Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Our Neighborhood & Delegation

We wanted to give you a little bit about where we live.  We live in neighborhood (colonia) Heroes de Churubusco and the delegation (delegación) Iztapalapa.  Our delegation is historical, famous, and infamous.

As residents of Iztapalapa, we can be known as iztapalapenses.  Iztapalapa is one of 16 delegations in the Distrito Federal.  It is 72 square miles and has a dense population approaching 2 million.  For comparison, the city of Los Angeles has twice the population, but ten times the area.  Iztapalap’s growth over the last 60 years has been extensive, up 1.85 million in the last 60 years.  Most of the population is working-class or poor with only small percentage of middle-class.  As such, factories and informal businesses (food, street vending or otherwise) make up the majority of the local economy.  With informal business comes a lack of stability and increasing insecurity.  Add to this the fact that, despite being one of the largest delegations, Iztapalapa has one of the worst urban infrastructures, including power and water in the city.  We have often mentioned that we live in Iztapalapa and had Mexicans tell us to be careful.In this way, Iztapalapa is more infamous. 

Yet, before thinking that we are ascetics, our particular colonia, Heroes de Churubusco is a nice, quiet (tranquilo) community, mostly of home owners.  Our colonia was developed around 30 years ago and housing costs at the time were cheap.  As such, while much of the colonia is working class, they have had these homes as single-home-owners for a few decades.  This residential nature, rather than a transient one, has made this area a nice place to live.  People take care of their homes and the local parks, and a strong local commerce has developed.  One of the best outside markets (tianguis) in the city is just a few blocks away from our house.  Our neighborhood is so tranquilo, that most of our neighbors leave their cars on the street overnight, which is relatively unheard of in the city.

Some of the things we love about our community are that there are lots of urban parks within walking distance, including one a stone’s throw away.  Anything we need to shop for is within walking distance as well.  We can count more than ten coffee shops within walking distance, and probably over one hundred eateries.  It seems like we have a large bakery (panadería) on almost every major corner.  One of the only major downfalls of our community is that people don’t spend a lot of time walking around our street, making it a bit more difficult to get to know our neighbors.  We have a great relationship with our downstairs neighbors, which is a huge blessing.

Iztapalapa has a rich history as a delegation.  The city has grown up around sixteen pueblos, or “towns” which attempt to retain their pueblo feel.  It is amazing to see such pueblos in the middle of the city.  They are their own little cloister, usually of poorer people, with their own culture and set of rules.  It would be inaccurate to say that they were unaffected by the city, but rather have kept the face of their pueblo despite the massive integration of everything surrounding them.

Iztapalapa is also known for its spectacular celebration during Holy Week (Semana Santa) on the Cerro de la Estrella.  This is a hill in the center of the delegation and looks out over the entire city.  Unbeknownst to many Mexicans, there is a small pyramid at the top of this hill, making it historically an important religious space.  The Holy Week celebrations compound this sacred space (and also make it syncretic).  They use the hill as a makeshift Golgotha in reenacting the crucifixion of Christ.  At one time they actually used to crucify people, nailing their hands and feet to crosses.  Thousands, if not millions, show up for this event.  Our church during our year in 2007-2008 is located on this hill and does a great work among local residents.  It is also were we lived when we moved back to Mexico.

There are many beautiful and not-so-beautiful places to Mexico City, and while we live in traditionally one of the more infamous delegations, we love our neighborhood.  We love that we are at the center of a variety of worlds – economically, spiritual, and sociological.  We don’t have to travel far to be in an artsy area of the city nor far to be in some of the poorest slums of the city.  We are close to Roman Catholic spiritual bastions as well as Aztec historically religious and sacred places.  We are very close to where the Roman Catholic and Aztec religions collide into syncretic beliefs and practices.  We have everything we need, including good mass transportation close, but other iztapalapenses frequently are without water or power.  Heroes de Churubusco provides a good basis and location to get the heartbeat of the city in a variety of factions.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Exploring and Visitors

On Saturday my (Leah) cousin Lawrence came to visit us for a week while on his reading break from University of British Columbia. It has been fun for us to have an excuse, or "pretexto" as we say in Spanish, to explore both Mexico City and its surroundings. Between playing tourists we have squeezed in work as well, I began two new Bible studies this week, and Kevin has continued interviews for the Work Design project. Fortunately (although perhaps unfortunately for him) Lawrence has two exams when he returns to school, so the down time works for him as well. Below are some pictures from on our excursions courtesy of Lawrence. :)
Entering Taxco, one of the "Pueblo Magicos" of Mexico.
It is known for it's silver and its picturesque (and steep) streets.

Enjoying an ice cream together on our Taxco excursion.

Lawrence made it to the top of the town where they have a statue of Christ.
We made it about half way there with Eliana!

