"The back side of nowhere" aptly describes this remote little village of Victoria. Once here, we unload the vans into the municipal building we'll use for the day--in fact, a jail. I'm thinking there must not be much crime here, because the building is empty. Odd.
The couple of the guys drive the van over to the next village and gather up the children and their mothers who regularly attend the Bible study. A few men come, about four or five, but mostly it is some twenty women and forty children, eager to study God's Word and eat a hot meal.
While we wait, Abby endeavors to befriend a couple of pathetic looking dogs. They are gentle and friendly, just starved. She sits on the basketball court attempting to coax out her favorite, a female she's dubbed "Bandita", because she sports a black mask across her eyes. She's saved ten left-over hot dogs from our cook-out the other night and brought them along just for her four-legged friends. Bandita eventually approaches cautiously and retrieves the hotdog that has been thrown to her. She's unfamiliar with human compassion. Normally, the village children throw rocks at her and laugh. Abby is teaching them to be kind to her saying, "Ella es mi perrita de los sábados!" She's my little Saturday dog.
Meet X-ray, so named because you can count all his ribs. He comes right over to us and wags his tail, hoping for a handout. He's in luck today; none of the bigger dogs will steal his lunch. Abby, champion of the underdog, will see to that.
The villagers who live right here in Victoria begin to walk over, some carrying their babies in their arms. Once all are gathered, the singing begins. I recognize some of the songs from our church in the States; they're just translated versions of "Lord, I Lift Your Name On High" and others. Some, I'm unable to identify, but they are beautiful just the same. Hearing these people sing to our Lord from their hearts, even in a language I struggle to understand, is like a taste of heaven. I make a joyful noise, reading from the song book and doing my best not to massacre the words. Abby and Jonathan belt it out, full-tilt. They both speak Spanish really well and can join right in with the singing and all the conversation.
Now the groups are divided up. Devora will lead the ladies, who stay in the building with their tiny children. The men sit in a van for their lesson lead by Jorge. On the porch, a table is set up for the girls and Susie.
Jonathan takes the older boys out under a shady tree. Their lesson is out of John chapter 4, about the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus, believes in Him, tells her whole village about Him, and they all come to believe. Appropriate.
During the Bible study, those of us with nothing else to do take "baby duty. " Basically, that means we relieve the mamas of their wee, tiny ones so they can focus on the lesson. Some of the babies come to us willingly, others are more cautious. A couple protest loudly. These young mamas, many with several small children, need a break from child care. Understanding that it is probably very difficult to focus on the teaching and also manage their babies, we are happy to oblige!
Meanwhile, Ricardo heads up the food preparation. He cooked this morning before ever leaving the mission. On the menu today--hot dog tacos. I know; I didn't believe it either--diced hot dogs in a tomato sauce, served on corn tortillas. Wouldn't be my first choice, but it was surprisingly tasty on an empty stomach, and to these folks, very much appreciated, I'm sure.
Stomachs full, the little children run around and play while Jonathan, Brad, Hannah, and Tom start a game of soccer with the older boys. Later, the local villagers begin to walk home and the others from up the road are transported back to their village in the van. The rest of us enjoy the down time, relaxing, and swapping stories. I understand a lot of what is being said, but I don't try to say much myself.
Finally, we pile in the vehicles for the bumpy ride home. It doesn't take long to realize that our Tahoe isn't going to make it back. We turn off the AC and roll down the windows, hoping that will help. Jerking and knocking, it finally "gives up the ghost." The guys rig up the van and tow us for a few miles on the dusty back roads. Windows rolled down as far as they will go, it is still hot, and the exhaust from the van is coming in the car. Just when I'm wondering how I can stand breathing in the fumes any longer, we pull off the road. We're at the highway now and find a cell phone signal. We can't tow the Tahoe on the highway lest the "federales" give us a ticket.
The love birds quickly procure snacks from a corner grocery stand, Jonathan plops down to read, I "find a potty" behind a rock wall, and the rest stand around while Ricardo tracks down a towing company willing to come out and assist us. We leave Ricardo and Jonathan with the Tahoe and the rest of us pile into the van for the last hour or so of the ride home.
After dropping our friends off at the church, Brad is left to drive us back to the mission. Thinking about this does not impart the most comforting vibe. I've come to the astonishing conclusion that road rules are non-existent in Mexico, much like in China. Whoever drives fastest, has the largest vehicle, and is most aggressive wins. You're pretty much taking your life in your hands when you get in the car. And there are no seat belt laws for passengers, which I find hugely ironic.
Thank the Lord, we arrive home no worse for the wear. Jonathan and Ricardo make it home about 10:30 PM, a good five hours after we do. All in all, it was an exciting day. I've learned that visiting missionaries requires a spirit of adventure and a sense of humor, both of which we needed in large doses today!