Prosperity Amidst Poverty
The Lord told John the Baptist’s disciples: “To the poor the gospel is preached” (Luke 7:22). When we were asked to comment on the work of the gospel here in the state of Nayarit, these same words came to mind.
Tepic, the capital of the Mexican state of Nayarit, is located 100 miles north of Puerto Vallarta and 120 miles northwest of the very large city of Guadalajara. Although the population is about 400,000 people, it would not be considered a modern city by most people’s standards. A recent visitor to Tepic marveled at the old horse he saw pulling a small wagonload of sand!
The employment situation is problematic in this and other states. Although the government claims that there is only 3% unemployment, there is serious underemployment. The minimum wage is 42 pesos, or approximately US$3.65, not per hour, but rather per day. This is one of the reasons that hundreds of thousands cross the border looking for a better life. From 1995 to 2000, over 4% of Nayarit’s population emigrated to the USA. Most of those who head north are young men between the ages of 15 and 34, a needed age group in the life of an assembly. Some small towns have been decimated by men leaving in droves for “the other side,” as they tend to call the USA.
In May 2003, a man in his late thirties was saved out of a life of drug addiction and alcoholism. Although the drug problem is not as visible here as in other cities of Mexico, or north of here, our understanding of the breadth of the problem has increased. This brother has an exercise to reach others bound by these chains and has already brought a number to hear the gospel. Just recently someone asked if we could go to one of the rehabilitation centers in the neighbouring town of Xalisco to preach the gospel once a week. The age that they are now seeing drug addicts has dropped from eleven to nine years old, thus emphasizing the very great need of getting the gospel into young hearts.
There is a tremendous amount of religious confusion in Tepic. The larger sects are well represented here and many others are making their inroads as well. Much of this progress is due to dissatisfaction with the Roman system and people looking for something new and different. Sadly, many are deceived a second and perhaps a third time. One large denomination has more than 15 buildings in town. The folk that attend these places often look very much like believers, but are depending on their baptism to save them.
Due to the location of the hall in Tepic (near the corner of two busy avenues), we do get quite a few people coming in just because they see the sign. Many are disappointed when they realize there is no music to tickle their ears. However, one lady once told us that her family had stopped attending one denomination precisely because the music was far too loud!
The assembly was established early in 1999 and we are thankful for the blessing of God upon His work in this city. The words of Paul writing to the Thessalonian believers have been a challenge in the work here: “For from you sounded out the Word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing” (1:8). We are beginning to feel somewhat more at liberty to be away from the work than we did a few years ago. There are two pressing needs: men with shepherd hearts raised up by God to care for His flock; and, men who are able to preach the gospel clearly, with a real zeal to reach the lost. Thankfully, in both aspects progress is being made. There are a few brethren who have a real exercise and burden about the condition of the flock. There are also brethren who can deliver the message of the gospel in a clear and simple way. Our desire is that the assembly here will be not only self-governing and self-supporting but also self-propagating. The Thes-salonian believers learned early in their Christian experience what some others are slower to grasp: the spread of the gospel did not depend solely upon the apostle Paul and his companions, but also upon their own testimony and labor for the Lord. The need in other parts of the state is very great and we look forward to being a help to the brethren here in seeing works begun in outlying areas.
Xalisco, a small town of 40,000 inhabitants, is adjacent to Tepic. For close to three years we have been involved in a children’s work there on Saturdays. Thankfully, the young couple whose home is used for this purpose carries on the work even when we are not in the city. Early this year, we tried some gospel meetings in their home but with very little interest. Their exercise, as well as ours, is to try this again in the new year, looking to God for His blessing and help.
Santiago Ixcuintla lies about 45 miles north of Tepic in the fertile plains that produce tobacco. This municipality has over 100,000 souls, most of whom do not know the gospel. For three years, several times a year, we have been visiting a family here. The lady and her daughter-in-law show a real interest in the Bible and the son has been listening much more the last few times we have visited. There is a house available where we could hold meetings, if the Lord continues to open up the way.
The Lord has richly blessed the use of schools in other parts of the world in order to reach children and affect communities. Perhaps if the Lord has not come this will be a possibility as well in Mexico. Over 30% of the population is under the age of 14, presenting tremendous potential for such a work.
We would like to conclude as we began, with the words of the Lord Jesus: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2).