Tuesday (4/24) morning, we went to the middle school to chat with Prof. Aureliano (the principal of the school). We talked about the educational system in NC and in Mexico...comparing and contrasting...interestingly enough kids are the same...they have the same problems--their parents are fighting or one of their parents is missing...their family life is a disaster which causes trouble for them at school. After our discussion, he took us on a tour of the school. We were able to go into several of the elective classes. One of them was Prof. Cesar's class (and Isaí "just so happened" to be in that class at that time), then we visited a cosmetology class, then a cooking class. We also visited with Hna Paulita (one of the ladies who went out for the first time to visit on Thursday) who is a Biology teacher at the school. She was at church on Sunday night, so she started talking about some of our testimony. It was an open door to share inadvertently with Prof. Aureliano as well!! Hna Paulita told us that she would stop by later in the afternoon since we were planning on leaving that evening for Altamira with Pastor Sergio and Hna Laura and family to go to a conference on the family. We talked a little more with Prof. Aureliano before we went back to Eddy's house to pack our stuff.
Twelve days in Gonzalez...they are tied for the longest stay on the journey...right up there with Pearlington, MS and Gonzales, TX!! As we were finishing up a few last-minute details, Hna Paulita arrived at the house. The Lord has burdened her heart, and she wanted to share with us. The greatest of her burdens is for her unsaved family--her mom, her sons, Erik and Nelson, their wives, and their children. Erik and his family live with Hna Paulita and her mom. Erik has become verbally abusive to his mom and very disrespectful to his 80-yr-old grandmother. Hna Paulita is scared of him...she knows that only God can make a change in him. Please pray for this family!
Tuesday evening, we rode with Pastor Sergio, Hna Laura, Isaí, Jassiel, and Keyla to the 3rd Annual Family Conference that Ebenezer Baptist Church was having in
Altamira, Tamaulipas. Chris and I weren't sure whether we were going to stay or not, but we brought our stuff just in case. We knew that if we didn't stay that we would start walking from Gonzalez early Wednesday morning. We asked the Lord to reveal clearly if we were to stay one more night in Gonzalez or to stay in Altamira with the pastor and his family--Pastor Tomás and Hna More. We received our answer right as we were about to walk into the church...one of the men of the church started talking to Chris in English...it turns out that Rigo and his wife, Mari, lived near Raleigh, NC for several years. That's not the most baffling part...when I was in college, I went to a Hispanic church in Raleigh about once/month to keep Spanish fresh in my mind...they went to the same church!! We were just there at different times, but we knew a lot of the same people! I could barely believe it...needless to stay we decided to stay in Altamira!
The service was really good...Pastor Sergio was the featured speaker, and he talked about the kinds of memories that parents leave for their children. He explained that many adults have bad memories of their childhood which they can't change now, so what they must do now is turn those over to the Lord for His healing. What they can do now is work on the memories that they leave their children. He called our attention to the Prodigal Son and the kind of memories that his father left for him...they were so good that the son longed to be back in his father's house. Although Chris and I don't have children yet, we praise God for the good training that we are getting along this journey. We'll be better parents when the Lord grants us that privilege because of the schooling that He is giving us now!!
After the service, all of the Gonzalez crew (Pastor Sergio's family and Martin's family that we ate supper with on Monday night) stayed to eat supper with their new friends from Altamira (pictured below). Jassiel showed us how he could put his feet behind his head...I just had to smile...all 3 of their children are awesome!!! After the Gonzalez crew left, Chris and I shared testimony with Rigo, Mari, and Rigo's step dad-Bony. Before they went home, they invited us to breakfast at their house the next morning and to the beach the next day. We were pretty excited because we didn't think we'd make it to the beach in that city because it's out of our way on foot. We stayed the night with Pastor Tomás, Hna More, and their daughters--Abi (on left) and Karina (on right). (pictured here with baby Emily-Erendira's daughter)
Wednesday (4/25) morning we had a good breakfast, and then headed off to the beach...I wasn't sure what to expect because some people along the way told us that the beach at Tampico was dirty and ugly. (Altamira, Tampico, and CD Madero are 3 cities that might as well be one because you can't tell when you cross from one to the other...it's a pretty busy area!!) Well, I'm not sure where they went because the beach was one of the cleanest and prettiest beaches that I've seen along this whole journey! We enjoyed walking on the beach and getting our feet wet. Chris and I knew we were walking on that afternoon, so we couldn't get our clothes wet...sad! It was beautiful just the same...the sound of the ocean is so relaxing! The door really never seemed to open up with the pastor, but we shared A LOT with Rigo. Apparently, he felt a call on his life a long time ago to be a pastor, but he got married and got distracted trying to earn his fortune in life. We just encouraged him to seek God first because He will lead Rigo (and anyone else who's willing) in His path. And oh, what an adventure...He provides everything you need...just seek Him!! Rigo definitely seemed to hear what we were saying, and he started to get excited about seeking the Lord's will for his life! Praise God!
