The State of Independence: Michoacn
Michoacan, a state in south-central Mexico, played a large role in the awakening of the Mexican people seeking independence from the Spaniards in 1810. The characteristics of independence and of desiring to advance socially and economically have changed very little over the last 195 years. The people are steeped in the religion of their ancestors, blindly following ritualistic traditions. In Michoacan more than 98% of the people consider themselves to be devout Roman Catholics. Despite the intensity of their religion, Michocan is also steeped in drugs. The current Mexican president, Sr. Felipe Calderon, born in Michoacan, has openly declared a "war" on the drug trafficking, much of which has roots within his home state. In 2006, there were 2000 drug-related deaths in the country of Mexico and 500 of those took place within Michoacan.
The Gmez family, like many Mexicans, went up to the USA as migrant workers to pick fruit in the orchards. Five brothers and their father spent the summer months working in Oregon when a Spanish-speaking believer visited them. They expressed a sincere interest in the gospel message. This brother, from Oregon, visited them daily and within a week all of them had professed faith in Christ. They desired to return to Mexico and tell the "good news" to their family. On returning to Michoacan, they met with mixed reactions to their news! The brother who had so faithfully visited them in the work camps called David Alves in Puerto Vallarta. He hoped that someone could visit them during the winter. David made several trips to Michoacan, a journey at that time of about 12 hours. In 1994, David Alves and I began visiting Zamora, a city in Michoacan, regularly and having house meetings with the Gmez family and friends whom they had invited. In December 1994, a Seed Sowers distribution delivered 32,000 John 3:16 texts in the city of Zamora. Immediately following that week, we held five and a half weeks of gospel meetings in a rented building. Although the response from Zamora itself was minimal, we found an interest just outside of Zamora in the small village of La Rinconada where the Gmez family lives. Every evening at least one van-load of people came from that village. Several professed to be saved during those meetings, including some of the Gmez relatives. After that series, the believers continued to meet in a vacant house. In July, 1995, our family moved to Michoacan. On August 20, 1995, several visitors joined 17 local believers for the first breaking of bread in Zamora. Since that humble beginning, we have had small but steady growth in the assembly, and today 38 believers are in fellowship. After meeting for several years in a small hall made of tin sheeting, the assembly moved into an almost completed building in the spring of 2004.
The believers in the assembly in La Rinconada have willingly participated in gospel outreach through various activities. In the winter of 1997, we began visiting the small city of Los Reyes, Michoacan. Over the years these visits have increased from monthly to bi-monthly to weekly! Don Ramn and Doa Eva, who have family in the Coapinole assembly, warmly welcome us each week. Since beginning to visit there both the wife and more recently the husband have professed to be saved. Usually there are 6-10 people in to hear the gospel each Thursday evening. San Esteban, a very small village about 5 km. from La Rinconada, has had a weekly street meeting for about two and a half years. Each Monday evening believers from the assembly distribute door-to-door gospel tracts, calendars, or some other gospel literature and then meet in the basketball court where several brethren give short gospel messages. On different occasions they have also been able to give away used clothing and this, of course, always draws many people. Usually there are about a dozen people that come out to sit and listen to the gospel, but by using a sound system the message reaches every home in the village. In 2004 a Seed Sowers distribution was held in Jacona, a city adjacent to Zamora. The meetings held in Jacona were faithfully supported by the believers from La Rinconada. After several months, we could only count one contact with a genuine interest, Guadalupe Rizo, a lady in her 50s. She told us she would go out to La Rinconada for the meetings. We gave up the rented building and she began attending the assembly meetings. She professed to be saved some months later and was baptized. Although she recently married an unsaved man, Guadalupe holds very firmly to her salvation.
As an assembly we can only bow our heads in thankfulness for the Lords faithfulness. The devil has been actively involved in his never-ceasing work of trying to divide and destroy that which is the Lords. The assembly has experienced discouragement and desertion over the years but God is faithful and we have had the joy of seeing restoration, blessing in salvation, and additions to the assembly. Recent additions to the small assembly have been second-generation believers and this too is thrilling.
Our family, after spending twelve years in La Rinconada, is currently moving to Guadalajara. We feel the Lords leading in this but, needless to say, there is some sadness at leaving a place where we had the privilege of working. Pray for the assembly in La Rinconada. The believers are still growing spiritually and will face many situations that they have never dealt with before. We plan to make regular visits to the assembly there but we are thrilled to see increasing spiritual maturity and taking of responsibility by many of the believers. Opportunities abound, and the Lord is sending more workers. It is our earnest prayer that God will use us all as instruments in His hands, and make His work prosper. We are laborers together with God. (1 Cor 3:9).