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Meeting Jesus in Rio Bravo

by Pastor Tom Anderson

Mark Maduro is from Fresno California. I sat next to him on the flight to McAllen, Texas. He’s an active church leader who was born in Rio Bravo. He saw me reading the gospels and struck up a conversation. When he found out about our mission, he was so moved he pulled out his wallet and handed me $100 for our mission. Later, we used this to buy a sewing machine for our homeowner, Selza. This was the work of the Holy Spirit!

I came to Mexico with a load of self-doubt. It’s been a challenging year and a half for my confidence. On Sunday we worshipped at the “Temple of the flowing water of life”--a neighborhood Methodist Church in Rio Bravo. When they broke out singing “Here I am to Worship” in Spanish, I began singing in English. The Spirit came over me and I began to weep--unable to continue. Pastor Bertha began her message from Luke 18:18-30--the very same passage I had been reading on the plane. It was about a rich ruler. Pastor spoke of how each believer has the riches of Christ within them and they are to be shared. She locked eyes on me as she said, “You are the right person, in the right place, at the right time and in the right way.” It was the word of God to me. Doubt evaporated. Later I knelt at the altar after communion and the Holy Spirit gave me a scripture: from 1 Kings 19, “Elijah arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.”

On Wednesday, I found myself soaked in sweat on my knees in the Mexican dirt. My body was wedged between a barbed-wire fence and a block wall. I was struggling to apply wet stucco to the block. Flies buzzed around my head and landed on my nose. I was beginning to lament my situation when the Holy Spirit gave me the words to an old hymn, “Loving puts us on our knees, serving as though we were slaves, this is the way we should live with you. Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.”

On Thursday, I was tasked with stuccoing in the windows installed in the opening of the block. I had no idea how to do this and just some non-verbal direction from my Mexican leader, Justo. I was doing a job I didn’t know how to do and had no confidence in my ability to do it well but there was no one else. It occurred to me that this is typical of the life of a disciple: sometimes you’re the guy and you have to do what you don’t think you can--or want to--do. It wasn’t pretty. But when I started working on the second window, I noticed Justo was following along behind me fixing and perfecting what I had begun. This is how Jesus works! You give him what you have--even if you think it’s nothing and he does the rest. The Holy Spirit brought to my mind the story of the little boy who gave his lunch to Jesus who used it to feed 5000.

On Friday, we dedicated the homes. Alma addressed us, “May the Lord multiply to you many fold what you have done here today. We felt so alone and then you came.” The Spirit gave me a word from Jesus, “I was in poverty and you came to me.” I wept again. The real mission is never the gift of a house. It’s the gift of being remembered by God. I pray the Spirit speaks to you and you will travel with us to Mexico next year. To God be the glory.

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