What a difference a week makes! Last week, we were in the village using buckets to bathe and flush the toilet, and today we were enjoying custom-made omelets and waffles at our free breakfast buffett and enjoying showers in ceramic tile and glass enclosures. Not to complain, because I know many of us would easily trade the creature comforts for more time with the people in Progreso that we’ve grown to love.
This was our first and only full day in the largest city in the world, and we lived it to the fullest. Mrs. Martin recorded over 6, 000 steps with her pedometer, and believe me, by the end of the day, our feet were really feeling it. We started the morning with a trek up the Latin American Tower. It’s not an incredibly tall building (only 45 stories tall), but it is the highest spot in all of Mexico City. From there you could see the whole valley (think of it as a giant bowl) and the city sprawling out as far as the eye could see covering the valley and up into the foothills. So many people, and so great a need for them to be reached with the gospel.
Next, we started off for the Museum of Anthropology and Chapultepec Park (a city park larger than Central Park in NYC). On the way, we ran right into a protest march. Images of Che Guevara were the first clue that this “teacher’s march” had socialist and communist leanings. It made for an interesting sight to see along the way.
The Museum of Anthropology was filled with thousands of artifacts from the history of Mexico including the incredibly large, original Aztec calendar. By far the most interesting part of the musem was the second floor which outlined the customs and practices of the Mexican Indians today. Bro. Martin gave us a guided tour using his family’s experience with the Indians in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas; an area with over 250 churches and missions today thanks to the indigenous ministry of Milton Martin. In March, the people will celebrate 50 years since Bro. Martin first began his ministry there. They are expecting 4 to 5 thousand brethren to come from all over the region to celebrate this momentous occasion. Can you imagine what those services will be like?
After the museum, we took a short walk and a little trolley ride up to the Chapultepec Castle. This castle/fortress, right in the heart of Mexico City, is literally the “halls of Montezuma” from our own Marine Corps Hymn. There we toured the museum and the rooms of the castle and learned a little about Mexican history and the Mexican-American war in the 1840’s when the Marines captured this castle.
Finally most of our walking was done, and Bro. Martin took us to his favorite Chinese restaurant in the city. We enjoyed an absolute FEAST family-style and didn’t even come close to finishing it all the food. After a long day of walking, it really hit the spot.
We’ve been getting around mostly by the subway in the city. Besides being very smooth and clean, what makes this system unique is the peddlers that are allowed on trains. They sell gum and bootlegged CD’s and even play instruments for money. By far the most disturbing though, are the men who break glass bottles with their hands and arms showing their “willingness to suffer”…something that is admired and revered in this very Catholic culture here. We left the restaurant at the tail end of rush hour and the young people got to experience something else quite unique. The trains were absolutely full and the only way to get on was to literally shove your way into the doors before they close on you. Strangely enough, the guys loved it. One of them said, “It’s fun just pushing people.” Of course he was kidding…or at least I hope he was.
After returning to our hotel, we all gathered in Bro. Martin’s room for a time of debrief and testimony. He explained to us a little bit of the history of the church in Progreso, and some of the indigenous philosophy and practices that helped make it the church planting ministry it is today. It was an incredibly valuable learning experience. After that, we had a time of testimony about what each of us learned and what God did in our hearts while here in Mexico. I wish I could express to you how incredibly sweet and special this time was, but I don’t think I can. There were tears shed together and the comradery was truly remarkable and (not to overuse this word) special. I cannot wait to bring some of these things home to our church family and share with them all that we have seen and all that God has done in our hearts over these past ten days. We left a piece of ourselves here, and it’s my prayer that we’ll be forever changed by what we’ve experienced.
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