Local missionaries in Mexico who have long ministered to victims of sexual and other physical abuse are all the more challenged in times of coronavirus, as isolation creates the potential for more hidden crimes.
“Every time we hear of children and women abused in regard to their most basic human rights, it seems incredible to us, and it seems that we live in times worse than Sodom and Gomorrah,” the leader of a ministry based in Mexico said. “It really is incredible that there are so many people suffering among the indigenous peoples of Mexico.”
Working among Mixtec and other indigenous peoples, local missionaries face the challenge of helping women and children who have suffered violence and sexual abuse to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“We know that only God, through His children in these areas, can help heal the wounds of the suffering,” said the leader, whose name and location are withheld for security reasons.
About every six months, 20 of the ministry’s local missionaries see at least 100 cases of indigenous women and children who have suffered various types of abuse, he said. Many women are both physically and psychologically abused, he added.
Though its COVID-19 cases are suspected of being undercounted, Mexico along with Argentina and Colombia remains among the world’s top 15 countries in coronavirus infections. Most of its sexual abuse cases go unreported, and more are suspected amid the pandemic.
One indigenous woman in Mexico recently told a local missionary about an especially outrageous attack.
“The saddest thing was that she was sexually abused by her own son and her brother,” the ministry leader said. “Cases like this are not isolated, so all of our missionary women constantly attend to various situations of abuse of women and children. They minister to them and, on many occasions, they supply help with food, because the victims are repressed and rejected by their families and society if they complain.”
Helping to Heal
Studies have shown that most perpetrators of sexual crimes are known to their victims; in Mexico, the principal aggressors are male neighbors, family friends and relatives, with very few assaults reported to authorities, according to one study.
In some cases, the ministry leader said, the abuse combined with the perpetrator’s fear of being discovered can escalate to the point of threatening the victim’s life.
Tending to indigenous women’s needs is a key part of local missionaries’ efforts to serve and integrate into village society, a long-term process crucial for bringing the gospel to tribes that have resisted it for 500 years. To gain acceptance in a given village, workers often set up small businesses or help others with their trades. Local missionaries plan to help indigenous women market their hand-woven clothing and hand-made crafts in an effort to raise their income and elevate local economies.
“Women are a most vulnerable group; it is about commercializing textiles and some handicrafts that we can send throughout the country and even abroad,” the leader said. “We have already done it on a small scale, but we want to improve it and thus be able to help more people.”
One Mixtec woman local missionaries have helped, Yalitza*, has been an alcoholic since she was a child; she is now 50.
“She married very young and has always suffered abuse, like many Mixtec women do,” the leaders said.
Yalitza recently fell gravely ill and saw no improvement after visiting several tribal sorcerers, he said. She has never seen a medical doctor.
“She decided to call our missionaries,” the leader said. “Miraculously, she regained her health almost immediately after she accepted Jesus as her personal Savior, and then the missionaries prayed for her. Since then, Yalitza meets to hear the Word of God, even in the midst of the pandemic.”
Such transformation extended to entire villages is the ultimate hope for curbing rampant physical and psychological abuse.
While the pandemic has halted some ministry activities and church gatherings in some towns, local missionaries are gathering congregation members in small groups that meet in homes, the ministry leader said. Members nurture each other’s faith, he said.
With local missionaries integrated into their respective communities, the sharing of the gospel continues in personal relationships, as it does in some children’s outreaches. Some workers have been able to carry out evangelistic activities in small groups of children and young people despite the pandemic, the leader said. A local missionary who visits children in their homes to teach reading and math now has even more opportunities to teach and build gospel bridges because schools shut when the pandemic began, he said.
“Another missionary is also an example of this,” he said. “Since the children are not allowed to meet as a group, she makes a great effort to visit them at home to be able to attend to their academic needs. All of them were able to enjoy hearing the gospel.”
The process of coming to know the Lord may take years, but eventually it has resulted in indigenous people leaving their idols and gods behind as they seek to follow Christ, he said. Please consider a donation today to help workers bring healing, wholeness and salvation in Christ to indigenous peoples in Mexico.
*Name changed for security reasons