Christmas in July-Reflections of a Mexico Missions Trip.

1 2 3 4 5 6Have you ever noticed that Christmas music is only acceptable to listen to at a certain point in the year? You probably have. In America, beginning after Thanksgiving, the radio station that began playing jolly tunes in October and was despised is suddenly blasted in the car. Grumbles about how society shoves Christmas upon us is drowned out by joy and the world, at least to me, seems like an alright place. It is no secret; I adore Christmas. In the Christmas season I have no trouble bringing my all and soaking it all in. But even I know my place. Come February and the spring, it is time to consider Easter. Then summer comes and who could ever think of Frosty in that heat? Like Ecclesiastes is fond of saying, “To everything, there is a season.”
My season to Mexico finally arrived this past May. I had been not-so-patiently waiting for it to come since I was about twelve years old and my mom came back from the missions trip the church took to Juarez. Eight or so years later, by God’s grace and the generosity from so many wonderful people, I was on a plane to Puebla, Mexico. This trip was not like others I had taken. I was in it with three of my very best friends from college. We had all been in a one-year intensive art program together and had come up with an art missions trip we wanted to take. The idea was to use art-making to further facilitate the gospel as we supported other ministries. Our goal was to teach art skills and be open to being used in anyway God saw fit to use us.
Ministry-wise, we ended up working with three organizations through our two weeks. The first was an orphanage called Esperanza Viva which housed about 80 kids in their facilities along with staff altogether numbering about 150 people. The second was a school for the children of missionaries called Puebla Christian School, and the last was an evangelical training/outreach called International Leadership Advancement Ministries, or ILAM. Each ministry is extensively valuable, and I could talk about them for probably a week straight only stopping for the occasional bathroom break. The difficulty of placing countless moments into a few sentences is one I have not yet been able to come to grips with. Please understand that there is so much more to share and so much more work God has been doing than I am able to humanly express.
With that said, one of the most touching and eye-opening moments for myself took place while serving with ILAM at a night class. For some background, ILAM uses a pictorial logo to teach methods of evangelism. Mexico is primarily and oral culture, and this logo is a way for people to learn the gospel so that they can easily recall it and share with others. There are four pictures: the nativity, the cross, the empty tomb and a heart with the world inside. Beneath the logo are the words, “Let me tell you the story.” The story, if you have not already guessed, is of Christ.
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Then our focus was on the first part, nativity, accompanied by a lesson in drawing a simple nativity scene that the people can easily remember to share with others.
Going into the story, I was uncertain how engaged people would be. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw adults, teens and kids lean forward eager to hear about a God who sent his son as a babe. Looking at these faces around me so obviously engaged, I felt this spittle of joy burst in me that I was not expecting due for another seven months as I saw this story out of fresh eyes. The same power the story of Christmas holds for me in December ruptured in Puebla, Mexico in the middle of May. Outside of December it is easy to forget the gravity of the incarnation. How incredible it actually is that God would send his son to be born in a manger. Drawing the nativity was even more incredible. The participants were so involved in their pieces and there was attention to detail and design and color. They were drawing a representation of their Savior’s birth. A simple art project became sacred work. Seeing that absolutely filled my heart to the brim. I was elated the entire class. Art with the purpose of mission. That is what I see myself involved in. It was overwhelming in the best sense of the word to experience not only that dream in practice, but what I believe to be success.
To everything, there is a season. Let us not limit the seasons of joy, hope, and grace, though, to December and to April. The truth of the work of Christ extends beyond our hand-crafted limitations and calendars. I had always thought that the very end of the Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was a bit cheesy, with Scrooge celebrating Christmas in his heart all year. Since May, I have begun to reconsider that perspective. How much richer would our lives and relationships be if we continued to acknowledge and celebrate these truths that serve as the foundations of our faith. Although we approach July, I wish you the Merriest Christmas. He is Risen indeed!
~Much Love and Thanks,