeel and giving them tracts explaining Jesus and the Gospel. As things turned out, it was so much more.
Normally on such an outing, we would be accompanied by one or both of our superb translators, Doris or Alli, but this time we decided to go on our own, despite knowing little Spanish, while resolving to talk to as many people as possible, critique each other’s presentations and share new words and insights as we learned them in our conversations.
We noticed soon after arriving at our chosen spot that there was a large water well in the sidewalk at the corner. If you recall Jesus’ encounter in John 4:1-26 with the Samaritan woman at the well or His analogy of “living water” at John 7:37-38, you no doubt recognize the symbolism inherent in our location.
As it happened, all three of us learned some new Spanish words, offered useful critiques of each other and ended up in conversations with three dozen or so people.
My first “prospect” was a man who appeared to be in his late twenties carrying a ragged looking piece of pipe three or four feet long. You can perhaps imagine the thoughts that went through my mind at the sight of that piece of metal his hands. In fact, we had a great conversation.
That’s me in the blue shirt talking to a woman and her child in the photo below and to the left. Mark K is in the photo above facing the man to whom he is talking, while Blair is in the second shot below.
Our conversation starter was two curving rectangles, one green (“verde”) and the other red (“rojo”) that when placed side-by-side appear to be of differing lengths. We would ask which of the two shapes was larger and when the individual chose the one that appears to be larger, we would then swap them.
That swap made it appear the other colored card was no bigger, which almost always surprised and puzzled the person. That’s when we would explain the cards create an optical illusion because they are actually the exact same shape and size, merely differently colored.
At that point, we would invite the person to read the backs of the cards, tell them a little about Hananeel and wish them a happy day. We were blessed to meet a number of genuinely wonderful folks, and came away exhilarated.
If you are a fan of Steve Martin, Martin Short or Chevy Chase, you may recall a Reagan era film the three made entitled “The Three Amigos” in which they portrayed three silent movie era actors, Dusty Bottoms, Lucky Day and Ned Nederlander, who somehow end up in a tiny Mexican village oppressed by El Guapo.
“Three Amigos” had some good scenes but wasn’t exactly a smash hit. Even so, I couldn’t resist the parallel because, just as the Amigos were making it up as they went, so were Mark, Blair and I.
We had some good scenes, too, despite knowing little Spanish and having to figure out how to talk coherently with some wonderfully funny and patient Pueblans on the street to introduce them to the Gospel.
And no, we didn’t sing “My Little Buttercup” to anybody in Puebla!