Wow! Has it really only been a month since we sent out our last update? It feels as though it has been at least a year! Where to begin…
As we prepared to make the move to Oaxaca I knew that I wanted to go down before Mary and the boys to find a house and get to know the area little. I knew the area was safer than where we currently live but it still made me nervous to think of taking them down with nowhere to live. My initial plan had been to drive the suburban down but I quickly realized that with the cost of gas, tolls and the length of the trip (19+ hours) taking a bus down would be a smarter move. The bus system is very modern and most importantly safe! Since taking a bus also allows travel at night the entire trip is reduced down to a single day rather than a minimum of two which would mean I would be away from Mary and the boys for less time. After church on January 7th Steve and I jumped on a bus in Jerez and drove overnight to Mexico City. From Mexico City we drove on to Oaxaca City on the 8th where we spent the day walking around downtown and stretching our sore legs! That evening we jumped on another bus and drove overnight to Huatulco, Oaxaca which is a located on the Pacific Ocean.
We spent several hours that morning exploring the local coast including rock climbing to a black sand beach with enormous waves and a fresh water river rushing into the ocean. After lunch we grabbed a taxi up to Pluma Hidalgo which is the city we have been praying about making our ministry center. Pluma Hidalgo is located only about 12 miles from the Pacific as the bird flies but since it stands at 4,600 feet above sea level those 12 miles take about an hour and half to climb in a car! Needless to say the views are absolutely breathtaking! The coast is lush and green and the higher you climb towards Pluma the thicker the vegetation gets until it eventually becomes a dense tropical rain forest. The road is surrounded by waterfalls and the driver told me that during rainy season the waterfalls swell to the point that many times the road is washed out altogether!
Pluma Hidalgo is a small city of around 3,500 people perched precariously on the spine of a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The land on both sides of the main road into town drops down thousands of feet with views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and an unobstructed view into the interior jungle for miles on the other. We checked into one of the two small hotels in town and immediately set out searching for houses to rent and exploring the town. Pluma exists almost solely by coffee production which makes it perfect for our ministry goals. The coffee beans grow wild throughout the jungle under the shade of the banana trees and almond groves. Villages of local Indians throughout the jungle pick the beans and then bring them to Pluma where they are roasted and packaged for sale. This interaction will give us an open door into making contacts and building relationships for our work among the Indian villages.
It was amazing to see all the ways in which God had led us to the right place to begin our ministry in Oaxaca. Pluma possessed everything that we had prayed and planned for right down to the last detail. The people are primarily of Indian descent but speak Spanish as their primary language which is perfect since Spanish is what we will have to be using to start with. There are some though that speak indigenous languages as well however, so as we minister in Oaxaca we will have an opportunity to work on our indigenous language skills as well preparing for work in the outlying Zapotec villages that do not speak Spanish. While we talked to some of the locals it became apparent that many desired to learn to speak English as well. The adults desired to learn so that they could better interact with their tourist and business contacts to boost their coffee sales and they wanted their children to learn as well to expand their opportunities. I immediately saw an opportunity to both integrate into the culture and teach the Bible by offering free English classes and using Biblical material as the source. One of the local coffee roasters offered me the use of the large room over his shop on the town square for classes for free if he could come! I told him that I would teach the classes under the conditions that they continue to help me with my Spanish and that they teach me any indigenous languages they knew. By the time I left I was inundated with requests to come to the class! Actually the last day as we were preparing to leave a man from the local city government approached us and asked if it were true that I was planning on teaching English. We told him our plan of teaching English from the Bible and that a man had offered us the use of his store for the classes. He quickly replied that it would be great for the town to learn English and that they would love to have me use the town hall for the classes for free if I was interested! What a great opportunity to build relationships and teach the Bible at the same time! We will also be hosting Bible studies in our house and have received some interest already!
Due to the small size of the village there were not very many houses for rent. Thankfully once again the Lord knew what he was doing and the first house we looked at turned out to be perfect! We looked at a few more but none of them fit our size or budget needs. We were able to get the house under contract right away but due to some needed repairs it will not be ready for us to move in until February 12th. We are currently in the process of getting everything ready here in Jerez in preparation to move down right after the 12th. We just finished packing our house and moving out last Friday. Everything we own is currently in the trailer or in boxes and we are living out of suitcases for the next few days! The plan currently is that little Sam and I will leave with the suburban and trailer to drive to Pluma, a few days later Mary and Jack will follow on a bus to allow me more room to pack in the Suburban and because the trip will be easier on Jack that way. One other huge blessing this month is that we finally received our FM2s so we are now legal Mexican residents, instead of being here on tourist visas!
Please be in special prayer for us over the next few weeks as we complete the move!
– Please pray for safe travels with no car problems or trouble with the police, military, or cartels!
– Keep the ministry at the Children’s Home in Jerez in prayer as well. We have grown to love all these kids and will miss them tremendously! Also pray for strength for the workers here the work is just as difficult as always only with two less workers.
– Pray for the work the Lord has for us in Oaxaca that He would continue to prepare the way and that He be glorified in everything that is done.
– Please keep our finances in your prayers! As you can imagine this move is very expensive and the cost of setting up in Oaxaca far exceeds our normal monthly budget.
Thanks for your prayers and continued support! We thank the Lord for each and every one of you who have a part in allowing us to be here proclaiming Christ for His glory!
Nathan, Mary, Sam & Jack