Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless HIS HOLY NAME.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How Shall They Hear?

Tzotzil Indian Woman

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10

When my father felt the call of God to come to Mexico, he felt burdened for the Indian people. He got out a map of Mexico to find where the largest concentration of Indians lived. He discovered that Chiapas was the state with most Indians, and furthermore that the town of San Cristóbal was a market town where the Indians brought their goods to be sold. So in February, 1972, he moved his family to the little town which is now home to me.

Dad began a Children’s Home/Bible Institute in a small village called Ixtapa, and lived there from 1973 to 1979; then he moved his family back to San Cristóbal, where he lived and worked until the Lord called him Home to Heaven in December, 2004.

We have lived and worked among Indians all my life. There are three basic tribes of Indians with whom Dad worked: the Tzeltal Indians; the Tzotzil Indians, and the Ch’ol Indians. Each of these tribes speaks a different dialect. The Indians who lived in Ixtapa were the Tzotzil Indians; and many good works have been started as a result of young men who were saved and trained in that ministry.

In our church in San Cristóbal, we have a mixture of the Tzeltal, Tzotzil and Ch'ol Indians. When the Indians move out of their villages, they usually learn Spanish. Most of my friends are Indians.

Tzeltal Indian Woman from Chilón

I was very small when we moved away from Ixtapa to San Cristóbal. The Indians who move to the city eventually change their customs and way of life. So when I got married and moved to the village of San Antonio with my dear husband, I began to learn Indian customs and ideas and ways of life that I had seen before, but I had never really understood. In a way, their lifestyle is harder than in the city because of lack of commodities; but I grew to love their laid-back village life. My favorite time of the day was around 5:00 in the evening; one can see mothers and daughters (and granddaughters) sitting out in the cool of the evening, snapping green beans; or cross-stitching beautiful, colorful flowers on their tribal blouses. (How much of that do we see anymore today?) While technology is helpful and makes our life more comfortable, I believe it robs us of valuable family time. I became more aware of this fact living back in the village, where many people lived without electricity.

For many of the people in San Antonio, I was the first white woman they had ever seen. It was strange for them to be around me, and they were very curious as to how I did things. Many times, the children would come up to me and rub my arm and they loved to touch my hair. I would be in our little room where we lived when we moved there, and suddenly, I’d turn around, and there would be 4 or 5 little children crowded in our doorway, just watching me. One day, I told a group of little girls, “Before you come in, you must knock. That is the right thing to do.” They smiled shyly and backed out of my door. A few seconds later, they knocked and came right on in! I said, “No, when you knock, you must wait for me to tell you to come in.” Either they didn’t understand me, or they just thought it was a silly idea, because they never knocked before coming in our door. I had to keep our door locked if I needed privacy. I always had to check that our window was locked before dressing because there were always little eyes peeking into our windows. Little Indian girls playing in San Antonio

Little by little, they began to feel more confident around me. I began learning phrases in Tzeltal, and they would giggle when I would speak to them in their dialect. I grew very close to these dear people, and over the years that we lived there, we went through many struggles and tragedies with many of the families in these villages.

My dear friend, Pancha, and her son
who have lived such hard lives

If you could come to these mountains in Chiapas, you could travel back to some of these villages and see people who live with no running water and no electricity, and who have never even seen a Bible. (You may feel as if you were going back 100 years in time.) Many of these villages are run by the infamous Zapatista leaders (about which I will write in future posts), creating danger for a preacher who might visit these villages. However, the emptiness in their soul cries desperately for someone to bring the message of God’s love to them.

The Indians of Chiapas need people who will pray for them. Will you take time out of your busy schedule today to bow your head and pray that the Gospel will reach even the most remote village in these mountains?