Update from Mexico

Oaxaca Partners,

I arrived in Oaxaca City Friday and we have been busy with another orientation here in the city since then. We’ve been learning more specifically what we will be doing in the villages. I wanted to send an email to update you all. 

So far, God has given my team and I the opportunity to share the Gospel with four individuals. The most encouraging was with a guy named Stephen. After our conversation, he seemed to start to understand that we can’t just think of Jesus as simply a good teacher. The types of statements Christ made should force us to make a more radical assessment of who Jesus is: He is either a liar, a lunatic, or genuinely Lord. Please pray that Stephen would see that redemption only lies in  the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, during orientation, our team has really grown close and we are working well together. The team is comprised of two Mexican nationals—Jair and Yheremi and three from the States (Ben, Anna, and me). 

This Friday we will leave to head to a village high up in the mountains. We’ll be in that area for two weeks. We will then head back to Oaxaca City to debrief and rest. Then, we will be going to a different indigenous village for another two weeks. We will be going to these villages because there is basically no evangelical witness in that area. Not a lot is known about these villagers’ way of life, religious beliefs, and cultural. Our goal is to find out more information about these people so that missionaries in the future can be more effective in taking the Gospel to these unengaged/unreached areas. My team leaders said that (Lord willing) our research will help shape the future of missions to indigenous areas in Mexico. 

Practically, our research will happen within having conversations with lots of people from the villages. We will start with the village president, but from there we will hope to get invited into homes. Yesterday, during our orientation we practiced with mock-conversations. The cultures we are going into are vastly different than American culture. So, we needed to practice how to have a conversation with someone from this culture. We are not officially going into these areas as missionaries. Officially, we are learning about culture. We can easily become “uninvited” from a village if we say the wrong thing. So, we have to be very careful. Our task will be to build relationships, earn trust, and learn crucial cultural and spiritual information that will better inform future missionary efforts in this area. IMB leaders have told us that the research we are doing is the first step to getting the Gospel into these areas. 

I’m really excited and looking forward to the work we are going to do, but there are going to be challenges too. 

Essentially, we will be some of the first people from the International Mission Board going into these areas. We will will be figuring out a lot of the details of the trip on our own, because we are the first ones from our organization going into these closed off areas. Our team leaders were frank with us: our time in the villages is going to be tough. Sleeping conditions will likely be a rented room off of someone’s modest home. Beds, showers, bathrooms, and cleanliness will likely be a figment of our imaginations while we are there. We will hopefully be able to share meals with some of the people in these villages. It’s common to get invited into someone’s home for a meal (assuming we make a good impression). Food and eating is a big part of the culture there. We were given a strict rule regarding the food we are served. Eat it—no matter what. Some of the food will be really tough to stomach. I’m not talking about food we tend to personally just not prefer, but instead things we would normally consider inedible. The purpose of this rule is to not offend the family we are with. If we offend them, we will be asked to leave their home. Then, we won’t get any valuable information from them. I’m keeping the long-term goal at the forefront of my mind: the salvation of these peoples. If I need to eat parts of an animal I’ve never eaten before to bring that closer to reality, I will do it. 

That being said, please pray for me to be daily denying myself. Having essentially none of the things I am used to will be tough. But, if Christ could in humility and obedience to the Father leave His throne to come to a lowly place on earth to save us, I certainly can manage for the next five weeks. 

It sounds like many of the people in these villages will say they are catholic, but they will also believe in the gods of their ancestors (think Aztec gods). Part of our goal will be to learn more about these beliefs, what superstitions they hold, who they pray to, and other barriers to the Gospel. That all being said, spiritual warfare could be a reality there. Please pray that Christ shows His Lordship clearly over any demonic forces at play. Also pray that we would not fear any opposition we face, and that we would be reminded we come in the power and protection of the Conquering King. 

So, pray for God’s hand to move. Pray that God would open doors (metaphorically and literally) for the vital information to be learned that would allow longer-term missionaries into these areas. Pray that I would deny myself—looking to Christ as my example in this. Finally, pray that Christ the King would show His sovereignty over any spiritual forces at play. 

Again, I can’t do this without you all supporting me in prayer. I value your prayer more than you realize. 

In Christ,

Sam Byriel