CURACHITOS, Mexico—Dreams can come in 6 inch-by-12-inch blocks. Adobe can build a lot more than buildings.
That’s why an isolated Mexicaneros village deep in the Sierra Madres of Mexico is in the first stages of getting a junior high school for its children. Nine men and one woman recently spent a week turning big rocks into little rocks—by hand—and sleeping in swirling dust. And a compressed earth block machine was rescued from involuntary retirement and put back to work.
A volunteer missions team from Children’s Emergency Relief International made bricks the people of Curachitos will use to build the school that—they hope—will allow their children to get more than the 6th grade education currently available in the isolated village.
They were the first group to use the machine but were part of just the latest step in a long-range plan to share the gospel in one of the most isolated and economically underdeveloped sections of Mexico.
“It was obvious from Day One that the Indians could work us Americans into the ground all day long.” Said Russ Massey, team leader and project director for CERI, the international arm of Baptist Child & Family Services.
“But watching eight old gringo guys—and one young lady—breaking dirt clods and shoveling sand and stacking hundreds and hundreds of bricks, maybe they got a glimpse of why we came. Maybe they’ll think this Jesus we talk about is worth knowing because Jesus was worth us spending a week doing what none of us had to do—except that Jesus is worth it.”
Vital to evangelism efforts
Rob Rolison, a missionary based in Durango, Mexico, who works with CERI and numerous other Texas mission groups through Past The Edge Ministries, sees the project as vital to efforts to evangelize the Indians.
He has been leading teams to Curachitos more than two years, showing evangelistic movies, holding Vacation Bible Schools, teaching women to use donated sewing machines and simply building relationships.
Early on, village leaders expressed the desire for another school. The closest high school is a three and a half hour walk across the mountains.
So, when CERI heard his suggestion to buy a brick making machine, the partnership was cemented.
Bill Weaver of The Fellowship of San Antonio, a BGCT-affiliated congregation, had bought a compression block machine several years ago, but the original plan had sputtered out and the machine was sitting idle.
“I wanted to do a kind of junior Habitat For Humanity thing—design low-cost, energy-efficient homes using adobe bricks for low income single moms and old folks,” Weaver explained. “But I never could work it out. When Dan McLendon from BCFS called out of the blue to ask if I still had a brick machine I wasn’t using, God got my attention.”
Weaver “wasn’t a very good businessman on this deal, but he sure was a wonderful Christian,” McLendon said. “He gave us a really good price, then dropped the price twice on his own—then threw in a generator and a set of replacement hoses and parts.”
But part of Weaver was hesitant. “It was like selling a dream—I had wanted to use that machine to help people. I wanted to pass out the presents,” he said. “But the fact that it was going to be used to benefit people who needed the assistance sealed the deal for me. I couldn’t be Santa Claus, but I could make it possible for others to be.”
The group that “made it possible,” in addition to Massey and Rollins, included six volunteers from the Houston area and one each from Temple and San Antonio.
For Shera Fowler, just graduated from Texas State University and the only female in the group, it was a return visit to Curachitos. The Kingwood First Baptist Church member came with a Korean youth group last August and helped conduct VBS. This time, it was to continue to seek how and where God wants her to invest her life in missions.
“I didn’t want to be treated differently, but I couldn’t get the Southern manners out of these guys,” she said. “And I did get to sleep curled up in the back seat of the truck instead of on the floor with the half-inch of dust.
“But I got to renew my friendship with Felicia. We worked side by side all week, pounded the dirt clods into useable size, hauling the buckets of mixed dirt to the machine—and I even got to go down into the pit and use a pickax some. But the highlight was when she agreed to teach me to make tortillas, and I got to spend two evenings with their entire family. They enjoy each other so much, the family life seems really strong. I want to come back again—when I have improved my Spanish.”
How do they survive?
“How do they survive?” David Bird of First Baptist Church in Temple asked. “They can’t grow much corn, during the rainy season they are pretty much isolated for months because the roads are impassable—yet they have a joy about them. I thought I knew how the poor lived after going to Moldova, but these people showed me new things.”
Several men echoed Kyle Elmore suggestion that, “every Christian in America should spend a week like this.” Though it was his first mission trip it won’t be his last. “We take everything for granted and expect it. These people have nothing and they survive—don’t worry about what’s on television, don’t have swimming and piano lessons. They’re just trying to make it and they may be better off than we are that way.”
The school, if the government will provide the teachers, will make their lives better.
But the gospel planted by those adobe bricks and the VBS teams, and reinforced by follow up visits from CERI teams and others promise to change the spiritual landscape even more.
“We can talk a lot about our faith to a lot of people but those words don’t say as much as what these men—and Shera—proclaimed this week,” Massey said. “They saw what these Americans believed was worth sacrificing for. That will last even longer than the high-compressions bricks.”