Deep and lasting relationships in Southern Mexico... and beyond
by Juan Sarmiento
Raised in a Presbyterian home in the Mexican state of Tabasco, Loida became an influential elder in the congregation that we set out to plant in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. The feel of our new church was definitely different from the one she grew up in. We had people from eleven Latin American countries, the largest constituency being children and youth born of immigrant parents. Loida, however, was a great inspiration to us all by generously giving of her time, talents and treasure in service to Christ. Since we last saw each other fifteen years ago she has returned to her paradisiacal home town called “Paraiso” and employs her beautiful voice in the church choir.
Through the years, Mexico has been a blessing to me in many ways. Being the country with the highest number of Spanish speakers in the world, much of the media and literature that I grew up with came from there. For many years it has been home to Thania, one of my two dear sisters. During my twenty years in Los AngeIes, I greatly benefited from Mexico’s historically rich and diverse culture. El Divino Salvador in Boyle Heights, near downtown Los Angeles, was the last congregation that I served as pastor. It is filled with a great sense of Mexican heritage. Also, I had the honor of serving with a mission organization that sends people to minister in majority Muslim countries and was founded by Mr. Pablo Carrrillo, another remarkable Presbyterian elder from that country. The list could go on and on, but my desire is just to illustrate the myriad of relationships that bring together the Body of Christ in the United States and Mexico in mission.
During my time there, I will have the privilege of:
- Meeting with the leadership of San Pablo Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Mérida which The Outreach Foundation has the pleasure of joining through student scholarships and faculty support.
- Worshipping in the service of re-dedication of the chapel at Sureste Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Villahermosa, a project that was supported through The Outreach Foundation.
- Interacting with some Presbyterians from the United States serving in different capacities throughout the region: Don and Martha Wehmeyer, Chris and Francelia McReynolds (both couples with The Antioch Partners) as well as Todd and Maria Luke (with The Outreach Foundation).
- Helping coordinate a group coming from congregations in California, Kentucky, Pennsylvania to visit with indigenous Ch’ol villages developing safe water efforts with which we have been associated for the last ten years.
- Participating in a prayer and work retreat to explore the possible involvement of The Outreach Foundation in an emerging network of spiritual formation for Reformed pastors in the Spanish speaking world.
- Teaching to groups of pastors on the subjects of mentoring and witnessing to our Muslim neighbors.
Of course, I am also looking forward to the opportunity to share a delicious typical meal with my dear friend Loida and her family!
Mexico is home to the largest number of Presbyterians in the Americas, including the United States. I appreciate your prayers that the ongoing relationships The Outreach Foundation has with Presbyterians there may reflect the profound respect that so many of us feel for our sisters and brothers in that neighboring country. Amidst our differences, may we continue to learn from one another, being a blessing to each other and growing in our joint involvement with God’s mission in Mexico, our neighborhoods and other places. I am convinced that there are plenty of good things that we can learn as we keep serving together.
Associate Director for Mission