by Scott Merkel
The gospel can make you do crazy things.
I’m 44 years old and I had never flown, but several weeks ago, I got on a plane with my wife Michelle and a few other team members from epikos, and traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico — to help build God’s kingdom in that part of the world.
We started our trip serving at a missions conference.The conference was designed to promote, train, and build up leaders that would be reaching out to the 29 unreached people groups that exist in Mexico. And how did we serve? Evangelizing? Teaching? Training? No. We helped advance the gospel by providing children’s ministry at the conference. While conference attendees went to workshops and lectures, we joined in their mission by making bracelets and playing soccer with their kids.
The second half of our trip was a stark contrast to the first half. While the conference had been held in a large, modern building in the nicer area of Guadalajara, our work during the second part of the week was supporting a church plant in one the city’s poorest neighborhoods. The church reaches out to some of Guadalajara’s most disadvantaged people, often the sick and dying. It worked out of a small concrete building where the roads were half pavement, half dirt, and the electricity was supplied by someone climbing up a pole and connecting the building to 120 volts with a pair of pliers.
Our work there consisted of helping with various maintenance and security upgrades to their building. We replaced an old chain link fence with a new stone fence, and helped secure the aforementioned pole and power wire. We also did a few upgrades to their bathroom and some other small maintenance projects.
But our service there was more than just installing a new toilet seat or mixing concrete. We encouraged and supported an already functioning ministry so that they could continue to advance the gospel by serving and reaching people in their community.
And that’s what impacted me the most — the people. People we became friends with: Juan, Paco, Thaina, Moises, Christian, Bibi, Daniel and many others — people who were doing gospel work so that more people can hear about Jesus.
Juan, our job foreman, had come to America at one point, but returned to México because he loved his family and didn’t want to be away from them. Paco, the pastor of church plant, would sometimes sleep in the church because he’d given his bed to a sick or dying person. A woman we met at the conference had given up city living and returned to a rural mountain area to teach sewing to the women so that they could improve their lives.