Tarahumara Part Dos

I fully expected to get to the second part of our Mexico trip quickly but emergency gallbladder surgery and all the pain leading up to it lead me down a different path. Here goes Part 2.

Flying into Ciudad Juarez, we just didn’t know what to expect. We were told it was the most dangerous city in the world. In actuality, it is one of the most dangerous cities in the world but in reality, it is like any other city in the world, where there is danger for the unwary. Thankfully, the cartels are taking it easy until government elections in July when there is a general fear the street fighting will start up again. Brenda, a ministry team leader for the Tarahumara, said to us it so difficult not to stop when you see someone bleeding out in the street, knowing you cannot stop for fear of your own life. Life is so different in other places and as we hadn’t been to see the people of the Tarahumara yet, I didn’t realize how true that statement is – Life is so different in other places. Yet, our God is God of it all.

Rio Chico

We are in Mexico because of the food problem. The people of the Tarahumara don’t have any. People are dying. Suicide due to lack of hope is high. From the Global Emergency Relief Fund of the C&MA of Canada, we were bringing in an $18,000 installment for food aid, to supply food to about 300 families that Pastor Tomás and his Mexican ministry team were working with. Except the money transfer did not arrive on time but God was faithful to provide. We left for Rio Chico the morning after arriving in Juaréz. We had eight hours of driving across the Sierras. Rio Chico is the mid-way point to the Copper Canyon. It is a camp that Pastor Tomás and his team built that serves the youth of the Juaréz area. Many Alliance churches in western Canada and in the States along with the Alliance Men’s work teams had a hand in making this camp happen.

There was at least another 8-10 hour drive to the Canyon and we still had to buy food. We bought almost 8 tons or 71 metric tonnes of food that morning before heading out in a convoy of 5 vehicles including an Alliance Men’s work team that was coming to help with the food distribution. Our destination was Guacayvo, the boarding school located deep in the Copper Canyon. Linda says she is thankful we arrived there at night. I remember seeing a pin point of light as I looked straight down into the darkness of the Canyon. I found out that was where we were going….over 2000 ft straight down over a road so tight that the 1/2 ton could not make it around a switch back or two in one turn. Two of our vehicles, including the food transport truck had to stay at the top as they just couldn’t handle the road down.

We arrived at the boarding school. The school was originally built as a contact point with the local Tarahumara to show them the Gospel through love and action. The local kids had no school option. And the parents you need to understand, in their culture, school is not important, it is not a cultural value. But, you would receive food there so parents started to drop their kids off. Literally, drop them off. There are kids there that no one knows who the parents are!!! The government supplies a local teacher and now kids are receiving some learning too. The road down to the school is only 2 years old so for the previous 10 years, everything was carried in by burro over hours of trails. When I say everything, that means all the food, the cement to build the school and the 600lb wood stove to cook the food and more.

In the morning, we saw where we were. Astounding. In a valley, deeeepp in a valley, miles from everywhere with no signs of local civilization. Yet the word was out…there was to be food given. People started coming out of the rock, literally, walking over 8 hours knowing they would get a hot meal and a bag of food. We had to ferry the food down from the top of the canyon and start separating the food into smaller packets. We had rice, beans, flour, corn meal, pasta, oil….each family group receiving over 25 lbs of food. I had a census done and I figure we supplied food to about 935 people that day.

And this was only our first group of the Tarahumara to feed. The adventure would continue…

Isa 58:6-7 says

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: 
to loose the chains of injustice 
   and untie the cords of the yoke, 
to set the oppressed free 
   and break every yoke? 
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry 
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— 
when you see the naked, to clothe them,

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.