Our Week with the Tarahumara

There are so many places I could start writing about last week in Northern Mexico in the Copper Canyon or (Barranca del Cobres). So many God stories! As the Compassion Track leader for the C&MA for this part of the world, I am always looking for our niche, where God points us in the direction we are to follow. When I heard about Pastor Tomás’ ministry to the Tarahumara, I instinctively knew I needed to explore this. What a journey this has led Linda and I on! I am still working internally through what we experienced. So I am thinking that this will be a 3 part series to get some of it out and written.

Through the Global Emergency Relief Fund of the C&MA, I submitted a proposal for a $36,000 emergency food aid to the Tarahumara people that Pastor Tomás works with directly. Now you may think that this amount of money is a large sum and that will buy a good amount of food,  it is and it does. But when you measure it against the need….I am still overwhelmed.

There are between 50,000-70,000 Tarahumara people living in the Copper Canyon. Many years ago, there were over a million. They have become a forgotten people, ignored by the government to the point of becoming extinct. One news report team recently called the Tarahumara “the poorest people in the world”. Seventeen years ago, Pastor Tomás and his sidekick Brenda were led to reach out to this people group. Travelling for hours and days on burros and walking  through the canyons, they searched out the people. As Pastor Tomás told me last week, these people have been waiting over 2000 years to hear about the life-saving love of Jesus.

The Tarahumara do not have a word for “love. That makes it kind of hard to share that concept. Each group of this people has a dialect that is just a bit different but between them, they can make themselves understood. There has been little to no interaction between the various groups. As one Tarahumara leader said, after seeing Tomás’ unfailing commitment to them of walking through the canyons and helping out wherever he could with food and medical help, they began to accept him and understand that this man was not going away. This opened the door to the Gospel. Last week, Tomás had tears in his eyes as he explained to me that through the growth of new believers, the interaction is starting to be shared between Tarahumara groups for the purpose of sharing the Gospel (after 17 years).

You and I would think their living conditions as completely unacceptable. Most live in caves.  They usually marry when they reach 12 or 13 years of age. There is rampant abuse of all kinds. Water is a luxury. Imagine hiking 4 or 6 hours or even more just to get some water. I met a girl of 13 with a child. Then Linda told me of a 16 year old with 6 children. Yes, you read that right! While giving food to one group, there was a unfamiliar smell in the air, but then I realized I was down-wind. It was the basic odours of humanity. There has been much written about the lack of disease and lack of medical problems with the Tarahumara. But it is still prevalent. TB is a killer. Hunger…Suicide…. It seems like if the kids can get past the age of 10, they have a greater chance of growing old but up to 50% die before reaching 10. Lack of water and the availability of food are enormous issues.

So you may thinking, how and why should we help these people? There are those that would say, let’s move them into a town where there are hospitals and laws and water and bathrooms or that we need to educate them and teach them what is right and wrong according to…. Others have said leave them alone, they have survived to this point in time…

Let me leave you until the next time with this. Read Isaiah 58:6-9.
In my mind, how we are supposed to deal with this is straightforward.
My question to you “how do these few verse relate to you and your community that you live in?”
Oh ya, give to the Global Emergency Relief Fund!

PS. Click here to see many of the pictures from this first trip.