Curtis and Linda are international workers with the Christian & Missionary Alliance in Canada. We are regional leaders of a compassion oriented work in the Central/South America, Caribbean and Mexico. We are currently based in Salitral de Santa Ana, Costa Rica. We call our ministry SunCompassion.
We are part of the ministry movement of Justice and Compassion for the Christian & Missionary Alliance in Canada.
Our Canadian base is in the Calgary area. Our two children (Jordan and Briana) are living, working and going to school there. We are members of the High River Alliance Church. In High River, Curtis worked as a fire fighter, a youth pastor at HRBC, and at the public high school as a counselor. Linda was a lifeguard/instructor as well as several years at Ambrose University College in administrative support.
We completed Spanish language school at ILE located in San Jose, Costa Rica in 2009. Prior to arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica, Linda and Curtis were located in Quito, Ecuador with the Christian & Missionary Alliance of Canada at the Alliance International Academy.
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Well, the final numbers from March are in from providing an emergency food aid to the Tarahumara people group who live in the Copper Canyon area of Mexico. Almost 14 tons of food was purchased from funds provided by the Global Emergency Relief Fund of the C&MA. About a 1000 of the 1800 people served received about 50lbs of food that was to last them for several weeks. The rest receive about 25 lbs of food. The boarding school at Guacayvo received several weeks of food for the kids at the school who have nothing. And you may ask what is the point? Well, Isaiah 58 says to all of us that we are share our food with the hungry and provide the shelter for the homeless and cloth the naked so the the chains of injustice are broken and the oppressed are freed. And you know what, Linda and I get to do it all over again.
We travel back to the Copper Canyon for the last week of May. We saw evidence of how showing this love by giving needed food opened up hearts to hearing about what the love of Jesus is all about. And this in a culture where there is no word for “love”! Pray for us as we get to be apart of this amazing compassion response. Pray for the strengthening of relationships and hearts to be open to who Jesus is. Pray as we continue to evaluate the living conditions of the Tarahumara and how sustainable responses to their poverty and health can be addressed.
Back in Costa Rica, we continue to work with a group of Nicaraguan women in a barrio. They have a weekly Bible study and they have committed to reach into their community through a sewing cooperative. We met with the cooperative leadership last week for a leadership development training time. It’s is so exciting to see them take ownership of their community. The group received their first big order – 40 bags!
Along this line of sewing…we are finding that sewing machines are a tool of community development that works. Another local community would like to start a cooperative. With that being said, I have a question for all of you. A thrift store in Salmon Arm wants to donate sewing machines. But the question is how do we get them down here. Any ideas? One idea given is to ship them down. Anybody have any expertise in this area? Is anybody willing to ship them down (by boat) for us? Lot’s of questions. I need to compare the cost of shipping vs the cost of buying new machines local (but imported). Let me know.
Our schedule until mid-July is busy. May 11, I fly to Guatemala for a YWAM sponsored micro-business training session. I will be there for a week. After one day at home, Linda and I will be in the Copper Canyon for an additional short-term food aid. One week there, 2 weeks at home and then we are gone for a month. This includes a regional ministry retreat in Mexico and flying up to Canada for General Assembly. We will have 12 days in the Calgary area that I am looking forward to.
Some of you have been giving to our Approved Special account. This is a ministry directed account. It is called “The Patarra Project“. Patarra is the barrio where the soup kitchen is and the kids that need help with either food or schooling costs. Because our community development work in Costa Rica is expanding in coming along churches that also are part of addiction counseling and prison ministry, we have had to change our Approved Special focus. It is now called “SunCompassion / Costa Rica” which better reflects our justice and compassion work in this country. So if you would like to give directly to an area, designate it to SunCompassion / Costa Rica and let us know what area you want it directed to. I also want to thank those that give to the Global Advance Fund. This is what supports International Workers world-wide with their living costs.
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.
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
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,
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.