Building long-term relationships of trust is crucial for sharing the gospel in rural areas of Mexico, and for that local missionaries rely on personal interaction – the very thing the coronavirus pandemic curtails.
Travel restrictions are enforced by local authorities and, in some areas, also by ordinary villagers. They limit not only large gatherings but home visits.
“Some of the towns have taken some health and surveillance measures due to the coronavirus issue, and that has limited the mobility of several of our workers,” the leader of a native ministry said. “Indigenous people being of oral tradition, our ministry is developed mainly through home visits. Interpersonal relationships are of the utmost importance, so being limited in making visits has become an obstacle to overcome.”
Local missionaries invest years living among indigenous people in their villages in order to gain enough trust to share the gospel. Some workers have actually benefited from being “locked down” among those they’re serving, and their determination to remain in troubled areas has further cemented trust.
“The towns that are kept very closed and in confinement coexist freely among themselves, which gives our missionaries great opportunities,” the ministry leader said. “And people very much appreciate seeing that our missionaries sacrifice and stay with them, even though they have the opportunity to simply leave the community and go to their cities of origin in these delicate times – there are even some towns in the middle of armed conflicts, and our missionaries have remained.”
Many doors have been opened for the gospel since local missionaries have remained with villagers through difficult times, the leader said. In spite of pandemic restrictions, workers have formed three new groups of disciples in once unreached villages.
In three other unreached villages, local missionaries have initiated contact with indigenous people through mutual friends, opening the possibility of workers to one day settle among them, the leader said.
“A family from our team is visiting some families from an ethnic group that historically has been very resistant to the gospel,” the leader said. “There is a family from that village that has expressed desire to follow the Lord; the only thing that stops them is the social pressure they feel from their community. We will continue working and praying for God to break down those barriers.”
The pandemic has not stopped another native ministry from translating Scripture into indigenous languages, though at great cost.
“The pandemic has affected translation teams in different ways, both physically – several translators had COVID-19, and some of them died – and emotionally,” the ministry leader said.
Seeing how powerfully Scripture in indigenous languages touched people of various tribes helped local missionaries realize they were “essential workers” for the kingdom, even as they honor Mexico’s mandatory mask precautions in visits. One translator said he brought a USB stick with an audio recording of the New Testament to his uncle in his native language.
“He started listening to the book of Matthew, chapter seven,” the worker said. “He was very attentive to the audio. Once chapter seven finished, he said, ‘How great all this is!’ and immediately he broke down like a child and began to cry. My mother and I were just quiet, then she started talking to him in our language, Ngiva, explaining and making him understand the way of salvation. The Word of the Lord has a great effect on hearts, and how much more if people listen to it in their own language.”
A translation team had the opportunity to visit an elderly couple and read some Psalms in their native language to the husband, who is blind, another worker said.
“I am grateful to God and to you for having brought the Word of God to my poor home,” the blind man, Fidencio, told the worker. “My heart rejoices to have heard the Word that encourages the soul. Maybe it is too late for me to be able to do something in the service of God because I cannot see, but I know that God loves me. I don’t know if what happened to me is a punishment from God, but even so, I praise him with all my heart, even more so now that I have heard His wonderful Word in my own mother tongue, the language that is in our hearts.”
Fidencio then prayed to give his life to Christ, the worker said.
“Now, the translation team will continue to visit the couple to read more of God’s Word in Nyuhu and see how God will continue to transform their lives,” he said.
In another area, a young man asked a local missionary to pray for his ailing, elderly mother – an hour away, accessible only on foot. The worker and a team of translators set out, and later they returned on two other occasions, each time praying and reading Scripture in her native Nahuatl.
“God miraculously healed her, and after the miracle that God worked on her health, she decided to give her life to Christ,” the ministry leader said. “As a result of this, another person from that town also surrendered her life to Christ and asked to be visited in her house to hear the Word and learn about the God of the Bible.”
The translation team will continue to visit the elderly mother and the other person to read the Nahuatl gospels to them, as their linguistic variant is the same, he said.
“The joy of the team of translators is great because they are the first people to accept Christ in that community,” the leader said.
These are just some ways local missionaries in Mexico are sharing the gospel and discipling new believers in spite of the pandemic. Please consider a donation today to help equip them for the challenge.