The last two Wednesday evenings Tierra Nueva pastoral colleague Emily Martin has taken me with her to visit Mixteco-speaking farm workers from Oaxaca, Mexico who have been attending our Sunday evening Spanish service. The new arrivals from Oaxaca are some of the poorest of Mexico’s poor. They come from remote, impoverished villages where they have had minimal access to education, running water, electricity and health care. They come desperate for work on local farms to sustain their families.
I make my way up rickety stairs and knock on a hollow door before entering into a run-down room full of people and minimal furnishings. Luisa, a Mixteco woman in her early 30s nurses her infant on a stained mattress that takes up 1/3 of the room. Teen girls have big banana leaves laid out on the kitchen counter that they’re busy dishing corn, chicken and sauce into to make tamales. Paulino and his uncle Raul greet me politely, pulling out a child-size plastic chair for me in the center of the room. Raul is tired for a hard day’s work near the Canadian border where he was planting blueberries.
This night Emily download and burned onto a disk a recorded message from globalrecordings.net in these people’s particular dialect of Mixteco that effectively summarizes Abraham and Sarah’s story in Genesis. The 10-12 people living in this one-room apartment all gather around a near broken down CD player and listen intently, smiling and nodding as they hear of Abram and Sarai’s journey as migrants from Ur to the foreign land of Canaan spoken in their own language.
A 16-year-old boy holds a flip chart of drawings of Abram and Sarai’s life that goes with the recordings. This boy was recently released from an immigration detention center for minors after spending four months in custody after U.S. Internal Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided his apartment. They had deported all the adults but kept him detained in a special house for minors in Seattle since he’s an orphan with no home to deport him back to-- until Emily negotiated his release to family and her own custody.
I summarize the story, emphasizing God’s call to leave all securities behind in order to be blessed and consequently become a blessing to every family on earth. These people had already left everything, embarked on a precarious journey and are here in what they thought might be a sort of Canaan. Will God meet them here as God had met Abram and Sarai when they came into new, foreign territory?
We ask if anyone needs prayer, and Paulino motions to his wife Luisa, who child now lays fast asleep in her arms.
Paulino interprets as she tells us how she hasn’t been able to lift anything heavy due to severe pain in her stomach just below her rib cage. She also has lots of pain when she tries to move her head from side to side. I invite people to put out their hands to receive the Holy Spirit. Then we lay hands on the Luisa and pray for relief. “What are you feeling I ask?” All she says is “ini” (heat). I ask her to move her head from side to side to see if there’s improvement and she says it’s lessening. We pray again and keep asking her. When it’s time to go she says the pain is all gone. Later in the week we learn that she is able to lift with no pain in her stomach. The following Wednesday we learn that many suffer from regular night mares. We invite them to place their hands on their own heads and we pray for God’s protection and relief: for dreams from heaven to replace night terrors. People are desperate for Jesus’ help and openly receive and seem to benefit almost immediately.
Last Sunday other farm workers showed up at our Spanish service. We saw five people we prayed for healed of different chronic aches and pains. It is beautiful to see people experience the reality of God—even though many still struggle to pay rent, find adequate work and help their children succeed in our complicated school system.
Signs of God’s Kingdom here but not yet are evident in the following testimony by a beloved Tierra Nueva community member Susannah Reyes.
“As I attended the past seminar at Tierra Nueva, one of the most incredible things happened to me on the last night.
I usually watch people receive prayer and have watched some overcome by the Spirit. They are sometimes not able to stand, because they are so overcome. I’ve sat back and watched this with some skepticism, yet wanting it so much to happen to me. I wanted it so much, I guess I wasn’t allowing it to happen. The more I wanted it, the further it got away from me. Or maybe the Lord knew I wasn't ready.
Anyway, the person giving me a ride was leaving early. I got up to leave, but Elizabeth asked me to wait and receive prayer. So I stayed to worship and pray once again. Another person offered to give me a ride, so again I got up to leave. Once again, Elizabeth intervened and asked me to stay and receive prayer. So I stayed and returned to prayer.
I am an addict in recovery. I have been in remission for two years. As I stood there deep in silent prayer, I was asking for forgiveness for having been an addict and all of the hurt and wrongs I had done to my family and others, and also the magnificent temple God had given me to care for. All of a sudden I felt Bob's hand on my forehead and he said, “You are not an addict.” At that moment I felt something deep from the pit of my stomach come up and out of my chest. It was so intense I couldn’t stand and felt myself falling. I had finally totally been overcome by the Holy Spirit. I lay there in total peace for some while.
That experience freed me. My identity was no longer an addict named Susannah. I am Susannah and I have a disease called addiction. God released me from this horrible bondage. God heard my heart. I am God's child!”
Susannah wrote this testimony just a few days before she was found dead in her apartment by TN staff member Elizabeth—our beloved Susannah had passed away of natural causes.
Please pray for Susannah’s family and join us in thanking God for her beautiful testimony and her life. Pray for God's continued presence and ongoing signs of Jesus' Kingdom here and now as we minister to Mixteco and Triqui farm workers here in our valley.