Monday, September 19, 2011

Being Streeeeeetched

Written for Mission In Life by Gillian Sims

Today we are in La Cruz, Mexico. With some help from our Mexican team leader Maria, we have been fortunate to discover an RV camp/health resort where we are having a little recovery time. It was only five days ago we left for Mexico and if you had have told me we would all be taking a break by Monday I would have said it was unnecessary. Just as well we didn't know about it, because five short days later our team is wiped out.

We spent a few days in a remote township called Pesqueira where we ministered with a local church. Having arrived on Mexican Independence day, we were told not to expect many people at the church, or to anticipate much response to the service as most families would be celebrating at the village square in the next town. Wrong. The church was packed out and 45 people accepted Jesus on our first night, what a way to arrive!

While in Pesqueira, Rowan and I agreed to 'be the food people' for our team of twenty. I realised this would be a lot of work but feel strongly about eating well over the course of the year purely for sustainability. It's one thing to lose weight living off rice and beans in Mozambique, but to do that for a year or more would spell disaster for our team so we figured we would do what we could to load everyone up on fruit and veg. With help from our team accountant and a translator we made our first trip to a Mexican supermarket. We are experimenting with a budget of US$20 per person per week to see how far it gets us, which is actually a lot in Mexico. Our simple supermarket trip to stock up on the first weeks' food was a headache and we had to draw the line at three days worth. We have very limited storage, small, unreliable fridges, no pots big enough to cook for twenty, constantly changing cooking facilities and lots of unannounced extra mouths. On top of these challenges, we discovered the supermarket was not stocked with what we thought were Mexican basics. Like tortillas. Or refried beans. Turns out Mexicans don't buy these products because they are generally handmade at home. Even our plan to buy bulk rice failed as the largest available packet was a 1kg bag. Clearly, we are no longer in the US.

Despite the hurdles and the learn-as-we-go cooking, our team has been incredibly gracious and understanding. Ten weeks in Pemba is enough to change anyone's definition of good food which is working in our favour! If you're the praying type, please pray that Rowan, Elizabeth and I would be able to cook nutritious, satisfying food under challenging circumstances and miraculously feed extras, which so far we've been able to do :)

We left Pesquiera for what we thought was roughly a twelve hour drive to Culiacan. It dragged into sixteen hours and I had no idea that plain old driving could be so stressful! Allow me to illustrate: having all experienced Iris Harvest School, our team are very flexible. We realise that under third-world circumstances, plans are continuously changing and we are used to that, we are familiar with long days or skipping meals, we've coped with intense heat, diarrhoea, mass confusion and language barriers. In committing to this outreach every one of us knew this was what we are in for, so it really takes a lot to get the team unsettled. Having left Pesquiera before 7AM, we finally got to bed in Culiacan after 1AM, and every one of us had had it. Our team leaders Jesse, Christian and Tanya are experienced missionaries that have faced incredibly tough circumstances and even they confided they were being stretched.

We drove in heat above 40 degrees, where even our air conditioning couldn't help. There was no time or facilities for meals so we did what we could with sandwiches and road-side watermelon. One car was stopped by police for a vague reason that kept changing and it was clear they were looking for a bribe. The team prayed they would have a change of heart which they suddenly did and after announcing a huge fine for no apparent reason, they spontaneously lost interest and let the car go! After arriving exhausted sometime around 10:30 PM we then spent almost three hours negotiating city streets with trailers, campers and RVs trying to find our local contact who was unable to give us a street name. The city was absolutely crowded with balaclaved police teams and road blocks, obviously something dramatic was going on. It's the closest I've ever come to a war zone and it had us all on-edge. We finally arrived in one place and they informed us the location had changed and we were to go to another. We braved the road blocks to go to that second location to find that, despite saying otherwise, they did not have parking space. We took ages to park our complicated vehicles only to be informed dinner was in another part of the city...the night dragged and dragged and dragged. We were very hungry. Very tired. And very hot. Our team's nerves were frayed and still our team leaders remained selfless and willing to serve every one of us.

Jesse and Tanya Gellatly and Christian Jung are some of the most likable people we have ever met and have a natural gift with people. Despite their own exhausted, frustrated and hungry states they took the time to greet and encourage our hosts in spanish, reassure the team and press on through the chaos to find us food and sleep. The guys were inspiring. All of our leaders served tirelessly driving, parking, reparking vehicles and negotiating over the phone for literally hours. I am so grateful for such willing team leaders and it's a relief to know our decision-makers are very experienced and aware of team needs. I could not think of better people to be leading us through the spiritual highs and physical lows of this outreach and we are already dreading Christian's departure to be with his family in a few short months. God! Replace him with someone equally amazing!

Iris Latin America

Iris Latin AmericaSenior people make great subjects for portraits. They don’t smile much, though.
(Photography by Rowan Sims)

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