After the trip to the beach, we went back to the pastor's house...he and his wife are from the northern part of Mexico, so the fixed lunch and FLOUR tortillas! Oh...so tasty! I think I ate more than Chris...I'm not sure when we'll have them again, so I was storing up...it's all corn tortillas down south! We left late in the afternoon...close to 5 pm, but we knew it was time. As we walked, we just prayed for the doors to open for us to be in a church service that night. It kept getting later and later 6:30, 7, 7:30 all came and went...those are the normal times for a service to start during the week, so we thought we had missed our opportunity. Shortly after 7:30, we saw a church on the opposite side of the street. As we started making our way to it, two guys in front started taking our picture. What a baffle! We walked over and it turns out that they are making a little infomercial because the church is starting a 2nd service on Sunday. So they asked if they could tape us saying "2 are better than 1." We agreed and then excitedly told them that phrase was part of the verse that was inside of our wedding bands from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Pretty funny, huh?! Lalo is the youth pastor and Jaime is his assistant, so they invited us to stay for the service. We went in and this guy named Cesar came up to us and started talking to us. He's an English teacher and does a lot of translating for teams who come from Texas. It was a good, up-beat service...the pastor defined a miracle as a solution to a problem that's not humanly possible to solve, and he talked about the things that block God's power from being lived out in our lives--religious traditions, fear, and unbelief.
After the service, the pastor's son came up to us and gave us an envelope saying "we collected this for you...use it on your journey." We were shocked...that was the first time something like that had ever happened. We thought that someone would invite us to stay with them as well, but nothing opened up. It was about 10:30 at night, and we had no idea where to go, so we did what we normally do when we don't know what to do...we prayed for the Lord's guidance. We ended up staying in a hotel about 30 minutes (on foot) down the road. When we opened the envelope we found the exact amount of money for the hotel and for our supper that evening. That's the God we serve!! (Sometimes running water, a hot shower and air conditioning are oh so nice to have!! Praise God for all of those things at the hotel!!)
Thursday (4/26) morning we slept in a bit since we hadn't done that in weeks...it was so good to rest...God knew what was coming. By the time we were ready to walk, it was too hot to be able to do that, so we decided to spend a little time responding to e-mails. The lady working at the Cyber Cafe (pictured with her son) asked us to pray for her because she has a tumor. She has just recently started attending a Jehovah’s Witness church as well. So there are a lot of things that she needs prayer about! We tried to talk to her a little about the Bible and offered to pray for her right then, but she just said that later would be better. So we had to leave it at that...
We walked on...in one of the city's many soccer fields, we saw several kids wearing the jersey of Chris's favorite Mexican soccer team--Cruz Azul! It turns out that it is a training camp for kids who want to play soccer and one day maybe play professionaly!! The more we walked the more we realized that big cities are a bit confusing, but we knew that we had to cross the big bridge to continue south into the state of Veracruz...we got near it, but couldn't figure out how to get to it in order to cross. We asked one lady, but it didn't seem to get us any closer to it. So we saw Miguel, a guy selling a synonym and antonym book, and we asked him. He walked us all the way to the bridge and dropped us off, so we shared a little with him along the way. Once we knew where to go, he went back to selling the books. We were amazed at his kindness!!
We crossed the bridge which gave us a beautiful view of the city, the river, and a huge lake. Once we crossed the bridge, we were in Veracruz (the state). It's shaped like a long chili pepper, so there's no telling how long it will take us to walk all the way through. It started getting pretty dark, and we were about 7-8 miles to the next closest town, so we stopped in a the gas station to pray and to decide what to do next. The man at the gas station told us if we made a right at the next road and followed it all the way down, we would come to a small town that had a hotel. We kept walking and walking, but didn't see anything, so we decided to ask someone else. As one man began to respond to us, a teenager named Memo walked up. He asked what we were looking for. We told him that we wanted food and a place to stay, so he offered to be our guide. We walked down towards the center of town and began to talk to him about his beliefs. He's pretty mixed up to say the least. He's worked some with the Mormons, and he has faith in a rock if it inspires him. I tried to talk to him about heaven and how to get there, but he just said that he doesn't think about that kind of stuff. The door was definitely shut as far as sharing openly about the Lord.
Memo took us down to the hotel, but the lady didn't even give us the time of day while we waited patiently to ask about rates. When she finally told us, we decided to eat first and then decided about where to stay. We asked Memo if there was anywhere else in town where we could stay. He responded, "That's the only hotel, but you can stay at my house if you want." We weren't sure what to do because he wasn't at all receptive to God's Word, but he was allowing us to share testimony of God's faithfulness. We finally decided to go with him. We walked back up hill to his house and met his mom, Doña Maria Isabel, his dad, Don Maco, his sister, Isaura, her daughter, Marcela, and another relative, Rodolfo. Several of his little cousins were playing at the house too...we wanted to offer them something for letting us stay with them, but we didn't know what. When we saw the little girls we both thought about the jump rope that Jassiel had given us. They would love it...sure enough the entire family liked it. Doña Maria Isabel used to be a jump rope champion when she was younger, so she showed us a few things and gave the younger girls a few pointers! None of them really go to any church on a regular basis except for Rodolfo. He was really interested in talking to us and even asked questions about the filling of the Holy Spirit. We were pumped up that he asked and that we had made copies of the messages that we listened to with Pastor Sergio. We left both of the messages with him!
