For several days in February, because of the generosity of our church family last fiscal year, I was able to go with Pastor Tom and Josh Topel (one of our elder candidates) to visit Omar and Norma Soto and their four boys in Oaxaca, Mexico. What a privilege it was to see them, spend time with them, encourage them, be encouraged by them, and dream together about what God could do there!
If you don’t know Omar and Norma, a little context may help catch you up to speed! Over a decade ago, Omar and Norma came to the United States illegally–making their way to Fort Wayne of all places. After a while, through God’s remarkable providence, Norma read a tract that had been left on a bus, and soon thereafter the two of them were converted. The church they were initially part of in Fort Wayne was far from healthy though (I’ll spare you the details). So they began looking for a Reformed church, and stumbled upon CCC! They were active members of our congregation for a few years, and then the Lord started bringing conviction upon them regarding their status as illegals. After conversing with our pastors and seeking the Lord, all were in agreement that they should return to Mexico, but return as church planters!
So we sent them to receive more extended training through a missions organization. And then they moved to Oaxaca City, which is in southern Mexico. From the beginning, their desire has been to reach the Zapotec people group, who primarily live up in the surrounding mountains. Yet they also have desired to be part of a congregation in the city (though there are very few healthy churches in the city). So for a few years, they were actively part of a congregation, using their gifts there, while also going into the mountains periodically to establish relationships among the Zapotecs, especially in a town called Benito Juarez. Within the last year, however, various issues arose within their congregation there, leading them ultimately to separate from them (with our knowledge and support of that decision). This has left them in a difficult situation, feeling spiritually homeless in some ways.
For several months, the Sotos have continued serving the Zapotecs in the mountains periodically, but their church relationship down in the city was far from ideal. They have a couple (Ivan and Erica) who are dear friends of theirs, who are committed to working together long term; and they have been meeting with them in their home each Sunday for fellowship, singing, prayer, and reading/teaching of Scripture. But they’ve longed to have clarity about the future, and there has seemed to be a fog as they’ve peered ahead. So, in God’s providence, he allowed Pastor Tom, Josh, and myself to be able to visit at this pivotal time for them.
Spending several days with them, and having many meals together, we are able to get a feel for their city, for the state of their hearts, and for the unique challenges and opportunities there in Oaxaca. We were able to meet many people who know (and who have worked with) the Sotos, to hear from them about how things are going and what they would recommend. As we processed these things together and spent time in prayer, we all felt that the Lord’s beginning to clear the fog and to give a focused vision of the future.
As we look ahead, what we are envisioning is the establishment of a healthy Sovereign Grace church there in Oaxaca City, from which a team of people could more healthily be deployed to reach the Zapotec people in the surrounding mountains. We are beginning to inquire with our Mexican brothers within Sovereign Grace to see what sort of equipping and encouragement they could help provide for Omar, Norma, and their family. Establishing a local church there could take many years to do, but we are confident that doing so will provide a strong base from which the more remote Zapotec people can be reached.
As I was walking and praying one morning while we were there, I found myself praying big prayers–praying that in my lifetime there would be a strong church in Oaxaca City, and more than that, that there would be a church in the mountains full of people who are praising Christ in the Zapotec language. Would you join me in praying toward that end?