Picturesque Taxco

More Taxco streets

We had our family over for a BBQ

Yummy Mexican food! Carne from the grill, nopales and grilled onions.

View overlooking Mexico City on a hike.

My favorite tree, the jacaranda. This particular one is in the 
center of the center of the city in front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Arriving in Puebla, about an hour and a half outside Mexico City.
This is the only city in Mexico that celebrates 5 de Mayo 
because it commemorates a battle fought here.

Center of Puebla

It has been so fun to have Lawrence with us. He has been a faithful visitor, visiting us each of the times we have lived in Mexico! I am also really excited for the two studies I started this week. One is as a participant with some ladies from our church. The other is in more of a discipleship capacity with one of our Spearhead participants. Kevin and I also have really been enjoying a six week marriage study we are going through with couples from our church. Eliana enjoys playing with all of the kids from the other couples who are part of the study! This week we are going to be attending Eliana's school for a "parent day" to see what and how they are teaching our children. I am looking forward to meeting some of the other parents and perhaps developing those relationships.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Missions Moment

One of the newer and exciting development that has come out of Spearhead, principally headed through our co-worker Wendy Der, is the work towards developing the Mexican missionary movement. This has long been a passion for Wendy and she has done quite a lot to develop, encourage, and promote Mexican missionaries in a number of different ways. One area she has been developing is a short-term mission trip to Honduras for Mexican youth from all over Mexico City. Our Spearhead students have also had the privilege in the past couple of years to participate and organize the trip, which has been a great experience for all involved. This year twenty-something youth and leaders are heading to Honduras during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in order to serve alongside Honduran churches, and share the Gospel. One young man from our church here in Mexico City will be participating in the trip, Kevin spoke of him in a previous blog, Rafa. One of the neat developments from previous trips is that being involved in the missions movement in Honduras has encouraged many of the young people who went on the trip to become more missional here in Mexico City.

Each person involved in the trip is responsible to raise their support, which as it is for all missionaries, has been challenging, but has also really encouraged these young people to trust God to provide in a way they might not have before. Tonight they are putting on a benefit concert at a local church. If anyone is interested in supporting this trip whether it be through prayer or finances please email us and we will let you know how you can be more involved.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Praying for the Actions of our Mexican Friends

So after a busy weekend, the blog for last week had to wait until today.  It is a holiday here in Mexico, so it is kind of like an extended weekend of last week.

I (Kevin) have had the privilege of getting to know a few guys from our church more deeply.  And as I'm getting to know them on a deeper level, I'm more and more impressed by how the Gospel has touched their life deeply and how profound they are.  These men are wise and passionate.

One has continued to show me his qualities of growth and leadership in his reflections.  He is quick to examine his emotions and move himself more into the presence of God, giving his life to God, freeing him of momentary selfishness or frustration.  Twice we have chatted to which he has been led to seek God's presence and been conformed to see what God can teach him.  Rafa, is a young man, young also in the faith, but interested in youth ministry.  His qualities of coming before the Lord will make him an outstanding leaders.  I feel so blessed to be able to encourage him.

The second guy I have gotten to know is named Chui (or Jesús).  Chui is also younger in the faith.  He is incredibly passionate about indigenous people and the unfair treatment they get throughout the globe.  Being Mexican he has a very strong interest in serving Mexican indigenous folk, but also is open to serving indigenous folk throughout the continent (here in Mexico The Americas are a single continent).  He is working with a ministry of our church called Corazon Valiente, or Brave Heart.  Those involved work with a few indigenous urban immigrants who have come to the city to find some financial prosperity.  While they might find a bit more money, they typically find crowded living conditions in unstable and dangerous neighborhoods.  They are often ill-treated and many do not speak a lot of Spanish.  The kids pick up on the language, but theirs is a dangerous situation.  It is very common to see indigenous children on the streets performing or selling things.  They might be barefoot and often no adult in sight.  This makes them very vulnerable and also makes it very difficult to get an education.  They tend to get trapped into a life-cycle of drugs and alcohol as well as abuse.  Chui, while studying how to interact with the systems so as to provide help, also makes it very apparent that personal relationship is important to him.  He's not just a Christian activist lobbying the local government, but he celebrates the life of individuals.  Corazon Valiente mostly works with the children, tutoring and encouraging them.  I've had the privilege of learning from Chui, hearing a length about his passion and conversing with him about local community development.  I feel so blessed to be able to encourage him.

Our Mexican friends are doing some amazing things.  They are more than colleagues but teachers.  We are humbled to learn from them and feel it is awesome.  I feel especially blessed by the growing relationship with these men of passion who truly live a missional life transformed by the Gospel.  They want to be a part of God's reconciliation.  And I am put in a position to where I get to encourage them.

My mission statement or life purpose statement is:  To enliven in others their potential to participate in God's restoration of the world.  God brought us to Mexico and already I know that I'm able to minister from my mission and purpose statement.