This year marked the fifth in the past six that I have joined a devoted and talented team of nearly two dozen men and women who are present and former members of Friendship Baptist Church (FBC) in Sykesville, Md., on a week-long mission to Puebla, Mexico.
At the outset, let me be clear that my saying this is not “virtue signaling” on my part. That God led me for the first time to go on this mission trip in 2015 was in itself a miracle and concrete evidence of how radically He has transformed a previously selfish, booze-addicted and politics-obsessed egotist with a new heart and desire to love and serve Him, my family, fellow believers, and my neighbors. I get zero credit here, it’s all to His credit and glory.
People living in Puebla respectfully call the nearby 17,000 foot-high volcano Popocatepetl “PoPo” and when it erupts, everybody, including folks in Mexico City some 83 miles northeast of here, can hear, feel and smell the explosions.
PoPo is not erupting today, though, as you can see from the photo above, its typical grey smoky plume is clearly visible. Despite the silence, everybody knows that just below the crater, pressure and heat are building for the inevitable next eruption.
Turn on a cable TV reality show about home remodeling, customizing cars or rescuing animals and odds are good there will be an episode that revolves around having to get something done by a deadline.
Miss the deadline and bad things will come to pass. It’s all faux drama, of course, using a corny plot device to, hopefully, keep viewers’ attention focused on the program long enough to impact ratings and advertising sales.
Here in Puebla, Mexico, on Day Two of the 20th annual Friendship mission trip week, there was genuine drama with a real deadline and costly consequences for failing to get a crucial task done within the available time.
Fireworks are heard pretty much all day and late into the night on Constitution Day in Puebla, Mexico, to commemorate the 1917 Constitution that was adopted on February 5, 1917. The holiday is celebrated the first Monday in February.
For the Friendship mission crew, Monday is also the first workday and it is inevitably a little disorganized.
But it’s a great day as old friendships are renewed, work plans are agreed upon, and crews organized.
This year, our main construction task is to erect a roof on the third floor of the main sanctuary building. So much of the work is done manually in order to keep costs down, which makes it harder but it also makes for wonderful, long-lasting fellowship.
The welding crew today is connecting the josts and purlins to create the skeleton for the roof, then we will be hefting the actual metal roofing sections up to the third floor to then be attached and sealed. We’ve had very few injuries over the years, but all prayers are appreciated, as a bunch of us will be working up high on scaffolds during the week.
Our main evangelism tasks include daily trips to the market to buy fruits and bakery goods for the morning break, plus a medical clinic for pregnant mothers, soccer clinics led by Pastor Nevil Johnson and, my personal favorite, talking to passersby about the Lord. I say my favorite because I am convinced the typical Mexican is among the friendliest people on Earth.
In one especially striking encounter earlier today, an older man who was clearing a lot of vegetation and assorted junk, by hand, from a nearby lot came over to us and explained “I have to do this kind of work because I didn’t go to school.”
When he was shown the red and green cards that appear to be different sizes, he asked a great question when shown the appearance of one being bigger than the other was an optical illusion.
His question (in Spanish) was this: “How can I see the Lord when I can’t see the difference between the red card and the green card?” I explained that Jesus is no optical illusion because He opens our eyes to see ourselves as we truly are and our need for His saving grace (See John 3:16-20).
A little while later, we saw the man sharing the optical illusion cards with some of his co-workers!