By Jacob Martens
This summer, Sunset Bible Church has sent a team of 14 teens and adults to Puebla, Mexico, in order to partner with long-term missionaries Tim and Barbara-Lee Glessner and their three children. Over the next few days, we’ll be updating you with news to give you more specific prayer requests for the mission and glimpses into our experiences so that you can ask us more about it when we return.
Unlike many mission trips that saves the fun for the end, we’re getting quick tours of some of Puebla’s tourist areas so we have a better idea of the people we will be meeting. The first day we toured a park that told the history of Puebla. The fort located in the park was the historic site of the battle that gives us Cinco de Mayo, a day more popular in the US than in Mexico. We also strolled through a popular market where we met and prayed for a woman vendor Barbara-Lee has been developing a relationship with for 5 years. The woman’s father is dying and another family member just found out he had cancer. The tour culminated with a visit to the Puebla Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral which began construction in 1575 and ended in 1690. Two-story pipe organs played “Pomp and Circumstance” just as mass began. Visiting the cathedral helped many on the team begin to think about how the locals might view church. After a day of air travel and touring Puebla, the team needed a slower pace, and many looked forward to getting to work.
Our second day started with visiting one the Glessner’s main community outreach: their flag football practice field. We also visited their church, toured their neighborhood, and visited Cholula, the longest continuously-inhabited location in all the Americas–since 200 BC, but more on that later. As we arrived at the football field, teens, college students, a few mothers and their younger children all shared space on one field as they ran football drills using two-hand touch. They welcomed us and some of us joined them in their drills, and then we started a game of flag football. One interesting cultural difference, at least in this neighborhood, was that the color of your flags does not matter, you needed to get to know and remember who is on your side. It was befitting because, in a way, getting to know our team was an important part of these first few days.
Seeing the Glessner’s church helped us get to know their vision. Their church is called Pueblo de Esperanza and their community outreach is called, Gota de Esperanza, which translates Drop of Hope. You can see the play on words with Puebla being so similar to the word Pueblo, which could also be translated as a People of Hope. The actual community center is under construction and will, someday, when it has its second and third stories, open its doors to a street that provides a main bus line through the Glessner’s neighborhood. Now this may seem like a sudden tangent, but it is an intentional change of subject related to the Glessner’s church, at least as I see it, so stick with me: After seeing Cholula later that day, along with the Aztec pyramid, the Roman Catholic cathedral built upon that pyramid, and the 365 or so Roman Catholic churches located throughout the town of Cholula from the vantage point of that pyramid–many of them shooting off booming fireworks to commemorate this day’s saint, starting at daybreak–nothing could set the little church called Pueblo de Esperanza in starker contrast: the humble, rented sanctuary is about a 26 by 26 square–one of the teens counted tiles–, bare walled, with a small single bathroom in the back. Tim tells us that this Sunday morning we can expect about 60 people, and we shall soon meet them and worship in Spanish with them. The church motto, one of the few decorations adorning their walls, is a banner when translated says, “We do good in our community because we love Christ,” and their vision, the only other banner, says, ” is to be a family of believers who love Christ with actions for the benefit of their community.” As we meet the family of believers this Sunday and the many unbelievers on the field and throughout the week, pray we can overcome language barriers that have already started to come down on the football field; pray we be bold in getting to know people in this community, regardless of the color of their flag, and help us reach into their community with the love of Christ.