Friday (4/27) morning, we learned that Isaura is a chef, and we got to sample some of her cooking. She made entomatadas that were out of this world. She also shared a few recipes with us! We prayed for Memo and for Isaura before we left. Please pray for this family...that God will grow the seeds that we planted. As we were leaving, Rodolfo was coming out of his house. He told us that he had already listened to one of the sermons and was excited to listen to the other one!! Praise God!
We walked the 8 or so miles to Tampico Alto--the next town, and then looked for a place to rest for the afternoon. We decided to eat lunch and see what opened up. After asking a man in the main plaza, we decided on a little taco stand just down the road. There was another couple already eating there, so we sat down at the other end of the table. When we ordered, we were pretty shocked to hear the guy who was cooking explain to us what each meat was in perfect English! He lived and worked in Charlotte, NC for 16 years. Then he decided that being with his family was more important to him than making money, so he came back home to Tampico Alto. We chatted with him and the other couple all through lunch. Before we knew it, the man at the other end of the table, Norberto, asked us if we would like a ride to the next town since they were headed there after they ran a few errands in Tampico Alto. We agreed to go with them, so we just waited at the little taco stand for them to come back.
When they pulled up in their van, I noticed that the tags were from Mexico City, so I figured they were tourists. Nope! They sell underwear and socks to stores all over Mexico. They spend 8 days on the road and 8 days at home. His wife, Rosa, is working with him this year, so that they can reduce their expenses and save money so that they can buy their own house. I rode in the back with Rosa and learned about their three children--Luz Maria, Rosario, and Julio--while Chris chatted with Norberto up front. We arrived in Ozuluama (the next town--not in walking distance!)) before any of us realized any time had passed. Before they went to their stores to sell merchandise, Norberto invited us to ride on further with them if we'd like. That evening they were going as far as Poza Rica. He bought us Cokes and left us on the benches in the plaza to pray about it and to look at the map.
After praying about it, we decided to ride on. Rosa and I continued to talk, and she shared that today was the first day that they had ever stopped in Tampico Alto (and Norberto has been selling clothes for years and years). Then she said that she couldn't believe how nice her husband was being. Normally, he didn't trust strangers, he didn't talk to strangers, and he most definitely didn't let strangers ride in his vehicle. I looked in amazement to the front of the van...he and Chris were talking as if they had been friends forever. I had no idea how Chris could understand him because I was struggling to figure out what he was saying. Before I knew it, Chris was turning around and telling me that Norberto had invited us to come visit them in their house in Mexico City (once we got back to NC and got settled again)...they were going to go to a soccer game at the Azteca. (This stadium is huge...it's been Chris's dream to go to this stadium to see a match, but Mexico City is dangerous, so we decided that we wouldn't ever go there unless we knew someone or God directly told us to go.) I just looked at Rosa and said "it's the hand of God!"
We chatted a little more, but the door didn't really seem to open to talk about the Bible or her beliefs. The further we went the more carsick I felt. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it or not, so I asked Norberto to pull over so that I could go to the bathroom. I almost told Chris that we needed to stay in that town, but I refrained realizing it was probably spiritual warfare. Sure enough, I started feeling better as I prayed to myself, and then the door began to open. I shared with Rosa for an hour or more from the Bible--answering her questions, showing her how to find books, chapters, and verses in the Bible, and talking about how to have eternal life. She didn't pray a prayer of salvation, but she knows that God is calling them to come close to Him. She was interested in reading the Bible but she told me that she didn't understand it. I encouraged her to John, Romans, or Psalms, but to just start with a little bit at a time and to pray and ask God to help her understand it. I had an extra Bible, so I offered it to her. She thanked me, but explained that she had one at home that she would get out when they got back to their house.
She continued to be surprised by her husband as he bought our supper, a snack, and bread for us to take with us the next day. Then she was even more surprised that he invited us to stay with them in their van that night! I just kept saying..."It's God!" We stopped in a parking lot beside a flea market where they would be working the next day. When we went to the bathroom, we met a guy who spoke English. He started talking to Chris about Jesus and how his life had been transformed. He had been in prison, but he accepted Christ there. Now he and all of his family were serving the Lord!! Praise God for another encouraging testimony. When we got back to the van, we saw what Rosa meant about Norberto not trusting people. He immediately warned us to be careful and not to trust people just because they were nice. Many people intended to do harm to others. What a change from how he interacted with us and how he reacted to the guy at the bathroom. I just thought to myself "It's God!" After a little snack, we went to sleep in the van...wondering what adventures awaited us on Saturday (4/28).
Pictures from the middle school...the girls wear a different color unifor according to what grade they are in pink for 7th graders, blue for 8th graders, and burgandy for the 9th graders.
Profesor Cesar's Class...
The line-up for PE...
Fun at the beach... the whole gang (on left). Erendira's little boy, Israel, buried in the sand.
3) RE with Erendira (Rigo's sister), Emilia (Rigo's sister), and Mari at the beach.